Bloomberg New Contemporaries – Part 3 (Liverpool Biennial 2012)

Our final article looking into the huge New Contemporaries exhibition currently dominating the floor space of Copperas Hill will be looking at some of the work that is using mediums yet to be fully explored in these reviews.  The majority of the work here is of a sculptural nature (and occasionally video) which means the work makes more obvious uses of the huge space available and are perhaps better designated to such a project than some of the smaller painted works in despite their high quality.

Jackson Sprague’s sculptural work which are all untitled, examine shape and texture using something called crystacal watercolour.  The three adorning the wall almost seem like paintings yet their 3D quality leads this writer to declare them works of sculpture.  This is further added to by another untitled piece resembling a rocket made out of the Leaning Tower Of Pisa like material.  The piece’s plinth seems part of the work (at least when compared to pictures of the original which allows the sculpture to work on a lower ground level) and the over lit space gives the work some wonderful shadow facsimiles.

Another of the show’s public favourites (and one that seems to have caught the affections of the many of the Biennial workers) is Jennifer Phelan’s Squirrel (2011).  A glazed ceramic squirrel lies on its front, as if depressed or maybe even drunk.  It’s humours, not just because of its animal qualities but because of how it is displayed with the tiny sculpture being given a huge, white area showcasing its quaintness further.  The sculpture itself is technically excellent and has that craft like feel that presides over the work of Grayson Perry, which is of course intended as a huge compliment.

The strongest video piece in the show is Anita Delaney’s slightly disturbing Ready For A Fight.  The video seems to be just a projection of a picture but vague movements show that the person in the piece is actually being filmed.  This person, with their head covered in a cloth, barely clothed with their fists ready to fight suggests all sorts of metaphorical blind violence, both politically and physically.  The area where the person stands is a dirty, bare room with pebbles for carpets, making it feel like it has the potential of a snuff film.  Mere reels on after the video has ended could be filled with Videodrome like programs for all the viewer knows, however the piece is disconcerting enough as it is, especially in the dark space.

Natalie Finnemore’s sculptures, Arrangement #19 and #18, break up the vast space with some interesting physical shapes of colour.  They both work well with the dirty floor contrasting with their brightly coloured MDF textures giving an almost absurd, surreal quality to walking around the space.

Finally, the most photogenic work in the show is no doubt Suki Seokyeong Kang’s pieces which are a bright mixture of mediums and a perfect end to the show.  We Are Sitting In The Polite Room is another Twombly-like piece (the show has quite a few, perhaps showing the master’s influence finally coming to the fore) full of autumnal colours and chaos belied by its fiendishly misleading title.  Promised Feeling and Vulnerable Runner are both sculptural works with mysterious titles that seem unlike the actual physical sculptures.  Vulnerable Runner in particular seems highly ironic considering the main object of the piece is a gold coloured bicycle saddle.  However these works are both visually pleasing so perhaps reading too into them is best avoided.


Overall the New Contemporaries exhibition is strong.  Many artists haven’t been mentioned in these three articles, however the general bar is set very high and this is one of the most relaxed and honest shows on for Biennial 2012.  Watch out for these names.

Adam Scovell

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