Until February 3; doggerfisher, Edinburgh
Before the ZX Spectrum won my heart, I used to love those Choose Your
Own Adventure books, which offered a choice of routes and a variety
of outcomes. If I stumbled blindly into a bad ending, I would secretly
flip back to the page where I went wrong, and try another path to
I am increasingly reminded of those furtive backtrackings by a new
generation of artists across the globe, which doesnt seem to
like the ending it has been presented with. From its utopian beginnings
over a century ago, modernism was elevated to the high creed of minimalism,
and thence to conceptualism, escaping the studio forever. As ideas
became paramount, craft and materials became obsolete, and over the
past few years, young artists, armed with pencils, foil, and whatever
bits of stuff they could lay their hands on, have started to fight
As the shape of their rebellion emerges, it transpires that this younger
generation has flipped back to a page where modernism still had all
its options open. They dont want to follow their elders down
the road of reduction, where the human touch is eliminated until there
is nothing left to touch at all. They linger with fondness on that
old page, running their fingers over every choice, not yet prepared
to seal their fate.
Thats the territory youll find in doggerfishers
show, Friedrich. Nothing to do with the German Romantic painter of
the same name, the show features seven young German artists based
in London, all friends. The name Friedrich, apparently borrowed from
an obscure German fashion stylist, is something of a red herring.
The overall feel of the show is so balanced that it seems a shame
to pick it apart, piece by piece. Guest-curated by Bruce Haines of
Camden Arts Centre, the two rooms are orchestrated in perfect, invisible
harmony. No single work dominates the others, and a sense of all-round
contentment hangs in the air. There are no labels telling you what
you should know, but if there were, they might only disrupt the quiet
References to early 20th century modernism abound. In the centre you
are reminded of Constantin Brancusis Endless Column, and on
the wall, the light experiments of Lázló Moholy-Nagy.
On a ledge perches Josef Albers early foray into stained glass
and on the floor, the colour studies of Paul Klee. All of these, and
more, are not reproduced, but lovingly quoted.
Karin Ruggabers Relief #22 sits, only just, on the wall; a doodle
made concrete. Roughly set slabs of plaster, with air bubbles and
burred edges, balance on a few protruding nails. The curving shapes,
tinged here and there with pink, fit together like a watercolour petrified.
Early modernists grappled with the idea of the painting as a physical
object in its own right, and here, its status is unmistakeable.
The human glow of Relief #22 recalls the subtle tones of a Paul Klee
wash, and the resemblance is even stronger in Ruggabers Wall
#4. Here, too, she builds a painting out of chunky, tactile materials:
plywood and clay, in a patchwork of Klees slate, skin and sky
hues. Like a rough-iced cake, Ruggabers façade draws
you in, this free-standing little wall celebrating both its object-hood
and its surface appeal with a mud-encrusted, primal glee.
Alex Heim brings out the magpie in you with his glittering installation,
Untitled (Five found wing mirrors). Propped up like trinkets on a
mantel-piece style ledge are five shattered mirrors, rescued from
the treacherous Rotherhithe Tunnel in London. Their shattered surfaces,
like jewelled mosaics, remain in their oval black frames, their prettiness
belying the possible tragedies of their past. Bauhaus artist Josef
Albers assemblages of shattered glass, picked up from the streets
of post-war Weimar, come immediately to mind.
Above the entrance passage, Heims video, Kanal 2, revisits the
cluttered canvases of abstract expressionism through the constant,
silent bobbing of flotsam on the surface of a canal. Projected on
the whitewashed brick wall of the gallery, this heaving, breathing
mass of indistinct form and colour rivals the most textured of expressionist
paintings. But it is ephemeral, composed only of light and restless
Back in the world of real paint and canvas, Helene Appels large
oil, The Minutes, takes time to unfurl its magic. At first sight it
is an indifferent action painting, brown and red curls of paint scattered
evenly across the raw canvas. On closer inspection, some of the brown
lines are carefully drawn twigs, their pale shadows differentiating
them from the abstract strokes which share the surface. Abstraction
is born before us, all over again, as three dimensions and two engage
in a silent battle for supremacy. All possible outcomes hover in the
air, the adventure ready to begin all over again.
Black, Sunday Herald 07.01.07