Art Worth Viewing

This is an article I wrote for the Wessex Scene

The latest exhibition to open in John Hansard main gallery features work from German artist Jochem Hendricks.

One gallery sits completely barren, with the exception of 25 miles of one woman’s hair tracing it’s way around the edge of the room. The second gallery, on the other hand, is filled out with a mix of sculpture, painting and installations, the general theme morality and identity.

On the walls a number of Intercontinental Paintings are hung, they are a collaboration of work using elements from each of the five continents such as Australian paint used by an American artist on Asian canvas, assembled in Europe by Jochem mounted in an African frame. The frame is mounted overlapping the painting so that it becomes part of the artwork.

Next you will notice are a couple of plinths with feathers arranged neatly around a small velvet cushion and a third plinth, closer, with a small orange diamond resting on a cushion in the centre.

There’s something else on the plinth, as though left by accident. It turns out in-fact that the diamond originated as a footballers leg and the extra fragment is a remaining toe nail! The piece is aptly named Left Defender Right Leg the other two, Cold Birds, are consecrated birds also transformed into diamonds, surrounded by feathers plucked from their dead bodies.

This lead me to the question of value, it struck me as cold to think a limb could be used as raw material. The value of the birds was certainly increased,  but would anyone choose a dull, rough diamond over their right leg? I for one felt slightly uncomfortable in it’s presence.

This is what Hendricks’ aims to accomplish, to force the viewer to question what it is they thought they knew on the subject. Collapsed Avatar certainly achieves this, a collection of collapsed porcelain and platinum busts,

I couldn’t resist an extra trip to the gallery this morning before my lecture to gaze at the cracks beneath the glossy surface. The combination of the splendid material and the familiarity with a human head is quite eerie and alien and at the same time intriguing and beautiful.

They are part of a wider project in which a full size plastic replica of Jochem leads a life of luxury benefiting from tax which Hendricks should have paid on money he has earnt from the art. After calculating his 2002 income tax the artist brought his avatar a Mazda X5 or ‘Part-time Sculpture’, which is currently parked outside the John Hansard, a loophole in the law allows him to claim the money back as ‘working material’ so he hasn’t paid any income tax. The sculpture is art for half the year and a vehicle the rest. Did the avatar drive it to Southampton?

Upsetting and angering people is one thing, but in a previous exhibition Jochem had displayed a number of small items he stole, you can listen to a conversation in which a police officer suspects Hendricks of a large crime and read Hendricks response.

There’s plenty more to see, drawings created tracking the artists eye, a coat filled with dimes and quaters, exactly 3,281,579 grains of sand, 100 tears and photographs of terrorist attacks and bank raids.

I highly recommend visiting, it’s FREE, the exhibition runs until 20th December and is open 11-5 Tue-Fri and 1-4 Sat.

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