Zeuxis and Parrhasius (Wrapped Waste)

Cotton dust sheet, rope, twine & debris

30 x 23 x 32 cms


Debris wrapped in the dust sheets and rope used at the opening of the ‘Negotiation of Purpose’ exhibition to cover the piece ‘Zeuxis and Parrhasius’, after which this piece is titled.

Every art exhibition has an ‘opening’ or ‘private view’: An event which publically announces that the exhibition is open. Often in smaller exhibitions put on by galleries that have next to no marketing budget, more people attend the opening event than over the rest of the period of the exhibition. This is a very frustrating situation for the artist, who realizes (through his or her own experience) that people do not attend art openings to spend quality time with the art but to ‘clock’ the art and chat to the other people. The idea of ‘who’ was at the opening becomes slightly more important than ‘what’ was at the opening.

For the opening of his exhibition ‘The Stuff Show’ at the South London Gallery 1998, as an extension of this thought and to generate a piece of thought-provoking performance art, the Artist made a controversial decision. As the visitors arrived at the opening they were confronted by the sight of eighteen pieces of art: free standing sculptures of various sizes, as well as large and small wall pieces, all elegantly covered ‘Christo style’ with beige linen dustsheets.
Christo is an artist who is famous for his wrapped sculptures which vary in scale and ambition from a recognizable chair form to more ambitions architectural projects such as wrapping the Reichstag in Germany.
Most visitors to the private view found the event confusing or even offensive: were they not trusted to evaluate and ‘see’ the art? Now they would have to find their way back to the gallery if they wished to view the actual art later on (the dustsheets were removed the next morning ready for the regular visitors).

For Open House, Sherborne, the artist has represented the dustsheets from the exhibition in a perspex vitrine. The name Zeuxis and Parrhasios comes from the famous ancient Greek anecdote as retold in the book ‘Stealing the Mona Lisa. What Art Stops Us From Seeing’, by psychoanalyst Darian Leader. This is the story of two artists who compete with each other to make a great painting. Zeuxis paints some grapes that are so lifelike that they attract some birds. Parrhasios then invites him to pull back the curtain covering his own masterwork, but when Zeuxis tries to do so, he finds that the curtain itself is the painting. Zeuxis and the birds are both deceived by an image and are both frustrated by the seeming deception, perhaps more than the skill and thought that went into the image.