'Gavin & Turk' Opens at Ben Brown Fine Arts

 Gavin & Turk
10th February – 20th April 2012
Ben Brown Fine Arts, 12 Brook's Mews, London W1K 4DG www.benbrownfinearts.com

Like all artists, Gavin Turk’s name is his brand and in the schizophrenic title for this show, he turns it into a family brand.   Throughout 25 years of artwork, Turk has questioned authorship, identity and the handmade.  This new exhibition is no exception, but here, he chooses to pay homage to Alighiero Boetti, an Italian conceptual artist prominent in the sixties and seventies, who is the subject of a Tate Modern retrospective, running 28 February - 27 May 2012.

Boetti was fascinated by symbols and created embroideries of the world map, with each country made from its own flag.  He saw his role as orchestrator, rather than executer of a work, with his original Mappa's based on a schema by friend and collaborator Rinaldo Rossi and embroidered by a team of craftswomen in Kabul, Aghanistan.

Like Boetti, Turk is collaborating with a production team to create his latest embroideries.  The designs will be worked up by members of Fine Cell Work, a charity and social enterprise that teaches needlework to prison inmates, in order to support the rehabilitation process.  "I think one of the interesting things about tapestry is how slowly the picture comes out of the picture frame,” says Turk.  “It's so intense. You have to go close and further away and close and further away; it's like the image slowly unweaving itself."

Turk embraces the labour intensive production process, believing strongly in the importance of hand making as a way to artistic freedom.  This is in direct contrast to the machine fabrication of industrial processing, referred to in the Mappa del Mundo.  Here Turk has collected squashed rubbish - crisp packets, drinks cans, cigarette packets, etc, then collaged them into a two-dimensional world map, to prepare an image for embroidering.  Turk’s method here renders machine made products hand-made, turning discarded, flattened objects into the ultimate luxury object: a work of art.

Gavin & Turk will include a series of small 'arazzi', intricate embroideries featuring various permutations of 'GAVIN TURK', as well as various other hommages to Boetti: glimmering, gold leaf works on paper, biro pieces and a life-size bronze self-portrait.   The latter is doubly referential, being Boetti’s homage to Bruce Nauman’s 1966 performance photo Self-Portrait as a Fountain, in which the artist is seen, bare-chested, spitting a jet of water into the air. In Turk’s Self-Portrait (fountain) the fully clothed artist souses himself with a garden hose.  A heated element on the figures head sizzles and emits steam as the water hits it.  This theatrical tragic-comic figure is poignant with a sense of every artist’s performance to make an impact.