Off the Clock: From Assistant to Artist

Saturday night, ALISN – an artist-led organisation – presented ‘Off the Clock’, an exhibition featuring artists, who have assisted other well-known artists.

An upclose shot of "Quercus Condido Pt. I-III" by Matt Blackler

The works in ‘Off the Clock’ included paintings, illustrations and sculptures.

Yet, the main focus of the exhibition seemed to be the artist’s assistant, a role typically obscured by the fame of the main artist.

‘Off the Clock’ takes notice of the lack of recognition of artist’s assistants.  In fact, it is done rather well – in part – by a display of emails framed in wood, of responses from major artists.

ALISN reached out to artists whose former or current assistants were asked to exhibit works in ‘Off the Clock’.

Some of the emails actually praised the assistant.  There was, for example, a direct quote from Sir Anthony Caro lauding Gary Doherty for his ten years of assistance.

Other artists, however, responded via employees of the gallery or organisation in which they worked.

The Exhibition

Many of the pieces in ‘Off the Clock’ relayed a common theme of desolation.

Benjamin Deakin, who assists winner of the 2002 Turner Prize, Keith Tyson, created an illustration of a jagged hole in the ground.

By looking closely, one can just see the faded stencilled words that read ‘DEAD ARTIST’.  The drawing depicts an open grave, and ghostly figures seem to dance in and out of the detailed illustration.

A section of "FP 12:16" by Gary Doherty

Gary Doherty’s large drawing depicts a loan woman looking over a city that she seems very much disconnected from.

However, the second image of her in the illustration that appears at the end of a tunnel-like hole indicates that she is somehow watching herself rather than the city.

Reuben Negron’s painting was of a half naked woman alone in a room.  His use of watercolours and gouache were interesting, giving the painting a graphic novel feel.  The images come to life, creating a certain measure of intensity within the loan figure as she pleases herself in bed.

Yet, perhaps the most obvious feeling of desolation was the painting by Allison Edge, who assisted artist Jeff Koons.

Part of her Magic Forest series, Camp Thunderbird, oil on canvas, depicted a campground scene with several tire swings hanging off of a rope.

"Camp Thunderbird" by Allison Edge

Edge’s painting has a magical and eerie feeling, and one is compelled to ask why no children or people inhabit it at all.

Yet, the pieces, which depicted certain ghostly characteristics, were offset by some equally interesting sculptures.

Daryl Brown’s Mother and Cat was a sort of Escher-esque sculpture of wood.

With Brown’s recent Judo Series in mind, it is interesting to see how the artist continues to play with gravity.

The sculpture, though seemingly heavy on the top is held up by a single metal pedestal, which disappears into the bottom of the piece.

Brown has assisted artist Gereon Krebber, who won the Jerwood Sculpture Prize in 2003.

Another sculpture, which evokes discussion, is Alison Gill’s Stray Object. A model of a tiny brown bird with a broken wing is in the centre of a large cube.

At first, one may think of a bird within a cage, except that the large box-like cube has holes carved in varying sizes, allowing the bird to escape once he is mended.

One side of "Stray Object" by Alison Gill

Gill’s approach asks viewers to contemplate the bird’s circumstance and the bird’s fate.

Gill has assisted YBA member Gavin Turk, who, in a strange turn of events, will assist her on a sculpture in one of the upcoming exhibitions.

Matt Blackler’s work with wood seems to speak loudly of nature.  The round wooden pieces, at first look, seem like slices of a tree – something a lumberjack would produce.

A closer look reveals that the wood has been manipulated in such a way that perhaps alludes to one of its former states.

Blackler, who assists Gordon Cheung, often works with wood, creating sculptures that require a great deal of physical work.

Other artists whose work will be shown in ‘Off the Clock’ are Rachel Beach who has assisted Roxy Paine, Jason Bryant who has assisted Kehinde Wiley, Sy Hackney who has assisted Eamon Everall and Jenny Morgan who has assisted Marilyn Minter.

The ‘Off the Clock’ series, sponsored also by Like the Spice, will continue in both London and New York as follows:

9 to 17 October, The Magnificent Basement Gallery, 128 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3AP

14 October to 14 November, 92Y Tribeca Art Gallery, 200 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013

4 November to 6 December, Like The Spice Gallery, 224 Roebling Street. Brooklyn, NY 11211

4 to 17 November, Mile End Art Pavilion, Mile End Park, Grove Road, London, E3 4QY

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Kathyrn Stockett: An Intuitive Look at Race

I have to admit that I find it almost amusing that critics have worried more about the connotations of white author Kathryn Stockett writing in a black woman’s voice, then about the subject matter of her book.

The Help, an incredibly intuitive novel, takes the reader on a journey to Jackson, Mississippi during the 60s when segregation was still forced by law.

Stockett doesn’t hold back in her prose, which is something for which readers can be eternally grateful.

Instead, the author gets inside the minds of Southern women during that time period, black and white, in order to explore the divisions and connections between them.

The novel inspires readers to re-evaluate the often one-dimensional interpretation of those horrible times by supposing, quite rightly, that there were people on both sides, who bridged the gap between races.

Stockett’s story doesn’t demonise the characters, but shows a delightful three-dimensional side of the human experience.

Ambiguity

If anything could potentially be learned from reading The Help, it is that the ambiguity of characters is not an easy thing to accomplish in the type of story that usually promotes religious agendas of good versus evil.

Stockett’s novel doesn’t set up camp within a comfort zone, but instead explores a higher truth by depicting white Southerners, who are just as trapped as their oppressed black maids and blacks, who live life freer and braver than any other characters in the book.

This is the strength of the novel, its unwillingness to conform to a preconceived notion about segregation in 1960s America.

No doubt, the author drew from her own experiences as a daughter of Mississippi. We can only imagine that her characters are based on people she knew growing up there.

The Help has moments of tenderness and connection between people that are surprising and beautiful, showing the strength of all women despite the hardships of those times.

Stockett’s novel is filled to the brim with human problems that are anything but black and white, which makes it an important and timely book for Americans and those, who wish to understand the culture in light of its slow but progressive changes in regards to race.