For over a decade, the contemporary British artist Ryan Gander has been passionate about the work and persona of the Hungarian-born Brutalist architect Erno Goldfinger. In fact he has not only written a book on the master (The Boy Who Always Looked Up) but has also created a radio play, from the book which was filmed and used as part of his latest installation. Ryan Gander: ‘The Artists Have The Keys’ is a new exhibition in association with the National Trust’s programme of New Art in London. Gander has recently created a series of new works that are discreetly placed within the interior of Erno Goldfinger’s iconic Modernist home at 2 Willow Road in Hampstead.
Goldfinger was an architect and furniture designer most notably remembered for his residential tower blocks, part of the government’s attempt to solve the housing shortage after World War II. The Brutalist style 31 storey Trellick Tower in North Kensington and the 27 floor Balfron Tower in the East End are among his most iconic buildings. He designed 2 Willow Road for himself and his family in 1939. The house is full of the Goldfingers’ impressive modern art collection including works by many of their friends such as Max Ernst, Prunella Clough, Bridget Riley and Henry Moore. It was also a showcase for their intriguing personal possessions and Goldfinger’s innovative furniture including many prototypes.
Gander’s new works are cleverly interspersed within this incredible domestic collection. They integrate so perfectly and subtly that even with the guide it is hard to separate the works out. It is a fascinating treasure hunt trying to pick out the new works from the Goldfingers. A pile of books reveals that the top tired and well thumbed copy is actually a fictional book by a fictional writer; 5 well worn, aged box files are stacked horizontally on top of one another with such hand-written titles as Time Lines, Tide Lines and provenance; a home made page-per-day calendar, assembled in an ad-hoc manner from a metal lever arch and laser printed A4 paper with notes and images taken from the artist’s notebooks including sketches, ideas and general to do lists. Each piece is so completely thought out to blend in with this exceptional house from lamps, to terracotta pots, a painting, a chess set, a self-assembly money box which resembles a maquette of a larger piece of furniture housed downstairs and the television in the Living Room showing a filmed performance of Gander’s 2003 radio play about Goldfinger’s relationship to Trellick Tower, complete with Foley sound effects showing that Goldfinger is a subject that has been close to his heart for many years.
Ryan Gander, born in Chester in 1976, lives and works in London. His complex and unfettered conceptual practice is stimulated by queries, investigations or what-ifs, rather than strict rules or limits. Gander is often described as a storyteller. With many of his pieces he goes one step further, casting the viewer in the lead role, obliging them to take part in an uncertain aspect of his work. He is a cultural magpie who dismantles popular notions in order to rebuild them in new ways. His work involves a questioning of language and knowledge, a reinvention of the modes of appearance and creation of an artwork.
In 2011 Ryan Gander created a commission for Artangel titled ‘Locked Room Scenario’. It was perhaps the single most intriguing work created in the UK that year. The piece played on our expectations of a gallery, with tension being generated by presenting a space that was, by definition public, in a state of ‘undress’. The viewer was forced to explore where the art began and ended. Earlier that year he presented Intervals: the third installment of a contemporary art series designed to reflect the spirit of today’s most innovative practices, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Both exhibitions were well received. Ryan has continued to exhibit internationally with the Lisson Gallery, but could this finally be Ryan Gander’s year for a Turner Prize Nomination? We hope so. He deserves it!
Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2014