Max Wigram Gallery this week presented a show of new work by two London based artists, Barnaby Hosking and Mustafi Hulusi.
Hosking’s show Contemplating Duality, taking up the back space of the gallery, displays two new sculptural works Not Two and Endless. In Not Two pieces of gold mirror are fixed to the walls of the gallery, cut so that their reflections on the wall resemble butterflies floating around the space. The lighting of the gallery causes two opposing forms to be created; the golden light reflected off the mirror, and the shade cast by its physical form. Endless also uses this combination of gold mirrors and its spectral effects as its medium, but in one singular work. The sculpture is hung from the ceiling, recalling the form of Brancusi’s Endless Column, as referenced in the title, and the kinesis of Calder’s mobiles.
There are several strengths to Hosking’s work, none of them ground breaking. Both pieces have a simplicity and visual clarity that is always appealing, and are a testament to the artists control and understanding of his medium. Perhaps this shows greatest strength is how well the works fit together; indeed I very much thought I was viewing an installation rather than two distinct pieces. As Endless spins and the works react with one another, their implicit meaning – the tension between permanence and transience, the duality of the show’s title – becomes neatly clear.
However, this message does seem a little too obvious and too neat to have any lasting impact. Taken singularly both works would lose any elusiveness they have here, in particular Endless, in which the use of Brancusi feels eventually arbitrary, particularly as this is a work that has been constantly appropriated throughout the last century. Finally, and perhaps most negatively, the effect feels overtly decorative, recalling perhaps a nursery of the super-rich. Nice work, but nice isn’t really good enough.
I felt similar mixed in my response to response to Mustafa Hulusi’s series of diptychs, which pair optical abstractions made with hyperrealist paintings of tulips and poppies. Both elements of the work have their strengths (and weaknesses), as indeed does the pairing itself. The abstractions, as with the best op paintings, are hypnotic, and do irradiate an illusionary sense of both creation and the infinite. The use of gold leaf intentionally places the work in the tradition of icon painting, attaching to a numinous quality. However, these forms are nothing new in Hulusi’s oevre. The floral paintings do also have a beauty, and the images have been lovingly chosen, however, it is a detached beauty symptomatic of hyperrealist painting.
Paired together, the works do not fall apart, but rather, they lose any sense of mystique. It is as if both works are pointing and talking about the other, in a very audible whisper. Hulusi’s earlier work has shown such images independently and together, and in a way that has frequently been simultaneously beautiful, powerful and uplifting. But in this show, as with in Hosking’s, all that translates is a dulled beauty and waning concepts.
Max Wigram Gallery – Mustafa Hulusi The Golden Age – Barnaby Hosking Contemplating Duality
15th March – 2nd May 2013
Words/ Photo William Summerfield Illustrated: Barnaby Hosking Contemplating D