Saturday, 29 May 2010

Review: Francis Alys and 'A Story of Deception' - spiritual readings

There are many artists whose work has little or no spiritual connection; there are some whose work treats such themes intentionally and specifically, and others who do so subconsciously. Rothko famously denied the spiritual content of his paintings, despite exhibiting a group of them in a specially designed 'chapel'; despite the knockout effect of seeing them en masse in the proscribed darkened conditions. Which category might Alÿs fall into, were he to allow himself to be so categorised? Not, I think, with those with no spiritual connection. He works in a very knowing and self-aware way; and though interviews and commentaries dwell extensively on the very important political themes of his work, he warns of the deceptiveness of the apparent surface meanings of his work. And he is, I repeat, very self-aware; whatever intuition he works with is followed by analysis; ideas lie dormant for years before finding expression. So I suspect that a deeper layer of spiritual meanings in the work is most likely intentional, though it does not diminish anything if sometimes they are not. I do not think I am reading too much into the pieces, not usually, at any rate, and I choose my words carefully, 'spiritual', not 'religious'.

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back to part 1: A Story of Deception: Narrative in exhibition

Francis Alys' website

Tate Modern, London 15 June - 5 September 2010

The exhibition continues at WIELS arts centre, Brussels from 9 October to 30 January 2011

then travels to MOMA New York from 8 May to 1 August 2011

Image sources copyright Francis Alÿs, and rephotographed by Margaret Sharrow, 2010. Pen sketches and text copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2010.

21 September 2010

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