Matthew Barney Drawings at Sadie Cole

Saidie Coles
69 South Audley Street
London W1
Tue-Sat 10-6
27 Jan – 06 March 2010
Image from the Cremester Series of Films.

The Cremester Cycle by Matthew Barney towers above all in the genre of avant guard art and film. The series was 8 years in the making and Matthew Barney does not cut corners every take is meticulously thought out, slick faultless, and without appearing contrived, the look is always elegant and textural and sensual. The narratives draw on symbolism from ancient tales and are told a fresh referencing ritual and beliefs from all over the ancient worlds.

Not surprisingly and like many artists before him Matthew Barney felt drawn toward the living and mythical Shinto traditions of to Japan and chose this theme for the film Drawing Restraint 9, featuring both himself and Björk in a macabre and mystical romance which interweaves with a documentary about casting a 25 ton petroleum jelly sculpture on deck of a japanese factory whaling vessel. The film is paced to perfection and allowes one to contemplate the imagery long enough for it to echo in the mind long after you have walked out of the cinema.

Artist Van Gogh and the Impressionist and later David Hockney the Potter, Bernard Leach and Architect Frank Lloyd Wright have all been influenced by Japan. Japanese artists, fashion designers composers and filmmakers in turn responded to the very different traditions of the West. Matthew Barney’s fusion of east and west in Drawing Restraint 9 shows him again to be a real master of his craft and so I was excited to go and see the drawings at Sadie Coles in Mayfair, which relate to the film of 2007.

Despite the rain and grey skies and the walk to get there it was well worth it. You can tell a lot from someone’s drawings on paper. There is the same unhurried reflection and attention to detail in everything Matthew Barney does and in this case he transcribes into a series of pencil drawings ideas for the project. They seem almost hesitant drawings and soft pencil swirls and dots appear as waves drawn in the traditional Japanese style throughout then continue to morph into outlines of figures and landscapes telling a story and then disappear back into the waves. Much like in the film really!

He draws as if drawing the story out of the paper and pencil itself. You can almost hear the man thinking on the paper. The pieces are delicate and dense punctuated with gold and silver and a joy to behold!

As to the glass display cabinets, I did not really see the point of emptying the contents of a box of cuttings and snippets into these cabinets accompanying the framed work. They are I am sure valuable as reference for the artist but have no artistic merit in them. Note that downstairs at Sadie Cole there are also remnants of that blubbery gungey gloopy mixture used to great effect for texture in the film.
I really had to hold back from diving my hands into that!
Recommended and on until the 6th of March.

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