Past: September 12 → November 9, 2013
We recall what there was, and move forwards, evermore curious, towards that which, and we can repeat it once more, makes the foundation of our venture — that is to say: denying the closure of an homogeneous knowledge, whilst trying to tune ourselves to the profuse and surprising world around us. All leadership is precarious, so why not favour a staging of the symbolic through detours, returns and recoveries.
Ian Kiaer develops a model of a work laid bare, rehabilitating and breaking in its own way the notion of enjoyment. His personal field lies on the questions submitted to cultural considerations decoded time after time by the critics, moving on to the personal expression of a certain illegibility, capable of apprehending the spectator. Like a Piero Della Francesca filled with a certain liking for geometry, Ian Kiaer forms little by little islands of ideal cities, which play upon or defy a too strong desire for categorisation, partitioning and conformism. Overtaking any sort of sanctimonious cultural imperative, Kiaer’s work helps us come out of a game of values, for the delicate streams freed by the minute joining of an assembly of Plexiglas hexagons, and the quasi mystical value of the light obtained through the friction of the silver leaf on a simple transparent plastic sheet.
It is while approaching Ian Kiaer’s practice that we deliberately gave up “cleaving” the work, which means to proceed to a quasi chemical reduction of the elements which make up the whole to better identify them.
These slight or monumental installations, that at times break into space quite extensively, shelter diy models, found bits of plastic, broken glass frames in which salvaged felt or pink taffeta are presented. All of this can only be apprehended by withdrawing information from the different layers of sedimentation. The title of the installations tell us that the artist draws its references from architectural propositions varying from those of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Konstantin Melnikov or Brueghel, or of authors like Thomas Mann and Curzio Malaparte. Finding the mark of these reference works in Kiaer’s installations is however attempting the impossible, so hard would we have to lean into his models and small figurative paintings with rigorous attention to recognize a familiar sign. Thanks to a subtle manipulation of signs, the artist integrates in his work many stories of dreams and renunciations: those that populate the pictorial and architectural avant-gardes. The utopia of the spherical architecture of Ledoux as well as the painting practice of Melkinov, started after abandoning his research in architecture, make up the foundations of a language of failure, a prosody of human measure. The hand scaled elements arranged by the artist in the exhibition spaces bring to mind this frailty of the go between spirit and mind, and its central role in creation. He creates a personal pantheon of friendly figures, idealist dreamers, poets in the etymological sense: creators.
The spatial and visual arrangements by Kiaer can be read as poetry. The collection of fragments he proposes are articulated in a way as to underline and use the main lines of action in the exhibition space, to create a visual composition in which space is a stakeholder. As the classic sculptor works on clay, Ian Kiaer models space by the permutation of the elements until he finds a stable form that will shape an accurate image. This organization proceeds from a fine negotiation between the discordant presence of fragments, in a space ready to welcome finished works, and workshop accidents. A subtle tension creates itself between what is expected of the work and the weak seduction it may produce once exhibited.
At the Centre International de l’Art et du Paysage de Vassivière (April, 14 — June, 23, 2013), Ian Kiaer further pushed the link between his work and the exhibition space. Intervening in the stately architecture of Aldo Rossi, he sought to resist the architect’s intentions for the grand nave that seemed to imply a demand for an equally grandiose sculpture capable of vying with it in size. Reacting to the spectacular vastness of the spaces, the artist favoured questioning the assumptions of Rossi by the transparency of Plexiglas, the structure of a certain plastic form filled with air, by connections of colour and the arrangement of minute objects, reminding us that the strength of an artistic gesture does not necessarily lie in its capacity to “win” against space, nor to be confined to the exact position the exhibition place gives it.
For us, the intelligence of a work has more to do with the fact of refusing the (decorative?) place it is assigned, to make the reality of what surrounds us more clearly appear, our life and work conditions. The exhibition of Ian Kiaer in Vassivière particularly questioned the suitability of Rossi’s architecture to the art of his time (the art centre was built in 1991), far removed from monumental sculptures. At the gallery, the same works, installed into the entirely different space of a former shop, where the demands of scale are almost inversed and where each detail counts, establish a tight and immediate relationship with motifs, colours and light fluctuations.
Ian Kiaer knows how to apprehend with a realistic eye the conditions of the appearance of works of art, even though he often prefers to talk about the “pragmatic qualities of the object” to circumvent questions on the “meaning” of his work. One could say, paraphrasing Bresson’s Man Escaped, a film he recently submitted as his contribution to the local cinema near Vassivière during the exhibition, that the artist first believes in his hooks and ropes, and that within him resides doubt. The protagonist of this film is a Resistance fighter made prisoner by the Germans and shut inside a small cell. By a series of minute and repetitive gestures, stemming from the meticulous observation of the surrounding objects, the prisoner will ultimately develop a remarkable escape plan. Ian Kiaer acts the same way, by adding up motions in the studio, sometimes invisible or accidental, upstream from the hanging work carried out on site. Like Francis Ponge, the poet of the word-material, author of The Voice of Things1, Kiaer “cuts the wings of greatness, of beauty”2 and celebrates the “high here”, by the attention he gives to the fragmented materials. For the poets, the attentive glance given to the object and its materiality, is a detour used to talk about the humans and what animates them: the small makeshift jobs one can do with one’s own hands and that sometimes permits one to reach immensity, the universal.
Ian Kiaer was born in London in 1971. His work was the object of solo exhibitions at CIAP Vassivière, The Aspen Art Museum, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Kunstverein München and Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Torino. It was also recently shown in the following institutions: MUDAM, Luxemburg (L’Image papillon, cur. Christophe Gallois, 2013), Biennale de Rennes (cur. Anne Bonnin, 2012), Tate Britain (contemporary collections, 2012), British Art Show (cur. Lisa Le Feuvre, 2011), Hammer Museum (2011). He is currently preparing an exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute (spring 2014).
1 Francis Ponge, Le parti-pris des choses, NRF-Gallimard, 1942.
2 Francis Ponge, Tentative orale, 1947