on mesmerising allure, dirk stewen at maureen paley until nov 14

I posted a few words on this show when it opened and The Guardian got excited about it too, see here. There are a few days left to see it here … I drafted a review of it also but have been insanely busy since -not least writing about other visual art- and plain forgot about my text. I’m posting it here as a pdf for ease, mine mostly, but surely yours too [why the aversion to pdfs?], kind of in the humbling spirit of the thing. That is, to encourage you to not miss the show.

My review is a rough, the requisite pressure of imminent publication has not yet been applied, but here follows a little excerpt with a couple of the images it refers to;

“…Let me contrast two representative pieces of work. Upstairs with untitled, Stewen brings all the elements in his work together in a unsquared ‘canvas’ of inked sheets with washes of texture which still reflects; the surface broken by sewn lines, bindi-like dots of a varying size, more half-inked colourful strings and before it all is a fine gloss-white bamboo stick, set at a slight remove from the canvas, reflecting blackly on its surface.

Downstairs is a variant condensation in untitled [Bronx Monkey II]; a photocopy of a rain forest scaled trunk. Immediately familiar with predictable monkeys, yet there is something lurking in the image that has been chosen not found. One made much more powerful by being hung in an undersized frame and glass so that it can curl up at its free-falling bottom. Draped over and around it in a loose coil are disarmingly clever strips of bright bindi-like spots sewn together to make an impossibly happy daisy chain.

In both pieces everything that relates to something recognisable is reworked with an engaging twist. The bindi-chains drape over a print of the kind of tree which is blessed in India with strings of cotton horizontally binding its trunk. It’s a deconstructed reference to those pretty objects; the bindis not mere signs, but enticingly open signifiers. Where there is an ongoing flirtation with aestheticised or remembranced time in the work, both pieces celebrate an all-out, over-the-cliff, made-in-a-room-on-my-own invention…”

Here is the illustrated pdf itself [Dirk Stewen at Maureen Paley 8 Oct-14 Nov – REVIEWdraft].

There is a very good piece on a 2007 show in the States by Jeffrey Kastner in Artforum, which you can find online here -no doubt elsewhere too. It’s better than mine; “Stewen’s work reads like the poetry to which it aspires: marked by stops, stutters, and silences, suffused by both gloom and radiance…”  -many pathways right?

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