Corp’rate Day

thoughts on art and fiction

Nick Evans

The Glasgow-based sculptor Nick Evans’ recent solo show at Sorcha Dallas involved an unusual foray by that artist into – almost – total abstraction. Though the ‘Primitivist’ aesthetic of classical modernism had been strongly present in Evans’ past sculptures, his older works also incorporated conspicuous figurative elements (referencing Cubist-style nudes, for example).  Evans often evoked these narrative symbols in a way that suggested difficult genres of ‘politically conscious art’. Evans has been especially drawn to those predecessors who- in a resistance of merely polemical illustration- remained attentive to the formal aspects of their practice, and who acknowledged the discursive limits of visual art as an ironic structure within which to sharpen their critical purpose. Examples of this kind of approach might include Goya, Manet and – more recently – the collaborative practitioners of Art and Language. At least one of Evans’ titles at Sorcha Dallas evoked that wry, esoteric – yet darkly imaginative – tradition.

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Carol Rama

In Terry Zwigoff’s film Ghost world (2001), the art teacher applauds an unctuous girl student making works from her own blood, whilst rubbishing the witty intricate drawings of the heroine. This parody of reversed dogma – a sort of compulsory avant gardism- is furthered in the fake video art she shows to the class -a female voice chanting ‘father/mirror, father/mirror’ over a montage of dolls heads and flushing toilets. Carol Rama’s stance of anguished candidness occupies a similarly parodic and jaded arena for a post-millennial audience. In the wake of Tracy Emin’s tabloid notoriety and Louise Bourgeois’ fully institutionalised spiders, mirrors and towers, it seems quite ubiquitous for female artists to be airing their psychological dirty laundry in public; far less cataclysmic than in 1940’s Turin where Rama’s first exhibition was closed down by the police.

Yet the Baltic retrospective – 87-year-old Rama’s first ever British solo show- proved that an anguished confessional subject-matter had not lost its scabrous power to enchant, perhaps because its’ mordant manifestations in this instance pre-empted any cynical response. Rama who has been making works since the early 1930’s, began – like the Thora Birch character in Ghost World by drawing through her own anxieties, producing lewd scrawls of lascivious but somewhat violently incommoded figures including grinning priapic male harpies and snake-tongued femme-fatales. These works entitled Appassionatas, beautifully tinted in watercolour and rendered in a deceptively fey style, established an enduring repertoire of amputees and strange fetishes, which recurred in the increasingly sculptural from of the bricolages of the1960’s, made from glass eyes and claws embedded in pools and splashes of paint. Read more →