Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Blue Gas (We Got)

Photograph courtesy of James Lewis

   My latest visit to The Crate Gallery involved appraising and enjoying the work of James Lewis,  a skilled conceptual artist whose Blue Gas installation brought a certain showstopping grandeur to the usual near-clinical confines of its three day abode

   Naturally, the neon words and numbers created for the show utilise the titular blue gas to achieve their illuminating effect. A number of pieces, such as those that I'm photographed with, crossed over from James' previous Value and Worth show, which addressed the intrinsic value of his creativity head-on, displaying the cost of the time, effort, design and even the electricity invested in the project. The end result was a series of price tags in lights, and very attractive lights they are too - I derived a thrill from having the issues of the pieces' fair value and fiscal effort posed to myself and to others in so forthright a manner

   The artist's methods and thought processes are detailed on The Crate's website; this excerpt addresses Lewis' approach:

 [Lewis] tries to prevent his Conceptual Art practice from being cold and stale. He does this by trying to place a narrative within his work, be it through photographically documenting his physical capabilities during a project or saving his income so that he can produce a series of neon signs. Lewis plays upon a personally devised formula of achieving a finalized “art object”¹. Which often means he financially or physically suffers for his art practice.

   As is common with such work, the viewer may transpose their own views and deductions even if they've been made aware of the concept. One of the first reactions I discussed with the artist was a certain nostalgia of 1980s apartments and the neon decorations that adorned many of them, as well as the use of such lighting and design in public advertising, my supposition being that this was a thoughtful and honest take on an iconic and ubiquitous practice

   I certainly appreciated Lewis' sense of perspective in addressing the true worth of his work in an analytical manner; some might argue that this kind of self awareness is sadly absent in the contemporary art world, although I have always felt that talent and effect should dictate prices. Lewis' projects are all worthy of further investigation - his end results are always well considered, technical, aesthetically interesting and unpretentious

   Perhaps the most delightful thing about viewing them is that not only do they all have something to express but they also seem to have yet more to say


Harry McKinley said...

I always associate neon lights with Tracey Emin but I like that his messages are a little more oblique...

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