Virginia Woolf seems to be everywhere in my life at the moment. I read the literature she writes and I go to a lecture series named after her essay A Room of One’s Own. But I did not expect to meet her at an exhibition.
White Energy at Galleri Kant is curated by Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen; the title refers to Woolf’s reflections on creative energy in A Room of One’s Own – the utopian fever state of pure creation. Works have been selected because of their ‘whiteness’ and ‘strong formal power of enunciation’. So the reference to Virginia Woolf is not to her feminist agenda – which is the key message I took away from reading her – but applying more broadly her insights about the need for freedom to create. Thus, only three of the nine exhibiting artists (or groups) are women, which I supect would have somewhat disappointed Woolf. Perhaps it is reflctive of a sad reality that so many years later, men are still more likely to have access to this state.
Nevertheless, the exhibition is worth a look. It is an eclectic collection. The works are mainly white and many utilise the materiality to maximum effect. A polystyrene city dominates the main room of the gallery. Its towers in all proportions provides a spatial sturdiness, belied by the lightweight and fragile nature of the material. Swedish-Finnish poet Cia Rinne‘s pieces use text on white space, arranged as a whole on the wall. The text is both clever and has visual effect when typed in the middle of A4 size sheets. Coincidentally, it is the little sister to the 48 piece work, notes for soloists, exhibiting at Den Frie Udstilling’s Notes on Location. Perhaps Rinne’s smaller work in this exhibition represents the white energy – or even the detritus – of the larger work?
I was keen to see work by Danish artist Peter Linde Busk. I thoroughly enjoyed The Staging Area, an exhibition at Holstebro Kunstmuseum in 2013. That exhibition included both paintings and ceramics which captured the conflict and collision between inner emotions and the external world and the ordered patterns of the mind and the chaos imposed by ‘real’ world. I should have known only ceramic works would fit the bill of the White Energy exhibition. I much prefer Linde Busk’s paintings and collages to his ceramics. To me these two pieces depicted the chaos without the order, like something was missing. Perhaps this too is referential to white energy?
It was a pleasure to meet Ukranian-born, Berlin based artist, Anton Burdakov. He explained how his works were exploring space and materiality. His work Still (#1) consisted of a piece of wall with a nail and a whole where a nail had been, a skirting board and a floor board. The textured wall paper and skirtingboard were white and the floor board raw timber, jutting out into the exhibition space. The lack of proportionality in terms of where the nail was hit into the wall gave the work an added dimension; this is not where a nail would be if it was to be useful for hanging something from it. Perhaps that was exactly the point. That things are not what they seem.
When galleries exhibit curated works, it would benefit the gallery goer immensely if the works were accompanied by didactic panels, so without great difficulty the artist and title of the work can be identitfied as one examines and makes sense of the work. In White Energy one has to refer to the price list to discover which artist created which works. This creates white noise for the genuinely interested gallery goer and does little to endear potential buyers to the artist or the work. It certainly makes it difficult to write meaningfully about my experience, when I cannot recall the name of the artist or the work I am trying to describe. Some might suggest I should take better notes?
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this little gem of an exhibition. Creative flow – or white energy – is essential to producing art, and without the freedom and the room – space, time and resources – to create this white energy is unlikely to emerge.