On Thursday I found shelter from the rain in Haunch of Venison and managed to see the exhibition I Will Survive, by Portuguese artist, Joana Vasconcelos before it closes today. The architecture of Haunch of Venison alone sets a scene that could make any work an epic success and unfortunately on previous occasions I have found myself more concerned with the plasterwork and woodwork in this Sir James Pennethorne-desgined building at 6 Burlington Gardens than the art on display. Well not this time.
Mary Poppins, 2010
Subtlety welcomes you into the gallery with barriers that are made from braided synthetic hair - they lead you into the Atrium and that's where the subtle card draws the line. Hanging in all it's seven-metre tall, six-metre wide glory, Mary Poppins (above) is an eclectic chandelier-like assemblage of wool, crochet, fabric and tassels that sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition. The traditions of craft and everyday objects in Portuguese homes magnify the ability of handmade proving that our hands can create giant structures just as well as machines can.
Piano Dentelle, 2008
Themes of class, national identity and politics of gender invite you into a world of artifice: from the faience ceramic animals and the plastic food moulds to the intricate use of crochet that veneers the sculptural works to create an intriguing sexual intimacy, these mixed media installations take the viewer on an emotional journey of history and tradition as well as the current state of contemporary culture and it's thirst for the artificial.
Passerelle (Catwalk), 2005
This idea is perfectly captured in Garden of Eden (Labyrinth), a blacked-out installation of plastic flowers that are laced with glittering fibre-optics. The type of gadget that is commonly found on market stalls or toy shops, these small electric plants may be small in stature, but it was the noise of the motor that produced what I can only describe as cricket chirps or insect rustles that contributed to a tropical symphony in a paradise of technology that I thought was a great success. Craft and kitsch may be an obvious pairing, but Vasconcelos has produced a body of work that a makes the viewer look past the craft aesthetic, placing the focus back on society and it's motives.
Left to right: Hyperconsumption, 2010, Sugar Baby, 2010, Pantelmina #2, 2001
Images courtesy of Haunch of Venison