T293 Naples °
Office, Via Tribunali 293
artist / participant
On 5th February, T293 opens Helen Marten's first solo exhibition, 'wicked patterns'. The show poaches its title from a statement describing the decorative applications of Formica in Memphis furniture. Wrapped in these words are a freefall of associations: references to Cubism, Futurism, Art Deco, graffiti, jungles and towns, science fiction, cartoons, African prints, Japanese comics - an endless maze of marks, logotypes and graphics from which to leap. In 'wicked' we nudge through linguistic meanings, from the cool 'totally wicked' of colloquial language, through glib txt-spk (WKD!), to the perverse, pathetic and playful evil of misbehavior. This blurry, overlapped to-and-froing of art- and design histories provides an already saturated vocabulary of images on which to piggy-back. And it is from this eking out and reabsorbing of stuff, of already known bundles of cultural baggage, that the work finds its humour. Heraldry, hallucinogens and emoticons skid via modernism's sacred lines to the banality of mass production, corporate leanings collapse under ornamental fussiness and use value is camouflaged beneath a cacophony of patterns and colours. The work is also underpinned by a fetishised interest in materials and the handmade, both a stuck-together-with-spit kind of aesthetic, and the slick, shiny gloss of industrial manufacture: smooth surfaces alternate with ruinous arrangements, and architectural nods sit alongside trashiness, fragility, obsessiveness and a kind of graphic erotica. Symbols and personalities are designated, only to be reassigned or manipulated through further layers of material detail. 'George Nelson', makes playful reference to the father of American Modernism, whilst sculptures referencing two chairs hint at humourous dialogue between canonised authors (Rietveld + Wegner). Hergè's Tintin conflates the most famous of Euro-centric silhouettes with airline iconography, raising questions of political and cultural currency. The artist plays homage to the punk spirit of DIY and the exuberance of backyard, amateur or boyish fiddlings is championed. Continually poked, stretched and overblown, the resulting mood is left to the whims of taste, pace and style.
Helen Marten, born UK, 1985 and graduated from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford. Lives and works in London.
only in german