press release

Modernism has two faces, two different kinds of visual grammar. One is sleek, frictionless and inhuman; it is a look redolent of the production line, aerodynamic and unvarying, with the potential to be infinitely reproducible.

The other is its near opposite: post-industrial, grainy and irregular; its technologies are the hand loom and the potter’s wheel. An artist who epitomizes this cross-current of art and craft is Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Not only did she make works of fine art, whose look signaled an awareness of craft techniques, but she was also a skilled craftswoman – she wove and carved. She worked within and heralded an unnamed aesthetic which combined rusticity and modernity.

Ruggedness as a virtue in the visual arts is at least as 20th century as high finish and polish. Both order and human fallibility are equally prominent in the geometry of a homespun rug or hand carved stool. In the cross-fertilization of the applied and fine arts each benefits from the influence of the other, and neither asserts itself as the senior partner. The influence of the unique and the bespoke is paradoxically most evident in the constructivist and non-representational tendencies of the 20th century, and becomes more evident with the passing of time. Paintings that may well have seemed passionless to their first audience now look human and hand-crafted – Mondrian; Malevich; early Bomberg.

Within the historic collection of Mount Stuart an exhibition of works by contemporary artists Eva Berendes, Simon Bill, Enrico David, Karin Ruggaber and Sarah Staton was installed for the summer months. As a setting for contemporary art Mount Stuart stands in polar opposition to the tabula rasa of the white cube. It is a gigantic and confident showcase for lavish materiality, the expertise of gothic revivalist craftsmen, and for the taste of their patrons. The contemporary works discovered within Mount Stuart cannot confront this Victorian self confidence, but set an aspect of the rich legacy of 20th century modernism in subtle counterpoint to it, with works characterised by an inflected symmetry, fragile surfaces and a quiet sense of order.

Curated by Simon Bill and Sarah Staton.

only in german

Modernism has two faces...

Eva Berendes, Simon Bill, Enrico David, Karin Ruggaber, Sarah Staton

Simon Bill, Sarah Staton