‘Who What When Where How and Why’ spans twenty-six years of the artist’s career throughout Newport Street’s six gallery spaces featuring over seventy works including new and previously unexhibited selected work drawn from Hirst’s extensive art collection.
Damien Hirst first saw Gavin Turk’s work – which he has been acquiring since 1998 – at his Royal College degree show in 1991, where Turk exhibited the iconic Cave, a commemorative blue plaque installation, presented here in the Gallery 2.
Since emerging onto the London art scene in the early 90s, Turk has dedicated much of his career to exploring notions of authorship, identity and value.
The Gallery 1 focusses on Signature and Decisions with a series of early works from the 90’s. Unoriginal Signature (1996) shows the artist’s signature spelled out in an anamorphic installation using Yves Klein blue sponges, only viewable from a particular angle. En plein air (1994) features a bottle of Perrier on that never stop spinning on a white table, like never reaching for a decision. For Identity Crisis (1994) a mock up of a Hello Magazine is presented in a light box, parody of an advertising campaign but also highlighting ahead of his time the complexity of sharing the artist private life with mainstream media and tabloids.
Exploring the notion of identity, Gavin Turk has portrayed himself in a series of figurative disguises over the past 25 years.
Pop (1993) is a life-sized waxwork of Turk as Sid Vicious in the gunslinging pose of Andy Warhol’s Elvis Presley, a comment on the nature of celebrity and the inbuilt self-destruction of the star system. The exhibition also includes lifesize figures of Turk as a tramp in Bum (1998), a Queen’s Guard in Somebody’s Son (2007) as well as a fountain in Self Portrait (2012).
Abstract impressionist canvasses on first glance look like Jackson Pollock, only to reveal the result of an innumerable repetition of Gavin Turk’s signatures.
The next floor is an immersive installation dedicated to two infamous symbols of British identity: Punk and white transit vans, which have been camouflaged in the Warhol aesthetic with yellow sneer wallpaper. His own sculpture Pop has been screenprinted in duplicate or triplicate to reiterate the image and blurring the lines between familiar and unfamiliar.
For his Transit disaster series, Turk substitutes Warhol’s road side wrecks with the image of a torched transit van. In Britain white vans are synonymous of white working class men. Pictured in flames the implication is violence and vandalism. The repeated image highlights an increasing hostile social divide, consequence of capitalism and desensitisation. Completing the series is a Cesar-like compression of the white van.
In one of the corridors lays Nomad (2002), a disarmingly realistic bronze cast of a rough-sleeper buried inside a battered sleeping bag, highlighting the growing issues of social divide and homelessness.
A series of everyday objects are scattered on the floor and could be discarded as trash, but Gavin Turk loves to play with our perception, trompe l’oeil, illusion and what is defined as thruth, waste and beauty.
In the Detritus series the artist magnifies these everyday perishable objects and waste and transform them into lifesize bronze sculptures painted to look real, giving them a new value and status.
Always playful, amongst the trompe l’oeil realistic bronze sculptures is also featured a compressed can, found nearby the gallery during the opening.
Pimp (1996) , a skip originally used as a container for the disposal of building waste, has been revamped with lacquered paint. Pile (2004) features a bronze cast of six full black bin bags arranged in a pile, painted to look real. Ending the exhibition is an extra large version of the bin bag with American Bag (2016), symbol of our wasteful consumerist lifestyles.
Finding beauty in the trashy and ugly, Gavin Turk mentions ‘We are defined by what we throw away and conversely we are deconstructed by what we choose to display in our hallowed museum halls.’
Who What When Where How & Why is an impressive retrospective of Gavin Turk’s career and definitively not to be missed.
View the full set of pics here
Gavin Turk: Who What When Where How & Why
Until 19 March 2017
Newport Street Gallery, London SE11 6AJ