Franz West
Man with a Ball

October 9 – November 10, 2012

GAGOSIAN GALLERY- Britannia Street, London

Images courtesy of Gagosian Gallery Website. More information about the exhibition can be found here:

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

There is a really exciting solo exhibition of Franz West sculptures and paintings at Gagosian Gallery in London.

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

“Creativity is just rhetoric. The everyday life wants to enter, but I have to carefully dam it up.” West

As a newcomer to Franz West, I side-stepped past the large pink intestinal sculpture in the foyer and sat at a table, leafing through various catalogues, whilst my fellow compadre rampaged through an entire sketchbook making fast, expressive drawings from the sculptures in the gallery.

I came across a five-page conversation between the artist Sarah Lucas and Franz West at the front of a book.  It seemed to be an email dialogue, where Lucas posed questions to West about his motivations and where they might position their art against others as well as hair removal. It flitted between seriousness and nonsense. There was a film called Energy Diaries, shown at the ICA this year,documenting a 2010 conversation between the two artists and also Andreas Reiter Raabe, with music interventions by Philipp Quehenberger. There is a really good and funny review of this talk held at the Royal Institution, London, 21st June 2010  by Rebecca Bell: Click on this link to see more….‘a-talk’-sarah-lucas-andreas-reiter-raabe-and-franz-west/

 I have included an extract from the write-up by Rebecca Bell, as it sets the tone for West’s  and indeed Lucas’ work.

“The evening reached a climax of mixed pleasure, frustration and confusion when Lucas walked out saying “I’m going for a wee” which resulted in many people leaving. West shrugged and said to the audience “money back again”. I suddenly felt I was part of a morphing Stoppard Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

When Lucas returned questions were invited from the floor – to which a young man asked what was going on. He had come for a talk, he had come to an institution, he expected information, and he expected a structure.

The artists asked him what he wanted to know and they would tell him. The starry crowd tangibly divided between those sneering at his lack of comprehension and those nodding vehemently at his right to ask the question they were too afraid to ask. Perhaps he exposed an Emperor’s New Clothes element to the proceeding, but also in questioning the activity he created a Brechtian sense of performance, a commentator exposing the process of the event, clarifying the deterioration of the 4th (in this case even 3rd, 2nd and 1st?) wall.

The frustration of many seemed contradictory for a crowd so willing to accept anything within the boundaries of the artists’ decision and yet they rejected this member of the audience for demanding to become a part of an apparently boundless event/experience through his question.

I digress; back to the books and I read a second interview. West was asked how he begins his sculptures. In response, West explained how he would stand in front of nothing and then make a ‘body’ which is then corrected and vamped up in several stages to conceal his ‘inability’ to make art.  Various objects such as wicker baskets and card board boxes used to develop this central body were left partly exposed and unpainted whilst other areas are completely submerged in  bandages of paper and paint and no longer identifiable.

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

My fellow artist made some really interesting observations about West’s work. She described them as a  3-D drawing on a journey. The  twisting shapes felt full of movement as I was compelled to scan over the sculptures following the curves from end to end. There was a desire to interact; to step over, get inside and to touch the sculptures. West mentions his link with Nikki De Saint Phalle’s grottos, where the audience could inhabit both the interior and also view the surface of the art work. In fact, her giant sculpture garden  in Tuscany was indeed inhabited by De Saint Phalle and her team of workers for the duration of its construction.

Niki De Saint Phalle

A post man came into deliver some letters to Gagosian passing right through the pink twirling form and  then ducking back out again. Did he really touch that? I quite liked his blasé attitude as this seemed on the same level as West. I read how West was also not a fan of Henry Moore’s sculptures, as they were too perfect and smooth. There is an equilibrium between the  process of construction and the physicality of materials and structure. Nothing is more or less important; The surfaces are not overworked and the sculptures don’t pretend to be anything other than a mass of pulp objects and paint. The sculptures were made mainly from paper mache pulp and foam; materials akin to school art lessons. The paint is clumpy and mottled. West mentioned that others would colour the sculptures as he thought he could not paint, but the sculptures became to ‘arrogant’ to him, so he started to paint them himself instead. Some of the sculptures are partly painted, so you can see the grey paper mulch peeking through or large areas are left unprimed. Then there is a mixture of upside-down drips, splashes and layering of different colours that also have dripped down onto the plinths below. I read that when returning to his freshly painted sculptures for the first time, he saw the colour had lost its shine and vitality and was disappointed by this. However the sculptures at Gagosian had been developed using a gloss of acrylic lacquer which increased the richness of colours.

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

“A sculpture is more real than a 2-D artwork.” West

FRANZ WEST: Man with a Ball”
Installation view
Photo by Mike Bruce

 I wanted not to like West’s work, but it was not possible. It was so free and fun and casual and lacking any pomposity or pretensions. He seemed a  bit of a joker.

From Gagosian’s Press release:

“In the seventies, he produced the first of the small, portable, mixed media sculptures called Adaptives (Passstücke). These “ergonomically inclined” objects become complete as artworks only when the viewer holds, wears, carries or performs with them. Transposing the knowledge gained with these formative works, he explored sculpture increasingly in terms of an ongoing dialogue of actions and reactions between viewers and objects in any given exhibition space, while probing the internal aesthetic relations between sculpture and painting.”

My favourite part of the exhibition, was these three baby coloured sculptures. Ridiculously big, yet not monumental, cartoon like and silly, pleasurable and enveloping, the sculptures seemed to float in the space like alien meteors.
Franz West- 16 February 1947 – 25 July 2012




Kollwitz born in Kaliningrad, Russia  in 1867. She became a student in Berlin to develop her artistic skills as a painter, etcher and sculptor. She documented the working class, revolutions, war and human sufferings. Her son Peter, died in World War 1 and her grandson, Peter in World War 2. ‘The grieving parents’ was a memorial artwork to soldiers and their families who had suffered because of the war.

Grieving Parents- Kathe Kollwitz

kathe kollwitz


Kollwitz documents the lives of the less fortunate, capturing harrowing moments of despair, unconsolable loss and devastation. The artwork below is a mother with her dead child.

kathe kollwitz

kathe kollwitz

The above wood cut is a self-portrait by Kollwitz, with a stoic gaze and unflattering rendering which alludes to the suffering she faced through out her life.



Matt Roberts Arts, 25b Vyner St, London, E2 9DG

ALAS Summer Residency Exhibition 2012

28th June – 7th July 2012

 I visited the inaugural opening of ALAS  at Matt Roberts’ Gallery. This group show will become a twice yearly event on Vyner Street, happening in June and November. This is an exciting addition to  the  Matt Roberts Gallery annual  Salon exhibitions, consisting of a mixed media show, (painting, sculpture, installation and any 2-D media) as well as the two additional  salon prizes, which specialise in photography and video.

The salon shows and now ‘ALAS‘ are great platforms for contemporary artists to gain valuable exposure of the work and forge new links with other practitioners, galleries and art collectors in London. I spoke to Matt Roberts that evening about his idea behind the  current show. He seems to  have a real understanding and commitment in supporting artists  to  develop their career as successful practitioners.  I really liked his idea of getting artists to work collaboratively in the gallery environment prior to the exhibition, sharing and discussing their development to make a cohesive show. An artist tends to have an isolated lifestyle, so the making of ALAS was a return to the college atmosphere, where peer assessment could be implemented to support the making process, as opposed to merely commenting on finished work.  In addition, each Saturday, a talk or visit was arranged where artists would meet different organisations in the art world to gather contacts and advice.

“After five years of providing artists’ professional development support Matt Roberts has launched ALAS, as a means of sharing knowledge about ways in which artists can gain exhibition experience and exposure for their practice. The ALAS professional development residency consists of over 100 hours of lectures and one-to-one tuition from our team and guest lecturers over a five week period. Successful applicants will be asked to bring 1-2 works in progress which will be completed in our studio facilities and exhibited at the Matt Roberts Arts gallery spaces.”

Exhibiting artists are:

Catrine Bodum, David Chalkley, Hannah Futers, Caro Halford, Kirsty Harris, Karolina Magnusson-Murray, Susie Mendelsson, Hana Melley, Julia Miranda, Moorland Productions, Laurie Nouchka, Araba Ocran, Jane Oldfield, Charley Peters, Paul Stanley, Susanna Thornton, Ventiko, Jemma Watts, Sarah West

Here is a small selection of images from the group exhibition.

Paul Stanley
“Lying awake in my bed as a child I listened to the trains going by on the track that ran behind our street, hoping to make sense out of the white noise of a world that extended endlessly beyond my understanding.”

Paul Stanley
“Through my more recent ‘Pulling at Threads’ series I have been looking closely at how we develop relationships with the images that are personal to us; for example how we understand our own image captured at a point in time such as childhood.”

Jemma Watts “My current work is concerned with the psychogeography of cities, exploring the idea of the sacred and mystical in the modern world, and specifically urban environments. It seems to me that something that is shaped by the will of so many human minds over hundreds of years must have a higher significance.”

Jemma Watts

Black and white photo from the exhibition of Jemma Watts drawings on paper

Julia Miranda

Hannah Futers
My work flows between drawing, painting, photography and constructing sets. These all feed into one another, and are concerned with surface and texture, creating and documenting landscapes, and using time as a medium.

The image above shows a photo of a film by Hannah Futers, except you can not see anything. Her film was in an enclosed space at the entrance of the gallery. In reality, the film is so delicate and faint, you can barely make out  the footage of shimmering of light. I could not capture it properly to illustrate Hannah Futer’s work, but it was so interesting I wanted to mention it in more detail. A visitor was telling her friend about it, so I listened in. She had recorded the flickering colours of light, reflected on the shiny surface of a gallery floor. At first, the film was  abstract and unidentifiable, then a gallery visitor’s feet cross over the reflection. It was subtle, a sublime light, a trace of something, then reality hits you. It feels like the gallery visitor is breaking the silence or the beauty of the piece. It feels destructive and intrusive, except this recording is just an unintentional  by-product of an artwork. Futer’s work seems to play with the idea of authorship, capturing interest in the peripheral areas of an artwork, that the original artist has no control or claim over. Is it now hers for the taking?

An artwork by Kirsty Harris on small sanded down oak panel. The detail in phenomenal. She uses a 10x 0 brush to get  some of these lines, which I never knew existed! Her oil paintings are created using traditional miniature painting techniques and show a contemporary and comical take of paintings from history. They remain faceless, so that the work refers to compositional elements as opposed to making an identifiable portrait of someone. 

David Chalkley- a photo I took of his work in the gallery with  a visitor looking at it- seemingly impressed.

David Chalkley- Creating the piece for the ALAS show
“With this piece I am exploring how time acts upon objects. The objects were mass-produced from identical moulds but time has afforded them different histories. Only when viewing these items as a collection of individuals do the effects”

Araba Ocran- My work has evolved from an exploration of monumentalism. Monumental sculptures are traditionally permanent objects which denote a deed or a person worthy of record; a memorial, celebrated in sculpture and painting. 
My work aims to challenge this concept by my choice of sculptural medium and subject matter

Catrine Bodum- extract taken from her statement- In 2009, during her MA in London Catrine Bodum found her influence in the music of Steve Reich and the Poems of Robert Lax. Bodum felt that there was a dialogue in their work that she could continue into her own work. They worked as a springboard into new ways of building up her compositions. Catrine Bodum has since moved on from working directly in reference to their work.

This is a detail from Catrine Bodum’s work. The painting was made of two parts and this photo shows just the right hand side of the artwork.

Susie Mendelsson
Much of my work is motivated by an exploration of personal memories and the expression of psychological states of trauma and anxiety. Though the sources of my imagery are often autobiographical, my work communicates universal concerns and emotions, especially from a woman’s perspective.

Sarah West
I systematically scavenge the vast array of imagery within magazines and newspapers; consuming, analysing and reacting to chance shots of unpredictable subject and composition.

Detail from Sarah West’s painting.

I really enjoyed the exhibition and you could see that a good  friendship between the artists  had also been created at the opening event. The artists came from a wide range of backgrounds, ages, experiences and disciplines. The exhibition runs until the 7th July so go check it out. More info can be found here.


I went to see this exhibition ” YOU BLOW ME AWAY” in Rivington street near Old street, particularly drawn by their press release image below. I liked the look of that ‘squashed bunny in a bauble aesthetic.”
(Public vote winner of Catlin Prize 2012)

Here is a link to the website

Here is a picture of the front of the shop/gallery space

      The work features artists:

Andrea Hasler
Patrick Furness
Adeline de Monseignat  and is curated by Silia Ka Tung
The show “reveals the delicate and sensual in animal and human anatomy, albeit in a subversive way.”

 The exhibition runs until 14th July 2012