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Re: Martin Westwood at The Approach, till 15th April.

From:     blp
Category: Art
Date:     25 March 2007
Time:     02:07 PM


I'm surprised that anyone would say it wouldn't look out of place in an airport. If anything, the
corporate theme's biggest failing here (more than in previous work) is that the dead sterility of
its handling is too obviously and bluntly critical and something of a cliché. Still, I think
Westwood is one of the more intelligent and idiosyncratic artists around. I respect him for
attempting something complex, allusive, poetic and critical that has a lot to do with processes of
making and very little to do with the played out strategies of conceptualism, for  risking boring
his viewers and for risking the fire of people like the above respondent when they reflexively shoot
the messenger. 

You don't have to look too far that to see that the airport lounge look isn't being played straight.
Inside the immaculate casings, there's a certain amount of mess and chaos, especially in the smaller
coffee table piece, where hundreds of bank brochure type corporate portraits printed on cardboard
swirl in a great, muddy torrent, spiralling into a mulch of paper pulp. A few further portraits are
printed on leaf shapes. 

It made me think of Dante, particularly the line quoted in Eliot's The Wasteland to describe
commuters going over London Bridge in the evening: 'I had not thought death had undone so many'. The
leaf motif, especially with portraits printed on, can relate to Dante too – in one circle of Hell
(circles are everywhere in this show), unfaithful lovers are turned into leaves and blown about
perpetually in a high wind. 

The chaos of Hell is also the chaos of our world and the use of elements like leaf shapes and real
stones undercut the corporate veneer both with a beauty and irregularity. Iconographic elements
bounce deictically from context to context like spheres, light and liquids in The Story of the Eye.
Nature is domesticated into office paperweights and push-pins and decals mutate into swarms of
pollen, insects, flurries of snow etc. while also suggesting the ungovernable (or, at any rate,
ungoverned) information and electrical storms of markets. It's like a picture of the unconscious of
a laptop or a corporate entity; surrealism without a leavening beauty.  

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