Wednesday, March 12, 2003

DAYS LIKE THESE When I read about Cornelia Parker's little wheeze to wrap Rodin's 'The Kiss' in a mile of string I envisaged the effect might be like an old cricket ball which had lost its leather cover. As kids we used to play with these worn out cork cricket balls. I used to be fascinated by the patterns created by the hemp string used to bind the cork pieces together. Unravelling the outer layer revealed more of the same in the layer underneath. There was a logic to the way the construction process determined the string pattern.

There was a time when art students taught by Maurice de Sausmarez and others were encouraged to observe the ways in which processes created patterns whether they were derived from man made processes or natural growth. This study had two objectives; first to develop a sensitive understanding of the nature of materials and secondly, to see these patterns as basic elements of design. There is little evidence that these ideas are taught any more. It is hard to see any point to Ms Parker's creation or why the Mail on Sunday described her 'idea' as "a big, memorable statement of desire and pain." The London Evening Standard, Brian Sewell perhaps, fuming with outrage, writes; "shall have we have Canover's naked Graces waving dildos." A remark in bad taste which is hardly constructive.

Ms Parker's creation continues a fashion started some years ago by a German artist who wrapped buildings in plastic sheets. If you are going to engage in this kind of exercise the point of it is best conveyed with humour. Rather than a mile of string draped on 'The Kiss' why not fit a bra on the 'Venus de Milo' – less effort and it makes just as valid a statement. Duchamp of course painted a copy of the 'Mona Lisa' with a moustache and the trick was taken further when the photographer Philippe Halsman created a photo montage of the Mona Lisa with Salvador Dali's eyes and moustache. Amusing and trivial perhaps but at least Duchamp and Halsmann were exercising acquired craft skills to produce their pictures which adds merit to the final work. Does Ms Parker's creation display a comparable level of craftsmanship?
'Days Like These' at Tate Britain

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