Charles Matton at Omega Place, London


Charles Matton: Enclosures

2 Omega Place - Open until 7th October 2011

AVA (All Visual Arts) is proud to present the first major retrospective of French artist Charles Matton. Thirty eight undiscovered boxes will be installed in Kings Cross. From 1985 until his death in 2008, Charles Matton created mixed media works  which defy easy  classification. Theatrical, atmospheric, meticulously constructed, his small scale interiors are housed in see through boxes with glass fronts.

The miniature spaces represent real world interiors and revisited memories from Matton’s own life, as well as other recognizable places.  The artist also fabricated interiors from his imagination, intended to recreate cherished sensations, such as the loneliness felt in an abandoned hotel corridor or the intimacy of a forgotten and disused library.

Matton and his assistant painstakingly handbuilt, painted and sculpted every visible detail to 1/7 scale, from fading wallpaper to broken light sockets. Some of  his  enclosures of  famous artist’s studios; such as Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti. They are such direct representations that viewing these  boxes is almost  like making  a  journey  through time. Matton reconstructed the room  in which Paul Bowles died as well as Freud’s  study, with his personal art collection displayed exactly as it would have been on his desk in 1910, lit by  the wintry  sun of  a February afternoon.

As time passed, subsequent boites started to take on a more poetic quality. For the literal encounter to be complete for the viewer, the boxes needed to be not just how something looked on a particular day,but how they felt. To do this, Matton sometimes used one way mirrors and videos to add hypnotic optical illusions.  Poisson d’Or depicts a music room with a grand piano, on which is projected the ghostly image of  a  young man performing Debussy’s  Goldfish. The player is Matton’s son Jules, an accomplished classical pianist.

‘Magic boxes and metaphysical boxes, I’d like people to enter my boxes as they go round an exhibition’.

Such effects seem derived from Matton’s experience in film making, that he always returned to. In New York University Club Library, Matton used double sided mirrors. These magic mirrors play with the involvement of the observer, who despite looking into a mirror within these miniaturised worlds, cannot see themselves.  These Vampire boxes were the last step to fully integrating the viewer.


James Casebere at Lisson Gallery


7 September - 1 October 2011:  52-54 Bell Street, London

PRESS RELEASE from Lisson Gallery:

Lisson Gallery is proud to present Credit, Faith, Trust, an exhibition of new and recent works from James Casebere’s Landscape with Houses series.

Working at the forefront of constructed photography since the late seventies, Casebere is associated with The Pictures Generation, a group of artists who combined a Pop obsession with media culture with the critical framework of Conceptual Art to redefine photography as a Postmodern medium in the 70s and 80s. Based upon his understanding of architectural, anthropological, art historical and cinematic sources, Casebere’s detailed photographs address contemporary and historical social concerns. His work challenges the boundaries between reality and imagination, whether dealing with alienation in sixties America; addressing slavery and colonialism through black and white visions of cotton mills and covered wagons peppered with native American arrows; or questioning incarceration and the significance of state buildings.

The works in the Lisson exhibition signal a return to the American landscape, a subject Casebere began investigating over thirty years ago with his Life Story works. In the Landscape with Houses series, the artist expresses a fascination with the vernacular notion of home. The images are carefully constructed compositions based on a recreation of the suburban area of Dutchess County in Upstate New York as a model in the artist’s studio. As one might reconstruct an experience of landscape from memory, the model houses were created one by one and only later placed on a set, reassembled in different configurations. Colours, architectural features and details, and the relative scale of parts were revisited several times, resulting in a pastiche of the ideal suburban neighbourhood.

Three words capture the values upon which these communities are, perhaps misguidedly, built: Credit, Faith, Trust. Casebere describes the works in this exhibition as “a response to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the madness of the way we live in the age of global warming and the end of oil, when for more reasons than one, the American Dream of home ownership has become a dangerous fantasy.“

The images are almost sinister in their flawed perfection. The aerial viewpoint is reminiscent of territorial survey and thus suggestively omniscient. The alluring colour schemes of the buildings, dazzling sunshine and perfect rainbows are overtly picturesque and suggest a construct of truth. Upon closer inspection missing architectural elements, incongruous scale and unsettling imperfections introduce an element of the surreal.

Following the critical acclaim that the series received at the Whitney Biennial in 2010, three new images have been produced specifically for the Lisson Gallery exhibition and will be presented for the first time. These include two night scenes, which counter the idyllic atmosphere of the day scenes. Dominated by a baseball diamond in the foreground, one of the images portrays a residential neighbourhood of detached houses at dusk. Small bonfires are set up in the gardens, perhaps to signal a celebration. However on closer inspection, some of the fires seem to burn unattended, the flames threateningly close to the houses, and light up the skyline as if they were untamed forest fires. As the dream of home ownership and peaceful suburbia has given way to class homogeneity and a standardisation of style, the fire in these images is not so much a natural threat as the material manifestation of a nightmare; the social threat of economic instability and loss of control.

Link to Gallery Website

Model making at the Venice Biennale 2011

I was fortunate enough to make it to Venice last week and managed to fit in the Biennale between intensive bouts of eating, drinking and the obligatory afternoon gelato. As ever I was keeping a special eye out for work that might be relevant to MAKE. I’m sure I missed loads that was going on but here are a few things that I did manage to see:

I have to begin with what was arguably the most exciting piece in the whole Biennale - Mike Nelson’s magnificent transformation of the British Pavilion into a 1:1 rendering of a labyrinthine Istanbul workshop. It felt authentic, in the sense that it made me feel I had been translated to another, real, space though I have to own up to never having been to Istanbul, let alone visited any light industry there. The rooms seemed to contain the dust of centuries. Some of their contents made sense, but there were also odd bits of unidentifiable machinery and other mysterious bric à brac. In one corner was a suitably fragrant lavatory, in another some filthy bedding. The illusion was well nigh perfect, but at the same time there were subtle reminders that the installation was also a theatre for  Nelson’s imagination, and it was these that elevated the work above mere set-building. In a deftly reflexive touch, one room, apparently a photographic lab, was festooned with drying prints of Istanbul buildings of the very kind evoked by the installation. Arguably the most audacious flourish was to be found through a doorway that led into a perfectly realised exterior courtyard, which gave me the impression I was viewing the outside of the building I had just been in, thus completing the illusion. All that prevented an ascent of the external staircase to an enticing little door at first floor level was the presence of a member of gallery staff who sat, like a tourist, on the bottom step reading a book.

The Arsenale contained “Pink Wave Hunter” a large installation by Andro Wekua comprising fifteen architectural forms mounted on a continuous plinth at about table top level. The models are based on buildings from his native town of Sukhumi, Georgia that have been destroyed in conflict, and they were made by the exiled artist from memory, which accounts for their varying levels of detail and completeness. Some seem fully realised, whilst others are almost abstract forms with just an architectonic facade. It is a poignant piece, and somehow the model is a perfect analogue for the half-remembered. Still baffled by the title though.cimg1916x.jpgcimg1923x.jpg

 Out in the city, beside the Accademia Bridge, was Erwin Wurm’s “Narrow House”. Another evocation of early memories, it replicates Wurm’s childhood home, except in the one respect that its lateral dimension has been reduced until the whole building is barely wide enough to enter. However, enter it I did, to find the internal contents similarly reconfigured: narrow bathroom, narrow table, narrow telephone etc. It made for an absurdist claustrophobic experience of a kind that Lewis Carroll might have dreamt up, though not quite so disturbing, as the potential for nightmare was tempered by the irrepressible playfulness of the neat little building. It was impossible not to think of it as an overgrown wendy house. cimg1975x.jpgcimg1977x.jpg

Palazzo Zenobio contained a show themed around the Mediterranean and included work by David Casini. “L’Illogica abitudine” is a group of five architectural models, each grafted onto a piece of coral and enclosed inside an antique looking glass dome. The artist’s statement suggested that these were made as a reaction to the proliferation of unauthorised building development around the Mediterranean coast, but there was something inescapably twee about them which the deployment of the glass domes only exacerbated. The whole set-up looked as though it was intended for the sale of expensive watches. That is a pity because the juxtaposition of man-made architectural forms with the natural architecture of the coral has some potential as an idea in itself, without the ecological rhetoric.cimg1993x.jpg

The same show also contained a landscape piece by Gal Weinstein, “Nahalal (Partly Cloudy)”. It reminded me of aerial photographs I had seen of irrigated desert settlements, and Nahalal I later found out was the first Worker’s Cooperative Settlement in Israel. I’m not quite sure where the piece stands ideologically but I just love the little rainstorm flitting over the carpet-fields.cimg1997x.jpg

Finally I found a couple of artists who made extensive use of models in the making of photographic scenarios.  One was Gayle Chong Kwan, showing in the Artsway New Forest Pavilion. Her installation “The Obsidian Isle” includes a series of photographic images conjuring up a landscape of ruined buildings that are based on lost buildings of Scotland. The other artist was Ma Liang in a show called “Cracked Culture” which examined the uncomfortable collision between Western and Chinese culture.

Prisoner-of-War Bone Ship Models

Check out this interesting feature on BBC’s Inside/Out exploring the floating prisoners in Medway. The programme features MAKEs own Julian Rowe talking about his recent model ship installation at Rochester Cathedral. The work, presented in a recent blog here on the MAKE website, is referenced to the famous model ships made of bone that were constructed by prisoners-of-war jailed here in England during the 18th century, a number of which form part of the model ships collection at the Chatham Historic Dockyards.

Following the link below and forward to 10:13 to view the feature, or just skip to 15:00 to catch Julian’s work.

MAKE’s Flora Parrott attempts to model the sensation of landscapes


Art exploring landscape

Flora Parrott, Artist in Residence, Ryedale Folk Museum (RFM)

19 February to 27 March 2011

Artist Flora Parrot explores the complex histories, relationships, meanings and significances of a section of the North York Moors in her new installation, Dipole, which will be on show at the Ryedale Folk Museum from 19 February 2011. The artwork is the result of a residency project between contemporary artist Parrott, and the rural folk museum, based on the remote North Yorkshire Moors, which has allowed her the opportunity to explore the social, historical and artistic constructions of a small section of Spaunton Moor whilst engaging with the museum and it’s collections. Throughout the residency, during October and November 2010, she identified, surveyed and mapped a section of the moor with the help of a variety of specialists, who offered the artist differing perspectives on the chosen site. On occasions the plot hosted geographers, dowsers, artists, folklorists, and scientists - often at the same time.

The new installation charts the results of this collective survey and will consist of a shape pegged out on Spaunton Moor the same dimensions as the RFM gallery, ten minutes’ walk from the gallery and a moor-shaped piece placed in the gallery, ten minutes’ walk from Spaunton Moor.

Parrott comments; “The proposal for the project was to make a body of work that visually describes the sensation of standing on the broad expanses of the Moor. My family live on the North Yorkshire Moors, a resounding memory of the land near their house is an overwhelming sense of space, deafening wind and vertiginous slopes. I was struck by a conflicting state of mind. Initially I felt able to ‘tune in’ with the landscape, I could imagine the physical impact of my form on the ground and the forces around me. However, I soon became distracted, it was impossible not to keep trying to rationalise where I was, location, history – to put the land into context, I felt I needed to be able to understand it. IN addition I wanted to look at the human compulsion to unearth, dissect and resolve. The urge to discover what lies beneath the earth underfoot is powerful and magnetic. The Ryedale Folk Museum is the perfect place to explore these ideas, the extensive collection and staff and volunteers with incredible local knowledge.”

Flora Parrott: DIpole will be on show at the Gallery at Ryedale Museum from 19 February until 27 March 2011. Admission to the gallery is free, and daily opening times are 10am – dusk. More info about the gallery programme at

The Gallery is at Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton le Hole, North Yorkshire YO62 6UA from For more information telephone 01751 417 367, email or visit

Julian Rowe at Rochester Cathedral

Atlantis - Julian Rowe

MAKE cluster member and researcher Julian Rowe’s has recently de-installed his latest work, Atlantis, at Rochester Cathedral. On show for only a brief few days, the work was filmed by the BBC for their BBC South East Inside-Out programme. We’ll let you know if and when it gets air time.

About the work, Julian has written:

Atlantis was an installation originally made for a temporary exhibition celebrating the history of Seaford in East Sussex. The town was a was a major port in the 13th century. English wool was exported across the Channel, and the ships would return with French wine. The merchant ship of the time was the cog, a simple, robust vessel rigged with a single square sail and built for capacity rather than speed. Thousands of them plied the coasts of medieval Europe. The image of these little ships voyaging to and fro reminded me of WH Auden’s poem Atlantis, describing a journey that can never be completed, a sentiment familiar perhaps both to mariners and artists. The poem thus made a connection for me between a real place, Seaford, and an unattainable one, Atlantis.

… if, perhaps
Having actually got
To the last col, you collapse
With all Atlantis shining
Below you yet you cannot
Descend, you should still be proud
Even to have been allowed
Just to peep at Atlantis
In a poetic vision:
Give thanks and lie down in peace,
Having seen your salvation…

from: WH Auden, Atlantis, 1941

MAKE Returns

After a short hiatus the MAKE Research Cluster has returned afresh, with new members and a ambitious programme of events and research projects for the coming year. The new look cluster particularly welcomes Bradley Starkey, Course Leader for the university’s MA Architecture course, and Flora Parrott, whose practice explores the relationship between analogue and digital modeling through various technologies. We are also pleased to have a number of recent graduates from our Masters courses join us to continue the development of their practice in the context of MAKE. This broadening of our core membership is seen as an extremely positive development for the cluster and as such we look forward to 2011 with a renewed zeal.

Gary Clough introduces MAKE at Jiangnan University

During his recent UCA visit to Jiangnan University in China, MAKE’s Gary Clough had the opportunity to introduce the MAKE Research Cluster to students and academics at the university’s School of Design in Wuxi. Outlining the university’s research profile, he went on to present recent MAKE projects, including Repetition and Difference, opening up the possibility of future collaborative research between the universities.

Gary’s talk in China coincides with the visit of Dr. Zhu Rong to us here at UCA. A professor at Jiangnan University, Zhu Rong will be based for three months within the architecture department at Canterbury, where she is developing her own research and forging links with the university.

Jiangnan University Website

Jiangnan University School of Design

Le Corbusier at the Barbican

On Tuesday 24th February students and staff from the BA Modelmaking and 3D Foundation Course visited the Barbican Centre in London to see the major retrospective exhibition of Le Corbusier ’s work. Accompanying a range of architectural presentation and sketch models, were examples of his furniture, painting and sculpture. A great day and a in-depth insight into the mind of one of the twentieth century’s greatest designers.

Barbican Website

Washington Post Reviews MAKE Show

Click on the link below to see Jessica Dawson’s review of our Georgetown University show in today’s Washington Post.

Imitation as Art by Jessica Dawson