Sunday, 15 May 2011

Exhibition Review

Rosemary Trockel

Drawings, Collages and Book Drafts

Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh

29 January to 30 April 2011

Rosemary Trockel was born in Schwerz, Germany in 1952, and studied sociology, anthropology and maths before becoming the artist we know of in contemporary art history and present.

I knew that this exhibition was an extensive collection of 200 drawings, collages & book drafts but had no idea of the range of mixed media work that Rosemary Trockel created over her career. In a similar vein to Beuys, drawings are produced on already used paper and discarded newspaper and scraps - from pages in books, to jotters and post.

Very interesting compositions and use of fabrics interweave in work that is akin to scrapbook mentality but with a more purposeful message attached. Best known for her knitted compositions, this exhibition focuses on the processes Trockel uses in her work. In recent years collage has become a tool for her to combine aspects of her multifaceted practice, which includes photography, film, sculpture and installation. Her book drafts declare works-in-progress, rather than finished objects, they collect future ideas.

A source of great influence on her work is Trockel's own experience of opposition in a male-dominated environment in the 1970s. This drives her to create a varied and at times personal almost diary expression approach to her drawings. Trockel does not follow a prescribed route of producing drawings that then lead to finished works - her drawings are finished works. She also places drawings and photographs of her own into collages which commonly are years in their creation as the artist continues to create and then use.

However, her work is often awkward and challenging. 'Vorstudie (Preliminary Study), 1989' is a work on squared paper using gouche and ink, and depicts a policeman upon which white paint has been splattered. This seems to convey an anger and a comedy to how an authoritory figure is portrayed, and is an example of Trockel's unease at following rules and formality.

'Vorstudie (Preliminary Study), 1989'

'Hals, Nase, Ohr, und Bein (Throat, Nose, Ear, and Leg), 2009' comprises of four images of woman. The leg appears gestural and grounded, stands apart from the vocal and auditory qualities of the throat, nose and ear. The combination of these textual and visual elements provokes thoughts pertaining to the nature of the presence, and absence, of female representations and voices.

'Hals, Nase, Ohr, und Bein (Throat, Nose, Ear, and Leg), 2009'

In one collage titled 'Unintended Sculpture 1986/2010' is a photograph half hidden with a veil of fabric, alongside the extension of a drawing outside its paper and onto fabric and wood that surrounds it. I liked that Trockel had included the starting year and the finishing year of this collage in the title (1986/2010) as it interestingly points to Trockel's interest in playing about with imagery and ideas for a while rather than exhaust them and move on.

The book drafts in this exhibition were displayed on shallow shelving and as if journals in a library but with one difference here, we were not allowed to handle them, nor thumb through their pages. We could only see their front covers and be intrigued as to what contents lay beneath. This was an interesting element of the exhibition and one where I gained enormous respect for Trockel's desire to hold something back, and herself keep her private mind exactly that.

Trockel was involved in the curating of this exhibition and its a really nice touch to know that she decided to leave some of her works in an exhibition but limit their access - and making a statement about the process of her art too. Her thoughts are noted down but not all revealed, and that is perhaps how these drawings and collages come to fruition, out of a collection of thoughts over a period of time.

I'm lucky enough to have seen some of Trockel's thoughts on paper, and she seems pretty grounded to me, and is someone who likes to be in charge of how her work is seen, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that - in fact it sometimes doesn't happen enough.

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