Sunday 30 April 2017

Oliver Beer

Oliver Beer

at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.

Oliver Beer's practice exemplifies a preoccupation with both the physical properties and emotional value of objects.

Autoportrait 50mm (legside), 2017, (halved camera, resin, gesso).

Oh Cane, (Leg Side), 2014, (half walking stick, resin, set in wall)

Oh Cane, (Leg Side), 2014, (half walking stick, resin, set in wall)

Set in the gallery walls throughout the exhibition are Beer's 'dissected objects', halved long-ways, lying flush with the plaster, objects that have become drawings of themselves. Each lacks a third dimension, and so is empty.

Red Pencil Drawing!, 2015 (red coloured pencil sectioned and set in wall, resin, paint).

RGB... 2014, (Red, green and blue coloured pencils sectioned and set in wall, resin and paint)

Cand F# (tuning forks sectioned and set in wall, resin, paint)

Edison Screw, 2017,  (halved light bulb sectioned and set in wall resin, paint)

Half Pipe 2017, (tobacco pipe sectioned and set in wall, resin, paint)

Making Tristan (for London), 2016, (live installation including Greek alabastron from 6th century BC. a Roman-Palestinian cooking pot from the 1st century BC., artist's grandfather's ceramic pib and grandmother's chamber pot, microphones, mixer and speakers)


Silence is Golden, 2013, (24 carat gold cast of the 'hammer', 'anvil' and 'stirrup'  ossicles, lead crystal spheres)

A number of Beer's works involve using a selection of vessels to create peculiar musical instruments within his installations. The empty space within each vessel has its own musical note at which it resonates. Beer has developed his own technique for revealing these frequencies using microphones and a feedback loop system, creating harmonies from the natural frequencies of the empty spaces within the objects. This idea is explored in Making Tristan, consisting of pots, vases and other readymade vessels including his grandmother's chamber pot and a ceramic butcher's pig sing out of their emptiness to achieve the 'Tristan Chord' - this ground breaking chord from Richard Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde, a famously unstable sound that changed the course of western music.

The three glass spheres of Silence is Golden contain an actual-size gold replica of one of the ossicles of the middle ear; the hammer, the stirrup and the anvil. These little bones are seductively visual - gold attracts our attention like no other material - whilst being embedded in cold, crystal silence.

Family, 2017, (polished train rails)

Highway, 2014, (polished steel train rails [France 1936])

The lengths of old train rail (from Lyon's SNCF station) are metaphorically transporting. Polished to reveal the traces of countless journeys they reveal individual existences, each with their own stories, origins and destinations. This readymade, ready-used sculpture stands as a memorial to lives that have sped by.

Oma's Kitchen Floor, 2008, (linoleum kitchen floor worn over four decades).

'Oma was the name I called my grandmother. She put the lino down in the 1960s and over four decades her feet gradually wore through the decorative pattern. Over the years marks appeared in front of the oven, the sink, the front door, where she turned around in front of the fridge, where she sat at her table shuffling her feet. Like a drawing made over forty years, these worn patches describe half a lifetime of movement'.

Concertina, 2017, (cello screen sectioned and set in resin).

Alpha to Omega, 2017, (organ pipes tuned to 20Hz and 20000Hz)

The sound that came out of the organ pipe if you put your ear close to the opening was eerie and all-encompassing

the frequency of the sound coming from this however, was of such high frequency that I could not hear it.

As we were leaving we spotted Outside-In, one of Ikon's permanent works by Beer. It's installed in a window of the gallery's reception space, looking out onto Oozells Square. A delicate form in crystal is fitted into a window pane like an ear trumpet, inviting visitors to listen to the narrow currents of air, space and sound that come and go between indoor space and the world outside. Unfortunately, because we were running late, I did not have time to photograph the work.

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