Thursday, 12 March 2009


Roni Horn aka Roni Horn at Tate Modern

Roni Horn's exhibition at Tate Modern is a masterpiece. The meaning of her work is founded on the viewer's experience of it and for the viewer to play an active role as their experiences unfold. The complexity of her work only really sinks in on a second or even third visit. The layout is generous with two to three artworks per gallery. Her paintings, photographs and sculptures are frequently paired or doubled. As you wander through the rooms you see a couple of identical drawings or photographs appearing side by side or you might see a drawing coupled with another artwork only to then chance upon the same drawing in a later gallery. She uses this sense of pairing throughout and it is particularly evident with her sculpture. It heightens the encounter with her works because it creates a sense of space and flowing movement through which the viewer passes and interacts. You are unable to see them both at once but recognise the second whist recalling the first. It also reminds me of Barthes' concept of punctum as time in that a photograph for example can capture many tenses. It seems to me that Roni's use of pairing and doubling has a similar effect. I am reminded of the first drawing or sculpture I saw minutes earlier in a previus gallery whilst simultaneously appreciating the identical artwork in the present gallery.

Roni says daylight is important to her and this could not be more evident in this show with the huge Tate windows for once uncharacteristically allowing sunlight to pour and filter through the gallery space. In particular, the 'Paired Gold Mats for Ross and Relix" shimmer with a warm glow from the reflected light bouncing off the Thames. It comprises two sheets of gold foil placed one above the other and the interior space between the two sheets glistens alien-like with a golden aura as sunlight passes over the sheets. I find myself wanting to get down on my hands and knees in order to poke my finger between the sheets and check whether Roni has furtively placed an arteficial light between them. But no the exhibition guide says that the glowing light is entirely natural. The pairing of the mats is also a metaphor for intimacy, eroticism, splendour and mythology of gold.

Her early drawings are a mesmerising example of deconstructionism as she slices and reconfigures her drawings. I have, since seeing these drawings, started reading Deleuze and Guattari's ' A Thousand Plateaus' in which they advocate a non-hierarchical and non-linear way of thought and organisation. Her drawings fill my mind as a read the introductory text on rhizome. The drawings are non-linear, fragmented, shifting and indeterminate allowing for endless permutations of possibilities and improbabilities. She says drawing is important to her, her daily activity, her primary force. Drawing has no edges you can go anywhere with it. It is not idiom or material specific and is never right or wrong. You are just moving in with drawing, focusing, registering, and recognising. A gradual effort towards a final position. Her photography and sculpture flow from her drawing.

Her photographic portraiture such as the 'Cabinet of 2001' offers a series of blurred close up portraits of a clown's face performing different emotions. The blurriness of the head shots prevents any detailed analysis of the face. This in turn prevents any proper comparison of one emotion against another. It is unsettling as you scan the multiple repetitive features for visual clues and find none.

This is the first time I have encountered Roni Horn's work and it has changed the way I think and feel about conceptual art and the use of multiple media to achieve a common goal.

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