For some reason the Camden Arts Centre runs two solo shows of two very different artists and CAC’s declaration that they ‘share an intensity which is both personal and profound’ seems quite farfetched to me.
The Dutch artist Daan van Golden (b. 1946) shows a selection of works spanning from the Sixties until the present day. Regrettably, seeing it stirred no intense emotions in me, nor did I find profundity of any kind. If anything, I was profoundly bored.
However, the second artist on show, Georgian-born and Swiss-educated Andro Wekua (b. 1977), was a thrilling surprise. From the first glimpse I felt that there was something youthful and uncompromising about his works. I was instantly transported into Wekua’s brightly coloured, imaginary world, displayed within a fluorescent cube, and when the CAC assistant asked me (in a reverent voice) if I didn’t mind taking my shoes off, it almost made me feel I was walking into the artist’s brain.
One may easily fall into a trap of a pleasant reading of Wekua’s collages when faced with sumptuous combination of de-contextualised paper cut-outs of female bodies dipped in patches of vibrant colour. I tried not to though, and looked for more. A full-flavoured kaleidoscope of fragmentary journeys into the artist’s desires, anxieties and dreams was further explored in his books, accessible in CAC’s ‘reading area’.
Intersected with vivid yet dreamy images, a sort of irreverent travel diary permeates the structure of most of the albums: letters, scattered bits of self-interpreting monologues, short forms that could be stories, scribbles. Wekua uses a complex, intimate code to communicate perhaps as much with the world as with himself.
In the album If There Ever Was One (2006) the artist gives us clues: ‘I like simple things. Cars, buildings, trees, roads, women, Amerika. I don’t understand their smile.’ Indeed, the exhibition revolves around exactly these themes, women and cars being unmistakably the central ones. A life-size installation of a young girl on a motorcycle dominates the space, binding the rest of the pieces into one journey, incoherent and dreamy as it may be. So the motif of a journey both physical and spiritual is transparent as well as is the sexual context. But, despite its semi-nakedness, the body of work so to speak, didn’t seem patriarchal or vulgar to me.
Intertextual ‘I don’t understand their smile’ takes on a different meaning for example when confronted with a paper cut-out of Britney Spears grinning candidly in the midst of psychedelic rainbows. I was about to feel annoyed at the thought of commoditisation of a female body, seeing floating breasts and all, when I remembered the work of an American feminist, artist Nancy Spero, who used experimental language and collages of woman parts in order to emancipate their status. So I looked yet again, closely.
‘I am passion, action’ he writes elsewhere. Indeed, dynamics and profound intensity are truly present in Wekua’s works unlike in the works of his neighbour, van Golden. Go, and take your time.
Two Very Solo Shows multimedia exhibition runs until February 8
Camden Arts Centre
Tel: 020 7472 5500
Photographs by Gert Jan van Rooij