Friday, 1 October 2010

David Bellingham – Elected Works

The following is a text written to accompany the current exhibition of works by David Bellingham at Cairn gallery (details below).

David Bellingham, 2010. Image by Laurie Clark.

Do they? Is this true? Do ideas really transcend objects? Or is the reverse the case - as is also suggested by this text piece - are ideas outlived by objects? And there’s yet another dimension to this relationship: ideas are also formed by objects - as William Carlos Williams famously repeated: “No ideas but in things.”

It's at once an aphorism, a manifesto, a short poem, a collection of traces upon a surface and a proposition in two contradictory phrases. But the power of this statement lies entirely in the duality between one interpretation and its near opposite, in the oscillation between the two, neither of which can be accommodated by the other. It is, in fact, two aphorisms, two manifestoes, two short poems combined in a single black and white configuration of concrete language.

In many ways we do indeed believe that ideas, and the thoughts from which they arise, transcend objects and the limited forms from which they, in turn, are composed. Ideas lead to deeds (sometimes to creations even) and it’s through these that both objects and people are judged. But ideas are also easily forgotten, as are the deeds which come as a consequence. Only objects endure. The difference is equivalent to that between text and spoken word. One endures and the other disperses the moment it is uttered. But the immediacy and transience of the second is often valued over the permanence and impersonal nature of the first. Speech has an object - it goes directly in search of an enemy, or a friend, and it's this immanence, this more personal intention which lends the spoken word it's significance.


This text piece has found various forms in David's practice from canvas, to wall text to ceramic mugs. I own two such mugs - one of which I use at home and the other I use at work at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen. For several years it has followed me to tutorials and critiques making its quiet statement and keeping me refreshed and therefore better able to do my job. Rarely does anyone comment on or question my mug, which I assume to be either a suggestion that it's accepted as reflective of my general philosophical attitude, or perhaps because it's a little daunting or even the reverse: simply another superficial remark or branding attached to one of many mass produced objects which we use on a daily basis.

At one time the mug I use in Aberdeen was frequently borrowed by a colleague on the regular days that I wasn't around. I'd frequently return to work to find the dried dregs of coffee in it or occasionally it would be absent from my desk and I’d only find it some time later unwashed and abandoned in one of the studios. Despite not wishing to seem possessive about something as trivial as a mug, I finally I gave in to my irritation and decided to request that my colleague stop using it. This was immediately accepted but I've subsequently noticed that there's a hairline crack across the shoulder of the handle which has presumably been caused by a fall whilst washing it up in one of the porcelain studio sinks. It's impossible to know for certain whether I did it myself or not but it barely matters because the mug still functions perfectly well and has, in some ways, gained more character because of this unique flaw. I’ve come to like it. It seems, in its own way, to say something about David’s text. It’s a counterpoint to the authority of the opposition set up between objects and ideas. It’s a statement about the role of imperfection itself as both a thing and an idea but also as a property which we have a strangely ambivalent attitude towards.

We often think that it’s the quality of materials that makes things valuable. In addition we prize refinement, workmanship and the evidence of human investment and ingenuity. Such things confer value upon objects but it’s nonetheless the case that these material qualities are superseded by the associations carried by an object. In spite of even the most humble commonplace materials and mass production processes we’re highly susceptible to the aura of association, and this can come in a multitude of different guises. Advertising and design are predicated on this very inclination on our part. We’re impressionable consumers of value and our values shift according to constantly changing eddies in the climate of association, history and meaning. And this is why something as simple and unprepossessing as a cracked mug can seem all the more valuable and unique than its almost identical but more perfect twin.

Elected Works
Works by David Bellingham elected by:

John Bevis, Ross Birrell, Pavel Büchler, Laurie Clark, Thomas A Clark, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Simon Cutts, Francis Edeline, Adam Gibbons, Harry Gilonis, Jim Hamlyn, John Janssen, Julie Johnstone, Peter Manson, Jonathan Monk, Ken Neil, Lisa Otty, Roger Palmer, Dominic Paterson, Colin Sackett, John Shankie & David Shrigley

12 September – 16 October 2010, open by appointment

28 Viewforth Place
Pittenweem, Fife
KY10 2PZ Scotland


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