Updated: Jul 1, 2020
A sensory experience for the soul, Cerith Wyn Evans's latest exhibition does not disappoint.
At long last, after three 'unarty' months, alleluia, it finally happened: our first visit in months to an art gallery. The show in question was Cerith Wyn Evans, No realm of thought ... no field of vision, which can be seen at the White Cube Bermondsey until 2 August 2020.
A confession. We love the White Cube. Our favourite exhibition there was Anselm Kiefer’s Walhalla in 2016-2017. And for our return to the art scene, after so many weeks in cultural quarantine, No realm of thought, is a mesmerising mixture of installation, sculpture and sound.
We adore installations such as that imagined here by Cerith Wyn Evans. They are essentially sensory experiences, in which the visitors are invited to lose themselves among the moving reflections, listening to the haunting soundscape, dancing among the sculptures, avoiding contact and yet playing with them. It was a joy at the White Cube to drift among the hanging sculptures of neon and wire. We loved the effect on our senses, the strangeness of it all.
The best use of space in No realm of thought was undoubtedly the third room, a mix of wondrous sculpture and eerie sound design, resembling a playground for adults. The show was definitely not child friendly, not because of any explicit content but because of the risk of the artwork being damaged by the visitors. You could easily collide into the glass mobiles, such as Folds … in shade (also light and shade), sending them crashing into thousands of shards.
We were both in agreement that our favourite artwork in the show was fig. (O), on display in the second room. This neon sculpture takes its form from drawings of the first helicopter designed by Paul Cornu in 1907, and is suspended from the ceiling like an aeronautical display. Look closely and you can see what appears to be a bicycle at its core, with a twisted assemblage of oars and the sails of windmills protruding outwards.
In contrast, the paintings in the first room were underwhelming, while the two sculptures in the corridor were unconvincing, hanging lonely from the ceiling as if positioned there by mistake.
On occasion, the White Cube has a tendency to overwhelm its visitors with information that can barely be understood by most mortals (is it aimed primarily at contemporary art experts?). This time, in contrast, the show was almost lacking in any kind of information. There were no labels, no leaflets. Even the title of the show and the name of the artist was barely visible, hidden above the information desk which was itself now obscured behind a plexiglas screen. It would have helped to have known that the gigantic wall of Japanese neon characters in the largest space, F=O=U=N=T=A=I=N, was an extract from Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du Temps Perdu, or that the sound design in the same room, emitted through a series of suspended speakers, was a piano soundtrack performed by Evans himself.
In mitigation, the White Cube might point to its 21st-century QR code, positioned on the wall inside the entrance, but this was barely adequate in a galley which doesn’t provide free WiFi, or for visitors who still prefer an old-fashioned leaflet or more conventional panels and labels. We scanned the code and downloaded it at home, but the text was blurred and the second side was missing.
Our verdict: a great show, a wonderful gift after 3 months of sacrifice, but do read the explanatory material beforehand, either online or by downloading the information sheet as you enter. You also need to plan ahead and book your slot in advance. Masks don't need to be worn but there is hand sanitiser at the entrance and a designated visitor route marked by arrows on the floor, all indicative of how Covid-19 has re-shaped our lives. We appplaud the White Cube for its resilience in re-opening this show during lockdown, with all the restrictions and complications that implies.
White Cube Bermondsey until 2 August 2020