‘A World View: The Tim Fairfax Gift’ honours the remarkable and far‑reaching generosity of Tim Fairfax, AC, who has supported the Gallery in acquiring more than 70 ambitious contemporary international artworks. From vast installations to intimate sculptures, these works have enriched the experience of many Gallery visitors and enabled a deeper understanding of human experience and artistic expression.
A World View: The Tim Fairfax Gift | GOMA | Free
Rotation 1: 11 June – 30 October 2016
Rotation 2: 3 December 2016 – 17 April 2017
Our view of the world is forever in flux. It shifts, unfolds and is perpetually reshaped. Our perspective might be radically reformed as we ponder the movement of celestial bodies in the night sky, or change unexpectedly when we see our own reflection suddenly transformed in a broken mirror. As we observe, think and seek to understand, our view of the world deepens. Every time we reconstruct our own internal model of the world we synthesise personal experience and a vast network of abstractions. The mind is highly sensitive to pattern and anomaly — from the earliest moments of cognition we stretch our thoughts to encompass space, time and the lives of others. Art accelerates this process, acting as a mirror to the world, helping us to channel, refract, activate and recalibrate our understanding of the familiar, to see the world anew, to keep our imagination alert and agile, to embrace change.
Timo Nasseri’s Epistrophy VI 2012 is emblematic of this power to shift the way we see and understand the world. Its polished, reflective surfaces gather every detail of the surrounding space, including our own presence, into a sublime geometry. We see ourselves in this work but in an unfamiliar way: Nasseri fragments and reconstructs our perspective, offering us an experience of beauty deeply connected to the larger cosmos.
The exhibition offers many artworks which bring abstract models of the world together with our own personal experience of moving through space. Perception and the position of our body make all the difference. To sense our body in motion is one of the great pleasures of being alive, and is an experience so familiar that we sometimes overlook its wonders. Lithuanian artist Zilvinas Kempinas’s installation of video tape columns makes something monumental and abstract from an everyday material. As we walk through this forest of perfect cylinders, the columns shape-shift, moving from solid to light. Uche Okpa Iroha’s photographs dramatically catch the movement of his Nigerian compatriots across the narrow band of light shining through an urban underpass, while Shigeyuki Kihara adopts the movements of a transcendent being in her video work Siva in Motion. These familiar, everyday bodies are lifted from daily reality into a more sublime and timeless realm.
Anthony McCall’s solid light sculptures rewrite the way we read the mass and boundaries of our body. We become closely aware of how our body occupies space in Crossing 2016, a vast new work created for QAGOMA, which will premier in the second stage of this exhibition. For this work, the New York-based artist combines light and the sound of a breaking wave to draw us into a space where a sequence of abstract forms and volumes is played out on a grand scale. They evoke the memory of specific experiences — shafts of light falling through cloud onto a windswept beach, or the curved triangle of a wind-filled sail. The volume of our own body changes as we move through the work: our arm might be solid for a moment in the light — we can literally step into the light — and then fall away into blackness as we move, or as the light itself shifts.
In a similar way, Tomás Saraceno’s 2009 Biosphere works function as a conceptual bridge between our own bodies and the wider world: the large, transparent spheres, held in a web of black cord, are suggestive of particles of oxygen — powering our bodies as they move through the blood — as much as sealed, protective environments, the perfect retreat. Saraceno presents us with ideal structures derived from nature and mathematical models. They could be spider webs, or supernovas, cellular structures or utopian models for a future city, and we can decide on the interpretation most meaningful to us.
Artists open up unexpected possibilities for movement, as well as reminding us when they are closed off. Gordon Matta-Clark’s seminal 1977 film Office Baroque documents the artist cutting through a building in Antwerp, carving an open space from an apparently solid structure. Here it is possible to walk through walls. Yto Barrada’s photographs depict the site of a tunnel that was to be constructed linking Morocco and Europe, a defunct project that now seems from entirely another geopolitical realm. In this pair of images, we see a group of young men scrambling up the hill, another man has paused to light a cigarette. Barrada records motion and the moments in between, movement at a point where larger transitions are blocked.
Julian Opie’s LED work People Walking. Coloured 2008 offers a mesmerising portrait of strangers forever in motion. Abstract and ideal, we see men and women move across a glowing field of red, these ‘smoothed out’ people with their round white heads are so generically formed that they suggest an unsettling kind of sameness, an ironing out of difference, body type or character. Beat Streuli’s gleaming, expansive photograph Bruxelles 05/06 2006 transforms a different group of everyday characters. Three men walking down the street are lifted out of time and made special, monumental. Not looking directly at us, they each seem to walk in a world of their own. What does it mean to see people such as ourselves drawn from the streets and reflected in this way? Do we look for an idealised vision of who we might be, or the more complex and surprising texture of our true selves? South African artist Candice Breitz advertised for Michael Jackson fans to perform his 1982 album Thriller, and she presents us with 16 synchronised performances. On their own, each performer is special and unique, together they reveal the larger patterns of a global culture which bind us, they touch us; make us smile and tempt us to join them and dance. They remind us of the wonderful idiosyncrasy of human expression.
Francis Upritchard’s collected group of white‑clad figures are also caught in a complex push and pull dynamic. Both tender and grotesque, with their mottled fleshy skin and near-closed eyes, they appear to be sharing a ritual moment or strange dance all of their own. Are they dancing, tossing a ball, or warding off evil spirits? The eyes of the life-size bronze busts of Ah Xian’s ‘Metaphysica’ series are also closed; their focus appears to be directed inward. We see the ‘action’ of thinking, with the interior world of each subject suggested by the objects that crown each head. These works bring calm into balance with complexity. They seem to treasure the universe of possibility within each of us.
The human body and the human experience of the world are at the centre of these disparate works, drawn as they are from across the globe. Presented together in ‘A World View’, they allow us to develop a richer perspective on our place in the world, as well as to participate more fully in the process of shaping what it might become.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH US. These works invite a multi-layered perspective of the world, drawing on your experience, which one of these works resonate with you?