Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Weeks ago I went to see an exhibition at Contemporary applied Art in London called The Stuff of Memory by the artist Simone Ten Hompel.
See exhibitions’ brief on the CAA WEBSITE

The exhibition’s flyer says: “Spoons. Bowls. Jars. Containers. These are the stuff of our daily lives: dependable and utilitarian; and we barely notice if they also carry the ghost memories of their own pasts disguised within form and function.
But Simone has noticed for us”

I was particularly moved by a series of 108 spoons hanging on the wall and by the poetry of the display. They were grouped by “paragraphs” of 3 or 4 spoons, and the light was projecting their shadow on the wall.

Exhibition at CAA. Picture Simone Ten Hompel. Courtesy of the Artist.

I looked at them many times from left to right and then right to left.  I felt those spoons had a story to tell but as I was left alone with them, a lot of questions came to my mind: Why 108? Why is this particular one grouped with this one? Is there a story with a beginning and an end? How can I be moved by spoons that are amongst the most common tools on earth?
And then I let the magic operate: they started to whisper to my ears. “I look fragile but in reality I am strong”. “Try to eat with me and you will have a lot of fun”.  “Me and my two friends have something in common but you won’t find it”. “I am clumsy but I am beautiful”…
And they were not spoons anymore. Every one of them had its own personality and its own story. And they were talking and chatting.

I personally found this series of spoons very strong and moving because it encompasses what fascinates me with Applied Art works:  spoons are originally meant to be used but here they have a great potential that goes far beyond functionality: they become poetic storytellers.

But I know Simone, and I wanted her to tell me her own story. I had the great opportunity to interview her specifically about this part of her exhibition and I thank her for her time. Here is Simone’s story:

Spoons are the first and last tools we use in our life. We start to learn to eat with them, (not with a fork or a knife) and the last thing you possibly eat is soup and that will be with a spoon. So a spoon is a metaphor for life and what happens in between and it allows me to explore that. Also it has the shape of the hand: a cup with a handle attached to it. Sometimes it is a shell and a stick and in some of my spoons, I make the junction between the cup and the handle quite obvious. Those are the two elements. It is a symbol for life. 

Photo Simone Ten Hompel. Courtesy of the Artist

Why I have done so many?  Having done spoons beforehand, I have always done them in sort of groupings but the groupings were much tighter and here with that group I have done 108 of them which is a figure that can be divided or multiplied by 12 and 9. The dozen and also the figure 9 are sacred numbers in religion and have mystical connotation. ‘108’ is a Harshad number and thus makes it for me a figure that has personality. 108 then falls into groups that have a dynamic for debate or elude conversation among them.

I started with some spoons and put them out and then I thought what was missing in them. Just not “any” spoon was made. Some are specifically made to fit into the sentence of its group. Also having to think about selling them within the context of a gallery, I had to make something that would operate in that way, a sort of compromise. If it had been a series where I absolutely didn’t need to think about that aspect, it would probably have been one piece. However the display would have been the same. In this scenario the audience was asked to make a choice of their own new sentence with their own memory and people were asked to select 3 or more spoons. And then the discourse continued with the remaining spoons with new sentences or paragraphs.

Exhibition at CAA. Picture Simone Ten Hompel. Courtesy of the Artist.

They didn’t reinvent my grouping but because it was in the exhibition “the stuff of memory” they had to make their own association. It is likely that association was memory driven, but they had to ask themselves if this one goes with that one and usually stuff from the past came into their reflection.

Yes. Look at the whole series: the first one is a wire spoon and the last one is a thin cut out of a stainless steel spoon, a very fragile one.  So it sort of goes to full circle without being identical.

Photo Simone Ten Hompel. Courtesy of the Artist

Not all of them are functional. Some are reflection about function. The poetry comes from what we bring into the spoons, like a kind of embody memory, possibly?
Spoons are essentially life enhancing tools and as far as I could tell it is a symbol of culture. With one of my spoon (which is made of two pieces, a front and a back) I am speaking of cooperation, balance, division and separation of function. They are operations that are negotiated and quietly democratized.
When we drink coffee or eat pudding we must likely have our odd collection of spoons in a drawer. If we own a complete silver set, we must likely like one particular size because it fits the mouth better than the others or has other personal reasons for being favored. So we are quickly building up a rapport and affinity with a tool like that. And why is that? The spoon itself is not only a tool of life enhancing quality but it represents the start of independency when we start to feed ourselves getting the liquid food from the plate to the mouth without direct contact or interference of the hand. It manifests notions of culture boundaries and their manners or etiquette.

Photo Simone Ten Hompel. Courtesy of the Artist

It goes back from where I come from:  not only farmers would have spoons hanging on a wooden rail for display, but also they were hanging them because they didn’t have cupboards at all... In addition, hanging the spoons allowed me to handle them and to keep them in the position I had chosen. The shadow on the wall is their own memory. It is almost like their conscience. This I will leave it for the onlooker to make sense out of it.

There is a group in the series of spoons reflecting on, me making, that what I am making there and then. The spoons and other works in the exhibition are about all aspects of memory and how or what activates a memory. I am interested in the quest on how memory happens: where is it stored? What it triggers? Is it like a sign? Like a hidden path that you stumble upon or that you consciously seek out? All of a sudden, you find somewhere a kind of twig in a forest and you see there is a path. You follow it and out of nowhere, something hits you like the smell of your mum’s handbag from a far distance in your life. Is it truthfully perceived or subjectively sensed? It is a discovery, it is a journey, and it is unexpected. Depending on how much the audience is ready to let itself immerge into it. The exhibition is about that or it can just be taken as seeing objects, which may be read as a story. It can be very pragmatic as well as in the stillness of it hanging somewhere. It will suit me if people eat from it, make use of the stuff or take it as exhibition are taken?

Photo Simone Ten Hompel. Courtesy of the Artist

Friday, 10 December 2010


Every year I drag myself to Frieze Art Fair. And every year I come to the same conclusion: I really enjoy it for the first 30 minutes and then I am slowly overwhelmed by what surrounds me: too big, too much to see, not enough explanation. I usually finish the exhibition as if I was running a marathon. It’s a shame.
Frieze is THE place where tribes of extremely powerful, rich, intelligent, well-educated art-related people of the entire planet gather… It is so intimidating. I don’t belong and everything is organised there to make you feel that way. So this year I tried to think about those feelings beforehand and decided to try a little experiment. I decided to pick up every WHITE artwork. Like a treasure hunt. And you know, what? It was highly fun and I really enjoyed Frieze for the first time.

But then I started to think about it. Why was it so enjoyable?
First and to be honest, because I picked up a theme that is important to me: white. But then, I think I enjoyed it because it had no sense whatsoever. No clever connection between the pieces, no sophisticated curating, no references to artistic movements or schools… Just something so simple that even a child can do it. Another way of enjoying Art Fairs.

So it gave me other ideas for next year. This year was about colour, but I might try by size (starting from the smallest one to the biggest one), by materials used (wood, steel, fabric…), by weight, by value (if the materials used are cheap or expensive) or location (hung on the wall, put on the floor, on a chair or table…). All those classification will probably be irrelevant and disconnected from the artists’ messages but it might give very different interesting angles to the exhibited artworks…

Here are my Frieze 2010 WHITE findings (Pictures Isabelle Busnel):

Thomas Houseago, Untitled 2010

Thilo Heinzmann, Aicmo 2009

Erwin Thorn, Inhaltsanalyse II, 1969

Erwin Thorn, o.T., 1964

Erwin Wurm, Mr Mutt, 2010

Daniel Sinsel, Untitled 2010

Don Brown, Yoko X (sitting), 2004

Matias Faldbakken, Remainder

Ugo Rondinone

David Shrigley, World one and World two, 2010

Markus Schinwald, Untitled (sacks), 2009

Manuela Leinhoss, Frame

Manuela Leinhoss

Donald Moffett, lot 020110

Callum Innes, Untitled n28, 2010

Florian Slotawa, SG07 1,2,3, 2010

Ugo Rondinone, Still Life, 2008

Silke Otto Knapp

Thursday, 2 December 2010


White fascinates me. This topic will come again and again in my blog in many different ways.
I am not the only one who is fascinated by the colour white… Just for the pleasure, here are some inspirational quotes:

The first of all simple colours is white, although some would not admit that black and white are colours, the first being a source or receiver of colours, and the latter totally deprived of them. But we can’t leave them out, since painting is but an effect of light and shade, so white is the first then yellow, green, blue and red and finally black. White may be said to represent light without which no colour can be seen.

Leonardo Da Vinci

It takes a great deal of courage to design in white and it also takes no courage at all.
I wanted my home to be totally pure, to be a statement that was honest and clean, straight from the heart, a dream. I wanted a place that would give me the feeling of floating. I wanted to come home and feel simplicity and peace.

Ralph Lauren

I have transformed myself in the zero of form and dragged myself out of the rubbish-filled pool of academic art. I have torn through the blue lampshade of colour limitations, and come out into the white… Sail forth ! the white, free chasm, infinity is before us.


We should remember that to the physicist, black and white are not colours… Psychologically, however, black and white are colours because they produce sensations, and they have symbolic meanings as well as definite effects on visibility.

Louis Cheskin

Emptied of all extraneous detail and colour, whiteness stood for what was pure, modern and spiritual. In a period of political turmoil, they offered a new way of thinking about the world and Englishness.

 The Independent on Ben Nicholson

White has a great covering power. The whitewashed family does not question the bride’s blushes beneath the veil.

Derek Jarman

Whiteness is the most conceptual colour…it does not interfere with our thoughts.

Yoko Ono

Every citizen is required to replace his hangings, his damasks, his wall papers, his stencils with a plain coat of white (paint).

Le corbusier

This white light, purged from the angry, bloodlike stains of action and passion, reveals, not what is accidental in man, but the tranquil godship in him, as opposed to the restless accidents of life.

Walter Pater

And white appears. Absolute white. White beyond all whiteness. White of the coming of white. White without compromise, through exclusion, through total eradication of non white. Insane, enraged white, screaming with whiteness. Fanatical, furious, riddling the victim. Horrible electric white, implacable, murderous. White in bursts of white.

Henri Michaux (with Mescaline)