No More Icons: Interview with Carly McGoldrick

No More Icons, Blackfriars Bridge hoarding, until 27th June 2012.

Those of us who are familiar with Blackfriars Bridge are also familiar with the ongoing  construction  in  the  area,  as  well  as  the  Blackfriars  ramp  alongside  it  – a recent  addition  to  the  area,  designed  to  improve accessibility  and  to  help redevelopment. 

A light  reflecting  hoarding  was  also  installed  for appearance’s  sake, brightening  up  the  space  for  passers-by. 

This  hoarding  has  been  used  as  a temporary  exhibition  space  in  the  past  and  is  currently  exhibiting a rather  unique show of several installations from the Rod Barton Gallery.

The  show  is  a  collaboration  of  several  artists,  with  works  by  Gabriele Beveridge,  Giles  Round,  Jacob  Farrell  & Matthew  Darbyshire,  Peles  Empire,  and Rowena Harris. Consisting of five different sculptures and installations, the exhibition is entitled No More Icons, and plays on our society’s secularism and obsession with the  consumption of  iconography.  Each  work  is  clearly  visible  but  only  through  a window, giving the viewer a single viewpoint and thus exposing the paradox of what it means to be iconic in contemporary culture.

In an interview with Rod Barton Gallery curator Carly McGoldrick, she explains that the idea to use icons for the exhibition was inspired by both the artworks and the space, but actually catalysed by the death of Elizabeth Taylor.

“I found it fascinating that in addition to seeing her face everywhere, there was widespread media coverage of the auctions selling her collections of art and jewellery. We were seeing her both through images and objects and these  representative forms were outliving her.” 

No  More  Icons  takes  this  idea  and  deliberately points  out the paradox of modern icons – they are considered icons as long as they are accessible and yet we can only access them in a two dimensional format.

By  choosing  the  Blackfriars  Hoarding  as  the  exhibition  site,  the  works challenge the audience to approach sculpture in a different way: It is not the typical kind of space one considers for a sculpture exhibition, as it is deceptive: The space is public, yet it is impossible to  directly  access  the  artworks. When  asked  about  the choice  of  venue  McGoldrick  responded:  “I was  keen  to  address  a  new  way  of exhibiting  these  mediums,  working  from  this  core  concept  of  accessibility.  As  a window gallery [the space] acknowledges readings of objects as commodity […] and yet consumer critique was never the main concern, as for me the artists address this as a reality”.

Another  recent  London  exhibition  that  questions  icons  and  their  meaning  is “Irwin: Time for a New State” at the Calvert22 foundation. A vast selection of works of art  from  Irwin,  the  visual  arts  component  of  the  political  arts  collective  NSK,  (Neue Slovenische  Kunst)  is  being  exhibited  for  the  first  time  in  the  UK.  The works are focused around folk  imagery  and  symbolism,  some  of  which  are  grouped  together like Russian religious icon frames would have been.  By  appropriating various symbols as source elements, IRWIN questions the way we attach meaning to visual symbols we come across.

McGoldrick points out that while Calvert 22’s exhibition is very much rooted in Eastern European history and totalitarianism, “In “No More Icons” [she] define[s] the contemporary icon as a celebrity, i.e. a real person […] however I deliberately use the word icon as a construct due  to its several definitions. This plurality is referenced in  the exhibition, where the icon is positioned as something that was one considered to be sacrilege, often created from  expensive materials, but now can be reproduced and stylised with ease, in the form of images and objects that are altered to look a certain way.”

To illustrate this, McGoldrick uses a piece entitled “hose4  (2012)” by Peles Empire as an example. Peles Empire is a collaborative work by artists  Katherine Stoever and Barbara  Wolff, taking its name from a Romanian castle that displays different architectural styles of the past centuries.
Stoever and Wolff have reproduced several rooms of the castle  as part of an ongoing investigation into the copy, and two-dimensional transformations of three-dimensional objects,  turning them into imagery. 

For No More Icons the duo have chosen to emphasise the nature  of the venue, combining different forms of reproduction of a  fire hose. As McGoldrick explains, the function of the fire  hose thus becomes redundant, shifting from a utilitarian object to a stylised and fetishised facade.

The Rod Barton gallery thus creates an exhibition that  encapsulates modern society’s  shift in value yet also  references a more classical style of sculpture. By reusing  or distorting recognisable daily objects, we are forced to  confront and question  what  it  means  to  be  an  icon  –  which, according  to  McGoldrick is “to  be experienced as a representation as opposed to in person.”

Ksenya Blokhina

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine Founder and co-publisher Art of Conversation and founder of the platform @worldoffad

3 thoughts on “No More Icons: Interview with Carly McGoldrick

  1. Interesting, but what is ‘Neue Slovenische Kunst’? Does ‘Slovenische’ stand for Slovenic or Slavic?

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