To my shame I had not heard of Leonor Antunes, a Portuguese born artist, before visiting the exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. ‘the frisson of the togetherness’ is an immersive experience. At each turn the view is different and conversations between the diverse elements alter.
Repeated elements are similar but never identical. There is tension in the tautness of the rope and there is freedom in the bunches of horse harness hanging loosely. I have made work using sisal rope and left it to find its own form rather than put it under tension, so this exhibition opened up new possibilities.
I am looking forward to experimenting with leather in my work, a material I have not worked with before. Here hangings of solid panels of leather and hemp rope contrast with netting constructed from finer leather thongs. The formal nature of the grid feels softened by the material. The video on the Whitechapel gallery website shows the artist putting a curve into the shape, but this was no longer discernible in the exhibition.
The manner in which each element of the work is constructed is part of the overall appeal. The presence of craftsmen and artisans at one with their materials and tools is felt throughout the show. References to craft traditions are a feature of Antunes’ practice and I look forward to exploring how these together with historical context influence her work.
“I am interested in the dialogue that a specific craftsmanship establishes within a certain perspective of modernity – particularly how architects/designers engaged with the vernacular - revealing not a nostalgia for a world before modernism, but rather a legacy regarding a belief in the artwork as representing an ongoing engagement in a process”
Leonor Antunes http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/about/press/leonor-antunes-the-frisson-of-the-togetherness/
As well as showing an interest in artisanal traditions of the past, Antunes unambiguously pays homage to makers and designers, many of them women, who may have slipped into the shadows. Their names may be used in the titles and their designs incorporated into sculptures. ‘the frisson of the togetherness’ incorporates a floor of cork and linoleum based on a design by British sculptor, Mary Martin (1907-1969).
The assurance with which Antunes weaves references to the history of the gallery and modern British art is stimulating and I left the gallery inspired by a complex and subtle exhibition and motivated to get into the studio.
'the frisson of the togetherness', Whitechapel Gallery 3 October 2017 - 8 April 2018