10 December 2019
A lot of people may remember his installation I=N=V=O=C=A=T=I=O=N (I call your image to mind) in the garden of the Triennale Museum in Milan, conceived especially for Euroluce 2009: a neon sculpture some 6 metres in diameter, long coiled tubes forming a luminous cloud that seemed to hang in the air in a dialogue between the observer’s perception and level of familiarity with light in spatial and temporal terms. Cerith Wyn Evans, who was born in Wales but works and lives in London, is back in Milan with an exhibition conceived in the manner of a harmonious composition in which light, energy and sound provide a unique synesthetic visitor experience. Curated by Roberta Tenconi and Vicente Todolí, the exhibition showcases a total of twenty-five historic and new works, that fill the ample exhibition spaces of the Pirelli HangarBicocca with great discretion, elegance and formal equilibrium.
The title of the exhibition itself, “....the Illuminating Gas” – which, as well as referencing the final work by one of his favourite artists, Marcel Duchamp: Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas, which portrays an enigmatic diorama only visible through a hole in the middle of a door – draws on the central element of the entire exhibition, light, neon light in particular, or rather the gas that becomes incandescent when an electrical current is passed through it.
The initial journey across this landscape of light and sound takes us through a thicket of seven 20-metre-high Doric columns that light up intermittently, creating an atmospheric montage of alternating translucence and bright light. StarStarStar/Steer (totransversephoton) acts as a counterpoint to the sound emitted by the work next to it, Composition for 37 Flutes. This is an ethereal glass sculpture and the air from its reeds hisses gently, suggesting a state of tension between the harmony of a breath and its dissipation. The Navate are lined with thirteen neon sculptures in the Neon Forms (after Noh) Series, inspired by the gestures and costumes of Noh actors, artfully suspended in a play of different alternating rhythms, solids and voids, and dialoguing with the tangled mile-long mass of straight lines and luminous curves of Forms in Space...by Light (in Time), a work originally conceived for London’s Tate Britain, also inspired by Marcel Duchamp and his Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, also known as The Large Glass, seen here in a new configuration.
Ephemeral light and sound, distinctive hallmarks of Evans’ work, are expressed by the “sonorous flashes” of C=O=N=S=T=E=L=L=A=T=I=O=N, a large polyphonic mobile that hangs near the entrance to the Cubo, and consists of sixteen discs made from directional speakers and reflective surfaces in which a strategic play of refractions, juxtapositions, overdubbing, occlusions and revelations challenge the visitor’s cognitive parameters. The Cubo – the final leg of the journey through light and sound - features, amongst other works, a neon head, suspended diagonally in the space, describing a solar eclipse and its trajectory across different geographical areas at different times of day, envisioning a journey that brings together poetic tone and scientific terminology. The exhibition continues outside with TIX3, the artist’s first neon work, which consists of the word “exit” written backwards – textual material which, decontextualized, is translated into a luminous scribble – and with the new sculpture To....fold, an Apprentice in the Sun, made with fireworks that display its ephemeral nature as they burn spectacularly. These two works summarise Evans’ oeuvre, focused on the imaginative potential of words and the use of montage as a compositional technique, as well as the centrality of the temporal dimension and the concept of duration as related to the enjoyment of a work.
“....the Illuminating Gas”
Via Chiese 2, Milano
Runs until 23rd February 2020