Magazine article Art Monthly

Hew Locke Iniva

Magazine article Art Monthly

Hew Locke Iniva

Article excerpt

Hew Locke Iniva London September 3 to October 20

At the entrance of the gallery the viewer is immediately presented with Hew Locke's statement: 'At its heart, my work is both political and highly personal, often taking me on strange dreamlike journeys where the past and the present merge and then separate'. For Locke, the point at which the political and the personal intersect has always revolved around the notion of power and those who aspire to it. This new installation, The Kingdom of the Blind, at Iniva continues his investigation on the subject with rigorous consistency while expanding its scope. By making it difficult to locate points of reference, Locke situates his analysis of power outside a specific time or place. However, at times his work runs the risk of losing some of the layers of meaning in his previous works, whose richness results precisely from their ability to substantiate sharp critiques with concrete iconographies of power drawn from history.

From the middle of the gallery space, the viewer can take in at once the towering presence of the army of relief figures in all their magnificence. They vary in size, with the biggest reaching up to 14ft tall, dwarfing the accompanying figures and suggesting an aura of authority. According to the press release, the scene depicts a victorious moment in battle that led to the leader's rise to power. However, buried under a shimmering layer of garishly coloured objects, the identities of these statuesque figures are impossible to discern, making them mummified objects without agency. Their bright and shiny surfaces invite the viewer to come close. However, as soon as you approach the source of this sparkling excess, disappointment dawns upon the realisation that it is constructed out of layers of cheap plastic and mundane ephemera sourced from pound shops.

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It is precisely through this process of seduction and disillusionment that Locke challenges the assumptions society makes based on various representations of power, which can only ever be a distant and illusory picture created out of conflicting interests. These figures bring into play many binaries--the powerful and the impotent, the extravagant and the mundane, the beautiful and the grotesque--creating blatant contradictions which point to a crucial inconsistencies in the attitudes of liberals in the West. How can we be outraged at headlines describing the poor working conditions and starvation wages in the developing countries while effectively sanctioning these conditions by our continued demand for low-cost manufactured goods? …

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