The Vacuum. Mistakes, failure and negation play a key role in Tom Ellis' work. On the one hand he is interested in mechanisms that result in errors; on the other he likes to investigate his own work for possible errors - and to implement them into its concept.
Kunsthalle Winterthur starts its 30th anniversary year with a parade for
contemporary art. Its motto is creativity - individuality - eternity, a triad that
suggests an aesthetic equivalent to the fundamental values of democracy.
Participants from all disciplines who want to express essential concerns of
contemporary art or communicate cultural messages are all welcome, be they visual
artists, actors, musicians and dancers, curators, collectors or art critics. A
contribution to the parade can be a performative action as well as a simple cultural
message on a banner. Of course any other people who are interested in contemporary
art and onlookers are very welcome to join the parade on the day. The parade starts
in the old town of Winterthur and will travel up to a little park, where
London-based artist Tom Ellis will present one of his daylight fireworks. The way
back leads to Kunsthalle, and to the opening of Ellis' show 'The Vacuum'.
Mistakes, failure and negation play a key role in Tom Ellis' work. On the one hand he is interested in mechanisms that result in errors; on the other he likes to investigate his own work for possible errors - and to implement them into its concept. Ellis' artistic approach could be described as a constant search for an artistic point zero. It is about the question of if and how art can be possible without given references to form, content or history; this again is the result of a fundamental scepticism towards all thematic preferences and of a ruthless analysis of what art is really about. Ellis is looking for the existential in art, but doesn't find it in privileged contents, even if they might be valuable in themselves. Regarding social criticism he prefers definitely political action to any kind of artwork; and regarding the currently prominent term of knowledge production, he holds an academic or documentary approach much higher than an aesthetical one. So the question comes up, what remains, if all these common backgrounds for artistic production are missing.
The result of the analysis, however, is not as the result of peeling an onion which leaves you with nothing: first you always have the work of art as an event in time and space, secondly you always have the artist who produces it and/or declares it as such. Ellis accepts these as two fundamental conditions; they serve him as a (minimal) starting point from where he can start producing art. One result is the focus on painting and sculpture, as these two media are the most traditional and hence self-evident; another result is the analysis of himself as an artist-subject, predominantly determined by his own biography and personal wishes and preferences.
The publication We Believe in Shit is a striking result of such an artistic disposition. It was designed onwww.blurb.com, an internet service where everybody can produce his own publication and order in any number of copies. Ellis' book however did not turn out to be a normal catalogue: it was put together within a single evening with pitiful iPhone-pictures of just five oil-drawings and one chairlike object. The minimal number of 20 pages could only be filled by using the cover-picture another three times within the book, together with a miserable installation view of all the works that fills six pages. The used layout shows no demand for elaborated graphic design but follows the given proposals by the blurb-software and the pictures have a bad resolution. At the same time there is absolutely no effort to hush up the low budget production; the www.blurb.com-label - it could have been removed for a few pounds - shows up prominently at the beginning and end of the book. The basic and overriding intention of the artist to have his own book has thus usurped all considerations regarding a thorough representation of his work; and thus supersedes the fundamental task of any book. But at the same time this fatal error is capable of generating something positive: primarily a distinguished artist book, but also an ironic comment on the status quo of contemporary artists.
The moment of error that is based on virtues like ardour and enthusiasm is also an important part of Ellis' daylight firework displays, one of which he is going to stage as a contribution to the Artparade. Of course the smoke traces are seen in front of a bright sky as dramatic as the luminous bodies themselves and hence the event fulfils the minimal artistic category ofseeing differently. But the true reason why Ellis is so fond of the idea of setting off fireworks during the day is to be found in all the rockets set off too early on national holidays or new year's eve; they are symptomatic of impatient and undisciplined people; they are born from a childish enthusiasm and joy but result in something quite useless. The publication We Believe in Shit is a vital part of Ellis' presentation at Kunsthalle Winterthur and was produced for this occasion. The artistic programme it contains, a chair and paintings, continues in the exhibition and at the same time stands for the basic programme of the museum: on the one hand artworks in the form of portraits, landscapes and still lives, on the other the institutional, safeguarding frame in the form of chairs for absent museum guards.
Kunsthalle Winterthur is supported by: Stadt Winterthur, Friends of the Kunsthalle, Fondation Nestle' pour l'art partenariat, Kulturstiftung Winterthur and Migros-Kulturprozent
Daylight Fireworks Saturday March 27 at 4 pm, opening reception at 5pm
Opening reception on March 27 at 5 pm
Marktgasse 25, CH - 8400 Winterthur
Wed - Fri 12 - 18h, Sat / Sun 12 - 16h