In analyzing Mike Nelson’s work, which is being featured at the Contemporary Art Gallery, it is important to note the sculptural elements. He chooses to take an approach that holds the audience in captivation. Nelson’s former preference was to use spatial divides that held various forms, but he is now instead presenting objects that are constructed with rudimentary materials. He takes the simplicity of human creation and pronounces it in a dignified tone, but fails to complete the evolution of human creation in his compilation of work during this exhibit.
The sculptural elements of his work trigger a feeling of time that has been spent. They create a “votive effigy of sorts” (Mike, 3). They create a sense of being, rather than something that is futuristic, and relatively non-associable. I noticed how raw his designs were, and he looked to use simple constructs that one would expect from cavemen. However, that is not meant to be an insult to the artist, rather a compliment. Nelson has managed to flourish in an art world that consists of sculptors who are often too tempted to create unordinary constructs for the sake of being different. However, Nelson sculpts forms that seem other-worldly, but primal at the same time, and this gives them the originality to which every artist aspires. Looking at his creations that were on display at the Contemporary Art Gallery gives the impression that one is looking back into time at the basic forms, but instead of looking at dusty images painted on the inside of a cave, for example, similarly primal forms are crafted into magnificent sculptures, (I Like, 5).
Hi work is extremely raw and simplistic, and this was refreshing in an art environment that is not typically known for being able to communicate ideas simply. Too often the art becomes extremely abstract, and while Nelson was not strictly representational, he used simple designs to communicate his raw visions in the artwork. For example, his Master of Reality features what appears to be sticks that are gathered in the position of making a fire. This very basic shape could trigger the audience to think about times when they were camping, but due to the overall primal focus of his work in the exhibit, it has the viewer thinking of cavemen, and the time when they first began to use fire. Assembled sticks in this way helps to show the basic form. The viewer would expect this image to be beside a basic wheel, or a cave painting.
His art is really about the development of the human society. While people are extremely complicated in the capitalist system, we all come from the same simple origins. Nelson is keying in to this primal component of human life. However, he does touch on modern development in The Amnesiacs. This piece features what has been constructed to look like a motorcycle. However, instead of a machine with complex mechanics, it is the assembly of basic parts that would not even be typically associated with a motorcycle. For example, instead of an engine, the piece features a box. Instead of a typical leather seat, the seat in this piece appears to be wool. The handlebars are an animal’s horns, and the tires are very simple. This piece again strips down the complicated nature of modern society, and puts it in very simple form. He leaves much of the space vacated, and this helps break down human developments into very basic, representational forms, (Valid, 5).
When he puts the pieces together in his presentation, they add components to a broader picture. For example, Master of Reality represents man in its very early form, while The Amnesiacs represents man as relatively developed, with modern machinery, but still very basic in design. “Nelson is best-known for his labyrinthine architectural installations that unfold as narrative structures, where the viewer moves through rooms like a reader turns pages in a novel” (Pootoogook, 2013). This style of creating a series of sculptures that work together, causes the pieces to combine as a team to create the presentation. Without one component, the whole would be compromised.
However, I noticed that Nelson’s work seems incomplete. While he effectively uses the basic components of human design in his pieces, he does not finish his exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery. It seems as if this presentation will have a sequel. He ended with many of the designs of the 1900’s, such as the motorcycle, but he does not include many of the human designs that are used regularly today, such as the computer. I believe Nelson could have included more contemporary pieces in his work to create the feeling that that compilation is complete. While he delivers in the concepts of each piece, individually he does not satisfy the viewer completely, due to the fact that the collection has not definitive ending. Adding more modern creations, such as the computer would have been helpful, and I would have even taken it a step further by adding a futuristic robot, for example.
To conclude, Nelson provides the viewer with a very objective take on the developments throughout human history. He is able to break these developments down into their simple structure, and his tendency to create each art piece as a component of a collection is a significant accomplishment. He provides a take on human culture that gets rid of the “noise,” or the complication, and this can make simple concepts or human survival and ingenuity clearer to the viewer. However, Nelson could have taken this approach a step further by providing a clearer concept of modern, and possibly future, developments in human creation. This would have given his exhibition a more complete, and satisfying ending. Perhaps Nelson intends to focus on more modern, and futuristic concepts in his next exhibition. That would be no surprise, as Nelson is famous for linear developments in his work.
“I Like this Art.” Contemporary Art Blog. 2013. Web. 4 Oct. 2013.
“Mike Nelson” Contemporary Art Gallery. 2013. Web. 4 Oct. 2013.
Valide Han, Buyuk. “Mike Nelson.” Frieze Founation. 2003. Web. 4 Oct. 2013.