One of the great joys of the Whitechapel is the number of different display spaces (it is effectively two buildings joined together) and the sequence of different exhibitions that you see as you wend your way through the Gallery on one visit. My visit last Tuesday ended with the work of Portuguese artist Carlos Bunga, without realising it to start with. Hanging in the staircase of the Gallery were fabrics and disintegrating painted panels which interplayed with each other as you walked down or wandered around it. Then you find out you are experiencing Carlos Bunga’s ‘Polychromatic Environment’ – an exploration of paint in space and time – a prelude to his larger installation through the doors below where you find his first commission in the UK ‘Something Necessary and Useful’.
Inside, the gallery space was filled with a vast structure created (surprisingly) from cardboard, the brick walls around the side being hung with Shaker chairs and aged tools and implements, with old furniture in various different locations – sometimes painted, sometimes not -, all hinting at a mysterious and unknown past use.
While Bunga (born 1976) was in residence at the Watermill Center in New York in 2017, he came across a collection of Shaker furniture including examples of the characteristic ladder-back chair, which gave him an interest in simplicity of form, material and of living that he has brought into his installation here – very much in tune with the issues around climate change, zero carbon and sustainability.
Sadly, with the Gallery now closed due to the coronavirus situation across the world, the installation is now dark and silent and Carlos’s work cannot be appreciated as it should have been. In parallel a programme of dance was promised, with the dancers exploring the relationship between human bodies, space and time. The exhibition is planned to last until September, so hopefully it will be able to reopen at some point before that