What happens to art and to artists as time marches on? Artists create, they breathe their personality into their work, they take inspiration from other artists while they develop their own style… but then what….? At the end, does their work end up in skips and in black bins bags, thrown away by the artists themselves or by society as they fall out of favour?
Is this what Gavin Turk is telling us with the exhibition of 25 years of his work at the prize-winning Newport Street Gallery? The first rooms start with birth, with creativity, with challenge and invention, with Turk exploring who he it through works from the magazine cover “Identity Crisis” to paintings emulating Jackson Pollock but created with his own signature swinging wildly throughout. In the next immense white room rising three stories high, there is only a small plaque – the one that he created at the Royal College of Art to celebrate his time there and which, sadly, resulted in his degree being refused.
Then, moving from this immense space with the small plaque, the exhibition moves to a real burst of creativity and of theatre, in a room with the walls covered in punk wallpaper, with printed images in the style of Andy Warhol, followed by 3 dimensional models, all of himself in a variety of different guises, including images of Gavin Turk himself wearing the tramp’s clothing in which he turned up as a rebel to the Saatchi exhibition “Sensation” in the 1980’s, as an immaculately-dressed guard outside Buckingham Palace, and as the punk image of Sid Vicious. In the quiet of the gallery, some of these suddenly to life – this is Turk the master of theatre.
Then, it all comes to an end. The last room has a builder’s skip surrounded by bin bags, a flat tyre and other debris. These may be created in bronze and painted to question what is art and what is everyday life, but they also suggest an ending – is this what happens at the end of a career? Is the artworld so fickle that creativity of one decade is, only a few years later, consigned to the dustbin and sent to the refuse tip, as new artists and new styles come to the fore? Ironically, this does link to the current exhibition on Caravaggio at the National Gallery in London, where that was exactly the case. Caravaggio established a whole new style of art, much-copied by his followers but, 30 years later, it had been snuffed out like a candle or consigned to the rubbish bin of the art world.
Along the road in the Beaconsfield Gallery, Emily Motto, from the next new generation of artists, is perhaps picking up where Gavin Turk left off, with irreverent playful sculptures made of a variety of materials aimed to engage the viewers, with a new cycle of creativity.