Conceptual Trickster Gavin Turk Returns to Galerie Krinzinger After 16 Years
Sixteen years after his first solo show at Vienna’s Galerie Krinzinger, British provocateur Gavin Turk is using the history of the birthplace of psychoanalysis as a jumping-off point for humorous and thought-provoking works riffing on existential quandaries. His exhibition, titled “A Vision,” pays homage to three pioneering thinkers: conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth, Viennese father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who deeply influenced Freud. For the show, Turk has filled three rooms of the gallery with an encyclopedic variety of stylistic explorations, materials, and historical references. Eyes, clocks, and eggs surface throughout as reminders of the human condition—and our penchant for counterproductive selfishness.
Throughout his career, multimedia artist Turk, who first drew attention as a YBA, has explored identity, authenticity, and representation through painted trompe l'oeil ready-mades, hyperrealistic figurative wax sculptures, and slapdash handwritten notes mentioning art history superstars like Andy Warhol or Marcel Duchamp. Humor, tautology, and absurdity are pointedly used to articulate the heterogeneity of perception—and the act of viewing itself.
Upon entering “A Vision” a neon spelling out the show’s very title is mounted on the wall next to a mobile of clocks, each marking different times. Titled Time and Space (for Joseph Kosuth) (2015), the work re-imagines Kosuth’s iconic work Clock (One and Five) (1965), in which he probed “linguistic anthropology” (the effect that language has on the way we see the world) by installing a clock, a photograph of a clock, and dictionary entries related to a clock alongside each other. In Turk’s version, clocks spin and tick inexorably, making us keenly aware of an object’s ability to track and define human experience.
In the two neighboring rooms a recurring egg motif stands out. In several works, the oblong form, which alludes to the genesis of life, of course, is represented in numerous mediums and tied to different historical luminaries. In Holy Egg (Sienna) (2014), Turk conjures Lucio Fontana with an aggressively lacerated egg-shaped canvas. Dürer`s Solid (2015) is a rough-hewn egg-shaped sculpture resembling a heavy rock—and might refer to Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer’s ability to create depth and weight by modeling with light and shade. And in perhaps the most striking and bizarre work in the show, a life-size wax likeness of Wittgenstein offers a small egg, entreatingly, in his hand. In each piece, the egg becomes a through line connecting powerful historical figures and, in turn, questioning their contemporary relevance.
All of this is bathed in the glow of Freudian-Kosuthian neons reading “ID” and “ego,” perhaps a reminder that while art changes, and history marches on, the human condition does not.
—Franziska Sophie Wildförster
“A Vision” is on view at Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, Sept. 17 – Oct. 31, 2015.