The Contents of an Artist’s mind: Hans-Peter Feldman at the Serpentine

I am the exact opposite of a GPS. I have no sense of direction, whatsoever. If you put me in front of the London Eye, with a gigantic neon arrow pointing at it, and ask me to lead you there, we will end up having tea and scones in Manchester. If we were in a scary movie, I would be the one that looks at the map for a couple of seconds, and then point to the dark, menacing looking road, saying ‘this is the way’, much to the dismay of the rest of the group.
So,all this might explain why I am finding myself in the middle of green fields, with dirt on my new shoes, a broken umbrella and a soaked coat. I am looking at the battery falling down to 2% on my iPhone, and the Google Maps holding onto the screen for dear life as they tell me to go left; and then the program closes; the iPhone shuts down. I look around. I am screwed.
Granted, I am only in the middle of Hyde Park, so I can find my way out easy enough (I think). But I don’t want to. I came here on a mission, and I will achieve it. So, relying on the signage and the kindness of strangers, I was directed towards my destination. 20 minutes later, I was entering the Serpentine Gallery with a dramatic sigh, dripping, eyes wide open.

Famous for its eclectic exhibitions and clever use of space, the Serpentine Gallery is like a small oasis in the middle of Hyde Park. It has a truly rich array of events, a great architecture and education schedule, and a bookshop that is responsible for a sharp decrease in my bank account.

I kept repeating to myself ‘eyes on the prize’, so upon entering, I made my way straight through to the exhibition. Inside, you can not help but feel that you are in a Charlie Kauffman movie; you are stuck inside the mind of an artist, exploring his memories in the corridors, his feelings in the well lit room, his fears in the dark ones. The exhibition, a selection of Hans-Peter Feldmann’s body of work, takes over the main gallery space, and is hosting some of his most famous pieces next to brand new work.

Satirical, often humorous, poignantly dreamy and always humane, his work is an observational masterpiece. He maintains the child-like fascination of presenting the everyday as unique, and the trivial as extraordinary. Feldmann strives to see the world in different ways, from different angles and different eyes; from the picture of a woman waving goodbye, attached to a mechanical device that simulates the movement, to a giant poster of bookcases filled with books that will never be read. His work includes flower pots propped on the wall, two plastic sculptures of fluorescent Greek figures and chiaroscuro portraits of dignified cross-eyed sitters and Victorian ladies with clown noses.

You can find raw beauty in between the humorous exhibits. In Sparrow Play, a little girl is touching the cut out silhouette of someone that was there but is no more, something only she could see at that moment in time, invisible to us, no other trace but the shadow that was left on the black and white pavement. You can find social comments, from the use of photography as a commercial avenue, to the commercialised needs that shape our daily lives. He seems to be testing the boundaries of art, graphic design, concept and creation with every single work he exhibits.

I also loved the way Feldmann seemed to be cataloguing and compartmentalising events, like All the Clothes of a Woman, where he has taken portraits of the clothing found in a woman’s wardrobe; the same with the Contents of a Woman’s Bag. His observational work includes a cluster of pictures of car radios playing good music, a photographic catalogue of a pound of strawberries, and a group of pictures of lips. These collections of moments have a rather subtle but profound effect, creating the illusion of a familiar viewing, when you have never seen or experienced what is depicted.

There is however a show stopping moment; entering the dark world of Shadow Play, the first thing you see is a long table, with a collection of strange everyday items arranged on the table. However, it is not the items themselves that are strange; it is the way they are placed, how they are out of place, out of context, creating a new context, creating a different reality. The objects are moving, aided by a number of electrical devices, and lit by lamps that are housed in metal tins. And then your eye follows the light through the objects to the wall. And you can not help but gasp. On the wall, a new scene is created, a choreography of shadows shows a world that is not there, but is there nonetheless. It is beautiful. You sit down, and you stare at it, and you feel that you are witnessing a moment of pure beauty, a moment that reminds you how simple things, light and shadow, can mix and make magic.
On the way out, I visit the shop, and buy the exhibition catalogue. With a lighter heart and bank account, I step out, in the rain, and look to my left; then to my right. I am not sure which way I am supposed to go; but you know what? I feel like exploring.







3 thoughts on “The Contents of an Artist’s mind: Hans-Peter Feldman at the Serpentine

  1. You provide such a creative review. Before I saw the photos, I had my own vision and was surprised at the clarity. Kudos, and GPS’s are over-rated. Explore freely!

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