Susan Hiller currently has a major retrospective showing at Tate Britain and a much smaller show of 13 pieces at the Timothy Taylor Gallery. One costs a tenner, the other is free. I popped into the free one and left feeling very pleased that I did.
Each of the thirteen works is a “homage to” and, with the exception of the three “Dirty Paintings” (Homage to George Batailles) which date from 1990 were all finished in 2010/11. Homage to Marcel Duchamps is not a selection of urinals but four very nice coloured, hazy ‘portrait’ images – Purple Man, Blue Boy and so on. I like them and the background of ‘aura portraits’ that Hiller is referencing. They seem both utterly contemporary and also like something rising from the past – both hazy notions of searching for ghostly images and also, perhaps less seriously, 1960s acid inspired LP art. Yves Klein’s is homaged by three levitation pictures based on the ‘hoax’ images Klein created. Black and white, fuzzy people apparently caught mid fall. Again, hazy and indistinct, but also rather beautiful.
I found the homage to Joseph Beuys less interesting being 16 little medicine boxes and … actually I switched off. The installation to Gertrude Stein (Lucidity and Intuition) – books stacked under a desk – on the other hand works beautifully as a study of artistic and intellectual creation, and also conceptual humour. The final piece as you walk round is “Rough Waters” – apparently a homage to no one – but a continuation of a series, this time exploring a relationship between painting and photography. 9 images are brought together showing choppy seas – some began as photos that were then painted, others paintings that were reproduced (I think that’s the idea). It’s intriguing – what could be trite and superficial has a surprising depth.
All in all, a small but perfectly formed exhibition. Definitely worth dipping into. I may even find the time and money to get to Tate Britain to continue exploring. I’d say “continue my ongoing investigation” but I don’t want people to hate me.