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Exhibition Review: The Joy of Sculpture at Bonington Gallery

11 November 21 words: Alexander Watkin
photos: Jules Lister

Few twentieth century artists have impacted the cultural zeitgeist like Andrew Logan has, leaving a lasting impact on filmmakers like Derek Jarman and cultural icons such as Malcolm Mclaren and Vivienne Westwood. Now, the artist is the focus of The Joy of Sculpture at Bonington Gallery, displaying jewellery, sculptures, and portraiture taken from Logan’s fifty year career…

Like a hidden world, The Joy of Sculpture is found tucked away within Nottingham Trent University’s Bonington building, one of utilitarian tiled flooring, raw concrete and exposed services. Space literally and figuratively expands as you enter the gallery. The main gallery has a double height ceiling, it’s spacious and airy and clearly contrasts the more enclosed corridors before you enter the exhibition. As you walk into the gallery, an essential component of Andrew Logan’s work becomes clear – a desire to counteract the supposed coldness of everyday life.

Logan’s work brings a playful excess to the space, which consumes the senses as absurdism takes over from the rationalism of the Bonington building. Curated by Joshua Lockwood-Moran, the exhibition pulls together fifty years of work from one of Britain’s most iconic twentieth century artists.

Andrew Logan began sculpting in 1968, though he is mostly recognised for his jewellery and spoof beauty pageant, Alternative Miss World. Bonington Vitrines, a distinct space accessible before you enter the main exhibition, is dedicated to archival material from Alternative Miss World; selected jewellery courtesy of Logan’s family and friends is displayed within the main exhibition.

A key part to Logan’s art is the artist himself. Logan is displayed on the poster of the show. He is in the photographs displayed within the main exhibition, and all over the archival material of Alternative Miss World. In some way, the show seems to assert the idea that Logan himself can be as much the art as the pieces he creates. Before you enter the main space there is an archival video of Logan guiding us around his The Glasshouse Studio in London. In the video he speaks of a “totality” with his artistic creation; there is “no beginning, no end”, a sensibility that is felt deep within the exhibition.

This is not only true in the recurring presence of Logan’s self-image, but through the fact the walls of the gallery space have been painted in the style of a cartoon sky with cotton candy clouds. This idea comes from 1967 photographs of Logan’s bedroom on Denmark Street in Oxford, which are also on display in the exhibition. The exhibit extends further than the white cube; entering it is like entering Logan’s subconscious. 

Logan’s work brings a playful excess to the space, which consumes the senses as absurdism takes over from the rationalism of the Bonington building

Stepping into the main gallery space you are immediately confronted by the gigantic gold wheat crops of Goldfield, towering sculptures constructed from aluminium, steel, resin, glass, glitter and straw. There is a sense of surreal theatricality, as if the gallery has been transformed into a theme park. Lockwood-Moran does a good job utilising this to divide the space and create an accessible route through the exhibition.

Once you exit Goldfield you begin to explore a collection of wholly different objects. The individual pieces to some extent bleed into one. Homage to the New Wave, in particular, is placed in a space where it is neither here nor there. Understandably, such a space is difficult to divide up meaningfully. There is certainly no outright issue here, simply that the show itself does not make the argument to individually consider each piece.

The exhibition’s strength, though, is its transformative quality, which is intertwined with Logan’s process. Logan’s work takes detritus and found objects and places them into the gallery setting. With every piece on display there is an otherworldly, surreal and mystical quality. For example, The Arum Lily Record Player is a record player shaped like giant lilies, with a reflective mosaic base using scraps of glass. Each day the exhibition invigilator chooses a record to play from Logan’s personal collection, creating a piece that is so dreamlike it feels almost alien. With this auditory component, Logan introduces another element to the sensory experience of the exhibition. There is a real optimism in Logan’s approach in trying to find something more, something beautiful, within the everyday.

On display for the first time is a four metre high glass portrait of artist Duggie Fields titled, simply, Duggie. Constructed from wood, glass, glitter and resin, Duggie stands with open outstretched arms, the portrait yearning to pull the viewer in. Often when we study art closely we can begin to see more and more of ourselves in it; moving closer to Logan’s mirror portraits, literally all you see is yourself.

Reassessing Logan today, there are similarities to social media influencers. His art and practise is so much about himself, as already explored, everywhere you look his self-image is present. Like an influencer, there is perhaps an element of performance in the way he accentuates and heightens his personality, which is particularly apparent in the introductory video outside the exhibition doors. Perhaps a lasting outcome of the exhibition should be considering Logan’s art in relation to today’s shallow personality obsession. And asking questions like when does art become egotistical, if ever?

However, what can be said with more certainty is that, in every way, The Joy of Sculpture is an all-encompassing exhibition. Ultimately what it provides is a complete sense of the artist, both in terms of his art and him as an individual.

Andrew Logan: The Joy of Sculpture is currently on view at Bonington Gallery until Saturday 11 December 

boningtongallery.co.uk

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