Daniel Buren at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

[Images: BALTIC]


A muted and fog filled afternoon in Newcastle provided an opportunity to visit Daniel Buren’s colourful works in situ at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Buren’s response to this environment which spills over the Quayside and into the Tyne sees both recognisable and new works from the French artist; hung, installed, and invested. Known for his use of the stripe to obtain a ‘degree zero of painting’, the works submitted and created for this space are affecting and theatrical, for everything that they aren’t. The impact of the reoccurring stripe is alleviated by its repetition, allowing us to consider beyond the parallel lines.

Buren’s piece ‘20 Diamonds for the Facade’ flooded the face of the old Mill making trips up and down the lift slightly less fear instilling, and momentarily sedating. This time, riding the lift was accompanied by fleeting washes of soulful light. The kind you get in the afternoon, but different to that of the morning. The ascent and descent provided acclimatisation, a time to contemplate and linger over the process and concept behind these works, which are equally weighted in terms of importance.

It became evident with time that the precise nature of this work (the stripe) is a device. One which causes the emergence of everything but its self through reoccurrence. Although repetition is often used as a tool to evidence the inevitable introduction of variation and imprecision, Buren uses this ‘motif’ to cause the realisation of the immediate environment. Reoccurrence promotes recollection, which in turn encourages the onlooker to be more concerned with other details under the impression that they are more deeply engaged with their surroundings than with work that is precisely unattainable and infinitive. In a less clear-cut fashion, the viewer detects precision, therefore looks to their immediate, more recognisable and changeable environment, subsequently returning back to the work with realisation of its vulnerabilities and ability to be effected by its situation.


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Repetition of these 8.7cm wide lines may be deemed purposeful and exclusive, void of any sense of humility. However this repetition evidences differences, especially when put in an exhibition environment where every inch of the space is challenging and can experience changing conditions. We become aware of the inevitable introduction of variation, difference and vulnerability, concluding that the stripes are very much just catalysts, drawing attention to space, light, surface and colour. Familiarity allows the onlooker to turn their attention to the changeable space The Baltic provides, and realise that the works infiltrate a variable environment, consequently making the works dependent. Noticing this dependability sees the work in many different lights.

Having an unmanageable effect on the work, weather is vital to consider when discussing the work of Daniel Buren in a space such as The Baltic. Inevitable variations are cast upon the work, making each situation unique and circumstantial (in the least exclusive way possible). Buren’s work is driven by concept, however it sees the intentional and unintentional alike. The space reflects in the pieces, whilst the pieces cast upon the space. Quite minimal work becomes much more with this realisation, allowing the purposefulness of the formalities to alleviate. One has the chance to experience self-initiated understanding, and is invited to linger. Duration complements the work, allowing for the emergence of complexity in pieces that are fairly factual and literal as objects.  


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Personally, wandering in and out of Buren’s hued levels as one of three or four onlookers was phenomenal. And I don’t mean to use this divine word in relation to aesthetics, however the level of awareness of personal experience and consciousness encouraged by Daniel Buren in ‘Catch as catch can: Works in situ’ permits only that word. The onlooker (perhaps participant is a more fitting word) leaves with a strange satisfaction and contentment that can only be achieved by self-initiated engagement.

Olivia June Bambrough


For more about Daniel Buren visit his website at www.danielburen.com

Visit the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art at www.balticmill.com

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