ENDLESS: STEPHEN WILLATS
Since the 1960s, Willats has been considered among the most important practitioners of international conceptual art in England. His focus is on investigating urban conditions through communication processes, network formations and structures. In his work he looks at the personal living space and the values of the respective individual; how we perceive our surroundings, define them and shape them for ourselves. However, this is not only about the relationship between social groups and individuals, but also about the relationship to the semiotic systems, which affect us daily in the form of architectural structures, objects, and sounds, which shape our personal and social experience.
In the exhibition the works are integrated into an endless wall-drawing across the whole of the gallery space, consisting of continuous swarm-like, grouped, identical arrows pointing in different directions. The works on paper are drawings in colored pencil and photo collages. For these, Willats photographed the inhabitants of high-rise buildings and their belongings that surround them in their private sphere including telephone, television, supplies and other personal possessions. Objects that the people like and need and which belong to their habitat, objects which at some point were considered modern and with which people felt kept them in touch with modern life. While in some works Willats represents the relationships between people and objects as found, in others the artist creates new relations as in the series Buildings and Vases. The vases in these works are as monumental as the skyscrapers with which they are juxtaposed. On a structural level, it could be said that buildings are themselves vessels which can absorb something while externally retaining a concrete form. Thus, because of its structure, the tower block with its reduced and modernist façade, for Willats serves as an object of study in his work; an object with a simple, sleek exterior, but with a highly complex, cellular interior, where people live and create their own individual worlds. In other works from the Conceptual Tower series, Willats uses intense colors to highlight geometrically abstracted objects and buildings, which he connects to each other with delicate arrows. They represent another variant of the artist’s diagrammatic systems that depict or invent transformations, relationships and communication models. As part of this group of works the four-part work Life in Various Forms with its straight-forward title appears as a collaged manifesto by the artist.
For the exhibition Willats has created a video entitled ENDLESS. In it the artist refers to the ideas and concepts of the cyberneticist and philosopher Heinz von Förster and his concept of a “cybernetics of a second order”.
Although Willats’ aesthetically austere and at the same time delightfully colorful artistic language and his quasi-scientific, graphic formats are well-known, they simultaneously leave all questions open, since ultimately they are artistic creations in their own right. Thus, Willats’ work and his committed practice remain closer to real life than other contemporary productions.
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