Neil Clements: Electric Eye
7 April - 8 October 2017
Hunterian Art Gallery
This new exhibition at the Hunterian Art Gallery presents paintings and sculptures by Glasgow-based artist Neil Clements (b. 1982, Belfast). Neil Clements: Electric Eye continues The Hunterian’s innovative programme of contemporary art displays, and features new works made especially for this context.
Clements' work often echoes the abstract formal strategies of modernist art. He has, for instance, produced monochromatic paintings, shaped canvases and geometric sculptures; he has sometimes made adapted versions of iconic works by modernist artists such as Anthony Caro and Frank Stella. Clements alludes to these forms not only to explore and question their currency today but also to introduce new cultural contexts for understanding them. These contexts range from industrial design – including the covert production of military hardware – to the subcultures of popular music. This exhibition extends the artist’s interest in these areas through an installation of works that simultaneously evoke the furnishings of the gallery spaces in which modernist paintings were exhibited in the 1960s, and refer to the cultural climate of the Cold War.
Electric Eye includes a number of paintings that bring together the geometric patterns of ‘post-painterly’ abstract painting with the logo of the so-called ‘Skunk Works’ department at aerospace company Lockheed Martin. The original Skunk Works team was set up to facilitate the secret development of high-speed military aircraft, but the term’s use has expanded in recent years to include a range of other subcultural activities, ones that lay claim to similar levels of secrecy and technological sophistication.
The paintings are accompanied by a series of small-scale sculptures which repurpose furniture associated with the white cube gallery space as listening devices. In the Hunterian’s sculpture courtyard Clements presents a larger sculptural work modelled on the ‘chembuster’, an esoteric device developed in relation to the theories of unorthodox psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich and supposedly able to disperse atmospheric formations overhead.
In all these works, the artist is interested in bringing a ‘proper’ art historical understanding of formal abstraction into contact with a range of subcultural practices that it often resembles. Like the historian David Lowenthal, Clements sees merit in fabricating the past to interrogate its meaning.
Since graduating with a BA (Hons) from the Glasgow School of Art (2004), Clements has presented solo exhibitions at institutions and galleries including: Centre for Contemporary Art (Derry/Londonderry); Doggerfisher (Edinburgh); Woodmill (London), Peer (London), Tramway (Glasgow); Hochstr. 45 Berlin (with Alex Dordoy). His work has also been included in numerous international group exhibitions, including at Frith Street (London), Hunter College (New York); most recently in the exhibition ‘Dystotal’ at the Ludwig Forum in Aachen. He was a nominee for the Jerwood Painting Prize in 2010.