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Art Seen Projects was delighted to present ‘The End of the World as We Know it (Reproductions and Mementos)’ a solo exhibition by Amikam Toren, curated by Maria Stathi. A significant innovating conceptual artist, who has participated in major solo and group shows around the world. Over the past forty years Toren has been systematically engaged with the notion of representational and tautological paintings.
Toren’s first major exhibition in Cyprus showcases works from three series of paintings and a new video installation, which Art Seen is pleased to present for the first time internationally. The works explore his interest in the possibility or impossibility of representation between form and content of found objects. The artist refers to them as ‘adjusted ready-mades’ incorporating the destruction and resurrection of the object to reconstitute new meanings.
In his well-known series ‘Armchair Painting’ (1989 - present) the artist toys with perceptions of high and low art, by re-organizing the surfaces of paintings he finds in thrift-stores. Toren’s famous cut-out words, slogans or phrases on found painting surfaces, re-propose new readings of the work, and subsequently on its value and significance in the art world.
In his ‘Reproduction Paintings’ (2013 - present), Toren re-evaluates the found object by deconstructing a major part of it - which he then pulps – and preserving only a small part of the original image. The artist uses the processed substance as a painting material that he applies on his new stretched surface along with the remains of the initial painting. The title of the work becomes a trace of the original image.
‘Mementos’ (2000 - present) is a series of cut-outs of artists’ signatures, the only reminiscence he kept of the found works. Toren’s act to discard the rest of the found image sets questions on hierarchy and value in respect to both subject and object.
Toren’s narrations have been described by the art critic Richard Dyer as: "…the purest demonstration of painting painting itself, of art becoming the real it ‘stands in for’, of the skeleton telling the story of the body. If painting has anything left to do, then it is this: to tell the story of its own life – and death. And possibly, through the telling of this inner story, a new path will be found, new reasons to continue, new ways of seeing."
Along these lines of thought, ‘Life’ (2012), the two-channel video installation, elaborates on Toren’s systematic explorations in relevant disputes that run throughout his body of work. According to the artist: “The work plays on the notion of origin and life's potential (eggs) and its ephemeral nature (smoke or steam). The eggs and the boiling water produce music (sound) and perform a dance, which appears to be in sync with the movement of the smoke. Chance has been used in the making of the work.”
"Amikam Toren is a self professed “maker thinker” , in part this proposes that a given materiality and physical engagement with those materials and their making and even unmaking , sits the fore and thought and thinking then operates intimately in dialogue with what is made . The relation of idea to materiality or indeed content to form flows through Toren’s rich and historically significant practice with representation as a central concern and irrepressible subject.
Amikam Toren often works in series in Reproductions he gathers together and crystallizes much of the making and thinking he has explored in some fourty years of work. these are deceptively straightforward works and seemingly easy to describe, until one attempts to relate their making to the conceptual frame they operate in.
Take a readymade painting, remove the painting from its streacher and flatten, revealing the corners and folds then cut two or four corners away, or the columns of canvas that demarcate the side edges and or the top and bottom edges of the painting. Stick the cut out fragments on a newly stretched canvas. The attached fragments will become the frame that will contain the reproduction. Pulp the reminder of the isolated oil painting to remove all pigment, mix this pigment with colorless acrylic to form paint .return the paint to the new supporting canvas in an equalized and complete re – presentation of the pigments and pallets used in the original painting. The complete work refers back to the original through a descriptive title, a storm, a still life or landscape, each either remembered or forgotten. the range of what at first sight announce themselves as monochromes , on closer inspection reveal the diversity of the entire palette first used and is still present – it is determined by each original painting . a complex and powerful act is carried out – a flattening of the flat . The inherent flatness of the picture plane, here accentuated and magnified. all is present in Toren’s reproductions, the painting and the act of making a painting is framed and reframed, the old is made new and the condition of representation over which all meaningful art lingers is not only reproduced but stripped bare, even part X-ray part dissection, these works are also a discourse on if not indeed a critique of the family relations of the photograph to both painting and its reproduction. Amikam Toren’s reproductions are archeology of the act, the medium and practice that explores painting and its object with a rigour unlike any other.
Text: John Slyce
Born in Israel in 1945, Toren has been resident in London since 1968 and has been the subject of major solo exhibitions at The Serpentine Gallery, 1976; The Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1979; Chisenhale Gallery and Arnolfini, Bristol, 1991. His work has been included in the Paris Biennale of 1967; Venice Biennale, 1982; Tyne International, 1993; and Guangzhou Triennial, 2012. Other recent exhibitions include the John Moores Painting Prize, 2012, Jerwood Drawing Prize, London, 2011; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2010; Neuberger Museum of Art, New York, 2009; and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2008. In 2012 he participated in the 4th Guangzhou Triennial and ‘The London Open’, Whitechapel Gallery. Toren was awarded the Bryan Robertson Trust Award in 2012. Toren was subject to his first solo exhibition in the USA at the Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco, 2013. He exhibits regularly at the Noga Gallery in Tel Aviv, MOTInternational in Brussels and has been represented by Anthony Reynolds Gallery in London since 1985.
Toren has recently seen a significant expansion of interest from international institutions and collectors. Tate acquired a group of works in 2012 and over the last few years’ works have entered major collections in Istanbul, Madrid, New York, Dallas and London.
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