When Sir John Soane (1753-1837), a prominent British neoclassical architect, died, he bequeathed his house and all its contents to the British people through a special parliamentary law. Soane’s philanthropy was not purely selfless, as it robbed his son George of his legacy. More than 20 years ago, George attacked his father’s architecture in two anonymous reviews. George’s mother and John’s beloved wife, Eliza Soan, was shocked by her discovery and died a month after she knew the identity of the reviewer. John, who never forgave his son, circled the review in black and hung it on the wall with the title “Death Blow Given by George Thorne.” This full-bodied house is a monument to Sir John and Sir Eliza, who were enthusiastic art collectors. As stipulated in the will, the contents of the house will not move, will be maintained and open to the public for free.
Soan’s house is the subject of the largest painting in the exhibition Gretchen Scheller: Sometimes light, Monya Rowe Gallery (February 24-April 2, 2022). Her attention focuses on making myriad details readily readable, so it’s easy to see why Scheller doesn’t draw so many big pictures. Except for the dust around it, I’d like to say, but it’s too small to get the artist’s attention. In the 48 x 48-inch Sir John Soane’s Museum, Library, Dining Room (2021-22), Scheller maintains the basic structure of the dining room while making changes and additions, especially to those beyond the windows. .. She perceptually magnifies it through the far end of the room, and through slight changes in the perspective that opens the space in the room. Loving rebellion, such as adding an entire room and thereby changing what is supposed to be preserved forever, is at the heart of Scheller’s art. She knows that time cannot be stationary.
By choosing a room full of art that cannot be changed as a subject and consciously “re-hanging” the work in it, Scheller’s paintings become a fun meditation over time and their meaninglessness in the face of time indifference. I admit that. When a star was once an endless sign and brought a sense of coherence (a kind of heaven in itself), the large number of disposable images flowing into our lives from multiple sources are constantly upsetting changes and non-permanent. Communicate your sexual status. Seeing that Scheller reinvented Soan’s house and museum, the numerous books, arts and statues in the space over-attention and effectively reduce their importance as individual works. .. Scheller deliberately extends the process by making a small version of them in her painting. The title of the poem by her contemporaries William Wordsworth in Soan comes to mind. “The world is too much for us.”
I mention this background because it is hardly what the viewer may see as an eccentric pursuit on the part of the artist. Scheller’s paintings speak of the loss and meaningless emotions that permeate our lives. This is a legacy of dictatorship and neoliberalism, a privilege of the rich and dismissal of the poor and the struggling. We live in a world where everything is out of balance.Scheller’s portrayal of an empty room, drawn during a pandemic, shares something with Judith Schalansky’s book. Atlas of remote islands: 50 islands I have never set foot on (2010). If you can’t travel, how do you travel? Where do you go if you only have the internet, books, and imagination? What do you feel secure about?
Scheller chooses and paints on small museums, open houses, and the annual summer show at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, implying the presence of viewers. At Sir John Soane’s Museum, Library, and Dining Room, he stood behind a slanted desk in Thornes, with his open notes, along with watercolor sketches and books scattered on the surface of the desk. It’s as if you’re watching. Directly in front of you is a large window that surrounds another room with pale striped blue walls filled with paintings. Most of them are portraits. Several small paintings are gathered around the largest and most colorfully dominant portrait of a man in black dressed in a large red chair. Its red, which indicates the farthest place from the viewer, is centered in the composition. Scheller uses red sparingly elsewhere in the painting, but its use here is very detailed, full of clear images and points of interest, while adding nuance and complexity to the content. Provides the configuration.
Scheller manipulates many formal problems to make this painting. The side walls tilting towards the window are mauve, the desk is brown, and the wall on which the portrait is placed is pale blue. In all the images of the actual room you can find online, the windows at the far end of the dining room and library face the street. The walls filled with paintings in the room added by the artist are purely due to her imagination. It can be said that she expanded the museum. Another major change that Scherer seems to have made is the doorway on the right side of the window. From there, you can see the staircase that reflects the staircase of Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” (1656). On this staircase, a person looks back before departure. The doorway of Scheller is empty.
When we die, will we only be what we have left? Is the Earth a necropolis where survivors live between the dead and their sarcophagus, including museums, pyramids and monuments of all kinds? What is scattered on Soan’s desk means that he has just left the room and climbed the stairs visible from the doorway, and his absence is temporary. The tilt angle of the desk and the watercolor painting on the floor suggest that he was upset.
By drawing her versions of the works in the Thornes Museum and arranging them as she wishes, Scheller recognizes the human stupidity of trying to save the moment. Rather than despairing about this, her reaction is destructive and playful. Her joy seems to come from her accurate, imaginative and research. Her paintings are the result of an intensive exhilaration of seeing, doing and thinking, and in that respect they are conceptual in nature, but artists such as Joseph Kosuth and Mel Bochner and I It is different from the cold and self-satisfying truth that it associates with.
There is a truth deeper than the literal truth that Kosuth and Kosuth have reached, and that is what Scheller wants. This will be revealed in the “Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 1769-1915” (2021-22). In this exhibition, Scheller depicts a room with three green walls and floor-to-ceiling paintings in a salon style. (According to the catalog I found online, it is one of the many galleries of the Royal Academy used for the exhibition.) We are standing at the far end of this room. Directly in front of you is the hall and the red carpet stairs. To the left of the doorway is an open stepladder and a small round table with a paintbrush left on it. There is a paint palette left on a nearby chair. These and other details suggest that the works of the exhibition require minor modifications and minor restorations, as the art is not time- or environmentally sensitive.
Like all the paintings in Scheller’s exhibition, it lacks human presence. What is left suggests an incomplete task. Are all the works on the wall the work of the artist who became the Royal Academia? How many do you recognize? What is the difference between being famous and being forgotten? Will the fate of art be something that doesn’t speak to us, an artifact left behind, at least in a way that can keep our attention for a very long time? Does that mean something distracting, something that stands in front of a selfie, today’s phrase “I was there”? Scheller seems to be interested in what happens after we are no longer here and we are out of control of anything in this world. Her rebellious nature, full of humor and dedication to detail, is a great antidote to these discouraged times.
Gretchen Scheller: Sometimes light Continue until April 2nd at Monya Rowe Gallery (224 West 30th Street, # 1005, Chelsea, Manhattan). The exhibition was hosted by the gallery.