NICOSIA.- Art Seen
opened the solo exhibition of work by London artist, Clare Burnett from Saturday, 22nd April to Wednesday, 24th May 2023 at Art Seen, Nicosia and curated by Maria Stathi. The exhibition features brightly coloured groups of paintings and sculptures arranged in conversation groups within the two-story space.
The show is inspired by the artefacts removed from Cyprus by Cesnola in the 19th century and is made with objects and materials found today on the streets of Nicosia.
In the 19th century the American Consul to Cyprus, Luigi Palma di Cesnola, acquired a vast treasure trove of Cypriot archaeological artefacts, a total of 35,000 objects, most of which he sold to the newly formed Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1872 before becoming its first Director until his death in 1904.
This collection and its story are the source material for the exhibition. The show draws attention to the actions of Cesnola and to the attitude of the West to the heritage of others whilst celebrating the artefacts themselves their energy and emotion, their rich surfaces, the anthropomorphic forms of simple household objects and the patterns and forms that repeat through history. Through the use of discarded and mass-produced materials it also nudges us to think about 21st century dilemmas relating to the goods we acquire and use and how this might be judged in the future.
Travellers of conscience, in the title, refers to Wolfgang Paalens descriptions of surrealist objects as Time-bombs of the conscience. There is a clear line back to surrealism in this work the absurdity of the forms from found objects and the process of unconscious play during the making process. But also an awareness of the significance of objects and how their interpretation can shift. The travellers in question are not only Cesnola and the artist, but the objects themselves as they and their meaning change over time.
The exhibition opens with a set of sun prints detailing Cesnolas excavations and his display of objects at the Metropolitan Museum where he mismatched heads, legs and bodies in an attempt to repair the damage caused to them in transit.
Mergers and Acquisitions is a series of oil paintings on paper featuring imaginary versions of objects from the Cesnola Collection set alongside features from the Cypriot landscape where they belong.
Keeping watch over the exhibition are the Soothsayers, modern day mosaic versions of Bronze Age Plank Figures with glow in the dark breasts, stomachs and eyes.
What I am I will Not See is the central collection of the exhibition larger sculptures gathered together groups with forms inspired by the Cesnola Collection and colour from the Cypriot sunshine. They sit alongside a group of small sculptures, Shapeshifters and next to HËNGE, a 21st century stone circle all made from found and familiar objects combined with coloured concrete, jesmonite and oil paint.
Clare Burnetts work is a process-led response to the issues, objects and spaces around her. She scavenges from her surroundings; plays with, reconfigures and transforms her finds in the studio; then arranges them, often in groups, to create interactions with each other and with the space beyond. She explores notions of value, power and the 21st century dilemmas the confront us all especially in relation to objects - what we buy and where, how we get rid of what we use, whether to watch or be watched and how we use new technologies. Clare studied Architecture and Social and Political Studies at Cambridge University and Fine Art at the Byam Shaw School of Art.
Solo and group shows include Leighton House Museum; William Benington Gallery; the University of Leeds; Contemporary Sculpture Fulmer; the Royal Academy; the National Gallery; the Jerwood Space; the RIBA; and the Royal Society of Sculptors; Sanyi Wood Sculpture Museum in Taiwan, Brooke Benington and Studio Block M74 in Mexico, Unit One Gallery and Workshop, London; Beckenham Place Mansion with Bo-Lee Gallery. Last year she received an Arts Council, England grant for a residency and exhibition at Electro Studios Project Space in Hastings responding to the work of Sam Smith of Project Art Works. Site-specific installations include Le Corbusiers Unite dHabitation, France; Brompton and Norwood Cemeteries and Bishopsgate Square. London. Her first public sculpture was installed in China in 2019 and she is currently working on a piece for a Central London outdoor space which will be on show next summer. Clare grew up in France and Belgium and works in London. Last summer she completed a 7-year elected post as President of the Royal Society of Sculptors.
Clare Burnett has scavenged the land of Cyprus for contemporary discarded containers, not looted like the despoiling Cesnola but in a subtle and even humorous way reconstituting what was torn away, bringing an echo of the lost treasures back to their land of origin, back to the Countries of ancient Cyprus.
1 Diana Wood Conroy, Emeritus Professor of Visual Arts,University of Wollongong, Australia.