Gavin Turk shares limelight with prisoners and Boetti at Ben Brown Fine Arts

By Mark Sheerin | 16 February 2012
Colour photo of an embroidered grig with the letters GAVINTURK
Ben Brown: Gavin & Turk, embroidery on cloth© Gavin Turk and Ben Brown Fine Arts
Exhibition: Gavin Turk: Gavin & Turk, Ben Brown Fine Arts, London, until April 20 2012

Self-promotion and self-effacement are two ends of a scale on which it can be useful to position any given artist. But in his current show, sculptor Gavin Turk may be found engaging in both.

Turk watchers will not be surprised to find the extrovert artist split his name down the middle to form the show title. Nor will it surprise them to find a series of embroideries here are based on permutations of those two words.

But the former YBA also takes a back seat as far as artistic execution is concerned. Like peer Damien Hirst, he has used assistants; unlike Hirst, some of that help came from needleworkers detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

Indeed, Turk has hooked up with a charity called Fine Cell Work, who use embroidery as a means to rehabilitate prisoners. It certainly draws attention to the laborious nature of much artistic production.

"I think one of the interesting things about tapestry is how slowly the picture comes out of the picture frame,” Turk has said. “It's so intense. You have to go close and further away and close and further away; it's like the image slowly unweaving itself."

Another figure who comes to the fore during this show is Alighiero Boetti. The Italian conceptual artist was also an embroidery fan, once making a world map with the help of craftswomen from Afghanistan.

This art historical engagement goes further as a Self Portait on display here is a homage to one by Boetti, which was in turn a homage to one by Bruce Nauman. But visitors should be well aware, all the same, that this is the Gavin & Turk show.

  • Ben Brown Fine Arts, Cork Street, London. Open Monday-Friday 11am-6pm (10.30am-2.30pm Saturday). Admission free.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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