Monday, 21 July 2014

Jeremy Deller: English Magic at Turner Contemporary

This autumn Turner Contemporary presents the full spectrum and final UK showcase of contemporary British artist Jeremy Deller’s (B.1966) English Magic exhibition, commissioned by the British Council for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013.

For the first time in its history, the exhibition is touring the UK, giving people a rare opportunity to see the critically acclaimed exhibition on British shores. The UK tour of the exhibition is supported by the Art Fund – the national fundraising charity for art – with additional generous support from Arts Council England. The exhibition first toured to the William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, in January 2014 and then to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in April.

To accompany English Magic at Turner Contemporary Deller has selected a number of JMW Turner’s paintings, watercolours and sketchbooks of Venice which will be shown alongside a selection of John Ruskin’s drawings from The Stones of Venice (1851-3).

English Magic further explores the artist’s ongoing interest in the diverse nature of British society: its people, myths and folklore as well as its broad cultural, socio-political and economic history. Deller weaves together high and low, popular and rarefied to create unique and thought-provoking work. Collectively the works on display question what Englishness really means today, referencing iconic objects, moments and figures from the historical and recent past and beyond, into an imagined future.

Throughout the exhibition Deller plays with the idea of magic, acknowledging that it can be both ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Twenty-first century capitalism is also critiqued in a number of works such as the large-scale mural We Sit Starving Amidst our Gold, in which the Victorian designer and socialist William Morris is imagined capsizing the yacht of a Russian oligarch. In the same room, examples of Morris’ work are displayed alongside material from the era following the break-up of the Soviet Union when financial schemes were introduced to a population naïve to the extremes of a new market economy. Large-scale painted murals and banners are shown alongside objects such as Palaeolithic hand axes and flints, drawings of political figures associated with the invasion of Iraq by former soldiers, and documents relating to both David Bowie’s UK tour in 1972 and the concurrent unrest in Northern Ireland.

Jeremy Deller is known for his conceptual artworks that engage with aspects of popular and traditional culture and are characterised by their lightness of touch and open, collaborative approach. Acid Brass(1996), in which Acid House music was arranged for brass bands was famously performed at the opening of Tate Modern while Sacrilege, a full-scale bouncy castle Stonehenge, toured the UK as part of the London 2012 Festival.

In 2006 Turner Contemporary commissioned Deller and frequent collaborator Alan Kane to make Steam Powered Internet Machine, which sought to connect the industrial and the digital revolutions.

English Magic opens at Turner Contemporary on 11 October 2014 and runs until 11 January 2015.

Image credit: 

Jeremy Deller, A Good Day for Cyclists, Painted by Sarah Tynan
Courtesy of British Pavilion 2013
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