When an object is ‘thrown away’ it does not simply disappear, but instead starts a new journey, being moved from one place to another. “Letting go is a reflexive form of throwing something away”, muses Gavin Turk. “Across the globe a million consumed plastic bottles are let go of every minute!” A bottle may be discarded on the street, carried along by the wind and eventually run over by a car or collected in bulk and sold by weight. However, this is not where the story of our bottle ends, instead it meets the Hand of the Artist, who plays and fools with the plastic remains, immortalising it in watercolours or casting it in bronze.
Gavin Turk’s fascination with waste is a reoccurring topic throughout his body of work, exploring its aesthetic, function, symbolism, and value. The artist takes on the role of an observer, watching human behaviour, closely examining and questioning the nature of objects. Where has it been? What interactions did it have with its environment? He finds traces of mud on the underside of a bottle, the remainders of a crudely emptied tube, a squashed polystyrene cup and the distressed surface of a punctured football. The suggested presence of these objects before us poses an important question: What now? What happens to them from here on? And what do they represent in our contemporary culture?
Turk’s bronze sculptures appear to be objet trouvé at first, but on a second glance they reveal themselves to be something much more, as the realisation they are cast in bronze and painted to look real sets in. The successful trompe l’oeil reveals something about the process of looking. The narratives and fictions attached to the object morph and transform, the poetry of waste begins to resonate.
For this exhibition, the artist has painted watercolours of water bottles, employing them as symbols of our consumer society. Not only do these works comment on our paradigms of value, they also speak simple truths about the objects and artist himself: the watercolours are illustrating the curves and dents of transparent single-use plastic, as well as its light reflecting and refracting nature. They are made with an innocent mindfulness, revealing the joy of making. By working with mass produced machine- made products, the artist is subverting the socially dictated “natural order” of things, devoting more attention to something that appears to be waste. Dysfunctional objects usually ignored are put under a magnifying glass in the confinements of the gallery. The focus then turns on the audience, highlighting cultural behaviours, socially programmed beliefs, and ultimately challenging them to let go of beliefs that moments ago were true.
Letting Go is Turk’s first solo exhibition at Reflex Amsterdam. On occasion of the exhibition, the gallery is publishing a monograph in close collaboration with the artist.
Gavin Turk (*1967) is a British born, international artist. Turk works across a range of media, including sculpture, painting, and photography. His work has been exhibited at numerous institutions worldwide, including Museum van Loon (2017), Newport Street Gallery (2016), GEM (2007), Tate (2009, 2002), and the Royal Academy (1991). His work was also exhibited in Charles Saatchi’s infamous travelling exhibition Sensation from 1997-1999. Turk was the recipient of the Royal Academy of Art’s Charles Wollaston Award in 2007 and the Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture in 2001. In 2010 he received an Honorary Doctorate in Arts from the University of East London.