Richard Wentworth – Review by Jo Raven
Currently on display at Tate Liverpool is the work of the renowned British Sculptor Richard Wentworth, who emerged as a key figure during the 1980’s. This exhibition includes work spanning the past 30 years of his production, as well as pieces commissioned especially for the Tate.
The everyday object dominates his portfolio of work, approached from a playful and humorous standpoint. By altering the context of everyday objects, Wentworth succeeds in subverting and disrupting our perception. The normal purpose or associations of particular ready-made components become transformed, through their juxtaposition with other objects or the unexpected way in which they are used. This causes the viewer to re-evaluate the rudimentary meanings of not only the chosen objects but also reshapes the way we think about sculpture and works of art.
On the whole the exhibition held my attention and succeeded, as suggested by the artist, in challenging my perception from the start. The opening pieces included a sprung steel construction City where I spent some time trying to figure out how an object merely appears to skim the wall, with no visible means of attachment. Then straight into a maze of tensile barriers, more at home in your local post office than an art gallery, although much more tricky to manoeuvre with the central goal being a large straw bale.
Moving on a pattern begins to emerge with Wentworth’s continual use of particular objects. His fascination with books becomes apparent, taking on various different forms. They are filled with an assortment of materials from sweet wrappers, to tape measures and watches, or suspended impressively from the ceiling in his installation, False Ceiling. Chairs balanced with round weights are another key concern, and feature regularly throughout the exhibition. Ceramic plates also dominate two of the biggest compositions. His well-known Spread, a circle six metres in diameter containing a mish-mash of plates and Brac, a decidedly overdressed grand piano covered in broken pieces unmistakably glued back together with black epoxy resin.
For me the most outstanding room contained 30 years of Wentworth’s photographic encounters, images portraying what he perceives as his ‘background noise.’ Every picture shows a snapshot of a minute occurrence. Just some of the millions of tiny gestures which constitute everyday life, details of the world which we overlook and which regularly pass us by – a chocolate bar stopping an alarm bell ringing, an ashtray propping up a table leg. “The things I take photographs of are hard to describe because they’re not just as simple as a picture of something unusual used to keep a door open. I am interested in the broad language but I am also interested in the small event.