This is not a melon

Painted bronze
97 x 51 x 51 cms

A bronze cast of a large melon painted to resemble an over inflated liquorice pipe.



  • Trompe L'oeil - Rikke Hansen SHOW

    Trompe L'oeil - Rikke Hansen

    Like the carefully staged crime scene, trompe l’œil tricks the viewer through the arrangement of misleading appearances and false clues. Literally meaning ‘cheat the eye’, the art technique involves the realistic depiction of phenomena to create optical illusions, often turning flat surfaces into seemingly three-dimensional objects. Trompe l’œil art does not belong to a particular ism or medium but slips in and out of focus through the ages, depending on dominant regimes of representation.

    Although the term was not coined until the early 1800s, the genre can be traced back to Greek and Roman times. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder writes of a rivalry in ancient Greece between the painters Zeuxis and Parrhasius, both accomplished in this particular art. Largely forgotten during the Middle Ages, the technique was given a new lease of life by the Italian Renaissance and the era’s advanced understanding of perspective, while painters of the Baroque era applied it to the then increasingly popular genre of still life. Artists of the Modern period, however, made limited use of trompe l’œil, as works no longer strived towards illusion or imitation but were made to investigate the grounds for art’s own existence. Nonetheless, a few

    painters, such as René Magritte and Jasper Johns, did appropriate the style and transform it into their own. The simulacral qualities of the technique, on the other hand, offered a desirable method for postmodern artists eager to challenge notions of authenticity, originality, and authorship.

    Trompe l’œil is all theatre, which is another reason the genre did not catch on in the Modern period. In the late 1960s, the art critic Michael Fried objected to a turn towards ‘theatricality’ in sculpture and painting, a concept that, according to the author, betrayed the autonomy of the advanced, Modern artwork by turning the exhibition space into a stage of sorts. While Fried’s attack was primarily directed against Minimal art, art forms that use trompe l’œil may equally be added to his list of ‘criminals’, as they also trouble the borders between work, ornamentation, setting, and audience, and, like performance, depend on the actual, physical presence of a viewer to be complete. In other words, the ‘power’ of trompe l’œil is not inherent to the work but exists somewhere between image and spectator and between image and place.
    At first glance, trompe l’œil art appears to have no author or origin;

    it aims to erase the traces of its own production. In the attempt to conceal the identity of the ‘perpetrator’, the signature of the artist may be hidden on an object within the image or, in the eighteenth century tradition, on a cartellino, a calling card or a note seemingly attached to the main work. Much like Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Purloined Letter’, the desired object is in full view but if we fail to recognise it as the thing it is, it inevitably falls outside our scopic register.

    Trompe l’œil momentarily blends with its own surroundings and transforms the entire environment into a set of representations, causing us to question the validity of other appearances and confuse these with the main work. This is, for example, the case in chantourné, a particularly unsettling form of trompe l’œil where a painting is cut into the shape of the thing it portrays and displayed alongside actual objects. While this specific deviation was fashionable in the seventeenth century, more recent examples exist. Duane Hanson’s late twentieth century life-size human sculptures are, though not paintings, created in the same vein. These figures are so true to life that they

    have been known to trick gallery visitors who have believed them to be real and, on occasions, even attempted to talk to them. However, like the detective story, trompe l’œil hovers between suspense and surprise, and, eventually, incorporates its own slippage. This is what constitutes the paradox of the style: to be successful, it must involve its own failure and sooner or later give the plot away, which is why Hanson’s sculptures are crucially not human.

    Still, some people are experts at turning themselves into trompe l’œil. This can make them seem untrustworthy, but such masquerading may also involve a critical element. La perruque is the French philosopher Michel de Certeau’s name for a specific performative practice through which the worker camouflages his or her own activities as work for the employer. La perruque can be as simple as a secretary writing a love letter at her office desk, a method through which, without being absent from her job or stealing anything of material value, she diverts company time. Such trickery is associated with the power of those who appear to have no power; it is a critique from below.

    There is more than

    a phonetic resemblance between the word perruque, ‘wig’, and perroquet, the French term for ‘parrot’. While trompe l’œil appears to be all artifice, it strangely borrows a mode of appearance that we have come to associate with animality: mimicry, parroting, or aping. Closely related to trompe l’œil is trompe l’oreille, a ‘trick of the ear’. Here, a living being mimics the voice of another as decoy. Birds are masters at this art, and only the most experienced birder might be able to tell the difference between the call of the Pied Wagtail and that of a Blyth’s Reed Warbler impersonating a Pied Wagtail. Just as trompe l’œil erases the trace of its own author, so does trompe l’oreille, although in a different way. The successful avian impersonator throws its voice as if its call was heard from a distance, confusing predators both with regard to its kind and its whereabouts.

  • Plato's Cave - Rachel Newsome SHOW

    Plato's Cave - Rachel Newsome

    The allegory of Plato’s Cave, as told by the Greek philosopher in The Republic (approx 360 BC) goes right to the heart of human existence by seeking to answer the question: what is truth? The story of the philosopher-poet-king’s ascent from the ignorant pit of humanity to the sun, followed by his subsequent return to share the knowledge, it deals with ideas about consciousness, perception, perspective, representation and truth and has influenced thought in philosophy, psychology, art, sociology, science and education.

    The story begins with a cave in which man is imprisoned. His neck and legs are chained in a way that he cannot move while he can only see what is before him. Behind the chained prisoners, a fire burns providing a degree of light with which they are able to see. On a shelf in the cave between the prisoners and the fire, a series of marionettes in the shape of animals and plants are moved by an unseen carrier. The shadows of the marionettes are cast by the fire onto the wall directly ahead of the prisoners in order to create a series of moving images in the manner of a primitive cinema.


    to see anything else, the prisoners take these shadows for real and play games naming them as they appear on the wall, judging each other on their speed and skill in identification. They also believe the echoes from the unseen carriers to be the speech of the shadows. A rare prisoner manages to break from his chains. Standing up and turning around, he is able to see past the fire and the puppets to an opening in the cave, through which he can glimpse the sun. Accustomed to darkness and shadows, the released man finds the experience painful. But despite this, he is compelled to climb out of the cave towards the light.
    His journey is a difficult and tortuous one but the prisoner would rather suffer it than remain in the misery of the cave. Coming into the sunlight outside the cave, he is able to see plants and animals as they really are and understands that what he had formerly taken to be real as mere shadows of representations. Finally turning directly towards the sun, the prisoner perceives the sun as the ultimate giver of life and enters into a state of total understanding.

    Once enlightened,

    he can’t help but return to the cave to free his fellow inmates. However some resist enlightenment and taunt the returned prisoner because, having become so used to sunlight, he performs badly at the game of identifying shapes. Not only that, but the other prisoners threaten to punish anyone who attempts the ascent with death.

    Central to the allegory of the cave, is Plato’s belief that an absolute truth which exists outside of man underlies all things, with the sun as a metaphor for Good and man’s ascent, a rigorous philosophical and intellectual journey to enlightenment. An undemocratic elitist, Plato held this journey to be a laborious and difficult one, which only philosophers, poets or kings were capable of. The completion of this journey, in turn would qualify them to be leaders of men.

    Wrote Plato in The Republic: “But whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this

    visible world.”

    At the heart of Plato’s allegory is his belief that art is a false illusion and artists, myth makers who obfuscate the truth. Instead, truth is to be revealed through open-minded reasoning which Plato explores through his Theory of Forms. According to this theory, we don’t understand a circle by looking a wheel but, like Pythagoras and Euclid, by thinking about the ideal circle. In just the same way a geometer imagines the true form of the circle, therefore a philosopher might imagine the true form of Good which is timeless and impervious to subjective interpretation or change.

    The allegory of the cave went on to influence Renée Descartes, who, like Plato, believed the senses to be misleading and who rationalised his existence with the proposal “I think therefore I am.” However, the Empiricist thought of John Locke and David Hume, on the other hand rejected the allegory of the cave by supposing that some (or all) knowledge does comes from the senses.

    Christianity has taken Plato’s Cave as a metaphor for Christian truth, with God as the sun and moral authority given to those who have seen The Light. As mere mortals,

    the true mystery of God will never be fully revealed to us but we are able to see “through a glass darkly.”

    The Romantics – notably Wordsworth, Coleridge and Blake – chose to interpret Plato’s Cave as a visionary approach not to any Heavenly kingdom but to this. In this light, art does not obfuscate, it illuminates while eternity is revealed not through any abstract Platonic ideal but the infinity of “a grain of sand”, instead.

    In the 21st Century, where increasingly we experience the real through the prism of TV, the modern relevance of the cave can be taken as an allegory not so much for deception by art as deception by the media. “Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s Cave, still revelling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth,” wrote Susan Sontag in “On Photography” of the gap between the photographic enterprise and understanding the real. “Photography,” she went on to say, “Implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks.”

    Further Reading

    “The Republic” Plato,

    “Essence of Truth: On Plato’s Parable Of The Cave” Martin Heidegger, “On Photography” Susan Sontag, “Consciousness Explained” Daniel Dennett

  • Redundancy of Symbolism - Charlie Porter SHOW

    Redundancy of Symbolism - Charlie Porter

    Redundancy is the hidden downfall of symbolism. Of their moment, an object can seem so symbolic that to possess it in an act of self-definition. But once that item becomes obsolete itself, its symbolism disappears. Indeed the absence of relevancy can then have a negative mirroring effect on its symbolism, as if to balance out its previous power with impotency. Before smaller cars became desirable as well as worthy, oversized vehicles were loaded with a phallic symbolism so blatant that all hoped that the reality was, “big car, small dick”. Nowadays, big cars are so impractical that its “big car, not even worth having an opinion about”.

    It means that symbolism has an inbuilt nostalgia about it, especially as western culture speeds up. For much of the twentieth century, items had purpose and longevity that allowed symbolistic meaning to gather round them. Its seems the mission of the 21st century to shed life of the unnecessary. It may sound weird to state that of such a materialistic times, but it also seems true: we may buy more stuff, but the sheer volume of what we buy makes us care less about what we then own. If we don’t

    care about something, if we don’t associate ourselves with it, then symbolism cannot build up.

    This is particularly true of a man and his possessions. The male wardrobe, as well as a man’s bits and bobs, were both part of an outfit and also symbols of stature, intelligence and also physical endowment. It was once the case that a pipe, a cane or a bowler hat were loaded with symbolism about a man’s wealth and prowess. The secondary message of male stuff was overt enough for René Magritte to abuse it in “Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe” as part of the series The Treachery of Images. Magritte was a young man at the time, and his image that mocks the pipe came at a time when speech was entering cinema and the cigarette began to be marketed through movies, intentionally or not, as the modern way to smoke. By the late 1920s, the pipe was losing its symbolism of virility and contemplation, to eventually be replaced with ones of fustiness and even thought-avoidance. To sit with a pipe in modern day life is to pretend that everything is how it once was, and therefore is to avoid

    having to deal with life as it is.

    I am talking here about symbolism of a pipe rather than the use of a pipe itself. I have a strange relationship with pipes that makes this distinction seem important. Until the late eighties, my father smoked a pipe, about which I loaded with no symbolism - I just wished he didn’t do it. I was never attracted to smoking as a child, and have only ever tried a cigarette once, in my late twenties, when a friend asked me to hold hers when we were in a club (this was pre-smoking ban) while she was doing her shoe-lace up, and while she was bent down I figured I may as well bring it to my lips to see what it tasted like. To me, that late on in life, it was like a MacDonalds - entirely ineffectual.

    At the time, I never considered my father’s use of a pipe as odd, outlandish or even self-indulgent, as he didn’t use a pipe as some sort of urban fashion statement - we lived in the country, our family life was fairly isolated, and that was just his preferred way of taking

    in tobacco. Neither of my parents engaged in pop - his preference in particular was for jazz, and I presumed his acceptance of the pipe came from there. Also, his father had smoked a pipe, and I remember a photograph of them both proud with pipes in their mouths, my father a young man.

    I didn’t like my father smoking, and would probably have liked him smoking cigarettes even less. He gave up after he suffered a heart attack in the mid-eighties, the pipe soon forgotten, by me at least, as part of his daily make-up. My father is a painter, and is alone for prolonged periods, working. He has managed to do so just as well without his pipe. Smoking being an aid to contemplation is probably just an excuse conjured by smokers to justify their habit. The mind focuses very well on its own.

    To me, as a child and teenager, the pipe had no symbolism - using it was just what my father did. This might be because he smoked a pipe removed from a context that would imbibe it with such symbolism. Maybe also by this point the pipe was obsolete in popular

    culture, and actually in the farming villages in which we grew up it actually found a less potent and more natural home. When I think of my father, the pipe is not part of the picture. I actually think of him most concentrating on his work. When he does so, I became aware early on that he did with his jaw locked open. I noticed it when I would sit for portraits for him. I notice it now because it is a habit I have picked up - if I am working hard, some people think I am sat there yawning. It is the mouth open that is crucial - you can’t hold a pipe with your jaw stretched out its furthest. Obviously it satisfied my father’s nicotine cravings, but to me the pipe was superfluous.

    As it has proven to be now - I cannot think of the last time I saw a man with a pipe. Cigarettes, too, have been marginalised by smoking bans, and I feel no sadness at this. The modern male wardrobe has softened to become a thing of functionality and comfort - few men manage to wear a suit and still look as

    if they are living right now, but they are the rarity - men in suits tend to look like they wish they could be wearing something else. The male wardrobe has many of the same elements as the female one - jeans, hoodies, trainers - a way of dressing that is a middle-ground between the two genders, hence removing symbolism from what either sex wears.

    Indeed the stuff we carry around has also lost its symbolism in the race to become more useful, more efficient, less burdensome. Try sexualising an iPod, or a mobile phone - pretty impossible. Now try getting on a high horse and claim that these items are an affront to society and our cultural life - a pointless position to hold, since they’ve made life so much better. In their design, these items are not imbibed with symbolism, and nor do they gain any when they enter into public use. Symbolism is one of the great casualties of modern life. It is not one we should mourn.