Berndnaut Smilde: Antipode at the Ronchini Gallery
Smilde is clever certainly, but reminds one of the sort of elaborate Victorian fraud one might have found at a fairground, claiming to have a living horse in a thimble or some such. Beyond his puff of smoke trick there doesn’t seem to be much to him. One wonders what happens to his clouds when they dissipate. Do cleaners mop them up? It would be an apt enough piece of criticism.
But forget the famous wet fart series, modern art of such relevance is presented in such disparate rare cloisters as Harper’s Bazaar and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It is unseemly to take a hatchet to something into which so little effort has been put. A lot of his other work is not quite as silly and slightly more precious, which makes it endearing by comparison. It has to do with Kammerspiel, which is some kind of post-modern Ideal Home, and this is all good fun – something about reflections and modern isolation and so on, and it’s full of tricks with stereoscopes and tricks with perspective. So, as before, the Victorian magician with a dash of angst and a bit of sentimentality thrown in.
The works do at least engage the viewer physically and optically on a deeply personal level, which is one of the kernels of the philosophical effort, and for that they can be called a success. By working on so delicate a scale in some places, Smilde manages to remove some of what is vapid and grandiose in his Nimbus series. One never feels he is an artist dealing, as the gallery says, with “state[s] of being between construction and deconstruction”, but rather that his work deals with the monumental and the here and now, rendered with a deceptive sensibility. He is an artist who manages to evoke the present by allusion to it, and one hopes for more of this. His clouds, one suspects, were a bid for an attention he could then hold to do something more interesting. They have a tendency to disappear after a few minutes.
Berndnaut Smilde: Antipode is at Ronchini Gallery until 14th June 2014. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.