A personal voyage of Rosemarie Trockel’s Cosmos. The artist beckons us in to her world inside the Serpentine.
Click images to enlarge.
It’s always engaging when exhibitions go beyond a straight showing of an artist’s work, and instead create a merging of work, influences and genres. In the case of Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos – opening this Wednesday at the Serpentine – it is especially relevant to have the largest retrospective of her work shown in this way, seeing as her own body of work is so diverse in itself. It’s very difficult to pinpoint her main focus, beginning as a strong feminist figure in the 80s and more recently looking at Botany, Zoology and our relationship with the universe, through an ever shifting mix of mediums. The fact that it is this eclectic element that is her signature style, it makes perfect sense to display her work in a labyrinth of rooms and cabinets, showing a museum like collection of her own works alongside drawings from the 18th and 19th Century, books and illustrations. Similarly to Grayson Perry’s choice of exhibiting in The British Museum last year, this demands a close consideration of each piece, not in the way one would wander through a gallery, dipping in and out of interests in works at whim, but as a piece by piece consideration of meaning and use.
Apart from the generally eclectic nature of her work, one aspect that weaves it all together is the ties to her feminist roots. Knitted paintings, a strong use of ceramics and the inclusion of porcelain dolls all point to an interest in subverting typically female mediums and in turning gentle activities and crafts into something much more meaningful. This mixing of what would typically be classed as the ‘crafts’ with a higher level of fine art is also an aspect of her work that moves across boundaries, attempting to push down the elitism of certain objects and styles within the arts, and instead create a space where objects can all be viewed and considered with an equal level of attention and respect. The display of this work also takes the emphasis off the final object as the ultimate expression of the artist, and brings the viewer’s attention instead to the woven ideas and objects that surround that one final realisation. Think of this as a walk through a sketchbook for an artist’s thought process, which in itself is a very brave thing for an artist to open up, in contrast to a perfectly polished and pulled together final show favoured by most. Whilst her work is most certainly hard to pinpoint, it is in no way pompously difficult to understand, and is very often underpinned by humour. She is definitely an artist like no other, and there can be very little in the galleries out there that is more inspiring than a walk through her particular cosmos.
Text: Emily Steer
Images: Courtesy of Serpentine Gallery