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Matthew Barney at Sadie Coles

Matthew Barney opens up the inner crevices of his creative process at Sadie Coles

Written by Amica Lane

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Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

It’s really hard to review something that you really love without coming off as a sycophant. But for a very long time, Matthew Barney has been one of my favourite contemporary artists.
The Guardian called his collection of films, entitled The Cremaster Cycle “one of the most imaginative and brilliant achievements in the history of avant-garde cinema.” And for me, Barney is a renegade art visionary. Trying to describe The Cremaster Cycle without urging you to check it out on youtube is no easy feat, but I shall try. Right, so, take David Lynch, Jeff Koons, The Fifth Element, 2 sticks of bubblegum and two grams of ketomine mix them together, and then put them in a bouncy castle. Yeah…take that image in for a moment.

Matthew Barney studied Art at Yale University and has since been awarded a veritable trophy cabinet’s worth of accolade from the art community including the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Award in 1996.  Previous artistic collaborations include Drawing Restraint 9, a love story set on a whaling ship with his real life partner Bjork.
Currently Barney has produced Ancient Evenings, a performance piece inspired by Norman Mailer’s novel, which explores themes of Egyptian mythology and ritual. According to this; after we die our soul experiences seven stages: Ren, Khu, Sekhem, Ba, Ka, Khaibit and Sekhu.

Matthew Barney, Sadie Coles HQ, 69 South Audley Street, January 2010, installation view vii

‘Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.’

The exhibit at Sadie Coles is like entering Matthew Barney’s stream of conscious in relation to Ancient Evenings.
The display cabinets of curiosities hold clippings, paraphernalia and books. Together serving as working nonlinear storyboard to Ancient Evenings. A theme of ‘wildness’ reoccurs in the imagery that he has chosen; from grizzly bears to a couple copulating in the mud. References to Egyptology reoccur throughout; in one instance; imprinting a gold leaf insignia of Horus over an open book; customising his inspirations and weaving his individuality through them.

HQ13-MB7477D KA River of No Return‘Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.’

The walls are lined with delicate graphite drawings. Some drawings play with the hybrid deity; heads of animals on human bodies, pulling the ancient symbolism of which into the 21rst century by using bodies plagued with the epidemic of our times; obesity. These drawing continue to mix medias; utilising gold leaf, petroleum jelly and ink along with the graphite.

HQ13-MB7478D KA Galena Summit

‘Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.’

Personally, I’m a big fan of artist’s sketchbooks. I like to dissect big works and find out all the little nitty bitty bones that constructed the finished project, which is why I enjoyed the exhibit at Sadie Coles so much. If you’re the same way inclined, I urge you to hop along and spend an afternoon perusing the work.
A little tip: as a dyspraxic and a general fail at finding anything, Sadie Coles is opposite the church on South Auldley Street! It’s quite discreet and I did indeed spend about an hour walking backwards and forwards, scratching my head like a perplexed ape.

Matthew Barney at Sadie Coles is on until March 6th, Tues – Sat 10 til 6

Sadie Coles

69 South Auldley Street

London W1

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