YESTERDAY, WE ADMIRED paintings created by the Great Masters of European art, which hang on the walls of the rooms of 18th century Kenwood House in north London. Today, the 12th of April 2023, we enjoyed artworks of a completely different nature within the almost spartan spaces of the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey Street. Currently, three artists’ works are on display. Three areas in the gallery are dedicated to one of them – Marguerite Humeau. She was born in 1986 in France, and received her MA from the Royal College of Art in London – the city in which she now lives and works.
Humeau creates works in a wide variety of materials. She also makes video art, one example of which was on show in the smallest of the three spaces. A larger room contained panels made with one or more ceramic tiles. The glazed surfaces of these tiles are not flat but contain hand-sculpted three-dimensional features including textural variations and curvy striations, which protrude from the flattish background surface.
The largest room of the show must be seen to believed. Entering is like setting foot on an alien planet inhabited by weird organic shapes that suggested to me plants, fungi, and insects, but all of them greatly magnified. These shapes are sculptures created by Humeau. Some of them were emitting musical sounds. I found the sculptures both intriguing because of their allusions to biological structures and also quite satisfying visually. As to what led to their creation, the gallery’s website (https://whitecube.com/artists/artist/Marguerite_Humeau) explained:
“The artist was inspired by eusocial insects such as ants, termites and bees, whose complex cooperative societies enable them to build huge structures and to cultivate other organisms in symbiotic relationships. Reflecting on the ants shepherding their aphids and the termites tending their fungus gardens, Humeau found an equivalent in the place yeast has assumed in human societies, as the essential ingredient of bread and beer around which our human collective has gathered. Contemplating the probability of our imminent, self-inflicted extinction as a species, Humeau sees insect societies as both the inheritors of our ravaged environment, and a prompt to consider how interdependence and cooperation might offer a means to avert our fate.”
Fair enough; but even if the works are portents of a gloomy future, my spirits were uplifted by seeing them. The exhibition continues until the 14th of May 2023. If you plan to visit it, save a bit of time for the interesting and attractive, abstract paintings and sculptures by Samuel Ross (born 1991 in London), which are on show in another of the gallery’s spaces.
The thing that amazes me is that even though the paintings by the Great Masters, who painted many centuries ago and which we saw 24 hours ago at Kenwood are immensely satisfying visually, seeing the artworks by Marguerite Humeau today was an equally enjoyable experience. I wonder what it is that happens in the brain to produce the same amount of enjoyment from seeing such widely differing artistic creations.