The Averard Hotel, 10 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3LH
PV Friday 9 September, 6-9pm
Exhibition runs until Sunday 18 September 2016
Open daily 12-6pm, and by appointment
Since January 2016, Michael Iveson has worked from a studio inside the Averard Hotel. This solo exhibition, his first, focuses on five bodies of work created by Iveson over the last eight months. There is an intimate connection between the work exhibited and the space itself. A large site-specific installation, Corridor (Averard Hotel) meanders around the first floor with bubble wrap walls painted black and drop ceilings; it is punctuated by ersatz ‘doors’ from Iveson’s earlier Apartment Slicker paintings, mediating access into some of the galleries. Corridor (Averard Hotel) maps the site of previously existing corridors from when the space was still a hotel. Similarly, two new sculptures quote the staircase that protrudes through the ceiling in the first-floor ballroom, previously hidden above a false ceiling and serving to connect the two historical properties. Three new series of paintings project Iveson’s previous interests in printmaking, newspapers, image transfer, collage and layering, onto larger scales and with more complex compositions. The Ideal Home paintings are installed horizontally on the floor of the first gallery, while the Blueprint paintings are hung like signposts in the old hotel restaurant. The Meadow series, small panel paintings with multiple layers of carefully registered toilet paper, found images, paint and newsprint, are upstairs.
In Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘Master and Margarita’ Margarita is ushered into a Moscow apartment after climbing an “extraordinary, invisible, yet quite palpable, endless stairway” and marvels to her host Koroviev at how such a vast space could fit into an ordinary apartment. Koroviev’s answer contains the concepts of dimensionality, imagined stairways, value (and newspapers) central to Iveson’s recent work. Koroviev to Margarita:
“‘The most uncomplicated thing of all!’ he replied. ‘For someone well acquainted with the fifth dimension, it costs nothing to expand space to the desired proportions. I’ll say more, respected lady - to devil knows what proportions! I, however,’ Koroviev went on chattering, ‘have known people who had no idea, not only of the fifth dimension, but generally of anything at all, and who nevertheless performed absolute wonders in expanding their space. Thus, for instance, one city-dweller, as I’ve been told, having obtained a three-room apartment on Zemlyanoy Val, transformed it instantly, without any fifth dimension or other things that addle the brain, into a four-room apartment by dividing one room in half with a partition. He forthwith exchanged that one for two separate apartments in different parts of Moscow: one of three rooms, the other of two. You must agree that that makes five. The three-room one he exchanged for two separate ones, each of two rooms, and became the owner, as you can see for yourself, of six rooms - true, scattered in total disorder all over Moscow. He was just getting ready to perform his last and most brilliant leap, by advertising in the newspapers that he wanted to exchange six rooms in different parts of Moscow for one five-room apartment on Zemlyanoy Val, when his activity ceased for reasons independent of him. He probably also has some sort of room now, only I venture to assure you it is not in Moscow. A real slicker, you see, ma’am, and you keep talking about the fifth dimension!’” (p.262, translated by Pevear & Volokhonsky, 1997)
Iveson begins his geometric compositions by taking pages from the Financial Times and cutting out the adverts, leaving irregular hard-edged forms. The adverts (the real source of a paper’s value) are collected and collaged into the Ideal Home and Meadow paintings. Yet Iveson also recycles the advert-free offcuts, leeching their pigment to create the pastel colours for Ideal Home, and using them as stencils for the Blueprint series. These forms are arranged in the paintings to create imaginary, even impossible, floor plans, or cityscapes. Exhibiting the Ideal Home paintings on the gallery floor further allows the viewer to experience them in the manner of their creation. The hotel itself operates as a ready-made, with elements of its past, such as the old corridors, reclaimed from the demolition blueprints; while other features, old newsprint revealed under peeling layers of paint or the aforementioned staircase – function as serendipitous metaphors of the work.
Time is a key concern in Iveson’s work. Time as the principal metaphor of neoliberalism – ‘to make time’, ‘bags of time’, ‘time trap’, ‘steal time’, ‘find the time’ – which advertising copy faithfully exploits. Iveson ironizes the perennial conflict between the time required to accumulate capital, only to exchange it later for time-saving, time-extending, time-enriching objects and experiences. The remedy for this anxiety is a proliferation of fantasy images, secular icons of transcendence, which span the distance between an ideal world and the derelict truth. A close look at the Meadow paintings can reveal to us, beneath layers of paper and pigment, a glimpse of the reassuring maxim ‘You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation’. Thus, Iveson conflates the abstract geometry of newspapers (which literally contain the timeless images) with the physical geometries of real estate, extending Debord’s critique of the society of the spectacle in a spatial direction.