'As if it were another landscape'
20 MARCH - 10 MAY 2009
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‘And all eyes were turned to the famous Algerian Chieftain Bou-Maza….’ This tangential line and its footnote from Gustav Flaubert’s ‘Sentimental Education’ was the trigger to find out more about this character, Algerian history, and its depiction by non-Algerian artists and writers. For his second show at the gallery, Tim Braden will present a new body of work relating directly to the collection and history of the Musée de Beaux-Arts in Algiers, and his ongoing preoccupation with how we look at things. As Douglas Heingartner wrote in a recent review: “Like Flaubert’s search for ‘le mot juste’, Braden looks for the signature details that will most effectively portray a given place, emotions or memory. Flaubert’s work often mixed the Romantic with the realist, and Braden’s images and sculptures likewise blend the wistful imaginary with the actually lived.”
The exhibition will loosely reconstruct a room from the Musée of Algiers and then hang within this suggestion of a simulacrum a series of paintings that documents and interrogates artworks from the Musée’s collection. The majority of the paintings are in grisaille, recording the subject paintings from unusual angles as if an attempt to stalk the works and catch them unawares, then moth-balling them in black and white. With cropped framing, spaces between paintings become just as significant as the landscapes themselves. An old-fashioned hanging rail system becomes a series of graphic lines.
Braden’s previous exhibitions have looked at ‘the Explorer’ as a European social type and cultural phenomenon and this body of work continues this theme: “I had the idea to go to Algiers and make a series of street scene paintings in the manner of a grand tourer or Orientalist. I thought that by doing this I would be able to understand them a little more, and interpret their motivations more fairly.” However on arriving in Algiers Braden quickly realised that the majority of scenes of Algiers that he knew by Renoir and Marquet were in fact paintings of the Jardins d’Essais, built by the French as an imperial gesture of control and domination and presenting a verdant lushness quite in contrast with the natural landscape of Algeria. “Reading more about art in this period I discovered that there was a very established residency program in a house called villa Abd El-Tif, set in lush grounds on the hill behind the Musee des Beaux Arts. Most of the views of Algeria that I know from this period are in fact painted from these gardens…” Braden found himself following the same patterns of visitation and documentation as his artistic predecessors, the reality of ‘plein-air exoticism’ being one of following well-trodden paths in areas that are easily traversed and involving the least confrontation.
The Museum’s collection, as much as its location within the Jardins d’Essais, makes it a symbol of cultural displacement. The collection was put together under the colonial regime with a perfect canon of Western Art History from the Renaissance through to the 1920s with the most prominent rooms filledwith works by Vuillard, Degas, Renoir and Marquet. It is a treasure trove of paintings and sculptures, and Braden paints its quirks and oddities with the same curious eye as if it were another exotic landscape, while making subversive interventions that open up a wealth of problematic positions for viewers to navigate themselves.
Born in the UK in 1975, Tim Braden completed a residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (2006-08), and studied at the Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford University (1996-99) and the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Art (1994-95). Recent solo exhibitions include ‘I spend my evenings sitting by the fireside hunting tigers’ Galerie Juliètte Jongma, Amsterdam (2007); ‘Crossing rivers and climbing mountains’, Faye Fleming / Arquebuse, Geneva (2007); ‘Chère Tante Hanneke’, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London (2006). In May 2009 Braden will have a solo exhibition at Ludlow 38, a new non-profit exhibition space in New York run by the Goethe Institut and curated by the Munich Kunstverein. Recent group exhibitions include ‘The Flight of the Dodo’, curated by Tessa Giblin, The Project, Dublin (2008); Zuordnungsproblemes, Galerie Johann Koenig, Berlin (2008); Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (2007); ‘Le Nouveau Siècle, Museum Van Loon, Amsterdam (2006).