Ruin Lust "An ideal of beauty that is alluring exactly because of it's flaws & failures."
Ruin Lust (from the German concept of appreciating ruins - Ruinelust) is the exhibition at Tate Britain which finished this time last week. Now that it is over (as anything must end to become a good ruin) I will collect the fragments which I left with and assemble them here on my blog.
I was very excited to visit this exhibition as this idea of discovering partial remains of a bigger thing and capturing the textures of erosion have long been a big part of my work. But knowing me, I am a curious beast and the look of something has never been enough. I always want to find out the why and how, and these not only form the concepts behind my work but also my experimental processes. I was not disappointed by Ruin Lust, there was a great variety and depth on this cultural phenomenon to explore.
The main idea I'd like to take away from the exhibition is that Ruins can be seen as a positive thing.
Ruins as a Memorial
"Sublime warnings of the past" Ruin Lust, 2014
Louise and Jane WIlson's work had a big impact on me. At first glance these angular forms could be contemporary sculptures, but they are the remains of Nazi bunkers in Normandy. These clean and crisp images with no discernible date let the stark forms stand out without complication. They could be from any time or place but in learning their origin presents them as symbol of the end of a devastating chapter in History with many things to learn from. "The ruin may remind us of a glorious past now lying in pieces or point to the future collapse of our present culture." Ruin Lust, 2014
Reinventing the Ruin
"Find new uses for ruins and new dreams among the rubble" from Ruin Lust, Tate Britain 2014
I was charmed by this sculpture by David B McFall. Following the Wilson's ruined bunkers this is a remnant from Great Britain's experience of the Second World War.The Portland stone used for this piece was once a part of a London Bank, one of the buildings destroyed in the bombing of Southwark. You can see the original carvings of the 19th Century swags and flowers from its architectural past. This wonderful re-use of debris and the subject of a young Bull Calf is a symbol of new hope and seeing the potential to grow strong and rebuild.
You can see why it was chosen for the Royal Academy Summer exhibition in 1942, even when McFall was still a student.
"The ruin traffics with more than one time frame: it arrives from the past, but incomplete; it may well survive us." Ruin Lust 2014
Another example of a ruin reused which not part of the exhibition is this unusual sight of St. Benet's Abbey. The ruined abbey is situated on the River Bure within The Broads in Norfolk England. Demolished from the dissolution the gatehouse remained, which is now a grade I listed building. In the second half of the eighteenth century, a farmer built a windmill inside the abbey ruins, (adapted even further to make a wind pump later on), The windmill is now itself a grade II listed building, creating a ruin within a ruin.
Ruins to Incite
I enjoy the fact that a ruin leaves space for your imagination. The journey it has gone through to get to that point had affected it and it is up to us to use our minds to investigate, elaborate and furnish the remaining bones. This is what engages us with it and makes our experience a personal discovery rather than being presented with a perfect, pristine place or object, which could literally be a brick wall to creative ideas.
These concrete steps look out of place in this surreal image by Paul Nash. Without trying to envisage the lost structure of the demolished building they can be enjoyed as a curious sight in their own right. Like an Escher drawing these impossible stairs let us create an invisible doorway wondering where or when it might lead to, a portal to another time or dimension.
In my next blog post I will be presenting my response to this exhibition and some of my latest work, looking at these ideas and a few more...