Review: Two Art Exhibitions @ Camden Arts Centre

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 82 months ago
Review: Two Art Exhibitions @ Camden Arts Centre

Two free art exhibitions to see at Camden Arts Centre in Hampstead


Raphael Hefti: Launching Rockets Never Gets Old

Swiss artist Raphael Hefti specialises in interfering with the formation of materials and presenting the outputs. In his first solo UK exhibition, he focusses on the formation of glass.

Large panes of reflective glass have been altered to only reflect certain blue and yellow wavelengths of light, but the alteration was made while the glass was forming so it doesn’t have the artificial feel that you would associate with a colour filter.

As you walk around the room surrounded by these ‘mirrors’ what you see is a mildly surreal reflection of yourself and everybody else in the room. This exhibit highlights the link between colour and emotions, as a yellow reflection of you seems brighter and more hopeful while the blue reflection creates a more sombre tone – this may not be the reason why the expression ‘feeling blue’ came about, but after seeing your reflection in Hefti’s work you’ll think it should be.

However, the highlight of the exhibition is on display outside the gallery — two photographs of the patterns created when Lycopodium spores are burnt over photosensitive paper (Lycopodium being a type of club moss). Burning spores should create random patterns but the seamless interaction of the intense colours provides the illusion that Hefti has precisely directed the spores to create the effect he was after.

Though the photographs were created by tiny spores, they seem like representations of an event on a much grander scale with one photograph resembling a tumultuous ocean filled with different coloured dyes and the other an exploding star.

9 x 11 = 99 (detail), 1972
305 sheets of paper, handwritten with pencil, ballpoint pen and felt pen, a few collages 
Courtesy Camden Arts Centre and Konrad Fischer Galerie, © The estate of the artist

Hanne Darboven

This is also the first UK solo exhibition for Hanne Darboven, a German conceptual minimalist artist. The walls of both galleries are covered with her writings, musical compositions and drawings. The content of these notes ranges from geometric shapes to indecipherable scribbling.

One of the larger installations is an entire wall of her notes and their lack of coherence makes it feel as if the gallery is displaying what was found on the wall of a serial killer’s home – or at least Hollywood’s interpretation of a serial killer’s wall.

As the notes are often illegible or unintelligible they feel as if they are her private scribblings and not for public viewing. This, coupled with her writing desk in the middle of the gallery, provides a sense of both intimacy and intrusiveness, as if you’ve been allowed, or trespassed, into the artist’s mind. This is heightened by the knowledge that Darboven died in 2009.

At the same time, the private nature of the notes is also what makes this exhibition difficult to penetrate for the viewer. Though we’ve been brought into the inner sanctum of the artist, it feels as if a cipher is needed to decode her work fully and understand her innermost thoughts.

This lack of complete understanding might leave a bitter aftertaste for many viewers as they may feel as if they’ve been led halfway only to find an insurmountable wall preventing them from making the most of Darboven’s work.

By Tabish Khan

Raphael Hefti: Launching Rockets Never Gets Old and Hanne Darboven's work are on show at Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London, NW3 6DG from until 18 March. Entrance to both is free.

Last Updated 23 January 2012