Barbara Thumm

Fiona Banner

08 Sep - 27 Oct 2007

Fiona Banner
Every Word Unmade
September 8 - October 27, 2007
Private View: Friday, September 7, 7 - 9 pm

We are pleased to present new work by Fiona Banner in her forth solo show at Galerie Barbara Thumm. Letters, words and punctuation appear in the work of Fiona Banner in forms and contexts. Banner employs words in their function as generators and conveyors of meaning, but she also looks at words as a medium in themselves. In the artist's most recent works, these two very different approaches are combined in a new and striking manner.

The large-scale work Every Word Unmade (2007) consists of the letters of the Latin alphabet, formed in neon, by the artist herself. Whereas many of Banner's works take the form of dense narrative texts, here the viewer finds himself confronted with a mere inventory of letters, which do not organize themselves in a meaningful text. The work can nevertheless be read in two different directions. On the one hand, as alluded to by the title, it serves as a kind of stock-taking of language, which is broken down into its constituent parts and thus relieved of the task of making sense. On the other hand, however, the letters possess the potential to form or invent every single word of every language which avails itself of this alphabet. As a result of Banners inexpert handling of neon glass, the anonymity of this medium has been lost. The 26 neon letters, appear both crude and fragile, like awkward "handwriting". We have the impression that Banner has developed script anew by literally demonstrating the letters' substance; each letter formed, as if for the first time. In other text works Banner continues this process of making and unmaking meaning. Language still has a descriptive function. Having previously explored the limits of the descriptiveness by transcribing, in her own words war and pornographic films, she has now stripped back all obvious narrative and turned to the female nude.

The depiction of the female body, both in art history and the media, has always been associated with a strong degree of voyeurism. Banner focuses on the act of viewing itself - that of the artist and that of the spectator. Whereas previously Banner worked from a mediated image, here Banner works direct from the model, unedited and executed within a limited time frame the works reveal an urgency. This process sometimes takes place as a public performance in front of an audience, sometimes in the artist's studio. Either way there is a study of this act of voyeurism taking place, at the same time there is an absolute submission to this very act as Banner twists and turns language to try and make her "image". In her most recent work "Performance Nude" this activity is captured on video, once again making the artist and the process itself an object of observation. Her text panels, however, which are presented in the room in very different ways, are characterized by a certain touching corporeality: Leaning with her "face" to the wall, Shy Nude (2007) conceals its text from the spectators gaze. Nude Standing (2007), on the other hand, stands defiant in the middle of the room, confidently offering itself to view.

With these works, Banner takes her place in a long tradition within the fine arts. But rather than contributing new images to this tradition, she probes the relationship between the model and its depiction, an endeavour in which she is aided by language.

Tags: Fiona Banner