Who: Jac Leirner
Where: The Fruitmarket Gallery
When : Until 22 October 2017
If you ever find yourself horrendously early for a train in Edinburgh, you have the perfect opportunity to pass the time at The Fruitmarket Gallery. Positioned just next to the train station Market Street exit, it has housed exhibitions by the likes of Phyllida Barlow (who represents Britain at this year’s Venice Bienale) and Turner Prize Winner (2005) Jim Lambie, whose visually satisfying colour and line arrangements have adorned the steps of the Royal Academy during their Summer Exhibition in 2015.
Summer of 2017 has seen the exhibition of Jac Leirner, Brazilian artist who still lives and works in Sâo Paulo. She has had previous exhibitions across the world, from White Cube in London (2013) to the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Shanghai (2016). She uses simple and disposable objects and materials in her works and is regularly seen giving new life to benign objects, perhaps even reinventing them and changing their visual properties and their objecthood.
The Fruitmarket Gallery have spread her work across two floor and have not divided the works chronologically which brings a breath of fresh air to the gallery setting. However her work can be divided more generally into two phases. Her earlier works are composed with collected materials whereas works in her later phase are comprised of items bought in hardware shops and art shops.
The most catching work I found on the lower floor was the piece called Blue Phase(1991) which is made from 50,000 banknotes from Brazil which circulated throughout the period of hyperinflation when currencies were short-lived. She combines and questions the notion of value with regards to material, economic and artistic value. The title of this work drew inspiration from Picasso’s Blue period (1901-1904). This piece is visually inquisitive, partly because you want to flick through all the bank notes and secondly I felt a slight disbelief at the number of bank notes. Equally, upon reading about this piece you learn that Leirner is drawing on constant topic of discussion in the art world, what classifies an artistic material?
Upstairs in the gallery, a video plays on loop displaying Leirner discussing her works. As I made my way upstairs I heard her talking of her work Skin (Randy King Sized Wire), 2013 and the way in which she found her inspiration for this piece. It consists of 2,448 rolling papers that have all been systematically displayed in a rectangular shape that adorns almost a whole wall of the gallery. I learnt that sat at a bar one day, playing with one of her rolling papers she stuck it to the edge of a balcony, then she added another, and another, and another and this simple action done perhaps out of boredom formed the basis of this piece. The papers instantly lose their function and become so delicate that the thought of burning them through lighting a cigarette seems absurd.
This exhibition on first sight seems to focus on the physicality of the materials and objects used in Leirner’s pieces, however on closer inspection she is addressing the question of materiality. Questioning and challenging the properties and functions of the objects she uses. An exhibition that is well worth a visit.