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Clinton de Menezes

26 Jan - 6 Mar 2009

     Utopias, Clinton De Menezes, 2008

For its first exhibition in 2009, Persistence Works will show new work by Clinton de Menezes, entitled Probe.  This is the artist’s first solo show in the UK, since emigrating from South Africa a year and a half ago.

The artist has taken as his starting point the idea of ‘Probe’ as a critical or exploratory investigation, expedition or device designed to investigate and obtain information on a remote or unknown region. Scientists, physicists, ecologists, biologists, astronomers and doctors alike use such instruments to investigate, document, research and quantify matter. Probes are therefore valuable in investigating subatomic levels as they are in exploring outer space. 

The works featured in the exhibition Probe are based on a vast system of themes and references relating to the human condition, to concepts of space and to the processes of regeneration and degeneration. 

Explored through an emotive use of material and medium the work has been born out of physically demanding processes which are integral to the their reading. Burnt, buried, scratched, punctured, drawn over, covered up and painted into. Through these processes the work accumulates a visual density and physical materiality which are equal to the content itself, which ranges over sources as diverse as history, physics, astronomy, biology, ecology, patterns of migration, landscape, utopia, mythology, alchemy, discovery, conquest, cultural identity, apocalypse and belief.  

To compliment the breadth of content, a variety of materials are employed including earth and organic matter, fire, water, ash, light, wax, maps, photographs, plaster, thread, found objects, various commercial and industrial products, latex, resin, metal, perspex and oil paint.

De Menezes will create and adapt a series of works especially for the space: 

Deflate is a direct response to the national and global economic crisis, consisting of helium inflated balloons stretching the length and height of the windows of Persistence Works’ reception area.  

Utopias are nine panels contained within perspex, referencing landscape paintings of the northern Romantic tradition and to imagery of the sublime, which have become synonymous with chocolate box landscapes of Sunday painters and moody paintings executed by commercial painters. At first glance the vast landscapes conjure a cosmological utopia, but upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that the artwork has been burnt.  

Field comprise three panels constructed from earth, plaster, toy figures, oil paint and pigments, moving from one panel to the next, which could be read as atoms, cells or people migrating across a surface, or some kind of battle field.  

One work in particular, Leak, is a direct response to the artists’ experience of Sheffield, and the processes of regeneration and degeneration at play within its urban spaces. Driving through city he was struck by the post modern blocks of concrete, glass and steel standing next to derelict abandoned buildings, walls leaking and crumbling. Leak intends to bring some of the degeneration outside and around Yorkshire Artspace into the contemporary building, and will be constructed with mud from Sheffield poured down the wall from a point where the wall meets the roof.  

The installation Procession (Exodus) for the curved wall references patterns of migration, both factual and intangible. The wall will become the geography on which an array of cast figures rally across, recreating migration patterns into the United Kingdom from South Africa. However, the work also alludes to the contemporary pre-occupation with post-apocalyptic landscapes, due to war or ecological disaster, and the investigations into the suitability of planets for human colonisation. There are also references to afterlife migration to intangible worlds, and our fixation with mythologies, religions and spiritual teachings.


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