23 March 2010

How To Get Ahead in the Art World

Unnerving or Ennervating? Whatever you may decide, Sophie Cave's Floating Heads is turning many of them.
Just about the first thing you notice when you enter the Kelvingrove museum in Glasgow is the heads.  So many heads hanging above your own that they can come as something of a shock.  The juxtaposition between the heads and their surroundings an (almost post) Victorian mansion adds to their overall effect. But the reactions to them are just as varied as their expressions.
So, what are they doing there?  Like all of the best art you are left to make your own mind up about these strange apparitions. Are they perhaps an ironic comment on what people do when they visit museums?  Certainly the variety of reactions the faces elicit themselves are as diverse as the expressions on the faces. Unusual is certainly a word that springs to mind.  Well, to be honest in this setting one would be unusual – this exhibition by Scottish artist Sophie Cave shows over fifty of the disembodied human faces and they depict a whole gamut of emotions too.

The heads are completely white but are lit so that their expression – that might otherwise be lost to the viewer – are accentuated and gives the installation a sometime eerie (spooky even) feel.  The expressions look as if they may change at any minute.

From hilarity to despair the heads together form a captivating (if neck ache inducing) experience.  It can easily be seen why so many visitors to the museum find the faces unnerving – even though the eye constantly returns to them – perhaps to check which of the fifty is checking you out!

Perhaps the fascination lies in the fact that the faces look like masks worn at carnivals.  Masks have a certain power – they transform those wearing them and they have universality in as much as they appear in every culture (in all sorts of shapes and sizes).  What message do these faces as masks convey to you?

Whatever you may think, one thing is certain.  They add a certain something to the Kelvingrove – which is Glasgow’s favourite museum as well as being the second most visited art gallery in the UK outside of London.

Certainly if you head is always in the clouds, it would be well worth paying a visit to these clouds full of heads.

Written by RJ Evans