Gavin Turk at the Bowes Museum, art review

5.00

Turk makes clever art – but not so clever that we feel excluded

According to the artist Gavin Turk, the world population on 24th January 2014 at 7.30pm, was seven billion two hundred and one million nine hundred and sixty four thousand and two hundred and thirty eight.

This number is lit up, giant sized, in blue neon on the 19th century façade of the Bowes museum in County Durham, which houses the opulent collection of John Bowes. Climb the grand stairway, past gilded marble columns, through an opaque glass door and then bam, you’re in a dark room lit like a Soho side street.

It’s Turk’s first show of solely neon sculpture. Largely new work but a glowing lobster outlined in red, "Still Life With Lobster", dates from 1995. Turk’s work references art, not nature: sixteenth century still life painting, Warhol’s lobster, and Salvador Dali’s surrealist lobster telephone. The spare form of this sculpture belongs to the condensed nature of Minimalist art. Turk mines work by other artists but the result belongs entirely to him. Gavin Turk transforms Bowes Museum into Soho side street Gavin Turk transforms the Bowes Museum into a Soho side street (pic: The Bowes Museum)

There’s another seven billion neon number in this room, but it has increased by 2,500. In the time it took to walk upstairs, this many babies were born. Neon work by Arte Povera artist Mario Merz is an influence here, and his obsession with the Fibonacci sequence, a formula used to figure out the birthrate of breeding rabbits.

Light’s a theme. There’s a flaming neon match, a candle, an eyeball and the diagonal shadow of a red picture nail. It’s light made of light. Turk enjoys a visual pun, like Magritte. This is not a match? Ceci n’est pas un pipe – Magritte’s famous painting of a pipe.

The shadow on a red neon nail falls dramatically like shade from a pillar in a deserted piazza painted by de Chirico. Argon Candle is a lone neon candle on an individual plinth in the centre of the room - an illumination of the source of light, like kitsch electric candles in a church. There’s also a reference to Marcel Duchamp’s late work here.

The outline of a giant yellow banana hangs on the other wall to an equally huge egg. Turk claims the banana as a deflated egg. But some might recognise the banana from Andy Warhol’s album cover for the Velvet Underground and Nico, in 1967. The banana links music and Pop art, hanging opposite Turk’s signature egg, which glows golden yellow like the arches of Macdonald’s.

Neon and consumerism have always been bedfellows. Its visual seductiveness made it the perfect medium for advertising signs and slogans. Turk follows the path of a desiring eye in "The Observing Eye", which flashes a sight line to the Greek letter Phi. Representing the Golden Ratio, it’s a mathematical calculation for aesthetic pleasure. Gavin Turk: The world population on 24th January 2014 at 7.30pm (pic: The Bowes Museum)

Turk makes clever art – but not so clever that we feel excluded. Even if we don’t get the reference, his work remains eloquent in its simplicity. This exhibition, curated by Greville Worthington, explores everything Gavin Turk has to offer but looking at it through the medium of neon.

'Seven Billion Two Hundred and One Million Nine Hundred and Sixty-Four Thousand and Two Hundred and Thirty-Eight' is at The Bowes Museum, County Durham to  21 April

Arts and Entertainment
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story