Keith Tyson: Turn Back Now, Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, review: It is a peacockish exercise in showing off the thinking of a single human being called Tyson

The 2002 Turner Prize winner's 360 studio wall drawings, which contain his many thoughts on subjects ranging from cosmology to philosophy, are tiresome and grandiose

Michael Glover
Friday 27 January 2017 11:34
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Keith Tyson's studio drawing '18th Sept 15-18th June 2016: "Of course I know that you don't exist'
Keith Tyson's studio drawing '18th Sept 15-18th June 2016: "Of course I know that you don't exist'

My teeming brain... The phrase is from a celebrated sonnet by John Keats. It could equally well apply to the frenzied outpourings of Keith Tyson, an artist who has been sprawling across all mediums since he won the Turner Prize in 2002. This exhibition at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings shows off 360 of his studio wall drawings. They come at you hugger-mugger, tight-compacted, in long rows and high stackings, for maximum physical impact.

The entire enterprise is a peacockish exercise in showing off the thinking of a single human being called Tyson in all its raw, rapidly transcribed form. Tyson's brain moves in all directions at once, from cosmology to physics, from chemistry to philosophy. There is nothing that he is not thinking about, and he is thinking all the time.

And if this is indeed the case - as it clearly is - what can one do other than pour it all out in a ceaseless, daily stream of collage, photo-montage, drawing, painting, wild scribbling and school-desk equationing? All of them are annotated, almost all of them dated. Image plays off text, text responds to image. This is art of the moment, in the moment. His mind is unstoppable, voracious, forever making links between the commonplace and the abstruse.

Does all this sound a little tiresome, a little too focused on ceaseless self-regard? It certainly does. Because, frankly, while some of these combinations of text and image are deft and funny and insightful, many others are banal or maudlin or puffed up with a kind of fake visionary grandeur.

The clamour of the display is too much. And yet this is evidently what he wanted, to impress us all with the range of his knowledge and insight by a studied exercise in sheer overwhelmingness. It is as if an unstable cliff face had chosen its moment to fall. This man needs to learn a little humility. He should spend a little more time sorting the wheat from the chaff. Otherwise, he falls victim to an insane exercise in self-aggrandisement. Which is exactly what has happened here.

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