Last weekend my visit to Kensington Gardens resulted in a pretty, if underwhelming, show by Marc Camille Chaimowicz. I'm afraid to say Helen Marten's Drunk Brown House affected me in much the same way. As I left the gallery three swans were low in flight over the Long Water and it was, as I guess it should be, more profound than anything inside the Serpentine Sackler itself.
In some ways this made Chaimowicz and Marten apt bedfellows. Both claim to use the gallery space as an integral part of their work. Both employ all manner of mixed media. Both are fleetingly intriguing to look at. Both, sadly, feel a little empty. After each exhibition I'd questioned myself for attending. Am I stupid? Am I ignorant about art? Do I just not get it? Or is there, in fact, nothing to get?
Don't get me wrong. Art without meaning is fine. What meaning does an oil painting of a vase of flowers actually serve? Or a Mondrian? Perhaps it's the over-inflated language that underlines these shows. Apparently Marten's "installations employ visual and linguistic ambiguity in order to explore
the potential for misinterpretation and misunderstanding". Does that just mean they don't make any sense? Again, fine in itself but why not just say that.
Helen Marten has been nominated for this year's Turner Prize and the inaugural Hepworth Sculpture Prize so she's clearly not without her admirers and good though it is to see a young female artist, from as unlikely a place as Macclesfield, making waves within the art world I'm afraid by the time the ripples reach figures as marginal as myself they barely register.
There's lots of talk about collapsing traditional forms, geometric memories, linguistic ambiguity, and vectors as a mechanism of delivery. All I see is piles of seemingly random assorted stuff piled up to look reasonably photogenic and then backed up with a stodgy, and not particularly, tasty word salad.
I'll try and get along to see the Turner Prize to see more of her work and I genuinely hope I can change my mind, see something that I hadn't been able to before. Quite often things I'd not initially liked have grown to be my favourites. I doubt it'll happen this time but I'll keep at it. For now, however, I'm baffled. This drunk brown house didn't seem to have any windows to me.