Angel with a Gun: Homage to Guy Brett


Signals’s cofounders, with Guy Brett at center. ©CLAY PERRY, ENGLAND & CO.

Guy Brett always appeared to defy art world fashion. He was involved with the short-lived Signals Gallery (1964-1966) and with this the newsletter publication. This enterprise drew together many artists from Latin America, Asia and Europe and so it became subject to the different influences of these continents. It should be described as a project as much as a Gallery because not only was it expressive of the cross pollination of this and that aesthetic wind, but also a vision of a meeting points of the worlds of science, technology, philosophy, and poetry which was a feature of the approach articulated with the publication. Signals was substantially associated with the advent of a constellation related to Kinetic Art, but it also gave rise to Participation Art and Auto-Destructive Art. As much as this had roots within the mainstream of Modernist art, it was also connected to a more amorphous counter cultural manifestation and forms of politics that resisted different forms of dictatorship. It was both worldly and an experiment in reverie. Intellectually figures such as Gaston Bachelard, Gregory Bateson, Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Baruch Spinoza, Indian Tantrism, Zen, Henri Bergson, Wilhelm Reich were all thrown into a heady mix that defined and extended the location of the various debates which was post-Existential and pre-Situationist, but of its time and certainly radical. Over a period of subsequent duration Signals Gallery, as an artworld event, has attracted serious and sustained commentary. Certainly, several of the main figures exhibited here have been re-evaluated in the light of mainstream developments such as Relational Aesthetics, most notably Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape and Helio Oiticica.


Far from being a systematic overview of a period, or an account of a unified aesthetic, this collection reflects upon an intimate set of choices which almost delicately suggests an interior set of conversations. Given the sense of privacy attached to this enterprise, there is an accord created with the minor modes of expression. This becomes evident in the collection of Lygia Clark’s matchbox series of miniature sculptures (1964) or Mira Schendel’s Monotypes (1966) of oil on rice paper. Each of these two series of work, pose themselves upon the edge of visible encounter and yet speak loudly within the passage of time they are testimony to. It is almost as if they invite us to ponder upon the very category of major and minor and with this private and public. This is especially meaningful within the passage of time that has been deemed as contemporary which starts to appear as bombastic and loud in terms of soliciting attention. It is to be hoped that these works are maintained together as a testimony to a possibility of work largely passed over now. They also reflect upon the almost invisible thread running through this collection with a concern for a relationship between matter and energy posed at the very threshold of presentation. Such a thread manifests the weaving together of intuitions becoming visible or a process of poiesis.

Given the close connection shared by Guy Brett and David Medalla, it might be a surprise related to the artists absence from this collection, but this is due in part to the highly ephemeral nature of much of his output. This conjunction of critic and artist is traced within a record of public advocacy and within a whole series of textual interfaces. It was as if materiality itself was being directly transcribed into a poetic chain of trace elements that no longer required an object through which to speak.

A number of years ago I invited Guy to be a PhD examiner of a student at the RCA. In the exam he shared a feeling of perplexity, stating that the writing was overly dense and somewhat esoteric, but rather than this being deemed to being the basis of a refusal to complete a judgement as to its merit, Guy proceeded to open out another less rationalist understanding, with a reading based upon intuition, which he declared as a much more subtle root to understanding. What he might have been revealing in turn was a maxim that he pursued throughout his relationship to his own aesthetic journey.

There are several types of art criticism which are invariably based upon creating either analytical judgement of the objects in question or a passionate embrace of such objects that serve to erase distance from them. This is more a case of this difference forming an entire spectrum. Guy was either side of both of these threads, choosing instead a more delicate relationship to art that mixed friendship and aesthetic accord with unnerving trust in intuition.

Guy Brett(蓋伊·佈雷特)總是顯得不受藝術界時尚的影響。他參與了存在時間短暫的Signals Gallery(信號畫廊,1964-1966年)以及相关的新聞簡報發布。該項目匯集了來自拉丁美洲、亞洲和歐洲的眾多藝術家,因此它受到了這些大陸不同文化的影響。它應該被描述為一個項目而不僅僅是一個畫廊,因為它不僅體現了這樣和那樣的美學風格間的相互授粉,還展示了一個將科學、技術、哲學和詩歌世界匯聚在一起的願景,並通過出版物展示了這種多元和綜合的交流方式。

信號畫廊與動力藝術(Kinectic Art)的興起有著密切的聯繫,它也推動了參與藝術(Participation Art)和自毀藝術(Auto-Destructive Art)的發展。這些藝術形式雖然植根於現代主義藝術的主流,如形式實驗和對傳統美學的挑戰,同時也與更為模糊、沒有固定形態的反文化現象以及抵抗各種形式獨裁的政治形態緊密相連。

信号画廊既具有世俗的特性,又是一场梦幻实验。其中,像加斯東·巴捨拉(Gaston Bachelard)、格雷戈里·貝特森(Gregory Bateson)、前蘇格拉底哲學、巴魯赫·斯賓諾莎(Baruch Spinoza)、印度密宗(Indian Tantrism)、禪宗(Zen)、亨利·柏格森(Henri Bergson)、威廉·賴希(Wilhelm Reich)這樣的知識分子,他們的思想在畫廊中被混合,形成了一種令人陶醉的組合。這些討論定義並擴展了存在主義之後和情境主義之前的思想領域,但它們都屬於那個時代,並且相當激進。隨著時間的推移,信號畫廊作為一個藝術界的事件,吸引了持續而嚴肅的評論。當然,其中的一些主要人物,如利吉亞·克拉克(Lygia Clark)、利吉亞·帕佩(Lygia Pape)和赫利奧·奧依提西卡(Helio Oiticica),在關係美學等主流發展的背景下被重新評價。





Angel with a Gun: Homage to Guy Brett
Alison Jacques
10 May – 15 June 2024



Text by Jonathan Miles

Edited by Michelle Yu


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