The task was to create prints/textiles out from every day objects, and to choose a process.
I chose rolling paper, filters and tobacco - items I consume every day. What they have in common is that they're all quite small and don't have much texture or colours, and they're all used altogether, for one purpose - rolling a cigarette. The process was an obvious choice - burning - so the elements in the beginning were very simple and uninteresting.
The collection is based on the opposites; roughly, life and death. First I focused on the idea of breathing; the photograph of the objects in a flower bush, placed inbetween the petals - plants create the air we breathe where smoking cigarettes pollute it and damage the lungs - I created flower-like collages out of the objects, but in the end, I didn't want to have the objects recognisable; I wanted to get rid of all the logos/brands.
Final prints are strongly based on a cigarette burn - I loved the shape because it reminded me of the original idea of a flower, so I kept repeating this idea, using different techniques - from making a stencil, drawing the outlines and actually burning the paper (I used tracing paper because it burnt slower and was easier to control). While I was burning tracing paper, I discovered that if you heated it until to the point when it almost set on fire, it started bubbling, creating lovely texture. It was even more interesting when I burnt painted paper, or painted on top of the bubbles, and then cut the paper and sticked it to coloured paper.
Colour palette is strongly inspired by the process - burning - all the colours from red, orange to yellow are present - and also the objects - the same foul faded yellow/brown we find in the filter of a cigarette when we're smoking it, and finally the lungs - the pale pink, the flesh, and last but not the least, black - no explanation needed.
I had already seen Koons' exhibition "Retrospective" in Paris in 2015; however, this exhibition in Newport Street Gallery felt quite different; the exhibition was much smaller and less overwhelming than the one in Centre Pompidou. I think this selection was better to understand the artist's mind; Koons' pieces are all big, bold and colourful, and they need some space around them to really stand out.
With less things going on, it was easier to concentrate on individual pieces. For example, the iconic "Balloon Dog" was placed in the middle of other pieces in the exhibition I originally saw, where in Newport Street Gallery, a similar piece "Balloon Monkey" had been given a whole room. Koons has said that the sculpture is all about the viewer, "it constantly reminds viewers of their existence, it's all about you. When you leave the room, it's gone". I was the only viewer in the room but I understand what he meant now; the piece needed you to be there physically, walk around it, get close to it and look it from a distance.
The aluminium pool toys from "Popeye" series, painted to look like vinyl, stood in the second floor. It's hard to believe that these things are actually not inflatable; I just wanted to touch them to believe that they were heavy aluminium, not actual lightweight pool toys filled with air standing on plastic chairs. Standing close to them, I somehow felt the weight of the pieces, how still and eternal they were. The fact that the pieces were standing on cheap garden chairs made the composition much more impressing .
However, the room showing works from "Made in Heaven" wasn't as impressing as the small intimate room in "Retrospective", where the room was was a beautiful composition of glass sculptures and photographs of the couple in fantasy/erotic setting. In "Now" I felt like this room was almost a little bit pointless as it was presented; sexuality is a common theme for Koons to work with, and I understand that they wanted to make it clear in this exhibition as well ( the sexual references in Koons' work are never as explicit and obvious as in "Made in Heaven") but the way they had used a whole room to present only two (and these two were the most pornographic of the whole series) photographs felt like a waste.
J E F F K O O N S - - RETROSPECTIVE