On approaching Richard Jackson’s ‘Stacked Paintings’ in the Hamburger Bahnhol museum in Berlin, my first thought was “that would make a lovely divider wall in a flat.” Not the profound epiphany you want when visiting a great European modern art exhibition. This brought a dilemma to mind: did I just miss the entire point of this vast art work in front of me?
Did I fail to immerse myself in the ‘intended’ experience, or is this just typical millennial angst? The artist’s intention was to take paintings from their usual vantage point of a wall, and instead arrange them on the floor. Jackson subverted the conventional meaning of a ‘painting’. The canvases were placed face-down to make an impressive coiled structure and carefully arranged with mathematical precision. People interacted with the piece, walking through the maze-like circular walkway that had been created. The conclusion of the sculpture was an empty area in the middle that felt claustrophobic thanks to the combination of towering canvases and the sudden awareness that you were in an enclosed space surrounded by strangers.
As someone who studied History of Art I am constantly disappointed in myself and my approach to physical artworks. One of my biggest let downs was seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre (cliché I know). I remember being more distracted by the vast expanse of glass panels protecting it than even noticing the actual painting. This is an example I think many people could relate to, especially as it’s one of those works of art you wait your entire life to see.
Whether I’m not noticing the significance of taking a painting off a wall in the contemporary art world, or ignoring beautiful renaissance masterpieces – inspiration never comes in obvious forms. You can’t always expect to visit a museum and be completely present and reach some enlightened state. All I can say is thank god for my iPhone; it recorded an artwork that I can now look back at and try to appreciate with a clear head…no thoughts of DIY included.