Travelling Light

Travelling Light is a joint collaboration  between WW Gallery and Pharos Gallery. It  opened first in London, and was shown in  Venice 6th-11th June 2009, within  the orbit of  the Venice Biennale, in a palazzo between the  Accademia Galleries and the Peggy  Guggenheim Collection. 

Fall Fig Leaves, Farewell to a Flimsy Disguise, 2009 

London>Venice Biennale

Fall Fig Leaves, Farewell to a Flimsy Disguise, 2009

Featured Artist in Arts Big Picture 2009 - Art Critic Lorna Johnston         Copyright © Lorna Johnston 2009-2010 All Rights Reserved                                                             

This work joins the Travelling Light exhibition on route to the city once hailed as the pleasure capital of Europe. It's making  the trip that J J Cale described as A ONE WAY TICKET TO ECSTASY.

What is woven into this work is as  complicated and beguiling as the  original journey to Venice. Fall byTumim & Prendergast has been chosen  as part of the Travelling Light  exhibition, which will travel along the  traditional overland trade route to  Venice. Parameters were set in relation  to the size and weight of the artworks –they have to fit into a large letter  package: encouraging artists to workaround this in innovative ways.

In this work 38 embroidered fig leaves spell out the word “Fall” - it would easily pack into a small valise. The eye-catching  colours of the embroidered leaves were chosen to match the lavish garments of the travellers who once followed this path to  Venice. The prettiness of the colourful leaves set off against a white background is pleasing to the eye, a bit like a corsage  exploded for maximum impact. It flags itself to the viewer, like the overt ostentation that would entice travellers to take  the  arduous journey to Venice. By land it would involve a trip through the Alps [for many, in a sedan chair on hair-raisingpaths], and by sea the pirates were a threat; protection money to their native countries couldn’t stop the attacks.

From the late 16th century the Grand Tourist, usually a young male aristocrat with money and means, journeyed around  Europe being exposed to culture and art. France and Italy were highest on the agenda. The most popular time to visit Venice  was winter Carnival season – numbers in the region of 30,000 would arrive from Europe and the Near East. Outdoor parties,regattas, operas, comedies and of course the masquerades. Yes, it wasn’t just all about the classical sights on offer. It was  also a well-advertised fact that Venice  was a city notorious for its courtesans.

Fall is about sex and the sexes.

Tumim & Prendergast note that the full title is influenced by “A Flimsy Disguise” in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (taken  from Genesis iii). Fig leaves have strong connotations. In the Garden of Eden, Eve tempted Adam, and on discovering their  nakedness they covered themselves using fig leaves. This Biblical element is further supported by “Fall” suggesting the Fallof Man. For Eve’s part in this, painful childbirth was bestowed on all women, and she was to be ruled over by Adam. There is  some irony that “Fall” and womankind’s moment of subjugation is spelled out using embroidered leaves. Traditional women’s  handicrafts like embroidery are becoming more apparent in galleries as today’s artists challenge the concept of what  constitutes high art. But since the rise of Feminism women’s crafts have also taken a meaningful role in the struggle to  readdress the balance in a male dominated art world. Embroidery also has associations with the past, back to an era when  things were hand-made. It’s interesting to note that male and female hands created these embroidered leaves, a sign that  today we are moving closer to a partnership rather than having to obey?

Fig leaves are a bit cheeky. Tumim & Prendergast like to include an edge of humour in their work, which fundamentally  conveys dark material. The prudish practice of attaching fig leaves to artworks (in this case the artwork consists of nothing  but fig leaves!) to hide the genitalia is an amusing concept by today’s uncensored standards. A pin attaches each  embroidered fig leaf to the wall, but they have the appearance of being held there in the same gravity-defying fashion as figleaves in art/sculpture. Anyone who has seen an Eve fancy-dress outfit knows there is no easy way of keeping leaves there.But there is a sinister side to the fig leaf: which Tumim & Prendergast describe as “an ironic method of self-censorship.” 

Art is the means by which life reflects  on, transforms and indeed creates its values;human life without it would not properly behuman at all.

Antony Gormley

1 of 2 3/8/10 20:27

Welcome to Art's Big Picture - Fall 

censorship might go even wider and include censorship by the state, and by the Church, who have been involved in decisions  about public nudity.

Fall seems to allude to our attitudes to sex. Fig leaves hide the genitalia. Tumim & Prendergast include the quote by John  Heywood (1497-1580): “A fig for care, and a fig for woe!” to accompany Fall on their site. Used in this context, the word“fig” is slang for “c*nt”. I’ve already noted that this was a big part of Venice’s allure. With Venice’s reputation perhapsmore is suggested by the fig leaves in Fall.

Copyright © Lorna Johnston 2009-2010 All Rights Reserved

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