MINISCULE VENICE // VANYA BALOGH
May 11th 2019 - July 21st 2019
Miniscule Venice by Vanya Balogh.
Location: Fondamenta Sant'Anna 996, Castello 30122, Venice. Google maps link.
Opening hours: 11:00 - 18:00, closed Monday + Tuesday.
Miniscule Venice is the latest exhibition from artist Vanya Balogh, produced in collaboration with Cross Lane Projects. The exhibition presents miniature works from over 200 artists and is a sequel to the original Miniscule show from Vanya Balogh and Jim Racine, held in London at Oblong Gallery in June 2019.
In 1939, as the outbreak of WWII engulfed Europe, Alberto Giacometti started making figures from memory. Each time he tried to create the image of someone known or once seen but not from life he said, "Wanting to do work from memory, from what I had seen, but to my terror the sculptures became smaller and smaller. Only when they were really small was there a likeness, yet again these dimensions revolted me." However large he started, it made no difference. He elaborated saying, "All my statues ended up a centimetre high. By doing something a centimetre high, you are more likely to get a sense of the universe that if you try to do the whole sky. But then one moment further and snap... the sculpture vanishes!" The problem worsened when the artist left occupied Paris and returned to Switzerland. Over and over again Giacometti would being work on the same sculpture of the woman he glimpsed on Boulevard Saint-Michel, only to see her shrink beneath his fingers. Yet still he persisted. At the war's end, when he finally boarded the train to Paris, the works from those early years went with him in six small matchboxes.
Thinking small and making small is a unique position and whilst some artists specialise in the miniature or reductive ideas and might even consider it a regular part their creative output, like Giacometti for example, equally many more do not engage in such practice. As a young boy, my very first drawings were of tiny miniature houses. My mum would give me an old beaten up pencil and all I would draw were miniature tiny buildings conjured from my imagination. My drawings were obsessive and relentless. By the age of 11 I had produced a mass of pencil drawings featuring tiny houses disappearing off the edges of the paper and mostly nothing else. I could not fit the windows of the frontage of the houses, they were too tiny. She could never fathom why I would draw this way, but to me it represented intimacy and a place of some sort of secret comfort that I could disappear to or hide in. We all have miniature fantasies, thoughts, dreams and ideas.
So what is Miniscule Venice? Could it be regarded as a bijou social experiment? Or is it a collection of unique objects assembled by an expert on miniature art? Or is it just a novelty trick to introduce mice to contemporary art? The idea for the show was devised in the mid 1980s at Saint Martins School of Fine Art in the canteen bar during a break, whilst I was pottering around with fellow artist and sculptor Jim Racine. Partly borne from lack of studio space and partly from sheer boredom, the idea was to use a huge metal drum roll or oil canister and roll it around the streets of London with hundreds of miniature works inside. This idea never took off in practice, but some 20 years later the exhibition Miniscule opened, featuring 160 international artists exhibiting at the Oblong Gallery on Southgate Road, London. At the time is was the biggest smallest show in London. And it was fun.
The significance of miniature is not new, and neither is it slight. The desire for the miniature that beings during childhood is usually jettisoned as adulthood approaches, the way the boosters fall off the rocket as it streaks speedily towards the moon. Tennagares won't want toy cars, they want real cars. Most artists on this occasione will find the preamble of size proviso an intriguing challenge, a stimulus or a provocation, pretext or inducement, and a playful distraction from their standard daily making and fabrication. Whilst curating this exhibition, I've had timely and in depth discussions about size with many artists of different persuasions, some who battled with the idea of 'small' and some who applied it with ease and no effort. Few dropped off not being able to understand the size proviso but many took to it with gusto, to produce some stunning works now on display at Miniscule Venice. Some were inspired to start thinking small scale after initially producing one piece whilst a mass of new ideas came out from this endeavour. Many have ended up with a series of small works, which are now eagerly waiting to be shown elsewhere. And some had to go back to the drawing board after making something bigger than required, to resize and go even small than initially planned.
Size is one thing, scale is another, and this exhibition is certainly about how to challenge ourselves regarding scale. It is specifically concerned with how the miniature ideas inform the world at large and vice versa. At its heart is an idea about looking, and about seeing. Sometimes we need to bring things down to size to understand and to appreciate them. It is also an exhibition about pleasure and vision, a celebration of artistic micro worlds.
Featuring over 200 internationally established and emerging artists presenting carefully considered imaginative but seriously tiny, fragile art objects, the exhibition invites us to discover and find a toy box destruction derby of high concept in abject competition, a kaleidoscope cross cut of current making and thinking yet set in one equal arena, although admittedly it may be slightly biased towards the 'less is more' camp.
Almost all the miniature works on display are made by hand, sometimes under a magnifying glass, others literally under a microscope. Such artworks, obscure and wonderous, examined in small detail, represent ideas out of time, at which point we become obsessive about miniature worlds and wonder if there has ever been a more desirable place to be. At Miniscule Venice we take a look at tiny works of art to find the greatness in the diminutive. Controlling a tiny scaled-down world can give us new perspectives, restore our sense of order in the uncertain times we live in, and, in unexpected ways let us see the world in a whole new light.
So, in an object to be judged by its size? Does size really matter? Can we say that the London Eye has more impact on the art world that a bicycle wheel? Who are we to judge? Well, this exhibition is a weenie wheel, of sorts, so it has to be better...right?
Miniscule Venice, 2019