Oculist Witnesses: According to Duchamp

Richard Hamilton, Oculist Witnesses, 1966

Sovay Berriman, Lindsey Bull, Ruth Claxton, Richard Hamilton

2 May - 4 July 2015

Oculist Witnesses: According to Duchamp includes new and existing works by Sovay Berriman, Lindsey Bull, Ruth Claxton as well as a work by the influential British artist and founder of pop art Richard Hamilton. Working in sculpture, painting and manipulated found postcards the artists explore the notion of the gaze, movement and perspective using Hamilton’s Oculist Witnesses (1966) as a starting point.

RC5In 1966, Richard Hamilton reconstructed one of Marcel Duchamp’s most ambitious, celebrated and enigmatic works for the Tate. Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-23) consists of an upper and lower panel of glass, intended to represent the approximate size of a large shop window. The top section shows the bride as an insect-like machine and the bottom section represents nine bachelors as marionettes, a chocolate grinder and a depiction of a set of commercial eye charts referred to as the oculist witnesses. Not intending the work to be viewed purely on aesthetic terms, Duchamp produced a body of notes to interpret the artwork intended to be read alongside the work. The work marks a significant shift in the development of art history from what Duchamp referred as ‘retinal art’ to conceptual art.

Fascinated by notions of perspective and desire, the work enables the viewer to see the objects floating in the frame, whilst being able to look through the glass at the gallery beyond. The work which resists interpretation was left ‘definitively unfinished’ by Duchamp in 1923.

Sovay Berriman’s practice incorporates sculpture, drawing, text and event based work. It draws a correlation between forms found within landscape, archaeological tourist sites and musical dance-sets, considering shifts in perspective as we move between roles of participant, performer, director and observer. Entertainment Suite explores her interest in stage sets as tools or props for hosting or motivating moments, whether contemplative or dynamic.

Lindsey Bull’s work explores different states of mind and how these interior lives manifest themselves, or seek to hide themselves from, the outside world. With an interest in unusual, dark, idiosyncratic or misunderstood psychologies, her paintings are investigations into often side lined or marginalised groups and individuals – people who might be considered on the fringes of mainstream culture and society.

Ruth Claxton works with a variety of media, often reconfiguring or altering pre-existing objects, such as postcards or figurines, in order to create objects and installations that consider what it is to look, see or experience. She is known for her large scale, site responsive installations and public sculptures which use reflective, mirrored and retro-reflective surfaces to create complex and fugitive visual experiences. 


Oculist Witnesses: According to Duchamp and Lucy Beech: Me and Mine (2 May to 4 July 2015) are part of the Dance First, Think Later contemporary art programme curated by Clarissa Corfe.

Read an essay about the exhibition by New York-based writer and curator Laura McLean-Ferris. (PDF)


(Top) Richard Hamilton, Oculist Witnesses, 1966. Image courtesy of the Whitworth.

(L) Ruth Claxton, Postcard (St Cecilia), 2013

(B) Sovay Berriman, Entertainment Suite, ongoing. Copyright Rob Darch. Courtesy of Exeter Phoenix


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 Sovay Berriman, Entertainment Suite, ongoing. Copyright Rob Darch, Courtesy of Exeter Phoenix

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