The sculptures, all from the series Wonky Wheels
(2018), are imperfectly round, wheel-like armatures rendered in steel and brightly coloured enamel, measuring between one and three metres in diameter. They are pulled and manipulated into shape by the artist, rendering each unique in form and character. The economy of line and slightness of shape means the wheels appear to balance precariously, vulnerable to the slightest touch or influencing action, teetering on the verge of a bumpy movement that could go back or forth, or result in a fall. Together, they may reference an imperfect wheel of life and conceive a carnival of time and a ‘wonkiness’ of both personal and historical experience whose narrative, though inevitable, is never stable.
In an adjacent room resides one single work - a Wonky Wheel, whose lower quadrant is partly encased by a cube of concrete. The wheel is fully stopped - or stable and ready to start. It’s a beginning and an end – or punctuation in time.
Accompanying the Wonky Wheels are three large-scale paintings on paper (all 121 x 363 cm framed), that form part of the artist’s new Water Series - various monochromatic paintings in serenely aqueous hues. The expansive blue surface of Water (2018) mimics the intrinsically sublime appeal of water in nature as a source for introspection, and singularly experienced reverie. The companion painting, Life Jacket(2018), however, shifts suddenly into something public and deeply tragic. The dark surface of the painting is abraded with sandpaper to reveal an ambiguous sequence of shapes; Hume has discussed the organic appearance of these forms, whilst acknowledging them as a personal response to news coverage of the deadly spate of water-absorbing life jackets that have weighted and drowned thousands of desperate refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean in recent times. In the third painting, 361cm (2018), the same motif has been subsumed in a pattern that resembles a West African textile print, potentially a shroud, and becomes a commemorative device.
The exhibition is the latest iteration of a long series of works by Hume that leads us to consider trauma and suffering. His celebrated Doorpaintings from the early nineties were explorations in formalism that abstracted the hospital door as an exit route to death or cure. The wheel itself is a recurring motif for the artist that has evolved from an earlier series of sculptures exhibited in New York in 2013, pertaining to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and the enduring conflict in the Middle East, wherein it represented the crosshairs of a sniper sight. Hume asserts that his interpretations of the imagery of geopolitical conflict and warfare are highly personal manoeuvres in seeing and creating, rather than commenting or solving. In light of this, the current installation proves a deft, poetic exercise in ambiguity, and the seemingly affable wheels and colourful water paintings belie their inspirations and the horror and anguish that linger just beneath the surface.
The Berlin gallery is concurrently presenting exhibitions by Robert Irwin and Mika Rottenberg.