Charles Avery: What’s the matter with Idealism?

February 14, 2015

Some of the greatest minds in history designed imaginary societies or states that would be able to meet all the citizens’ needs. Just remember the famous Utopia by Sir Thomas More. Many artists were also quite interested in creating their own “perfect world”, with so many famous pieces of art produced as a result of that kind of interest. But Charles Avery’s work is an exceptional one. This Scottish artist devoted almost all of his artistic work to a gigantic project called The Islanders, with fictional port of Onomatopoeia as it main city. The works with which this fictional world was created will be central to the Charles Avery exhibition at the GEM Museum of Contemporary Art in the Hague.

Left: collectie Gemeentemuseum
Left: Charles Avery - Untitled (Smoking Idealist), 2012, Pen, inkt, acryl op papier / Right: Charles Avery - Untitled (Atomist Conceit), 2012

The Islanders

Charles Avery became internationally famous for his practice of constant description of an imaginary island through different art media. His entire work in the last decade is completely overlaid by this subject. This commitment and approach is highly influenced by the ideas of philosophers and artists such as William Blake and Joseph Beuys. Yet, it is important to notice that this imaginary place isn’t a perfect or utopist society. The bustling city of Onomatopoeia and its wild surroundings are some form of reflection of the real world in which we live. It has its own philosophical debates, financial and economic problems. The inhabitants of the island have their own mythology, unique culture and beliefs. Discussions that dominate the public life of Onomatopoeia concern deep philosophical questions. That’s consequence of Avery’s interest in philosophy, literature and mathematics. Charles Avery indeed created a whole new world, with all the positive and negative aspects to come with it. The viewer of Avery’s works can easily identify with this fictional world, because of the artist’s increasing conviction, coherence and attention to detail. For a moment, a visitor also becomes a member of The Islanders community, participating in ongoing debate about the existence of a mythical being called the Noumenon, or in long philosophical arguments.

Charles Avery - Head of an Aleph 2009
Charles Avery - Head of an Aleph, 2009

The Art of Charles Avery

Since the fictional island is a dominant theme of Avery’s work, it gives the artist the freedom to use a wide range of artistic media. The drawings are crucial since they form the narrative, and these drawings are extremely detailed, imaginative and humoristic. The artist’s interest in mathematics can be noticed in the way how he design trees for the island, since they are formed based on numerical patterns. However, Avery uses also sculptures and text. All the media he uses have one single purpose – to cover all the aspects of the life and nature of the imaginary world of Avery.

Photography: Gert Jan van Rooij
Left: Charles Avery - Untitled (Design for Jadindagadendar) [detail] / Right: Charles Avery - Untitled (Design for Jadindagadendar) [detail]

The Charles Avery Exhibition at GEM Museum of Contemporary Art in the Hague

Parallel with the exhibition of Charles Avery, GEM Contemporary in the Hague will also show the works of artists like Marcel Dzama and Marcel van Eeden. The works by Charles Avery of The Islanders series already had exhibitions in countless galleries and museums. Everybody interested in contemporary art should visit this show, since the works by Avery consequently deal with the use of ideas in contemporary art scene. Charles Avery exhibition entitled What’s the matter with Idealism? will be on view at the GEM Museum of Contemporary Art in the Hague, from February 14th until June 7th.

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Photography: Cooper Dodds
Charles Avery - Untitled (Design for Jadindagadendar), 2014

Featured Image: Charles Avery -  Duculi (the Indescribable) 2013

All Images courtesy of the GEM Museum of Contemporary Art in the Hague.

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