The Fabrication of Yinka Shonibare

The exhibition of work by Yinka Shonibare at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park  runs until  1st September.  For me thought provoking – though may be not in the way intended- and it has taken me a long time to even begin to work out what I want to say.

The title of the show is actually Fabric-ation . So here there is a clear reference to the fabrics that  Shonibare uses in all his work. But the word fabrication has other meanings. A fabrication is a lie, may be a complex and well constructed lie but still a lie. And of course the word  fabrication can simply refer to  the building of a complex structure . There is an industrial  world of firms that simply describe themselves as  fabricators.

While Clare Lilley , in the introduction to the small catalogue, acknowledges   two  of the meanings she ignores the lie.

This leads to one of my greatest difficulties with this exhibition. The labels, the notes and to a certain extent  the catalogue  put forward an explanation of the symbolism in the exhibition –   In all exhibitions  the accompanying notes give us a way to get into the mind of the artist  but somehow I find the notes  to this exhibition irritatingly wrong.

Out side the  Longside Gallery  are two brightly coloured standing pieces. Again I find the written description misleading. The pieces are described as being inspired by  the sails of a ship.  NO. The sails of a ship do not ever form this shape unless they have broken free. The shapes in the WIND SCULPTURES are far more reminiscent of a handkerchief  or similar  fabric held by one corner and allowed to droop.

I do not intend to go through each individual piece on show.  There are two pieces that I particularly take issue  with.  The first is  FLOWER CLOUD  where a ballet dancer is poised over what is described as a mushroom cloud. For me the description of the black mass below the dancer as a cloud seems very strange. It is a solid lumpy plinth which far more closely  resembles a mushroom. For me certainly there is nothing about this object that relates to the atomic mushroom cloud  apart from  the outline of the piece which still makes me think of a decorative plinth .

The other piece I did find troubling  was LITTLE RICH GIRLS.  This consists of a number of children’s costumes hung high on a wall.  The description says that the garments , displayed on hangers  makes the collection look like the contents of a wealthy Victorian wardrobe. Again for me the way the garments are displayed brings to mind  market stalls ( both in this country and in Africa) where clothes  are hung out of reach for the consumer  to admire before buying.  The meaning of the word wardrobe in the description  is not clear.

There are many other places where I take issue with the descriptions provided. The question  is , I suppose , were the notes  produced in con-junction with Shonibare, or are the work of another person.  If the notes came direct from the artist then clearly this is the way he wants us to think about his work . This does not invalidate my reactions to the work  , and may imply that meaning in Shonibare’s  work is more ambivalent than the notes imply.

I did enjoy  a lot of this exhibition. My disagreement here is with the Wall notes and the catalogue.

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