Invisibility and Everything to All: Gavin Turk

Trebuchet Magazine

What is the basic material of art? Imagination? Expectation? Authorship? In 2017, Gavin Turk created a series of invisible sculptures for the Art Car Boot Fair.

Trebuchet wondered what drew him to the conspicuous lack of a physical material as a material in itself. Why are we hesitant to call it nothing? Would that disregard the immanence required of art?  It could be that there is nothing more functional than an invisible sculpture, a piece of art that strips the cognitive investigative experience to its barest, most efficient material: the audience and the stage. 

Since the 1990s Turk has worked around the concept of artistic creator and has staked a justifiable claim to pioneering forms of sculpture that now form part of the central vocabulary of contemporary art: the painted bronze; the waxwork; the recycled art-historical icon; and the use of rubbish in art (Bath Spa University, c.2020). As well as continuing to produce work in a multitude of mediums he has also been an educator, holding the post of Professor of Art and Design at Bath Spa University.  

The most common component in Turk's work is his name as an entity, to the extent that he considers it a 'found object' to be used in the creation and augmentation of other works or as a work in itself (Leader 2021). At the time of writing, the invisible sculptures discussed are available from his website, though readers are encouraged to create a few themselves before encountering the real thing, reflexivity having some sharp edges. 

What is the invisible material in art? Is it all context? 

"Yeah, in a way the invisible material is, I guess, [the] audience. And it's almost like looking. It's almost like it is invisible. Like the bit that actually makes the difference between something being just on the floor, and not known, not understood. Or kind of there, but without any meaning, is when consciousness arrives or some meaning gets put on that, whatever it is. It could even be invisible.

March 9, 2021