Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen — Savannah Moon, Sea the Stars
Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen are a London based artist duo whose work is occupied with broad meanings of material and production. They work across objects, installation and film to explore production processes as cultural, ethical and political practices.
Savannah Moon, Sea the Stars, the dues second show at the gallery continues their study of gambling as the contemporary condition. A recurring subject in their practice is looking at the animal bodies as cultural products formed by human history, belief and fantasy. The works in this show revolve around the thoroughbred racehorse – a breed created and sustained within the ecology and economy of gambling.
Thoroughbreds all originated from three stallions imported to England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Ongoing global commercial breeding practices suggest these horses can be considered an embodiment of empire, enhanced by a legacy of paintings.
The Blue Roan series echoes a historical trajectory of racehorse paintings – from Degas to Stubbs – blending a transfixation with the animal form with a portrayal of global power structures and animal-human choreography.
For Blue Roan, the artists produced a bespoke powder coating formula which was made using the ashes of a thoroughbred race horse. The process follows on the historical use of bone ash in ceramics and on the artists’ appropriation of industrial processes in their work. The powder particles were specified in the thickness of horse hair and the colour mixed to match a blue roan – a rare horse coat colour pattern. The powder was then applied unevenly by hand to steel sheets in a powder coating factory, proposing a breed of horse painting which is material rather than figurative. Exhaustion is a series of bronze casts of racehorses fractured leg bones, reconstructed from medical CT scans.
Elsewhere in the exhibition is a subtitle track displaying a recent artist text, and a bespoke scent commissioned from a marketing company. The Restraint was created specifically for a gallery space, by overlaying musk with synthetic molecules that mimic human pheromones and the stress-like smell of the Dead Horse Arum Lily; a flower that imitates a horse corpse to draw flies which is used in perfumery to add a faint smell of the sea.
The blueprints in the back room bring together drawings, research, ideas and mementos collected in the production process of the work.
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Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen (b.1981, based in London)
Recent solo shows include Luna Eclipse, Oasis Dream at Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston; Trapped in the Dream of the Other at Mu.Zee, Ostend; White Horse / Twin Horse at de Brakke Grond, Amsterdam; Assemble Standard Minimal at Schering Stiftung, Berlin; their first survey show just opened at Z33 Kunstencentrum in Belgium.
Selected group exhibitions include The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Para Site, Hong Kong; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Fotomuseum Winterthur; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. Recent film screenings took place at the Serpentine Cinema, London; The Toronto Biennale 2019; Philadelphia Museum of Art and Congo International Film Festival, Goma. Critical writing and reviews include Artforum, Texte Zur Kunst, Frieze, Spike, Artreview and Metropolis M, their upcoming monograph ‘Not What I Meant but Anyway’ is published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City (2021). Their work is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and M+ Museum, Hong Kong.