Amikam Toren

neither a painting nor a statue


Not on display

Amikam Toren born 1945
Ground porcelain on canvas, glass jar and broken porcelain statue
Displayed: 600 × 1700 × 140 mm
Presented by the Estate of Thomas Frangenberg 2019


Amikam Toren’s neither a painting nor a statue 1979 comprises two elements: a canvas and a glass jar containing the remnants of a smashed porcelain statue, a found object bought from a junk shop. Both objects sit on a small ledge fixed to the wall, the jar to the left of the canvas that leans against the wall. The canvas presents the faint depiction of a small figurine, the same figurine whose shattered parts are sitting alongside it in the glass jar. The dust of the shattered porcelain has been mixed with a medium and used by the artist as a pigment for the painting, to create a likeness of its previous form. In so doing, Toren took a lowly, kitsch object and used it as an integral part of a work of art that functions within a very different aesthetic economy. The historian Richard Dyer pointed out that this ‘“museumification of the utilitarian”, this transformation of the lowly object into high art … will be a recurring theme in Toren’s art’ (Dyer 2005, p.155). The particular way in which the jar containing the fragments of the statue and the painting are displayed on the shelf are integral to the meaning of the work, as the artist has explained:

the title indicates an ambiguity. The ‘painting’ is literally part of the object, the object is not wall bound therefore the ‘painting’ is not and should not be elevated. The shelf becomes a neutral space (attached to the wall) on which the two parts of the object are seen as equal parts of the whole. An aesthetic of some kind emerges but is driven by the proposition ‘neither a painting nor a statue’.
(Email correspondence with Tate curator Andrew Wilson, 28 January 2019.)
neither a painting nor a statue exemplifies the conceptual foundation of Toren’s practice in which the material subjects of his work are transformed but effectively unchanged (making a still life painting from the materials of the still life). In a slightly earlier work also in Tate’s collection, Urban Landscape Exchange (20 Warwick Av. London W9) 1974 (Tate T15624), he similarly made an urban landscape image from the physical fabric of that landscape.
neither a painting nor a statue was formerly in the collection of Thomas Frangenberg (1958–2018), a historian of renaissance art but also a passionate collector of contemporary art since the late 1970s. The focus of this collection was artists who work within the traditions of conceptual art and the majority of works were acquired direct from the artists, often early in their careers.

Further reading
Richard Dyer, ‘Ceci n’est pas un tableau: The Work of Amikam Toren’, in Third Text, vol.19, issue 2, March 2005.

Helen Delaney and Andrew Wilson
January 2019

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