Reflections on Fisun Güner’s Joseph Cornell Review: Wanderlust, Royal Academy

Originally posted here

30 Cornell-Tilly-Losch
Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Tilly Losch), c. 1935-38 [Box Construction, 25.4 x 23.5 x 5.4 cm]
Joseph Cornell was the subject of the last blog post, and it’s very fitting indeed for The Museum of Object Research to run another post dedicated to this remarkable object artist. It’s a particular pleasure to provide a link to Fisun Güner’s thoughtful review – I always enjoy Fisun’s perspective as she seems to me to be a critic and writer of great perception and sensitivity. Fisun is also bold and therefore thought provoking in her responses to artists, while providing an immediacy in her writing, which can make you  feel you’ve shared the viewing experience.

I was drawn to her interest in Cornell’s emotional isolation, and a certain adolescent sensibility in his work, which can also read as innocence or guileless authenticity. I would bet good money from reading about Cornell’s life that he was not neurotypical and fell somewhere on the autistic spectrum. This could also reflect in his high level affinity with objects as containers of experience and memory, as vehicles for expression and thus as language. This is a particular interest of mine.

Fisun also prompts me to think about the pitfalls of sentimentality when working with objects. Not that she concludes Cornell falls foul of such a fault, and nor do I, although others such as Robert Hughes have explored this idea. But  I do often question my own practice with regard to the dangers of over sentimentality and wonder if other object artists do this too?  Recently I had a Tracey Emin beano and watched a heap of her YouTube appearances. I actually think there is a huge difference between emotional authenticity, connecting with the self quite directly through one’s practice, and the opposite – sentimentality. I love the way Tracey talks about this engagement with the self  – especially in a recent programme What Do Artists Do All Day. I found this affirming and recognisable.

Though of course it is perhaps for the viewer and critic to truly judge this, and I am aware that my own work through it’s engagement with highly emotive and personal material might at times be seen to cross the line. I hope not and tell myself it is honest engagement with the subject that most comes to our aid in this struggle. I wonder what others think.

I recommend this review highly and please do leave some comments as I would love to hear your views!