Vistamare is pleased to present The Ash and The Elm, Bethan Huws’ first solo show in Milan.
At the centre of the exhibition are two living trees, an elm and an ash, and an engraved plaque with a numbered proposition by Ludwig Wittgenstein in which the philosopher describes being out on a walk with a friend and mistakes an elm for an ash; his companion corrects him, and he replies, “I always meant ash when I said elm.” Huws continues her exploration on meaning with the work Trombone, 2022, a three-metre-long paperclip positioned on the floor. It’s a word game, inspired by the fact that a paperclip in French is called a ‘trombone’ in analogy to the musical instrument.
Long interested in Duchamp, Huws is likewise captivated by ideograms, symbols and ready-mades. Carotte de Tabac, 2022, installed in the right hand room, reproduces the sign that hangs outside tobacconists in France. According to Huws there are many tobacco related items in Duchamp’s work, “which in his system, metonymically represent the spirit or mind”. This black-and-white neon sculpture echoes the film The Chocolate Bar, 2006, projected in the left hand room. The film is divided into two asymmetrical parts, and ironically comments on the communication gap between two characters – both of them played by the same actor – and between Welsh and French culture, with allusions to the history of conceptual art and surrealism.
Completing the exhibition is a new series of the word vitrines that Huws first began making in 1999, representing different ways of displaying a text. The vitrines, which are wall-hung like paintings, are those typically used in offices to communicate information before the computer age. In her practice Huws successfully combines very different elements from a wide range of theoretical studies, which dialogue with one another. Like in After Lucas Cranach (detail) or like the surface of the moon, 2018, where a particular from the German Renaissance artists’ paintings provides Huws with a starting point from which to conjure up an abstract space, redolent of moonscapes.
Bethan Huws was born in Bangor, Wales, in 1961. The artist works with watercolours, drawings, wall texts, installations, sculpture and film to make unexpected links in our daily experiences. Bethan Huws has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Kunst Museum Winterthur, Switzerland; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Museum Serralves, Porto, Portugal; Kunstmuseum St Gallen, Switzerland; Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. she won the competition of Kunst Museum Winterthur, Switzerland, in 2020, the BACA Europe 2006 award given by the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht and represented Wales at the Venice Biennale in 2003.