Bernard Winkels: Nothing For No Reason In No Order

Bernard Winkels: Nothing For No Reason In No Order | Foyer and Alcove Galleries
17 August – 1 December 2019

Artists talk about processes a lot, processes and practices. If you boil them down, all that means is “this is how I need to make things, and this is how I manage to do it every day”.

In Bernard Winkel’s work, you sense that everyday-ness doesn’t just define his daily habit of adding to an ever-growing collection of studio productions. It also seems to ask the question: “Is this what a life in the 21st century comes down to, a never-ending accumulation of tokens, signs, labels, brands, info, notions, notes, stuff? Does being a person mean the same as being a consumer?”

There’s certainly a sense of information overload in the   clamour of this unruly artwork. The order of images and text seems random or perhaps set by an algorithm whose only agenda is to amuse itself. A primitive model of the hi-tech infotainment tsunami we’re so happily engulfed by. As Winkels puts it, “a caveman internet”.

A large part of Winkels’ work as an artist is devoted to the exploration of the possibilities of ceramics. But instead of creating the perfected and elegant objects you would expect of a “civilisation” (the Ming vase, Chantilly porcelain) that disguise under layers of glaze, symmetry and finesse their origins as earth, as mud, Winkels is more interested in clay’s evidentiary afterlife, its historical value as fragments, potshards that might be found at the site of an archaeological dig. There, in a buried midden, or an overgrown transfer station, we stumble on the remnants of an extinct culture, signifiers of its puzzling values and strange obsessions.

“This isn’t really an exhibition, not yet,” Winkels insists. “It’s a pile of craziness, just a pile of evidence of a daily casting around to find the idea for an exhibition. I’ve got to sift through it all to make sense of it and find that idea.”

Maybe the search for sense is the idea, playing out inside the gallery. All those gnomic scribbles, pictograms, slogans, jokes that the artist obsessively jotted onto serviettes, post-its, the backs of electricity bills and doctor’s appointment cards to be transferred onto scraps of clay.

Maybe it isn’t the artist’s job to sift through all the randomness for some sense. That could be our job.