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Bethan Huws

*1961 Bangor (Wales), lives and works in Berlin

  • Wars Societies and Neon, 2021
  • Neon tubes, plexiglass, metal, transformer
  • Edition of: 20
  • Dimensions: 52,00 cm x 58,00 cm x 6,00 cm
  • Production: Studio Bethan Huws, Berlin
  • CHF 3800.00
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Bethan Huws’ new text-based neon work is in reference to, and the title of a large-scale installation in the crypt of the Grossmünster, Zurich. It draws reference to the so-called Guido Relief, a bas-relief from the 12th century, located on a capital near the steps of the south portal. It portrays six men, two of whom are in a duel and four outsiders, in a variety of poses. As Bethan Huws remarks, the scene is reminiscent of Bruce Nauman's comic strip, stylized neon figures from the eighties, most notably “Sex and Death” (1985) or “Double Poke in the Eye II” (1985), where Nauman confronts the viewers with the aggression of two people who take on the roles of perpetrator and victim in constant alternation. In addition, there is a reference to the stained-glass windows by Augusto Giacometti and Sigmar Polke, also present in the nave of the same church. Neon works emit light, and can be, as here, multicolored. The separate words forming the sentence bring to mind images of versatile components, related to the experience of viewing, or rather reading a work. Huws' approach is inevitably conceptual; often with a touch of humor. Neon, because of the electricity, is a highly aggressive, competitive medium—not unlike war—with its origins in advertising. In this context the text work aptly resembles a campaign banner.

Thanks to linguistics, the artist has a firm grasp of language and everything that is universal about it. Her text-based works can often be seen as instructions or navigations as to how to read, and therefore understand the work of art. The simplicity of few words stated, a minimalistic approach, is often contrary to the imperative calls prevalent in contemporary text-based works. Nevertheless, Huws prefers ambiguous and broader statements, often involving questions that she, no doubt, knows the answer to, but withholds, forcing us to reflect. Her work is often audacious and laconic. She delights in mischievous twists and turns between words and other types of signs and images. She belongs to the classical tradition of conceptual art, as the likes of Marcel Duchamp or the aforementioned Bruce Nauman.

Bethan Huws latest institutional exhibition was at the Kunstmuseum Winterthur (2021). The artist has conceived permanent neon installations at the Kunsthaus Zug, for the city of St. Gallen and at the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, among others. The exhibition “Wars Societies and Neon” is on show at the Grossmünster, Zurich from the 18th of November 2021 to the 27th of February 2022. Bethan Huws’ works are in the public collections of the Kunstmuseum Bern, Tate Britain, London and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, inter alia.

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