Philosophical Adventure Playground
Charles Avery in Den Haag

Charles Avery is a maker of worlds. The Scottish artist has been working on his project The Islanders since 2004: drawings, installations, sculptures, and books that portray life in a fictional island universe. His unnamed empire resembles an adventure playground on the border between whimsical fantasy and philosophical discourse. Now, visitors to the GEM, the Museum for Contemporary Art in Den Haag, can immerse themselves in Avery’s world. The exhibition What’s the Matter With Idealism? whisks the viewer away to the island capital of Onomatopoeia, whose history reflects the fate of many existing cities: a colonial outpost grew into a prosperous place of trade. After an economic downfall the city subsequently redefined itself as a cultural hub and tourist attraction. This, however, causes its inhabitants, whose have a passion for extravagant hats, to be ogled like so many zoo animals. Their cult objects are sold as cheap souvenirs, their gods debased to T-shirt motifs.

Avery’s highly detailed ink, pencil, and charcoal drawings form the focus of What’s the Matter With Idealism? The exhibition is part of a series in which the GEM presents artists who use the medium of drawing as a point of departure to create a cosmos all their own. In 2011, the GEM also presented an exhibition project by Marcel Dzama, whose paper works, films, and sculptures also describe an absurd parallel universe. Both artists have a floor in Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank Towers dedicated to their work. “I’ve always drawn,” Avery explains in an interview for ArtMag. “I became aware of philosophy through drawing and that made me start thinking.” And just as these thought processes never cease, The Islanders is also conceived as a work in progress—as a suggestive, utterly fascinating story that Avery continues to write.


Charles Avery — What’s the Matter With Idealism?
2/14 – 6/7/2015
GEM, Museum for Contemporary Art, Den Haag