In: London exhibitions
September 2, 2016
Inclusivity vs. exclusivity and talent vs. elitism are some of the core values of The Unit London Gallery, located on the trendy Wardour Street. Continuing with their goal of bringing real talents closer to the public, the gallery is proudly presenting the first major London exhibition of Jake Wood-Evans, a Hastings-based artist whose works evoke faded memories and spectres of a past time, and often depict disintegrating and dissolving entities.
Born in Devon in 1980, Wood-Evans studied Fine Art at Falmouth University and was subsequently awarded a scholarship from the Royal Academy to study at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Previously based in Brighton, he currently lives and works in Hastings. Very attached to the paintings that inspire him, Wood-Evans does consider himself a figurative painter, and I would also call him an educator.
This exhibition, entitled Subjection & Discipline, not only introduces Wood-Evans’ work, but also that of the two painters who inspire it: Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) and Henry Raeburn (1756-1832). Taking inspiration from 18th-century painters, Wood-Evans’ unique, historically ambiguous style produces images that are both unsettling and beautiful. Stressing the complexity of the feelings that his referents arise in him, he adds a new layer of heavier sensations and understanding to those paintings. He blurs the boundaries of figurative painting and drawing, creating a sort of beautiful accident that has a framed purpose.
“Faces are defiled and figures appear as apparitions. Subjects range from a ghostly vision of a society lady to a fading portrait of a once proud general and grotesquely disfigured admiral. Viewed together, the body of work is eerily reminiscent of an art collection of a great estate in the early years of the British Empire, but while the haunting redactions of once-heroic subjects might suggest the correcting gaze of a postcolonial sensibility, Wood-Evans’ interest lies more with the original artists and process than with the specific subject.” (The Unit London)
As I slowly walked from the first to the last painting, I felt as if the past had been affected and infected with scratches of present time. The figures in the artworks seem to be fading under the surface, as if paint wanted to hide information from the human gaze. “Eighteenth Century Ship II” and “Eighteenth Century Ship III” are the only non-human figures invaded by a human tool. Perhaps because the sea carries the present and the past, without contradictions, just like art does.
“Portrait of a Woman in Red” almost transcends into reality and exudes the perfume of elegance, flesh, reality and oil paint. The past is alive and tangible in Wood-Evans’s paintings. My favorite was “Lady Bampfylde, after Joshua Reynolds”, but the one that most impressed me was “Lady Skipwith”, after a portrait by the same painter. Romanticism seemed macabre for a moment, and the present was, indeed, nothing but a scribble of the past.
By scrubbing, scratching and erasing certain areas while building up others, Wood-Evans’ paintings are physically pushed and pulled out of the canvas. Thick layers of paint contrast with saturated oil on canvas, often laying the grain bare. His powerful use of light emerges from a loose and instinctive application of paint. Each work bears the marks of his journey and are just as fascinating when viewed up close as they are when viewed in their entirety. Wood-Evans’ haunting works are both reminiscent of the pillaged originals while uncovering a psychological depth which encourages the viewer to look beyond the surface of the canvas and question the records of history.
Jake Wood-Evans. Subjection & Discipline. The Unit London Gallery. 19 August-11 September 2016. Monday-Sunday, from 11am to 7pm.
February 3, 2016
A puzzle. That is how the London Art Fair looked from the first floor of the Business Design Centre in Islington. The 95 art galleries that have been present this year at the 28th edition of the London Art Fair were the extraordinary puzzle pieces that collaborated to create an image of the contemporary and modern art world as it is today.
Curated by Natasha Hoare, Associate Curator at Witte de With for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the event was an absolute trip from the perspective of a one-day visitor such as myself.
The Business Design Centre proved to be an excellent space to gather so many galleries from around the world. Their representatives showed enthusiasm and excitement in sharing the work of diverse artistic voices with the visiting public.
I was impressed with the strategies of display, the international context created by the presence of so many galleries from outside UK, and especially by the warmth with which the gallery representatives would welcome and discuss with you the exhibited works and artists.
While touring the galleries, I remembered that Natasha Hoare wrote a book called “The New Curator” which basically consists of interviews with curators from around the world and this art fair definitely felt as though it has been a major international art project.
Through discussion with gallery representatives and some of the artists present at the fair, I could finally form an image of the major shift that has occurred in the art world. Art has become information, which is one of the greatest assets in the present time. Art can be accessible to anyone and this phenomenon gives the artists a larger platform and wider windows towards succeeding in the early stages of their work. If art is information, it travels faster and across longer distances.
You could say that there is actually no distance nowadays; this was apparent in the works of many of the contemporary artists present at the art fair. The main focus is time and closeness. Artists now have access to multinational and multicultural spaces and their source of inspiration has no limit when creating their narratives. Time remains the only competitor against the artist. In the end the winner is actually the public, who are growing in numbers, well-educated, well-informed and can more quickly gain access to art.
The new artist is focused on a cross-cultural dialogue with the public and also on extending the making of their work through a more interdisciplinary route. We now see painters, sculptors, and photographers working with writers, scientists, fashion designers, sound engineers, etc.
Galleries have quickly picked up this trend and are creating the perfect platforms for an artist of the new era, who is creating for a wider and much more knowledgeable public.
We are most certainly witnessing a surge of multi-media art and I absolutely fell in love with the work of Korean multi-media artist Guem MinJeong. Just like the rest of her fellow contemporary artists, Guem MinJeong adds to her art many adjacent skills and here, that is the deal-breaker.
The passage between the old and the new is being forged in a dramatic manner and Guem’s work brings the past, the old, the essence, and the roots into a virtual, futuristic, scientific plan. We witness it, but more importantly, we experience it.
Guem has showcased a series of site-specific video and sculpture installation works – Breathing, Twisted and Melting, Object series – on the theme of “breathing space”. Her installations transform the space of a white wall or embraces impossible external spaces such as forests and ocean into an interior space. Exhibition space itself becomes the subject matter for the artist.
In works such as “Breathing Door” (2007), the artist depicts a large white closed door which inflates and deflates to the sound of slow breathing. Conceived during the artist’s residency in Tamsui, Taiwan in 2014, the rhythmic cycle of the video loop reflects on the pace of 21st century, modern life.
Guem explains that “by making the space that I experience move and breathe, I would rather express the self in it – that is, the essence and value of humans. I wanted to take a closer look at it as a symbol representing the essence of people by moving a physical space, not a narrative film as virtual reality.”
Guem MinJeong holds a DFA from Yonsei University and BFA, MFA from Hongik University, Seoul. Her works are held in private and public collections, including the Seoul Museum of Art and Kumho Museum of Art. She has received numerous awards from Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture and currently lives in Seoul.
Guem MinJeong was represented by Hanmi Gallery and Ms. Yookin Choi was gracious enough to take me through the art works that they exhibited at the fair and to offer me precious information about the artist mentioned above.
Another artist who impressed me was Steve Goddard. This time, I had the pleasure of actually discussing with Steve how routine is just another madness for an artist. Mr. Goddard did agree that time is precious and that it can be overcome by hard work and dedication to inspiring ideas.
Steve told me that it takes him roughly 9 hours to finish a painting, once the idea has been imprinted in his imagination. He sometimes wakes from his sleep, makes a note of the idea that inspired him, and begins work as soon as he feels that he is ready to paint it.
Looking at his paintings and his sculptures, I felt as if I was an important piece in his art. He seems to attract you inside a tunnel of visions, turning you into his link to reality. Once you have observed the art work, you will become part of its story and it will offer you a place in the imaginary in exchange for your understanding in the reality.
Steve Goddard’s website is a contemporary story about nights of visions, colours in the dark, paintings of nothing that are traps for everything. Art.
Steve Goddard was present at the fair with Galerie Sardac. Mr. Rowan Shulver, Director of Galerie Sardac, was kind enough to answer to a few of my questions with regards to how they perceived the fair. He informed me that Sarah Monk (fair director) and Craig Brown (sales manager) “were a pleasure to work with” and that there was an overall feeling of accomplishment on all sides at the end of the fair.
November 26, 2015
I attended the opening night of White Cube’s new exhibitions including ‘The Banners’ by Gilbert and George and ‘Tightrope Walk: Painted Images After Abstraction’ which was curated by Barry Schwabsky. There was a lively atmosphere and a general buzz around the artwork, with everyone seeming to like what they saw. The Gilbert and George pieces were very tongue and cheek, striking the right balance between humour and political content, dealing with issues around sex, the environment and education, amongst other issues, in their eye catching banners. I particularly enjoyed this section of the exhibition because it not only encouraged thought but it also encouraged some giggles with its controversial phrases, and to see so many people taking photos of themselves next to the art was really refreshing as it showed a direct interaction between the visitors and the exhibition. I feel the placement of the huge banners in such a vast space as White Cube provided an excellent visual display and the beautiful lighting of each piece allowed the visitors to see the most intricate details including the pencil marks that complimented the spray paint on each hand-made banner.
The ‘Tightrope Walk: Painted Images After Abstraction’ were also equally as stimulating with their mixture of bright colours, surrealist perceptions and varied subject matters. Each piece was eye catching in its own way and I thought that Barry Schwabsky did an excellent job with curating the exhibition. So if you want an array of colour and a visual feast then head down to the White Cube to see their latest exhibition which runs from the 25th November 2015 to 24th January 2016, and it is definitely one not to be missed!