March 2, 2016
There are two important events happening in the art world in London both connected to Alexander Calder. The Tate Modern showcases “Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture” until April 3rd and equally as important is PACE LONDON’s “Calder Prize 2005-2015” show that acquaints visitors with the level of inspiration that this grand artist is still offering young artists from all over the world.
At Pace, Alexander Calder’s works such as “Still Life”1944, “Snag” 1944, “Fawn” 1944, “Untitled” 1953, “Trois pics (intermediate maquette)” 1967, “The Tree” 1960 are exhibited in conversation with 6 artists, laureates of the Calder Prize between 2005 and 2015.
A Maverick of modernist art, Calder completely revolutionized the landscape of art by insisting on introducing performance and kinetic qualities to sculpture, embracing industrial media including wire and sheet metal. Calder managed to change the most static materials into romantic pieces.
His work included not only sculpture but also paintings, drawings, and more than a dozen theatrical productions. Calder described his involvement in the stage sets as “dancers performing a choreography due to their rhythmic movement.”
This ultimate vanguard of modern art is still continuing to touch the art world by inspiring so many young artists. Nowadays, Calder Prize and Calder Foundation, a non-profit organization, aim to collect, exhibit, preserve and interpret the art and archives of Alexander Calder. The foundation examines works attributed to Calder and catalogues the artist’s works.Together with the Scone Foundation in New York, the Calder Foundation sponsors the biennial Calder Prize, a $50,000 award to a living artist and it also facilitates the donation of the artist’s work to a major public collection. The laureates are also invited to complete a residency in Calder’s atelier in Sache, France.
Below is a brief presentation of the artists who have been laureates of the Calder Prize 2005-2015.
Darren Bader, born in 1978, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, lives and works in New York. Bader first started by wanting to be a film director and his first videos, composed of long takes of objects, inert and in motion, were a preview of what Bader the artist was going to do.
Everything can become an art object for this artist, from living beings such as live kittens exhibited for adoption under abstract names (MoMA PS1, 2012) to books, undelivered mail, boxes of paint, you name it! Bader’s book “Life as a Readymade” which is basically an open letter to anyone who considers himself an artist, includes the phrase “Art is a state of mind and experience understood by any number of people at any number of moments.”
Tara Donovan, was born in 1969, in New York and was awarded the Calder Prize in 2005. Donovan’s work uses everyday manufactured materials such as Scotch tape, Styrofoam cups, paper plates, toothpicks, and drinking straws to create large scale sculptures that often have a biomorphic quality. Her sculptures must be assembled and disassembled carefully, which sometimes involves an extremely tedious process. With regards to her artistic process, Donovan explained that she chooses the material before she decides what can be done with it. She noted in an interview that she thinks “in terms of infinity, of [the materials] expanding.” Her work has been exhibited in numerous important venues such as Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, Hammer Museum, University of California, MMOA in New York and many others. She is present at Pace London with “Cloud”, 2003 and “Untitled”, 2015.
Rachel Harrison, born in 1966, in New York, was a Calder Prize laureate of the 2011 edition and has had many solo exhibitions at institutions such as Bergen Kunsthall, Camden Arts Centre, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst in Zurich and SMAK, Ghent. She lives and works in New York and is present at the Calder Prize with “Avatar” ,2010 and “Silent Account”, 2004. Rachel produces sculptures that juxtapose a unique combination of found, purchased, and received items. Since then, her works have been fabricated using a wide range of materials, such as honey, cans of peas, papier-mâché, and trash bags. By using everyday goods and objects, Harrison frequently takes on the subject of consumer culture. She also often confronts popular culture and celebrities with her work. In the 2012 exhibition named “The Help”, her pieces featured the singer Amy Winehouse and the artist Martin Kippenberger.
Zilvinas Kempinas was born in 1969, in Plunge, Lithuania and he is the Calder laureate of 2007. He lives and works in New York and his works are kinetic and minimalistic. Kempinas employs non traditional materials to create active and dynamic exhibits, most commonly as installations. In many of his works, Kempinas utilizes his signature material, unwound magnetic tape. The use of the tape affects the viewer through various senses; visually, aurally and physically. “His art plays out on the bright side of the moon” and Londoners can see that in his work exhibited at Pace London “Illuminator”. His installation “Flux” shows as much of Calder’s influence and heritage as aimed by the exhibition. Similar to the rest of the laureates, Kempinas has had major solo exhibitions including the ones at PS1 Contemporary Art Centre, Long Island New York, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Kunstalle Wien and many others.
Haroon Mirza is an English and London born artist, who became a Calder laureate in 2015. His installations made me think about what famous architect Xavier Corbero said: “when you choose the right scale, music sounds beautiful”. Mirza is close to an architect, creating a space where LED lights, speakers, vinyls, screens, and different music sounds interact and converse to the point of involving the spectator. His installation “Light Work iii”, is also an experience in itself.
Tómas Saraceno born in 1973 in San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina, was awarded the Calder Prize in 2009 and he lives and works in Berlin. Trained as an architect, he is not only an artist but an environmentalist and he combines engineering, physics, chemistry, aeronautics and materials science in his work. Saraceno has had solo exhibitions at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Hangar Bahnhof, Berlin, etc. It is an interesting fact to note that Saraceno holds a World record for the first, longest, fully solar-powered, certified, lighter-than-air vehicle tether Flight. He is present at Calder Prize exhibition with “Cumulus Filaments”, 2016 and “Trace G64 B213”, 2015.
The exhibition is open to the public up until 5th of March, 2016 at PACE LONDON.
On a particularly rainy day in London, I made my way over the slippery cobble stone to Unit London – an artist-led gallery space in the heart of London’s Soho district. Preparing myself to meet two successful art entrepreneurs who became tremendously successful in less than 2 years since the birth of their gallery, I was nervous and excited. The second I entered the gallery, I felt like at home. Needless to say, I don’t live in Soho and don’t have paintings covering every single wall (never say never), but the ambiance, music, and art made me feel relaxed; I could have stayed for hours. Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt, the founders of Unit, are both in their twenties, laid-back and absolutely easy-going. Sitting on the couch (and when do you find a couch in a gallery?), we listened to The Killers while they shared a few inspirational ideas and discussed how they built the Unit brand though their Instagram account.
- Why art ?
Joe: We always had a big passion for art. We are both artists and we’ve known each other since 11. We took the same art class at school, so that’s where it all started. We were also frustrated with the way gallery system works. So we wanted to create something different by making art more accessible. That is the key And the way we’ve done that is in large part by using social media.
Jonny: We always wanted to do business together. We didn’t know it was going to be art. After the university I immersed myself with my own art, tried to build my portfolio, went to galleries for various reasons. At that time, a space became available in West London, and in the spirit of the moment we just went for it. It was a natural progression to start a gallery, though initially it was a pop-up. All was from the artist perspective and, yes, we wanted it to be different.
- Do you still make any art yourselves?
Joe: Managing the gallery is taking over now, so we don’t have time for most things outside of running business, and there’s no time for actually making art. Though we do use our creativity in our shows: curating the space, the marketing, the campaigns…they’re creative processes, so we do feel we’re still creating, just not in a studio.
- When you started off, did you have any connections or was it just the idea?
Joe: We had no contacts to go to, so we just did it the way we saw it and how we believed it should be done. We wanted something different, so we looked at all other galleries that are out there, focusing mostly on the UK, and saw that the majority are not serving talented emerging artists. That traditional contemporary art gallery model… You feel as if you’re not allowed to be there. Stuck in the old ways. All that old pretense that comes with what is essentially a painting on a canvas. And so we wanted to create an environment that was relaxed and friendly, welcoming for people, but at the same time showcasing incredible art. It is quite a simple idea. And it’s rewarding to see that it’s worked until this point.
- How did you start promoting your idea?
Joe: Social media was probably the main channel. We didn’t know anyone at all, so we had to go and create our own audience. Basically shout as loud as we could to anyone who wanted to listen.
Jonny: We opened social media accounts, but at that point you have no followers, you kind of begging your friends to follow and share. We made flyers and walked around a local neighborhood posting flyers late at night … that’s what we had. But it was the first show “Looking for you” that at the time was amazing, and some of those artists we still work with today. It was a good crowd at the end, and we got modest reviews in press, but it was still mostly friends and family, which is expected at the beginning. We ended up doing three shows there, and by the third show we already had our voice. And investing in the social media following was essential, because about year ago that was all we had. Now we have a network, but it is largely because of social media we are where we are today.
Joe: It was always about putting as much as possible into the brand, not the space, because the spaces we’ve had up until this point were pop-up spaces. We were very economical with our finances and were putting all the effort into building the brand, because people will follow the brand. That was the strategy.
- Why call it Unit London?
Joe: We went through a hundred names before we had this one (laughing). It was initially called “The Unit London”, because we wanted to create a collective, like this unit of artists. Then we decided to drop “The”, so it sounds less like a boy-band and more like a gallery. Our slogan is “We Exist for U”, and the U part of it is about us actually engaging with the public in conversation. A lot of the time galleries don’t like actively going out there and finding new networks, but we are eager to engage with people, so when you say “Unit London” the first thing you hear is U. We are trying to build a community around this model.
Jonny: It’s a community of artists, individuals, enthusiasts, collectors, everyone. We’re trying to draw everyone into this network and we are not catering for just a limited niche. Some galleries might invite 30 private collectors to a show, but we are trying to invite and welcome as many people as possible for ours. It all goes back to accessibility; we are not trying to cut out anyone.
Joe: It’s also about educating people who have never been to art galleries, helping them become new collectors. Social media helps to facilitate that, as you can connect with anybody across the world. In fact, some of our biggest clients are people who have never collected art before and they’ve stumbled upon the gallery, either they’ve come to the space or they found us online. They love this journey of discovery and understanding the art world. We try to create an open environment with no boundaries to entry, and new collectors – they are like the life blood of the gallery really.
- What is the difference between a traditional dealer-based gallery and an artist-led space, such as Unit London?
Joe: I think it is more in the way we market our artists and ourselves. We don’t do any of the fairs and we don’t have plans to participate in any right now. We don’t really need to at the moment. We have around 200-300 people every day coming to the gallery and a lot of the galleries don’t have this luxury. A lot of people who come in are just people from the street, who would never think about coming to an art gallery, but because it’s here in Soho and so accessible, people feel free to come in. I think we operate a slightly different model to what other galleries have. Many galleries’ sales revenue would come from art fairs. We get ours from the gallery trade and our marketing techniques.
Jonny: For us that should be the standard. People perceive us as fresh and new, but for us it’s just treating people with respect and not wanting them to feel uncomfortable walking into the gallery. Our door is wide open; music is playing. We constantly get feedback how relaxing and enjoyable people feel here. And it’s quite rare to find this in the industry, which is sad in a way. That’s what motivated us.
- So do you think that’s where the art gallery world is going, shifting from big dealer names to easy-going artist-led spaces?
Joe: That could do. I also think collectors are changing. 50 years ago it was more the elite classes that could buy art but now it’s more the upper working class, entrepreneurs, people who run their own businesses. People who work for their money. They don’t necessarily come from an elite cultural background but they have a lot of money, and they want a more relaxed atmosphere to enjoy amazing art. In that sense, consumers are changing; so that’s where we’ve been able to fit in, cater to that new collector. We are trying to lose that elitist approach, and we have a broad range of prices, so we do cater to different audiences. On our Instagram account, for example, anyone can get involved in the conversation about a piece. Some of our big collectors might comment on Instagram and then we’ll get a young artist from the UK replying to their comment… It’s an open and very public forum, which is a new prospect for this industry – being ultra-responsive, agile and being able to manage the community. For us it’s natural.
- How did you build your artist community?
Jonny: I was doing a blog when I was pursuing my art and writing about other artists that inspired my work. But I also managed to build relationships with those artists. One of them was Ryan Hewett and as a result we managed to get two pieces from him for our first show. We had 6 or 7 good London-based artists to start with and since then it evolved organically. As the brand grows, so do the artists. Now we get a lot of submissions and some of them are really good, but mainly we are on Instagram. Going through timelines and looking at emerging artists.
Joe: We’ve quite a varied roster. Artists come from all different ages, countries, backgrounds, but they’ve a similar aesthetic, which we refer to as Neo-Contemporary or Progressive Contemporary. But it’s also works that are similar to ours and we are so passionate about each artist we represent.
- Do you have a particular medium you tend to showcase in your gallery?
Joe: Not necessarily a medium. We are naturally drawn to dark pieces, as it is more reflective of our own work, like abstract portraiture by Jake Wood-Evans, Henrik Uldalen and Ryan Hewett. We have paintings, sculpture, digital art … what we haven’t done is installations. To be honest, we are not enthused by conceptual art. The artists we represent built their craft over time, there’s a technical ability and skill in the work and that’s what we value.
Jonny: For us it has to be an undeniable talent and skill. We want to be inspired by work we represent and that transmits to people.
- Due to globalization progressing more and more severely and people being online for longer hours, do you think it’s still important to have an actual physical gallery space?
Joe: Absolutely. Art is experiential. We are heavy on social media, but we always use that to market our physical space. Since we started we always had a space for people to visit. A gallery that just lives online doesn’t do the work justice. In a way, it would be a sad world if in 20 years people are sitting in front of screens, clicking on artworks and not going to shows. It’s not the same social experience. For collectors half of the importance of buying a piece is the context of how and where they bought it.
Jonny: Ultimately, social media helped us to attract large crowds of people. Even though we are trying to provide welcoming environment in our gallery, people might feel less intimidated looking through images online. We had people we’ve been talking to online for over a year and then they could do this big step and come to the gallery. One has to come in to fully experience art.
Joe: It’s the same with music. You can listen to it in your headphones, but you still want to go and see concerts. Same with football: If you’re a real fan, there’s never going to be a substitute for going to the game and having that experience. The social element is crucial.
- You represent a number of international artists. Are you thinking about going global and bringing your idea to an international crowd?
Joe: It’s on our radar. Also, a lot of our clients are international, and it makes sense for us to go overseas.
Jonny: Ideally we want our artists in museums. That’s the main goal: to build the brand, but most importantly promote the artists and help them build their careers.
- Who is your favorite artist?
Joe: Lots of favourites…probably Ryan Hewett.
Jonny: Same. He is the first one we started working with and he is a massive talent. He’s constantly evolving his work, that’s what is unique about him. We have a big solo with him at the end of the year as well and it will be the biggest show we’ve ever done.
- Tell us about the first ever Instagram-curated exhibition “Paintguide” that you had last year.
Joe: One of our artists, Henrik Uldalen, has built his own career through Instagram, but he also started another account called Paintguide, where he would share images of other artists that inspired his own work. It took off two years ago and started growing very fast. He invites other artists to takeover his account for a week and share images of other artists that inspire their work. It’s a huge global phenomenon. He wanted to do an exhibition and we thought it would be an amazing collaboration to host at Unit London. It was an incredible show: we had 60 artists and curating that was crazy. During the opening night we had a line around the block and it was testament of the power of Instagram. It was a massive success and the reach was phenomenal.
- Do you have any advice to young entrepreneurs?
Joe: Work very hard. Have a good idea, believe in it and work hard. That’s what we’ve done really. For the past two years, it’s been 24/7 for us. We made our own sacrifices to make it work. So as long as you believe in your vision, you can get there.
Jonny: There isn’t really a secret. We’ve had highs and lows. It sounds cliché, but it is true. There is no substitute for hard work. And when you do get rewards, then you know anything can happen.
Next exhibition at Unit London opens this week:
3rd March | Spring Group exhibition | Featuring a selection of works from the gallery’s most exciting global emerging artists.
February 29, 2016
Based in New York City, photographer Ebru Varol brings into focus not just life on the streets but the life of the street. Ebru’s work is acutely aware of how memory fades, and the camera captures just a moment. Her photographs dance between light and dark, to see and experience that moment in its entirety. I got the chance to ask Ebru some questions regarding her work, passion, and what drives her Light.
- Can you recall the moment where you discovered your passion for photography, or when you realized you wanted to pursue a career in the arts?
Well, it was after a series of relocations, from one continent to another, moving slowly from East towards the West. I moved here, to New York, from London in 2001, right after September 11th, in a time of grief. While being alone and feeling uncertain in the streets of New York, the only certain thing was my camera. My camera became my best friend, my comrade in arms. I guess if I have to pin down the moment when I discovered my passion for photography, it would be then. Photography came to me as an outlet for expressing my emotional state at that time and it stayed with me ever since. The decision to pursue a career came a few years ago when I realized that my passion, my photography could also possibly be my work and if that was the case, I had to treat it as such.
- Do you have a preference of shooting in color or black and white?
Certain things I see in color and others in black and white. When shooting in black and white, I am looking for light and dark contrasts, which carry so many symbolisms and parallelisms with real life. Black and white exposures with their retro feeling move me from the present to the past and from the west to the east. My color images have a different quality, more meditative. Instead of the contrast’s depth, the surfaces activate sensations and emotions with a more long lasting effect.
- What’s your favorite subject to shoot?
In my eyes everything carries a life of its own, even the lifeless. As a street photographer, I think of myself as a type of 19th century Parisian flâneur, an explorer and observer of the silent. I wander through cities or nature’s paths looking for forms and light. There are several themes that keep coming up in my photographs: windows and staircases, reflections and different textures, mannequins and figurines, locks and keys and other things with an old soul.
- What drives your art?
I am looking at reality through a viewfinder. I see how the light touches forms, how new shapes are created, how reflections change the interpretation of what I see. Then I have this desire to capture these instances, to make images out of them, to have them tell their story, perhaps my story or your story…
- Do your roots in Istanbul impact you as a photographer?
Istanbul is an old city, engraved with history. When you walk on the cobblestones, you wonder who has walked the same paths over the centuries. This connection is present in my images, even though sometimes I need to break away from the past, be in the present and feel the magnetism of the contemporary. Finding my Istanbul, locating that emotional state is an intriguing challenge. My photographs of windows are a good example of what I am trying to say. A window can be anywhere East or West. It’s a window in someone’s soul, memories, fantasies. In certain pictures and certain moments, the camera becomes a window as well, opening and closing, technically and metaphorically.
- Could you explain a term that’s part of your photographical philosophy, “The Light”?
Photography literally means the transcription of light. In the image Reverie, named after the title of my upcoming show, a seated mannequin is contemplating, perhaps daydreaming, frozen in time and in the composition looking outside the window at an old building across the street. The moment the photo was taken the light came through in a certain angle lighting up the window and blending the inside with the outside, becoming one. This is how the story of that image begun, with a spark of light. Its very mythological!
- Where has your favorite place been to exhibit your work?
London, because it was the first city I ever showed my work, and New York because I am having my first solo show here. I feel lucky ‘cause both cities have a highly sophisticated audience.
- Are there any particular artists, photographers or ideas that have fundamentally influenced your approach to photography?
I am very drawn to the works of M. C. Escher, especially in his interest of infinite spaces, geometries and reflections. Edward Hopper’s stillness, his urban scenes and his perspectives of windows with the intense feeling of loneliness fascinate me. Also the works of JMW Turner and his use of light and moving skies are important. In a recent show of his work at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich UK, he was taking over all my sensations. But André Kertész is perhaps the strongest influence: the way he captured urban life, highlighting the poetic and the quiet. How his images “give meaning to everything” about him and how “to make photographs as by reflection in a mirror, unmanipulated and direct as in life.” All these artists and their artworks inform my work and inspire me, perhaps a little piece of them are found in my photographs.
- Are you interested in other forms of art?
When I was a child I believed I would grow up and become an architect. Life turned out differently, but still in my photos one can see my affection to architecture and the urban environment.
- In terms of being an artist today, do you think it’s important to receive a degree, whether that be a BA or MFA, to be “actually qualified” in order to be successful?
I think a BA and/or MFA degree is very important, but in my case being a self-taught artist, an autodidact, grants me a strange freedom. I don’t have strains, rules or prefixed ideas about how my art should be. But I do not underestimate the academic qualifications. They give you a confidence, a network and a deeper understanding of the art world.
- You received a BA in Business Management, correct? Has that been of use to you for the business side of your work?
Every piece of information and knowledge is useful. My BA in business helps me think of my work in a practical manner, like in the technical aspect where market research is important for the production of the work. Creatively I cannot find any connection between my business training and my photography, other than the opposition of the two: in my artwork there are no constraints, while business is all about rules.
- What’s your advice for someone who would also like to pursue a career in this field?
Take your camera and don’t hesitate. This is your world, this is your work.
Ebru has an upcoming Solo Exhibition entitled Reveries in the Gregg Gallery of the National Arts Club, from February 29-March 12, 2016. The title of this show refers to her creative process during her wanderings through urban streets and nature’s paths.
To see more of Ebru’s work, check out her website.
February 24, 2016
It’s basically impossible to narrow London’s top modern and contemporary galleries down to 10. With the wealth and vibrancy of the arts scene in the British capital, there are too many to mention. Indeed, London has long been a global powerhouse in the modern and contemporary art world, so much so that this list simply sums up the starting points, merely scratching the surface of the city’s endless offerings.
We’ve created two lists examining galleries in London. This first one will guide you through London’s classic and long-established names such as the Tate and Serpentine, whilst the second will focus on London’s more recent additions to the modern and contemporary scene like Blain|Southern and Victoria Miro.
1. Tate Modern
In a nutshell: The Tate is one of the most famous art institutions in the world and, undoubtedly, a force to be reckoned with. Its neat “family” of four British galleries show its dedication to demonstrating the scope of the arts – old and new – and has thus become a household name across the globe. The Tate Modern is arguably its most impressive offering. Housed in the former Bankside Power Station, the building was repurposed into a gallery by architects Herzog & de Meuron who decided to reinvent the structure rather than demolish it. Now, with its chimney intact, the Tate’s commanding physical presence on the bank is symbolic of its prevalence in global culture. Its brilliant permanent collection includes world-class works such as David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash (1967) and Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917). The Tate Modern is known for exhibitions that spectacularly transform its interior such as Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth (2007) which took the form of a long crack in the floor of the gallery’s Turbine Hall. Don’t miss the Thames-view café and the superb bookshop.
Where: Bankside, SE1. Open 10am-6pm everyday with late closing at 10pm on Friday and Saturday.
In a nutshell: Cited by the Independent as “the place to promote a new belief in the good of art”, Whitechapel Gallery was actually one of the first publicly funded galleries in London, and its history is one of education and outreach. What’s more, it organises exhibitions according to local interest. This loyalty to locale make it uniquely personal when considering its international renown. With a penchant for catching up-and-coming artists and catapulting them to recognition, the Whitechapel has premiered the likes of Frida Kahlo and Mark Rothko. It even brands its history as one “of firsts”, having also been the only British gallery to exhibit Picasso’s Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and the first one in the country to produce a major survey of Jackson Pollock’s work. So, you might see the next big thing, perhaps the polar opposite…or something completely unexpected. Such is the Whitechapel, and it is not to be missed.
Where: Tower Hamlets, E1. Open 11am-9pm, Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.
In a nutshell: As the urban legend goes, major British art patron Charles Saatchi apparently accidentally destroyed one of Marc Quinn’s legendary Self sculptures – consisting of the artist’s head cast and frozen in his own blood – when the freezer in his house was unplugged during construction works. Saatchi’s reputation precedes him, his name being one so powerful that an attempt to rename the gallery the Museum of Contemporary Art for London in 2010 completely flopped, ‘Saatchi’ enduring as before. Anyway, you must be doing something right if you’ve got a in your freezer and Saatchi’s art empire is no weak feat; he opened a gallery in order to showcase his personal collection. The gallery boasts its temporary exhibits nearly always being by artists that no-one has heard of, providing a “springboard” to launch careers. In a similar vein, the Saatchi is currently showing the rare effort of an all-female exhibit – Champagne Life.
Where: King’s Road, SW3. Open 10am-6pm everyday.
In a nutshell: Larry Gagosian’s art empire spans continents and, unsurprisingly, holds a firm base in London with no less than three galleries in the capital. While the galleries roots are in New York and Los Angeles, London was the first international location that was opened by Gagosian. Although that gallery on Haddon Street is now closed, three more have risen from the ashes including one on Britannia Street which started in 2004 with an exceptional opening exhibit of paintings and sculpture from Cy Twombly. Gagosian’s empire is publicly active and always expanding; in Sothebys’ recent Contemporary Sale, the gallery purchased Yves Klein’s Untitled, Anthropometry (1960) for a cool £1,025,000. Expect a constantly evolving program of contemporary art in sensitively curated interiors from all three galleries which are all located within reasonable distance of each other. And, of course, all three galleries are commercial, so all the art is for sale…
Where: Britannia Street, WC1 // Davies Street, W1 // Grosvenor Hill, W1. All three galleries are open 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.
5. The Hayward
In a nutshell: Located on London’s vibrant South Bank (as part of the SouthBank Centre) amongst many other major arts centres, the Hayward’s Brutalist concrete exterior looks like it popped straight out of one of Orwell’s dystopian narratives. The Hayward doesn’t house a permanent collection, however, it hosts three or four major exhibitions each year; one of its many iconic shows having been Martin Creed’s What’s The Point of It? (20140 and Carsten Höller’s Decision (2015). Whilst its output is largely contemporary, the Hayward brands itself as embracing visual arts from all periods and has, in the past, shown work from Leonardo DaVinci and Edvard Munch. The gallery is well-known for doing ‘survey’ shows of contemporary art, including How to Improve the World: 60 Years of British Art from the Art’s Council Collection. The SouthBank centre location sees it sharing a setting with some of London’s other cultural epicentres, such as the Queen Elizabeth Concert Hall, and these make the area the arts hub that it is. As if that weren’t enough, it is adjacent to the Thames and on top of the famous (and luckily still-standing) Undercroft Skatepark so you shouldn’t be stuck for things to do once you finish in the gallery.
Where: Southbank Centre, SE1. The gallery re-opens in 2017.
In a nutshell: With two galleries that are within walking distance of each other in the coveted Kensington Gardens of Hyde Park, the Serpentine Galleries are an extremely popular tourist destination. Named after the Serpentine Lake which separates the galleries, you have to cross a bridge to get from one to another if the romance weren’t already enough. They both showcase diverse contemporary art programs, and each space is housed in Grade II listed 19th and 20th century buildings: the original Serpentine in a former tea pavilion (it doesn’t get any more English) and the Serpentine Sackler in an ex-gunpowder store. Every summer the Serpentine commissions a leading architect to design and erect a temporary summer pavilion to be built on its lawn. Each building stays up for three months and, in previous years, has been designed by Pritzker Prize-winning names such as Jean Nouvel – famous for designing numerous iconic galleries worldwide – and Zaha Hadid to name a few.
Where: Serpentine, Kensington Gardens, W2 // Serpentine Sackler, West Carriage Drive, W2. Both galleries are open 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.
In a nutshell: The Institute of Contemporary Arts is a cultural centre that houses galleries, cinemas, a theatre, a bookshop and a bar. And, located just off Trafalgar Square, it is as geographically central to London as it is to the city’s arts scene. It is a membership institute that promotes and encourages an understanding of radical contemporary art, initiated in 1947 by Londoners in an attempt to endorse an approach that went beyond the traditionalism of the Royal Academy. In the ’70’s the ICA was known for its anarchism, this period is marked by an attack on the director of exhibitions at the time – Norman Rosenthal. In a demonstration of their alternative spirit the ICA decided to keep Rosenthal’s bloodstain and it remains at the institute today, framed and preserved under glass and affectionately signposted ‘This is Norman’s Blood’. Historically, The Independent Group began meeting at the ICA in 1953 which ultimately lead to the launch of British Pop Art. The ICA’s association with events such as this, combined with its history of anarchy (and nonchalance) have made it one of the more exciting, forward-thinking institutions in London today.
Where: Pall Mall, SW1. Open 11am-11pm Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.
February 15, 2016
Last week an exhibition of new work by acclaimed conceptual artist Michael Joo opened at Blain|Southern’s brightly-lit space in London’s Mayfair. The show consists of a dozen or so objects, mostly canvases, that delight and disturb in equal measure. In the gallery’s first room, a series of works depict what looks like cooking experiments gone horribly wrong, with the contours of blackened, shimmering commercial metal baking trays staring back at you, framing your golden reflection with a dark halo of char.
Adjacent to the trays, a slab of roughly textured marble mounted on a steel frame depicts the coloured strata of compressed earth, a build up of land over millennia. Treated with Joo’s preferred chemical compound—silver-nitrate—one side of the billboard-like slab shimmers, reflecting the light and space of the gallery; a sculpture meets painting meets otherworldly window. In the second room, the intrigue of textures, chemically layered materials and shimmering surfaces grows, with floor-to-ceiling paintings mimicking deep, reflective pools of solidified liquid. Upon vast spans of alluring surface quality you detect paint drips, brush strokes, sculptural grooves, bubbles of silver and, your own silhouette hazily reflected back at you.
These mysteriously reflective yet intricately textured surfaces do not let themselves be taken in easily. Needing more than a casual glance or fleeting thought, the works display the enigmatic conceptual complexity, a layering of both material and meaning meaning that Joo is well known for. Addressing common themes of identity, nature, science, politics and experience, his art is not governed by an adherence to one particular medium or form, but ranges whimsically from video and performance to readymade natural objects, to installation work. Consistent in his oeuvre however, is a deep engagement with the idea of process, with transforming materials and dissolving boundaries – whether physical or conceptual, social or natural (“With the best of art, some of the boundaries between I and we and you dissolve”). Originally trained as a scientist, his chemically treated surfaces and material experiments seem more suited to the realm of science than art. Yet without being required to conform to scientific guidelines, Joo is free to give whatever form he wishes to his most experimental ideas.
At Blain | Southern, the multifariously layered paintings articulate Joo’s consistent interest in the transformative processes of energy. Both its modes of transference, its effects and its more mystical, philosophical dimensions pop up throughout his oeuvre, but have here found their most pertinent expressions. The tray paintings for example, directly address energy as the source of human activity; they attempt to capture it, represent and embody it.
As found ‘readymades’, the ordinary trays were each stamped with a numerical value representing the number of calories individuals would expend performing various human actions, such as lie, stand or drive for a single second. The resulting image was then transferred to canvas to create Warhol-esque silkscreens, upon which Joo enacted a number of subsequent painterly processes. In a play upon subjective experience versus quantifiable ‘objective’ data collection, each absurdly specific number represents an individual second of energy transformed. Joo’s artistic process has digested, melted these values inside the second-hand baking trays, each of which has its own history associated with the transformation of ingredients and energy expenditure.
Beyond our scientific, factual understanding of its processes, energy can take on magical proportions in our collective imaginations; a mystical power with flows that govern the potential for alchemy, for divine miracles and spiritual transformations. Two darkly shimmering canvases on either side of a floating wall embody this. Although also revealing precise caloric values indicating amounts of energy transferred, they reference more the sublime than the mundane. Based on Joo’s average measurements of artistic representations, the artist worked out a basal metabolic rate for The Buddha. Using the calculated weight and height — keeping in mind the tradition of Buddhist ascetic monks starving themselves — Joo then gauged the number of calories used per millisecond as a human body either consumes itself (the canvas entitled ‘Give’) or is offered up as sustenance (the canvas entitled ’Take’). The result is a mixture of visceral morbidity with spiritual exaltation, death represented as both the metaphysical journey of the spirit up to God and the plain physical decomposition of the body.
Interestingly, the title of the current show is Radio Halo, after the geological phenomenon that describes spherical areas of discolouration on natural rocks, caused by radioactive isotopes. This is more than a casual reference to nature. You only have to google the term to discover that radio halo’s have come to be of particular interest to supporters of creationism, who call them ’the fingerprints of creation’, supposedly evidence of the myth of a ‘young’, almost instantaneously created earth.
What to make of this reference remains unclear, which is presumably how Joo intended it. Clearly, there is more to his art than meets the eye, although what meets your eyes at Blain | Southern is more than enough to make you want to keep looking. As testimonies to the complex processes carried out upon their surfaces, the visceral works show Joo blurring the lines between nature and culture, science and religion, experience and myth. His enigmatic references lead to extraordinarily open-ended questions; what is the relationship between ‘objective’ measurable data, our subjective human experiences and the ultimately intangible mystery of our final purpose and destination? Joo’s evocative materiality is both the result and the embodiment of these conceptual meditations; his art the physical expression of things we struggle to even give form to in our minds.
February 14, 2016
Recently I had a pleasure to meet an incredibly inspirational young artist – Anouska Beckwith. Born in London, Anouska spent her early years traveling and exploring her artistic side with the help of good old photography. Moving on to pursue her degree at Speos Photographic Institute, Anouska lives and works in Paris. She is also the founder of the World Wide Women Collective. We caught up on life, art and spiritual in a pre-christmassy moody city of London that left me motivationally driven to go on and explore my inner self.
- When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?
My two Grandmother’s taught me how to knit and embroider and my mother always enoucuraged me in art classes, ceramics and photography from a young age… it wasn’t something that I decided necessarily on, but I enjoyed it a lot. Then it got to a point where I was about 22 and I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. So I thought to myself, what would make me really happy throughout my life, what is something I can do in my 80’s, or when I have a child? I live in the future, I find it quite hard to be in the present. I started taking photographs again, which I had done before but not on a specific subject, just on travels or of friends. I started looking at what I was inspired by, and by 23 I knew that was the field that I wanted to go back into. I think as a creative person, you should never say well, this is just what I am. Otherwise you get quite frustrated or have an artistic block. That’s the death of the artist, so for me I like to play with different mediums.
- So you don’t define yourself?
As just one thing, no. At the moment I’m working on two photographic series for myself, and then I’m building an installation room, which I’ve been working on with the architect, Omar Ouazzani Touhami for the past three months but I had the idea 4 years ago. Then I’m building a photographic light installation featuring my muse Flo Morrissey. The artists that I very much respect are Yayoi Kusama and Yoko Ono. Those are the people I’m very inspired by, because you look at their body of work and there’s just so much to choose from.
- Would you do performance, like Yoko Ono?
Absolutely. I would like to do a performance piece to do with dance at some point as I trained as ballerina and have always feel free when exploring that as a medium. I’ve learnt how to be in front of the camera and I’ve just done my first music video as a director for the musician Katy Rose which will be released in the next couple of months and I did a short film last year about Shakespeare’s Ophelia. It’s always about the right time and the right material, I never like to rush things. I studied photography at school, and then I studied at a Speos Institute a French school in Paris, so that was the initial starting point.
- Why did you decide to move to Paris?
I had always wanted to live there, inspired by the culture, beauty, and as a visual fantasy land, I mean, I love Tim Burton, that kind of Gothic, subtle, beautiful, but it’s not modern. Everyone still dresses like they’re from the ‘60’s or ‘70’s, and I love that style, so there’s a lot of things for me as a woman that I found very appealing. They have amazing food and culture, so I thought that if I could live in Paris and survive there with the French, I could live anywhere else in the world! I’m definitely a traveller so I like to go to different places. I believe in reincarnation, so I feel drawn to certain places that I haven’t been to, and usually if I’m desperate to go there, I end up just loving it.
- Do you get inspiration and ideas from traveling?
Absolutely, but not only traveling. I love film and literature, art and photography, poetry, I’ve got my head definitely in the stars, so I’m not somebody who’s very pragmatic, I like to be away with fairies and look at life as if its a miracle.
- Why did you decide to stay permanently in Paris?
Well I knew I wanted to move for a period of time. I’d grown up in London partly and I didn’t really ever feel very English. I’m someone who likes to see other cultures. At the end of the day if you can see as many places as you can before you die, that’s one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself, whether or not you have a boyfriend or you’re married, or you can show your children… so I’ve definitely got the traveling bug.
- Do you just go trekking with a backpack?
It depends, if I’m going to America, no. If I go to India, I used to go with a backpack, live on a hut on the beach. Once I slept in a broom closet, I’m quite versatile with how I can travel. If somewhere is special and it’s worth going to see, I like it to be as natural as possible. I’m very lucky that I’ve had some amazing people that I’ve travelled with and who have showed me lovely places. India was an eye-opening experience from a very young age.
- Do you think the art scene is different to each other in Paris and London?
Very much. Paris is a bit behind with the art. They don’t do so many installations, they love reportage photography, so Henri Cartier-Bresson is their mecca, they’re not so into fine art, they love fashion, whereas in London, fine art, fashion, reportage, they fit all of those aspects in the same, and you have nature and geographical but that’s very specific. But me, personally, I love New York as one of the places with the best art because there are just so many art galleries, it’s just a bigger industry. But Los Angeles is definitely becoming a hubbub of contemporary artt, photography & fine art, it’s becoming quite a cool place to be an artist. You have to know where you, as an artist, are inspired. It’s about standing as an individual and developing your own voice.
- Have you found it?
To a certain degree but I think with an artist you’re always looking at your work in a way that’s slightly like torture. You’re always wanting to be better, to push yourself, and you want it to be somewhat original. We’re all slight shades of grey to begin with because we’ve had so much work in the past thousands of years that it’s quite hard to come up with an original idea. I’m not thinking that everyone’s going to like my work, that’s not the goal. It’s more to bring light and positivity and hope and beauty to people, because I think there’s a lot of darkness in the world. Sometimes I make darker work but I don’t necessarily expose it. There’s a difference with making work just for yourself or having it to show others…
- Do you remember the first time you showed your work in public?
The first work that I exposed, was when I created the collective World Wide Women, in 2012 for the ‘ Wanderer’s Eye Exhibition’ in Paris. I was quite nervous about showing work, so I set up the collective with women who were just starting out and exhibit under common themes of nature, femininity, and positivity, and the esoteric which went under the banner of the positive. It was about empowering one another and not about extreme feminism. That was the beginning of WWW and since then we’ve done eight shows in the past three years. At present we are coming up with our next theme for an exhibition and expansion for 2016-17! Then I had my first solo show Transcendance curated by Andi [Potamkin] in New York in 2015, and then I did another female exhibition at the Box Studio in East London curated by Clio Peppiatt with Female Matters. That’s been my journey so far and then next year I would like to exhibit the installation room.
- What is this installation room like?
The project’s called “I am the other you”, and it’s about human beings relationship to nature, especially trees and how important it is to preserve the rainforest and for us as humans to live in harmony with the planet. I came up with the idea four years ago after a shamanic ceremony and had the vision to do 8 rooms, called the “Infinity Series”. My good friend designer/artist Koji Tatsuno was extremely encouraging of the original idea and really pushed me to create them so I am very grateful for his belief in me.
- Where do you see yourself in the future?
I’d like to be a working artist throughout my life. I like producing work and getting it seen, promoting it through social media or having it in an exhibition or in a magazine, because part of it is to share with others, and have feedback. It’s an interaction. Everything’s so personal and subjective. I want people to tell me what they like and don’t like. That’s what’s so interesting about art – it’s so individual.
- In the contemporary art world, though, artists could be forced to create something trendy in order to sell it. Have you ever experienced this pressure?
No, that’s why I live in Paris. In London, there is that feeling of having to confrom. I think a lot of art is the emperor’s new clothes, it’s something on the wall, invisible art as an example. If you’ve got to imagine what’s on a wall… Well I can imagine what’s on a wall any time. For free. For me, nature is one of the most important aspects. I love going somewhere and finding a completely beautiful and raw backdrop and having a very simplistic form, generally it’s women because I like photographing my friends or people I’m inspired by. I’m photographing more men at the moment. I just shot the actor and musician Reeve Carney for a two projects in Dublin. After a while of having just women, it’s a bit of a challenge to take a photograph of a man or do something slightly different. So I’m always exploring other options. I like beauty, but I don’t necessarily like what commercial beauty is. I’m interested in not just the outside, but the inside as well. I’m very much a romantic person, I’m a fantasist to a certain degree. I love Dali, Klimt, Millais, John Currin and Frida Kahlo those artists take you to another place, and that’s for me what art is about.
- Do you think art is necessary in society?
100%. Personally I feel that schools try to educate people to conform to being the same as everyone else. I don’t think that’s what life’s about at all. I think life’s about being happy and finding that happiness, and if you have to work three different jobs to make your art, I think personally that’s what I’d rather do. In some countries around the world, obviously that’s not an option to even think like that, so I’m very privileged to have grown up in England where you are given the freedom to have those kinds of thoughts. I feel that art is something that you don’t have to be taught to know what the picture is about. I don’t need to be told, this is why you should like it, you either like it or you don’t. I do different Shamanic ceremonies, and I met this incredible Brazilian doctor and he was saying at the beginning of the ceremony that he used to try to define who he was, like “I’m a doctor, I’m a husband,” and he said the moment you start defining who you are, that part of you dies. And I thought to myself I can totally understand what he’s saying.
- So it’s also a power of thought?
Absolutely. I believe in manifestation, and I believe there’s a lot more to the power of mind than we’ve been given access to. Everyone likes to put everyone in a box and categorize what that person is. I think it’s a challenge not to be put into a box. I think only a small group of people can know who you really are, and those are your close friends.
- Do you remember the best advice you were ever given?
Andi was definitely very helpful. She told me to embrace my weirdness, to not be afraid of that. That’s valuable advice. I’ve not been ever one to conform, but we all like to think of ourselves as not weird, but I think to embarce the light and darker aspects of ourselves and love them rather than repress them could all do us the world of good.
- Do you have advice to young people?
You need to not give up, to keep trying, to believe in yourself.. You never know when a door shuts it will lead you to an open window. Just believing in yourself is a very important thing. Follow your dreams. Life is so short, I try to live everyday as if it’s my last, and not wishing to be doing something else. If you’re wishing to be doing something else, then you should probably be doing that. I feel very lucky that I’m at the point in my life that I can explore what I want to. Even if you’re not in that position, having hope is very important.
February 2, 2016
“To me the most beautiful thing is vulnerability” – Alec Soth
I recently had the incredible experience of viewing three rooms full of Alec Soth’s photography at the Science Museum in London. It was essentially my first connection with Soth’s work, but it was forged strong as I made my way through the beautiful retrospective. The show, Gathered Leaves, is a convergence of ten years and four books of work. It reminded me of home, which is to say, it was distinctly American… but it was also so much more.
After the exhibition, I read up on Soth and understood (with a little embarrassment) that he is actually one of the leading documentary photographers of today, following in the visual tradition of my own professor at Bard, Stephen Shore, and other American photographers such as Joel Sternfeld and Robert Frank (who, although Swiss-born, had great impact on the American photographic cannon). All three of these masters, along with Soth, took on the great American road trip as their subject matter, their foil through which to examine the country and its infinite landscapes and complexities. Soth’s work in particular exposes the idiosyncrasies and eccentricities of people and their environments. He portrays these without overt celebration or criticism (maybe a bit of both) but with a sense of being palpably present to his subjects. In this way, viewers can also feel his presence behind the camera.
His work, for me, is everything that modern photography should be – technically, it pays homage to the medium’s history by using large format film and printing digitally, and ontologically, it is utterly perceptive, lending a world of thought to one instance. When people ask me why photography is a form of art, this is what I imagine in response; the ability to perceive art in a split second out in the world, and capture that precise combination of emotion and thought-process with a camera.
The show itself is arranged around four photobooks: Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Niagara (2006), Broken Manual (2010) and Songbook (2014). Within these are captured an abandoned bed frame in the process of being devoured by surrounding leaves, a portrait of a red haired woman gazing into the distance with a cross painted on her forehead, reclusive men who have taken to nature and appear to be surviving in the wild, a fully naked couple whose skin is shown in gritty detail, a plaintive love note, and a hotel bed with the towels folded into the shape of swans, “beaks” met in a kiss and many more. All of these images build a comprehensive portrait of America, the place where people may be whatever, whoever, and however they wish.
The detail of the prints is just one reason why these photographs are so fascinating. Many are also life-sized, with colors that are not overly saturated but very real, allowing the viewer to step right into the image. But for me, the reason I could not tear myself away from this exhibit was because I was swept along with Soth’s rabid curiosity, the apparent driving force behind his work. Each of his subjects, whether they are object or human, is lent mystery and complexity through his lens, and viewers may sense that he understands them. The beauty of his aesthetic sometimes creates a romantic atmosphere, it appears that he is in love with his subject, but more likely, he is in love with photography itself.
On view at the Science Museum in South Kensington, London until March 28, 2016.
January 26, 2016
One good thing about having friends from all over the world who live in London is that you can be informed about various events each one of them is planning to attend. This gives you a full glimpse of what is really going on in London, especially in the art arena.
Four final-year photography students from the University of East London took the initiative to form an organisation called RENEWAL which aimed to work with a community in London to raise awareness on using second-hand clothes and the importance of recycling unwanted clothes. These might benefit the less fortunate members of society who are in need of the basic necessities. But it all fell into place when TRAID charity appeared on the scene.
TRAID worked perfectly for these young, talented artists. What would they need anyway? A fashion charity with a sustainable and circular approach to the production, consumption and disposal of clothes across London. TRAID can be inspirational to most of us, in the sense that it has empowered RENEWAL to promote charity using a modern approach that would attract the youngest sectors of society through a charity fashion catwalk.
Labelled as the “Renewal Catwalk”, I cannot imagine myself being at any other place on a Friday evening. The effort put forth by the Renewal team is exceptional. The audience will experience a catwalk with different kinds of models, both conventional and unconventional, wearing clothes and accessories selected from many TRAID shops across London by the Renewal team. In the event, there will be a clothing collection point where people may drop off their quality clothes for donation to TRAID and the chance to get to know the team in person.
Such events, for me, may act as a turning point in such a way that art washes away all the dust and the chaos of the world. Art works as a stepping-stone to raise awareness. My motto has always been the same, art should raise awareness for what is going on in the world. The sad truth is that many people across the globe are in need of clothes and basic necessities that often are taken for granted. But as long as we have people like the RENEWAL, there is hope that the barrier of inequality could be eliminated.
Friday the 29th of January at the Loading Bay at The Old Truman Brewery – Brick Lane, London at 6:30pm.
Don’t miss it!
Be the change you wanna see in the world!
January 14, 2016
Tonight marks the launch of London’s first ever festival of light, Lumiere. In a few hours time, when another long shivery evening will fall over the capital, a multitude of installations – some impressive and spectacular, others intimate and mysterious, all of them dazzling with light – will illuminate many of London’s well-known landmarks. Places like Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly, Oxford Circus, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and various sites in Mayfair and King’s Cross will be adorned, transformed, and made strange by the inventions of leading artists, art collectives and design studios from all over the world. The festival originates in the city of Durham, where creative producers Artichoke have staged Lumiere Durham biannually since 2009. Durham locals have grown both accustomed and attached to their beloved festival and might not feel that enthusiastic over its move to the capital. Luckily there’s plenty of art, love and light to go around which is why I’d like to give a taster of some of my favourite Lumiere London pieces, all of which you can expect to encounter every night after dark until Sunday 10:30 pm.
The purpose of Lumiere is to bring joy to the streets of London at a time that is infamously miserable and generally marked by debts, depression and darkness. To this end, Portuguese collective Ocubo has created an amazingly cheerful piece: an imaginary circus, staged with 2D and 3D light projections on the side of Central Saint Martin’s Granary building. Inspired by local school children’s drawings that tell the stories of classic circus characters, Circus of Light will make you jubilate with delight over a burlesque and playful light show filled with jolly tricks and capricious stunts. Accompanied by a hilarious soundtrack, the piece is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. On King’s Boulevard you can get involved in literally painting the town red – as well as every other colour. The ingenious technology of Stockholm based arts production company Floating Pictures allows you to colour the asphalt with either the torch on your smartphone or one of the gigantic glow sticks handed to you by the lovely volunteer on site. I’ve had the chance to preview the Light Graffiti, and trust me, it’s so fun you’ll find yourself embarrassed to have made those children queueing behind you wait so long. Less merry and lively than ghostly and entrancing are French-Korean artist Tae gon Kim’s dazzling Dresses that you’ll find along this street as well as Stable Street. These beautiful shimmering LED gowns look like eerie shells encapsulating invisible phantoms, frozen elegantly as if on their way to a fairytale ball in some wondrous different dimension. You’ll find a final glamorous guest trapped in a Liberty shop window over on Regent Street.
Regent Street undoubtedly features as a focus point in the Lumiere footprint, physically connecting the two hubs of Westminster and Mayfair. Starting at the top, at Oxford Circus, you’ll first encounter one of the festival’s most eye-catching works: a gigantic jellyfish-like net sculpture entitled 1.8 by artist Janet Echelman, suspended from the surrounding architecture drawing an exquisite radiating silhouette of light against the night sky. A little further down, you’ll find French collective Groupe LAPS’ glowing stick-men rebelliously overrunning the façade of Liberty house. These skeletal figures dance with delight as if the city’s architectural environment is their own personal jungle gym, almost like a real-life realisation of Walt Disney’s 1929 Silly Symphony Skeleton Dance. Further down, opposite famous Carnaby Street, you’ll find another cartoon figure in motion. British ‘post-pop’ artist Julian Opie has installed Shaida Walking in busy Soho, a work created especially for Lumiere in his instantly recognizable, signature style. As in much of Opie’s work, the piece explores the tension between the general and the specific, the masses and the individual. The artist asked random people off the street to walk on a treadmill while being filmed and used the resulting hours of footage to come to a generic graphic rendering of someone (anyone, everyone – Shaida) walking. He subsequently placed her in a billboard-like LED display box ‘like a bronze statue of a civic hero’ intended to ‘stride endlessly as a living drawing and as part of the crowd.’
Meanwhile, at the bottom of Regent Street, a character appears that will definitely stand out from the crowd: a majestic 3D elephant, which – projected onto the canvas stretched inside the Air street archway – will emerge from a cloud of dust stomping and trumpeting its way into its strange new surroundings. Created by the studio of French artist Catherine Garret, the Air Street Elephant echoes Artichoke’s very first intervention in London in 2006, when it paraded Royale de Luxe’s 20 feet high The Sultan’s Elephant through its streets. Lumiere allows a myriad of other animals to invade the city environment, from Sarah Blood’s songbirds hidden in twelve illuminated cages in Brown Hart gardens, their presence only betrayed by their song (which, I can reveal, is actually produced by people) through to neon balloon dogs à la Jeff Koons on the Strand. Finally, tropical fish feature as dreamlike silky sculptures swooping through the Piccadilly sky, and, over in Mayfair, they swim around in a London telephone box, leading you – once you grasp the odd redeployment of the familiar red object – to dream of tropical travel and an escape from everyday reality.
Creating a temporary alternative to the urban everyday – the daily bore of making a living, commuting, working and so on – is one of Artichoke’s key aims. So beyond the purpose of lifting people’s spirits – although entirely worthwhile in and of itself – Artichoke’s projects intend to radically reimagine the purpose of a city. They question what a city’s spaces can hold, and who they are for. What can they accommodate other than the perpetual movement of people and products, the smooth flow of funds and vehicles? How many streets and tube stations can be closed in order to momentarily create a pedestrian playground and give the streets buildings and infrastructure over to dreamlike shapes and figures, imaginary performers, liberated animals? Reinventing a city as a large-scale outdoor gallery, a canvas for the imagination of both artists and the public, Lumiere disrupts the productive routines that characterise world capitals across the globe.. and it makes for a very worthwhile spectacle. Make sure to enjoy it while it lasts, from tonight (Thursday) through to Sunday night, 6:30-10:30 pm.
January 13, 2016
I attended the preview of Saatchi Gallery’s newest exhibition, ‘Champagne Life‘, and it certainly did not disappoint. Saatchi is committed to its advancement of the art scene here in the UK and internationally, which is why for the first time in its history, the gallery decided to formulate a display of all female artists for the exhibition. Within this exhibit, visitors can see the work of female artists from around the world, ranging from Iran to the USA to Australia and Saudi Arabia, and all the artists produce distinctive pieces including paintings, sculptures, mixed media works, and more.
‘Champagne Life’ is a celebration of women in art but the subject matters that each artist deals with go far deeper than just femininity. The artists look at the media, at heritage and much more and they explore these issues in a range of interesting ways for visitors to take in. Whether it’s a taxidermy horse, a canvas, a wall of over 200 pans or a papier mâché animal, these women display the vast [and varied] forms that art can take, and placed within the gorgeous setting of the Saatchi it makes for a great exhibit.
Although the canvas pieces were excellent, for me the true highlights of this exhibition lay in the mixed media work and sculptures. These artists seem to have mastered the art of taking the everyday object and molding it into thought-provoking pieces. They are new, fresh and in the words of Maha Malluh, one of the artists featured, it ‘forces you to pause, to contemplate and think harder about your surroundings‘. So to see this groundbreaking exhibition, head down to the Saatchi from 13th January and be part of what will become a historical moment for the gallery.