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Vyner Street Exhibition Reviews August 2012

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Vyner Street has been receiving its share of adverse publicity lately, with some critics questioning whether this cultural enclave in Bethnal Green is now a has-been in the art world.  During better economic times, Vyner Street became a thriving artistic hub, with critically acclaimed galleries attracting an eclectic mix of dealers, collectors, artists and art students to packed private views.  However, many smaller galleries have recently relocated elsewhere – citing rising rentals, the recession and the Olympics as contributing factors to the decline of the area.

With all of this in mind, Artlyst decided to visit Vyner Street, to see whether there was any truth to these claims.  But we decided to do things a bit differently this time around by making a day visit – to guage how the area fares in between the First Thursday of every month.

Our impression?  While the hype around Vyner Street has undoubtedly died down, a variety of emerging and established galleries still lines the road.  A word of warning though: best to check opening times, as many of the gallery spaces were closed during our impromptu mid-week visit.

Wilkinson Gallery
Selected Works by Gallery Artists
27 July to 20 September 2012

By all accounts, the Wilkinson Gallery is one of the best-established small galleries in East London.  The gallery is run by Anthony Wilkinson, who developed a reputation for his ability to spot new talent.  This purpose-built gallery is a work of art itself: it is clear that no expense was spared in its design and construction.  The Wilkinson specialises in presenting major exhibitions in its expansive ground floor and first floor spaces, whilst hosting experimental shows in its project space.

As the title of the current exhibition suggests (Selected Works by Gallery Artists), there is no particular theme, other than that all participating artists are represented by the gallery.  The reception desk explained to Artlyst that the summer season is usually quiet, but that more focussed exhibitions will commence again in September.  Nevertheless, the broad range of work on display gives a very good overview of the artists on the Wilkinson’s books, and for this reason is well worth a visit.  The art itself ranges from the traditional (such as Tilo Baumgärtel’s highly representational oil painting, 'Motiv') to the conceptual (such as Clegg and Guttmann, humorous multimedia installation, 'The Toast (Elementary Forms of Collective Behaviour)').  The variety almost certainly guarantees that there will be something to suit all tastes.

The exhibiting artists are: Mark Alexander, Tilo Baumgärtel, Dara Birnbaum, Matt Calderwood, Clegg and Guttmann, Jimmy De Sana, A K Dolven, Matthew Higgs, Joan Jonas, Marcin Maciejowski, Elizabeth Magill, Ciprian Mureşan, Anna Parkina, Shimabuku, Silke Schatz, George Shaw, Laurie Simmons, Martina Steckholzer, Phoebe Unwin and Tillman Kaiser.

Above: Installation view of Tillman Kaiser, 'Reuse & Sockel' (2008)

Hada Contemporary
Je Baak: Petitio Principi
2 August – 28 September 2012

The Hada Contemporary is an interesting gallery for a number of reasons.  As the first Korean art gallery to open shop on Vyner Street, the gallery aims to cultivate the dialogue between the Far East and Europe by positioning the art of each culture into the artistic hub of the other.  Thus, the gallery is focussed primarily on giving established and emerging Korean artists a platform to exhibit on in the west.

The gallery’s latest show, Petitio Principi, is a solo exhibition of works by Royal College of Art graduate, Je Baak.  Baak’s work centres on his spiritual practice of Zen Buddhism.  A defining feature of his art is that the object of attention is constantly shifted, to prompt the viewer to experience familiar scenes from altered perspectives – similar to the shifts that one would experience during meditation.

The works on display include Buddhist and Christian statues covered with bleached bank notes.  By bleaching money and returning it to its natural state of paper, Baak questions the absolute value of things.  Baak subtly mocks the tendency of people to revere secular and religious objects, which are ultimately nothing more than man-made constructs.  For the artist, it is this veneration of the cult of the personality, of a single worldview above all others, or of an icon or an idol that obstructs humankind’s path to spiritual enlightenment.

Above: Installation view of Je Baak, 'The Complex Question Fallacy' and ‘Tautology’. Photo © Hada Contemporary.

House of Ivcavostrovska
No specific dates, no particular exhibition, just pop in at any time

Ivča Vostrovska is a contemporary jewellery maker who has recently opened up a combined studio and gallery on the corner of Mowlem and Vyner Streets.  Here, she will continue to specialise in producing unique, one-off, sculpted jewellery pieces from silver, copper, resin, wood and rubber.  Originally from the Czech Republic, Vostrovska left her homeland at the age of 19, initially to improve her English.  Her travels led her to study jewellery design, first at the National College of Art and Design (in Dublin, Ireland) and then to obtain a masters degree from the highly-acclaimed Konstfack University (in Stokholm, Sweden).

Vostrovska’s jewellery traverses the murky boundary between art and craft.  Conceptually, the artist’s work is rooted the ancient Japanese philosophy, wabi sabi that seeks to find beauty in decay.  The aesthetic is bulky, and the style is unashamedly contemporary in its orientation, but the pieces are stunning in their roughness.  Vostrovska claims that contemporary art jewellery is still a relatively new artform that many art collectors are not yet familiar with: ‘Art buyers are more used to investing in painting and sculpture, since they understand their artistic value better.’ Nevertheless, Vostrovska enjoys the ambiguity of art jewellery ‘because it’s a portable art object that can exist in any medium. You can wear it and display your ownership just with your presence, while you can’t wear a Picasso to a cocktail party.’

Above: close up view of jewellery piece.  Photo © House of Ivcavostrovska

The Vyner Studio
Iker Garcia Barrenetxea: Western LifeStyle Everyday Recipe
July 28th until 10th August, 2012

Western Lifestyle Everyday Recipe (WLSER) is the latest exhibition of drawings by gallery owner and artist, Iker Garcia Barrenetxea.  This show interrogates the intersection between worlds of media and advertisting and the London Olympics.

Barranetxea explains that he has become increasingly intrigued by the way in which different forms of communication have impacted on the way we interact in the world.  Whether in the form of apps, mobile phones or social media, people living in developed economies are always connected, always contactable.  These new forms of media have also played a pivotal role in the staging of the London 2012 Olympics.  Ironically, Barranetxea eschews the use of technology in the making of the work for this exhibition: the work on display consists primarily of basic, hand-sketched drawings.

Established as an artist’s studio that hosts exhibitions, the Vyner Studio has evolved into a collaborative platform of artists and designers.  The studio also runs events, which may range from exhibitions, to workshops and creative pop up events.



Degree Art’s Execution Room
20:12 Twenty Athletic Portraits: Twelve Artists
2 August – 26 September 2012

As the name suggests, Degree Art promotes artists who have recently graduated from university.  This latest exhibition takes the 2012 Olympic games as its theme.  The show features twenty (largely painted) portraits of British athletes, selected by twelve Degree Art artists.

For this exhibition, each artist was required to chose an athlete or aspect of the games as their muse.  Through creating the portraits, the artists were able to individually work with and build relationships with many of the athletes.  In some cases, the athletes sat for the artists or endorsed photographs that the artists used as inspiration for the portraits.

The 20:12 collective is comprised of the following artists: Victoria Heald, Nick Lord, Anika Manuel, Hannah Hopkins, Abigail Box, John Williams, Patrick Simkins, Johan Andersson, Michael English, Rebecca Molloy, Helen Gorrill, and Edward Sutcliffe.

Above: Nick Lord, Mark Cavendish.  Photo © Degree Art

Press Play House
Araxie Kutchukian: Beyond
2-12 August 2012

Press Play House is an independent production company which sometimes transforms into a gallery space.  For a week in August, PPH is hosting a solo exhibition of paintings by Araxie Kutchukian.  The imagery references Greco-Roman classicism, whilst simultaneously drawing inspiration from every day life.  For subject matter, the artist appropriates lost forgotten photographs, redundant images and memes from contemporary culture, which she adapts and re-contextualises.  This eclectic mix paradoxically gives Kutchukian’s art a traditional pictorial coherence, whilst also subverting it.

Araxie Kutchukian trained in fine art painting at the Wimbledon College of Art, London, graduating in 2008.  She now lives and works in London.  Kutchukian has exhibited in both London and Armenia.

Above: installation view of Araxie Kutchukian: Beyond at Press Play House.

Words: Carla Raffinetti, © Artlyst.


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