British art has always had a distinctive quality perhaps stemming from the mix of post-Empire eclecticism with a touch of eccentricity. ‘Art Britannia’ is an Art Basel Miami satellite exhibition curated by Londoner Ben Austin and produced by Karelle Levy, a Miami resident. The event explores contemporary practice from UK with an emphasis on painting and craft. The exhibition features a ‘mini show within a show’, taken directly from The Lion and Lamb Gallery’s ‘Summer Saloon’ exhibition. The Lion and Lamb is an artists run space, located in the back of an East End pub.
The British are well known for having an idiosyncratic penchant for experimentation and exploration. In art throughout the 20th Century the British have constantly pushed boundaries be it with the advent of Modernism through to the beginnings of Pop, with artists like Richard Hamilton, David Hockney and Sir Peter Blake before the genre took off to New York with Warhol and Co. This set up a cultural dialogue between the old and new worlds, which still exists today.
By the 70’s and 80’s British artists continued be progressive and taboo breaking with the likes of Gilbert and George becoming ‘living sculptures’ and are now considered ‘national treasures’. By the 90’s a new wave of artists appear on the scene, graduates from Goldsmiths with plenty of attitude and with the backing of the Charles Saatchi become universally known as the yBas (Young British Artists). Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas grabbed headlines with art that shocked and amazed in equal measure. Pickled sharks and unmade beds surrounded by detritus created a new visual language laced with Post-Modern motifs. This art was bursting with bravado and possessed a visceral quality that demanded attention.
Twenty-five years on, ‘Art Britannia’ takes a rather different view. This is an exhibition that proudly celebrates craft, technical skill, mark making and gestures. An art with an alternative aesthetic, where the process is critical to the practice, be it through the act of painting or through considered constructions.
‘Art Britannia’ has no over arching theme, no curatorial dictate, merely a commitment to work that reflects a subtle yet seismic shift in British contemporary practice. Here we have bold and elemental abstractions, richly saturated landscapes, nude figure painting, romantic visions, unsettling video work and a mechanical construct.
The group is a healthy mix of slightly older, more established artists together with the next generation of recent graduates who are already appearing in important collections and shows.
The younger artists, many of whom are drawn from the Royal Academy Schools, like Mary Ramsden whose paired down abstractions are soft and delicate explorations in gestural painting, exquisite and refined. Mary was recently featured in ‘Open Heart Surgery’ one of the most talked about young shows during Frieze and will appear in the forthcoming ‘New Order II’ at the Saatchi Gallery.
Charlie Billingham, another Royal Academy Schools alumni, whose work was shown in part one of the ‘New Order’ show and also in ‘Open Heart Surgery’. Charlie refers to the historical paintings of Gillray and Cruikshank, yet are painterly reinventions, a nod to the past whilst pointing to the future. Beyond the Saatchi Gallery, Charlie’s work can be found in the Franks-Suss collection.
Rebecca Ackroyd is the youngest artist in the show and is currently in the middle of her Post Graduate Diploma Fine Art at Royal Academy Schools. She is has been selected for this year’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries show. Her work incorporates existing components of the world and re-invents them into a visual dialogue. Rebecca explores the multifarious forms of remaking,
John Robertson holds a postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art from the Royal Academy Schools. His paper ‘paintings’ are inspired by Matisse’s collages and startling color. The titles are the swatches of the paper used, creating stunning constructivist abstractions, simple and pure.
Brad Grievson with a MA from the Royal Academy Schools. His series of ‘Photography Showcase’ are abstract paintings made using torn pages from a commercial photography directory, the images are cut away, then arranged on the inked surface and used as a mask whilst the surface is covered with graphite powder. The result is a fascinating inter-play between image, absence and texture. Brad Grievson’s work appears the Hiscox and Zabludowicz Collections.
Guy Rusha has a BA from the Slade School of Art and was in part one of the ‘New Order’ show at The Saatchi Gallery. His rough and textural nudes are powerfully raw, tempered by a fine minimal line and a soft seductive palette.
James Capper creates claws in motion. His ‘Ripper Teeth’ series are industrial re-constructs, which in part resembles existing objects, such as cutting blades and ploughs. These mechanical gouging devices are attached to diggers and earth excavators to score the terrain with marks and lines, which is then documented. James operates these contraptions, giving these dinosaurian implements an aspect of performance, where man and machine are integral to the process. James had a major show at Modern Art Museum in Oxford and at Yorkshire Sculpture Park called, ‘Divisions’, he was also featured in the Saatchi Gallery ‘New Order’ show.
Freya Douglas-Morris has a MA from the Royal College of Art. Freya’s work invokes an ethereal world of half remembered people and places. We are in the realm of memories and moments. Freya was featured in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries and part of The Saatchi Gallery ‘Paper’ show.
Gordon Cheung studied painting at Central St. Martins College of Art and the Royal College of Art, London from where he graduated in 2001. His phantasmagorical and hallucinogenic landscapes and tulips are constructed with an array of media, thick impasto on stock page listings, spray paint and acrylic. Gordon has exhibited extensively and was part of The British Art Show 6 and The John Moores Painting Prize. Cheung’s works are to be found in the Hirshorn Museum, Whitworth Museum, ASU Art Museum and UBS Collection.
Dolly Thompsett trained at Manchester Met and Byam Shaw and has a Fine Art PhD from Goldsmiths. Dolly creates rich, luxurious cinematic scenes, dense jungles populated by soldiers and landscapes after a natural disaster. Dolly’s work can be found in the collections of UBS, Ernst & Young, Simmons & Simmons and Zabludowitz.
Sam Jury presents the video piece ‘The Approach’, which explores humanity’s relationship to a darker, potentially dystopian future. The atmosphere is tense and unnerving, as our viewpoint appears advancing through lush and vivid undergrowth that slowly unfurls as place of dying vegetation, a disconcerting environment a place blanketed with dying flowers and an increasing acidic sky. The camera is mechanical and relentless, at times hovering, an unemotional eye whose sole purpose is to track and record with the reveal having no bearing to a narrative. This lack of denouement confounds the viewer expectations of film, giving us a work, which is deeply psychological and inherently powerful. Sam graduated with an MFA in Painting from Cornell University, followed by a two-year Fellowship in Print and Digital Media at the Royal Academy Schools. Recent solo shows include ‘Coerced Nature’ at The Rose Art Museum (2013) and ‘Nothing is Lost’ at Stephen Haller Gallery, New York (2010) and ‘Forever is Never’ at Herbert F Johnson Museum (NY).
Hannah Knox completed her MA in painting at the Royal College of Art in 2007 and has recently had a show at the Ceri Hand Gallery entitled ‘BUFF’. Her practice uses fabric as a ground, reducing painting to its primary components of color, cloth and support. Her themes incorporate pattern through abstraction where each cloth or canvas is selected for the possibility proffered by its material; the materials are used to evoke a mood or a feeling. In 2010 Hannah was shortlisted for the Marmite Painting Prize.
Eleanor Moreton has a MA in painting from the Chelsea College of Art and her work appears in international private collections. Eleanor’s work explores image making and the resulting dissection of those cultures that produced the photographs, paintings or illustrations she works from. Her interests lay in place be it historical, geographical or psychological. Freud, Austria and the culture of psychoanalysis are reoccurring themes producing romantic paintings filled with yearning and nostalgia. Eleanor shows with Ceri Hand Gallery with her last solo exhibition in 2012 – ‘I See the Bones in the River’.
Henny Acloque uses Old Masters paintings such as Bosch, Bruegel and Durer as source material, she then eliminates all figurative elements and enforces her own codes and systems to re-introduce ‘characters’ to the frozen world she paints. Henny injects abstract swoops, patchwork patterns and strokes that challenge and disrupt. This interplay between old and new, representation and decoration makes Henny’s pieces wonderfully perplexing as these harlequin forms populate the landscape.
Grant Foster is a MA in painting from the Royal College of Art. He was one of the prize winners at the 2008 John Moores painting Prize. Grant’s bright and vibrant paintings confound our preconceived notions of traditional figure painting, with broad gestures and confident brushstrokes Grant create work that is bold and inherently strong yet at the same time questioning our perception of beauty and figuration.
The Lion and Lamb – Summer Saloon
A collection of smaller work by over 40 artists transferred from The Lion and Lamb gallery’s ‘Summer Saloon’ show. This ‘mini-show’ of little gems features as the jewel in the crown a piece by the well-established and well-known fantastical painter – Fiona Rae.
Art Britannia: Madonna Building 3940 N. Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33127
Sunday 1st December – 4pm – 8 pm Tea Party Preview (Invite & RSVP)
Monday – Sunday 2nd – 8th December -11am – 7pm
Thursday December 5, 7-10 pm – British-American Business Council hosted event – Official opening.