Andrew Curtis’s ‘The Leisure Circle’ a new off-site collaborative project between PayneShurvell and curator Annabel Cary opened Friday night in in a temporary space in Camden/King’s Cross. The exhibition parallels another show of the the artist Leon Chew currently at PayneShurvell’s Shoreditch space and Dark Matter Studios.
Curtis’s exhibition is mounted in a ‘pop up’ showroom in North London which was renovated to house the exhibition, The Leisure Circle concentrates on two sets of prints which offer a look at the taste, habits and methods that middle class Britons used to shape the internal and external environment they inhabited in the 1970s and 80s.
In the first group of prints, Curtis adapts photographs of domestic settings that feature house plants, masking all background and context to set ferns and flowers against a field of black. The second set continues Curtis’s fascination with the suburbian landscape, with a series of images of the Winter Gardens in Eltham, the suburb where the artist currently lives.
In the first group of prints, Curtis adapts photographs of domestic settings that feature house plants (sourced from books and manuals from the mid- to late 20th century). He masks all background and context to set ferns and flowers against a field of black. In using Rotring ink, painstakingly applied by hand, to obscure the scenery in which the plants were set, Curtis eradicates the very domesticity these images sought to convey, and introduces a discordant visual element. Images, which were once at the heart of architecture and design in the pre-digital age, become isolated and decontextualized. Curtis is interested in how much information you can eliminate before the picture ceases to function as an objective image.
Continuing his fascination with the suburban landscape, Curtis’s second body of work is based on large-format monochrome photographs of a colonialist’s exotic winter garden, built in Eltham in the 1880s. Funded by self-made millionaire ‘Colonel’ John Thomas, its aim was to bring ‘taste’ to the masses of south London, from which a post-war suburb grew. These images extend Curtis’ work on the faux-exotic presence in suburbia and anachronistic signs of cultural appropriation for which he has become known: monkey-puzzle trees (Chilean Pine), Torbay palms and the façade of worldly culture they present.
The third body of work presents appropriated images of garage doors on which Curtis has painted a layer of household enamel, combining early ideas in modernist art with the banal images of suburban home improvements. The show runs for three weeks.
‘Traditional debates about beauty often begin with questions about nature and natural forms – the shape and colour of a flower, the droop or silhouette of a tree, the green and pleasant surfaces of a pastoral landscape. Curtis recuperates a humble house plant to create a microcosm of that debate, asking whether natural forms retain their beauty or decorative purpose when cut off from their context.’
Andrew Curtis (b. 1979, London) graduated with an MA in Fine Art Printmaking from the Royal College of Art in 2009. He was chosen for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition (2009) and the Catlin Guide (2009). His work is held in various collections, including the Royal College of Art, the V&A, Oregon State University, Queen’s University, Belfast, University of Wales and private collections in the UK, Italy and the USA. His last solo show was House Plants (PayneShurvell, 2012).
Leon Chew – Reproduction, 2013
“For the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual. To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility.” – Walter Benjamin in 1935.
In 2009 and 2012 Leon Chew made two journeys through the Californian high desert. During these journeys Chew collected blown-out car and truck tire fragments from the roadside, which were then transported back to his studio in London where they were photographed. These images are re-presented as photographic screen prints on highly reflective polished black steel panels. Chew’s use of polished steel as a substrate for the printing process has multiple connotations – Black mirrors have long been associated with memory and spirit visioning and the use of high grade steel has a clear reference to the motorcar.
Like much of Chew’s work in the past, there is a romantic and literary tradition that refers to artists and writers that have taken inspiration from the road and the great love affair of the 20th century, the motorcar.
“Leaving Twenty Nine Palms I headed North towards Amboy. It was 11a.m. and I was running late. I pulled the car over at what looked like grand canals excavated into the dry lake bed, emerald green veins slicing through the parched salty earth. As I walked I collected pieces of tire rubber from the roadside, preserved by the static climate of the high desert, each fragment holding the memory of an individual incident, a momentary failure, a pause on a journey toward the black asphalt vanishing point…”
As a complement and reference to these works, Chew will be creating a ‘light horizon’ on the opposite wall consisting of four 4ft fluorescent tubes and battens presented as a continuous horizontal strip. This virtual horizon bisects the wall into two fields of light and shadow and will be the only artificial light source in the space.
Also on display will be two ‘anamorphic’ interventions within the gallery space. These painted works will relate both to the desert journeys and reference the conventions of representation within the installation shot.
As part of this dialogue of photographic mediation and in a break from tradition, there will only be one authorised installation shot of Black Asphalt released by PayneShurvell and Leon Chew, and no further installation shots will be taken. This singular image Reproduction… will be taken by Chew the week of the opening and will be shown in the gallery as an original work, an editioned risograph print of Reproduction will be made available free to all visitors.
The artist will also be releasing Barstow Site 1 (see image) for PayneShurvell editions. The edition represents an image Chew took on his desert road trip.
“My visit to Solar One had always been overshadowed by uncertainty – would I see anything at all? An open gate in a chain-link fence allowed me to enter the heliostat field. The aged equipment had been decommissioned and was half dismantled, hundreds of 40ft mirrors laid out on the desert floor like a monumental homage to the land artists who worked with these very materials some thirty years earlier – steel and glass against dark yellow sand, giant dusty mirrors reflecting the polarised blue of the desert sky.”
Andrew Curtis ‘The Leisure Circle’ PayneShurvell at Collective Gallery, 4 Crowndale Road, London, NW1 1TT / 1 March – 23 March / Wednesday – Friday
Leon Chew – Reproduction, 2013 PayneShurvell / 16 Hewett Street, London, EC2A 3NN