Fitzrovia has rapidly grown into one of London’s prime contemporary art hubs. June 2012 witnessed the launch of Fitzrovia Lates (http://www.fitzrovialates.co.uk). As part of the scheme, over 20 galleries stay open until 9pm on the last Thursday of every month. On the menu is a programme of curator tours, discussions and performances for art lovers who are keen to do some culture vulturing after work.
One word of warning though: best to get there early if you would like to maximise on your gallery hopping time. The Fitzrovia cluster of galleries covers a fairly expansive terrain which is nestled in between Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Great Portland, Goodge Street and Euston Road. This is especially the case if you would like to include a meal, and perhaps a drink or three at one of the quaint bars and restaurants nearby as part of your experience (the chocolate cake at Da Paolo’s is highly recommended).
This exhibition features a series of stone sculptures by Jake Harvey (UK), Jessica Harrison (UK) and Atsuo Okamoto (Japan) that can best be described as lyrical and poetic. STONE is the brainchild of Jake Harvey, now retired professor of sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art. In turn, Harvey invited Okamoto and Harrison to exhibit with him in the AF Projects space.
A primordial, zen-like quality pervades this exhibition. Harvey’s abstract, geometric sculptures often retain the indexical mark of the maker, the trace of humankind’s imprint on the earth. Edinburgh College graduate, Jessica Harrison’s touchstones invert the relationship between the making and viewing of art. Her working method entails letting someone else shape a ball of clay. The artist (as a viewer) then carves a bigger, identical shape into stone, thus assuming the role of the maker. The stones are then cast into white silicone. The show stopper is undoubtedly Atsuo Okamoto. Using the traditional Japanese technique of ‘wari modoshi’ (splitting and returning), a block of stone is broken down into smaller pieces, into which numbers are carved. Okamoto entrusts these fragments to people around the world for five years. During this time, the stones absorb their surrounding environment, by becoming chipped and discoloured. Afterwards, they are returned to be reassembled into a single sculpture. This ‘infiltration of life’ reminds us of the movements each piece has undertaken. According to Okamoto, “Stone keeps huge memories inside it, ever since the planet came into existence. I feel that stone is the most romantic and intellectual object on earth.”
Above: Atsuo Okamoto, Volume of Lives – from London (2012 – 2017).
The Piper Gallery
Then and Now: Edward Allington & Vaughan Grills
29 June 11 August 2012
The Piper Gallery focuses exclusively on artists who have had a career spanning 40 years or more. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Then and Now features early works by British artists Edward Allington and Vaughan Grylls, and new works specifically commissioned for the gallery.
Grylls’ older works primarily took the form of pun-sculptures but his latest art is largely photographic. The piece, A Case for Wittgenstein (1970), was inspired a quote by the philospher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, “The world is everything that is the case”. For this work, Grylls wrote, “I bought this in case”, on a suitcase. He then photographed it and reproduced the image as a poster along with the words “A Case for Wittgenstein by Vaughan Grylls”. The photo was then silk-screened onto newsprint and stuck onto a second suitcase. Signs of the Cross (2012) is a more recent work, which comprises of video stills taken by Grylls on a recent visit to the graves of the last Czar and his family in St Petersburg, Russia. The photographs, arranged into the shape of a cross, depict a deaf interpreter explaining the murder of the royal family by the Bolsheviks in 1917. The irony is that for able-bodied people who know neither sign language nor Russian history, the interpreter looks like a spiritual medium with her dramatic facial expressions and hand gestures.
Edward Allington is mostly known as a sculptor, although drawing forms a significant part of his practice – for the artist believes that his sculptures are merely the result of problems that he has been unable to resolve in two dimensions. In all cases, Allington draws heavily on the past as a source of influence, often borrowing and displacing motifs from classical antiquity into a contemporary setting. His more recent work includes a selection of skillfully crafted drawings on pages from old accounting ledgers. Fallen Pediment (1994) depicts a disassembled plinth, which is shown from a multiplicity of views (from above and diagonally) – a technique that recalls workshop manuals and parts catalogues.
Above: Edward Allington, Fallen Pediment (1994)
Above: Installation view of Simon Patterson, Under Cartel.
Haunch of Venison
Simon Patterson, Under Cartel
13 July – 31 August 2012
This exhibition features a series of photographs of equestrian statues from around the world. Each statue is cross referenced to another by a pair of neon arrows – communicating Patterson’s proposal for the statues to be transferred from state to state, from public square to public square in a potentially infinite programme of exchanges. The title of the show derives from the historical term ‘under cartel’ which referred to an agreement to exchange hostages and prisoners of war (although in this case, statues are being bartered rather than people).
The choice of equestrian sculptures as the vehicles for this cultural exchange infers their one-time role as signifiers of national self-identification in the West: from England we see the Duke of Wellington, Charles I and George III while America favours George Washington, and Mongolia Genghis Khan. The recommendation that they be swapped calls into question what ideological, historical, political and cultural values these public monuments still carry. As such sculptures are fairly similar aesthetically, the question Patterson’s work asks is: would anyone notice?
Above: Sylvain Lefebvre, Mari Cruz Lost In London (2009)
Rebecca Hossack Gallery
Londinium: A London Pageant
19 July – 1 September 2012
The Rebecca Hossack Gallery (RHG) is hosting a summer show which brings together a varied assortment of artists who have produced art inspired by contemporary London. Undoubtedly timed to dovetail with the Olympics, it is impossible to capture the spirit of this exhibition in one sentence, as it simply too diverse. The works spans across the conceptual, the traditional and the humorous – the sole unifying link being their common theme. Some pieces, such as Sylvain Lefebvre’s Mari Cruz Lost in London draws on the more traditional medium of painting to depict the idea of a foreigner lost in the bustle of the UK’s capital city. An old route master bus dwarfs the lone figure in the foreground. Lettering in Spanish adorns the bus instead of English to reflect the subject’s confusion with being confronted by a language that she has not yet mastered. More way out is David Farrer’s British Bulldog (2012), consisting of a trademark faux papier mâché wall mount of an animal head – in this case, a bulldog’s head smoking a cigar. The domestic animal motif made from recycled materials is a commentary on the practice of trophy hunting which is ironically used to fund wildlife conservation in some parts of the globe.
Rosenfeld Porcini Gallery
Mehran Elminia: Revealing Harmonies
25 July – 20 September 2012
Revealing Harmonies is the first solo UK exhibition by the emerging Iranian artist, Mehran Elminia. Walking around the gallery, it is impossible not to miss the influence of abstract expressionism in Elminia’s work, as typified by artists such as Jackson Pollock. Elminia’s canvasses consist of broad washes of paint and colour that are devoid of any reference to the physical image. It is not clear to what extent the artist’s preference for abstraction is a function of his muslim background (Islam prohibits the reproduction of animals and people, so as to avoid any inference of idolatry). For the artist, the process of producing his work is primarily spiritual: as he seeks to locate emotional intensity within the spontaneous act of painting. Elminia sometimes paints for continuously for up to 24 hours, to the point where “his brush becomes a complete extension of his inner soul”.
Born in 1975 in Tabriz, Mehran Elminia obtained his masters in art from Rome University of Fine Arts. He currently lives and teaches in Iran. He was featured in the 2010 Biennale of Contemporary Religious Art at Stauros Museum, Italy.
Above: Installation view of Barrie Cook, Courting Colour
Newman Street Gallery
Barrie Cook, Courting Colour
11 July – 4 August 2012
The Newman Street Gallery is an exhibition space that features a variety of pop up shows. Its latest offering is a solo exhibition by Barrie Cook. Cook’s canvasses are spray painted with multiple layers of colour, which creates a misty effect. The artist says that he paints in this way “to break the habit of brushstroke mentality.” Characteristically, Cook works in a horizontal or vertical bar-line format or in circles and ovals.
Cook has exhibited widely throughout Europe, the US and Canada. His work features in the collections of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Ulster Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Holland and in various other public and private collections worldwide.
Words/Photos by Carla Raffinetti – Top Photo: Art First STONE: Jake Harvey (main gallery) | Jessica Harisson, Atsuo Okamoto (Art First Projects) 28 June – 18 August 2012