Point Zero arts project space is a new addition to Dalston, East London. The district is primarily known for its fashion-forward nightlife but Point Zero makes its own bold statement with debut show, Flesh Reality.
The exhibition features works by the likes of Sarah Lucas, Laurie Simmons and Erwin Wurm, alongside some excellent work from ‘up and coming’ artists such as Konrad Wyrebek, Matthew Killick and Matthew Miles. It might be hosted in a modest-size warehouse space, but Flesh Reality is a show with big ambition, bringing together works in various media that explore the human body – and our own sometimes complex relationships with the skin we live in. The result is highly absorbing and often surprising.
In stark smears of black paint on white paper, Whitney Mcveigh’s ‘Untitled’ reminds of the Rorscach psychoanalytic inkblot test. It’s an abstract work but look closer and you begin to see two figures – these forms printed onto the paper by the use of McVeigh’s body pressing an already painted image onto the virgin surface. McVeigh’s work is contrasted by John Isaac’s ‘Today I Started Loving You Again’, in which the human body is instantaneously and alarmingly recognisable. A hacked off woman’s leg, complete with pool of blood, it’s a visually shocking piece that insists you reflect on the ephemeral nature of human existence, even though our minds often try to elude the truth.
It’s not really spelled out anywhere, but Flesh Reality’s main theme of the body is intriguingly addressed by different generations of artists, enabling the viewer to make connections that span many years and different mediums. You start to see traces of the late surrealist Hans Bellmer in the intricate organism inspired painting of Matthew Killick, and also in the sculpture of Sarah Lucas.
But though its unexpected to see such high-level artworks in Dalston, the works by some of the newer artists leave a lasting impression. The most immediately striking piece in the show is by Konrad Wyrebek with his sculpture ‘YYBKSLAVE’ which explores the idea of personal body obsession as a New Religion.
During the private view for Flesh Reality, two live models (one of each gender) were blindfolded, undressed and tied onto two steel sculptures that Wyrebek has evolved from the deconstruction of a pentagram. It’s a piece that evokes the uneasy relationship between rationality and fanatic belief, and also the consequences that ‘perfect body’ fanaticism may inflict on a ‘believer’s’ mind and body. Wyrebek also shows two powerful monochrome paintings, ‘Triumvirate I and II’, that connect visually with Sarah Lucas’ ‘NUD’ sculpture and that, despite their small size, have an energy and sense of nihilism that resonates long after you leave.
Flesh Reality features strong video and photography pieces too. Works by video/digital artist Matthew Miles and Erwin Wurm are displayed next to each other, and seem naturally related with their investigation of capitalist ideas of the body. Miles’ two-screened video ‘Infinity Four – Fitness Deck’ is a complex and fluid scheme of scenes that appears to plunge into the blurry intimacy of its protagonist’s sub consciousness. It strikes a melancholic note about the conflict between our instincts and aspirations and our need to act a role in life.
Wurm’s photography of a body clothed so as to appear without a head, meanwhile, provokes a kind of discomfort in the viewer as our brain’s see parts of the body we’re familiar with, but in the wrong places. Both Wurm and Miles’ works explore the existential search for identity; human insecurities and the conflicts between mind and body.
The works of all 12 artists featured in Flesh Reality are equally thought-provoking. Practitioners old and new combine here to create a richly varied show that holds you in deep contemplation – and encouraged a revisit from this reviewer after the incredibly busy private view.
The hundreds of people at that opening suggest that Point Zero is the kind of space Dalston has needed for some time. Flesh Reality is certainly an excellent start for the gallery, with an original and mature debut show that avoids the kind of figurative cliches that you might expect. In fact it’s only when you leave Flesh Reality that you realise there’s actually not much skin and bone on display at all. This is a show concerned with the effect of our bodies on our minds, and vice versa – and it’s certainly all the more interesting for that.
Flesh Reality runs until 8 June – Point Zero project Space, Stamford Works, 3 Gillett Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JH
Words: By Andy Renmel /Photos courtesy Point Zero project Space