FABRICATE @ The Parlour Gallery – REVIEW
At The Parlour Gallery in North London, five young curators with backgrounds in History of Art, Fine Art and English, have set up their first show – ‘Fabricate’, featuring three female artists whose work deals with themes of re-appropriation and narrative. And, thanks to careful curation, the works chime together in this intimate space, looking like they could be by just one artist, thanks to harmonious colours and techniques and shared themes – despite the fact that these artists have never exhibited together before.
Slawa Harasymowicz’s graphic faces are the leading force in the room as they are so bold and repetitive. One series is a group of image transfers of a face, reproducing the artist’s grandmother from an old photograph. But through the repeated printing and blotchy ink, her features have taken on a demonic, ‘Joker’-like appearance, turning a comforting maternal figure into a much more ambiguous presence in the room. Complementing this sense are photographs of creepy, industrial settings, perhaps found imagery, that evoke a sinister and historical narrative.
On the adjacent wall, a similar play on familiarity and ambiguity is created by an artfully drawn face seen in profile, wearing what looks like an old gas mask. This is repeated up and along the wall, but, being isolated from a would-be science fiction context, and on flyaway newsprint, looks rather forlorn. It is displayed amongst repeated machine imagery, furthering the cold quality of the figure.
Cecilia Bonilla’s pieces are infectiously witty, turning the usefulness of technology onto its head. Her video piece, ‘In an Instant all will vanish’ (a collaboration with Matt Lewis), shows a gymnast, flexing and un-flexing, anticipating the move that will see her fly across the garish blue gym-mat. Also shown is her piece ‘Room to Let’ in which Bonilla has framed charming interiors of various rooms, looking slightly like fine art photography, but that are in fact found images from Gumtree.com of rooms to let that Bonilla has digitally altered, giving them a phantom inhabitant who has closed the curtains and shut off the outside world.
Eva Stenram is perhaps the most previously exhibited of the three, having been featured in galleries and the press since the early 2000s. Her technique of using photographic manipulation (again, like Bonilla, a comment on our technology-obsessed culture) to highlight what the original photograph was trying to communicate is an exciting and thought-provoking method. It’s particularly obvious in one work shown here entitled ‘Absent’, in which famous hoax photographs are altered to relay the harsh truth which they had originally tried to subvert. The manipulation involved is flawless, which makes the ‘new’ images rather unremarkable – that is, until you realise what is missing.
Her other series, ‘Drape I, II & III’, are similarly flawless, well-printed monochrome images that work extremely well juxtaposed with Bonilla’s Room to Let series. Stenram has cut up found images of pin-up girls, extending the various ‘drapes’/curtains from the interior spaces to cover each girls’ modesty, and making these strips of fabric the focus of the viewer’s gaze; looking for where the girl would have been, you find only unnatural-looking protruding limbs or bra-straps.
The grouping of these artists is extremely natural, with show successfully shedding light onto the shared concerns of all three (instead of that brief glimpse into the artist’s thought process before one moves on to the next, typical of many group shows of young contemporary artists). ‘Fabricate’ is a significant accomplishment for first time curators, bringing the pertinent themes explored in all three artists’ work into a new collaborative space, and inviting new comparisons and conversations which help to further the worth of each piece and each artist.
But hurry! The show is only open for a week (until Sunday 19th February @ The Parlour Gallery, NW5 4DS) …
Words Alice Lubbock © 2011 ArtLyst
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