The tenth edition of Young Gods, curated by Zavier Ellis, which opens at CHARLIE SMITH LONDON on 13 January is always an important exhibition to visit if you want to continue to have your ear to the ground! Young Gods is an annual presentation of graduate and postgraduate artists working in all media selected from London art schools. This year’s exhibition includes painting, installation, sculpture, video and works on paper by artists from Central St Martins, City & Guilds, Goldsmiths, the Slade, Royal Academy Schools and Wimbledon. Artists Include: Sara Berman, David Bethell, Javier Torras Casas, Sarah Fortais, MC Llamas, Jessica Lynn Schlobohm, Claire Undy, Hauyu Yang.
Sara Berman (MA Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art) is the singular painter in this exhibition. Her work depicts female figures integrated into domestic interiors. Stylised, contorted human forms correspond to furniture and objects, suggesting that one is becoming the other and are inseparable from each other. Patterning is used variously as foreground, background, underpainting or imprinting, signifying further fusion between figure and environment. Recalling at once Matisse, Hockney, and Katz, there are undoubtedly aspirational lifestyle overtones to Berman’s work. Considerations of commerce and consumerism; objects of desire; and curated lifestyles are clear and are presented within an intriguing, constructed framework that illustrates a clear investigation into the nature of figurative painting.
David Bethell (MA Fine Art, Central Saint Martins) constructs objects that represent working machines such as boats or trains, with which he attempts to undergo a specific journey. Hand crafted using basic materials, the object will inevitably disintegrate as it fails to withstand the rigours of weather and landscape acting upon it. ‘Then Here Now’ is a train that Bethell built to attempt a journey by dragging it approximately eight miles along a stretch of an old Staffordshire rail line that once served quarries and kilns. The performance is filmed and shown as part of the work, integrated with the remnants of the train. Bethell accentuates that such undertakings emphasise the process of making a journey and its resultant narrative, and in doing so investigates hope, aspiration, failure, futility, endurance and progress.
Sarah Fortais (Ph.D. Practice-led, Slade School of Fine Art) makes bricolage animal sculptures that investigate the hierarchy of objects, and their transformation from one thing to another. The ‘Spacesuits for animals’ series is a direct response to her research on space travel: “I am interested in how NASA developed spacesuits leading up to the Apollo 11 moon mission. The ingenuity of recombining already existing materials allowed NASA to create a spacesuit with new properties which in turn extended human experience into unknown territories.” Each animal – in this exhibition a red stag – exists in a long term state of evolution. Fortais’ practice is dependent on materials at hand, and her works are constructed both in the studio and during performances when exhibited.
MC Llamas (BA (Hons) Fine Art, City & Guilds of London Art School) makes small scale fictional portraits using a combination of marker pen, chalk and charcoal on gridded paper. The subjects are remembered art world people that Llamas knows or has met during her ‘going outs’ in London. Llamas seeks to reveal an emotional truth by employing aggressive, angular mark making, and by relying on memory she embraces the slippages and ambiguities inherent within the faculty. There is a distinct psychological charge that is generated by her urgent, geometric depictions of stripped away, interior structures. Conceived to be shown as a group, Llamas intends to represent an idea of a portrait or person rather than a portrait in itself, investigating similarity as well as difference. In doing so, she is inadvertently exploring the self, as well as the other.
Jessica Lynn Schlobohm (MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths) makes sculptural installation that combines interests in mythology, symbolism, embodiment and materiality. Schlobohm’s totemic objects directly reference primitive devotional objects. Presented in a gallery context, these objects (or artefacts) draw a line through deep time from a suggested place of ritualistic worship to the museological. Each piece is finely crafted from alternative, everyday materials including baseball leather, cigarettes, cigars or pig intestine. This subtle undermining of expectation combines the magical and mythological with the contemporary, and utilises materials derived from popular American culture, creating an intelligent interplay between high and low; real and imagined; primitive and modern; symbolic and literal.
Javier Torras Casas (MA Painting, Wimbledon College of Art) makes large scale sculptural installation from natural and industrial materials including steel, bronze, clay, plaster, wax and rope that delicately utilises structure and balance. A central tenet within Torras Casas’ work is the relationship between human bodies and natural matter. Cast hands and manipulated clumps of clay suggest the continuous organic changes produced in nature as well as the development of human communicative capacities, and illustrate the materiality of objects and their inter-connectedness with the human body. Torras Casas questions the effect of nature on human evolution and vice versa, referencing the passage of time through his manipulation of temporal and permanent, natural and man-made materials.
Claire Undy (Postgraduate Diploma Fine Art, Royal Academy Schools) makes work in various forms that is based on the recording and documentation of performance. This might be video, posters, postcards or flipbooks. Undy’s performances are distinctively dramatic, and might be absurd, poignant and/or futile. This sense of pathos is deployed to make art about art, questioning notions of authorship, meaning and methodology: “I love the idea that an artist has some sort of mystical power – the ability to turn an ordinary action or object into ‘art’ at their command! However, I’m also suspicious of this power”. Undy’s aesthetic is stripped back despite being complex and multi-layered both in process and intention.
Hauyu Yang (BA (Hons) Fine Art, Central Saint Martins) works in performance, photography and video. His practice is informed by the 800km Camino de Santiago pilgrimage which he undertook in 2014. During the journey, which was not made for any religious or political significance, Yang began to observe human behaviour and interaction. Specifically, he noted the common good luck greeting “Buen Camino!”, and became engaged with repetitive procedures that exist in societies, which represent social conformities and inter-relational positivism. Such rituals are reconfigured and exaggerated in Yang’s work, such as the passing of water from mouth to mouth in his performance / video ‘Fluid Internationality’. The water symbolises conversation, and its nebulous fluidity refers to the incomplete nature of communication when conversing between languages.