Arcadia: Grove Square Galleries The Marchioness of Bath Beckons – Simon Tarrant 




Like an excerpt out of ‘Bridgerton’, the beautiful and beguiling Emma Thynn, Marchioness of Bath – the first black Marchioness in British history – beckoned the art world last week to a charity art auction hosted by London’s latest art house, Grove Square Galleries.

The star of the show, an impressive impasto portrait of the Marchioness by Elena Gual

Supporting a charity close to the Marchioness’ heart, ‘Food For Life Global’, the resulting jam-packed evening saw an eclectic crowd of artists, pop stars and London glitterati, chin-wagging at a champagne reception in the Salon of Fitzrovia’s uber-cool Mandrake Hotel.

The star of the show, an impressive impasto portrait of the Marchioness by Elena Gual, was snapped up within minutes of celebrity auctioneer Christopher Biggins opening the bids. Referencing Mandrake’s tropically adorned ceiling, Biggins regaled the crowd with anecdotes from his time in the tropics winning ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’

Christopher Kieling - Schulterblick

Christopher Kieling – Schulterblick

To a soundscape of top tunes spun by the simply divine Sophie Ellis-Bextor, the Director of Grove Square Galleries – James Ryan – acknowledged the draw of celebrity culture. James said, “Seeing such a great turnout tonight reminds me of the importance of art events when presenting contemporary artists and their artwork.”

Having hit the art world running, by launching his gallery with Christopher Kieling’s 2020 show, the charismatic and debonair Ryan has kept up the momentum– not just with glamorous society Salons – but with a bold new group exhibition Arcadia, which opens on 9 December at Grove Square Galleries.

Believing in the necessity of nurturing the artistic talent of his stable of artists, Ryan has appointed Serena Dunn, as his artistic director. Dunn, the daughter of an artist and art historian, has a wealth of artistic experience having studied History of Art at University and has worked in several prestigious galleries. Serena’s passion for the arts is evident, as demonstrated by her desire to help artists evolve. She said, “I don’t want artists just to turn out the same thing again and again, I actively encourage them to explore and take chances in what they do. I want them to look back in 10 years time and be proud of their body of work.”

Turning to the artists themselves, what a phenomenally talented group they are. Comprising a selection of painting, photography and mixed media works, Arcadia is a stunning showcase of new work by the artists represented by the gallery. Orlanda Broom, Crystal Fischetti, Elena Gual, Christopher Kieling, Jim Naughten, Harry Rudham, Marc Standing and David Wightman.

Focusing on humanity’s relationship with nature and our evolving ideal of a perfect world, Arcadia examines how this highly subjective concept has evolved – from an idyllic wilderness abounding with nature to a futuristic utopia. Drawing upon the past, present, future and fantasy, we see each artist’s comment on this ideal and their examination of our relationship with the natural world.

In the work of Orlanda Broom and Jim Naughten, we leap towards an unspoiled nature. Broom’s paintings present lush and saturated mythologised realms, abundant with sprawling nature in a celebration of life, growth and restoration. Naughten’s photographic works explore our modern-day disconnection from nature, blurring the line between fantasy and reality, nature and the unnatural, encouraging us to consider our relationship with wildlife.

Harry Rüdham presents a stylised observation of contemporary life in which floating or falling figures are silhouetted and repeated across a brightly textured canvas. His painting suggests the chaotic nature of the modern-day, leaving no time for rest or recuperation – implying an underlying yearning for moments for reflection. Elena Gual’s abstracted works also shift our perceptions by using her uniquely bold palette knife technique to create paintings of oranges, blossoms and roses that are both stunning and empowering.

Marc Standing’s paintings invite the viewer to invent their own storyline. Sublime in its originality and mastery of brushstroke, his work is informed by anthropology, biology, and the complexities of existence, both physical and metaphysical. Reconnecting with the heritage and culture of his native continent, Africa, his abstract fusion of texture, layer and colour references its land and mythologies. Crystal Fischetti’s creative process is both spiritually guided and environmentally sensitive, combining use of botanical dyes and debris with an investigation of her spiritual philosophies. It pays reverence to Colombia, the homeland of her maternal line, and in particular Mama Qucha, the name given to ‘mother ocean’ in a language called Quechua.

David Wightman’s work is introduced ahead of his solo show at the gallery in 2022. In his colourful fictional landscapes, the surfaces of the paintings – presenting mountain vistas – are made from textured wallpaper collaged with a technique similar to marquetry. And in Christopher Kieling’s painting, influenced by the mathematically inspired works of Escher and Uglow, hard geometric patterns and fluid simple lines explore the pure language of painting–form, colour and composition. In Kieling’s work, however, the presence of Man is central in a way that it is so noticeably absent in Wightman’s landscapes – we see a nod towards a new kind of progress, a ‘Brave New World’ in which Man and technology are symbiotic.

From poetry to art, film to music, the idea of a perfect epoch and environment has fascinated us throughout the ages and has been the inspiration for art in all its forms. Historically, Arcadia has been synonymous with a nostalgic ideal of man’s Golden Age – both through living in harmony with nature and as a symbol of a simpler time – and yet we see through these artists’ eyes potential new perspectives. Whether directed by ecological or spiritual concerns, or emotional desire for time or space, these artists provoke compelling narratives. However diverse, together they culminate in a powerful articulation of our relationship with the world.

Top Photo: Detail Orlanda Broom – Unpaved Paradise

Arcadia at Grove Square Galleries runs from 9 December 2021 until 28 January 2022.

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