The air is getting crisper, the days are getting shorter, but it’s not quite winter yet. This weekend I was able to enjoy the remaining sunshine with a stroll through Shoreditch and Hoxton to check out some art. Setting out with a cozy scarf and a hand-drawn map (smart phones and GPS are too complicated for me) I spent the early afternoon gallery hopping, discovering new artists, and making friends with a dog named Wilma.
Most of the exhibitions listed below are only on for a couple weeks more, closing in mid-November, so be sure to hit the pavement and see the shows for yourself.
Payne Shurvell (until 17 November)
Taking a walk through the National Gallery or any other great collection of historical painting will reveal walls filled with monumental landscapes and seascapes – Turner made his career on seascapes, the Hudson River School was one of the first American art movements. Hannah Brown, however, has taken the historical idea of landscape and interpreted it in her own way. First of all, Brown is a woman working in a genre dominated by men. Also, landscapes are traditionally large, enormous even, to represent the scale of the real setting, but Brown works on a very small scale.
These tiny landscapes may at first appear to be postcards or photographs as the artist has a detailed and technical approach. It is not readily apparent, however, that as realistic as documentary the works may appear, there is a significant artificiality present as well. Brown works from photographs, but alters the paintings to fit a timeless ideal. There are absolutely no signs of human interaction with the landscape and the skies become a hazy grey making the greens of the foliage and ground especially vibrant. The paintings are beautiful and recall a classical Arcadia, but there is a solemnity and melancholia that permeate the atypical idylls, reflected Brown’s view of herself as a very English landscape painter.
EB&Flow (until 9 November)
33 Degrees South: Contemporary Art from Chile explores the work of six emerging Chilean artists. The artists in the exhibition, Catalina Bauer, Josefina Guilisasti, Livia Marin, Gerardo Pulido, Tomás Rivas, and Malu Stewart utilize quotidian materials to create unexpected products. The upper level of the gallery is dominated by Bauer’s “Column (3rd version, white and natural)” made from 120 kilos of rubber bands; the faint smell verifies the material of the weighty knitted sculpture.
Pulido works with assorted man-made materials to create objects that appear to be from nature. Giving names and titles to each creation makes the works almost like play actors in costume. “Lord Willow as a Walnut Tree” is oil paint on a PVC pipe that becomes a life-like, albeit hollow, tree limb. Livia Marin’s works are some of the best in the exhibition. She uses porcelain objects that through the use of resin, plaster, lacquer, varnish, and transfer print, appear to be melting. It isn’t immediately apparent that the works are in fact an illusion and not actual objects; it is through the somewhat disconcerting continuity of pattern on the “melted” part that is becomes clear they are artificially created. The exhibition is curated by Cecilia Brunson, who has devoted her career to highlighting Latin American in London and North America.
Beers.Lambert Contemporary (until 17 November)
Colourful, intimate portraits immediately grab the visitor’s attention upon entering Beers.Lambert Contemporary. Andrew Salgado’s second solo exhibition in the space demands attention and invites viewers to enter into conversation with the subjects. Salgado states that, “At my core I feel more like an abstract artist than a figurative artist; I avoid adhering too closely or exclusively to any term because I believe it whittles what I do to something one-dimensional, didactic, in the sense that I’ve always felt it too superficial to simply aim for likeness in representation.” The impasto and unexpected mixing of colours create vivid compositions of the male subjects. The piercing eyes invite the view in, but the painted medium has an inherent boundary between the real and the unreal.
Titling the exhibition, The Misanthrope, is an interesting choice. Is Salgado the misanthrope? The viewer? The subject? The paintings, even of deplorable figures such as Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer, are evidently labours of love – though whether the love is of the subject or the medium is uncertain. If the titular misanthrope is indeed Salgado, he may have failed, as he finds beauty and honesty in each of his subjects. An accompanying text by Edward Lucie-Smith sings Salgado’s praises, but such accolades are almost unnecessary, the paintings speak volumes on their own.
Hoxton Art Gallery (until 10 November)
Katie Sims’ first solo London exhibition, Opening Gambit, demonstrates why Pryle Berhman has described the young painter as “one to watch” in the new generation of British artists. Perfectly blending references to great historical masters with an abstract painterly style, Sims’ paintings are beautiful and original. Quoting Renaissance and Baroque tropes, the paintings are executed in a muted palette and geometric forms. From a distance the works look highly abstract and expressionistic, but when approached and inspected closely, architectural details and ghosts of figures appear. The largest work in the exhibition is a reinterpretation of Paolo Uccello’s iconic Battle of San Romano that hangs in the National Gallery. The paintings have an other-worldly feel and palpable tension created by being simultaneously simple and complex, quiet and alive, expressionistic and detailed.
Rivington Place (until 24 November)
Rivington Place is devoted to displaying art from the global community and bringing diversity into an art market still very much dominated by white men. Kimathi Donkor: Queens of the Undead celebrates and brings to life women of colour who have made a significant impact throughout history. Revisiting the figures of Queen Njinga Mbandi, Harriet Tubman, Queen Nanny, and Yaa Asantewaa, Donkor highlights the courage and power of these women with vivid and dramatic compositions referencing historical figure paintings. The artist stated, “Of course, I enjoy quoting imagery from their own times, but I also want to reflect the turbulent power such bold figures still exert on our contemporary imagination.”
The upstairs gallery looks at some of Donkor’s earlier works, which are much more violent and more uncomfortable to view. The subjects of the paintings investigate race struggles in modern England (generally between white authority figures and repressed blacks). The images are not easily digestible, but both groups of works bring to light subjects that deserve attention and consideration.
Hoxton Gallery (until 14 November)
Shortly after Shoreditch High Street turns into Kingsland Road, amid trendy shops and small cafes, I stumbled upon an exhibition not on my handy hand-drawn map. A fantastic brick archway is home to the Hoxton Gallery and currently a solo show by self-professed “manchild from Yorkshire” Benjamin Murphy. Eschewing traditional media, Murphy’s work is comprised entirely of electrical tape (approximately 55 rolls to be exact – more or less). Bringing street art off the street into a gallery can be tricky, but the Hoxton Gallery’s exterior-like interior provides a perfect temporary home for the tape drawings.
Murphy’s creations are reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley’s drawings due to the stark contrast of black and white as well as the sexually-charged imagery. What sets the work apart is the artist’s apparent wit – a glowing review from none other than Vincent van Gogh adorns the press release and a toilet wrapped in tape becomes almost a drawing of Marcel Duchamp’s famed Fountain. Cleverly working with transparency and reflectivity, Murphy’s work is surprisingly sophisticated and demonstrates that there is more to street art than Banksy.
Flowers (Kingsland Road) (until 24 November)
The East London home of Flowers is a tremendous space in terms of size and quality. The lofty airy space is perfectly suited to one of the current exhibitions: Kevin Sinnott: A Bit of Wind Got Up. Sinnott’s work is a contemporary sort of Impressionism utilizing loose brush strokes, vivid colour, and scenes from everyday life. The landscapes are ambiguous but are reminiscent of American urban locations, the British countryside, and small Mediterranean towns. The artist is attracted to moments of affection between people and this, in combination with the rosy colour palette, lends a positive and uplifting quality to the work. The back-stories of the figures are unknown, but no two interactions between the characters are quite the same. Viewers can undoubtedly find some connection to the paintings and perhaps reflect on the relationships in their own lives.
Also on display at Flowers are a solo exhibition, Patrick Hughes: Multispectives, and a group show called Brush It In. Hughs works will sculptural painting that creates optical illusions of movement and shifting space. Referencing Pop Art, Picasso and a nod to Surrealism, the paintings are fun and clever. Brush It In is curated by Lorenzo Durantini and features work by Joshua Citarella, Fleur van Dodewaard, Christiane Feser, Darren Harvey-Regan, Antonio Marguet, and Anne de Vries. The exhibition looks at artists who utilize digital photography as a means to an end, not as a final product. With popular exhibitions on photography at the National Gallery, Barbican, and Tate, it is interesting to see what happens when contemporary artists adapt photographs beyond the expected.
Words/Photos Emily Sack © ArtLyst 2012