Artist Laurie Nye’s other-worldly paintings filled with omnipotent female cyborgs and organic geometric shapes feature at the current group show at The Dot Project in London entitled “Figure It Out” (until 13thNovember). On the occasion of her European debut, Marcelle Joseph sat down to talk to this LA-based Memphis-born artist about her painting practice and inspirations.
- Your paintings offer a vision of an alternate reality or a fantasy world ruled by women and for women. Could you talk about your subject matter? Is it utopian or feminist in focus?
I’d say my paintings are conjured from a feminine gaze and lean toward a visionary type of pictorial space. I do like to reimagine myths, turning them on their ear and offering a different perspective, flipping roles of hero vs heroine. I feel compelled to look beyond the reality I live in as a woman and a creator in a patriarchal world where I see a history strewn with cruelty, greed and environmental exploitation. I collaborate in an alternative reality with invented muses, which are powerful, intelligent, empathetic and hybrid female energies. That sounds either utopian or escapist, when you think about it.
- Are there narrative threads weaving through your paintings in general? I see for your 2015 LA solo show you transformed the myth of Andromeda, recasting it to empower female characters. Does this theme continue through the works presented at The Dot Project in London?
I was raised in the deep south in the U.S. and southerners do like narratives. I love allegorical painting so I tend to be drawn to ideas and themes. The theme of Andromeda continues to inform my latest work as I consider ways to depict a fantastic realm empowered and shaped by female hybrid beings. I see my work as an ongoing collaboration with these nature-loving muses. The idea of the cyborgian figure and the intermixing of geometric versus organic form continues to evolve in strange and surprising ways in my recent paintings.
- You paint exclusively female figures. Do you consider yourself a feminist or do you just prefer the female form for formal reasons?
My art practice is defined by a strong educational foundation in figurative drawing and painting. I love being a woman, painting women who rule in a reality I’d want to exist within. So far, the main subjects in my paintings have been female, not necessarily to the exclusion of other sexes. If envisioning a galaxy run by women is considered a feminist ideal then I’m a card carrying member.
- Do you use source material or do these female figures come from your imagination?
I enjoy looking at weird sci-fi illustration and I hoard art books and random ephemera. Over time, much of what I’ve collected and researched in the past has been internalised. I draw a lot straight out of my imagination. I’m very in tune with the internal world and I do a lot of paintings from simple pencil drawings of ideas that come to me.
- Let’s talk composition. Your picture plane is dense and crowded with imagery filling up every inch of the canvas. This convention lends an immersive quality to the work for the viewer. What are your intentions as the maker?
As for composition, I want to suck you in beyond the lateral plane of looking at a surface. It’s not enough for me to move your eyes around; I’m interested in a transformative space for the viewer to wonder about over time. The paintings have indeed become more shallow in depth which offers a more intimate space to the viewer and to my mind creates a more complex, figure/ground relationship.
- How do you approach your colour palette as the colours are vibrant and saturated? Do you believe that colour can provoke certain feelings in the viewer?
I’m very much interested in the emotive experience of colour. I think about colour a lot and my colour mood shifts. My last series was, to me, like my neon impressionist phase. Now I’ve returned to black as a marker of emphasis. I love the use of black in Manet’s paintings. I get excited and go through colour stories. I want to go dimmer, deeper, but I keep conjuring these exuberant, velvety, sort of weird palettes. Lots of yellow, pink, blue, red and black. I have ways of layering the colours to make them sing. It’s a balance and sometimes it really hits the right note. When you figure out how to make colours react to each other, a painting will draw out a visceral feeling.
- With your use of motif and pattern, your work is reminiscent of the great Swedish abstract mystic painter Hilma af Klint (1862-1944). At some point, do your figures become abstracted motifs/shapes/forms as well?
*Wow, thank you for the compliment, I have the highest regard for Hilma af Klint’s transcendent paintings. Her work is out of place, out of time and I definitely identify with that. She painted in a vacuum and in a way it seems like a gift to me, to have that autonomy and singularity of space in which to carve out a vision. To answer your question, the figures in my paintings are invented around the idea of hybridity, a changing body which can shift and morph. In my paintings, the figures/creatures/colours/forms are all able to meld and become indistinct from each other and their environment if they so choose.
- You attended the world famous Cal Arts, completing your MFA in 2002. How has your educational background played out into your current practice, if at all?
Cal Arts is becoming a more distant, yet idyllic memory. That place was a hotbed for boundless creative and intellectual experimentation. I was so fortunate to work with many wonderful brains, including the revered conceptual artist and thinker, Michael Asher. He was not an aesthetically minded artist, completely anti-visual and I learned a lot from those rigorous, all-day critiques. I was naive and I benefited from sheer dumb guts to speak up for myself. Many professors back then were anti-painting. That was how I began my passage of grad-school, “why painting?”. Sheesh! I made it out of there feeling I’d achieved an exclusive badge of honor alongside my fellow MFA comrades. We fondly call each other “Martians”. It changed me forever, giving me a broadened dialog outside of my painting practice.
About the Artist
Laurie Nye (b. 1972, Memphis, TN) lives and works in Los Angeles. She earned a BFA from the Memphis College of Art in 1995 and a MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 2002. Nye’s work has been featured in one- and two-person exhibitions such as Andromeda, 5 Car Garage, Los Angeles, CA (2015); The Crystal Eaters, Statler & Waldorf Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2013); Nature Diamond Figure, Parker Jones Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2011); So Forgotten, Material Gallery, Memphis TN; and Laurie Nye and Paula Cane, Karyn Lovegrove Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2007). Her work has been included in thematic exhibitions including The White Album, Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA (2014); Material Anthology, Material Gallery, Memphis, TN (2013); Unfinished Paintings, LACE, Los Angeles, CA (2011); Like a Soft Summer Rain, Post Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2010); Boo, Karyn Lovegrove Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2007); and Sugartown, Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York, NY (2005).
For the coveted gallery exhibition slot during Frieze Week, Hannah Barry chose two stalwarts of her stable: James Capper and Shaun McDowell, presenting solo shows of new work on each of the two floors of the South London gallery space. Due to unprecedented interest, their solo shows have been extended to 30thNovember so hurry over to Peckham to see James Capper’s EARTH MARKING EXPEDITION: Film, Mobile Sculpture, Component Parts and Shaun McDowell’s Navigator – new paintings from the studio in Redhill.
Capper is a sculptor whose artworks adopt the techniques, materials and actions of industrial objects: hydraulic pumps, cutting blades and ploughs. These monumental steel objects function as mark-making tools, interacting with various terrain during performances that result in abstract compositions in the landscape. For his solo show, Capper presents three earth-marking machines, Hydra Shuffle II, Hydra Stepand Telestep as well as the full family of teeth for the latter two machines, all meticulously arranged in a lush light yellow purpose-built sledge.
For the artist who grew up working on his neighbour’s farm in Kent, these mobile sculptures may seem like a natural progression for Capper, but to tackle these complex problem-solving processes of innovation and engineering, the artist has had to develop his own unique sculptural language. As moving machines that draw on the landscape, these sculptures are conducive to starring in their own films so save time to watch Capper’s film, JAMES CAPPER TELESTEP A GUBBIO! featuring his six-legged mountain-climbing Telestep in the Italian Apennines of Umbria. Although shown inert in the gallery setting, these walking hydraulic gizmos are able to burrow into the viewer’s imagination with their zoomorphic characteristics – one looks like a caterpillar, another a Jurassic spider. All powder-coated in a variety of yellows and blues, these sculptures recall real-life tools used in industrial applications but hint at the inventive mind of a very special contemporary artist.
On the more intimate first floor of the gallery, a group of seven small square abstract oil paintings by McDowell hang at museum height around the four walls of the room. McDowell, the master of the gestural brushstroke and the genius colourist, outdoes himself here at his fifth solo show at Hannah Barry Gallery. After working solidly over the last year in his gargantuan double-wide mechanic’s garage-cum-artist’s studio in suburban Surrey, McDowell presents a well-edited selection of new paintings. Always painted at the same time on the floor of his studio, McDowell moves from board to board, painting layer after layer of lusciously coloured abstract marks, some transparent, some opaque, all curvy or swirly, never straight. The movement in the process is key as the finished works are alive and vibrant, both in colour and expressiveness. Each painting has the adequate space around it for the viewer to take in its unique vitality. Assembled as a whole, Navigator is a pleasurable assault to the senses.
All photos: Courtesy of the artists and Hannah Barry Gallery, London.
Marcelle Joseph’s Instagram page: @marcelle.joseph
About the Artists
James Capper (b. 1987, London) lives and works in London. He received his B.A. in Sculpture from the Chelsea College of Art and Design and his M.A. from the Royal Academy of Art, London, where he was presented with the Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture. Recent solo exhibitions include those at Hannah Barry Gallery, London (2016, 2015 and 2011), Vigo Gallery, London (2016), Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York (2015), CGP LONDON/Dilston Grove, London (2015); Cass Sculpture Foundation, Goodwood, UK (2015); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire (2013); and Modern Art Oxford, Oxford (2011). His works have been included in other important exhibitions at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (2014); The Moving Museum, London (2013); Saatchi Gallery, London (2011); and Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2013). In 2017, Capper has upcoming solo shows in Bath (UK), Oaxaca (Mexico) and New South Wales (Australia).
Shaun McDowell (b. 1981, Sussex) lives and works in Redhill, Surrey. Recent solo exhibitions include those at Hannah Barry Gallery, London (2016, 2014, 2012, 2011 and 2008); and Brickhouse at Nutbrook Studios, London (2011). McDowell takes an active role in curating group exhibitions in his Surrey studio space under the moniker Dynamite Projects (2015-6) and has also curated or co-curated EE=MC2, Evgenij Kozlov, Hannah Barry Gallery, London (2015); Save yourself! Hannah Barry Gallery, London (2014); PeckhamNewYorkParis, Galerie 104 Kleber, Paris; Martos Gallery, New York; and 88 Friary Road, London (all 2013); and Nothing Fixed, Marcelle Joseph Projects, London (2011). Selected group exhibitions include: What’s up 2.0, Lawrence van Hagen, London (2016); Confuses Paroles, Le Cabinet Dentaire, Paris (2015); Figure this Out, Assembly House Studios, Leeds and Passage Choiseul, Paris (2015); Degree of Darkness, Rook & Raven Gallery, London (2014); En-trée, Middlemarch, Brussels (2014); Visible, Invisible: Against the Security of the Real, Parasol Unit, London (2010); and Peckham Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice (2009).
Crampton’s approach to craft and making is a perfect fit with Muggenburg’s finely crafted pieces of jewellery on display. The structures that Crampton has built for the presentation of her sculptures also mimic the display strategies often employed by high-end boutiques and fashion brands. Reminiscent of the work of the Memphis Group of designers in Milan in the 1980’s, in colour, form and materiality, Crampton’s new works slyly straddle the line between craft and fine art, hinting at functionality and playing with various textures and materials. Since she graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in 2014, Crampton has continually surprised viewers with her mastery of new skills – from welding steel and beating copper to woodworking, designing light fixtures, throwing pots and knitting, embroidering and upholstering various textiles.
Featuring three sculptures that resemble shade trees spreading their branches in all directions, the exhibition entitled “Bowers: from form to public” invites the viewer to perform a dance of sorts under the arbour created by these sculptural forms, like a bird fluttering around a garden looking for its hatchling. Accompanying this exhibition are three commissioned poems by Daniel C. Blight. Picking out a few choice lines of verse, Crampton’s work comes alive.
“In movement we will live
A place in the garden
Below the sky
Cancel the summer.”
With her unique sculptural language, Crampton is a confident young artist whose work demands to be seen.
About the Artist
Coco Crampton (b. 1983, London) lives and works in London after graduating from the Royal Academy Schools in 2014. Recent exhibitions include RA Summer Exhibition 2016, Royal Academy of Arts, London; All Over (five-person show), Studio Leigh, London (2016); Gradation (recent graduates of the Royal Academy Schools), Art First, London (2016); Gardeners & Astronomers (a two-person show with Nicole Vinokur), Caustic Coastal, Manchester (2016); Kingly Things (a two-person show with Agata Madejska curated by Gareth Bell-Jones), Chandelier Projects, London (2015); Handles on Romance & Other Girls also Common Tongue, a solo exhibition at The Minories in Colchester (2015); Cassius Clay (group exhibition curated by Marcelle Joseph Projects, London) and Protected Space (two-person exhibition with Jonathan Baldock), Belmacz Gallery, London (2014).
London-based artist Nicolas Deshayes creates some heat at his debut solo show, Thames Water, at Stuart Shave/Modern Art in London (1st – 24th September 2016).
Upon entering this gallery space housed in former printing works in Clerkenwell, you immediately notice metres and metres of industrial silver piping running across the walls of this pristine white cube with peaked skylights providing lashings of sunlight against the minimalist interior. On closer inspection, these amorphous anatomical concrete-grey protuberances pop into focus, scattered here and there on the walls like three-dimensional drawings made of cast iron. Once you get closer, you feel the heat emanating from these uncanny objects. The epidermis of these warming sculptures is bumpy and scarred, with their forms resembling flattened earthworms or the small intestines of the human alimentary canal. Architectural support and spatial placement seem vital, as these functional objects are hung at radiator height and operate by attaching themselves to the existing water pipes in the gallery.