“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…” Suddenly, images flash through your mind of a baby blue gingham-bedecked Dorothy clicking the heels of her red sequined shoes. The artwork of British artist Jonathan Baldock is equally transportative. Baldock blurs the line between art and theatre with his cast of enigmatic characters – typically meticulously crafted, soft, pastel pink sculptural assemblages that focus on the human form with an unsettling sense of humour. Employing crafts traditionally associated with the domestic sphere, such as home felting, basket weaving, candle making, appliqué, ceramics and stitching, Baldock’s multidisciplinary practice incorporates painting, sculpture, performance and playful installations, finding inspiration in the enchanted realms of mythology, masks, tribal rituals and folkloristic traditions. Like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Baldock’s work has a performative element that encourages its audience to engage with it. For There’s No Place Like Home at CGP London (on until 30 July 2017), Baldock’s largest and first solo exhibition in a public institution in London, the artist, referencing the 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz, creates a symphony of surreal sculptures that play with scale, horror and marvel bordering on the grotesque. Baldock’s work can also be seen in Hull (at the Hull Maritime Museum until 2nd July 2017 as part of its UK City of Culture programme throughout 2017) and in Blackpool (at the Grundy Art Gallery as part of a collaborative touring exhibition in three parts with fellow artist Emma Hart until 12th July).
On the occasion of Baldock’s solo show spread over the two spaces of CGP London in Southwark Park, including Dilston Grove, the cavernous historic church that was one of the first concrete buildings of its size in Britain, Marcelle Joseph talks to Baldock about his theatrical sculptural practice and the new cast of characters he was commissioned to make for There’s No Place Like Home.
Congratulations on your latest solo exhibition at CGP! Working in such an iconic and monumental building as Dilston Grove and covering two separate locales, how did you approach this show? What came first? The form or scale of the sculptures? The materials? The reference to The Wizard of Oz?
CGP commissioned me to make new works for their Dilston Grove (church) space. As you say, it is such an iconic space and could be viewed as an artwork in its own right! It is long, narrow and very high and so not an easy space to show in. I felt the work had to be made in response to these factors so I always knew that I wanted the work to utilise the height. From here, the idea of hanging works from the beams above evolved. This adds to the already very theatrical nature of the space – not just a church but a stage.
For me, showing in a church made it impossible not to think of mortality. The exhibition came about during a time when I was thinking a lot about the vulnerability and weakness of the human body. Of the shortness of life... I felt the need to oppose this and to make monuments to celebrate its strength and wonder. I started thinking about the church as a body and the sculptures within as fragmented body parts - kind of votives made monstrous. The Wizard of Oz connection quickly succeeded these ideas, and – firstly the idea of the homemade within the works, the significance of home to people today, but also that Oz is the home of all the unusual characters. Ozma is more interested in the unusual ones than the ordinary ones.
Your work is fascinated with the human body and its many orifices. For this show, the viewer encounters a human-scale votive candle adorned with waxen ears, a wicker chain that morphs into a human spine, chandeliers shaped like breasts hung from the ceiling and a sandy table in the form of an eye. Is your use of the body and its many parts a way of demanding that your sculptures perform for their audience?
Absolutely – I see these sculptures as very performative. Not just in their references to the body and their energy but also in the fact that they are often activated in performance by live performers. These interactions often leave the performer heavily costumed and seem less alive than the sculptures, and I love that!
Carrying on with the corporeal theme, do the bodily orifices depicted in your work have a sinister, sexual or violent side to them as well?
I enjoy the fact that orifices (particularly the word) often have sexual connotations, which in turn could be sexual or violent. For me, however, the orifice becomes a metaphorical portal to pass from one space to another. The doorway from the outer world to the internal world, the physical to spiritual. Orifices on the body are mouths, ears, noses and eyes and not just the anus, urinary meatus, vagina and nipples – which I guess carry more sexual connotations. I think these two aspects can easily run parallel as they do in life. It is the dark and light aspect of the world we live in… or does that make it sound too much like some life coach/guru??
Your work, idolising design, pattern and decoration and often imbued with a hint of the ‘dressing up box’, is laboriously made by the human body, using craft techniques associated with feminised labour. How did your interest in these domestic skills initially come about and how much of it is bound up in your own autobiography?
I learnt to sew from my nan. She sometimes looked after me when my mum was at work and being an older nan meant that she took care of me in front of the TV and showed me how to knit and sew – I loved it! Later it was my mum who passed on her sewing skills – the basic blanket stitch which is a bit of a staple within my work was taught by her. I’ve always said my childhood role models were three women: my nan, my mum and my sister. And I see them entwined in the work that I make. I believe these mediums have an honesty and integrity to them and are incredibly empowering. Being able to make work and construct work by hand – especially in the early days was incredibly important to me. Today, I am lucky enough to incorporate elements that I do make myself and I think the work is all the stronger for it.
Let’s talk about your palette. Is it pastel pink, sickly pink, candy-coloured pink or flesh pink? Is colour integral to your work and on the flip side, is colour an important tool for the viewer to translate or decode your work?
Firstly, it is flesh pink but I like that it is also all of those other pinks. I love that it is one colour that has so many associations. Pink also has associations with childlike innocence so it becomes another tool with which I bring together opposing forces and I subvert and distort its reading with uncanny or darker elements.
For this show, you will animate your new work with performances by Vancouver’s Kokoro Dance Company who will interact with your new commissions in Dilston Grove in bespoke, sculptural costumes. This is not the first time you have worked with performance artists and have made costumes for them. How did this collaboration come about with this Japanese butoh dance company and why the fascination with adorning the live human body in relation to your sculptural installations?
I was first introduced to Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget of Kokoro Dance through the curator of a show I had in Vancouver – Tobin Gibson in 2014. Tobin had organised for them to perform within my show, wear some sculptural costumes I had on display and activate some of the objects. We hit it off immediately and both expressed a keen interest in working together in the future. In 2015, they invited me to design the set and costumes for their piece ‘The Book of Love’. Inviting them to come to the UK has long been a dream of mine and I’m very happy they have agreed to it. I had no prior experience of Butoh dance before working with them but I think what they do is incredibly powerful and a wonderful antidote to a lot of performance at the moment in contemporary art which seems to be focused on the young, bodies, complacency and posing.
Images 1-3 and 6: Jonathan Baldock, installation shot of “There’s No Place Like Home” at CGP London (Dilston Grove), 2017, Photo: Damian Griffiths
Images 4-5: Jonathan Baldock, installation shot of “There’s No Place Like Home” at CGP London (The Gallery), 2017, Photo: Damian Griffiths.
Image 7: Jonathan Baldock, installation shot of “Love Life: Act II” at The Grundy, Blackpool (collaborative exhibition by Jonathan Baldock and Emma Hart), 2017, Photo: Ian Brown.
Image 8: Jonathan Baldock, installation shot of “Toilers of the Sea” at Hull Maritime Museum, Hull (collaborative exhibition by Jonathan Baldock and Ian J Brown), 2017, Photo: Ian Brown.
Jonathan Baldock: There’s No Place Like Home, CGP London (15 June – 30 July 2017): http://cgplondon.org/jonathan-baldock/
Artist’s website: http://jonathan-baldock.com
Offshore: artists explore the sea, Hull Maritime Museum, Hull (1 April – 2 July 2017): http://invisibledust.com/project/offshore-artists-explore-the-sea/
Love Life: Act 2 (two person touring show with Emma Hart), The Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool (17 June – 12 August 2017): https://www.grundyartgallery.com/programme/forthcoming/
Belmacz Gallery, London: http://www.belmacz.com/artists/baldock_jonathan
Nicelle Beauchene, New York: http://nicellebeauchene.com/artists/jonathan-baldock/
About the Artist
Jonathan Baldock (b. 1980, Pembury, UK) graduated from The Royal College of Art in 2005. He has exhibited internationally, recent shows include: Offshore: Artists Explore the Sea, Hull Maritime Museum; SPACE Gallery, London; Love Life: Acts 1,2 & 3 (touring show with Emma Hart), Peer Gallery, London, The Grundy, Blackpool and De La Warr Pavilion (forthcoming); Conversation Piece/ Part 3, Fondazione Memmo, Rome; Baldock, Pope, Zahle, Northern Gallery of Contemporary Arts (NGCA), Sunderland; Notes from the Orifice, VITRINE Gallery, London (UK); The Soft Machine, Chapter Gallery, Cardiff; Hot Spots, The Apartment, Vancouver; A Strange Mix Between a Butcher’s Shop and a Nightclub, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge. He has received international awards and residencies, including: Kunstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral Residency (2015), Abbey Fellowship, British School in Rome, Italy (2013); Residency – The Forest, Wysing Art Centre Cambridge, UK (2012); and Skowhegan, School of Painting and Sculpture Residency, Maine, USA (2007). Jonathan Baldock is represented by Belmacz, London and Nicelle Beauchene, New York.
British artist Hannah Perry took over Manhattan during Frieze New York this year, with a solo show that opened on 3rd May at Arsenal Contemporary entitled Viruses Worth Spreading (on until 2nd July 2017). That same week, she did a killer performance in collaboration with composer and musician Adam Bainbridge, performance curator Shazam Khan and clothing designer HYDRA. Combining, video, sculpture, installation, music and performance, Perry makes artworks with an urban tongue that jolt, stir and jump-cut their way through a collision course with class, gender, sex, power and youth lifestyle. Employing lo-fi technologies, Perry layers and loops, samples and processes pieces of video footage, text and sound to create erratic, rhythmic artworks with non-linear narratives that give clues to the artist’s own lived experience. Hailing from Chester in the North West of England, Perry lives the life of a nomadic artist, having lived for brief periods in Los Angeles, Montreal, Istanbul, Las Vegas and London over the last few years; however, her work (in particular, the sculptures) pays homage to the working class aesthetic of northern England, using aluminium and crushed car parts from an auto body shop to reimagine a world of adolescent joyriding in pimped-out speedsters. For her New York solo show, Perry transformed the main gallery into a post-club crash pad with moody, purple lighting, a split monitor hanging from the ceiling playing a new 20-minute single channel video and various duvets and foam mattresses for viewer seating.
Congrats on your solo exhibition at Arsenal Contemporary in New York! Let’s start with the title – Viruses Worth Spreading. For me, it brings up promiscuity and feminine sexual desire, themes often considered taboo in our phallocentric society. Could you talk about the overriding themes in your new show and how you overlay “gender” onto your work?
Within our phallus obsessed society, I guess this is the equivalent of my dick shaped art. Promiscuous is a term that is almost always used when speaking about a woman and it is pejorative. Although promiscuity is no longer viewed quite as negatively as it used to be, I would say mental health is much more out of bounds.
The themes swayed interchangeably between trauma, lust, heartache and anxiety. Imagined in a realm where relationships share equal footing in the virtual and real world—somewhere between online stalking, love letters, sexts and selfies.
The title came from a line of a script that I wrote, conjuring the clichéd image of 'the hysterical woman' who has lost control. The text was written whilst researching and combined a mixture of that research with memes, public posts online and personal emails that I will never send.
The whole undercurrent of the show was an attempt to inhabit and take control of negative stereotypes attached to genders, playing up to something whilst at the same time ridiculing it and then linking female sexuality to a technological virus - which is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.
Please tell me about your multi-sensorial installation at Viruses Worth Spreading featuring your new video Cry Daggers. Is it important for you that the video sits within this darkened womb-like room? How do the various elements – warped walls, duvets covered in expanding foam and hair extensions, strapped-up foam mattresses, purple lighting, footage of LA car rides and GIF-like selfies, and a script describing tales of revenge and sexual desire – fit together?
The script was written from producing a large collage of images, text print-outs and handwriting - all set out like a mind map spanning the length of a wall in my studio. It came to life in three parts. Firstly, in a collection of wall-based works that consisted of rephotographed, distilled close-ups from its original form (which I violently destroyed) on aluminium and plexi and combined with screen printing. Secondly, as a running commentary through the video ‘Cry Daggers’, and finally as the narration to a live performance set three days after the opening.
For the installation, I brought the walls inward to create a curvy, body-like, glowing space. The collection of beds and duvets were made out of marshmallowy like material which had blond hair extensions and distorted foam mattresses upholstered in PVC, bound up with industrial metal strapping. It was about creating an intimacy within the space to experience and watch the film, inviting people into bed like sculptures and duvets to get wrapped up in.
The image of the auto body reoccurs time and time again within my work, the relics of some power play or car crash sex scene. Ruptured body parts were bound between sheets of plexi and hung in windows on scaffolding pipes. The impact imaged as a site of brute force, conjuring the clichéd image of both trauma and, this time lathered in a drippy gooey latex liquid, episodes of retaliation and lust.
The possible relationships between femininity and hysteria, machismo and industrialism are left to drift somewhere in between contingency and essence, threaded through the intimate and the shared.
For this show, you also presented a performance during the opening week, working with several dancers, a choreographer, a composer and a clothing designer – all with an unmistakable youth culture/club vibe. How do you approach this process with its multitude of different human elements? How did this particular performance activate the installation space?
When I was writing the text I sat with four girls, and together we had a think tank discussion on the themes around the work. So when it came to bringing that to life, it made sense to approach the performance collaboratively. Richie Shazam curated a group of performers, and we all lay together in the installation and watched ‘Cry Daggers’. I then sent everyone in the group a recording of the script that they each went home and listened to. Each performer interpreted it in a different way, with a different intensity and hooked onto a specific element which resonated with them. There were moments where I choreographed sections or directed parts but at the core each performer had their own specific interpretation of the emotions and tone of the piece. This for me was the aspect that resonated the most.
I also sent the script recording to an incredibly talented musician producer called Adam Bainbridge who scored an amazing soundtrack for the piece, and lastly l I worked with Hydra SARTORIAL LATEX, a fashion designer who shares a similar sensibility to materials I was engaging with in my work.
You famously quipped about five years ago, “I didn’t step into an art gallery until I was 18. It’s reflected in my work. It is more about society than art history.” What parts of “society” do you portray in your work?
I suppose I am talking about being from labouring class sensibilities as I come from a family of metal fabricators or service industry work and I have a sense of pride in that.
When in NY, I watched the John Akomfrah art documentary at MOMA about Stuart Hall, the Jamaican-born cultural theorist and leader of the British New Left. It was incredible. I have been reading Stuart Halls’ essay - In low life and high theory - where he talks about the connection between the life which working class people made for themselves in industrial society and the body of socialist theory which came out of it: ‘the interpretation of theory and experience’ focus on the ‘spirit of collectiveness’ which is too often scooped up, aestheticised, appropriated and fetishised.
Having had the opportunity to work with many young people on projects, particularly in South East London, I realised that a lot of the misaligned youths that I was working with were artists of some kind, but were born into the wrong class, without certain resources. The mechanisms of social mobility, that existed when I was younger and enabled me to be situated in a privileged cultural space now, don't exist anymore unfortunately.
In the same way I work with gender in my work, being working class means having an understanding of what it means to experience an unjust socio-economic system. The reality of both of these concerns is things like loan sharks praying on family members when they are broke and vulnerable or fighting for acknowledgement of your credibility and hard work when undermined with sexist comments. There is a difference between a genuine sense of community and a false identification with a group
So not going to an art gallery until i was 18 was referring to social class and accessibility.
Congrats again on being part of the first group of artists to be in residence for the next two years in the neoclassical Somerset House overlooking the Thames in Central London! How will you use this new workspace? What are your plans for this residency?
Well, at the moment, I am doing a bunch of inductions in the Somerset House workshops. It's an incredibly beautiful setting to be in and feels very Dickensian to be there every day. It’s a two-year studio residency but also feels like being back at art school: firstly, because of the sense of community amongst all of the artists and secondly, because of the amazing resources. When you finish art school, you look back and think of all the things you didn't quite get round to learning, such as new processes and new materials, so it's a chance to go back to that in a way. I am very lucky.
One last question… As a female artist whose work makes public your own private relationships and experiences, how do you navigate this space where issues of voyeurism and power relationships come to the fore?
A lot of my work is mediated and fragmented through the process. Reprocessing, degrading, altering and defusing the images, video and sounds.
Conceptually, in the NY show, there are a lot of expressions of anger, trauma and grief through the posture of a relationship breaking down last year and the emotions that spiralled out of that - such as anger, a sense of loss, hopelessness, injustice and grief. Looking back now, it was all a cloak or mask to coincide with the loss of my best friend and long term collaborator, Pete Morrow, who sadly took this life in January of last year. I worked with Pete on various performances, like at Boiler Room and V22 and countless other video and music projects. It was easier to reconcile with a breakup than it was to process death. So there are many layers of public and many layers of private. Working with personal content can be a vulnerable position but the vulnerability is the strength.
Voyeurism and power plays are unfortunately something that women have to grapple with within every area. Being unapologetic about those experiences is exactly what that show was all about.
Hannah Perry: Viruses Worth Spreading, Arsenal Contemporary, New York (3 May – 2 July 2017): http://www.arsenalmontreal.com/en/exhibitions/?t=now&w=new_york
Artist’s website: http://www.hannahperry.com
Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin website: http://www.cfa-berlin.de/artists/hannah_perry
All images courtesy of the artist and Arsenal Contemporary, New York.
Image 1: Hannah Perry, installation view of Cry Daggers (HD video, 2017) in Viruses Worth Spreading, Arsenal Contemporary, New York, 2017.
Image 2: Hannah Perry, Your Ass is Grass (And I’m Gonna Mow It) (2017), silkscreen on aluminium, digital perplex print on plexiglass, silkscreen on plexiglass, 152.4 x 182.88 cm.
Image 3: Hannah Perry, Cock Blocking (2017), foam, vinyl, steel strapping, 134.6 x 76.2 x 73.6 cm.
Image 4: Hannah Perry, Cucci Copey (detail) (2017), expanding foam, synthetic hair extensions, duvet vinyl, 139.7 x 205.7 x 35.5 cm.
Image 5: Hannah Perry, installation view of Pretty and Trauma Junky (both 2017, plexiglass, crushed car parts, foam, latex) in Viruses Worth Spreading, Arsenal Contemporary, New York, 2017.
Image 6: Hannah Perry, exhibition view of Viruses Worth Spreading, Arsenal Contemporary, New York, 2017.
Image 7: Hannah Perry, exhibition view of Viruses Worth Spreading, Arsenal Contemporary, New York, 2017.
About the Artist
Born in Chester in 1984, Hannah Perry lives and works in London. She graduated from Goldsmiths College in 2009 and from the Royal Academy Schools in 2014. Her solo shows include Viruses Worth Spreading, Arsenal Contemporary, New York (2017); 100 Problems, Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin (2016); Mercury Retrograde, Seventeen, London (2015); You’re gonna be great, Jeanine Hofland, Amsterdam (2015); Always, Steve Turner, Los Angeles (2015); and Hannah Perry, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2012). Recent institutional group-exhibitions include: If we think bad, Arsenal Montreal (2016); Private Settings: Art After the Internet, MOMA Warsaw; New Order II, Saatchi Gallery, London (2014); A sense of things, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2014); Alternative Space from London: Arcadia Missa Off-Site, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (2014); Stedelijk at Trouw: Contemporary Art Club – DATA, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2013); OPEN HEART SURGERY, Moving Museum, London (2013); and Dropbox, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford (2013). Performances by the artist have been hosted at Boiler Room, London (2015); Serpentine Gallery, London (2014); David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2014); Barbican Gallery, London (2013); V22, London (2012) and Zabludowicz Collection, London (2012).
For her first solo show, Welsh artist Sarah Roberts travels to the Costa del Sol, creating an all-enveloping five-dimensional monochromatic installation at BLOCK 336 in London entitled Torremolinos-Tableaux-Tongue-Twister (After Sun) (on until 6th May 2017). This site-specific immersive exhibition is the second act to a 2016 day-time version of the beach in Torremolinos that was exhibited at HaHa Gallery in Southampton. As day moves into night, colours change. The pink flesh of bodies on the beach mutates into red – suggesting sun-burnt skin, red neon outside a nightclub or a spectacular sunset. In this exhibition, the viewers’ senses are completely overwhelmed with dozens of different surface textures they want to touch, atomisers spewing out the scent of sun cream, a sound piece of waves crashing on the beach and the ruddy pigmentation of the entire space. Red LED lights from above illuminate hundreds of objects that are either laying on the floor, leaning up against the wall or reclining on plinths, all of which are scarlet-tinged (including two tons of rubescent gravel poured onto the floor in the shape of a tongue). The objects include hand-cast plaster pieces, found objects, hand-printed textile pieces, glass, rubber and glitter. Living between London and Wales, Roberts writes poetry as well as makes sculptural installations that are obsessed with their surfaces and how they mirror the everyday world, recalling architecture, landscape and body in form and colour.
Congrats on your first solo show at BLOCK 336 in Brixton! As a viewer, it was a mesmerising experience for me, playfully engaging all of my senses. Instead of looking at each of the individual objects, the monochromatic aspect of the show forces you to dwell on the entirety of the installation. As the artist, how do you intend the viewer to interact with this all-consuming installation? Do you attempt to curate the viewer’s experience through the employment of excess?
Thank you! This has been my first opportunity to create something on this scale, and something that is in turn a fully encapsulated immersive experience so its nice to hear that your senses were aware of being catered for in the journey through it.
In terms of leading the viewer – I’d like to think I’m not directing their journey through the installation beyond the physical pathways that are created; maybe I’m more researcher and set designer. I want to lead the viewer to a space that’s akin to a [very present] stage set of the everyday made anew, somewhat credible and entirely real, part unfinished and very much made for a viewer to discover themselves, and in that act of discovery, to activate it.
When I’m researching for new palettes, I seek out places that show me their edges, their constructedness, facades, or ideas of underneaths. I don’t see these faces as veneers or fakes but as very real material surfaces, the actuality of things. The plastic paradise of a truly blue hotel spa, furred up purple carpet tiles, pinks plastered on walls as dripping renders, wet sand furrowed and grained, pressed into with bony fleshed out toes - all up for grabs. I’ve loved Vegas casinos, desert landscapes, Welsh hinterlands, and now here – the sun-down-lit strip of the Costa del Sol that is Torremolinos.
And about the excess, well yes, maybe if left alone with less, the viewer may have time to start making sense of things, to covet the object, to attribute the value of artwork to things; whereas here in the conversant and non-hierarchical material repeats, I hope viewers will focus on looking at the materiality of things or at best wanting to touch.
Personally, I was very drawn toward the hand-crafted objects in the installation – the screen-printed textiles and wall vinyls and the cast plaster pieces. Do you see these as able to exist on their own as individual artworks outside of the installation context? Or does your practice only allow for an installation type of presentation?
No, not at the moment. I actually find words or collage easier ways of representing ideas in smaller utterances. I use collage a lot in the preparation for a piece; it’s key in my research process.
Once I start making, the connectivity between the excess seems essential. It’s like the pieces all form an alphabet, and trying to exist alone, they are just the beginning or end of some sentence, never the core of it - they really are surfaces. Maybe this can change as my vocabulary strengthens, but for now, once things become 3D matter, it gets trickier; things gain this unwarranted value, trying to make sense and coming back senseless.
My practice as a maker has a focus on labour and production. I produce multiple repeats in a day, all different takes on a sensation, all chatting, and all growing into some overall sense of a new place. I am my own factory, and I access others who operate out there in the ‘real world’ of manufacturing to create things as well, and these are of equal stature, getting something absurd made to spec - where you can hardly notice it’s bespoke without closer inspection - is something I adopt a lot.
I have a special and fleeting relationship with each piece I make, and then each piece slips a little into the next and into the whole. I want that thing I have hand-cast to sit, with a sense of purposeful slippery belonging, alongside found plastic objects or those bespoke manufactured absurdities - all equals, all matter. I think this is what throws us into an experience of looking - me out there on the promenade in Torremolinos, and the viewer here in its Tongue-Twister counterpart at Block 336.
For this show, you wrote a free verse poem that was included in the press release. When planning an exhibition, what comes first for you – the poetry or the visual components of the show?
I use words at all stages of the process - to record places and their sensations. I write emails to myself, like material memoirs, hashtag haikus. Much like the materials of the installation, they get sculpted, become a collection of collisions, and seek to perform a function but slide into phonic performance kept together by proximity of placement and somehow making sense even at points of disjuncture. I began writing this poem in a café in Torremolinos and finished it on the tube after a site visit to Block 336.
In this poem, the opening line is “Her tongue twisted around names and melting ice pops as the dark closed in on the pinks and the sky clouded into sticky reds”. It is an incredible introduction to the show, giving the reader many clues to what they are about to encounter visually as well as aurally and olfactorily. Is it essential for the viewer to engage with your writing before or after viewing your work?
The poems are gobbets, non-narrative descriptions of the material encounters rather than a map of this new space. So no, they are not essential; they are not a precursor nor an afterthought. They are simply another thing.
In the past, your artworks had a strong tie to your own Welsh heritage, possessing titles in both Welsh and English and exploring the chroma of the Mid Wales countryside. How important is your own autobiography to your practice?
I believe Welshness runs through me and my practice like a granite seam. The older I get, the more I experience a sense of hiraeth [which translates as homesickness but more as a sense of longing for the land] when I spend too long away from Wales. The landscape back home is as tactile as it is visual. I grew up in a small town, a strip village nestled between rock and sea right in the middle, right on the coast. In the face of epic variegated terrain, tiny terraced dwellings become impotent teeth in crumbling pinks and blue hues against a backdrop of grey and green. We didn’t have iPhones in the early nineties, just skinny legs, mountain bikes and a sense of owning the rock from our bunk-beds whilst waiting for the summer season.
I now live and work between Wales and London. It’s perfect. Each place is as intense and revelatory as the other, and they keep each other blindingly visible. I think this has an undeniable effect on my practice. I will never get bored of working with Wales.
Given that words are part of your artistic metier, is the Welsh language something you wish to preserve in this world of disappearing languages?
Welsh was my first language; as a child, I barely spoke English, and now I lose words daily. My accent is unrecognisable. It’s an upsetting sensation of loss, both of belonging and of the fragility of our ability to communicate. It’s also fascinating; my words have become more material than ever as they trip and tumble from my mouth. I’m obsessed with the awkwardness of Google Translate and its limitations. I think being bilingual as a kid helped me to articulate. I chose words for their meaning, but also their phonics, their performativity. I circumnavigated them from the other tongue like one might a sculpture. I do this when I write, often using translations in texts or titles. In fact, I seem to love the imagery of tongues too!
I’m definitely interested in preserving language, and not for nostalgic reasons. I genuinely believe that multiple languages can add to our ability to perform proper attempts at articulation. I’m relearning my mother tongue to an adult grade now. It’s like my vocabulary was fixed when I left Wales at 18.
For your installations included in The London Open at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2015 and Saatchi Art New Sensations in 2014, a single colour was not the focal point; instead, a panoply of surfaces, faux and real, barraged the viewer. From a white plastic electrical fan to a scattering of hand-cast plaster bowls in a rainbow of colours and from a roll of LED strip lights to wallpaper and swatches of silk printed with a photographic image of polystyrene, texture seems like a key driver in your practice. Do you agree? Could you talk further on this point?
‘Barraged’ is a nice way to put it. That’s how I feel when I find these places in the first place. Buffered by winds, accosted by colour. Dribbling internally at the sheer deliciousness of the surface textures.
My practice centres around this collection of the actuality of the surfaces of the world; when researching, I collect images of walls, floors, sand - all texture, colour or form. The distilling of these textures starts here. I don’t see it as a reduction to colour, texture and form – its more like a making visible of it. The images are repeated into forms, poured into plasters, smoothed into ceramics and printed on various substrates with sliding scales, sound, scents and more. For each place, the representation I create is led by the overall sensation of that place as I record it - sometimes places seep into a hue, other times their apparent colour blocks stick out shouting, and sometimes the air smells like sun cream.
AMPERSANDS (Fairbourne a& Margate a&) (2015), shown at Whitechapel, is a piece centered around excess, additions and the power of visually driven connections. This piece collides two palettes through a forced additive connection and is slightly more frenetic and unnerving as a result. It’s full of of peeled-off textures of Margate’s visible arcadia and a bleak palette from a Welsh strip village that is slowly returning to the sea. This insinuated theme park of edges and collisions of made matter, in multicolour hues with washed out rocky accents, hopefully makes us consider these created visual contexts.
ETO O Borth – Again from Borth (2014), shown at New Sensations, is from a hinterland in Mid Wales, a more direct presentation of one palette, a strip of terraced houses exposed to the land and the sea. Its flimsy curtained ‘walls’ pull at the edges, suggesting Borth’s precarious positioning on the coastline and observing our belief in those tiny multi-coloured terraced invaders of the landscape.
Here in the reds at Block 336, this heavy lidded half light is an integral part of the encasing shell of the work. I’m fascinated with the idea of our experience of colour being waves reflected off the surfaces. That we are making it red, SEEING RED. I’ve included light in many previous works as a material, a light, a bulb, a colour. This is the first time I have really considered its impact on our ways of seeing colour, its ability to shift the palette of a place depending on the time of day.
I tried to fix that moment of light into an experience of colour, and I love how its unfixable and slips away from your eyes. I’m fascinated by this idea that the objects in a place can be different visible versions of themselves at different points in the day. The red is all-encompassing when you first encounter it and then fades as your retinas adjust to the light into salmon and oranges. The lights were the first things I installed so I could get a real sense of this new space – I had to keep going back out to the white light so I could see the reds again. You are very aware of your place within it and your experience of the colours changing whilst you are in it - this apparent colour cover-up that is in fact a revelation of textures.
BLOCK 336, London: http://block336.com
Artist’s website: http://www.sarahrobertsfa.com
About the Artist
Sarah Roberts is a Welsh artist currently living and working in London and Wales. She studied Sociology at the University of Leeds (BA 2001) before finishing a second BA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design, London in 2014. Recent group exhibitions include SellYourSelf, East Street Arts, Leeds (2017); I’M Feeling So Virtual I’m Violent, HaHa Gallery, Southampton (2016); P A N D I C U L A T E : The Joy of Stretching, The Koppel Project, London (2016); The London Open 2015, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015) and Saatchi Art New Sensations, Victoria House, Londn (2014). Roberts was selected for the Into The Wild Residency Programme, Chisenhale, London (2015-16) and the ACAVA/ArtQuest Lifeboat Residency (2014-15), and was awarded the Parasol Unit Exposure Award in 2014.
As seen on FAD Magazine: http://fadmagazine.com/2017/04/13/marcelle-joseph-interviews-artist-sarah-roberts/
Sculptor Rebecca Ackroyd could be described as a millennial Rosemarie Trockel, discovering disparate materials with considered ease and strength of purpose. From plaster bandage to welded rebar and from cast wax to silk and tulle, these are a few of the materials that Ackroyd employs in her artistic practice that has an underlying feminine elegance delivered with a prickly, tough attitude. At its heart, Ackroyd’s oeuvre centres around a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, materials-focused approach to artmaking that is intimate and bodily. Currently, her work can be seen in the United Kingdom at her solo exhibition at OUTPOST in Norwich (on until 16th April) and a group show curated by George Vasey and entitled These Rotten Words at Chapter in Cardiff, Wales (on until 11th June).
You are currently showing a brave new body of work at your solo show at OUTPOST, combining sculpture, photography and drawings all displayed on a pub carpet in dim lighting and installed in an enclosed space draped with dark felt curtains. The show is entitled ‘House Fire’ and feels very personal and autobiographical with many links to your family and your childhood home. How did you approach this show in an artist-run space far away from the environs of the London art world?
The opportunity to show at a space like Outpost has been really important to the development of this body of work, as they gave me complete freedom to make the show however I wanted. I felt that away from London I could really test these new ideas and see how I could push the work into more personal territory. The show as a whole feels much more vulnerable and maybe a bit nervous, or maybe that’s just how I feel about it; it’s more revealing than anything I’ve done before.
The OUTPOST show feels very experiential and moody. The lighting is so dim that you must get very close to the drawings on the wall and bend down to discover the subtle details of the floor-based sculptures -- like the dripping wax and the back-lit window in the shape of witchy eyes. Is this important to the conceptual framework of the show?
Yeah, it was really important. I wanted the show to feel a bit like the back room of a pub you stumble across and have to wait for your eyes to adjust to the light and have a sense of familiarity. I wanted the sculptures to almost become shadows or voids on the carpet and for everything to absorb light and emerge gradually. I thought about spotlighting the drawings but I felt that it turned them into ‘art’ too much, and I liked the idea of having the densely worked images that peer through the darkness and invite a closer encounter.
Since your degree show at the Royal Academy Schools in 2015, you have made several figurative sculptures using your signature plaster bandage and chicken wire process. They started out as stand-alone, two-metre-tall, pearly white legs, adopting cheeky stances and grouped together as if standing around at a Hole concert. Since then, they have changed colour – from a dirty beige at the Kinman Gallery show you co-curated in 2016 to an industrial grey at the group show at the Sara Zanin Gallery in Rome in 2017. They have also increased in scale and become part of the fabric of the exhibition space, attached to the wall and incorporating air conditioning ducts and window vents. Has the thinking behind these sculptures changed since 2015? And will this series be something that you continue to reprise in the future?
I like the idea of having a material process that allows the construction of large-scale architectural works that are made quickly and that have an urgency. I see these pieces in a similar way to the process of drawing and feel they retain some of that energy and immediacy which is also important in how they are ‘active’ in a space. They have changed from being the evocation of a confrontation or an attitude through a stance or posture to providing an architecture within a space. I want them to suggest the innards of a building and have an echo of former use, which is implied by the air vents I insert in them. I’m still interested in developing them but for the Outpost show I felt that the drawings inhabited the figurative space in the work in a similar way to these sculptures.
The current group show at Chapter in Cardiff entitled ‘These Rotten Words’ ‘embraces language that is more contingent and intimate’. What are you showing there, and how do you see the intimacy of your own sculptural language?
I’m showing three large-scale limb works that drop down from the ceiling or through walls and along the floor, a bit like abandoned parts of a venting system. Intimacy is something I think about a lot in the work -- how close you let someone get to the work and how it’s revealed. I’m interested in creating spaces where scale shifts to create a distancing between the work and the viewer as well as moments that invite a closer look.
Since the group show you participated in at Herald Street in London in 2016, you have exhibited drawings alongside your sculptures. How does drawing fit into your overall practice?
I started using drawing as a way of making something immediate that isn’t restricted by materials or scale in the same way making sculpture can be. They’ve developed alongside my other works, and I’ve always seen them as equally important, as they both inform and provide a context for some of my other works. The more recent drawings I’ve done feel to me more like paintings and have as much weight as the sculptures I make. I wanted to use the show at Outpost to build relationships between the works on paper and the objects I make.
Rebecca Ackroyd: House Fire, OUTPOST, Norwich (on until 16 April 2017): LINK
These Rotten Words, Chapter, Cardiff (on until 11 June 2017): LINK
About the Artist
Rebecca Ackroyd (b. 1987, Cheltenham, UK) lives and works in London. She graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in 2015 after completing her BA in Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art in 2010. Ackroyd has shown her work at solo exhibitions at OUTPOST, Norwich (2017) and in London at Hunter/Whitfield (2015), Kinman Gallery (2014) and Marsden Woo Gallery (2013). Recent group exhibitions in 2015-7 include: These Rotten Words, Chapter, Cardiff (2017); Walled Gardens in an Insane Eden, Z2O Sara Zanin Gallery, Rome; Modest Villa Immense Versailles (co-curator), Kinman Gallery, London; At Home Salon: Double Acts, Marcelle Joseph Projects, Ascot; Bloody Life, Herald St, London; All Over, Studio Leigh, London; Is it heavy or is it light?, Assembly Point, London; With institutions like these, Averard Hotel, London; Opals, Galerie Opdahl, Stavanger, Norway; Royal Academy Schools Degree Show, London; Works in Residence, David Roberts Art Foundation, London; and The London Open, Whitechapel Gallery, London. In 2013, her work was included in Bloomberg New Contemporaries (ICA, London and Spike Island, Bristol).
Image 1: Rebecca Ackroyd, installation view of work in Walled Gardens in an Insane Eden, Z2O Sara Zanin Gallery, Rome, 2017.
Images 2, 3 and 6: Rebecca Ackroyd, exhibition view of House Fire, OUTPOST, Norwich, 2017.
Image 4: Rebecca Ackroyd, exhibition view of Royal Academy Schools Degree Show, London, 2015.
Image 5: Rebecca Ackroyd, installation view of work in Bloody Life, Herald St, London, 2016.
As seen on FAD Magazine: http://fadmagazine.com/2017/04/06/marcelle-joseph-interviews-artist-rebecca-ackroyd/
British artist Samuel Zealey explores physicality and materiality through his large-scale sculpture practice that is based on a love of physics and engineering. His work can currently be seen in two exhibitions in London but you need to be quick. His solo show entitled Planes is on until 8th April 2017 at the Cob Gallery in Camden, and his work is part of a group exhibition at the Hackney Wick studio of fellow sculptor Luke Hart entitled Sculpture in Public (on until 2nd April 2017). This group show questions the traditional idea of “public sculpture” and is a reprisal of an earlier group show in 2012 entitled Fabricators at the Hannah Barry Gallery, featuring the same five sculptors, James Balmforth, James Capper, Alex Chinneck, Luke Hart and Zealey. After 7th May 2017, you will be able to see a public sculpture by Zealey outside the Bracknell train station in Berkshire. Titled Onyo, the West African word for “precarious”, this four-metre tall sculpture consists of scaled-up Jenga bricks made from different materials that correspond to the historic timeline of technological advances in materials. Starting with the most humble materials on the bottom from the Stone Age (granite foundation boulder) and continuing up through the metallic stages corresponding to the Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages and finishing off at the top with the more advanced metallic alloys such as aluminium, stainless steel and mirrored stainless steel, this leaning public sculpture will question the continuation of our civilization in its current form.
Congrats on your solo show at Cob Gallery called Planes! You are showing your Folded Steel Plane Series, a humorous, tongue-in-cheek exploration of materiality, gravity and engineering. What is this series all about in your mind? What were your inspirations?
This new body of work Planes reflects ideas I have always held important to my visual language, such as invention, form, weight, malleability, accessibility and pushing materials to their absolute limits through a scientific understanding and material intelligence.
I have always considered myself a bit of a purist with respect to how I use and finish materials because there is such a stark and powerful beauty in the colours and textures of nature. This acceptance reflects much of my ethos with regards to my respect and love for this planet and the environment as a whole. Humanity should employ these virtues -- to become humble once again in life, and live in equilibrium within a system being destroyed by our very existence.
For me, the Planes resemble a humble intelligence and understanding of basic aviation and flight, which is learnt from a young age. Usually, a folding technique is nurtured by a loved one whereby a particular style of plane is repeated over and over again. This act becomes a type of muscle memory. These Planes are as much about nostalgia as they are about the future. They hold a timeless aesthetic as a static relic and homage to the power of one’s mind; be it young or old, these objects are relatable and accessible to every culture of the world. These Planes are a symbol of human unity.
I initially saw your work back in 2012 at the Fabricators exhibition that sculptor James Capper curated at the Hannah Barry Gallery in London and was blown away by your infatuation with physics, engineering and new technologies. This show took place shortly after you graduated from the RCA. How has your practice developed since then?
2012 was when I focused on the theory side of my practice. I wrote an essay about the rules within my work which I called The Matriarch and I; this text is the foundation of my current practice. From a young age, I have always been fascinated by many different philosophies, but I have always been particularly inspired by physics, which is heavily apparent in all of my work. The Integrate of Fertility, shown first at the Hannah Barry Gallery in the group exhibition Fabricators, was a huge breakthrough in my sculpture practice and a catalyst to where I am now. This piece brought together my love for science, form, weight, balance, nature, environment and art into one static moment of time. I learnt from this piece that I am mostly interested in the potential of energy and the beauty in stillness and how to make this a physical form which demonstrates the elusive. I have pursued timelessness and learned to be subtle yet loud and never to force the issue because this can destroy a piece very easily. My goal has been to make a sophisticated, thought-provoking visual language that looks effortless and grounded, yet cutting edge and dynamic.
Tell me about Sculpture in Public, the group exhibition of sculptures by five artists in the Hackney Wick studio of sculptor Luke Hart. What did you make for the show? How did this show come about?
Luke Hart recently found out that he would be losing the Hackney Wick workshop that he has been resident in for the past eight years in April. Instead of being defeated by this situation, Luke decided to make good out of a bad situation and proposed to James Balmforth, James Capper, Alex Chinneck and me to put on a group exhibition, transforming his old studio briefly into a warehouse style exhibition space for the show entitled Sculpture In Public curated by Luke Hart and George Marsh of William Benington Gallery.
Most of the artists involved in this exhibition took part in the Fabricators exhibition back in 2012 at the Hannah Barry Gallery so we knew, as a collective, our sculptures worked well in a space together. We all see the importance of making ambitious thought-provoking large-scale sculpture that poses questions about ideas around “public art” and how to push these ideas to new levels. I think I speak for us all when I say that the ideas which are inherent to public art are dated, stagnant and, in some cases, boring, so we are all trying to purposefully redevelop the foundations of what public sculpture should be and can be. This show echoes this ethos. For this exhibition, I developed the sculpture Cross Wing which is number five of the Folded Steel Plane Series.
You have won two large public sculpture commissions over the last few years – one in Bracknell in Berkshire and another in Spitalfields in London. As a maker of large scale sculpture, is this the only way to survive as a sculptor in today’s art world? How does public sculpture differ from making work for a gallery exhibition?
Personally I would say no. I make a lot more capital gain from my gallery practice than I do the public sculpture commissions I have won. This is because, in the most part, materials that are made to last outside are very expensive and a lot of public sculpture commission budgets are not fantastic. For my practice, it is probably something to do with how ambitious I am with regards to bending and breaking the rules because I want to challenge what public sculpture can be.
Saying this, winning public sculpture commissions is a great way to grow as a sculptor and really appreciate the ins and outs of what sculpture is, what it can be and what you don't want it to be. Public sculpture gives one an edge and a sophistication with materials that might not have been possible without the commission. If anything, it’s just really good practice to take on large-scale projects because you learn to manage many different parts of a creative operation.
I enjoy showing in galleries because it allows an artist to be really experimental, exciting and vibrant. The red tape disappears to an extent because health and safety is managed differently. It’s a lot easier to push the limits and challenge the gallery system as well as one’s practice within a gallery environment because an artist’s work is within a more controlled setting. Essentially, what I am saying is that there is a lot more freedom to be creative in the gallery environment.
Your artist’s statement mentions your interest in the environment and your desire to find sculptural ways to combat global warming. Can you talk about this strand of your creative practice and how you have attempted to battle against these environmental issues affecting our world today?
Many of my ideas that translate to visual culture are metaphors of ways that we could or should combat the problems humanity has posed upon this planet. For instance, the Bracknell Public Sculpture Commission Onyo is a statement about humanity’s neglect of the most important issues facing our kind in this current day and age.
If we are not able to combat these problems that we have inflicted upon ourselves, our reality will inevitably topple. I also use sculpture as a vehicle to invent what some might consider in physics to be absurd. This is because the laws of the universe state it to be impossible but I believe that there could be an alternative working model that, in turn, could combat such things as global warming. These ideas are all works in progress.
Being a sculptor seems like a difficult artist to be…. High production costs, reliance on fabricators, difficulty in luring collectors to buy three-dimensional work, finding places to display outdoor sculpture, etc. What advice would you give to a young artist training to be a sculptor at art school?
If sculpture’s your medium, you have to believe blindly in your vision because it’s the hardest path in the visual arts to take and it’s all about stamina. As you have already stated, production costs are high, and collectors prefer, for the most part, to buy two-dimensional works. You can eliminate one logistical problem by cutting out the reliance on fabricators by becoming a fabricator yourself. This requires having a studio workshop fit for the sort of work you produce. Although setting up a large sculpture workshop is expensive at first, it becomes cost effective over time. I've found over the course of the last eight years that having a serious and effective sculpture workshop puts confidence in the minds of individuals that invest in the arts, such as collectors, because it shows how serious you are about your own practice. This confidence can lead to investments in an artist’s work, and good professional relationships can flourish.
Another important aspect to remember is to always keep your dearest friends that make sculpture close because they will be the most loyal and supportive people in your life. They will pick you up when you're down, cheer for you when you are up, and give you the advice you need at anytime. Never be a shark, be a wolf!
Planes, Cob Gallery, London (on until 8th April 2017): LINK
Sculpture in Public, William Benington Gallery London Projects, Hackney Wick (on until 2 April 2017): LINK
About the Artist
Samuel Zealey (b. 1986, London) is a sculptor who lives and works between London and Essex. Since completing his MA at the Royal College of Art in 2012 under the tutelage of Richard Wentworth CBE, he has shown in group exhibitions including ‘Sculpture in Public’, William Benington Gallery London Projects, London (2017); ‘Fabricators’, Hannah Barry Gallery, London (2012); ‘Disappearance’, NAM Project, Milan (2013); ‘Sound Track Festival’, Geffrye Museum, London (2013). Solo exhibitions include those at Cob Gallery, London (March-April 2017); William Benington Gallery, London (2015); Merrymeade House, Brentwood, UK (2014); and Tim Sheward Projects, London (2013).. Zealey has won several awards including the Bracknell Public Sculpture Commission (2015) and the Spitalfields Public Sculpture Commission Award. His work is featured in the collections of Channel 4 John Nole Management, Bouke de Vries (patron of the Contemporary Art Society), the Museum of Mechanical Art & Design, Kinetica Museum and the Broomhill Sculpture Foundation.
Images 1, 2, 5 and 6
Samuel Zealey, installation views from Planes, Cob Gallery, London, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Cob Gallery, London.
Images 3 and 4
Samuel Zealey, installation views from Sculpture in Public, William Benington Gallery London Projects, London, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and William Benington Gallery. Photo: Nick Paton. Third image above features works by Samuel Zealey, James Capper, James Balmforth and Luke Hart.
As seen on FAD Magazine: http://fadmagazine.com/2017/03/30/marcelle-joseph-interviews-sculptor-samuel-zealey/
Discovering the Estonian artist Kris Lemsalu initially at her durational performance at Frieze New York in 2015 and then again at CONDO (a collaborative exhibition by 36 galleries across 15 London spaces in January 2017), Marcelle Joseph is super excited to speak to Lemsalu to learn more about her multidisciplinary practice that melds ceramic sculptural installation with performance.
Her work can be seen across Europe in a travelling group exhibition titled Metamorphosis and curated by Zdenek Felix that starts at KAI 10 | Arthena Foundation, Düsseldorf (4 March – 20 May 2017) and Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin (10 March – 22 April 2017) and then travels to SVIT, Prague (May – June 2017). For those in the UK, you will have to wait until the autumn when Glasgow gallery Koppe Astner hosts her first solo exhibition there.
Having studied ceramics at the Art Academy in Estonia, Lemsalu often mixes traditional materials (such as porcelain) with found natural materials (such as fur, leather and wool) to create humourous, ironic multilayered installations that flirt with notions of life and death. These uncanny installations often act as a stage for Lemsalu’s own performances with parts of the sculpture becoming a costume of sorts. A juxtaposition of high and low brow materials combined with a rough finish attribute a cynical element to her work that mocks art’s desirability in today’s overly moneyed global art market.
I initially spotted you at Frieze New York lying face-down on a waterbed under an enormous ceramic turtle shell sculpture for a four-hour long performance entitled Whole Alone 2 (2015). Do you often inhabit your own sculptural installations? Is their performativity important to the work? And on the flip side, is the presence of your body and its interaction with the viewer adding another element to the installation?
With some of my works, yes - they require my presence and contribution, a kind of baptism to continue their independent life and stay up late.
For CONDO in London at Southard Reid (January – February 2017), Koppe Astner presented a series of your Phantom Camp works, consisting of a porcelain dog’s head peeking out of a cheap polyester sleeping bag. These sleeping bags were dotted around the floor as well as hung at different heights on the wall with the sleeping bag trailing on the floor. The dog had his tongue hanging out and human hands covering his eyes. What captivated me the most about this installation was the combination of materials – refined porcelain with multi-coloured lustrous glazes and bargain basement sleeping bags. Can you talk about your approach to materials and their hierarchy?
There is a playful and very visual process going on in my head while thinking about a new work. Basically I need the materials to float on the same level and the value given to various materials does not exist in my head so I try to give the same consideration to each of them. I work very fast and have developed easy ways for casting and dealing with ceramics. I have come to terms with the fact that heat has its own plans -- what comes out of the kiln may it be broken or exploded. Mostly I don't want any of the materials to sit in the back of the bus.
The porcelain dog’s head with human hands and feet appears often in your sculptural installations going back to your work Father is in Town (2012). Who is this anthropomorphic dog and what does he or she represent?
It shifts in meaning; it can be your best friend, an omen of death and all things in-between.
When thinking about your work, the “cabinet of curiosities” and the “uncanny” often come to mind. What inspires your art production?
My life and works are very much intertwined, so as long as I'm alive, I don't particularly need to search for inspiration.
As a multidisciplinary artist, what comes first for you? The performance or the sculptural installation? The idea or the materials?
First of all, it's the desperate need to communicate that makes me do what I do, so it depends what needs to be said. Lately my work feels more like a lone man's smoke signal at sea, trying to find other humans.
Many young contemporary artists are breathing new life into the medium of clay. What inspires you most about the use of ceramics in your sculptural practice?
I've worked with clay since I was 12 when my mother took me to a ceramics workshop with all the other neighbourhood kids. I took a break when adolescence kicked in, but after high school, I missed the material and decided to study ceramics at the Art Academy of Estonia. After that, I made some more attempts to abandon the material, but never managed to for too long. Clay is my healthy addiction and a physical need that lures me back to the studio - my Paul Simon.
What shall we look forward to seeing in the travelling group exhibition, Metamorphosis in Dûsseldorf, Berlin and Prague this spring and summer? Do you identify with the show’s theme based around Ovid’s tales of transformations among gods, heroes, humans, plants and animals in your own practice?
I look forward to seeing the other artists - Habima Fuchs, Thomas Helbig, Renaud Jerez and Mary-Audrey Ramirez again and for the rest … we shall see.
Artist website: LINK
Koppe Astner, Glasgow website: LINK
Temnikova & Kasela, Tallinn, Estonia website: LINK
Metamorphosis at KAI 10 | Arthena Foundation, Düsseldorf: LINK
Metamorphosis at Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin: LINK
Courtesy of the artist, Koppe Astner, Glasgow and Temnikova & Kasela, Tallinn.
- Kris Lemsalu, Car2Go, 2016, metal glass, plastic, brick ceramic and fabric, dimensions variable, installation view at Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin, 2017.
- Kris Lemsalu, Whole Alone 2, 2015, porcelain, eggs and egg crates, waterbed, metal, hair, dimensions variable, installation view at Frieze New York, 2015.
- Kris Lemsalu, Phantom Camp, 2016, porcelain and fabric, dimensions variable, installation view at CONDO 2017, Koppe Astner at Southard Reid, London, 2017.
- Kris Lemsalu, Father is in Town, 2012 ceramic, lamb fur, wild pig fur, foam, dimensions variable, installation view at Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin, 2012.
- Kris Lemsalu, Samsonite, 2012, autoportrait.
- Kris Lemsalu, Phantom Camp (detail), 2016, porcelain and fabric, dimensions variable, installation view at CONDO 2017, Koppe Astner at Southard Reid, London, 2017.
About the Artist
Kris Lemsalu (b. 1985) is an Estonian artist based in Tallinn, Vienna and Berlin. She studied ceramics at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Lemsalu has shown widely both in Estonia and abroad. Her recent and upcoming solo and duo exhibitions include: upcoming solo show, Koppe Astner, Glasgow (2017); upcoming duo exhibition together with Merike Estna, curated by Thomas Cuckle, Tallinn, Vienna and Berlin (2017); CONDO collaborative exhibition, Kendall Koppe at Southard Reid, London (2017); "Afternoon Tear Drinker", curated by Hemma Schmutz, Kunstraum Lakeside, Klagenfurt (2016); "Beauty and the Beast", (together with Tiit Pääsuke), curated by Tamara Luuk, Tallinn Art Hall, Tallinn (2016); “Blood Knot Step By Step”, Bunshitu Gallery, Tokyo (2015); “Fine With Afterlife”, Ferdinand Bauman Gallery, Prague (2015); “Lord Got To Keep On Groovin”, Temnikova & Kasela gallery, Tallinn (2013); “Top Sinner”, Pro Choice, Vienna (2012); “Evian Desert”, Tanja Wagner gallery, Berlin (2012); and “Being Together” (together with Edith Karlson), Temnikova & Kasela gallery, Tallinn (2012). Selection of Kris Lemsalu's recent and upcoming group exhibitions and performances: "Metamorphosis", curated by Zdenek Felix, KAI 10 / Arthena Foundation, Düsseldorf; Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin; and Galerie SVIT, Prague (2017); "Les Urbaines - 20th edition", curated by Elise Lammer, Les Urbaines, Lausanne (2016); "Winter Is Coming (Homage to the Future)", curated by Maria Arusoo, Georg Kargl gallery, Vienna (2016); Performance together with Gelatin, Manifesta 11, Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich (2016); "On Disappearing & For Vanishing", curated by Sten Ojavee, Tartu Art Museum, Tartu (2016); "Jumanji", Soft Focus Institute, Ghent (2016); "The Ultimate Vessel", gallery Koppe Astner, Glasgow (2015); "Sequences", real time art festival, Reykjavik (2015); “I’m A Painting” curated by Merike Estna and Kati Ilves, KUMU art museum, Tallinn (2014); “Urschleim”, Fauna, Copenhagen (2013); “is my territory.” curated by Monica Bonvicini, Christine König Galerie, Vienna (2013); and “Jeden Tag Gelatin”, 21er Haus, Vienna (2013).
Holly Hendry doesn’t do anything by halves. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in July 2016, her work has been exhibited at a group show commemorating The Royal Standard’s tenth anniversary in Liverpool (30 July – 11 September 2016), alongside more experienced practitioners such as Jonathan Baldock, David Blandy, Celia Hempton, Liliane Lijn and Jess Flood Paddock. Hendry’s work is currently on display at Kunstforeningen GL STRAND in Copenhagen at EXTRACT, an art prize exhibition presenting seven young rising stars newly graduated from art academies in Beijing, London and Copenhagen (21 January - 5 March 2017). Even bigger news is that a new body of sculptures by Hendry is the focus of a solo exhibition at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, running until 24th September. And please look out for upcoming exhibitions of Hendry’s work at Limoncello, her new gallery in London.
Taking this splendid occasion to speak with Hendry, Marcelle Joseph attempts to get to the bottom of what drives Hendry’s materials-focused sculpture practice.
Congratulations on your solo show at the BALTIC that opened last week! Just reading through the materials you used for this show – jesmonite, plaster, foam, wood, steel and water-jet cut marble, I am exhausted… What drives your choice of materials?
Thank you! The materials you list originate from a long line of tests and collections as well as computer drawings (which I transfer into water-jet cut elements) and collected objects (which I remake in a different type of material). Most of the time, the material tests and the final forms come from an investigative process, where I’m trying to get closer to the characteristics of something; it’s specific qualities that make it what it is. For example, the marble cut elements relate to the ideas behind the work – a connection to the ground and compression of substances, layers of time and fragments and bodies. I’m interested in these sites of production where we mine these sort of materials from the ground, creating cavities in their absence, and the way they are primed and polished and finished to be used to coat the inside of homes, like a kitchen counter. I’ve cut some of these slabs into squiggly shapes that are inlaid into the work, and together they look like worms or the insides of our bodies, so it’s a lot to do with systems of regurgitation, of a cyclical nature, almost cannibalistic. It relates to bodies and things turning into stuff again, perhaps recounting Freud’s death drive where he says we desire to return to the indeterminacy of an inorganic state.
I have also used jesmonite combined with other materials to create textures made up from materials that exist around us – new types of composites that seem so far from archeology. They contain spat-out bits of chewing gum, soap, plastics, cosmetics, cat litter and fish tank rocks to name a few. These materials are agglomerates that form new types of stone from our environment, stuff that is circulating and accumulating with nowhere to go. The work itself is a lot to do with making and the making is very tied up in the thinking behind the work so it’s crammed with these details that have meaning to me, which are very tied to the materials they are made from.
Looking at your multi-layered luscious sculptures, for me, it is one-part wedding cake to two parts geological strata in pastel candy-coloured hues. How do you achieve this incredibly moreish effect? Could you describe your process and use of casting?
It’s a process of working back to front and inside out. The physical making is a combination of casting, pouring and fabricating which cohabit as one – lots of invented methods and material combinations. The layered sculptures begin with a negative mould - the crate - which dictates the shape of the work, as the materials are formed within this. For my Gut Feelings work, I have used the example of an endocast to help me speak about my making of and thinking about the work - an endocast being the internal cast of a hollow object. Natural endocasts, which are a type of fossil, are formed when the remains of an organism dissolve in the ground, and the remaining organism-shaped hole is later filled with other minerals and sediments in the internal cavity of that organism – creating a positive from the absent shell of the original object and a trace of something that existed. It’s about time and change but also the filling of a negative space – I think the endocast does a good job in encapsulating my interest in this membrane that surrounds us and other things, and points when these contours shift and morph, and turn inside of themselves.
Your works have a monumental, architectonic stature. When we first met, I found out that your father is an architect. Has that upbringing influenced your own art practice?
Yes he is – my whole family are very creative. I grew up in a house that my Dad designed and built with his friends, so space-making and building were part of my vocabulary from when I was young – seeing this hands-on experience of a living space emerge. I think there is an interesting relationship between the spaces you shape and build, and in return, how these come back to shape the way you live. I love the weird things that happen when you know a space so well – like the way that you can navigate it in complete darkness, purely through touch. So yes, these ideas of building big and taking on a space feel pretty natural to me in terms of making.
You often work in a site-specific fashion and make sculptures that explore different ways of containing and constructing space as if these inanimate objects were living, breathing organisms. Are you always thinking about contemporary society’s use of space when making your work?
I like to challenge these spaces, and this provides challenges for the work. My approach to space relates to edges, usually using the building as a skeletal container as the starting point. The works themselves also use architectural elements that refer to our use of space in a wider context. These forms mimic elements from design or public spaces as well as furniture or medical equipment - generalized body forms, inspired by the shape of things that are designed to fit our bodies like a sun lounger’s curves or the indents on a handle that show us where to grip – physical instructions for our bodies to fit to. We have lots of distractions that distract us from looking at architecture, and there are public devices to make us subconsciously move and live in certain ways. I think these devices are fascinating, as well as the function of the architecture itself, and its material makeup. So in a sense it’s what we’re not thinking about, that I like to think about.
In opposition to this, my approach to architecture is pretty physical; it’s an embrace where succulence and sensation are introduced into the sphere of architecture, which is usually bound by a more intellectual critique. I really enjoy this physical interaction. The spaces where I show my work are usually the solid frameworks or edges where more compulsive engagements and chunks of materials and processes can exist within, but it’s a real engagement between both things. These spaces seem to have the same role as the crates (or moulds) where my materials and layers are poured into – with fixed boundaries, but totally essential in the concept, production, display and form of the work.
Your use of colour is ingenious and is often grounded in a research-based conceptual framework. What inspired the colours for your BALTIC show?
Previous research has delved into the theory of institutional interiors and the effect of such colours on your physiology. The colours for the BALTIC show are similar to my more recent works in their slightly deadened candy coloured hues, but this show in particular uses colours more specific to medicine – the colours of the thermoplastics used to make splints and the minty green of scrubs – light blues, greens and purples. This might not be completely recognisable, but it is the origins of my choices. I have been looking at a lot of medical cross sections in my partner’s anatomy books, as well as cross sectional cuts in architecture and diagrams of ships, where the colours are used to name and divide.
There is also a cartoon element in their sweetness which I feel is important in relation to the murkier subject matter. I like the way that the colours evoke a reaction which targets the senses – through taste, smell or even touch – so combined with these ideas of digestion or decomposition, there becomes some strange implied cycle – material, mineral and vegetable breakdown and reformation- partially brought on by our relationship with the colours.
You embarked upon a yearlong residency at BALTIC 39 studios after winning the Woon Foundation Prize for Painting and Sculpture in 2013. What does it feel like to go back to Newcastle to show your work at the BALTIC? Can you give us a brief synopsis of the show?
Newcastle is an amazing and vibrant city and I am so pleased to be back up here showing work at BALTIC, it feels very important to me.
The exhibition brings together new works, which I’ve made for the level 2 space at BALTIC. There are variations of surfaces and planes, where holes are cut in walls and one section of the floor is almost extruded up to form a platform where toothy-boney sculptures tower above. There’s a shifting of macro and micro where people are brought up close to the forms that speak of the underneath – whether that is under our feet or under our skin. It’s a closer look at impressions of objects, bodies and ‘stuff’.
All photos: Holly Hendry, installation view of 'Wrot' at The Baltic Centre For Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2017. Photo: Mark Pinder/BALTIC. Courtesy of BALTIC and the artist.
EXTRACT at GL STRAND, Copenhagen (21 January - 5 March 2017): LINK
Wrot: Holly Hendry at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (18 February - 24 September 2017): LINK
Artist's gallery website: LIMONCELLO
Artist's website: LINK
About the Artist
Holly Hendry (b. 1990, based in London) gained her BA Fine Art at The Slade School of Fine Art (2013) and her MA Sculpture at the Royal College of Art (2016). Recent solo shows include those at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2017); Limoncello Cork Street, London (with Kate Owens); Rice + Toye, London (both 2016); Bosse & Baum, London (2015); The Oval, London; and Gallery North, Newcastle (both 2014). Recent group shows include Kunstforeningen GL Strand (2017); Copenhagen; VITRINE, London; The Royal Standard, Liverpool; CBS Gallery, Liverpool; Cowley Manor, Cotswolds (all 2016); Turf Project Space, Croydon; Chesterfield House, London; Salt + Powell, York (all 2015); S1 Artspace, Sheffield; and Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah (both 2014).
As seen on FAD Magazine: http://fadmagazine.com/2017/02/23/marcelle-joseph-interviews-sculptor-holly-hendry/
On the occasion of the opening of the group show, Parallax scrolling, at Breese Little in London on 26th January 2017, Marcelle Joseph interviews the British artist Lauren Keeley. Her work is featured in this exhibition alongside that of fellow British artists Nicholas Hatfull and Jackson Sprague. Keeley’s practice encompasses many processes of image-making including painting, photography, printmaking, digital design and rendering software, melding the hand-crafted with the digital age to create intricate, meticulously designed artworks of unadulterated beauty and reflection.
When I think of your work, the first word that springs to mind is “motif”. Your blend of cropped figure, pattern, objet d’art, furniture, interior architectural details and exterior landscape is curious as there does not appear to be any hierarchy among these pictorial elements, rendering the figure just another motif in the tableau. How do you think about “motif” in your practice?
Motifs are certainly really central to my work, I use them ornamentally, as symbols but also as a theme or idea with which to structure the imagery. So, for example, a frequent motif in my work has been the window which I’ve been drawn to because it acts as an intermediary between an interior and exterior space but is also a metaphor for the image, the framed view. I then like playing with these zones of space, shifting the emphasis between the interior and exterior across works and using cropping to give a sense of incompleteness — that there is more to see beyond the frame.
Motifs that are used in these interior and exterior spaces are mostly decorative; there is an element of needing to fill or decorate the pictorial space, whether that be furniture in a room or plants in a garden. For some of the elements, they are included to create textures and detail across the surface of the panels, through using a mixture of inlay, screenprint and coloured fabrics. Then there are often a few elements which have a role of creating points of focus in the image to interrupt the familiar interior/exterior setting. For example, figures and animals are often used to move between spaces, whether this be within the pictorial space or beyond the frame entirely. And then I might include a picture or a mirror to create further pictorial spaces. The picture opens up an extra space and the mirror is reflexive, reflecting the depicted space from beyond the frame.
You’re right in saying there appears to be no hierarchy amongst the elements. Whilst some have a stronger part to play in creating moments of focus across the composition, generally it is about creating visual patterns and textures and points of detail, and I may pay more attention to the herringbone brickwork pattern of a floor than I do to a figure. I quite like this because even though the works are very elaborate and filled with various materials and processes, there is also a real flatness, almost an emptiness that sort of nulls everything.
Lauren Keeley, Flurry (2015), acrylic, linen and wenge on board, 168 x 126 cm.
You describe yourself as a painter and a print maker on your website and your work often sits on the wall but your process is very different from a traditional painter. Could you describe your intricate process of layering laser-cut wood either painted, printed, left in its raw state or covered in linen?
Yes, the work is made up of wooden panels which are layered together to create a relief; whilst portraying imagery, they are physically very sculptural, acting as a sort of frieze on the wall. Each panel is a combination of coloured linens, hardwood elements and screenprint. The first stage of the work is digital. I design the imagery in Illustrator editing software, and from this flat illustration, I can decide how the work will be structured, how the various elements will be treated and to work out the palette. From here, I reduce the imagery to simple lines which get laser cut across various thin plywood panels to form the basic jigsaw puzzle of each work.
Once I have the laser cutting, the rest of the work is very manual. It’s a case of building the panels so initially there is a lot of woodwork involved, and once the panels are made up, they then are stretched in fabrics. On each panel, there may be a variety of fabrics, sections that are shaped instead of straight edged, hardwood inserts and some elements may have screenprints on them too, so the surface of a panel will be handled in a variety of ways. I do this by inlaying separate parts into the surface, so I can treat the various sections differently which then comes together like a big jigsaw puzzle in the end.
Your work explores many periods and styles from neo-classicism to rococo, post-war modern to contemporary style. When I visited your studio, you were in the middle of researching ceramics at the Victoria & Albert Museum. How do you start on a new body of work? Where do you find your period references?
The initial motivation for a new body of work often comes from a rather vague place; it might be a small detail from a film, artwork or book, or be something that I’ve seen that sparks an idea. To use the word motif again, there is often a theme or structure I am drawn to that I feel could form the basis for a body of work. From there, I am much more focussed and research histories and narratives I find that connect to the idea. I often visit places that could provide useful visual source material, so for example if I know there is going to be a garden element in the work, I will go and visit interesting gardens, taking lots of photos and looking for any elements I could extract and use. Barbara Hepworth’s garden in St Ives formed the basis for a few previous works; I was really drawn to the connections between the forms found in her garden and those seen in her art. It really is a place where art and nature mix and merge.
Once I’m quite sure of an idea I start working on the drawings in Illustrator and do a lot of image collecting. It’s very much like sourcing props for a stage set and normally there’s a to and fro between the drawing and these props. They both inform each other. I generally don’t have a set idea for the drawings before I start them; they are quite intuitive and will change an awful lot before I settle on the final fixed idea. Because the paintings are then entirely based on a composition of laser cut panels, there's little flexibility, so the drawing stage is really important for the final result. There have certainly been instances where a drawing hasn’t been entirely resolved but I’ve gone ahead with a work anyway and had disappointing results. I’ve just had to learn that even though there's not much to physically show in this stage of the work and it can feel a little intangible, it’s a really crucial part of the process which needs to be fully resolved before the work is started physically.
Lauren Keeley, Ode on an Urn (Newcomb/Wedgewood) (2016), linen, acrylic, walnut and wenge on board, 32 x 45 cm.
At Frieze London in October 2016, you presented your first pieces of sculpture in the form of these incredibly vibrant and humorous painted tables and chairs reminiscent of those found in a traditional Italian trattoria. Was this a difficult transition or a natural progression from your flattened three-dimensional wall paintings?
It did feel like a natural progression and something I’ve been wanting to explore for some time. The group presentation and trattoria theme for the booth became the perfect occasion to try this out. If you imagine with the paintings before they are layered together, they exist as parts so there will just be lots of shapes and sections lying around the studio. It’s almost like this all gets flattened in the final stages of making the works. So there’s always been this ‘what if?’ in terms of venturing into the floor space, because in the studio the works do exist as objects until the last minute. Having said that, I definitely think in a very 2D way and so it did take me a while to understand how I would construct the tables, and I was terrified they wouldn’t balance or be level! But once it made sense, it did feel like an extension of making a painting -- just a little more deconstructed and with a few more angles.
What are you showing at the Breese Little exhibition? And what relationships do you feel your work has with that of Nick and Jackson?
I’m showing three large staircase works which are designed to be legible vertically; the imagery moves upwards. I liked the idea of the staircase as a structure used to transition between spaces, with itself becoming a liminal space. In the works, there’s little suggestion of anything beyond, rather that the staircase might just keep escalating. The imagery would be most coherent if the paintings were stacked on top of each other but of course in the gallery space they are presented in a horizontal formation. However, I really like them as a horizontal group, and there was a lot of careful designing so that they would work in this way too, the composition of the two end works are reflections of each other so there’s a sort of symmetry. I like that, when reading the sequence in this formation, your eye has to zig zag across the works, interrupting our inclined left-to-right way of reading images.
The show itself has been a really enjoyable and involved experience, and it’s been great to become more familiar with Nick and Jackson’s work. At first, there wasn’t a strict idea as to what the show would be about and how our work formally interrelates, but through meeting as a group and long email exchanges, the crossovers in our work gradually revealed themselves. I think there are connections but also a lot of differences between our practices, which I found made the process more interesting. I feel my work links with Jackson’s in terms of craft and how we make our work, with both of us often working digitally towards getting something fabricated, which then goes back to the studio to become very manual again. I think for both of us there's a lot about the translation between the hand and the machine. With Nick’s work, there’s again a huge interest in the motif; his work is full of signs and symbols, but they are more from the everyday. His work mixes and restructures the symbols we encounter in the commonplace.
Rebecca Lewin, who curated the film programme and who also wrote the essay for the show, was brilliant at joining the dots and bringing our three practices together a little more coherently. The show is titled ‘Parallax Scrolling’ which is a technique used to create the impression of distance and space, mostly used in computer graphics. It’s essentially a process that places distance between flat layers so you get an impression of depth, a bit like a stage set, so it’s about creating space in imagery in a very different way from the conventional use of perspective. I think each of us sits on a different point of the spectrum with regards to this idea. The space in Nick’s paintings often feels very compressed; there’s a coherence in the way he collages his imagery but also an abstraction and disjointedness. And Jackson’s sculptures bring this idea into the 3D. I find his large sculpture in the show particularly amazing to look at; from some angles, it really fills space and has a commanding physical presence, and from another aspect, it is very slight like it has morphed or vanished in the space somewhat. My work probably sits somewhere in the middle. Of course, it has a 3D physical aspect, but it is still very flattened with just a small distance between each layer.
Lauren Keeley, Halfway Down (2017), acrylic, linen and stained walnut on boards, 184 x 127 cm, courtesy of Breese Little, London.
Does your thought process change when making work for a group show as opposed to a solo presentation?Yes absolutely. Because I like to play with the framing and cropping in the works, often having elements that start on one piece and lead into the next, the work is suited to a series and so the opportunity of a solo presentation gives me that space. I enjoy having repetitive motifs which are approached in different ways across separate works, and so working across a group allows me to do that. I think too with larger projects, you have time to really think and let ideas develop. I’ve realised that I find it more difficult making one-off works; I think the single frame is too restrictive for me, and I am not able to research and mull over a single image as much as I do when working on a series. Instead, I’ve thought that having my own ongoing studio projects might be a solution to this problem so when you visited my studio, you saw the beginnings of a few paintings based on ceramics. There is no end goal in terms of showing these works, but I really enjoy researching and adding to the series. It feels like there’s an ongoing dialogue there, which is important for me. However, with the Breese Little show, and another group exhibition I was part of last year called GranPalazzo, I’ve been able to make a significant body of work, which has given me that time and space, so I think group shows where I’m able to have a substantial participation are really appealing and more suited to the way I work.
What’s next for you after the Breese Little show?
I’m going to have a solo presentation at LISTE in Basel with Frutta in the summer so that is my focus now and will pretty much fill up my schedule. I’m really looking forward to starting this project and being able to focus on a large body of work again.
When we last spoke in your studio in 2016, you spoke about the gentrification of New Cross and how that was going to affect you in terms of having to find another studio and most likely in a less central location. Has Brexit delayed that move? Do you think that government should get involved in some way to prevent the mass exodus of creatives from London due to sky-rocketing rents and gentrification?
Brexit is definitely delaying the process; there’s development signs all over the area but it does seem to have stalled. We’ve just had the lease at my studio building extended until the end of the year. Of course, I would like there to be more stable and reliable work-space options for creatives as I think the city is really important for a lot of artists. By its very nature, having a studio practice is very solitary so you need the city to counteract this, to keep connected and uphold a community. I will definitely have to move further out next year, most likely more south. This is OK but I do think when you are a young artist just starting out, having that one studio visit can really change things, and so if you are in an even less accessible area, is someone going to be put off from coming to see your work?
It’s fantastic that Sadiq Khan is recognising this as a problem in London and hopefully things will improve, but you also realise there is a general squeeze on the city in terms of housing and resources, and gentrification is a double edged sword. You want to see an area flourish and improve but it’s difficult when there are groups of people that get pushed out as a consequence.
Parallax scrolling runs from 27th January – 18th March 2017 at Breese Little, Unit 1, 249 – 253 Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 6JY.
About the Artist
Lauren Keeley (born 1986, Milton Keynes) lives and works in London after graduating with an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art, London (2014) and a BFA from the Ruskin School, University of Oxford (2010). Recent group exhibitions include Frieze Art Fair, London; Slate Projects, London; GRANPALAZZO, Rome (all 2016); and Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes (2013 and 2011). She has had recent solo exhibitions at Frutta, Rome and Supplement, London (both 2015). Keeley is represented by Frutta, Rome.
As seen on FAD Magazine: http://fadmagazine.com/2017/02/09/marcelle-joseph-interviews-artist-lauren-keeley/
Carla Busuttil’s third solo show at Josh Lilley in London entitled The Super-Suburb Defence Authority touches on all of the ills that have infected South Africa since its colonial era. As a South African artist growing up under apartheid but living and working outside her home country since moving to London to attend the Royal Academy Schools in 2005, Busuttil is able to look back on her native land with a dispassionate and impartial lens, picking up on all of the developments and setbacks of a country struggling to cleanse itself of its apartheid history.
Consisting of painting, sculpture, video and bespoke artist wallpaper, this exhibition actively engages the viewer, whether interested in the politics or not, as the installation is a master class in exhibition making and the politically and culturally-charged subject matter is understated, drawing the viewers in instead of slapping them on the face. In the first room of the exhibition, there is a large seemingly innocent painting of six school boys in their uniforms painted in a lurid yellow colour, with their school’s motto printed on the top left corner of the canvas: “Our motto is achieve. And success we will achieve.” Inspired by a school photo of the artist’s husband’s secondary school class in South Africa where he was forced to learn the Afrikaans language that only 13% of the South African population understands, this painting is quintessential Busuttil – revolving around the human form, painted in an abstract contemporary style, using a painterly brushstroke, and touching on the political landscape of a vibrantly coloured South Africa. In the same room, the viewer is confronted with four thickly-impastoed primitive faces reminiscent of African masks but painted on vintage cricket pads found in thrift shops in England, subtly pointing to South Africa’s colonial past. Presented on traditional gallery plinths, these sculptures are all titled Nightwatchman, alluding to the overall theme of this exhibition exploring the South African private security industry that employs more people than the police force and army combined.
In the downstairs gallery spaces, another thought-provoking painting of a car park guard intrigues the viewer as the man’s face is painted blue, matching the painting’s ground and hinting at racial tension, social unrest and the giant chasm between the rich and the poor. Continuing this leitmotif, Busuttil presents for the first time in the UK the video she produced after extensive research in Johannesburg called Mosquito Lightning, a parody advertisement of the private security firm the artist founded while on a residency there earlier this year. Presented on top of bespoke artist wallpaper, this video work is equal parts humour and terror as the entire private security industry profits from fear and its amplification in order to fulfil its corporate promise to eradicate it. This emphasis on the fear of the “other” in society has universal applications at the present moment, whether it be president-elect Trump promising to ban all Muslims from entering the United States or the British majority who voted for Brexit this summer in order to stop immigration into the UK. So through Busuttil’s window with a view of suburban South Africa, the viewer has a glimpse of its own political realities in present-day London.
All in all, this exhibition is definitely worth a visit (on until 23 December 2016) for Busuttil’s tantalising painting technique as well as for its transporting qualities – from a grey wintry day in Fitzrovia to a colour-saturated, bright day in a privileged Johannesburg suburb.
About the Artist
Carla Busuttil (b.1982, Johannesburg, South Africa, lives and works in Oxford) studied at the Royal Academy, London, and University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. Solo exhibitions include Choice. Click.Bait, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 2016; A Change of Tongue, Space K, Seoul, 2014; and Generation V, Josh Lilley, London, 2013. Group exhibitions include We see (in) the Dark, Museum of Africa Design, Johannesburg, 2015; Creative London, Space K, Seoul, Gwacheon & Gwangju, 2012; and Newspeak: British Art Now, Saatchi Gallery, London, 2010.
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).