The end of November seems to be overrun with new exhibitions. Everybody is in a rush to display a host of new work before the Christmas calm hits London as people head home. And so, on Thursday, I embarked on another plethora of gallery openings starting with the Josh Lilley Gallery – always high up on my must-see list. For the next month, Josh Lilley is showing a debut exhibition of works by artist, Robert Pratt. Pratt is fascinated by everyday details that most people would not observe – such as the dirty marks on a pane of glass or the effervescing bubbles in a fizzy drink. His work seeks to turn these minutiae into a larger, physical reality, thereby forcing us to concentrate on subtle and transient moments. His sculptures transform and revere the everyday, converting the overlooked into something full of personality that demands respect. Through an imaginative play on found objects, the work carries a deeper message about the amount that goes unnoticed in our day-to-day lives and calls for us to slow down and admire the detail of the little things.
Robert Pratt, Star Rosette. Own photograph.
Pratt’s work has always been concerned with the gaze, although here it concentrates on the things our gaze misses. He is not afraid to let these works stand alone; he does not seek to turn them into visually pretty objects but, instead, turns the banal subject matter into a beautiful form by allowing it to have its own presence. The works all interact, forming trivial but inescapable relationships. The academic theory behind these works is interesting but, personally, I didn’t find this particular exhibition as inspiring or exciting as the gallery’s previous shows. However, Lilley sets an extremely high standard and I’m looking forward to their January exhibition of Matt Lipps’ work.
Robert Pratt downstairs at the Josh Lilley Gallery. Own photograph.
Just to make our lives difficult (and more interesting), we headed over to Hoxton. A long and stressful day and inflexible stilettos necessitated a cab journey as the idea of the tube was rather horrific. The Hoxton Art Gallery was packed. Such a buzzy atmosphere is always enticing and passers-by were peering through the glass to see what was going on. Pushing our way through, we came to a bar set up with local brews – this was certainly an interesting and well-thought out opening.
The Hoxton Art Gallery. Own photograph.
The exhibition celebrates the end of the Hoxton Art Gallery’s first year and showcases four of their artists – Guler Ates, Katie Sims, Lucy Wilson and Ha Young Kim – including new works by each of them. Individually, there are some gorgeous pieces although there is no strong overriding theme to give the exhibition true coherence. My works of choice were downstairs; Sims’ paintings draw you closer with her gorgeous technique and abstracted imagery gesturing to blurred landscapes and other worlds. Ates’ work explores cultural hybrids through a series of haunting photographs. Her works speak of her own personal experience as a Muslim woman in the 21st century.
Katie Sims, Brooks Ran Gold, 2011. Own photograph.
As it was only a five minute walk away, we headed to Spectra I, the first in a three-part survey presented by Future Tense. I was pleased we made the effort to trip over the cobbles and make our way here. This exhibition series focuses on artists for whom dynamic colour relationships is key to their practice.
Chuck Elliot, Radial/TWO, 2011. Own photograph.
Colour has always been an important focus in art but is something that frequently gets side-lined. The exhibition press release quotes Paul Klee writing that ‘colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet’. It’s certainly not just Klee who has these opinions. In fact, it’s a topic that is under constant discussion. John Ruskin, for example, said ‘The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most’ and Oscar Wilde said ‘Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways’. You get the idea! The colours here certainly do speak to the soul.
Chuck Elliott, Blast FIRST/fractureRefract, 2010. Own photograph.
The sole connection here is the seven artists’ concentration on colour although the exhibition is not limited by media. The project space itself is exceptional and the organisers have put tremendous care into the curation and this has really paid off. Incredible lighting and installation has made some of the pieces come alive; this is a clever show – the works almost bounce off the walls with their addictive vibrancy.
One of the highlights for me was Lee Baker’s site specific installation – a mesmerising rainbow-like spider’s web of coloured yarns that brings out a childlike playfulness in viewers who can’t help but be intoxicated by the tonal harmonies. Baker’s works explore the dichotomy between Japan’s fragile, intricate cultural aesthetic and the relentless forces of urbanisation that increasingly mark its landscape. His wide-ranging influences are often apparent most particularly in his meticulous paintings.
Lee Baker, Refractive Monolith, 2011. Own photograph.
Adam Ball’s paintings radiate as if fuelled by an internal light source, reflecting the energy and life of an ephemeral world. His intuitive use of colour and light, whether in his paintings or his papercuts, is brilliant.
Adam Ball, Coexistence, 2010. Own photograph.
As you enter the second part of the space, it’s impossible not to be grabbed by Kathrin Fridriks’ work which fuses contemporary imagery with architecture to form a uniquely expressive visual language made from explosions of colour. The lighting of this piece is a tour de force and it’s hard to imagine it elsewhere.
Kathrin Fridriks, Crayons, 2011. Own photograph.
Although colour may be the overriding theme, there is so much more to these artists’ works than just the aesthetics of colour and their bold statements. If Spectra II is going to be bigger and better then I’m already excited.
I was starving and just opposite is the perfect restaurant for the East London gallery circuit, accessed through a wonderful bakery and shop. Albion Caff is wonderful but is certainly not a ‘caff’ and, having forgotten where it was, I was very happy to discover it once again and indulge in their fish pie and share a bottle of English wine and a good gossip.
Robert Pratt: From Table Top to Tiger Print is at the Josh Lilley Gallery until 22nd December 2011, www.joshlilleygallery.com. Winter Exhibition is at Hoxton Art Gallery until 19th January 2012, www.hoxtonartgallery.co.uk. Future Tense: Spectra I is at the Londonnewcastle Project Space until 18th December 2011, www.thefuturetense.net.