Tag Archives: Gabriel Hartley

Something Old, Something New, Five Exhibitions and Some Shoes

16 Dec

The thing I discovered when doing my gallery crawls is you need to be selective.  Deviate from your list and you’ll never leave the first street so I decided on this route and, with quite a tight time frame, I knew I had to stick to it.

Josh Lilley are currently showing a group exhibition with Analia Saban, Belen Rodriguez Gonzalez, Christof Mascher, Gabriel Hartley, Marita Fraser, Nicholas Hatfull, Nick Goss, Robert Pratt and Ruairiadh O’Connell.  There will be no surprises when I tell you this is another beautiful show – particularly notable is Robert Pratt’s Display Unit which grabs you as soon as you walk through the door.  The seemingly precariously placed pieces of clay on the display unit are Pratt’s body parts, positioned at the correct height, in proportion to his own body.

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Robert Pratt, Display Unit (Pieces of a Man), 2012. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

The show gets even better as you go downstairs with works erupting from the ceiling that provide immediate visual impact.  It’s particularly lovely to see a selection of Goss works on paper after his recent solo show which included his more monumental paintings.  Although many of the works in the exhibition have obvious connections through materiality, process, colour, form, expressiveness and so on, Lilley has not attempted to impose a specific theme here which is quite refreshing.  Instead, the gallery has aimed to bring together certain artists – many of whom studied together or have maintained friendships over the years.  Through this, new and unexpected dialogues are initiated and connections made.

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Downstairs at Josh Lilley with Ruairiadh O’Connell’s work in the foreground.  Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

Next up was Blain Southern.  Sadly, I missed their opening show so this was my first visit to their new Hanover Square gallery – it’s a beautiful, glass-fronted, space, with a very traditional white box aesthetic.  Their current exhibition is Francesco Clemente’s Mandala for Crusoe.

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Clemente at Blain Southern.  Own photograph.

For Clemente’s first show in seven years, they are exhibiting fourteen large-scale paintings, using raw linen, paint, verdigris, silver pigment, mica, oil sticks and lithographic ink, which gather myriad cultural references and merge timeless motifs from Buddhism and Hinduism.   In Eastern spiritual traditions, the mandala is identified as a conduit to a deeper level of consciousness.  Yet, Clemente uses the mandala in unexpected ways uniting it with the banality of everyday life.

One of the strongest works for me was The Dove of War where the dove, a symbol of peace, filled with silhouettes of planes and bombs, flies through a tinged pink sky.  Clemente divides his time between New York and India, feeling a nomadic affinity with the completive visual tradition of both the East and the West and this is clearly brought out in his works.  Not all of the images, however, have the same strength; the choice of imagery isn’t the most exciting and it is sometimes quite crudely applied.

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Francesco Clemente, The dove of war, 2012. Own photograph.

In contrast, I popped into Gimpel Fils to see Richard Smith’s kite paintings.  Smith has long been interested in paintings which work in three dimensions, having created kite works since the early 1970s.  The kite paintings are so successful partly due to their contrasts – the hard poles and the soft canvas, the string and the rope – and meticulous finish.  Known for emphasising the importance of shape, support, colour and surface, these works focus on the physical constitution of painting.  The tenser and more exaggerated they are, the more I find myself enjoying them.

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Kite paintings at gimpel fils. Own photograph.

I strolled round the corner, past the currently closed Gagosian Davies Street and headed to Timothy Taylor, resisting the temptation to walk further down Mount Street to see what Christian Louboutin had in store.

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Louboutin’s Christmas shoe tree.  Image via http://theexhibitionlist.wordpress.com/

Their latest exhibition presents new work by Lucy Williams who has redefined the concept of collage through her mixed media bas-reliefs of unpopulated mid-century Modernist architecture.   It’s difficult to decide if these works are sculptures or collages or even how they are made.  They look so simple but I have no doubt they are ridiculously complex to execute due to the high level of detail and finish.  Williams starts by creating a technical drawing that can take several drafts to get right.  She then picks her materials and starts to build her layers, one on top of each other.  It’s the geometry of the buildings that interests her most and, from a distance, it is the modular structure of her pieces and the predominant patterns that stand out.

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Lucy Williams, the tiled cathedral, 2012. Own photograph.

Although hints of activity can be seen behind closed curtains, the works are always unpopulated.  People could return at any moment but, instead, we are allowed to explore these miniature and obsessively realised worlds in an oasis of calm.  The works are presented on architectural supports, providing the perfect context and framework for these beautiful pieces.

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Pavilion at Timothy Taylor Gallery. Own photograph.

My final stop of the day was the Royal Academy for Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape.  This show particularly appeals to me as walking through its doors was like re-entering my Masters – some Sandby watercolours brought back very vivid memories indeed.  The exhibition looks at the formation of landscape painting through John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough and JMW Turner, highlighting the discourses surrounding the Beautiful, the Sublime (mainly Burke this time round) and the Picturesque (championed by William Gilpin) and looking at the changing styles of landscape.  The works by the three key figures are contextualised with paintings by their 18th century counterparts and prints made after 17th century Masters, showing the roots of the tradition which comes from the Carracci brothers, Nicolas Poussin, Salvator Rosa and Lorraine Gaspard Dughet.  They used landscape to inform the drama in their subjects and this was important in shaping what we see in this exhibition.

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Paul Sandby, Wenlock Abbey, Shropshire, The South Transept and Converted Prior’s Lodge Seen from the North Transept, 1779.  Image via www.racollection.org.uk

And, of course, there’s Richard Wilson, often regarded as the father of British landscape, who introduced an aesthetic scaffolding that encouraged a particular view with framing devices to send the viewer’s eye to the subject and referenced the landscape as a useful and enterprising place.

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After Richard Wilson, Engraved by Joseph Wood, The Lake of Nemi, 1764. Image via www.racollection.org.uk

Looking at the shift from the idealised view of the landscape, to a celebration of the particular, imbued with ideas of morals and emotions, the works here show the discovery of the landscape of the British Isles and a move away from the Grand Tour imagery that was so popular.  Specificity of landscape was very important to these artists all of whom took meticulous sketch notes.

The exhibition has been put together in a wonderfully engaging way – the first room looks at the work of Richard Long, Norman Ackroyd, Michael Kenny and John Maine showing the lasting legacy of the three artists on which the show focuses.  This offers a fascinating framework through which to see the exhibition and I hope will quash any silly comments that landscape is boring.  After this bold start, the exhibition continues more as one would expect, charting the progression of landscape and introducing its key themes.

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Richard Long, Heaven and Earth, 2001. Image via http://azurebumble.wordpress.com

Perhaps, most importantly, the exhibition looks at the significance of printmaking in popularising and disseminating the genre.  It does rely heavily on prints but this is certainly a positive thing as it’s rare to see so many excellent works on paper together.  For this reason though, it can sometimes seem quite gloomy – but there’s no choice as these works require low light levels and the walls have been painted to show off the paper (drawings and prints) rather than the canvases.

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Thomas Gainsborough, Romantic Landscape, 1783.  Image via www.telegraph.co.uk

I am deliberately not writing anymore as otherwise I fear I will be at risk of regurgitating my MA.  But, the joy of this exhibition is that it informs so well and specifically that I would urge you to go and learn about the period for yourself.  The RA has not produced a catalogue for this which is a great shame.  Instead, they’ve produced a lovely small exhibition guide that takes the format of their normal student guides.

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John Constable, The Leaping Horse, 1825. Image via www.royalacademy.org.uk

The show is displayed in the Fine Rooms and the Weston Rooms which we’re not so used to but it certainly makes a change.  The big names will no doubt pull in the punters (it’s worth visiting just to see the popular oils that appear later in the show) but this exhibition is so much more than a 19th century blockbuster and many of the works are a rare delight.  It follows the evolution of the tradition of British landscape through 120 works all of which have been sourced from the RA’s own impressive collections.  This is the first Burlington House show to do this in 50 years and illustrates the veritable treasure trove they house.  I’d love to get down there to see the rest.

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Something New is at Josh Lilley Gallery until 10th January 2013, www.joshlilleygallery.com.   Francesco Clemente: Mandala for Crusoe is at Blain Southern until 26th January 2013, www.blainsouthern.com.  Richard Smith: Kite Paintings is at gimpel fils until 12th January 2013, www.gimpelfils.com.  Lucy Williams: Pavilion is at Timothy Taylor Gallery until 11th January 2013, www.timothytaylorgallery.comConstable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape is at the Royal Academy until 17th February 2013, www.royalacademy.org.uk.

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Ooops, I love it again! Peacock Trousers at Josh Lilley

1 Jul

There is an exception to every rule.  My rule is not to write about each show a commercial gallery puts on but the Josh Lilley Gallery is my exception.  This is now my third Artista post on their exhibitions and I’m still smitten.   As long as they keep curating shows of this calibre, I feel I have to keep sharing.

Peacock Trousers is a joint show of works by the artists Gabriel Hartley and Appau Junior  Boakye-Yiadom.

The exhibition opens in the upstairs gallery with a solitary sculpture by Hartley, a 2005 graduate from the Royal Academy Schools who is already developing an international reputation.  Instead of being tempted to overcrowd the room by displaying more works, this beautiful piece has cleverly been given the space it deserves.

Gabriel Hartley, Split Piece, 2011. Own photograph.

More of Hartley’s works are to be seen downstairs – delicate  sculptures with fascinating texture and colour; the works appear momentarily frozen in the act of collapse -they are so light that an attendant was hovering nearby to prevent people from walking into them.  They look very tactile but don’t get any clever ideas about touching them while you’re down there.  Hartley builds and abstracts the works; an inherent contradiction is present in each sculpture as the subject seems in flux – is this raw form a figure or what does the abstract mass represent?   These aesthetically simple works have a powerful emotional resonance.  The sprayed and tarnished surfaces of the works tease, confuse and intrigue the viewer, presenting a mysterious conundrum.

Own photograph.

Hartley’s sculptures look heavy, as though carved from marble whereas, in fact, they are sheets of crumbled and folded paper, covered in fibreglass and resin and then carved away or smoothed over.  The resulting effect resembles metal or stone.  Coloured wallpaper, made of collaged A1 drawings (the same paper used to construct the sculptures), forms a backdrop for the sculptures.  The basic elements evoke the wall paintings made by Paleolithic cave-dwellers to protect themselves from supernatural forces and to act as a magical guard – the mystery of Hartley’s sculpture is almost magical in form.  It is possible that the aesthetic value of cave painting was unintended, but became evident as tool working moved beyond the strictly utilitarian into something more aesthetically pleasing.  Although Hartley’s drawings are aesthetically pleasing, as a backdrop, they become purely decorative, enhancing and dramatising the sculpture.

Gabriel Hartley, Heel, 2010. Own photograph.

The Josh Lilley Gallery magically transforms itself for every exhibition.  Although my stilettoes have grown accustomed to tottering down the steep staircase, I never know what will await me.  They’ve done it again; it couldn’t be more different than the set-up for the Fabian Seiz show.  There is a feeling of a wonderful and exciting contrast, creating a distinct divide, as the exhibition passes onto Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, an artist who uses the readymade, or everyday object, as his starting point to instigate a performance.  He enjoys transforming objects into absurd sculptures, filled with humour.

Own photograph. 

These works aren’t so much ‘my thing’ but they are very successful.  Peacock is a series of eight rainbow-coloured photographs, each showing a low-lying lampshade (perhaps the reason why the works themselves are hung so low) with an increasing number of lightbulbs underneath.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Peacock, 2011. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com.

These works recall historic still life where the light source is external to the composition.  Here, the whole subject is the light source, as Boakye-Yiadom breaks with tradition and moulds convention into his own stylistic motif.  For me, Peacock lacks the excitement of some of the artist’s earlier works.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Peacock, 2011.  Own photograph.

Boakye-Yiadom’s video installation, Golden Underground, is, however, superb; it shows him playing a piano with a paintbrush.  The film stops and starts, leaving the viewer in pitch darkness listening to a rendition of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.  The video exposes the vulnerability and banality within the artist’s practice, focusing our awareness on the role of the artist and also on the artist’s self-awareness.  It is very easy to become immersed in this piece and love it.  Whether for its more complex undertones or for its jovial styling, it made me smile.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Golden Underground, 2011. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com.

One of the things that makes these two bodies of work successfully alongside one another is their contrast and, somewhat different but equally experimental, use of practice – Hartley’s use of paper as a medium for sculpture and Boakye-Yiadom’s playful treatment of the everyday.

I don’t know what made me fall for this gallery. It’s not just me as other visitors I spoke to at the exhibition seemed equally enamoured.  Regular readers will know I’m not generally slow to criticise but I haven’t yet seen anything here I would want to criticise. Josh Lilley’s exhibitions hit the nail right on the head.

After the exhibition, we headed for dinner at Elysée on Percy Street, a wonderful little Greek restaurant, only 5 minutes away, where we were treated like gods and fed delicious food until we were ready to explode.  All in all, a great evening.

If you haven’t been to the Josh Lilley Gallery yet then shame on you – you’re missing some excellent exhibitions.  Hurry along!

Peacock Trousers: Gabriel Hartley and Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom is at the Josh Lilley Gallery until 13th August 2011, http://www.joshlilleygallery.com.

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