Tag Archives: RCA

Good Things Come in Small Packages – Flowers’ Christmas Show

1 Dec

I had been looking forward to seeing Small is Beautiful at Flowers since I first received the invitation which stated that works were guaranteed not to exceed its own size – 9 inches by 7 inches.

Small is Beautiful at Flowers. Own photograph.

I know things like this have been done time and time again (the RCA secret postcard show being a prime example) and this is something of a tradition for Flowers but that didn’t stop me feeling a frisson of excitement.  I was interested to see if all the works conformed and, although I resisted carrying my invite around and sizing up, I reckon most of them did.

Small is Beautiful at Flowers. Own photograph.

The private view was bustling and, with works by 80 artists, that was hardly a surprise.  The pieces couldn’t be more varied, ranging from small-scale paintings to moving sculptures.  Most of Flowers’ big names make an appearance – there’s a Richard Smith work and a Patrick Hughes.  A gorgeous Nicola Hicks’ bear stands proudly on a plinth, reminding everyone of her recent exhibition on Kingsland Road.

Nicola Hicks, There is no moral high ground between a bear and a dog, 2010. Own photograph.

As is so often the case, my time was limited last night (dinner at The Zetter beckoned) and I didn’t get a chance to push past everyone to look closely at all the works but two stood out for me.  Maybe I’m predictable but I loved number 76 – Julian Opie’s Catherine Dancing (pink).  I have long admired Opie.  I remember seeing some of his work at the National Portrait Gallery as part of my AS-level art project.  And, when I returned to school with all my write-ups and drawings, the art teacher scornfully told me that all I had deliberately picked the easiest artist to copy.  No artist is actually easy to copy as anyone who has studied art (except forgers) will know.  I picked Opie because I think he’s wonderful but it certainly antagonised me enough to make me continue looking at his work.

Opie’s works are, of course, instantly recognisable and his career has been preoccupied with the investigation of representation through his own reductive, formal language.  Catherine Dancing is a three-dimensional exploration of a typical Opie figure.

Julian Opie, Catherine Dancing (pink), 2011. Own photograph.

Another highlight for me was displayed just behind the Opie.  I met Tim Lewis a few weeks ago at another Flowers’ event but wasn’t familiar with his work.  Lewis’s Pann is a strange mechanical creature who paces across a platform.  All the pieces in this show are typical snapshots into the artists’ working styles and Pann is no exception.  Lewis’s anthropomorphic entities mix intricate mechanics with a dextrous appreciation of both art and artifice.  His creative drive and obsession with form is apparent but it is contagious; I was quickly captivated, following Pann’s journey, back and forth, back and forth.

Tim Lewis, Pann, 2011. Own photograph.

Normally, at such a busy opening it is inevitable that I will be trodden on but this didn’t happen yesterday as I had decided to don a new pair of shoes. The first comment when I bought them was that they look like a lethal weapon.  If the stiletto is good for moving others’ feet out the way then why not take the theme to the rest of the shoe! Don’t worry, I’m not that vicious but they certainly provoked a reaction.

Small is Beautiful XXIX is at Flowers, Cork Street, until 1st January 2012, www.flowersgalleries.com.

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Tramshed Transformed: Catlin Art Prize 2011

19 May

Walking down Rivington Street last September, I passed the huge open doors of The Tramshed and was brought to a standstill.  What an amazing space!  Originally an electricity generating station for the Shoreditch tram station, – by 1903 there were over 300 electric trams in London – this beautiful building dates back to 1905. 

The Tramshed. Image via www.londondesignguide.com

Last night this exciting hub with its high ceilings, original tiles and tram tracks was packed to the rafters with visitors celebrating the announcement of the 5th Catlin Art Prize.  Luckily the tram tracks are now filled in so no opportunity for getting my heels stuck down a hole. 

 The Catlin organisers know how to party.  Cut down from a long-list of 40 artists, there were five finalists in the running this year: Leah Capaldi (Royal College of Art), Darren Harvey-Regan (RCA), Russell Hill (Wimbledon), Noemie Goudal (RCA) and Juliette Losq (Royal Academy Schools). 

Juliette Losq.  Image via www.twitter.com/artcasual

 The long-list can be seen in The Catlin Guide, a beautifully designed book profiling all the graduates.  Housed in a slipcase, this guide to new artists in the UK is produced in limited numbers – 2,011 were printed this year.

Own photograph.

Organised and curated by Justin Hammond, The Catlin Art Prize isn’t just an exhibition but a support network for a small group of specially selected artists just out of art school.  The Catlin aims to celebrate all that they have achieved and all that they can go on to master.  Artists are selected for their potential to make a mark on the art world and, by presenting a new body of work for the prize, this is their first step in that direction.  Established in 2007, the prize is now a major fixture on the London art scene.  This year the prize money has increased to £5,000 and there is also a new prize of £3,000 based on a written proposal for a new piece of work for the Catlin collection.

Own photograph.

The exhibition is staged over two floors with downstairs showing the work of past winners including Brigitte Williams, Alex Ball and Sarah Lederman and keys artists from previous prizes such as Jasmina Cibic, Adam Dix and Will Martyr.  Careful on the stairs going down – I don’t know if it was the height of my heels or the number of Strawberry Woo Woos we’d enjoyed but watch where you walk.  Thanks heavens I made it down in one piece but luckily the friend I was with is quite accustomed to picking me up when I fall (as those of you who skated with me at Somerset House this year may remember)!

Own photograph.

The winner was selected by a panel of judges consisting of collector Richard Greer, curator Julia Royse and gallerist Simon Oldfield.  Last night, a delighted and overwhelmed Russell Hill was announced as the recipient of this prestigious prize.  Such a deserving winner!  Justin discovered Hill at his degree show and was struck by the clinical nature of his work which involves the re-appropriation of everyday objects.  He found the perfection and precision in these unusual sculptures to be very appealing.  The only finalist who hadn’t completed an MA, Hill is certainly one to watch and considering his age and immense skill, I expect big things from this artist. 

Russell Hill.  Image via www.spoonfed.co.uk

My other favourite was Noemie Goudal who focuses on the construction of spaces that enable new perspectives.  She looks at the invasion of man-made elements into organic landscapes creating simple, yet powerfully effective, imagery.  For the Catlin, Goudal travelled to Dominica to use the caves and rainforests on the island.  The photographs are mesmerising.

Les Amants (Cascade), Colour photograph, 111 x 140cm, 2009. Image via www.noemiegoudal.com

 The exhibition is only on show for a few days but it’s definitely worth making some time to see who Justin has picked out and what the artists have managed to achieve only a year after their degree shows.  Make a note of their names and see where they go next!

 The Catlin Art Prize 2011 is at the Tramshed from today until 22nd May, www.artcatlin.com.

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