Tag Archives: Shoreditch

Here, there and everywhere

26 May

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind – as soon as I seem to be back in London and on top of my to-do list I’m heading off somewhere new.  Of course, I’m loving every minute but it has certainly been chaotic which is why this particular post ranges from France to Sussex and back to Shoreditch and Trafalgar Square.

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Monet’s House at Giverny. Own photograph.

A few days after Berlin Gallery Weekend I was woken up in the very early hours to head over to France for the Bank Holiday weekend.  I’ve always wanted to visit Giverny and, as it was only an hour off route (heaven forbid that I could just relax and enjoy French wine and cheese), we programmed the sat-nav and off we went.  Entry to Giverny provides access to Monet’s house and garden.  This was the second pink house with green shutters in which Monet had lived and the second time his house had been separated from the garden by a road.  Colour is everything here – both inside and out.  The walls of the house are adorned with works – there are Japanese prints everywhere plus his huge collection of paintings including works by Delacroix, Cézanne and Renoir.

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Inside Monet’s House. Own photograph.

Even on an overcast day, the garden cannot help but make you smile with its full-to-the-brim flowerbeds and radiant colours.  Monet had started gardening while living at Argenteuil but not on a scale that would suggest the passion he imbued into the gardens at Giverny.  His garden was designed with his paintings in mind – he planted what he wanted to paint so, in a sense, he created the scene that resided in his imagination.  When Monet arrived at Giverny there were no ponds but it had always been his dream to have them and it is, of course, his water lily ponds and the Japanese bridge that have become synonymous with his name.

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The Japanese bridge. Own photograph.

Monet was severely afflicted by cataracts despite two operations towards the end of his life.  As his sight worsened, his works turned from fresh, bright colours to a heavier palette, almost certainly as a result of his blurred colour vision.  Whether or not his gardens became lost to him is hard to say but what can be certain is that his pronounced choices of colour infused his world with light and life for many years and helped to create some of the scenes we remember him for today.

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Monet’s garden. Own photograph.

After settling in at Nogent-Le-Rotrou, it was irresistible to visit the Chateau Saint-Jean as it was only two minutes away.  Built around 1020 on the site of an earlier castle, the building has suffered a lot of intervention over the years and much of what remains is of a later period.  It is an imposing and impressive fortress perched on a point with a vantage over the entire area.  Inside there is a museum dedicated to the history of the town and, strangely enough, a contemporary art gallery with an exhibition of works by Patrick Loste, evoking the often crude portrayals of cave paintings.  I can find art anywhere!

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Chateau Saint-Jean. Own photograph.

It was a flying visit to France but, on the way back home, there was just time to stop in at the Holy Trinity Abbey in Vendôme enabling me to indulge my love of the Gothic period.  The feature of most note has to be the 12th century frescoes that were discovered behind the 14th century chapter house walls.  The sections that remain are badly fragmented the sections but have been preserved remarkably well and one scene showing the Miraculous Catch after Christ’s Resurrection is still strikingly clear consider its age.

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Holy Trinity Abbey, Vendôme. Own photograph.

Back in the UK, it was time for the opening of the opera season at Glyndebourne, the wonderful opera house in Sussex founded in 1934.  As tempted as I am to do so, I will resist touching on the opera but do have to mention their art programme.  As many of you will know, I am very into public installations and making the most of outdoor spaces through art.  Glyndebourne are very much on the same page and this season is marked by an exhibition of works by Sean Henry who does exactly this, creating monumental works in bronze for the urban landscape.  His works capture the mundane, subjects caught in a moment of introspection with which we can identify.  Glydnebourne don’t have the strongest selection of his sculptures but they are unavoidable in the picturesque landscape of the house.

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Sean Henry, Catafalque, 2003. Own photograph.

Finally, it seemed I was back in London for long enough to get around some exhibitions here.  The Catlin Art Prize is a highlight of the calendar and the brilliant eye of the curator means that we can normally expect great things from the nine chosen graduates who have had to produce new work for the exhibition.

Catlinexterior2013 The Catlin Prize takes over Londonewcastle. Image courtesy of Peter Hope and via www.artcatlin.com

The winner Terry Ryu Kim forced the visitor to become part of her installation – manipulating the viewer’s path through architecture and technology.  The work explores how structures can exert power, the installation becomes a stage that dictates our actions.  It is haunting and beautiful, both intimate and evasive at the same time.

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Terry Ryu Kim, Screening Solution I,II and III. Image courtesy of Peter Hope and via www.artcatlin.com

Juno Calypso who won the visitor vote has garnered a lot of attention, using the more traditional medium of photography.  Calypso staged scenes in which she performs as a character called Joyce, always obscuring her face and thereby forcing us to focus on other elements of the scene.  The narrative of the unsettling seems to be a theme in this year’s award.

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Juno Calypso, 12 Reasons You’re Tired All The Time. Image via www.artcatlin.com

All of the finalists deserve mention but I think praise must be given to Nicky Deeley.  Of course, performance art is common now but for a young graduate to produce a work of such maturity is impressive.  The piece sits deftly on the line between creepy, cute and fascinating.  Admittedly I only saw one costume change but the crowds of people gathered around the work certainly suggested everyone was hooked.

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Nicky Deeley performing Island Year. Own photograph.

I can often be hard to please and so regularly gallery spaces rest on their laurels.  One may think this is more true of traditional spaces that are guaranteed the crowds come what may.  Well, The National Gallery is currently shaking things up.  Michael Landy’s Saints Alive is a result of a two year residency with an in-house studio.  Many artists in the past have failed this challenge but Landy has risen to it.  He wasn’t scared of the esteemed regard in which everyone holds the National Gallery’s collections.  Everything that made him seem the most inappropriate person for this position has actually made him the best.

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Saints Alive at The National Gallery. Own photograph.

Asked my thoughts on The NG I would normally name it as a place of calm, a space where one can think and admire some of the most wonderful art in London.  It was the first gallery I visited as a child and somewhere I still regularly visit.  As I approached the Sunley Room I could hear crashes and bangs, normally such noises would have the guards running to find the source of the disturbance.  But the disturbance is, in fact, part of the exhibition.  Landy has subverted the serenity.

Walking in I was met by Saint Apollonia, a nine-foot sculpture made of fibre glass, recalling a sculpture painted in a Lucas Cranach work.  I nervously edged towards the pedal at her feet, balancing precariously on a stiletto and pressing it down.  At this point the pliers she was holding smashed persistently into her mouth.  There’s a spare head ready for when this one becomes a tad too battered.  She is not the only one who is bringing to life the suffering the saints endured.

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Saint Apollonia in the Sunley Room. Own photograph.

Landy has been inspired by the stories of the saints – stories which were once known by everybody yet today have fallen into obscurity. Towering over visitors are seven large-scale kinetic sculptures that swivel and turn, evoking the torment of each saint’s life.  These sculptures are interactive; there are buttons to press, a handle to crank and foot pedals to push. There are T-shirts to be won and a Saint Francis of Assisi donation box activated by coins.

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One of Landy’s kinetic sculptures. Own photograph.

Landy doesn’t intend to cause offence with these sculptures; his research into the works in the collection and his retelling, through these kinetic beasts, of the saints’ stories is remarkable.  Each saint has a symbolic attribute that makes him or her instantly recognisable.  Landy has transformed the saints from objects of spiritual devotion into artworks, made from pieces of junk that play on his interest in destruction.  Landy brings the saints from the walls of the gallery to life.  They are fascinating.  We want to press the buttons again and again – are they unnerving or are they funny?  I don’t think anyone was quite sure.  The legends themselves are often ridiculous and Landy has captured this with his own unique magic, comedy and an enticing undertone of the macabre.  The awful and gruesome ordeals these saints underwent were meant to show their patience and endurance.  As the sculptures break under the strain there is a certain irony here.  And don’t think that’s not fully intentional either.  Landy’s past works have always been about selflessness, generosity and virtue so he wasn’t actually as far removed from these topics as many thought.

Alongside the sculptures are his drawings and collages made from cut-up reproductions of works in the collection.  I’d urge you not to get so distracted by the sculptures that you miss these.

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Saint Jerome in action. Own photograph.

As I turned back to take one last look at the exhibition Saint Jerome was still quivering behind me.  Legend tells that he used to beat himself with a rock to prevent him from having impure sexual thoughts.  But as he stands there quivering you can’t help but wonder what is going on beneath the excessive drapery around his legs.  However, before there was a chance to cast any aspersion onto the virtue of the saint, someone else had crept towards the pedal and Saint Jerome had returned to whacking himself.

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Michael Landy’s Saints Alive is at The National Gallery until 24th November 2013, www.nationagallery.co.uk.

C’est Magnifique – Gérard Rancinan’s Wonderful World

9 Jun

I tend not to write about exhibitions with which I am directly involved but every rule has an exception.  The Shoreditch exhibition of Gérard Rancinan’s Wonderful World is one such exception.

Gérard Rancinan, Desperate Marilyn. Image courtesy of the artist and via www.thefuturetense.net

Although Rancinan is represented by Opera Gallery, The Future Tense is responsible for mounting this museum-quality exhibition.  The Wonderful World series has never before been seen in the UK; it is the final part of Rancinan’s phenomenal Trilogy of the Moderns, a series that has been seven years in the making.  The works tell the story of a humanity that is obsessed with the cult of celebrity and guided only by an absolute desire for prescribed happiness.  Those in the works are the Moderns – people today who incessantly use electronic devices and who idealise celebrities and iconic figures, longing to lead their lives and play their roles.  Ultimately though, the joke is on us as Rancinan peels back the charade behind which these characters hide to look at the reality.  His photographs are about not taking everything at face value and the importance of individuality.

Gérard Rancinan, Jumping Gis. Image courtesy of the artist and via www.thefuturetense.net

As committed witnesses of the metamorphoses affecting society, Rancinan, and writer, Caroline Gaudriault, have engaged in an ongoing dialogue, delivering their dual observations on a generation seeking relentless progress at any cost.

Gérard Rancinan at the exhibition. Image courtesy of Paul Hampartsoumian and via www.thefuturetense.net

Rancinan’s works have incredible visual impact; he first picked up a camera when he was 15 years old and knew straight away that photography was for him.  Even today, he can’t imagine the idea of doing anything else, saying he wouldn’t know how.  He is a photographer and the master of his camera.  Rancinan began his career as a war photographer, capturing images on the front line, travelling the world and bearing first-hand witness to events of historical importance. Although different these new artworks are equally valid.  He delivers startling images of our contemporary world filtered through an ever-evolving aesthetic prism.  For Rancinan, photography is above all an instrument of thought, a militant perspective on our era.

Gérard Rancinan, Saint Sebastian. Image courtesy of the artist and via www.thefuturetense.net

Rancinan is already an international star having come to London fresh from La Triennale di Milano and it is now time for him to star in the UK as well.  On 17th May, in the Philips de Pury photography auction, his work Batman Family Girls set a new world record for him.  It was also a record sale for a living French photographer and showed the growing importance of Rancinan’s work and the high regard in which it is held among collectors and institutions.

Gérard Rancinan, Batman Family Girls. Image courtesy of the artist and via www.thefuturetense.net

Walking into the Londonewcastle Project Space, where this show is being held, one is immediately struck by a photograph of the head of Mickey Mouse served on a platter (a detail of his Salome).  If this doesn’t grab your attention then who knows what will.  Rancinan’s works don’t whisper; full of complex subtleties they scream.  Following the exhibition round past his Saint Sebastians we come across a wall of Batman masks, dramatically lit to create strong and striking shadows.  I first saw a Future Tense show last year and was immediately impressed, not only by the quality of the works, but also by the lighting.  The gallery ethos is about doing things properly and the lighting of this show is again exemplary.

The Future Tense presents Rancinan’s Wonderful World. Image courtesy of Paul Hampartsoumian and via www.thefuturetense.net

In the next room, alongside the Batman Family works, a chandelier lies on the floor, straight from the wall into real life.  It is an immersive exhibition that includes and captivates the visitor, displaying the 15 large format works cleverly integrated with props from Rancinan’s studio.  But in no way is it over the top.  The methods of display and the clever curatorial decisions successfully bring the works to life and portray the dramatic themes of the series.

Props with the works. Image courtesy of Paul Hampartsoumian and via www.thefuturetense.net

The barcode wallpaper in Family Watching TV has been theatrically extended onto the gallery wall – the exhibition becomes an installation piece in its own right.  Other such clever tricks continue.  A small enclave contains the dress from the Salome photograph, installed on chequerboard flooring, exuding an air of mystery and intrigue.

Theatrical installations. Image via www.thefuturetense.net

A video shows the making of these works and, through watching, the methods of the Rancinan studio become clearer.  All of Rancinan’s photographs are created in just one shot.  There’s no clever manipulation in Photoshop.  It is his perfection and eye for detail, his understanding of what makes an immediate impact that creates these amazing visions.

The head of Mickey Mouse. Image courtesy of Paul Hampartsoumian and via www.thefuturetense.net

The last room hosts a purpose-built set and studio.  Public auditions are taking place this weekend for the final composition for the entire body of work which will be shot on this set on Tuesday 12th June.  This presents a rare opportunity for visitors to see what goes on behind the scenes of a major fine art photo shoot and, potentially, to be immortalised in art history as part of the photograph.   A black rectangle on the wall shows where this work will hang – a solitary gas mask is hooked in the middle and Rancinan’s signature shines out in white paint.  There aren’t yet many clues about the content of this last piece (and, no, I’m not telling).  Repeat visits will reveal the organic nature of studio life – part art installation, part film set, part soap opera – as the shoot moves from concept, through production and postproduction, to the climactic unveiling of the finished work.

Rancinan’s studio comes to Shoreditch. Image courtesy of Paul Hampartsoumian and via www.thefuturetense.net

At first the works are striking, even rather comical, but look a bit closer and the many-layered meanings start to come through and hit home.  They are incredible works and Rancinan deserves the acclaim that this show is receiving.  Despite having now seen his photographs many times, every walk through the gallery offers me something new and reveals further detail.  Even without my involvement with this exhibition, I would still be urging people to visit and I would still be making several trips there myself.

Gérard Rancinan: Wonderful World is at the Londonewcastle Project Space, 28 Redchurch Street, until 24th June 2012, www.thefuturetense.net.

The Eyes Have It: Catlin Art Prize Exhibition 2012

4 May

The Catlin Art Prize is now in its sixth year.  Where has time gone?!  It seems like only yesterday that I attended the bustling prize ceremony at the Tramshed which, incidentally, is now about to reopen as a restaurant.

The prize presents some of the best graduates from art schools across the UK, one year after their degree shows where they were first spotted by curator Justin Hammond.

Tom Howse, Spherical Manoeuvres and Lemuria. Image courtesy of Peter Hope and via www.artcatlin.com

This year’s exhibition has taken over the Londonewcastle Project Space on Redchurch Street (I’ll be there a lot next month for the debut exhibition of Gérard Rancinan’s Wonderful World) with works by finalists Greta Alfaro, Gabriella Boyd, Poppy Bisdee, Jonny Briggs, Max Dovey, Tom Howse, Ali Kazim, Adeline de Monseignat, Soheila Sokhanvari and Julia Vogl.  Each artist had to create a brand-new work, or works, for the show to demonstrate their progress.

Julia Vogl, Let’s Hang Out. Own photograph.

This Project Space is extremely versatile and, once again, it has really been transformed with amazing low-level lighting and new walls.  There’s something mysterious about the ambience of this hang and the exhibition makes use of the space in a way that I haven’t seen before.  I was lucky enough to be shown around by the curator when I had a sneak peak yesterday.

I remember Max Dovey from Wimbledon, where he had created a performance piece about social media.  His ideas were great and he was an obviously flamboyant character but I wasn’t 100% sure what to make of him.  Here, he has produced a physical work rather than a performance, a more sedate piece looking at The Last Day of TV through a series of five box sets containing the final analogue broadcast from each terrestrial channel recorded live on 3rd and 17th April 2012. The work is a final riposte to all the recent exhibitions inspired by the digital switch-over.

Max Dovey, The Last Day of TV. Own photograph.

The piece that I couldn’t stop looking at was Hairy Eye Balls (her nickname for the work) by Adeline de Monseignat.  I glanced at it and was about to hurry past until Hammond told me to take a closer look; “Did you see it move?”  he asked.  The fur is motorised and this ‘figure’, stuffed in a glass sphere, seems to be breathing, surrounded by eggs.  Once you realise what’s going on it’s mesmerising.  Even though it evokes ideas of something being trapped, I didn’t find it threatening or suffocating.   Mother HEB/Loleta also references Hoffman’s The Sandman where a madman steals children’s eyes after blinding them with sand, but I found it calming and restful – maybe I’m a tad odd…   If anything, for me, it’s too subtle and if I hadn’t have been told, I’m not sure I would have noticed or fully appreciated this ‘creapture’.

Adeline de Monseignat, Mother HEB/Loleta. Own photograph.

Greta Alfaro’s photographs show the results of her recent installation in Mexico City.  Hammond explained how Alfaro recreated a chapel in a former Church which she then covered with meringue and invited people to eat from the walls, exploring our perception of permanence and vanitas.

Greta Alfaro, Invencion 1,2,3. Image courtesy of Peter Hope and via www.artcatlin.com

I actually loved nearly everything in this show – Jonny Briggs and Tom Howse both deserve attention and it will be interesting to see where they go next.  Poppy Bisdee’s This Time Yesterday shows a video of what occurred in the space one day previously.  Anyone walking round the exhibition this afternoon will have seen me taking a look yesterday – I’ll be part of the piece (for one day only).  Hammond says that by being displayed in a room between the two main exhibition spaces he has encouraged visitors to pass through.  He likes the idea that the piece will ultimately function as a diary of the Catlin Art Prize.

Poppy Bisdee, This Time Yesterday. Own photograph.

Finally, I think I have to mention Julia Vogl’s Let’s Hang Out, a communal area created by coloured tiles that visitors can stick to the wall.  The area will change and evolve – although I can’t help thinking that the walls will always be predominantly mustard in colour.

Julia Vogl, detail of Let’s Hang Out. Own photograph.

The only slightly strange thing about this show (call me old-fashioned) are the QR codes, rather than printed information, on the wall labels.  Now my Blackberry doesn’t yet have a QR scanner so this wasn’t that useful for me.  Maybe I need to download an app before my next visit.

This is really good art and all the finalists have shown thought-provoking progressions since their graduate displays.  It’s also a beautifully curated exhibition showing off Hammond’s skill and eye for picking the talent.  This is one that I will return to and is a must-see for this month.  Make sure you vote for your favourite artist in the ballot box at the entrance to the venue to help someone win the inaugural visitor vote.

The same evening I popped into Haunch at Eastcastle Street to see The Observer which, in comparison, proved to be a rather bland show.  Bringing together six artists, the exhibition looks at how they use fragments of existing images to create new realities.  Maybe I’m being unfair and too harsh, but I don’t think these works went far enough to engage with the shared sense of crisis they were meant to discuss.  For me their tensions were too surface-based.

Patricia Piccinni, The Observer. Own photograph.

Well worth seeing, however, are the two works by Uwe Wittwer that convey an ephemeral atmosphere, an idyll perhaps on the verge of tragedy.  They’re hard to read but really express the ideas that this exhibition seeks to explore.

Uwe Wittwer, Caravan. Own photograph.

Wittwer’s works apart, if I had to choose I’d scurry back down to Shoreditch anytime for another look at the thing buried in the sand.

The Catlin Art Prize 2012 is at the Londonewcastle Project Space until 25th May 2012, www.artcatlin.comThe Observer is at Haunch of Venison, Eastcastle Street, until 7th July 2012, www.haunchofvenison.com.

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.

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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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