A Busy Art Week

Last Saturday Stella and I went up to London to see the combined exhibitions at Victoria House in Bloomsbury of New Sensations and The Future Can Wait. The primary reason for the trip was to support artists we have exhibited before; Jonny Briggs and Emma Critchley and to also follow Alzbeta (‘Betty’) Jaresova last years GAP winner who we are currently talking to about doing a solo show with us next year. Jonny had work from his Schisms Series, Emma was showing three works called Figures of Speech, whilst Betty had two pieces from her recent solo show at the Griffin Gallery titled Position VIII and Positiion X. 
Stella and I were blown away by the quality and energy of the work on show, not just by the artists we know but also by those whose work was new to us. It was interesting in that painting and drawing featured strongly. Of the New Sensation artists we loved the haunting, wintry scenes of Ilona Kiss and Catherine Cameron’s silver gelatin photographic Works on Paper. In The Future Can Wait we thought Alex Gene Morrison’s Green Skull painting was excellent, Emma Bennett’s small, dark but beautiful paintings captured still lives as rich as a Dutch Old Master whilst on an altogether larger scale John Stark’s surrealist fantasy painted with obsessive detail in oil on panel. Again on a large scale was a stunning drawing in pencil and graphite on paper by Eric Manigaud, Cologne 2, 1945. Sculpture too was also strongly represented in many forms. At The Future Can Wait Anja Priska used porcelain in a humorous way with her depiction of contemporary monkey goddesses Cheryl and Emiliya whilst Don Brown created subtle, cool white sculptures of the human figure to then photograph these in exquisite detail on a life size scale in the Yoko Series. Wendy Mayer showed a series of hyper realistic sculptures using a variety of media to turn scale, subject age and form on its head to present strangely disturbing yet appealing sculptures such as Little Alan and Paper Doll.  The stand out work for both of us however, and probably of both exhibitions was another sculptural piece in New Sensations by Virgile Ittah. Her work had a nude woman sitting in a reclining position on an antique church chair with her head back. Made from marble powder and wax the form seems to be decaying and crumbling before your very eyes. An important part of her work is that the sculpture is site specific and in this case Virgile had placed the sculpture within a large white box, the size of a shop window that she had lined in dense black fabric. The front of the box was cut out like a shop window and you could either view the figure through this glass less window or go inside and experience a disconcertingly intimate encounter with the sculpture. We managed to catch up with Virgile a delightful French girl and hope we can persuade her to work with us in the future. There were also other artists whose work we admired such as Michal BarOr, Tom Butler and Veronica Smirnoff and we both left feeling invigorated, positive about the future of artists working in the UK and exhausted!
Back in Devon for a couple of days and then off I went again to check out Frieze and compared to New Sensations and The Future Can Wait what a disappointment. Same old galleries on the whole peddling the same over hyped, over priced commercial work – a prime example being more Hirst butterflies and Emin blue pencil drawings at White Cube – yawn! The only areas of interest were the Frieze projects and some of the galleries in the Frame and Focus sections. The stand out beings Marlie Mul’s puddles at Fluxia and Arratia Beer of Berlin with the Otto Fast work, a film about sex workers in the porn industry. A brave and challenging piece it strips away many preconceptions about those who work in these films and the lives they live.
Fortunately outside of the fair there was quality curated shows to visit namely Home Truths an exploration of motherhood and identity at the Photographer’s Gallery (http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/home-truths-3) and Eve Plays Duchamp at Brancolini Grimaldi, curated by Kevin Moore and featuring work by Tricia Lawless Murray, Heidi Snow and Hannah Whitaker (http://www.brancolinigrimaldi.com/section/exhibitions/current).  Both exhibitions reflect on the female form and are deeply personal explorations of femininity and the experience of contemporary womanhood.
So back to Devon and our own subtle reflection on an almost mystical pathway Mariner’s Way. Well done Ed a piece with real beauty and integrity…
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