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Monthly Archives: April 2012

After having stripped the walls of the new WW Gallery in Hatton Garden of old woodchip, painting them bright white and cutting through the original grime, I felt invested enough to be curious about the inaugural exhibition. When Jotta asked if somebody would interview Phil Illingworth about his exciting body of work, ‘Frightening Albert’, I didn’t hesitate to accept.

This month the WW Gallery finally made the move from Hackney Downs to their new space in the glittering-midst of Hatton Garden’s jewellers. The inaugural exhibition, ‘Frightening Albert’, is a solo show of work by artist, Phil Illingworth, taking inspiration from the notorious Watson experiments of the 1920s which explored stimulus and response.

Chiara Williams and Debra Wilson, Directors of the gallery, wanted to open their new space “with a solo show which would present one strong vision.”  Their instinctive way of working, programming and curating meant that although they believed they would be showing an exceptional body of work, it was only during installation when seeing many of the works for the first time, that Williams and Wilson realised their faith had paid off: “‘Frightening Albert’ seems to embody, aesthetically and conceptually, what WW is all about.” In an attempt to pin-down this affinity, Williams & Wilson describe the show as “both bold and subtle, audacious without being pretentious, subversive and witty, visually and viscerally engaging, and above all superbly crafted.” It is evident that, along with the playful “pinch of Dada” and the generous “dollop of Surrealism”, ‘Frightening Albert’ shares its essence with WW.

Francesca Brooks: WW have spoken of the “exciting shift” in your practice over the past couples of years. In what way is ‘Frightening Albert’ different to your previous work?

Phil Illingworth: I tend to work on a specific concept, see it through to completion, and then move onto another. The origins of this project are fundamentally different to my usual practice. From very early on, I saw this as not just as a group of works, but an entire new body of work, something I could really enjoy exploring with for a long time. I believe it has enormous potential which is symbiotic with the rest of my practice.

FB: What has led you to create work in this new way?

PI: I began with a very simple premise: the idea of painting in three dimensions. One of the original principles was that the works should be as spontaneous and intuitive as I could make them; importantly, each painting should have no signifiers other than the work itself. Another was the potential of using colour and material from absolutely any source I chose. It was all about experimentation. The process led to the realisation of what I see as a personal lexicon of materials, raw ideas, and visual syntax. I gave myself ‘permission’ to use this vocabulary to express other concepts, and from that point on I knew that my practice had expanded enormously.

FB: Can you explain the idea of stimulus and response which underpins this body of work?

PI: During the development of the works I invited a small group of blind and visually-impaired people to come and experience a few of the more tactile pieces. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hoping to learn something from it. One of the clearest outcomes is that normal-sighted people tend to make automatic comparisons – “that looks like so-and-so”. I wanted to highlight that we should try to look with more open eyes.

FB: The works in the show often have provocative titles which seem to be a part of the humour, or make a significant allusion. Can you explain their significance?

PI: The title can be a pointer towards my intention, and often another layer of meaning. In some of these particular works I have intended the title to be an element of the work, like scale or colour. What I hope is that the viewer will continue to think about the work afterwards.

FB: ‘Frightening Albert’ is an incredibly visceral and tactile exhibition filled with surprising materials, did these works begin with an interest in the materials or start with the conceptual?

PI: They almost always arrive simultaneously, or at least in parallel. The material itself is rarely the starting point. Usually I source the material to satisfy the concept – perhaps that is why there are often surprising results. I find real excitement in experimenting in this way – I often find myself laughing in the studio when I start to bring everything together!

Here are some photographs I took of the show, and should have posted a long time ago.

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With the green-house windows filtering blue, this white and meditative corner of the exhibition happens to my favourite part.

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You can read my now slightly retrospective interview with artist Justin Coombes on The Flaneur now. Justin Coombes’ work with ekphrasis in photography is particularly interesting to me coming from a background in English Literature. The narrative in his works, and that combination of photographs and sonnets, are all an exploration of the relationship between words and images and the relationship between these two complimentary languages in the arts. Coombes is definitely a scholar and the deep-thought of his answers says it all!

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Last week I interviewed Tom Jeffreys, Spoonfed’s Art Editor, about his curatorial debut (doesn’t that sound great!), Et Cetera at Hoxton Art. I wanted to chat with him about the relationship between art writing and curating exhibitions. As a fellow English Literature graduate making a segue into the art world, I thought he had lots of interesting things to say. Read the interview here:

Et Cetera, a group show of works by Beatrice Haines, Colin Glen, Janne Malmros, Laura Culham and Steven Gill at the Hoxton Art Gallery, catches my attention not merely because of its rare focus on the aesthetically beautiful, but also as the curatorial debut of Spoonfed’s Art Editor, Tom Jeffreys.

Jeffreys describes Et Cetera as “quiet”, “calm” and “subtle”. He hopes that it will be “provocative” in its focus on the “mundane”; those “cracks in the cobbles” where moss grows. Spare and restrained, these choice adjectives are testament to the difference between the complimentary processes of writing and curation.

Jeffreys writes that Et Cetera may be ‘seen as a writing-out-in-full of art practice.’ I can’t help but notice this slip, this falling back to his more natural habit of writing. While curation has been a ‘writing-out’, the essay has acted as a “thinking-through in words,” and a test of the exhibition: “if it worked in writing, it would work in real life.”

The process of curating might share a pattern with writing: both are a “way of navigating” in order to find threads of connection, things “change in the act of writing” just as they do during curation; but they certainly don’t share a rhythm. Jeffreys explains the difference as one of time-scale. While the writing of articles has its weekly cycles, Et Cetera has been an extended “thought process over the past couple of years” and its realisation at the Hoxton Art Gallery has taken months of organisation.

Jeffreys’ emotional and critical “investment” in the show is what gives him his anxious sense of “vulnerability.” He believes in these artists and therefore “wants to do them justice”. His degree in English Literature has given him the “criteria” by which he judges “what makes exhibitions interesting.” Jeffreys believes that “a good book needs to sustain repeated reading.” Et Cetera has collected together a group of works which certainly warrant repeated viewing; rich in detail and often the result of labour-intensive processes, a single glance cannot give us all they have to offer.

As Jeffreys takes me around the exhibition: from the rich monochromes of Steven Gill’s photographs, to the sensitively wrought ink thimbles of Beatrice Haines, or the delicately varnished fragments of china painted by Laura Culham; he hesitates to speak for the art. The works do their own describing, meticulously rendered and consistently honest, they may be “subtle” but they are never silent.

Jeffreys writes that in ‘making marks’ these artists address the ‘process by which the unremarkable is remarked upon’.  Using their own visual language they engage in a dialogue which is powerful and affecting. Whether we are presented with the relics of a lost grandmother as with Haines, or of the London riots through Gill’s photographs, a narrative underlies any aesthetic pleasure. It is this which makes mediation difficult: forcing Jeffreys to find himself lost for the words which would typically come so easily; and yet proves the success of his curation.

In the essay to accompany the show, the artist Colin Glen comments on his previous work as a photographer: “Your job as a photographer of art is not to be there, your job is to be absent.” Jeffreys reflects that he does not like exhibitions “where the work relies on the press release” and although he would, of course, like people to read his essay; Et Cetera does not rely upon his presence. Jeffreys may have initiated a series of conversations, across the stairway to the ground floor, or down in the lower ground floor between vitrines and walls and books, but the trick of curation is being able to leave those conversations, like any good host, without your absence being felt.

Et Cetera will be at Hoxton Art Gallery until the 24th May

 

Yesterday I went to the Cell Project Space to see Benedict Drew’s CYcLORAMA installation, GLISS. The little tropical alleyway and narrow roof garden are all part of the build up to an immersive installation which attacks all your senses. From the bright of the alley you enter the project space, strobing and flashing. GLISS feels, excitingly,  like a futuristic film pod, a glimpse of an occult vision of the future. Image

Cell describes GLISS as an ‘oscillation between the exalted and the commonplace, between desire and redundancy’ and the 4 talking heads are perhaps the best measure of this oscillation. Singing Kate Bush’s ‘Cloud Busting’, they form a surreal, divine choir of TV screens and are the backing singers to the light show.

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The release says ‘They rotate in a vast, mechanical limbo and finally connect to an exasperated materialist fiction about a descent to the depths of a mine.’ The various TV screens and projections engineer a performance which is both absorbing and disturbing. Perhaps it is the volume of information attacking us, which unsettles, but GLISS’s power to affect us is impressive.

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I recently started an experiment and decided I would try to organise some artist interviews over Twitter.  This is partly because there seems to be such a growing and engaging community of artists and galleries using social media and I wanted to make positive use of this. But also more selfishly because I thought it would be a useful tool for writing succinct interview questions. I’m always grappling with big ideas when I interview artists face-to-face and I want to overcome my inarticulacy.

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My first interview was a success. I enjoyed the pace of it, the equivalent struggle to fit ideas and answers into a word limit, along with the fact that an artist who was recognisable only as a Twitter username, was suddenly giving me an insight into his work and practice.

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To read a transcript of my first ‘twinterview’ go to roves and roams, and follow me on Twitter (@frangipancesca) if you are interested in reading future interviews live, or in being interviewed!

There is now a growing community and network of artists and galleries using Twitter to engage and promote their work. These bi-weekly ‘twinterviews’ will exploit the opportunity to connect with artists and their work through Twitter.  Paul Kindersley agreed to be my first victim.

Paul Kindersley is an artist living and working in London, his Twitter bio describes him as ‘artist, writer, stalker, makeup enthusiast, pervert, filmer’.  If you are interested in seeing more of Kindersley in the flesh get to C4RD before the 21st April to see the show he curated, Idle Worship, or to the Transition Gallery from the 4th May onwards for the group show Tainted Love.

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley I’ve had a look through your work and your practise seems quite diverse. How would you describe yourself as an artist?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca I’m so full of ideas- i express with what’s at hand- my body, performance, leftovers, drawings. It’s a constant experimentation.

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley so is lots of your work quite spontaneous?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca pieces can be, i see it all my work as one. Some quick, others i mull over for years! Often revisiting old sketchbooks & ideas.

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley so your experimentation is all part of the progression of one body of work? I want to know more about your ‘leftovers’ too?

@Frangipancesca each ‘piece’ leads to another-but I travel back and forwards-pieces start as evidence or leftovers of process or performance.

@Frangipancesca I suppose most artworks are leftovers of one sense or another!

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley I’m interested in the photographs on your FB/Twitter profile pic. Is this you using your own body? Is there a narrative?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca yes-i like to play with characters and have several narrative strands-but always ultimately myself-ideas of fame and glamour.

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley but they seem like quite a dark perspective on fame and glamour? What is it about these topics which appeals so much?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca it starts off celebratory! It’s striving for the fake or non-existence. Film/TV glamour can’t exist in real-but we all want it.

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca especially with internet- everyone is an unashamed stalker-its fan/stalker x1000000 – fascinating! maybe unhealthy!

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley and your 2nd tweet leads me to next question, you’re an artist on Twitter, how do you think the internet changes/helps work?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca internet allows crazy interaction- but also millions of out of context images & thoughts-new stories etc in every Google search!

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca i like the weirdness of being able to put it out there instantly… and the random events that always unfold…

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley like this interview? and the tiny snapshot of it people might see!?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca exactly! i love stalkers- think it needs to be re-branded as a healthy thing- we all are now esp.. so embrace !

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley and this is part of what your work explores?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca I love this weird no-man’s land between film/tv/internet/star and reality- a liminal space of endless possibilities!

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca a space where our interaction with smth makes it into smth exciting and new-we own the space… that’s where I want my art!

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley so the internet actually offers you the perfect opportunity to take over a space.

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca yes- but there’s something in the extraction from a screen where real excitement occurs.

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley  Is this what you are looking at in the many faces of your ‘Men in 73’?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca for me often a screencap or a film still- can conjure up an entirely new place-leaving its context- ’73 was me exploring that

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca I like to create works that are pulled through the screen as it were to become used props ‘leftovers’ or clues.

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley  taking things away from their contexts and seeing what happens? Do you hope that your viewers will all find diff stories?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca definitely- i like works to come together- offering clues.

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley your work seems to be quite sexually charged, is this a reflection of the culture you are taking your snapshots from?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca yes, but also the importance of personal memory and biography- we remember the naughty and exciting- the x rated…

PAUL KINDERSLEY@Frangipancesca sexuality and violence feature strongly- as, esp. in our filmic culture they are the currency

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley so by making your work a little naughty you also hope that your audiences will remember it?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca there is that fan/stalker thing where the only thing in common in the relationship is the need to be loved!

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca I love films that are sexploitation or horror- a way of forgoing plot/context for the most extreme -can be funny/disturbing

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley a joy in the darker things?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca yes- i think we’re all drawn there- but doesn’t have to be negative- it’s also a way of connecting with personal bio…

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley I agree that it doesn’t have to be negative- I really love Almodovar-a bit of dark humour!

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca exactly- he also draws from these weird everyday emotions- like melodrama, that dont really exist in REAL life, but are REAL

FRANGIPANCESCA @PaulKindersley  What’s your next project/what are you currently working on?

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca exhibiting in http://taintedlovetainted.weebly.com/index.html at @Transitionart and just curated Idle Worship at @C4RD that finishes next week..

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca also working on larger installations- a more ‘holistic’ approach to exhibiting!!!

PAUL KINDERSLEY @Frangipancesca working on a selection of works that make physical images garnered from my bio and the internet. mixing of self with internet.

@PaulKindersley sounds brilliant and the perfect end to a ‘twinterview’!

 

 

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Treetop, Digital c-type print, 2012

Curious about Boo Ritson’s new work, I interviewed her for her current solo show at Poppy Sebire.  Read the interview  below:

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Ocean, Digital c-type print, 2012

All images courtesy Poppy Sebire and the artist.

Boo Ritson is best known for the instant iconicity of her photographic and performative portraits in which she used people as canvases to explore notions of identity. In moving forward with her work she has found that ‘new technologies present new opportunities to experiment’ and the ‘virtual space of the computer’ offers new ways of working.

‘On the Way to the Ocean’, her solo show at Poppy Sebire, is its own video game, in which we are guided by visual stimuli through a landscape which is unsettling for its hyperreality and universality.  Ritson explains that the plasticine Avatar ‘stands in for the viewer when they’re not there’, ‘is a companion avatar when they are,’ and a continual reminder of ‘the virtual characteristics of the experience.’ This small, back-packed, character is a projection of the youthful, adventurous spirit within us who has the imaginative power to follow Ritson’s journey.

Poppy Sebire is this very English of galleries to host an exhibition about the ‘American Dream’. This Victorian Church Hall nestled in a narrow street does not feel like a vessel for a journey to America.  Yet this asynchronous setting and sentiment is the essence of the atmosphere at the base of Boo Ritson’s ‘On the Way to the Ocean’.

Ritson’s photographic and mixed media American landscapes are collaged from pictures originally taken at her home in Chesham in an attempt ‘to set up the right awkwardness and disjointedness’ between notions of fiction and reality.  The queasiness of the choppy, jigsawed sea, our final destination in Ocean, is evidence of the work’s affective power and ability to draw us into the surreal digital world of Ritson’s creation.

It is appropriate then, that Ritson is the first artist I interview via the virtual process of email. I send my interviewer avatar out, and wait patiently for her to return.

The exhibition’s focus is a series of digitally collaged landscapes that reference a long-standing tradition of the American sublime but distort it through new technologies. Can you explain to me what your new ‘techno sublime’ is?

In conversations leading up to the show, someone described the work as seeming to be a kind of “techno sublime”, and I liked that description of the work because it referenced some of the thoughts I was having at the time. I’ve been really interested in Burke’s writings on the sublime and ideas about perfection in his “A philosophical enquiry into the sublime and the beautiful”, it offers up a kind of constructors’ tool-kit for visual and physical experience.

 These works, Foothills and Fire in particular, feel like theatrical sets, was this a conscious decision? In what ways does this sense of the ‘false’ challenge the clichés of American culture?

If you’re been to the States, then you’ve probably had more than one moment of deja vu – the cultural references are so ubiquitous that separating what you are actually experiencing of a place from the fiction can be difficult.  All the work in the show seeks to put the viewer in the position of experiencing a fiction instead, and leaving them to imagine the facts.

There are many layers to the mixed media pieces, can you explain by what process you put them together?

The aim was to produce an artificial environment that was constructed with reference to the visual languages of video-gaming, photography, collage and landscape painting. It had to have the appearance of reality in order for the places to be identifiable as places that might exist, but it also needed the appearance of fragmentation that we associate with virtual imagery, and the shifting presence of environments found in videogames.

Do you feel you have a particular, personal relationship to the notion of the American Dream?

Yes I do, in so much that the dream of a new world and the possibilities for change that might be found in it is a compelling one; I’m most interested in understanding our relationship to unoccupied, uncharted territory, and what we would do with it if it existed.

 In taking photographs in Chesham and using these to create your American landscape did you feel your own sense of longing for a place that was far away?

Yes, but probably most in the way that I did when I was a child going on a journey – when you don’t know where you’re going, how long it will take to get there, and what it will look like when you do, and your head is full of imagining. If you climbed a tree as a child you’ll remember the achievement you felt when you got where you wanted to be, and the disappointment when you realised that it wasn’t the tallest tree, with the furthest view, and that there was always another place in the distance that you wanted to reach; that’s definitely part of what I hope people will identify with – the aspirations that we can feel when we’re in a particular type of landscape, and the ideas that we leave behind when we go home. The advantage of dreaming in a virtual landscape is that nothing is real, so dreaming doesn’t feel so out of place, and you can re-visit any time that you want.

Boo Ritson’s solo show ‘On the Way to the Ocean’ will be at the Poppy Sebire Gallery until the 5 May 2012.