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This review of the Residence Gallery’s exhibition, Finish Fetish, was originally written for the March edition of the Hackney Citizen.

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During the 1960s and 70s, the Minimalist movement saw a group of Californian artists begin working with synthetic and machine-made materials such as plastic, glass, light and resin to create high-sheen artworks associated with the phrase, ‘Finish Fetish’. From Larry Bell, to John McCracken: the Finish Fetish was something of a love affair with the perfect polish of new surfaces.

Now that 3D Printers are just the latest technological development in our economy of constantly evolving synthetic substitutes, that fascination with new materials is perhaps even more relevant some 50 years on. It isn’t surprising then, amidst accelerating innovations in manufacture and sustainable material, that the Finish Fetish lives: moving from the States to East London, Ben Gooding, Clive Hanz Hancock and Patrick Morrissey are all part of the Residence Gallery’s new exhibition.

But these contemporary finish fetishists aren’t so much concerned with the perfect plastic luxury which these machines can produce, but with what, with an obsessive perseverance, the human hand can reproduce. In an inverted emulation of that industrial and automated process, surfaces are painstakingly hand-crafted to mimic the work of machines.

Gooding etches the undulating flow of his surfaces with individual rhythms of line. He does this by hand and over long periods of time. Yet they look as though they have been brushed by the controlled arm of a machine with one single sweep: this specious casualness is truly seductive. Meanwhile Morrissey’s complex numerical systems, his sequential developments and interest in geometry, also give his aluminium prints the appearance of machinated, programmed patterns: but they follow his own logic.

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Finish Fetish’s attention to superficial detail is immediately evident in the fetishistic alliteration of the title, and even the Gallery’s Director, Ingrid Z, has been finish-fetishized: when I go to visit, her woollen hat is decorated with metal studs which catch the spotlights, and her leggings are a monochromatic zig-zag print, an echo of Patrick Morrissey’s aluminium works.

The Residence is a compact gallery, so it is a virtue that most of the works are individually compelling: in a small exhibition a single work has the power to keep you. In Gooding’s lacquer on perspex it is my own silhouette which captures me in its shifting, meticulous pattern. In the copper, it is a burnished parallel flash of light which moves me. Whether you are a curious toddler or a sophisticated surface-connoisseur, it is one of those simple effects of light and shadow which makes you softly want to coo.

The triumph of the exhibition is in the intimation of a personal fetish, and its successful communication as a shared passion between artist and viewer. The works are not the curiosities of niche fanaticists, offered to the viewer to gawp at without comprehension; it is easy to feel the lure of these materials.

This is where Clive Hanz Hancock’s works failed for me: there was nothing sexy about his geometric abstractions. The bright colours deviated too far from the monochromes and other deep metal shades, and looked instead like the fat tips of crayolas displayed in little cylindrical windows. Perhaps I am letting my own minimalist, black & white fetish, get the better of me here.

The good news is that the exhibition will be replenished with other temptations for March’s First Thursday and the second half of the show. This also means that if you want to buy a work the Residence will happily pluck it from the wall there and then and let you walk away with it: you need not be separated from the new object of your desire.

Finish Fetish will be on at the Residence Gallery until 24 March. For more information: www.residence-gallery.com

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This month my article for the Hackney Citizen examined the real Olympic feeling outside of the official Cultural Olympiad. You can pick up a copy of this month’s issue or read the article here on my blog!

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The Transition Gallery looks out over a now iconic snapshot of East London; the Regent’s Canal with its own industrial rings reflected in the water, the trendy Broadway market running a counter-current to its right, and somewhere to the left,- out of sight beyond Victoria Park- the grand Olympic stadium. Taking into account the grimy traces of an industrial past and tangible evidence of regeneration and gentrification, the view from up here is decidedly positive.

Indeed, Transition’s exhibition, The End of the Future, is the only positive vision of the Olympics I could find outside of the officially endorsed Cultural Olympiad.

Taking her inspiration from the modernist belief that architecture really could change the way we live, curator Cathy Lomax really does believe that the Olympic redevelopments have made Hackney a nicer place to live. She wears her ‘Keep Hackney Crap’ badge as an ironic dig at all those cynics and disbelievers.

Yet beneath The End of the Future’s nostalgia there is still recognition of the “unpalatable corporate aspect” which threatens us with the “broken dreams of past Utopias”.

Playing on Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi film Westworld, Scare in the Community’s exhibition at Xero Kline & Coma is an utterly dystopic exploration of the corporate consumerism of Westfield as a symbol of Olympic development.

For curators Julika Gittner and Jon Purnell, Westfield is “a ridiculous new build with its Battenberg architecture, huge buildings designed to look like a city-scape , and its own postcode, E20.” Westfield is an island estranged from the reality of the existing community which surrounds it.

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The feeling of disillusionment in East London is in part motivated by a fear of the unknowable Olympic legacy. In Westworld Ben Seymour’s video, OLYMPICFIELD, envisions the Olympic stadium of the future as an overgrown high security prison where potential WMDs are being produced.

The propaganda and conspiracy verged on hysteria with the Residence Gallery’s lecture from Dr Bill Aitchison, who believes that London 2012 signals the end of the world. The One Hundred Year Gallery’s alternative opening ceremony, The Apocalympics, was similarly foreboding.

These visions are bred outside of the stadium, where those who are excluded have only rumours to feed their impressions.  Cathy Lomax remembers thinking that there “would be an opportunity for small local galleries to be involved in the Cultural Olympiad, but it soon became clear that it was directed at a much higher level.”

While a group of galleries were meeting for a little while to make plans together, “this eventually dissipated.”  Big names like Rachel Whiteread may have succeeded in winning a public commission, but all those works which were not officially endorsed by the Olympiad, are confined to the peripheries in an exhibition of ‘Failure’ at The One Hundred Years Gallery.

It is this disregard for the existing culture of east London which justifies the vehement cynicism apparent in the tone of many Hackney galleries’ dystopian vision of the Games.  East London is famous for its art scene, but the Olympics has brought in an unfamiliar, officially accredited programme of culture which masks our real identity with a public face and showcase for tourists.

The Residence Gallery’s open submission exhibition, Botany & Botulism: The Olympic Legacy Zen Garden, has found the perfect metaphor for the difficult dual nature of the Olympics. Botany represents the beauty of regrowth, and Botulism, the hidden poisons which lie beneath the surface.

Rent increases and the redevelopment of studio spaces have meant that artists have moved on, and struggling galleries and project spaces on the fringes of the Cultural Olympiad are unlikely to see the benefits of Olympic traffic.

The Olympics are not for locals, they are a project for tourists. For Ingrid Z, Director of the Residence Gallery, the irony of the Cultural Olympiad is that a “great number of artists have been displaced by demolishing many studios and artist’s homes to make way for the Olympic park.”

Perhaps when all of the official events are over we will find that botulism has spread. For Transition it will be the memory, the nostalgia of a golden sporting event that remains, but for many the Stadium is already a condemned wasteland.  Ingrid Z hopes that “it will be artists who ultimately save the day when loads of empty spaces emerge in Stratford,” and then the artists and galleries will reclaim Hackney.

The End of the Future will be at Transition Gallery until 12th August

Botany and Botulism: The London Legacy Zen Garden will be on at the Residence Gallery until  the 12th August

Westworld will be on at Xero Kline Coma until 19th August

Failure will be at the One Hundred Years Gallery until the 26th August