Olek @ Tony Gallery

Tony’s Gallery on Sclater Street, Shoreditch just a short walk from the art hub of Redchurch Street and Brick Lane offers a different kind of exhibition that is both exciting and overwhelming.

 

This small space is filled from floor to the ceiling with the knitted creations of the Polish, New York based artists Olek. This is her first UK solo exhibition and it has hit the ground running. Titled ‘I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone’ (a direct quote of Tracey Emin from 2002) the artist has filled the space with household objects and hangings constructed in crochet.

 

Olek has travelled from guerilla knitting a jumper for New York’s famous Wall Street Bull to being listed as one of ‘the 25 most important artists of 2011’. She has become a key figure in the artworld and this exhibition goes to prove that her originality is making her a key figure in the art crowd.

 

Work on display is frantic, filled with psychedeila and is lighthearted yet it carries a strong undertone of sexism and modern culture. A personal look into Olek’s colourful bedroom highlights her talents but also her vulnerabilities. Here she is seen as taking a strong step for herself yet shows her human weaknesses, her feelings of isolation, abandonment and untapped potential signified by the empty shopping cart, bed and cradle are on display for the scrutiny of the viewer. She highlights everything we fear in a heady and colourful medium that is both jarring and enthralling at the same time.

 

This exhibition is exciting, innovative and unique, head down there to catch one of the hottest artists before she becomes truly massive.

 

Olek @ Tony Gallery 27th January – 23rd March 2012

http://www.tonysgallery.com/


 

Dig the New Breed, ON|OFF @ Rankin’s Annroy Gallery

Head off of the somewhat beaten track to Kentish Town and witness the delights of Rankin and model wife Tuuli’s ‘Dig the New Breed’ Exhibition. The exhibition is a collaboration with ON|OFF at the photographer’s Annroy Gallery to coincide with London Fashion Week. This is the third consecutive season in which the photographer and model have ran this event which acts as a competition for new fashion film talent to have their work exhibited to the fashion elite.

Since 2003, On|Off has encouraged and supported multimedia cross referencing and pioneered this way of showcasing during London and now Paris Fashion Week. On|Off presents fashion film as a vehicle to promote directors as well as designers’ collections in exciting ways. On show are male models throwing each other around a room, the freaks and weirdos from club night ‘This is Circus’ as well as beautiful set pieces in fields full of colour. Not only do the visuals captivate but the soundtracks also grab your attention.

The beauty of these films is further emphasised by the fact that their stills could be used as astounding images in high fashion editorials. Away from the films, stills have been pulled and exhibited in the main exhibition area.

To coincide with this exhibition Rankin and Tuuli have produced a fanzine which will feature some of these talents giving the directors an opportunity to reach a wider audience. From this exhibition it is clear that these directors and the subjects in their films will be sticking around. Keep an eye out for them.

Florence Welch

Highlights included Tabitha Denhom’s film which humorously explored mental health in a 1960s style. The film features Florence Welch as compulsive hoarder who writhes upon piles of clothes in a state of ecstasy. Thomas Giddings’ film ‘Lavender’ featured models in beautiful fields wearing colourful prints that call for your attention. Whilst Joost Vandebrug and Alex Noble’s film features a model dancing for a man in a seedy environment, its dark, twisted and sexy all at the same time.

This is just a small selection from the great films on display, make sure you head down to the Annroy Gallery and catch these films for yourself, or catch them online right now.

The Other Wave: Contemporary Chinese Photography @ Ben Brown Fine Arts

Head down the hidden and somewhat secluded Brook’s Mews in London’s West End and you will find the delightfully understated Ben Brown Fine Arts Gallery, hidden in a quant basement below street level. On display are contemporary works by Chinese photographers including Chen Wei, Cheng Ran, Jiang Pengyi and Ye Linghan with their pieces taking on various styles and trends of photography and video art.

In the 1980s in China the term ‘The New Wave’ was coined to describe an avant-garde art movement in which documentary photography played a central role, now, in the present day, contemporary art in China is being dominated by photography and video art more than ever. This domination however seems to have been missed and overlooked by the Western World making this exhibition the perfect time for the art public to acquaint itself with the imagery that these photographers are creating right now. These photographers are demanding to be heard in the wake of their high profile painting peers who have in recent years shattered auction results.

Archival ink jet print 120 x 150 cm; (47 1/4 x 59 1/8 in.)

The exhibition collects together four photographers whose work range in subject matter. Images range from the bleak, isolated and abandoned to heady, crowded areas that are both fun to look at yet alienating at the same time. Chen Wei’s work depicts elaborate scenes constructed of found materials choreographed into a surreal studio setting. Tackling isolating and abandoned scenes that reek of dystopia, Wei presents imagery that is challenging and uncomfortable. In his File Clerk photograph a man walks alone along a concrete walkway in the middle of an expanse of dark water and mist, in another piece, Anonymous Station  he highlights his taste for abandoned, forgotten and eerie spaces which seems to be a recurring theme within his imagery. Other pieces by the photographer highlight alienation in a city setting, in the photograph titled Countless Unpredictable Stand No. 1, a male stands alone above a city landscape creating a sense of wonder and loneliness at once within this dense concrete environment where no one else can be seen except for one solitary character.

Archival ink jet print 100 x 150 cm; (39 3/8 x 59 1/8 in.)

Ye Linghan photographs and video based works link the past to collective histories. Linghan’s work on display defies focus to the individual and instead makes the scene and setting prominent. Blurring details with the haze of memory, the viewer projects their own thoughts, feelings and memories on to the piece.

C-print 5 panels; 60 x 80 cm; (23 5/8 x 31 1/2 in.) each

Third artist on display, Cheng Ran dramatically stages his work which creates a romantic feeling within his pieces. Collected from different bodies of work, his pieces act as a short retrospective of the young photographer’s work. His work is rich in cinematic quality with a strong narrative running throughout, particularly the barren and destitute images of Hollywood. These images highlight how Hollywood has played such a key role in the shaping of American as well as the rest of the Western World’s identity and how it all seems a bit empty. These images are stark and fascinating due to the editing of the photographs which questions the physical beauty of Hollywood. This questioning is further highlighted by his piece The Still of Unknown Film where a hundred dollar bill is lit, perhaps this is where Western obsession with money and Hollywood is heading, up in smoke.

Luster ink print 104.5 x 178 cm; (41 1/8 x 70 1/8 in.)

Last but not least is photographer Jiang Pengyi who highlights the destructive force of rapid urbanization, redevelopment and demolition that has overwhelmed Beijing. In his photographs he creates imagined miniature cityscapes and skyscrapers within real decaying domestic spaces, highlighting beautifully the destructive power that massive urbanization is having on the lived environments of the Chinese people. These photographs were my personal favourite due to their incredible detail but also due to the issues that they highlight. The images up close are astounding.

Ultra Giclée print 90 x 125.4 cm; (35 3/8 x 49 3/8 in.)

This show, whilst small, is a definite must see. It highlights all too well the stark realizations of our urbanized consumer based culture and how it is both destructive and alienating to our lived environments and to our personal lives. If this show is anything to go by, I predict that these photographers will be enjoying the same levels of success as their painting peers very soon.

The Other Wave: Contemporary Chinese Photography @ Ben Brown Fine Arts – runs until 29th January 2012

First Thursday in Shoreditch Part 2: The Signal Gallery, The Outside World Gallery & East Gallery

Tuesday I told you all about the delights of the Eb & Flow Gallery and promised a full review of the rest of my First Thursday.

From Eb & Flow I went to the Signal Gallery which was on my initial list of galleries to check out. After walking in the rain to Paul Street I searched for the front door of the Gallery. After some dodgy navigating I found that a rather random door with some stairs leading down to what only could be described as a location from a late night Hollyoaks (i.e. murder spot) was actually the Signal Gallery.

Descending the stairs and entering the small room I was pleasantly surprised to find the gallery filled with aging Punks in leather trousers and covered in studs, before you ask, it was definitely an exhibition of art not some sort of club found in Vauxhall.

X-Ray-Spex 1977

The exhibition titled ‘Punk and Beyond’ curated by Gaye Advert collects together work of different punk musicians.  The line-up of artists featured was enormous, names included Paul Simonon (the Clash),  Gaye Black (Adverts),  Tom Spencer (the Lurkers),  Jamie Reid as well as many more.  The show is dedicated to Poly Styrene (real name Marianne Joan Elliott-Said) of the band X-Ray Spex, who sadly died of cancer earlier this year, the show includes a series of specially commissioned portraits of the pioneering punkster.

The artwork on display includes drawings, paintings, sculpture and photography creating a truly mixed bag of media. Works were surprisingly curated in a traditional way. Pieces were neatly put up on the walls and sculptures were graced with plinths. Not exactly what I had expected of a punk exhibition.

The exhibition is good and works well. It is a good follow-up to their show last year that explored Punk on the art scene but something felt missing. Perhaps the anarchy and raw punk energy of the original pieces have lost their power. I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed with some pieces being ‘so Punk’ that it seemed a bit obvious, I half expected there to be some Vivienne Westwood bondage trousers, but thankfully these were left out. The pieces seem to have lost their challenging aesthetic. Perhaps Punk Culture is not as shocking now because we live in a time where musicians like Lady GaGa and Rihanna wrap themselves in these images and place it in mainstream pop culture.

Chris Bell – So This Led To The Downfall Of Man – Gouache on board

After The Signal Gallery I was off out into the rain again, this time heading to Redchurch Street, commonly considered to be a ‘main road’ in the Shoreditch Art Scene. I decided I wanted to go to the Outside World Gallery to catch the Michele Howarth Rashman ‘He Calls Himself Margaret’ show which I kept missing.

After hunting down the small gallery realizing eventually that it had been in plain sight the whole time, I was not disappointed. Bearing in mind this is her first ever solo show, I was blown away, I expect a bright future for her in regards to exhibiting.

Rashman uses unique and thought provoking mixed media sculptures to defy convention. Her pieces challenge notions of beauty and how people perceive each other.

Michele Howarth Rashman, She Calls Herself Fun Loving

The show features six larger than life sculptures alongside framed jumpers adorned with darkly humourous slogans.

Each sculpture is painstakingly hand worked and micro-stitched and built up layer by layer using a technique Rashman has developed over many years. Each piece takes months to make and is truly unique because they are so complicated to create.

The Gallery is a tight space with the viewer having to weave between the pieces. This however is a good thing. It helps the viewer engage with the work. The grotesqueness of the pieces drags you in and you are forced to take notice of them.  The jumpers framed in the wall appear comfortable, warm and snug yet have slogans that are repellant and unapologetic. One jumper screams “EMOTIONAL CRIPPLE” at the viewer. These jumpers appear like a souvenir, as if you could buy them in a shop signed by a celebrity.

Rashman stated that these jumpers were inspired by her husband which sounds awful until you hear her story. She made these jumpers after her husband became ill. He began to feel alienated and under attack, so as a defensive attack, Rashman made these jumpers to throw the shame back in the faces of those that had made him feel that way.

I look forward to seeing more from this incredible and challenging artist.

Michele Howarth Rachman – Emotional Cripple

Last but not least I headed down Brick Lane on a long diversion back to Liverpool Street. Whilst walking down the famous Lane I came across the East Gallery. The Gallery was bustling with people drinking wine and looking to be having a good time. Perfect.

Trotting into the gallery not knowing what I was going to find I stumbled across the ‘The Optimist’ for World AIDs Day. The show was set up to raise money and awareness for the important cause. At this exhibition thirty international artists were collected together each contributing works to the show. Whilst the exhibition was in full swing, prints were being sold with proceeds going to London-based charity Positive East. A worthy cause.

Tom Kennedy – Spectacle, 35cm x 50cm, Giclee on Paper

The work on the walls ranged from traditional painting to photography and sculpture. On board were MAC Cosmetics who created three pieces of art in the exhibition using body paint on live models. Not going to lie I was not expecting that and it scared the bejeebus out of me. Once I calmed my nerves however I discovered that the body painting was astounding. The detail was incredible leading most visitors to stare at the painted bodies of these models for minutes at a time.

Pieces tackled different issues and themes that HIV Positive people tackle every day. Themes included reassurance, support, comfort, medication, prevention and social isolation with the pieces striking a cord about the dangers of HIV and why it is so important to be fully aware.

The show was organized terrifically with a very happy atmosphere, the artwork was good too. Unfortunately the show is now finished but all artwork can be found and purchased online here: http://eastgallery.co.uk/

Ben Allen – Hope Series No. 26, 80cm x 80cm, Acrylic, Spray Paint and Silkscreen on Canvas

Punk&Beyond @ The Signal Gallery runs until 17th December

Michele Howarth Rashman ‘He Calls Himself Margaret’ @ The Outside World Gallery runs until 14th December

The Optimist @ East Gallery is now closed but artwork can be seen at http://eastgallery.co.uk/

Check back soon for more reviews of the latest happenings on the art scene.

First Thursday in Shoreditch – Eb & Flow Gallery – Ross Brown & Nicholas McLeod

As you probably know, it was the first Thursday of the month last week which meant that The Whitechapel First Thursdays initiative was in full swing with Galleries all over the East End opening their doors late to the general public. Always a busy night, this is generally the time when those working through the week get an opportunity to check out exhibitions that they might not get the chance to. That and generally you can pick up a free beer at most shows meaning an incredibly cheap night out.

My Thursday evening was spent in the Shoreditch area. Finding myself at a bit of a loss, I decided to go on a random walk and see what I could find on my journey. I felt like a classic French flaneur, despite the fact I was in East London and come from Essex. Taking a stroll down Leonard Street I first came across the Eb & Flow Gallery. As I walked in I was confronted by an assistant who swiftly handed me a cold Becks and a beautifully printed exhibition guide. Not the worst welcome I have ever received!

The Gallery is a two floored space with large white walls. The space is a converted print works so would seem to be the perfect space to exhibit contemporary artists. When I settled myself in, away from the rain and cold, I discovered that two exhibitions were on display.

In the main space, Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4’s New Sensations nominee, Ross Brown, took over the space with his oil paintings series ‘The Margins’. This collection of work explores the experience of built environments. His focus on architectural landscapes and abandoned structures take on a filmic appearance and a frail dystopian beauty. Pieces range from bright open spaces with graffiti to dark, terrifying and unnerving scenes where you would definitely not like to be alone.

Ross M. Brown

Ross M. Brown, Monologue, 2011, 130 x 170 cm, Oil on Canvas.

Each painting Brown has formed from a one point perspective with the images being built up through a layering of techniques which rely on chance. He has used techniques such as pouring, smearing and dripping. These randomized and chaotic processes are then layered upon with more considered painterly approaches.

In the basement gallery, Threadneedle Prize 2011 Visitor’s Choice Winner, Nicholas McLeod dominated the walls with his ‘Badlands‘ series depicting sinister landscapes of abandoned places, wastelands and crime scenes. His work is evocative and displayed a sense of power and raw energy. His paintings depict threatening places and are reminiscent of haunted houses and places where terror can be expected if one should enter. Hunting Ohio made me instantly this of cult horror the Amityville Horror instantly. His pieces create an unnerving feeling with an overpowering sensation of unease much like his co-exhibitor Ross Brown.

Nicholas McLeod

Nicholas McLeod, Hunting Ohio, 2011, 122 x 140cm, Acrylic and Oil on Board.

Unease is further enhanced by the absence of habitation and human form. There is something truly ghostly about this complete abandonment of humanity in his pieces. With the layering of paint, and previous images being seen through the layers, this sense of ghostliness becomes even more apparent with the paint seemingly acting as a veil between the viewer and the scene.

All in all this was a great show, great space with friendly and helpful staff. There was generally a good vibe in this gallery which would make me want to go back again. Both Brown’s and McLeod’s work are extraordinary and truly have an uneasy presence about them. Both shows work well together as they tackle similar themes of abandonment, yet both in their own way represent it differently. Whilst Brown’s work almost seems to be hopeful and inviting to the viewer, McLeod’s is not. His work seems to be of giving up; his images depict wasteland where no one wants to be.

These shows are a definite must see, with both running until 3rd February 2012, you have plenty of time to catch them as well as this gorgeous gallery space.

Catch the rest of my First Thursday review soon…