Three hundred and sixty three

363

The Cloud (Winterbox)

2013 by Kate McAllan

http://cargocollective.com/katemcallan

McAllan’s work is an aim to find silence in an overbearing world; increasingly more noisy, bright and interactive, a place of solitude or quiet is hard to find. McAllan lets us escape through her paintings, visualising a sense of calm, of blissful peace, by summoning the elements we miss. The Cloud is one piece of the seven part Winterbox, one of which is a poem, paying homage to the coming of the clean chill of winter. Misty lands and the fresh spray of the sea are caught in postcard-size pictures, small windows into another world. It is next to these that two images of what lies beneath our skin are shown – a pencil tracing the lines of a pair of lungs and the reaching roots of veins. Using this naively drawn imagery, McAllan probes at the importance of our remembering such scenes within our reach; the cool hand of nature and its seasons is the very air we breath, the blood that runs through our veins. The Cloud is a watery dream, a suggestion of landscape in a frosted breath; delicate inky lines bleed into a billow of grey, fading into a cold expanse of sky. McAllan’s brush takes on the touch of a whisper, so subtle is her command of colour, and we are mesmerised by the moment she creates. We may not always be able to escape the bustle of what surrounds us, but we can learn to quieten our minds and McAllan’s casting of the white of silence steadies the flow of thoughts.

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Three hundred and sixty two

 

362

Apparatus

2012 by Anj Smith
SHOWcabinet at SHOWstudio until 27 February 2015

At SHOWstudio, Smith’s painting Apparatus is surrounded by a cabinet of curiosities – objects that have inspired her work. The cabinet is particularly apt for Smith’s work as her spider web of influence creeps particularly poignantly into her strange and surreal paintings. The figures in her work appear melting with the objects of their, or indeed Smith’s, imagination. The effect is vaguely unsettling, darkly probing in bringing creatures and objects out of the depths to cling to her often melancholy characters. Having the objects themselves surrounding the painting, each nestled in its own black cavern, give the appearance of the painting spreading out three-dimensionally before us. A lavishly ornate French wedding dome is sat across from a wooden tree of taxidermy goldfinches; eighteenth-century Indian illustrations are paired against the glittering gold of 185 million year old ammonites. This is a treasure trove of precious objects spanning an incredible breadth of time and the effect is like diving into one of Smith’s paintings. Apparatus centres these objects’ stage like an icon; the figure’s pose mirroring that of many medieval Virgin Mary’s. Her skin has the flat pallor that renders medieval figures never quite alive, the dark circles that surround her eyes pulling her persona further into a realm of otherness. If we look carefully, her face is adorned with delicate hairs that creep primeval-like up her nose and around her lips; the lips, dark red, crinkled and almost visibly dry, are curled downwards. Nestled among the ethereal wisps of blonde hair are bats, huge ears pricked, thin translucent pink wings spread, as well as the soft fronds of feathers. Nature is omnipresent, creeping across the figure’s clothes in all manner of insects, springing forth in twigs, buds and flowers. There is something wonderfully old-fashioned in Smith’s style, yet her bizarre subjects counter any expectations of the usual. Her paintings are exquisitely detailed; layered so delicately that colour and form are bold, yet there isn’t so much as a hint of a brush stroke.

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Three hundred and sixty one

361

Going Out of Business

2014 by Mel Bochner
Simon Lee Gallery until 14 November

The title of Bochner’s exhibition – and the title of this work – is particularly poignant in light of recent events; going out of business has been all too real for many people and the phrase is suitably loaded. The power of a turn of phrase is what Bochner manages to visualise in his paintings; he harnesses the associations text has the power to summon and allows them to feed his works. Indeed, the letters themselves are fed with paint – sometimes up to a pound per letter – before being printed, pressed onto their opulent velvet. As a result each letter is different, the thick paint blotting and fading unpredictably, different colours invading one another; they appear almost as personalities. The dependency on process, on the thick and expressive nature of paint, furthers the agency of these words. Each have come through something and reacted – green GOING is fading appropriately into the background; blue LOST is almost missing; red EVERYTHING is solid colour in every letter. The intimacy we feel with these charged words is carried in the sensuous texture of velvet, to which the paint clings instead of canvas. Going Out of Business is jarring – like the idea itself – in its clashing of colours; lurid tones are paired against each other – off-white gleams on purple, a lightly putrid yellow on a sickly sweet peach. Bochner’s other works are just as sensitive to their textual subject – Chuckle is bright colours, shining humorously on black, while Silence is a quiet blurring of greys and soft pastels. Bochner’s painting have a lot to say, and not just because they’re full of words.

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Three hundred and sixty

360

Bags Waiting, Night

2014 by Mairead O’hEocha
mother’s tankstation, Dublin (seen at Frieze London 2014)

mother’s tankstation – near the Guinness factory in Dublin – had a great stand at Frieze London 2014. Centred by Ara Dymond’s surrealist looking sculptures – organic-like forms that hang angularly, they are in fact ‘hoodies’ dipped in resin – the walls were lined with the paintings of Mairead O’hEocha, inviting our eyes into her mysterious and painterly way of seeing. O’hEocha appears to translate reality through the process of painting, casting objects or shapes with an angular stroke of a brush. They are not impressionistic flutterings but geometric interpretations, where something as collapsable as a soft bag is transformed into a pile of angular shapes. This unfolding of the world in shape gives a great sense of depth and perspective to O’hEocha’s paintings that, though small in size, hold our gaze. Though sharply angled O’hEocha’s paintings are far from strictly graphic, as her lines are interspersed with colour so textured we see the melting of tones through the ripple of hairs on the brush. This pattern of block colour and textured brush strokes gives the painting itself a changing surface, with subjects appearing in a melody of emphasis. In Bags Waiting, Night the bags appear waiting in a line, their shadows cast in colourful shapes that creep across the floor. A blur of lights in the dark is caught in the mustard yellow stroke across the enveloping black of background; a scattering of marbled brush strokes its reflections caught in the night. The angle of the little bird is triumphant; perched and raising its breast, its presence is touching in O’hEocha’s otherwise industrial – perhaps edging on bleak – scene. O’hEocha’s quiet palette of soft pastel colours gives her painting an integrity – a subtly muted and thoughtful portrayal of the world.

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Three hundred and fifty nine

359

My City – part 2 ‘Heterotopia’

2014 by Yunsun Jung
Exhibiting with Collyer Bristow Student Award & Exhibition until 28 January 2015

Jung’s series ‘My City’ uses cardboard to constructs explosive and energetic installations, a sharp twist on the usual masses of the stuff we see spilling out of our recycling bins. Of course the material is deliberate, copious amounts of cardboard represents our endless appetite for things; it is the packaging of our material world. In its cycle of use, re-use and recycling, Jung builds her city from a body that, like the city itself, is constantly being reborn. Jung’s cardboard is far from the crumpled on the recycling pile, but beautifully cut and manipulated into a series of perfect shapes. Their careful execution adds to their poignancy – these crisp edges and smooth surfaces could be crushed. Indeed, they take the shape of all that is fleeting as Jung moves from place to place, from city to city. These are the shapes that amass our lives through each metropolis: some are recognisable – a plane, a humorous spider; some are not, as giant zig-zags and curves erupt with unkempt and questioning energy. The word ‘Sainsbury’s’ slides pathetically along the floor, defeated by the boxes that package its consumer goods. Colour intermittently distracts from the overwhelming and ironically earthy brown in seemingly random and non-sensical objects; a large jagged cardboard arm leads to a sad, abandoned pile of clothes. Jung’s installation is powerful because it manages to express a frustration we all feel, an explosion of stuff and rubbish at living in an ever-expanding world.

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Three hundred and fifty eight

358

Alchemy

2014 by David A Pinegar
A Wall of Colour; 60 Threadneedle Street Space until 15 January ’15

A Wall of Colour is Pinegar’s first series of fine art photographs. A commercial photographer for 30 years, these new images allow him to explore and exploit the elements behind the success of his previous pictures, honing in on light, texture and colour. Confronted by these incredible prints (many are as wide as 3 metres), we are consumed by the intensity, the clarity, of these components. Magnifying his subject through a new process – Pinegar’s pictures are of everyday objects – he shows us a new way of seeing, of interpreting the world. Alchemy is all about the decadent colours of red, purple and gold; deep and luxurious, each colour spreads across the composition with agency. Melting to black darkly, or ignited with the brilliance of light, these colours create a tension that gives the image movement, a pulse, that sees it contort before us. Shapes are created in the varying textures, a superficial gleam of gold to a mottled and blurred crimson. We watch each shape form as an extension of our own imagination – thoughts or figures provoked, then cast in a play of colour and changing surface. Alchemy is a fitting title; the lure of extracting gold, as was the process in medieval times, is epitomised in this seductive image, where the glittering surface appears just beyond reach.

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Three hundred and fifty seven

357

Souterrain (entrance detail)

2012 by Lee Bul
LEE BUL, Mudam Luxembourg 2013-14; Diluvium @ Korean Cultural Centre UK now open until 1 Nov ’14

Born into the military dictatorship of South Korea, Lee Bul’s art is understandably reactive. Ikon Gallery is presenting her first UK solo exhibition, with an accompanying installation at the Korean Cultural Centre in London (KCCUK). Bul’s work is caught between a push-pull of wanting to look forward, but tainted with the history of what she has had to leave behind. This preoccupation is visualised in her most recent work with the inviting gleam of reflective surface; futuristic and glitteringly seductive, yet deliberately fragmented, these shards reflect our troubled world back at us. Diluvium, in Bul’s own words is her “monster installation”, taking over KCCUK’s windowed space that looks over Northumberland Avenue. The walls and floor are covered in a mirror-effect vinyl that, unlike the crystal clarity of a mirror, is a mottled silver blur; encompassing and absorbing, we are never quite sure where each surface begins or ends. The floor itself rises and falls at various angles, mounting upwards in terrific shapes that give the installation a performative energy; it appears to grow and break free – cyborg-like, monster-like – before us. Highly reflective silver tape is then drawn between surfaces, multiple lines that fragment the space, as well as giving the ‘monster’s’ immense energy a visual dynamism. The tape’s sharp edge, intermittently ripped to create thinner, more deadly and jagged razors, contrasts to the softly textured silver of the walls; we are presented with two juxtaposing sides of reflection. Diluvium, a term used to describe superficial deposits formed by catastrophic flood-like actions of water, puts a poignant twist on the energy that pulses through these lines. The side-effects of action must be accounted for; no matter how seemingly beautiful, a shard of glass has a sharp edge.

Lee Bul’s solo exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham is open until 9 November ’14.

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