Brutal…..

I’m spending a few hours hanging out where there’s some free wifi and hoping to upload another post before I have to head to the airport.

I had intended to post something further about Berlin (there are actually a few posts I’d like to write) but I decided instead to post some photos from an exhibition I was lucky enough to get to see here in London.

‘Brutal’ is a group show organised by Steve Lazarides and the Vinyl Factory, scheduled to run during London Art Week, as with previous group shows over the last several years. For each of these shows Lazarides selected sites outside of gallery space, sites that enhance the ‘urban’ dimension of the artists or artworks that he includes. This year’s show is no exception to that, located at 18 The Strand, a disused office building. the building is next door to Kings College and on one of London’s busiest thoroughfares, but once inside, the noise and bustle disappear, leaving the visitor in a space filled with shadows, plaster dust and silence.

Most of the exhibition takes place on the basement level, but at ground floor, there is a room filled with and assortment of artworks, including by JR, Faile and Blu, and another large space containing a three part set of murals by Dal East. Here’s a shot of two of the walls:

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The paint is applied directly onto walls that are peeling and eroding, which results in an amazing textural quality to the artwork:

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After these two rooms, the exhibition moves downstairs and all natural light is left behind. Downstairs, it’s impossible to know what time of day or night it might be outside (that partly explains why, at the opening preview, people stayed in the building for hours with little sense of time passing…). The space is vast, and, after an initial brightly lit area filled with glass sculptures, extremely dark. (It is actually so dark that reading the didactic text about the artworks is well nigh impossible, requiring the torch facility on my smart phone). Here’s a small selection of what is hidden in the shadows:

Two glorious pieces by the Miaz Brothers, hanging on a distant wall within the basement. As you approach, the orange glow increases, until you confront two Rothko-like, floating canvasses. The works are painted on canvas, and shadowy, blurred faces can just be made out within them:

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Some of my favourite painters are included. Here’s Conor Harrington’s piece:

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And there is an entire room painted by Lucy McLauchlan. Lucy’s work is often intensely decorative; here, the piece retains that sensibility but a harder edge has been added through the installation of rope and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the room through which the figures swing. You can climb under the ropes to view the walls from all angles, and the ropes add new sightlines within the space….

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There is a lot of video work in the show. Doug Foster’s massive installation, ‘Moonland’, with its endlessly swirling black and white shapes. Todd James’s ‘Brutal Animation’, which many seemed to love, but which left me pretty indifferent: I wished there had been a better display of the work, and perhaps a more elaboration installation built around the video, allowing James’s paintings to be included as well. And there’s ‘Survivor’ by Karim Zeriahen, a three-screen installation, which packed quite an emotional punch, and which culminated in shots of the room in which it is installed, thus mirroring the space of the artwork with the space in which the spectator is standing:

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In addition to these, you could wander into a room filled by Mark Jenkins’s sculptures (and if you were lucky, discover the one hidden in a pile of rubble near the Todd James video piece), you could be tormented by gas mask-wearing performance artists on bicycles, and you could eat miso soup supplied as part of Brad Downey’s installation, ‘Tarpaulin Cafe’. I made two visits to this show, and I still think I didn’t find all of the artworks that may have been hidden away in the shadows. Both times, i spent much longer in the space than I imagined I would. Both times I found artworks of great beauty and skill (along with some that left me less enthused). I haven’t been to any of the previous group shows, so I leave it to others to debate whether this one is ‘better’ or ‘worse’. Whatever, it’s an undoubtedly fascinating experience.

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