phoebe unwin at the corridor reykjavik

20 October 2012 § 1 Comment

“It isn’t in London” I hear you cry. Well, I know but I just could not resist and in any case there are plenty of London connections which I’ll come on to later on.

Recently nipped up to Reykjavik – one of my favourite cities – for a short break to watch Yoko Ono flick the switch for the dramatic Lennon Peace Tower. A narrow beam of laser light that shines infinitely in to space the Tower is Yoko’s contribution to Lennon’s memory as well as a bold statement on World Peace.

A few days before departure the excellent Wilkinson Gallery, quite coincidentally, sent me an invitation to visit the Phoebe Unwin exhibition at The Corridor (or its equivalent in Icelandic). The opportunity seemed too good to miss. For those not familiar with this particular gallery – everyone I would guess – you need to negotiate a convenient time to visit when the owner is home, drive to an apartment block on the outskirts of town, discover from a friendly local which buzzer is the right one and climb a few flights of stairs to Helgi Fridjonsson’s modest apartment.

Corridor is slightly inaccurate since the gallery space occupies a hallway and front room where works hang variously amongst rampant spider plants, behind sofas and over a desk. Helgi is himself an artist and has been running this modest space for some thirty years and seems to enjoy the experience. His exhibitor list over the years is very impressive: Ceal Floyer, Fischli & Weiss and Per Kirkeby are amongst those many artists who have exhibited here, often before they became more well-known.

I have always been a fan of Phoebe’s dreamy acrylics that cleverly express a variety of emotions and feelings as much as person or place and the selection of works here are a good representation of her work.

A lovely little show – no end date is noted on the Wilkinson or Galleri Gangur (thats Corridor to you) websites – so who knows/ It may still be running the next time you’re in Iceland!

The Corridor (Galleri Gangur), Rekagrandi 8, Reykjavik 15, Iceland

newspeak at saatchi – who dont ya love?

6 August 2010 § 1 Comment

Having compiled a ‘league table’  of the critical favourites it seems appropriate to also make note of those artists who did not manage to find favour. This was not easy. The majority of critics are sadly rather reticent when it comes to making negative comments about artists work. Is it some underlying delicate and caring sensibility which somehow holds them back from potentially hurting an artists feelings? I doubt it. Are they worried about potentially lightly bruising a certain Mr Saatchi’s ego by indirectly criticising his selected artists? I rather doubt that Charles cares a jot, but yes, I rather suspect they are.

Fortunately the wonderful Brian Sewell at the Standard has no such scruples about calling a spade a spade. Why are more critics not similarly forthcoming? Any perceptive and insightful critic owes it to their readers to assess good and bad, to jump off the fence, tell it like it is. In that very spirit of openness here are the lower reaches of Newspeaks critical pile starting at 10th and working down.

10= Steven Claydon. A sculptural head of resin, copper powder (aged with the artists urine) – and a feather. Dull.

10= Matthew Darbyshire. So-so assemblages of modern objects, questioning their cultural value.

10= Iain Hetherington. Baseball caps set against painterly backgrounds. Huh?

13 Lynette Boakye. I wont bother. ‘The work of an infant’ (Standard)

14= Sigrid Holmwood. Day-glo pastiches of Van Gogh ‘fit only for the bonfire’ (Standard) although to the Guardian they were ‘mesmerising’.

14=Karla Black. Dirty clingfilm plus dangling cellophane and paper. ‘A Saatchi Joke’ (FT).’ Disgusting litter’ (Standard). The absence of any aesthetic appeal, creativity or talent does not stop the Sunday Times calling the works ‘beautiful’.

phoebe unwin - girl


14= Phoebe Unwin. Strange figurative paintings with a ‘deft capturing of mood’ (Guardian). ‘A monkey-see monkey-do who can mimic bady anything done well by others’ (Standard). To be fair they do have a certain charm.

16= The Rest. Sixteen other artists were not either good enough to be noticed or bad enough to be insulted. As Wilde said ‘ there only thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about’. Exactly – so I wont talk about them.

So with the table complete do we know we have any better idea which of these artists will enjoy relative success and which will quickly fade from memory? The quick answer of course is no – critical acceptance rarely has any correlation with more general measures of success. I would argue that public profile is the most important factor, but it is a complex and varying equation where the drip, drip of publicity and review are all vital parts of the whole.

My own instinct? Regardless of future quality of work Scrase will succeed and despite critical response Holmwood’s paintings are very noticeable and will stay that way. For investment I would buy Daniels, Quinn, Holmwood and maybe Anderson assuming prices have not been ‘Saatchi-inflated’. But then again what do I know? I would love to hear readers opinions – do not hold back!

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