dividing line at high house gallery

6 October 2012 § 1 Comment

Running alongside Imagined Pasts / Unknown Futures (see recent post) at the Oxfordshire High House Gallery is the sculpture exhibition Dividing Line. This takes place in the beautiful formal gardens that run around the Gothic grade II listed mansion. If you did not quite feel that a visit to Imagined Pasts / Unknown Futures was good enough a reason to cruise out in to the lovely Oxfordshire countryside then this should more than tip the balance. 

The dividing line of the title stands as a conceptual separation or distinction; a line from which contrasts can be observed and old ideas re-examined. This exhibition boldly aiming to “spotlight contemporary outdoor sculpture that has escaped the tradition of re-regurgitating stale figurative and modernist modes.”

This is a bold statement and a brave exhibition to hold right in the beating traditional heart of conservative  ‘Middle England’ – in David Cameron‘s home constituency infact. Whilst it is possible to site examples of contemporary outdoor sculpture within the public realm, the private market – and no doubt especially here – still trends towards more historically established styles. 

At High House shunning conventional expectations has allowed the exhibiting artists to create outdoor sculpture that embodies truly contemporary themes, materials, production and ideas. Many of the participating artists are primarily known for their indoor works; and in some cases this exhibition presents their first foray into outdoor sculpture. 

Nika Neelova‘s Partings is the first work to greet you to the garden – quite appropriate since its main feature is a door. Cast in black concrete from an original from Somerset House it is a bold an powerful statement on the old vs new theme. Adeline de Monsegnat‘s contribution is Mother HEB – a blown glass ball filled with red fox fur (vintage of course!) – a surrealist style object that reflects the light, building and surrounding gardens to great effect. Her tubular Spworms emerge from the water features elsewhere in the garden.

Other strong works are Alex Chinneck‘s Concrete Cross Dresser – a playful concrete version of a Persian Carpet, Amy Stephens‘ Social Pod which gives new life and meaning to whale vertebrae which are mounted on steel poles like re-imagined fighter-jets and Jiho Won‘s self-explanatory Transformed Memory.

The exhibition is an excellent cohesive whole where the works bravely fit the formal Victorian garden beautifully. It does beg the question of whether the locals in a region where red corduroy trousers matched with some green tweed is considered the height of good taste ever be persuaded that a concrete door supported from a charred pole is a sensible garden sculpture? I am intrigued to discover the answer, although I would be more sure that the red fox fur  inside a glass ball (of Adeline de Monsegnat’s Mother HEB) will at least find some support with the hunt followers.

You can visit and make your own decisions up to 14 October 2012. (I understand that although this is the official end of the exhibition most sculptures will be installed until 29 October 2012. You may wish to call to arrange a visit after the official exhibition closes).

Exhibition curated by Sumarrialunn in co-operation with High House Gallery.

imagined pasts / unknown futures at high house contemporary

1 October 2012 § 2 Comments

High House is a rare thing – a genuine contemporary art gallery located outside London. In place of impressionistic landscapes and meaningless abstracts usually found in regional ‘Contemporary Art’ galleries High House actually features genuine ‘critically-engaged’ contemporary work.

The leafy Oxfordshire village of Clanfield lies on the edge of the Cotswolds and is complete with a stream alongside the green and obligatory and pretty Cotswold Pub (The Plough – recommended!). High House itself is a grade II listed Gothic mansion dating back to 1856 and is an impressive home for the small gallery space.

The current exhibition entitled Imagined Pasts / Unknown Futures, is the galleries third and features three highly regarded artists: Jonathan Baldock who features strongly in the Saatchi collection, Paul McDevitt from Stephen Friedman‘s Mayfair stable whilst Tim Phillips has had recent exhibitions with SumarriaLunn who are based in London’s West End.

Each exhibited artist makes theatrical hybrid works that fuse conventional modes of representation with imaginary worlds created from art-historical references and contemporary iconography. From Baldock’s use of kitchen-table crafts to Phillips’ traditional inlay and McDevitt’s colour-pencil drawings the artists consummate skill is self-evident whilst the works they create are far from the comfortable traditional world of the craftsman. 

Through grotesque and carnivalesque felt sculptures Jonathan Baldock utilises and departs from the canons of figurative representation – the head, the bust, and the reclining figure. Ruminating on a gamut of sculptural styles from primitivism to romanticism, abstraction to postmodernism he weaves multiple elements together to create works of the present.  He explores the territories between animal, human and inanimate forms, creating strange, hybrid objects, revelling in a love of the dark, glamorous and uncanny spectacle of theatre, where the beautiful unmasks the horrific.

Focused on the language of power, Tim Phillips’ constructs beautifully detailed pieces of ‘useless’ furniture. With for example detailed marquetry and carefully embroidered panels he exposes the choreographed languages of object, ritual and icon. The artist sees this process as a theatre within the sculptures he makes. The colours, materials and composition invite the audience to participate in a staged ritual of illusory grandeur.  His theatrical objects are layered in precise veneers, shiny plastics or plain mdf, their detailed geometries and grandiose structures combined with the use of religious and corporate iconography giving weight to their rocky foundations of belief, authority and worship.  

Paul McDevitt’s intricate pencil drawings – there are just two on display here – suggest a lost or undiscovered world, his subject matter derived primarily from 1950s cultural magazines and his own photographs. Much imagery focuses on anonymous graphic design which is fused with elements of architecture and landscape in his ‘unstill’ still-lives where the imagery appears to be plundered rather than arranged. 

This is a fascinating and unusual exhibition in a lovely location. Add the Dividing Line  exhibition in the formal gardens of High House and lunch at the Plough and its hard to imagine a nicer day out in the country.

Imagined pasts / Unknown Futures and Dividing Line continue until 14 October 2012. Opening hours are 11-5 Thursday to Sunday.

The author is a share-holder in the Gallery

monika grzymala – raumzeichnung at sumarrialunn

18 October 2011 § 1 Comment

Monika Grzymala has taken over the small subterranean space of Sumarrialunn with one of her signature installations of sticky tape. Lying somewhere between architecture and drawing her works re-articulate the spaces that they inhabit forcing a fresh assessment. Essentially they are line drawings that leap from wall to three-dimensional space and back again. Here, using black tape, the parallel with pencil or ink sketches is clear as is the literal enaction of Paul Klee‘s phrase ‘a line is a point taken for a walk.’

Monika Grzymala at The Drawing Room

Her works are always site specific and only recorded permanently through photography. They are also created using relatively light-weight material, the tape sagging and disintegrating during the exhibition, a process which Grzymala relates to the body in its gradual deterioration and ageing.

Since each work responds to the local environment they are delightfully varied. Last year at the drawing room a delicately tumbling web of white tape drifted through the room, whilst here the bolder black tape ties the structural central to one of the gallery sides creating both a wall of tape and an extra space. Unfortunately no photos allowed so images here are other exhibitions  – the second gives a good approximation!

On sale alongside the exhibition are limited edition signed prints of the exhibition and one (perhaps more?) unique works of tape on semi-transparent tracing paper. This is an excellent small exhibition from an internationally famous artist who has exhibited in exalted venues like Moma in New York. Her work is not available to see very often and you should try to see it whilst you can – well worth a detour from the Haunch of Venison around the corner.

at Sumarrialunn Gallery Until Friday 4 November 2011

boom or bust for london gallery space?

29 May 2011 § 1 Comment

Jeroen Verhoeven at Blain Southern

Blain|Southern have announced that they will be moving from their rather cramped Dering Street premises in to a new gallery at 5 Hanover Square in May 2012. It is big too. The 12,400 sq ft area is one of the largest in London – only Hauser & Wirth are more extensive. Just behind them in the size chart incidentally, is Haunch of Venison, Harry Blain‘s old gallery which he recently left. Both have excellent current exhibitions well worth seeing – my reviews hopefully to come soon.

 

Richard Long at Haunch of Venison

So how is the downturn affecting London galleries? Hauser & Wirth’s huge new space only opened the end of last year,  Halcyon Gallery are opening a new gallery soon at 144 New Bond Street, SumarriaLunn have just had their opening at 36 South Molton Lane and Gazelli hint at a new space in St James. There are pop-ups galore plus other new galleries and yet few seem to be closing.

 
Over at Christies et al auction results are back to the (already high) levels seen just before the peak of the market in 2007, the international art fairs report steady results and all the London galleries seem to be surviving or even thriving.
 
So all is all is rosy then? Has the city’s art market managed to ride out the recession? I suspect it is not quite as hunky dory as it appears, the larger galleries have survived as their wealthy clientelle is less affected whilst smaller ones are surviving on savings from the boom years, international art fairs and a hope of better to come. The big ticket evening sales results are good, whilst the more moderately priced day sales are merely steady. New galleries are coming with new money and not reliant on their past sales.
 
The near future surely will be a battle with survival only certain for the fittest. I wonder who may not last beyond next year if the forecasts of stagnation in the UK economy are correct?
 
Jeroen Vehoeven is at Blain Southern,  21 Dering Street, London AS1 1AL until 16 July 2011
 
Richard Long & Guiseppe Penone are at Haunch of Venison, Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3ET until 20 August 2011

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