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makes theatrical hybrid works that fuse conventional modes of representation with imaginary worlds created from art-historical references and contemporary iconography.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

modern frustrations at sumarria lunn

11 September 2011 § 4 Comments

Sumarrialunn, in their neat little gallery space provide a welcome contrast to the vast spaces of the restored Haunch of Venison just around the corner. They also avoid the grand statements of the Haunch’s giant canvases – no doubt destined for corporate lobbies or grand homes – and instead feature young artists who thoughtfully investigate the world of contemporary art.

Often featuring installation, sculpture and less conventional art practice they provide a welcome alternative to the big international galleries. This particular small, but perfectly formed, show has Blue Curry, Ross Jones, littlewhitehead and Tim Phillips in a dialogue about the aggravations of modern life.

Tim Phillips - Hyperion

Ross Jones’ delicate pencil drawings depict a stripped-down version of a current political issue,  IED for example portraying the unassembled components of an explosive device. Passive but potent.

Blue Curry draws on a Caribbean background to expose personal and cultural frustrations. Untitled is a neat work that partly conceals rubber tyres with tropical beads in a snake-skin pattern. Tourist tat over industrial object – trouble in paradise.

littlewhitehead - The Philanthropist

Littlewhitehead’s irreverent views of society are here reflected by a ‘painted’ work created by the reaction of invisible chemical fumes. Are we the canvas upon which the chemical dangers, real or imagined, of the industrial society act?

The stand out work for me is Tim Phillip’s Hyperion. A gloriously over-the-top corporate logo for a future age. Inlaid wood in dynamic shapes is intercut with vinyl and backlit by LED lights. Russian suprematism meets corporate America.

All these artists will go far. These are good works (at low prices) well worth seeing.

Modern Frustrations at Summarialunn until 30 September 2011


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