Friday 17 January 2014

London Art Fair 2014

I went to LAF14 looking out for contemporary painting in the expanded field and despite the natural predominance at Art Fairs for work that hangs on a wall or sits on a plinth limiting the opportunity for installation, I found plenty of work that seemed to shift subtly between modes of painting, photography and sculpture.  

Heading towards the Project Spaces as the most likely place to find this, I first paused at Fold Gallery to contemplate Kes Richardson’s disarmingly simple Garden Paintings.  The artist begins with a geometric motif taken from formal gardens and subjects it to layers of erasure, repetition and concealment to, in my view, mesmerizing effect, the opacity of the paint and roller marks emphasizing the sense of the work as an object.   

Moving on, up the stairs to the mezzanine, a glowing Biggs/Collings work stopped me in my tracks and drew me into Vigo Gallery to see Marcus Harvey’s expressive painted ice berg triumphing over a photographed sea.  Carrying on up the stairs again and to Orion Contemporary where Juliette Losq had translated the layering of her beautiful paper installations of lost spaces into smaller scale watercolour works yet still demonstrating her incredible detailed drawing. 

Clive A Brandon, Catterline 2013, mixed media.  Image Axisweb

Into the Project Spaces, and Cathy Lomax’s sad actresses reflected in actual mirrors made me stop to gaze at the loose liquid handling of paint, but it was at Axisweb where I found my highlight of highlights with Clive A Brandon’s fragile watercolour and collage works.  The artist reflects his experience of walking in remote places, describing his work as a kind of travelogue in which he experiments with the idea of what landscape painting might be whilst referring back to artists such as Paul Nash.  The torn edges and hanging-off-the-wall installation of his work was interestingly juxtaposed with Virginia Verran’s layered spatial pigment pen drawings on canvas.  On through to the main block of Project Spaces where I enjoyed Joey Holder’s sleek videos at Hanmi Gallery, Ben Bridge’s new abstract dark void paintings at Dalla Rosa, one of which, whilst being oval mirror shaped also spelled it out with the title ‘Mirror’ and Narbi Price’s ‘Untitled Shadow Painting’ at Vane.  

Pulling me further into the void, Maria Stenfors’ selection of Lilah Fowler’s elegant sculptural pieces provided a calm minimal space to stop, breathe and spend time with one of my favourite pieces of the day, a matt black crumpled sheet ‘Out of Content’ collapsing yet clinging onto the wall like a crashed stealth drone.  Hannah Perry’s similarly crumpled, painterly sculptural work of layered metal sheeting with scraped paint at The Sunday Painter seemed to take a step back towards the real world, suggesting a battered scrapped car bonnet.  At the bottom of the stairs to the Fellowes/Epstein duo’s precisely curated Photo50 (in which, as they point out most of the works are not made with a camera, suggesting an expanded field of photography) Seventeen Gallery were showing Saechin Kealey’s thickly gestural paintings, transformed by spray paint so that they seem flattened, hanging somewhere between the spaces of painting and digital imagery.  

All in all a day of shifting in and out of real and imagined spaces, lost in the world of the art fair.  But before going, one of the few installation pieces in the show, Susan Collis’ ground sheet (also at Seventeen) got me yet again – letting me ignore it, and then forcing me to look and look again as the apparent stains reveal that they are actually delicate embroidery, a tiny hole in the wall in fact a black diamond.  Time to take a final look at Limoncello’s sharp and subtly humorous show of Cornelia Baltes’ playful paintings, and out. 

Liz Elton

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