AGITATION: OBJECTS OF DESIRE @ ASC STUDIOS

EXHIBITION

Desire, in its purest form, is not a polite nor easy creature-it courts with an insistent, greedy hand, domineering, a monopolising beast. It consumes all focus and direction, crippling perspective and perception. The principle is not even one of eventual consummation, but rather an exquisitely pleasurable and anguished elongation of chagrin (domestication would be its greatest mortification). Each artist in this show devoted to the visualisation of this most heightened state captures aspects of the excitation of the senses that are its attendants.

Vanessa Mitter’s colour studies, (Barroco, above) gripped and flustered assemblages of squalls and smudges, hint at troubled, lurid, provocative ritualistic narratives of arousal and discomposure, figures obscured in dissonant commotions of anger, dissatisfaction, helplessly embraced; Amanda Houchen’s kaleidoscopic cornucopias of whirling, frenetic shapes are fertile and fruitful templates to a thorough, willing abandonment to ecstatic disruption;

Cochlea, Amanda Houchen

Katya Kesic’s sculptures provide a physical kick of orifices and interventions of hair (and what resembles, in one instance, an ominous, viscous slab of raw meat, Untitled, below), while her stoneware pieces scrawl cosmic epics across a vase surface, as if a skull full of fantasias has split, heaving its prodigiously spectacular contents onto the foundations;

Henrietta MacPhee’s ceramics (below), with their queasy suggestive details, rocket straight out of the merely decorative and into realms of personal reflectivity, undulating intimations of disclosure and concealment, tenderness and violence (Adoration, with its scrutiny of a pair of hands wrapping the neck of the vessel, from one angle is a possible caress, from the other a strangulation);

Neil Haas’s work, the gentlest of the contributors, worries the more melancholy margins of ardor, the ways in which one plunges through the self into a private universe, huge in scope, where one may live and oversee several love affairs, all the sweeter for never being entirely apprehended, and where they may unfold without the drab misfortune of reality. Often, his contemplation of a beloved remains not fully formed, an abstraction that hums with the light and force of his adoration (or, in the example of Boy at Stratford, bathed in a soft remembrance, certain features recede while others are emphasised, a tender concentration on significant attributes).

The Park, an otherwise sedate canvas of  park grounds, is charged with the thrilling possibilities and potentials of those bodies who may come to inhabit it. His masterpiece, Boy At the Window, a nocturnal reverie of intense secrecy and self-gratification, accentuates the naked back of an alert young man (cut off from full definition) peering out his window at a field of surging colour and animation-inscribed directly onto an actual blind (of soft green hue), its materiality directly resonates with the themes of voyeurism and the clandestine, of a dazzling world one step removed. Like all such fragile oneiric (onanistic) environments, with but a turn of a cord, the blinds open, the dreamer wakes, the glare of the day intrudes, the trance breaks.

Boy At the Window, Neil Haas

In the compressed gallery space, with its occasional slightly  odd angle, these works address, with boldness and thoughtfulness, that state in which a desired individual (object?) transforms from the ordinary into the realm of myth, never quite seen through the garish lens of the everyday. Instead, the journey becomes the one the devotee takes along the majestic boundaries of the emotions into a rarefied expanse of (naturally sustained) narcotic sensation. Objects of Desire closed on 18 November

objects of desire | Vanessa Mitter, Amanda Houchen, Neil Haas, Katia Kesic, Henrietta MacPhee | Brixton Beneficiary Project Space

Dance of Death, Vanessa Mitter
Credit Oleg Skrinda

MARKED DISTINCTION: ITERATIONS @ ARTHOUSE1

EXHIBITION

Courtesy arthouse1

Light, that fairly unsung-perhaps unconscious-aspect to any successful gallery experience is truly brought to the fore in relation to this group show at the brilliant Arthouse1. Working in great concert and complement with the gathered pieces, light seductively teases out dimension, dynamism, drive, emotion, gently exposing animated curves and whorls of secrets and wiles.

Save for the wild and galvanising taut colour string symphony (Kate Terry’s Thread Installation #48 ) that blazes off the black walls of the side space, an orchestral score of overhanging infinite horizons and alluring intersections that confounds the square dimensions of the room, and the brief colour interventions in the mirrored folded aluminium pieces of Brigitte Parusel (poetically contorted creatures of infinite spatial reflectivity, self as well as environmental), the works are mainly monochromatic upon which the light works wonders.

Courtesy arthouse1

Ben Gooding’s hand scored aluminium pieces, lustrously treated, drown a viewer in silver vortices, an endless swooning agitation of whirl and swirl (at times reminiscent of a close-up of satiny spills of hair), the occasional sinuous trap of light like a conflagration upon the frame;

Courtesy arthouse1

Tony Blackmore’s Displaced series, the results of painstakingly assembled hand-folded drafting film beguilingly sewn to frame, continually play with perception and angle and movement, light catching a rigorous geometrical patterning, an amplitude of gradations, a mountainous shifting  surface of reveal and embedded shadow;

Maribel Mas’s intricate ink spiral studies are a wondrous conversation between control and happenstance rendered on delicate paper, the eye drawn into boundless depths and variable weights of line, searching for start and end amidst the waves of expansion;

Jeannie Driver’s intriguing mutable sculptural work Cyclical Flow composed of shredded strips of a4 documents with a charcoal overlay joined to the wall by a sequence of elegant spikes (referencing, in this viewer, gas holders or period female hairstyles) can be playfully manipulated during the run of the exhibition into new guises and impressions, a wary, palpable sense of the indefinite and disingenuous in its malleability and constant conversion;

Courtesy arthouse1

Wendy Smith’s restless, rippling, extended grids-heaving with optic overlaps and thrusts-create tremendous squalls of harassed energy and longing desire (Iris, beautifully positioned just outside the room holding Kate Terry’s piece, seems aroused in response, helplessly caught up in an ecstatic surge towards its body; Overjoy, providing the final bit of muted colour, is a riot of cross-purpose and conflicted feeling).

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All artists adhere to a principle of the “iterative” form, a studious repetition, a compulsion and obsession for concentration of mark making, a process by which the viewer is transferred quite beyond the material into a profound, nearly primal, rapturously rhythmic perceptual realm. Iterations runs through 30 November 

https://www.arthouse1.co.uk/

 

HARDER TO BREATHE: LUNGS @ OLD VIC

THEATRE

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On a stark stage the foundation of which seems to be a series of solar panels, a young British couple (who may over-fancy themselves as enlightened) succumb to anxieties and perturbations surrounding the issue of bringing a child into an increasingly environmentally challenged and crisis-ridden world; a newborn bundle of joy, with our contemporary climate-saturated minds is, with a helplessly swift and embedded thought, immediately reduced to its potential harmful (sum total) carbon imprint. Duncan Macmillan’s brash, bold, frenetic piece, first produced in 2011, grapples mightily with a world spinning on its edge with unrest, disorder and lunacy (if anything, the work has only grown more immediate). The first crisis of conscience strikes while in the queue at IKEA.

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The central couple (portrayed by the powerhouse duo of Matt Smith and Claire Foy, smoothly extending their effortless rapport and chemistry from The Crown) prowl the stage, circling one another, thrusting and parrying, in turn tender and cruel in their behaviour as the structure of their relationship is tested (flaws and shortcomings exposed)-at certain points, the two could be sparring pugilists in the ring. Time elapse is elegantly signified by pauses in dialogue and turn of body as the audience travels through the narrative (the communicative comfort and ease of the lead actors goes a long way in explaining and making coherent the forces of attraction which fundamentally brought the couple together, something which the writing doesn’t always make clear; as presented in the first moments of the play, already calcified in certain traits-she shrill and neurotic, he perpetually adolescent and lazy-it’s hard to grasp what is holding them together).

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As the play progresses, principle colliding with biological imperative, stakes risen, the couple must confront just how seriously committed to their beliefs they are (despite continually declaring their climate-awareness credentials, ceaselessly-insecurely-trumpeting their goodness and contributions to the health of the planet), and whether or not their behaviour is just middle-class pretension and lip-service. Foy and Smith rustle up tremendous sympathy for these damaged, lost souls, even at their most insufferable, fighting to solve the contradiction.

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The final sequence, a sudden acceleration into the future, is misjudged and clumsy-and unnecessary, detracting from the clarity of focus on the present. Conceptually, it is understood, but no broad speculation beyond where the couple is left at conclusion is required-leave it to the imagination of the audience (and its own thoughts on what the intervening years may bring) to wonder freely. Lungs closed on 9 November

https://officiallondontheatre.com/show/lungs-old-vic-111417778/

BEWITCHED: BETWIXT & BETWEEN @ ARTHOUSE1

EXHIBITION

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October, with its drive towards the pagan apotheosis of Halloween, is the perfect month to host this group exhibition of artworks that traffic in the liminal mode, works suspended between states of mind (conscious and unconscious, rational and irrational, historical and imaginary). In their offbeat perceptual angles and peculiar visual motifs, their irregular concentrations, they scratch and knead at the underside of surface into otherwise buried and cloaked atavistic psychological and spiritual realms. Rebecca Partridge’s series of spectral, ebon tangles of clotted tree branches (with a variance in volume and density) and wide, arched firmament above, the sky in perpetual crepuscular mood, catch between tranquillity and trepidation;

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Hannah Brown’s Hedge 4 emphasises and enlivens the dark whorls of shadow contained within the thickets of foliage, her Tesco Field studies communicating a very powerful sense of the beleaguered landscape considering its coming destiny, the fact of its extinction, a hyper-real suffusing of natural illumination heavy with a lightheadedness, the pall of sweat and sick, a powerful parliament contemplating its ignoble end;

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Benjamin Deakin’s images pulse with psychedelic colours and riotous dissolves, a melt into altered state (even his most straightforward work, Expander, a West-Coast still life with pillow, thrums with a beautiful agitation of shapes and patterns and intrusive stains; Relator keenly posits an artist’s studio that seems to have unleashed and exploded its collective works and furnishings upon every available surface, a Frankenstein’s cascade of palette and canvas transforming the room itself into rivered artwork;

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Sam Douglas’s misty paintings of ancient sites and medieval landscapes, skies and backgrounds humming with drama and portent, command wallspace even if small in scale, fascinatingly layered and archaeologically resonant-vividly rendered moons seem to burn straight through the canvas, the two stones in perfect alignment with background trees in Chambered Cairn suggests a conversation between venerable entities, a well-worn chat through time;

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providing the most forthrightly surreal work, Gareth Cadwallader intrigues with his foregrounded mysteries and charged offscreen spaces. Backgrounds are mad eruptions of eccentric detail (nature is a marvellous collection of quirky shapes and deliriously swirled, curlicued lines), the use of colour is quickening to the senses (the ripe sensuality of the lemon and  penetrating oceanic blue of the folded napkin in View From the Sailor Girl I, the arched blue door, pink jumper and yellow patterned blouse in Doorway compellingly accentuates the subject’s distracted look away from the viewer, as if just having heard a suspicious noise from the direction of the hedge, the dominant colour scheme echoed in the bit of sky seen at frame’s edge)- tantalising, confounding narratives remain just out of focus and comprehension.

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A hidden, secretive world seems to have been superimposed on plain reality in each work, unsettling primeval forces whispering, bubbling, convulsing, barely contained, providing the ideal conditions for a leakage of fantasia. The mind is bemused and enchanted. Betwixt and Between closed on 26 October

https://www.arthouse1.co.uk/betwixt.html

SACRED: OTHER SPACES @ 180 STRAND

EXHIBITION

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The use of light in these three spectacular, eerie sculptural installations wholly transforms spaces and beguiles perception, creating environments that pique both mind and emotion. In the masterful hands of the designers who comprise United Visual Artists, the component of light (often thought of, by most, in utilitarian and functional fashion) becomes a conduit to imaginative, meditative realms, alternate worlds where senses shift, sway and generally unmoor in the most seductively pleasant way (evocative music expertly enhances the aesthetics). Our Time, with its assemblage of snaking, pendulous lights engaged in an elegant choreography that gradually progresses into what seems like a language, an ongoing conversation, is tantalisingly just out of reach of our comprehension (I was reminded of Amy Adams in the film Arrival upon her first awed exposure to an alien race), a newly discovered species enacting rituals and ceremonies amongst a rapt audience;

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Vanishing Point, akin to an illuminated arithmetic, scrawls and unspools incredible compass-like configurations upon the four walls of an otherwise square room, upsetting principles of equilibrium and dimension, plunging a spectator into woozy disorientation, sensately fooled;

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The Great Animal Orchestra is a seven-cycle odyssey of field recordings from key locations across the world where natural populations (insects, animals) are in danger of extinction-as an audio graph of the sounds captured swipes along the walls like an aural river, the level of collective sounds crescendos, an absolute immersion in the beautiful noise of an ordered nature, everything in its place, that is in jeopardy of being silenced altogether in the name of development and progress. There are some clever effects with water in front of the screens to give the effect that the gathered audience is a group of sightseers on board a boat, drifting through the various sites in witness to the glory.

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The skill and thought brought to bear on each of these pieces works contemplative wonders on viewers, raising awareness of place and meaningful engagement with an other, generating something close to a spiritual encounter. Other Spaces runs through 8 December. Please visit the Instagram account for video footage.

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Other Spaces: Inside the immersive world of United Visual Artists