Quite beyond the overall quality of the work on display, I champion the ethos of this annual event in which local independent galleries (and, increasingly, a few higher profile names) host fellow independent galleries from all corners of the world, allowing artists whom otherwise would be unable to exhibit widely outside their native countries, due either to monetary or sponsorship constraints, to be seen by a greater number of people. The economics are “softer”, as the founders of the commission state, far from the heavy-breathing of the major market-driven annual art fairs, which allows space for more experimental and fringe work. Originating in London in 2016, Condo has been successful enough to launch versions in New York, Mexico City, Shanghai, Athens and São Paulo-I hope with great sincerity that as it expands its reach it will be able to retain its alternative integrity. This year, 52 galleries were represented across 18 London spaces. I am happy to report I and my friend Nora, with skilful negotiation, were able to visit every gallery without maniacal pace over the course of Condo’s four weeks, pervasively spread out across the city (if nothing else, Condo offers a tremendous opportunity to experience the breadth of an urban environment, from corners both chic and gritty).
And so, to highlights: You’d be forgiven for believing that you had walked into a bath and shower showroom at Modern Art, what with the glistening, gleaming ceramic surfaces of Nicolas Deshayes’s pieces-basins, cisterns, plumbing networks glaze with an unearthly shine, troublingly, strangely erotic in their bare, shapely offer of curves and angles; upstairs, Charlotte Posenenske’s cardboard creation-mimicking, from afar, the solidity of wood-is a playfully monstrous playground attraction, releasing a desire to frolic atop, along and through its dimensions. At The Approach, Vanessa Safavi’s prolific and generous use of silicone and ovular imagery confronts and interrogates, lightheartedly, performative issues and articulated demands around the body (a crushed, abundantly folded piece of silicone, appearing almost like an impossibly twisted ceramic vase, is stuffed uncomfortably within a frame adorned with wooden bars, suggesting a sinisterly transparent form of oppression); Cajsa Von Zeipel’s The Gossips (referencing Camille Claudel’s oft self-repeated sculptural work) are a quartet of female figures arising out of plinths with groovy, leisurely assertion (human/alien hybrids engaged in a form of transformation), a nearly synthetic Siren “collectivisation” against a world that would otherwise seek to reduce, debase or demean them-they are empoweringly afflicted by technical and sexual refuse on their skin and bodies, carrying a song beneath their surface , beaming their way to satisfied self-actualisation entirely on their terms; at Hollybush Gardens, Vadim Fishkin’s beguiling projections (video footage on my Instagram account) prey intriguingly upon the perceptions-with a sly sleight-of-screen, silhouettes of stationary objects move with an abandoned animation (another work, a small globe tipped over on its side, bleeds out the colours of its continents); Lina Viste Gronli’s sneaker series at Union Pacific nods at both the materiality and (eventual) practical reality of the shoe fashion industry (one piece is adorned in shiny copper coins, the other blanketed in a coy pattern of detritus collected off the street and pavement), a wry disconnect between the decorative aesthetic and the functional destiny of an item-elsewhere, Hans-Christian Lotz, like a madly inspired craftsman, works found pieces of aluminium, silicone and acrylic glass into stunning industrial window frames akin to Arabic friezes; Chelsea Culprit’s canvases eye-pop with colour, a riot of gestural and bodily contortions and distortions (sometimes whirling free of the frame) , a devolution into fractal patterns, elongated terpsichorean manoeuvres endlessly cycled in systems and codes of anguish and delirium-upstairs, Juliette Blightman’s images suggest interesting negative spaces within interior environments, teasing what is and is not seen, one object in full colourful, bold view, and a hidden (or less conspicuous) space rendered in pencil, humming with the breath of a private refuge, or perhaps the tender ghost of a remembered, but now lost, anchor; at the Sunday Painter, Samara Scott offers symphonic horizontal urban collages, flat cabinets of curiosities in which collections of grit, dirt and general rubbish salvaged from across the spectrum (English country estates to council grounds) smash together-and level-smug distinctions between high and low culture, hung like window dressing (or props) set by the visual stylist at a high-street boutique. I could go on and on , which speaks volumes about the profligate variety on display, the sheer head-spinning glory-I’m glad to have made the acquaintance of all the participating artists, and look forward to another round next year. Please watch out for 2020’s iteration-information should be available at the top of the year. Condo ran from 12 January to 9 February