ORGAN: Five Recommended Art Things – Cathrin Hoffmann at Public, SAKI&Bitches back at Sway, Iain Faulkner at Albemarle Gallery, Six Painters at The Koppel Project, Susie MacMurray at Pangolin…

91: EMMA CONNOLLY

Ello? Hello? Alo? It goes it goes it goes it still probably just about goes like this, well something like this, five art things in this still forming new world? Or the retreating back into another lockdown (brought on my the total mess this corrupt Tory government has made of 2020) . The Emma Connolly piece up there is from the So Why Not Do It Again show

So, like we said last time Iand probably the time before that, five art things, five more art things happening right here, right now, or coming up any moment now, five art shows to check out in the coming days . Hey, I know we said it last time but we will try to do it most weeks now we appear to be coming out of lockdown (or maybe not?), and yes this admittedly rather fractured Five Art Things feature was and (maybe) still is intended to be a regular, almost certainly weekly, or something like something near weekly thing but then everything is fractured and xracking and well you know, it goes. An almost weekly round up of recommended art events. Five shows, exhibitions or things we rather think might be worth checking out. Mostly London things for that is still where we currently operate and explore, and like we said last time (and the time before that), these five recommendations come, as we already said somewhere or other, these five recommendations come with no claims that they are “the best five” or the “Top Five”, we’re not one of those annoying art websites that ignore most things whilst claiming to be covering everything and proclaiming this or that to be the “top seven things” or the “best things this weekend”., no, this is simply a regular list of five or so art things coming up soon that we think you might find as interesting as we do, five art things coming in in the next few days in no particular order…

Cathrin Hoffmann

1: Cathrin Hoffmann  – It Still Smells of Nothing at Public Gallery – It is a strange name for a gallery, and you do wonder why nearly all of the East London galleries ignore so so much of what’s happening in terms of the art being made on their own doorstep, indeed I was in one East London gallery the other day, the owner, (not Public mind you but have they ever shown the work of an London-based artist?)  was moaning about the cost involved shipping in art from North America and how ungrateful and demanding the artist was about it all. I mean yes, we get to see lots of exciting art from all over the globe, I’m rather looking forward to seeing this Cathrin Hoffmann show but hey, just a tiny bit of balance?

The debut solo exhibition of German artist Cathrin Hoffmann does promise goodness though, we’re told it features installation and sculpture by Hoffmann for the first time, alongside some of the artist’s largest and most ambitious paintings to date.

In her work, Hoffmann reimagines the body to explore and question what it means to be human in the post–digital age. The anthropomorphic figures that dominate her paintings appear like contortionists, twisted and strained they grapple with the cornerstones of our earthly existence – life and death, pain and pleasure, love and loss, and isolation and connection. In Hoffmann’s words: ‘I create a new virtual body, with its weaknesses and idiosyncrasies, to probe what our present time with modern technology, digitization, and hyper capitalism has made us become? How do we exist and behave? What is human, what remains?’Produced during a time of intense solitude and collective struggle, Hoffmann’s latest paintings give form to emotions that manifest from her own response to the current moment. Fuelled by feelings of existential dread, hysteria and decadence, the over life-sized figures are set against vacant backdrops with only their shadows for company. Alluding to the limbo of lockdown, these desperate characters appear suspended between quiet meditation and stillness on one hand, and unease and horror on the other – as if trapped, powerless in a parallel universe, to which they know not how they arrived.Presented alongside these paintings are a series of sculptures – the first ever produced by the artist – that bring Hoffmann’s profound dimensionality on canvas further into the physical realm. Mirroring distinguishing features of her paintings, the sculptures include a series of giant fingers equipped with razor-sharp acrylic-tip nails and a distorted bust speckled with pimples.Hoffmann’s deeply personal visions are realised through a paradoxical engagement with and rejection of digital painting. She begins by mapping out a composition digitally using a graphic tablet, before exchanging the seamless result for an analogue translation where the physical traces of the artist are present.

Says Hoffmann, ‘I am attracted by the ambivalence between perfection and imperfection. My digital work is bright polished and perfect, as soon as I try to reproduce this, I realise it is impossible. It is this area in between that interests me, the perfectly imperfect.’Joining an intimate process of self-reflection with a collective anxiety about the present moment, Hoffmann visualises and critiques our odourless existence within an increasingly online world––a virtual environment which impacts the way we see and are seen, or not seen at all.”

Public is now at 91 Middlesex St, London, E1 7DA. The opening hours are here. Cathrin Hoffmann’s show is open now and runs until November 14th

Six Painters at The Koppel Project

2: Six Painters at The Koppel Project – ‘Six Painters’ is, so we are told, “a contemporary art exhibition showing the work of six 2020 fine art graduates”, they’re all new names to me but then I guess that is half of the point. The image looks good and gawd how much do we need to see some actual living breathing paint rather than just more pixels! 

Contributing artists: Bradley Childs, Anna Clegg, Julien Heintz, Lucy Neish, Mia Vallance, Yuyu Zhitong. Open Friday 16th October between 10am – 9pm. The Koppel Project Central, 47-50 Poland Street, W1F7ND “Come at anytime on the day of the event, we will be socially distancing in the gallery space and there will be drinks.”

SAKI&Bitches

3: SAKI&Bitches – “Tayu Tau – a pop up show” at Sway Gallery – Now we do like a bit Saki and her beautiful stylised street-flavoured art, “Following the very well-received exhibition Hana Machi at Sway Gallery in 2018, SAKI&Bitches is back, this time with the Tayu Tau pop-up show (‘Tayu Tau’ translates to ‘float’ in old Japanese). Tayu Tau will feature new original paintings, as well as various art prints, greeting cards and stickers by SAKI.  The new original artworks, in the form of delicate wood paintings, are all inspired by SAKI’s lifetime art theme – Yoshiwara’s “Oiran” – Edo / Tokyo’s Courtesan. Oiran’s lives, despite often being short and tragic, have gone down in the history, with their exceptional beauty being remembered even now, over 300 years later. Their images keep floating like sensual spectres that keep inspiring SAKI.

About SAKI&Bitches: “SAKI&Bitches is a Tokyo-born Painter/Street artist, currently based in London. SAKI first started to experiment with the street art scene in 2009. Applying hand-drawn stickers to the streets of the East end of London. SAKI’s art did evolve and grow to full-scale portrait as she too grew. Wondering and ever fascinated by the female form, she had no other ambition other than to celebrate it.  Having previously exhibited in Tokyo, London, and San Francisco, SAKI has no formal background, but she is an artist of exceptional scope. Able to turn a hand to many different styles and mediums on works produced on a wood, pencil sketch, glass and spray paint.  SAKI’s art is unintentionally controversial and erotically sweet, it’s plain twisted.  SAKI’s glamorous Bitches keeps flirting around the world!”

Sway is at  70-72 Old St, East London, EC1V 9AN. The space is open from Monday to Friday, 11am until 7pm and Saturday, 12 until 6pm. The show runs from 19th of October until 31st October 2020

Iain Faulkner – Throwing Stones, Loch Muick” (2020) Oil on canvas, 30x30cm

Iain Faulkner – A Solitary Man at Albemarle Gallery – “Acclaimed painter, Iain Faulkner, continues his enquiry into the expressive potential of the solitary male figure”.

“Whether located in a luxurious international hotel room or the rugged landscape of his native Scotland, his technically-accomplished compositions evoke a sense of contained isolation and brooding introspection.

These are not melodramatic poses, but everyday and almost mundane. The subject is caught at a point of rest and contemplation. He gazes out across the land or city-scape, he looks down at his shoes, he nurses a whisky glass. We very rarely glimpse his face, for he is consistently turned away from us. We view the world over his shoulder, seeing what he sees, but he remains elusive, his identity closed off and secret.

In fact the man in these paintings is the artist. They are self-portraits. Interestingly, the images are not self-examining; he avoids the interrogation of his own appearance. He makes himself an ‘everyman’, a witness at hand to record events, to say, perhaps, “I was there”. The paintings are partly records of his own wanderings.

Faulkner’s painstakingly-thorough method of representation locks our attention down to the subject. He is clear-eyed in showing us a scenario. However, some new paintings show an interesting development in technique, a departure from the clearly-articulated realism that is his familiar signature. He deploys a softer, more diffuse, application of waxy paint. Contours and outlines are blurred and heightened, colour shimmers and pulses. The pictures take on an ethereal quality, fading or un-focussing before our eyes and a shifting uncertainty of perception enters the stage. In one painting he looks out at us, full face at last, his features lit by a fierce red glow, a moment of sudden un-masking.

There is a sense of isolation and apartness in Iain Faulkner’s work, which chimes well with uncertain times. Alone, in an apparently deserted world, his protagonist plans a strategy.”

Albemarle Gallery is at (the prefectly numbered) 43 Cadogan Gardens, London, SW3 2TB. The show runs from 15th October until 15th November

5: Susie MacMurray – Murmur at Pangolin –  A new body of works from sculptor Susie MacMurray opens in October 2020 at Pangolin London, heard her on the radio talking about it this morning, she rather provoked me into wanting to go…

We’re told that “Murmur is a compelling collection of striking, tactile and thought-provoking sculptures and installations, alongside intricate drawings, and new bronze and silver works created in a first-time collaboration with foundry Pangolin Editions. 

Delicate, sensuous velvet contrasts with rusty barbed wire often reclaimed from battlefields or training grounds; soft round droplets of white wax are painstakingly placed at the ends of sleek lengths of black wire – there is no hierarchy of material in MacMurray’s work, rather a refreshing transformation.

The title work, Murmur, is an ambitious installation made of ostrich feathers whose tips have been dipped in wax and hang on tiny sharp fish hooks and piano wire. It will cover the entire length of the gallery swirling and changing direction like an avian murmuration, like a flock of birds being freed. Opposing characteristics play off one another: large scale yet meticulously detailed; tactile yet fragile, a contradiction, yet the outcome makes perfect sense. 

MacMurray’s work has always been a process of self-healing and a response to what is happening in her present. In the last few months of lockdown, strong feelings of being helpless and trapped have significantly influenced this new body of work.  Having been starved of physical human contact during lockdown, the artist has also been particularly drawn back towards velvet – an undeniably tactile and comforting material to work with.

MacMurray has gained a reputation for poetic site-specific interventions in historic spaces, where she merges the history with selected materials that relate in some way.  

A startling new wall sculpture in the exhibition is inspired by Gathering, a significant public commission at Tatton Park Mansion in 2019, which showed a voluptuous piece combining red velvet elements and barbed wire pieces cascaded into the staircase hall. The work is inspired not only by the history and architecture of Tatton Park, but also the story of a wild costume ball held there in 1897, in which the hostess wore red velvet. 

MacMurray’s method of making merges carefully selected evocative and emotionally dense materials. Whether working with hairnets, feathers, velvet, wax or barbed wire, the artist explores the vulnerability and resilience of humanity. The materials used are ephemeral in themselves, and she likens this to our own mortality and the transient nature of life.

Isolation has also meant that MacMurray has continued to explore the relationship between mothers and children – the joy and pride of letting children go and allowing them to take flight, and the desolation of being left behind. Soft and fulsome shapes are juxtaposed with sharp, jagged or rough forms making works that are beautiful but not entirely benign.  A recurring theme throughout the exhibition, this has fed into a fairy tale sense of magic whispers, passing on both tales of caution and wisdom. Through the artist’s hands and use of materials, MacMurray wants to capture and encourage in the viewer a child-like sense of wonder at ‘our amazing yet terrifying world’

In Foundling, MacMurray carefully slices deer antlers into thin flake-like slivers, rendering them almost unrecognizable and inviting the viewer to look afresh. Once majestic on the head of a deer for protection, showing strength and virility, they become delicate and exposed. 

A powerful portrait Medusa, which drew much attention at the entrance of Masterpiece London last year, will also be on display on the Pangolin London Sculpture Trail at Kings Place during the exhibition. Constructed entirely by hand from almost 300kg of copper wire, Medusa is clad in chainmail. With her skirt of delicate articulated tentacles, she is both seductive and captive, tactile yet dangerous – her mail both ready for combat but also protecting a fragile interior, asking the question of the viewer of the role of women both in the past, in myth and in the present day. Much of MacMurray’s practice is concerned in one way or another with the perception and negotiation of female identity, both internal and external.

Creating Medusa was slow, labour intensive and repetitive, and MacMurray was aided by a small team of female art students. She compares this to an age-old tradition of women gathering together to spin and weave, sharing knowledge and wisdom as they work. The artist thinks of making art as ‘spinning straw into gold’. 

A former classical musician and alchemist at heart, MacMurray has a talent for sensitively combining materials much as a conductor brings together an orchestra. She asks, ‘How can we be here, so strong, powerful, full of life and energy, so confident as a species and yet so desperately fragile?’

Drawing is an important part of MacMurray’s work, as a means of meditative practice and material examination. In addition to her large pen & ink work she also plays with watercolour and draws on a more intimate scale. Having started drawing as a very personal self-healing process, the first objects she responded to were torn pieces of net curtain – wounded, damaged, and coming apart at the seams. Over time, the works began to ‘take flight’ and became more about containing, vulnerability and safety. 

The series of Gauze Bandage drawings in this exhibition reference dancing, wanting to fly and to be free, and accepting that things can be ragged – all the while capturing fragments of undiscovered beauty.  

The artist’s musical background inevitably influences her work. She describes her creative process as being about ‘tuning’ an object, which ends up being a piece that couldn’t be any other way. She searches for a frisson between the tensions, rhythms, echoes and conversations between two materials. MacMurray’s experience as a professional musician and a member of the Halle Orchestra has given the artist an eye for materials such as horsehair from violins, sheet music, or piano wire, but also shown her the value of working collaboratively.

Collaborating for the first time with Pangolin Editions foundry has brought further diversity to MacMurray’s sculpture. Her new series of delicate carapaces first made in wax in her studio have been cast into bronze, with the smaller pieces transformed into sterling silver to create brooches”.

Pangolin London is at Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG. The show runs from Octber 21st until December 22nd,

So Why not Do It Again?

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