Getting back in the saddle again both in terms of going to galleries and getting around to writing about going to galleries is taking a little time, back in those carefree days before Covid an art gallery was at least a three days a week habit, a matter of must have more art. Cold turkey was tough, not going to galleries was tough, not drinking warm beer and cheap red wine and getting annoyed as people stand in front of the art talking to each other, I missed all that, it has been so long now that getting back out there hasn’t been easy. As for getting excited about the things we have actually seen in galleries since the lockdown eased, well it has been rather polite, a little too safe, there hasn’t been anything to really ignite things yet, nothing we’ve been out to so far anyway, nothing has really really truly challenging, not quite, not that we’ve been to everything of course, still haven’t made it to that show at Gallery 46 yet. Nothing really exciting, that’s not to say there haven’t been good things, very good things…
Good things like Hattie Malcomson‘s rather vivid debut solo show “Sisters, Sisters, Sisters” at East London’s New Art Projects. Is “good things” the right turn of phrase, her paintings certainly challenge, there might be something exciting about them? Something bold, big, confident, strident, paint that jumps off the wall and demands attention, nah, “good things” is not quite the right turn of phrase. Hattie Malcomson’s paintings are something that stick around in your head just a little longer, there’s a need to go back and have another look, were the they really that good? Were they really that demanding? That strange? Those eyes? Those details, those flowers in the background, the packages on the shelves, this little stories on the side. Apparently she’s only just graduated, apparently this really is her first gallery show, her paintings would have you think she’s bee nshowing for years, these are bold confident statements, certainly a lot more than just “good things”…
“The central subject of her practice is the process of women empowerment explored within the context of contemporary society. Her interest extends traditional feminism into the here and now by exploring themes of women’s sexuality, beauty standards, sex working, and loneliness”.
Yes, her paintings certainly are very much here and now, nothing safe and polite about Hattie Malcomson’s rather demanding rather exuberant, extremely bright demanding pieces of art – there might even be some floating anarchy in there – and yes, there is something defiant happening on those canvases up there on the gallery walls. Who are these creatures with the big big eyes? What kind of planet do these women live on? Who are they? Who is Hattie Malcomson? You certainly get the idea that she’s in control of the narrative playing out on these white East London walls
“Hattie Malcomson’s figures are confident women, who are engaged in society today and are the subjects of their own destiny. She is seeking to use self-expression to convey universal female truths in her paintings, as a counterpoint to seeing women in painting represented through the eyes of men. She is flipping female objectification on its head and confronting historical notions of how and why women appear in art, and whom they are painted for. She observes that “Due to the male gaze, women have often been painted to appear passive as well as objectified in art history. Contrasting to this, the women in my paintings are the ones in control.”
Her paint demands your attention, her figures certainly do, everything here says strong – strong paintings, strong artist. Her palette is certainly alive, a whole world of slightly strange colour, purples arguing with bright yellows and dayglo greens and even brighter brushstrokes, paint thick with intent, strange, maybe even disturbing? Unsettling? No, just controlling the narrative, just doing it on their terms, on her terms, oh bondage, up yours! everything here appears to be on Hattie Malcomson’s, this promises to be interesting and yes, now i re-run it all in my head, maybe I have already been to an exciting show as we ease our way towards a new normal? Need to go back, art excites, good thing? Nah, way more than that….
Right now Hattie Malcomson is sharing the building with a show that openrf a few days before hers, sharing the interlocking rooms and the walls with the paintings of Alex Hudson, and as is almost always the case at Fred Mann’s big white basement gallery, it all works together. Alex Hudson’s paintings are something far more “traditional”, deliberately so. Once again the curation and the two artists sharing the space (rooms to themselves) is spot on – surely they really shouldn’t work together but they do, almost perfectly so. Alex Hudson’s work celebrates tradition, the paintings feel deliberately Northern European, playfully so – hints of fantasy, slightly tongue-in cheek magic, otherworldness, hints of William Blake? Maybe even a Gregory Jacobsen hint or two next to the hints of Brueghel? Shakespeare references? Dutch Masters? Plato, there’s lots to read in these paintings, they’re strange, I don’t know if I like them or not? I certainly like the way they’re painting, the playing with tradition, do they disturb in the right way? Are they uncomfortable? Are they wonderful? Am I sitting on the fence?
Certainly two shows to see in the flesh, two shows that might just play with your flesh, a lot more than jsut a couple of good things, exciting, we’re back in the saddle again…. (sw)
New Art Projects is at 6d Sheep Lane, Hackney, London, E8 4QS. Just by Broadway Market, not far from the Regents Canal and a stone’s throw from Beck Road. Both shows are open until June 26th.
Do please click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide show….