Apparently last Friday evening something called the East London Gallery Hop (or some such thing along those lines) happened, it went on through the weekend, you wouldn’t really have known about it though, publicity was not exactly flowing freely. Seems a handful of widely scattered East London galleries were all open late last Friday, alas nobody thought to tell anyone much. The East London gallery scene has at best been rather rather fractured over the last six of seven years since Vyner Street went down without must of a fight. The tiny bit of half hearted publicity that did eventually flow our way on the Saturday morning after the Friday night before reminded us we hadn’t checked out the latest show at Nicoletti. (stop press, seems it was called an East London Gallery Crawl, same as we said though, no publicity!)
Nicoletti Contemporary is a relatively new space on the once gallery-packed thing that was Vyner Street, a rather formal gallery on the once rather alternative artist-led street – the artist-led spaces themselves have long since been gentrified out of course, we’ve gone over it far too many times on these angry pages, we still haven’t forgiven the mummy-funded rich kid who spent his time talking horsepoop about art and community while he bought it all up and destroyed something rather uniquely beautiful. However formal they may be, it is really good to see Nicoletti open on the now rather ghostly street, they have actually been there for a couple of years or more now but hey, what with Covid and the rest of it the gallery still feels like something new. They are just about the only art space on the street now, Stuart Shave’s Modern Art had a go in the brilliant one-time Wilkinson space for a bit, alas that perfect gallery space is lost like the rest of them now. The giant Wilkinson Gallery was such a wonderful space, there were around 15 spaces on the street when we opened Cultivate in the middle of it all. Of course what Vyner Street and the whole so-called East London Gallery Hop thing lacks is that artist-led energy, the DIY spaces, the breeding grounds, the left-field spaces or events that ignited so so much, that edge the formal galleries lack The “correct” way of doing things can be so annoyingly stiff. Nicoletti Contemporary is not to blame for any of this of course, Nicoletti is about three doors up from where we once ran the now nomadic thing called Cultivate – when our building was knocked down Tower Hamlets council and the developers did promise a new gallery space would be included in the new build and that we’d have first option on that gallery space, neither thing happened of course and even if it had no doubt the price asked would have been well beyond any artist-led pockets – what East London really lacks now is that artist-led energy, the handful of formal establishment galleries, as fine as places like The Approach or New Art Projects are, lack that spirit, that attitude, that instant let’s make things happen that ignited East London in terms of art in the first place, I fear the spirit of Joshua Compston is long gone now and that artist-led thing is almost impossible now in the post-covid East London landscape of 2022. There’s next to nothing left for those East London artists left here now, certainly nothing much in the formal spaces of the so called Hop (or whatever last weekend was branded as). We do need these formal spaces though, the idea of the Hop is a good thing, just tell us about it maybe?
Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond is an exhibition by Swedish artist Evelina Hägglund and French Vietnamese painter Minh Lan Tran, it is a rather “formal” exhibition, a “proper” exhibition, we need exhibitions like this of course, we need those galleries that do things the formal way, the established way, my saying we needed the other things, the more left-field artist-led this was not a put down of shows and spaces like this or the Approaches or the New Art Projects or the Herald Streets of this part of the world, both the Approach and New Art Projects have highly recommended shows on at the moment, both shows have been positive covered on these rather opinionated pages (check those links you jsut passed for details). This latest show at Nicoletti Contemporary is another rather good show, the combination of the two artists and the relationship between the work of Evelina Hägglund and painter Minh Lan Tran is instantly exciting, it feels good to be in these peacefully white-walled rooms, to enjoy the quiet conversations between the walls and floors, the relationships are exciting (even the shadows cast are exciting), this is clearly, from the moment you walk in, a fine fine exhibition
Actually would either of these artists be that exciting by themselves? is this a case of inspired curation? Is the real artist the person who brought these two together (maybe they found each other? It isn’t that clear how this show came together, who was the driving force here?) it does feels like it is about the relationships, the textures, Minh Lan Tran’s paintings are rather beautiful, they do work so well with Evelina Hägglund’s very powerful floor pieces – although how strong those paintings would be without the relationships with the space and floor pieces is up for debate, they do feel like something we’ve seen before, that they’d maybe not be that exciting in isolation? But they’re not in isolation, and this exhibition does rather feels more like one big installation piece, a one big whole rather than a couple of artists sharing a space – if feels like the relationship adds so so much to the pieces of each artist, that the sculpture brings the paintings to life, they ignite Minh Lan Tran’s colour that in turn ignite Evelina Hägglund’s exciting pieces, they excite each other. Something rather strong going on here, it is communication, it is a conversation, a thrilling one, the language of materiality and physicality indeed explored – a reaction more provoked than demanded – this isn’t a show that demands, it is more an invitation than a demand. It feels good in here, very good, the relationship between the two artists feels almost intimate – no “almost” about it, we could feel like we’re intruding, we don’t though, we are welcomed in, the lines invite, the piece welcome the viewer, the colours do. This is an excellent show actually, a beautiful experience, a rather recommended one, an exciting one.
Great show, great curation, great space, shame about the so-called Hop or the Crawl or whatever it was called, would have been good to know about it (and shout about it) in advance and yes we should have been covering this show back when it opened at the start of March, bad of us. (sw)
Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond runs until March 19th at Nicoletti Contemporary. You find the gallery in the middle of the street, 12a Vyner Street, London, E2 9DG. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11AM – 6PM. You do have to knock on the locked door but don’t let that put you off. Good to see the space there, we need more.
As always, please do click on an image to enlarge a photo and to run the slide show.