Phantasms, road rage, feminism: among the mix in 2017 members’ show at Studio 1.1 gallery
By James Brewer
A wealth of intriguing and experimental artistic endeavour lies behind an unpretentious red door in Redchurch Street, Shoreditch. The building is a gallery entered under a lintel that like some of the neighbouring premises has become a pad for the oeuvre of an unschooled school of art, namely graffiti.
Studio 1.1 gallery at number 57a has just opened its members’ 2017 show, in which 23 emerging and established painters and sculptors put their expressive and abstract figurations on the walls and modest plinths.
A phalanx of talent explores phantasmagoria, feminism, fetishism and much more, and a sculpture of pugnacious demeanour in the first room transforms found objects into ‘road rage.’
Within walking distance of the City, Redchurch Street was in the 19th century part of one of London’s poorest areas, but now hosts fashion outlets and chic restaurants, illustrating that the district has become too expensive for impecunious artists to rent dwellings or studios.
The artists have their redoubt in the form of the not-for-profit gallery. Set up in 2003, Studio 1.1 got going before the area turned mega-trendy and is thus nattily located to attract support. To its 2017 exhibition, each participant brought their thoughtful, palpable commentary on aspects of society and psychology. Several of the works look anything but smoothly finished – that is the way it is with contemporary conceptions, but the vigorous forms exude variously quirky realism and a dip into the preternatural.
Otherworldly is a suitable word for much of the output of London-based Kelly Sweeney, a highly articulate artist who shows a triptych of acrylics. The titles are Geist (made even more ethereal by an application of glitter), Savage and All Souls, but the panels elicit paradoxes in the viewer’s interpretive response.
Kelly accepts that the subjects of these works are “somewhat noxious – in your face.” At the same time, they are “treading that line in between alluring and disturbing, but there is an underlying sinister element to them.” They are “unsettling. You are not sure what the agenda is. They are not innocent… but there is an innocence to them.”
The polarity in the three studies is explained by her artist’s statement: “”I have always been fascinated by the otherworldly and the idea that we can exist as something other than what we are. It is the realm of harlequins, voodoo, and fetishes.” She is drawn to the “realm of the carnivalesque and the suspended reality it creates; the figures become cast in a performance taking place somewhere in the landscape between reality and my own imaginarium.”
Kelly’s creative trajectory includes more corporeal forms, when she turns rags into artistic riches. She crafts doll-sized creatures – one such grouping from 2016 (not in the Studio 1.1 show) is called The Rascals – from painter’s rag and spare packaging lying about her studio, combined with string and acrylic.
This is sculpture along the exceptional lines of her paintings, maintaining the disturbing and uncanny element. The ragtag materials and the spontaneity of taking them up ensure that the figures are all different, but are far from ragged in nature: they are “something becoming animated that should not be. Are they about to move?” They look a little cuddly, but one wonders what is “their inner agenda.” Whatever it may be, the army of Rascals is growing…
In an interview with Traction Magazine in 2016, Kelly, who also works with video, said that she likes the way that one discipline punctuates another, changing and influencing it,
The figures she makes “are often adorned with home-made, thrown- together costumes reminiscent of the esoteric origins of indigenous ritualistic belief systems… I like to imagine them behaving mischievously in the studio in my absence. I really hope that they do.”
With colour, “I just go through phases, as I did with fluorescent,” said Kelly. “I get quite obsessed with a palette for this and that colour, even to the way I dress.” At the Studio 1.1 private view, this artist was distinctly recognisable by her hair being of a currently favoured hue, a shade she describes as violet.
Trained at Nottingham Trent University and Chelsea School of Art, Kelly has built an impressive CV since graduating in 2014, participating in group shows, including entering a sculpture at the appropriately named Zeitgeist (a southeast London venture dissolved in April 2016); Office Sessions Part I (a London community project); Surface Gallery, Nottingham; and as a finalist for the Hix Award gaining second prize. Her first solo show Transient was at the crypt-like BSMT Gallery, Dalston, in 2016. She was shortlisted for Bloomberg New Contemporaries and awarded a Patrons’ Bursary from the University of the Arts London.
Something darkly frightening seems to be underpinning the small sculpture Road Rage by the inventive Madi Acharya-Baskerville, an Asian-born, UK-based artist.
Ever resourceful, Madi constructed Road Rage from found charred wood, found toy and mixed media, and set the menacingly robotic result for the occasion on a plinth. Just after it was completed in her studio, a friend asked: “Why don’t you give it a different title?” “I said, no! There is no way I should do that.”
Madi, who lives in London and Oxford, scours woodlands and the Dorset coast to gather cast-out and natural materials and objects, and the random finds enter what she calls a “dialogue between natural and manufactured materials.”
In her statement, she says: “My work is concerned with the synthesis of unlikely elements. Using objects, textiles, song, conversation and magazine cuttings which resonate with me on some level, I create works which move fluidly between different media. Often materials used have had a previous life such as wooden panels previously part of furniture or embroidered fabric which has become moth-eaten, hence devoid of its original function.”
One of her recent works started out with a ‘found’ plastic table which accidentally got burned one summer evening, and which she covered with vintage fabric and entitled Those Long Hot Summers. In the fetching finished work, “pre-exiting boundaries become fused and appear as one.”
She adds: “I am interested in the disintegration of objects and materials over time and how through my intervention they can come to exist as part of something new… I want to explore the tension between natural and synthetic materials, how they can co-exist and the resulting structures can come to resemble organic, sometimes alien yet recognisably human forms.”
After gaining her MA in fine art at Cardiff Institute, University of Wales, Madi has gone on to participate in shows in Oxford, London, Carmarthen, Oporto and Bonn. One of the highlights was to be among artists selected for the 2016 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, for her sculpture of wood and found objects, entitled The Bride.
With great éclat, the feminist painter and poet Marta Boros lays out her heart and soul in the latest in her semi-autobiographical series, this episode being called The Moon – femininity in the shadow of the moon. Marta deploys bold acrylic colours and collage on canvas, as she calls in aid flamboyant manifestations of nature.
Others in the show are Sharon Swaine, Anna Courcha, Domingo Arjonilla, David Sullivan, Eugenia Cuellar, Fabienne Jacquet, Graham Carrick, Martin Gayford, Michelle Conway, Mandeep Dillon, Mia Maric, Paige Perkins, Iavor Lubimirov with Abi Box, Peter Sylveire, Rosie West, Sarah Knill-Jones, Spencer Walton, Ute Kreyman, Wayne Clough and Suzanne Holtom.
Studio 1.1 annual members’ show This Year’s Model 2017, The Human Stain, is at 57a Redchurch Street, London E2 until January 29. The gallery is open Thursdays to Sundays 12 – 6 pm or by appointment. www.studio1-1.co.uk