From a studio bound summer spent looking inwards I plunge straight into cultural overload.

Metamorphosis, Future Can Wait, New Sensations‘The Majesty’, Christian Marclay’s ‘Everyday‘, Joana Vasconcelas, Chris Hawtin, Lindsay Seers ‘nowhere less now’ plus 11 films in 10 days at the London Film Festival.

The predominant theme of many of the films we saw this year was the resilience of women. In the most dire of circumstances and oppression women across the globe fight their battles by whatever means they can to cope with what life has dealt them. Political or religious conflict and its fallout was also a strong theme. The great thing about the London Film Festival is seeing the same human emotions played out in every language. Most life affirming and poetic was ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’.

Last year All Visual Arts staged their big autumn show in the decadent shabby grandeur of Portland Place but this year due to some last minute shenanigans it had to be moved to the crypt at One Marylebone.

The lighting was challenging.

Polly Morgan at Metamorphosis

The works were spot-lit in the darkness causing severe shadows to block the work on approach and bleaching detail from afar. Viewing became a dance.

Dolly Thompsett ‘Guarding the Ruins’

A terrible photo of this painting but it illustrates the echoing of the black arches in Dolly Thompsett’s painting with the arched architecture of the Crypt.

I was drawn to this painting of beautiful vine entwined ruins, misty horizons with sweeps of iridescent glitter although I found it almost too sugary.

It is the same attraction that Raquib Shaw exerts on me I think, the telling of some mystical fable but in this case there is no balance of the grotesque to counteract the sublime, the primates are not tearing each others eyes out.

Another painter whose work struck a chord with me was Hyojun Hyun at Saatchi’s New Sensations show.

Hyojun Hyun at New Sensations

Scenes of neglect are transformed into transcendental experiences in paint through the use of light, creating magical scenarios ready for a midsummer’s night dream to play out.

A less subtle use of light and glitter to create spectacle was employed in ‘The Majesty’, a horticultural installation by artists Tony Heywood and Alison Condie for Cityscapes. Billed as a reconfiguration of the show garden ‘Glamourlands’ from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which evolved from a picturesque landscape portrait of the Dorset coast above ground, into a subterranean fungal landscape of the sublime below ground. ‘Glamourlands’  featured a landscape of excess created from gold carbon and jewel encrusted forms. Directly after the Chelsea Flower Show it travelled to The Old Vic Tunnels where it became ‘The Majesty’ –  a new landscape with additional sculptural elements within a spectacular underground setting.

The Majesty

We were offered face masks on entering the space as there was a possibility of  poisonous spores emanating from the fungal growths, this along with the cordon of flames and the lake like puddle preventing approach made us feel like explorers braving hostile lands to visit some glittering shrine.

Going underground again, partially anyway we made a quick visit to this years Serpentine Pavillion designed by Ai Weiwei and Herzog and de Meuron.

I was disappointed to find Haunch of Venison has moved from the airy splendour of Burlington Gardens to smaller premises on New Bond Street.

But Joana Vasconcelas did not disappoint. Her steam iron water lily ‘Full Steam Ahead’ was a wonder of engineering – hissing puffs of steam into the room it was the deadliest of flowers and the pendulous sculptures snaking throughout the gallery were magnificent explosions of embellishment.

I wish I had known about her exhibition at Versailles last year it would have been wonderful to have seen that but I had to make do with leafing through the catalogue. Her vision of scale is inspiring and I am very jealous of her large warehouse sized studio spaces and teams of technicians.

Christian Marclay took his signature splicing of film clips to create a visual stimuli for a group of musicians to overlay a soundtrack echoing the rhythms and emotions in the images. Like an improvised jazz session the musicians fed off each other as well as the film in a sustained assault on a climax which is never reached. The collage of images repeat an action stripped of its own narrative with the same action from many films until what might have been an insignificant moment becomes something portentous.

Lindsay Seers work is all narrative but is not a linear story. The past present and future entwine with the thoughts of multiple characters. Everything is connected but like in a dream those connections are just beyond grasp as they shift and change and merge. I wasn’t sure if I fell asleep or not, my eyes seemed to be open but I had those moments of falling from consciousness being tucked up in a warm blanket can induce. The haunting sea shanty played in the headphones ‘ the sea will take her slender body..’ over and over, a narrative from one side in Seers soft tone then someone speaks abruptly from behind, another voice is heard at a a distance, some music starts up and all the while the dual projections onto giant convex and concave spheres in the disorienting location of an upside down ships hull sweeps through history into a CGI future and back to the present. We were given a free book on exit, it is another layer to the whole experience and I have no idea what is true and what is fiction, this means the fantastical can appear to be reality and I like that. There are many things to wonder about in Lindsay Seers work.

Lindsay Seers at The Tin Tabernacle

In Seers work the explanation about the work is part of the work and so may be just a fiction as much as the work itself.

The artists conundrum – how much to explain? Chris Hawtin was concerned that his back stories to his amazing paintings and sculpture at Canvas and Cream in his ‘Predator’ show would shut down the work for viewers to embark on their own narrative journey. What came across in his talk however was his passion for painting, his dedication to research and the care he took to make sure the viewer was drawn into the fascinating clash of sci-fi and primitive landscape he created.

Chris Hawtin ‘Dredger’

Seeing all these other artists work has been really inspirational. What I want to bring to my own work from this is the idea to leave more space for the viewer to be drawn in.

I need to define the content of a piece before I start but then let the work develop more organically. I tend to plan things out very much beforehand and I would like to try to be freer in production.

So that is my plan.

 

 

 

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