THE SHAPES WE'RE IN
52 Whitbread Road, Brockley, London SE4 2BE
Private View: Fri 13th Nov, 6-9 pm
Open brunches: Sat 14th/Sun 15th
Curator / artist talks: Wed 18th 6pm
Open by appointment until 22nd November 2015
Miriam Austin - nonagon
In her ritual actions, originating in the pleasingly quixotic project of founding a new religion, it’s been unclear whether Miriam Austin inhabits nature or allows it to inhabit her: blossom grows on her throat, her breast becomes a beak, and she lies inside a fish. That spirit carries over into organic sculptural forms: she’s been slathering poisonous flowers in prosthetic silicone to monstrously gorgeous effect, picking at the connection between beauty and threat. Here dried brugmansia (which is also hallucogenic), foxgloves and carivorous plants take their places among nine objects. They reference the use of the nonagon in the relatively recent Bahai faith, and are designed to be worn in rituals* which make up the imagined corners of perhaps the simplest shape which the eye can’t identify without counting. Maybe there’s a spell in that…
* as they will be at the ICA (December) and Bosse & Baum (Feb)
Rana Begum – irregular polygon
Rana Begum installation shot with No. 622 Drawing, 2015 - Paint and powder-coated mild steel
Anglo-Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum became known for fetish-finished wall-based works in what one might term two and a half dimensions, that indeterminate space in between two dimensional painting and three dimensional sculpture. They’re legible from front-on but dynamised by the viewer so that physical movement activates colour movement, evoking such street features as railings, billboards, bridges and traffic. Begum has branched out substantially in the last few years (as we’ll see, no doubt, in her April 2016 solo show at the Parasol Unit), but here she boils down the essence of that original inspiration: inside the house, on a chracterful wall, brightness shadows shapes with enough substance to make us wonder what is primary; while outside, the perspectives expand.
Brian Dawn Chalkley – leaf shape
Brian Dawn Chalkley:
Emma Cousin – heart
Emma Cousin: The Heart of the Party, 2015
Emma Cousin runs Bread and Jam (together with Emily Austin and Rebecca Glover) and it takes place in her house... so I’ve put her at the heart of it with a set of paintings investigating that very organ as a throbbing, dancing, padlocked grenade to be worn on the sleeve. Cousin’s work typically merges abstract qualities with colloquial narratives to generate a witty to and fro, often with a lively awareness of the contingencies of the body. Literature feeds her practice, too, and here she muses in paint and words on the heart as a ‘bad dancer’, juicy as steak but vulnerable as it pumps itself to death juggling its many roles. ‘It’s murder on the dance floor’. If that sounds savage, the cocktail sticks which make for colourful skewers suggest that the party of life isn’t such a bad way to go…
Alicja Dobrucka – mushroom shape
Alicja Dobrucka: from – Concrete Mushrooms, Albania, 2011
Albania is littered with mushroom-shaped bunkers: some 750,000 were built between 1967 and 1986, during which time Enver Hoxha encouraged a paranoid fear of attack from all sides of his isolated Maoist dictatorship. As perhaps the most anti-Platonic inclusion among the shapes we’re in, they’re now obsolete for defence. Anglo-Polish artist Alicja Dobrucka set out to document them - whether the bunkers have been turned to other uses, given radical makeovers or reduced to rubble. In this first British appearance, two in contrasting condition seem to have landed in the sea, and the stairwell location plays to their rhizomatic implications.
Oona Grimes – bread shape
Oona Grimes: toes n toast (detail), 2014 - ceramic, 120cm x 20cm
Oona Grimes’ complex practice is rooted in drawing but proceeds through all available means. She often plays with flatness, and that’s the case in the installation 'where's my breakfast'. The naturally volumetric medium of clay is used to make flatly absurd slices of cheese (jerry’s lunch) and bread (the toes n toast with which Grimes also supplies the Paul Weller flavour of Jam). The naturally flat form of spray paint through stencils is used to describe the three dimensionality of an alternative architectural space – one of Grimes’ series Flann’s architectural digest, in which the spirit of the comedic Irish writer Flann O’Brien is invoked to play with a recurring typology of forms: invented tartans, household items, diagrammatic and brick buildings struggling to go 3D. I can imagine the combination of ghostly sound piece - of an old woman asking for her breakfast from behind the wall - and 'choir' of clay potatoes appealing to O’Brien, too.
Natasha Kahn – rectangle
Natasha Hahn: A Lementation (detail), 2015
Natasha Kahn, who co-runs the interesting Streatham project space DOLPH, trained as a painter. Using tape extensively to mask out areas and hem in flat planes of colour, she found it took on a separate life of its own in the accidental compositions which formed on the wall as she put the used tape to one side. That set up what Kahn regards as ‘a measured disorder’. Now shapes of tape morph into others as they are recycled between works and interact with the surrounding architecture and with related materials, such as the concrete which Kahn installs here. This emptying out of paintings towards entropy - perhaps lamenting the loss of paint along the way - finds an echo in her sparse intervention and in the curiously diverting and painterly subject of her rubbishy slideshow: colourful trade refuse bins.
Claire Macdonald – circle
Claire Macdonald: still from Launderette, 2015 – film, 21.41 minutes
Claire Macdonald made Launderette for her Golsdmiths degree show. It’s simple - ten men talk for a couple of minutes each as their washing is done – but artful. The edits between watching, clothes-handling, machines and talking heads generate an appropriate rhythm. The setting is old-fashioned and the customers – in a less than traditional male role – have more regrets than wealth. But they speak with straightforward dignity, and cover many bases: birth, childhood, love, money, class, race, disability, mental illness, war. And, although what the men say is pretty much clichés, the cumulative effect is to remind us why such statements became clichés in the first place – their repeated relevance to human concerns. Something of life’s essential cycles enters the commonplace circles of the spin cycle.
Selma Parlour – trapezium
Selma Parlour: Menu, 2015 - oil on linen 36cm x 51cm
If you’re looking to add to the history of geometry in abstract painting, then the trapezium - that’s a quadrilateral with just one pair of parallel sides – seems good as a little-used choice. But it would be fairer to call these paintings of paintings of trapeziums - meta-paintings, if you will. Maybe they depict the shapes of windows: both in their site-specific conversation with the attic architecture and in the suggestion of openings on a computer screen: that’s consistent with the semi-translucent layering of colour over a white ground, which provides a hint of backlighting. Or could the presence of horizon lines – echoing the Chalkleys with which they share a room – suggest those paintings of trapeziums are objects in a landscape? Perhaps, if you’re looking at what else is on show in London at the moment, Parlour’s game is closer to Escher’s mind-bending regressions than Hoyland’s colourfield assertions.
Frances Richardson - phallus
Frances Richardson: still from Phallus, 2015
Adam made Eve out of clay, leaving it to Frances Richardson to take revenge of sorts in a film which may surprise those who’ve seen only the various streams of drawing and sculpture which make up the best-known aspects of her practice. Richardson fashions a phallus in a performance which lasts 11 minutes when screened at 6 x the original speed, so turning the sound into an absurdist slap and squeak. This makes for a witty foregrounding of ‘the artist’s hand’. Is the piece feminist? Perhaps, but there’s a productive ambiguity to Phallus, as such a shaping might be welcomed as the ultimate hand job as much as resisted for its elemental seizing of control.
Jennet Thomas – amorphous shapes
Jennet Thomas: still from Return of the Black Tower, 2007 - film, 15 minutes
I’m allowing a little personal continuity here, as John Smith’s The Black Tower, 2007, featured in my spring 2015 show ‘The Presence of Absence’. In it, a complicated dance between what is and isn’t real starts from the simple device of filming a water tower from a number of angles to suggest differing locations. Jennet Thomas takes Smith in her own weirdly compelling low-fi direction. Visually distinctive people struggle with the subjectivity of their attempts to engage with something just beyond their comprehension, the shifting shape of which they can no more pin down than they can work out what one of them calls ‘the meaning embedded in the relation of things’. Is it epistemology or religion they’re grappling with? Or art?
Paul Carey-Kent, Curator
It started with a brunch to choose rooms:
|Rebecca, Claire and Emily|
|Jennet tucks in|
|Brian Dawn with Oona|
|Oona brought in the Jam|
Then the installation:
|Emma hanging a heart|
|Oona positioning jerry's lunch|
|Selma with her work|
|Rana in her room|
|Miriam with her foxglove works|
|Oona with ceramic potato|
|Natasha in her room|
|Rana's outside work No. 625 I. Drawing by night|
|Me with Selma and Emma|
|Oona and family|
|Miriam explains to Poppy Whatmore|
|That's Emma's most understanding husband, Fox, next to her|
|Rana's outside work by day|
Contact: Emma Cousin firstname.lastname@example.org 07841832501
Press enquiries: Emily Austin email@example.com 07733321395
Address: 52 Whitbread Road, Brockley, London SE4 2BE
Generously sponsored by Cooper’s Bakehouse
Transport: Brockley (Overground & southern), Crofton park (Thames Link)