Damien Hirst

Why we’ve started putting on exhibitions instead of just writing about them… (the state of the London art scene)…

And so the time has come for the second group show that Artsleuth has been involved in curating, organising, and in the same breath co-founding a collective of over fifty emerging artists, blah blah, yes. The opening party is tonight. Here is a few sneak preview pics below…

Its been an awesome experience, and it feels like there is so much more to this project and ways to grow this thing.

The idea came together with an artist from Finland, Nora Emilia, who paints incredible portraits and never exhibits. Why? Because she has no artistic network here in London, and she can’t afford to exhibit in an expensive show, she doesn’t know any galleries that will give her a chance, how to go about the whole thing and can’t even afford her own studio. So she just paints in her house and the cat gets all the joy.

Sod it, we thought. If we could only just find a space at minimum rent and enough artists in the same position, we might just be able to do something about it ourselves.

There is so much exciting fresh art coming out of London still, but these are not the boom days where anyone could find a half-empty butchers on Brick Lane and set up a speakeasy selling cans of red stripe. Venues are hard to come by at cheap rent. East and now South London has gone to the boring office workers and post-hipsters as we all know, and so those budding artists have retreated to their bedrooms. On top of that, although there are small pockets of artists living in one area, like Tottenham, this is a very different environment from the likes of Tracey Emin/Sarah Lucas and particularly those that followed them and eventually triggered actual galleries opening up all around Bethnal Green and the East End. In those days there was a concentrated mass of artists and art lovers living in one place, with Brick Lane, Redchurch and Vyner Street at the epicentre. People trawled around the streets every Thursday knowing they would stumble across openings without checking if anything was on. You had your audience right there in a place where you could fall over the empty cheap spaces.

But in this harsher environment. THERE IS STILL HOPE! we shout. YOU CAN STILL DO IT IF YOU WANT TO – JUST DO IT.

With the Bedroom Artists Collective we are not thinking small. For our first show we found a huge ‘meanwhile’ ex-office space taken on by the Hive Dalston for community projects who charge minimum rent for art shows (and are lovely, lovely people too). We put a call out in artjobs.co.uk and lo-and-behold over 50 artists responded. All worked without studios, had day jobs or studied or both, all loved the idea. By the time we got down to the nitty-gritty we still had 36 artists and we put on an incredible show. Photos below – but read on because there is more!

The Hive event showed the huge interest out there for low level, rough and ready exhibitions. In reality they are the best type of exhibition, because not only are you enjoying the art but how a space has been used creatively for something it wasn’t meant to be used for. And if its temporary too, it makes it a unique experience.

People can’t even afford the rent on their own flats these days let alone a studio space, or the extra time, the effort, it takes to promote yourself as an artists, to get that extra level more advanced at your practice (and your passion) on top of your day job. Its a real struggle for most artists out there that are ’emerging’ or as we now like to say ‘submerged’ because some of them have been that way for years.

It all comes down to money (and lack of it).

So the Bedroom Artists Collective want to bridge the gap. We didn’t know we did but the more we work on this project the more we realise that is exactly how we fit in. We’re giving artists a leg up. Once you exhibit you get that buzz, you want to do it again, you get more ideas, you see your work up in a gallery space, it makes you think – what should I do next? Not only that you get the chance to find other artists, collaborate or help each other in some way, you get promotion through the collectives online channels, you get something on your portfolio, you get to network with other artists and you get your artwork out there to new audiences.

And what does everyone else get? To see exciting, unusual art that pushes the boundaries in weird unusual spaces. And we find that a lot of the people that come to the shows do some sort of creativity themselves in their homes, and it gets them thinking too. Possibly inspiring them.

So we think if you want to go round the establishment you still can. Its exactly the same as it always was. And the more people that do it the better.

So for anyone out there with big ideas or beautiful incredible things sitting in their home, its not that hard if you have a bunch of people to do it with you (and you can find them easily through artjobs and other sites), and you can do it on a shoe-string just like we did (our budget for the Hive show was £400 for 36 artists exhibiting and we split the bill between everyone). It just takes a bit of creative thinking and that’s what artists are good at right? There will be abandoned spaces near you, there will be spaces that owners don’t know what to do with, just sitting there, that will welcome a bit of money for an event that brings people to their place.

Anyway…it’s interesting being on the other side.

n.b: Come and check out our second show on Brick Lane. This one is a little show, with 14 artists, we got the space in a basement with the door directly onto Brick Lane itself because the owner wasn’t using the space, for an incredibly cheap rent – we found that if you just ask sometimes you get. This time we wanted to try a show curated on a theme. We’d love to see you there Artsleuth readers 🙂 see the facebook invite below:

The Carnal & The Concrete: Group Show, Bedroom Artists Collective

If you are interested in joining our collective we’d love to have you. Email us at bedroomartists@gmail.com


Next time… back to regular Artsleuth business!




Frieze – it’s all about the Art or the buy sell buy sell?

Going to Frieze Art Fair is a bit like shopping at TK Maxx. You sift through the good, the bad, the humorous and the downright bizarre-what-is-that-actually-meant-to-be-anyway? And leave after three hours (you have lost the exit) feeling confused. Your own idea of taste has been so diminished by the sheer amount of stuff you have been bombarded with in a short amount of time you leave with a pair of purple leather trousers that you will never wear (ok that’s just TK Maxx).

The difference with TK Maxx, on a Thursday afternoon is that Hugh Grant is not milling around with a French Brunette on his arm.

This year the good stuff was great.

The bad were shocking. The photos of strategically naked Japanese women tied up with rope were really quite rank.

And there was a lot of indifferent.

Talking of the good, Dirk Skreber’s incredible painting Air Force 4.0 at Gallery Luis Campana was excellent to get up close to and see in the flesh.

Arndt and Parter Gallery, Berlin, had some really cool stuff, including one of those tattooed pigs that have been making the headlines recently. Unfortunately it was a stuffed one. They also had exciting work by Reena Kallat. Stamps (as in the librarian type) had been arranged inside a glass container to create the impression of a face. Doesn’t sound that special but was really well done.

Sterling Ruby ’s work seemed cropped up twice, impressive sculptures made out of Formica, a type of plastic, melted and reformed into huge dripping sculptures that resemble a wax. It was nice to see a Tomory Dodge, a sublime rainbow-on-black abstract painting typical of his most recent work at the CGR Gallery, from New York.

Talking points this year were parrots that had apparently been taught to bark like dogs. Although this seemed highly dependent on the parrot’s mood. And singular glass smoking booths, a working installation, each smoker entirely exposed to an audience as they puff away on the most public fag they will ever have.

Sadly little of the renowned London galleries stood out from the pack. The White Cube for instance displayed Damien Hirsts we have all seen a thousand times before and not much else of any interest. It could have been the exactly the same works as lasts year. Damian could have preserved the whole thing in formaldehyde for this year. Nobody would have noticed.

The thing is, when it boils down to it, Frieze is a fair and the galleries are here to sell.

Curatorial concerns are not top of the list. Most galleries play it safe; they exhibit one or two works from each artist they represent including the ones they find it difficult to sell so that a passing collector can see the full range.

Those that had guts, and treated their space like they were putting on their own exhibition centering on a theme, separated them from the rest.

A gallery based in Old Street, Cabinet, covered the top of their room to create a darkened, quiet atmosphere, and exhibited caricatures and projections. You could put headphones on and listen to Tris Von-Michelle as he jabbered away in stunted conversation whilst taking in the rest of the works. The black and white theme also pulled it all together.

Appetite Gallery from Buenos Aires, billing themselves as ‘radical and contemporary’ lived up to their name. Their space from top to bottom was a controlled mess of art and rubbish, used paper coffee cups lining the sides. A crazily dressed Argentinean lady was asked whether you would like an appointment with ‘the Cotton Man’. Most people survive this meeting apparently, but not with all their clothes in the state they arrived in.

It is just a shame that with this lack of concern for cohesion and the huge concern for the big sale, the galleries have lost sense. They have no interest in producing something for the rest of us, the little people. The ‘general public’ has to pay 20+ pounds to see this hyped jumble sale. Grow some balls galleries! Put on a show next year please!

The Future Can Wait, Kounter Kulture and Saatchi – 4 Sensations

The Truman Breweries’ triple art fair extravaganza: Kounter Kulture, Saatchi – 4 New Sensations and The Future Can Wait, are most definitely worth a visit and more so as they are exactly zero pounds entry.

The Future Can Wait stands out as being something special due to the diversity of content and the vast warehouse setting lending the perfect space for mind-bending installations.

You are greeted by a huge statue of Bert from Sesame Street (by Christopher Davies) rotating continuously, creating what can only be described as a perpetual mono-brow. Genius.

Janak Odedra’s clever Project KA’ is an assemblage of found car-parts recreated into the shape of a car. The parts now defunct from commercial purpose are transformed into useful objects of artistic purpose.

Aisling Hedgecock is another artist who uses human debris as a material for her work. ‘Saracen’ is a group of hefty structures made up of mini polystyrene balls which now resemble a futuristic coral reef. Their appeal is their transient state, unlike Project KA their form is not fully complete, a live organism.

Licking Dogs’ by Angela Bartram is beyond the bizarre, but apparently not beyond the realms of contemporary art, as it is a video of a woman snogging a dog. Snogging; defined by full tongue on tongue action. The dog, it must be said, is now probably very confused about human interrelations.

Among other gems are Andrea Gregson’s ‘Borrower-sized’ fantasy worlds. Peep through wooden boxes taken from her Headspace and Wonderland exhibition in 2006. Also Kim Rugg’s intricate collages made from the front page of The Guardian. Each letter down to the very smallest type has been painstakingly cut and re-arranged so that they are in alphabetical order and stuck back on the page.

And Gordon Cheung’s enormous triptych, ‘Death Cuts Full 1’ with his signature background made from stock listings, draws you into a fantasy landscape of trippy perspective.

Kounter Kulture centers on themes of sub-culture; heavily concentrating on the ‘Street Art’ genre, kitsch, cartoon and pop art legacy, print and graphic design trends.

Pieces from old favourites such as Eine put up a minor appearance alongside the main body of less established artists, there also a few pieces being flogged from high ranking artists such as a David Hockey print and a spot painting print signed by Damien Hirst going for around 25k. Probably the most highly priced art work in the whole fair.

William Tuck, is exhibiting a very Koons-esq series of oil paintings, smoothly painted to the point of giving the impression of lamination. They consist of porn-star women recreating Bottichellian style scenes. Questioning how the original paintings might have been received in the Renaissance by some, along with presenting a merge of high art with newsagent top-shelf literature. Interesting, but perhaps something not particularly ground-breaking.

Snuck into a corner are Laurie Hodgekin’s Vanitas paintings of evil technicolor monkeys, intricately painted so each hair on the monkeys has a spiky realism. Although small paintings, these are significant as they push against the mainstream with their heavy gold frames, Dutch master painting style and warped Gremlin figures.

Stephen Dryden‘s, ‘Undo‘ and ‘What About My Mother‘ are rather more removed from the central theme of the fair. They are faceless figures made out of woollen threads which unravel past the shoulder into a woollen mess, as if they are melting into the floor. Very Antony Gormely in a fresh and inspiring way.

Works from Stuart Semple and Nathan James including paintings from the MASH UPS exhibition are also present (see earlier review on Art Sleuth).

And Wang Zhi Jie series ‘ Little Girls’ portraits with blown up heads and popsicle colours twist the Manga genre.

Unfortunately 4 New Sensations, an art competition in collaboration with Channel 4 was not entirely sensational, but showed the budding possibilities of fresh out of college artists. Which is the whole point.

Definitely worth a jaunt, among the four winners, Mark Davey’s moving rotary contraptions and the paintings Robert Sherwood stand out.

Photos all from The Future Can Wait in order from top to bottom:

© Aisling Hedgecock, Gordon Cheung, Kim Rugg, Angela Bartram, courtesy of The Future Can Wait www.thefuturecanwait.com


Can nobody see the wood for the trees?

Damien Hirst’s conceptual one liner is a tool that he uses to create work with a high selling value. A thin verneer that he uses to hide the real reason he creates art these days. He is like an aged rock star who keeps producing crap singles long after the other band members have given up. And it is all most probably fueled by a burning desire to expand the conservatory in his mansion to encompass a football pitch or something.

The news that Hirst has decided to cut out the middleman by exhibiting his work at Sotheby’s and therefore going straight to sale is no surprise to me.

According to the Art Newspaper (http://www.theartnewspaper.com/article.asp?id=8164): Sotheby’s Senior International Specialist Oliver Barker claims that the sale has “the wholehearted support of Damien’s dealers…who recognise his rulebreaking charisma.”

Eh hrmm. Does someone smell a dissected rat preserved in formaldehyde?

Bet the galleries ain’t too happy either.

What Hirst is doing these days is not art. It is making money. And possibly a little bit of a PR stunt too. Yes Hirst’s art was rulebreaking. But now it is money making.

It is also ‘old hat’, as my grandmother would say (possibly, although it could be so ‘old hat’ she might actually like it). I guarantee that this new exhibition will be a slightly jigged-about repetition of his other work. There will be little refreshing, original or exciting content about it. Okay okay, I might have to eat my hat (enough about hats). But this is my prediction.

The diamond skull that I viewed in a private setting alongside Jeffrey Archer, (woops name dropping again!) is a perfect example of this.

And now my rant is over, back to the art.

cartoon: http://www.chrismadden.co.uk/

Mona Hatoum – at Parasol Unit

You want to see conceptual art with a serious message?

Mona Hatoum presents real conflicts existing in our world today yet embodies her own personal narrative through her extraordinary art, in a sincere and accessible way.

Here at the Parasol Unit a particularly flash gallery, a most incredible space in fact, selected sculptures and instillation pieces made by her over the past 12 years make a powerful exhibition.

Much of her work reflects her background, some work comments on the issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and some on more generic worldwide feelings of insecurity, displacement and fragility.

Feminine, personal, and full of colour, Mobile Home II (2006)  is a structure consisting of suitcases, furniture, handkerchiefs attached to moving wires. Relating to the relocation of families it is also probably partly a testament to her own displacement from Lebanon in the 70’s when she had to start a new life in Britain as the civil war broke out.

Nature morte aux grenades (2008)  consists of a variety of pretty pastel coloured glass objects in hand grenade shapes arranged on a steel trolley. These objects could be a decorative ornament on your mantelpiece, but for their sinister forms. Their colours and arrangement on a surgical trolley seem to relate to Damien Hirst’s cabinets full of glass bottles and colourful pills – although his work focuses on a death, but not on war.

Hatoum has tried to disconnect herself from Saatchi’s ‘crew’ in the past, refusing to sell him works at the height of the art surge in the 90’s.
Being 10 years older than most of these artists and focusing on differing issues most her art has an entirely different outlook. Yet perhaps in this piece, which is new, some influences have snuck in?

Undercurrent (2004), a floor instillation, is a squirming mass of thick electrical wires extending from a woven middle into a radius of stark yellow light bulbs.
It is a cold and collected piece distinctly different others in this collection. Using only metal and harsh lighting. You see no colourful emotion or Hatoum’s own personality warming this piece. It relies on the hard facts of material and form to stir up anxiety in the viewer. You can’t quite place exactly what the instillation is representing, yet you can see it is a tense, uneasy and fragile object – the middle being a metal woven rug-like thing, (but not the most comfortable of rugs) with fragility exhuming from it. You might accidentally step on one of the light bulbs for instance! Something makes you think of torture, possible death from electricity or other such things. The domesticity of the household light bulbs, the idea of a rug gives out to other unnerving possibilities, and ultimately the fragile nature of comfort.

Totally eerie is the mobile hung in the middle of a small room lit so cut outs of soldiers and stars rotate around the walls of an otherwise pitch black space.
I say eerie not because it makes you feel slightly tipsy after a glass of wine. No. But because the simple imagery of the night you get from it is not a nice cosy night. It is a scary, war-torn night where childhood consists of nightmares.

Her repeated creations of the maps of the world using the ‘Peters Projection’ (a map made from accurate landmass, rather than from a western perspective) in different surfaces (cotton, rice paper and a household rug) spell out issues surrounding world territories.

Surreal yet purposeful, her work is a fusion of moral interpretation and artistic expression.

In fact if there is one exhibition you should see this month this is it. And that is because you will get something profound out of it.

Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art
13 June – 8 August 2008

Mona Hatoum
Nature morte aux grenades, 2006-2007 (detail)
Crystal, mild steel, rubber
95 x 208 x 70 cm
Photo credit: Marc Domage
Courtesy the artist and Jay Jopling / White Cube, London
Copyright Mona Hatoum 2008

Mona Hatoum
Undercurrent, 2004
Electric cable, light bulbs, computerised dimmer unit
Diameter: 372 9/16 in. (Diam. 950 cm)
Photo credit: Mattias Givell
Courtesy Jay Jopling/ White Cube (London)
© Mona Hatoum 2008

Mona Hatoum
Static, 2006
Steel chair, glass beads and wire
40 3/16 x 22 1/16 x 27 9/16 in. (102 x 56 x 70 cm)
Photo credit: Daina Moussa
Courtesy Town House Gallery, Cairo, 2005
© Mona Hatoum 2008

Mona Hatoum
Globe, 2007
Mild steel
Diameter: 66 15/16 in. (Diam. 170 cm)
Photo: Ela Bialkowska
Courtesy Galleria Continua, San Gimignano-Beijing and Jay Jopling/ White Cube (London)
© Mona Hatoum 2008