London Art Fair 2020

We had a great debut at the London Art Fair 2020, met lots of lovely people and hope to be back next year too. We’ve got a small video of the booth so you can have a look too!

Mark Wallinger

Mark Wallinger is a British artist, best known for his sculpture for the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, Ecce Homo, and State Britain, a recreation at Tate Britain of Brian Haw’s protest display outside parliament. He won the Turner Prize in 2007 for his work State Britain.

Works

Lucien Smith

Smith creates work that traverses a spectrum of styles and concerns, from chance to purpose, spare to saturated, sublime to familiar. These visual approaches, or conceptual directives, may combine and overlap in one piece, or spread individually through a body of work – each idea originally segregated, fully integrates when understood as an oeuvre. His work acts as a tangible moment, a chronicle of exploration, as he negotiates with existence. He reminds us that an artist’s trajectory is a sensory reflection of individual experience. Lucien Smith received his BFA from Cooper Union in 2011. Recent solo exhibitions include Good Vibrations at Half Gallery, New York, NY, and Seven Rain Paintings at OHWOW, Los Angeles, CA. This year, Smith’s work was also included in Merci Mercy, curated by Christine Messineo, New York, NY, and in Beyond the Object, at Brand New Gallery, Milan, Italy.

Painter, sculptor, film-maker

Lucien Smith is an American artist, b.1989. He lives and works in New York. Smith received a BFA in painting from the Cooper Union School of Art. He has had solo exhibitions in Paris, New York, Kansas, London and LA.

For Smith, introspection, self-revelation and ‘inner navigation’ are used as tools to find inspiration for his works. Each artistic project and phase is directly inspired by his present psychological state. As a result, his works are intensely personal whilst simultaneously assuming an abstract or inanimate aesthetic.

While the paintings from his ‘Rain series’ are superficially calm and the sculptures from his ‘Scrap Metal’ series (both depicted bellow) are apparently lifeless and impersonal, they all harbour a deeper emotional narrative. Smith bridges the two with his focus on the artistic process. By deriving his method of work directly from the emotion or narrative he wishes to express, the work becomes dependant on its means of production. In many ways, his works can be considered as the imprints and tracks left behind by an earlier existence. His art becomes the product or legacy of a particular occurrence – the quasi crime-scene bearing the marks and impressions of a bygone narrative

Smith continually plays with the relationship between an object’s appearance and its story. In this respect, we can detect the influence of Dan Colen, under whom Smith worked as a studio assistant. Colen’s work often appears to depict the aftermath of an cartoon / action movie epic (for instance, Colen’s ‘Sweet Liberty’ exhibition, 2017-18, in which pop-figure sculptures were splayed across the gallery floors, apparently having just run through the walls, leaving body-shaped holes in the walls of the exhibition space). Smith’s ‘Scrap Metal’ sculptures assume a similar status; the
numerous bullet holes penetrating the armour of the metal objects tell the story of action and movement. As with Colen’s ‘Sweet Liberty’, we feel that we are present at what has been the scene of a great upheaval. Smith’s work is less overt in this respect than Colen’s: we are only presented with the aftermath. The perpetrator has long gone, the agent of motion has deserted the scene and remains anonymous. Contextually isolated, the objects are suspended in a liminal space between artifice and reality.

Continuous throughout Smith’s work is the attention given to the relationship between the artist and his environment: the tension between spontaneous, external influence and premeditated human design. Examples of this can be seen in the effect of gravity on the haze of paint in ‘Rain Paintings’, on the uncontrollable gun-fire used to create ‘Scrap Metal’ and on the direction of the paint flow as it was poured across the canvases of his ‘Tigris’ works.

A series of notable series:
‘Rain Paintings’, 2011 This series of abstractions were created by Smith unleashing fire extinguishers filled with paint. Smith views rain as a symbol of loneliness – an association which was compounded for him by reading comic books in which there was often a moment of isolation and defeat: the protagonist withdraws, removes himself from the graphic
action and is shrouded by an aura of melancholic raindrops as he departs. As such, Smith’s attention to rain and spraying paint can be considered as a direct reflection of a deeper fixation on – and experimentation with –
loneliness, isolation and a contemplation of the self.

Smith has publicised that he was emotionally traumatised whilst producing the ‘Rain Paintings’. The explosive method of production that the fire extinguisher enabled proved to be a cathartic experience for Smith and became an external expression of his inner tumult. Ironically, the result was a series of monochromatic abstractions and expressions that combine to create an image that is calm and soothing to the eye.

The importance of the fire-extinguisher’s function is clear; as it is an object designed to pacify a blaze and save lives from incineration, it is only right that the fire-extinguisher should have served to alleviate Smith’s pain. But
the apparatus serves another purpose: by allowing paint to be sprayed at a canvas from a considerable distance, the fire extinguisher enables Smith to experiment with the influence of chance and gravity.

Smith is intrigued by the relationship between artist and his environment, spontaneous influence and human design. He has continued to work with the role of chance and the influence of external environmental factors, such as gravity, were central to his most recent series, ‘Tigris’.

‘Tigris’ series, 2014

This series marks a shift in artistic style that was inspired by a change in life-style. By moving out of the city and temporarily immersing himself in nature, Smith was able to obtain a new appreciation for a spirituality which
claims to have incorporated into his work.

Smith deploys loose brush strokes to depict the river flow, ultimately pouring entire containers of paint on canvases in order to allow the paint to flow relatively freely.

‘Imagined Nostalgia’, 2011 – first solo exhibition – Cooper Union Gallery in New York.

A collaboration with is friend Jack Siegel, exhibiting the human tendency to adorn, idolise and glorify memories from the past. The show featured cereal boxes, toys and yearbook photos and centred on our desire to feel held and
secure in a past context and existence.

The exhibition was inspired by his textbooks from his college course on European Tourism which featured a marketing strategy that organised recreational tours filled with childhood nostalgia. Filled with tropes and popcultural archetypes, these holiday packages seemed to tap into a common adult desire to be re-submerged in the rose-tinted bubble of their childhood.

‘Imagined Nostalgia’, 2011 – first solo exhibition – Cooper Union Gallery in New York.

A collaboration with is friend Jack Siegel, exhibiting the human tendency to adorn, idolise and glorify memories from the past. The show featured cereal boxes, toys and yearbook photos and centred on our desire to feel held and
secure in a past context and existence.

The exhibition was inspired by his textbooks from his college course on European Tourism which featured a marketing strategy that organised recreational tours filled with childhood nostalgia. Filled with tropes and popcultural archetypes, these holiday packages seemed to tap into a common adult desire to be re-submerged in the rose-tinted bubble of their childhood.

Works

Henry Codax

Henry Codax, began to exhibit his works in New York in 2011. His exhibition history aside, there is little biographical information on the artist, who prefers to remain unidentified.

Since 2011 Codax painted his canvases in monochromatic colours. His reduced palette make him contemplating authenticity and authorship. In its consequece, the radical reduction is a device to flatten the meaning and individuality of every painting – ironically it has become something of a trademark of Codax himself.

Codax work is radically minimal, it is pure in colour and it is huge in scale. Here, the specific proportions of these possibilities include six paintings in total, five large square diptychs and one smaller, vertical and half sized rectangle.

Works

Brad Grievson

In understated, mixed-media works merging collage, painting, drawing, and photography, conceptual artist Brad Grievson explores how the meaning of materials and images is continually transformed by the ways in which they are used, accumulated, seen, and circulated. He often works with remnants from other projects—pages torn from magazines, pieces of fabric, scraps of paper—incorporating them into new compositions, in which they appear, in his words, “suspended [in a] state between partial and total destruction.” This is apparent in Grievson’s “Shutters” series (2014), in which he affixes scraps of black casement fabric to white canvases in patchwork patterns. Ordinarily used for making such utilitarian things as curtains, tablecloths, and upholstery, the fabric is transformed on the canvas into rough-edged geometric shapes in a minimalist composition, or into obscuring shutters, blocking access to the familiar surface of the canvas.

Brad Grievson (b. 1986, Milton Keynes, UK) studied Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art, and studied his MA at the Royal Academy Schools, 2010-2013. He lives and works in London.

Brad Grievson is a conceptual artist known for his mixed media works, combining collage, painting, drawing, photography and digital reproduction. Initially inspired by the flat aesthetic of cartoon and pop culture, Grievson’s pieces generally appear to occupy a single optical plane. However, he challenges this aesthetic through his use of collage, incorporating multiple layers. This gives his works an unusual sculptural presence which exists in tandem with their apparent simplicity.

Grievson explores how the meaning of a material or image is continually transformed by the way in which it is accumulated, deployed, seen and circulated. Grievson often works with remnants from other projects—pages torn from magazines, pieces of fabric and scraps of paper—incorporating them into new compositions, in which they appear, in his words, “suspended [in a] state between partial and total destruction”. By re-cycling the remnants from earlier creative processes, Grievson’s work becomes delicately auto-biographical.

The conceptual implications of his collage-work is apparent in Grievson’s ‘Shutters’ series (2014), in which he affixes scraps of black casement fabric to white canvases in patchwork patterns. The fabric is transformed on the canvas into rough-edged geometric shapes in a minimalist composition: shutters which block the viewer’s access to the familiar surface of the canvas.

The phenomenon of obstruction is similarly apparent too in ‘Pullout’ (featured). Much of the canvas is masked, covered by overlapping layers of fabric all competing to envelope it. We are left unsure as to whether this is a protective or repressive act.

However, the work’s most intriguing unknown field lies not between canvas and fabric but between the patches themselves. The gentle, impressionable nature of the material obliges it to follow and reflect the outline of the piece beneath it: the points of overlap become clear and the framework of the piece becomes transparent. Yet, despite being so very aware of its presence, we are unable to see the piece of fabric once it dips behind the hood of another. We, the viewer, are shut out. Out of an almost perverse curiosity, our attention is drawn to the to that which we cannot see. Despite being seemingly two dimensional and optically flat, ‘Pullout’ is unusually sculptural in the way in which it command’s and leads the viewer’s attention into another plane.

The fascination with layering is central to Grievson’s work. He is famously intrigued by the particularities of differing surfaces and is known to combine these different presences in multi-media compositions. Grievson elevates the scope of the traditional collage and uses the layering of different materials to experiment with the cumulative effect of their various eccentricates.

The artist views the interaction between the materials in his work almost like a dialogue. He compares this collaboration with a scene from ‘Snoopy come home’“It is a scene about language and communication, interpretation and representation. I was thinking a lot about how my work communicates differently depending on how the materials and formal decisions are arranged”. The influence of cartoon and pop-culture can be identified in his optically flat aesthetic and his occasionally playful humour.

Grievson notes that he is not just interested in the appearance of the final piece but also in the process and qualities of the art-making its self. His works typically draw attention to the artistic process in two ways: first, Grievson’s penchant for mixed media pays homage to a range of traditionally distinct artistic disciplines and creative processes. His artistic progression subtlety pays tribute to the expanse of mediums available to the modern-day artist. Secondly, his practice of layering produces work in which this artistic process is ultimately very overt. We regard the collage with an almost naïve familiarity; the simple cutting, placing and sticking process is comfortable, tangible and identifiable. Unlike so much other conceptual art from the last century (from minimalist sterility to post-modernist confusion), we are intuitively able to comprehend the constructive process of layering two dimensional substances. Grievson capitalises on the familiarity of his process such that his pieces become a tribute to, as well as a product of, their creation.

The artist has also been known to use digital manipulation to play with scale: intimate every-day features such as the surface of a river or a sunbather’s back are blown up, out of proportion. The images distort in the process and what was once a personal detail is transmuted into a bold, abstracted presence. This practice allows Grievson to cheekily juxtapose modesty and gregariousness – the ordinary and the gargantuan.

A SERIES OF NOTABLE SERIES:

‘STRAY HAIRS’

This series was inspired by the 1972 cartoon ‘Snoopy come home’. Both the animation and the artistic series serve as a linguistic milestone for their respective creators: for the first time, ‘Snoopy’ speaks and Grievson uses words in his work.

Grievson also notes that he was inspired by abstract film makers and the aesthetic of the American avant-garde ; “I was also looking at Robert Breer at lot, particularly works like ‘69’ (1969)”.

The artist transfers photocopied pieces of cardboard and drawings of construction wood onto red monochromatic foundations. The images appear almost to recall an abstracted form of the graphic novel.

Grievson establishes a playful commentary on the artistic medium : in this series, modern, digital media is assuming the aesthetic of wood, perhaps the most iconic traditional material.

As in his earlier show ‘Stray hairs’, we continue to see the influence of animation and two-dimensional pop imagery in these works. The artist notes, “It seemed relevant to be looking at animation because I was thinking about how my own works were organised as flat images and how works formally develop from one to the next.”

Brad Grievson’s later collage works also evoke broad-sheet newspapers by mirroring their the measurements and format. The broadsheet features in the artist’s studio, used to uses to prepare the space for working during an informal process of composition that involves laying newspaper along the floor. Grievson notes:

“I was interested in the doubly, but very differently, representative gestures of the tearing of the paper and the printer-like straight lines which composed the drawings. I find it interesting that newspapers are simultaneously very highly considered and designed documents, which are have particular styles, content, adopted political stances etc., and at the same time constitute a huge body of paper material that finds its way into different kinds of uses and situations as a type of lowest-of-the-low, bricolage material. They’re interesting to use because they straddle image and object in that way.”

Works

Erik Lindman

Erik Lindman is a conceptual artist concerned with the culling and reinterpretation of residual objects cast aside during the creative process. Sometimes taking portions of failed paintings or destroyed fragments left around the studio, he creates mixed-media paintings and collage, working intuitively and spontaneously. “It ends up becoming positive in a way, instead of nihilistic. It’s the way this leftover stuff becomes the material.” Rejecting notions of finished (“post-studio”) work, he is fascinated with the possibilities that exist within the studio experience.

Erik Lindman was born in New York, 985. He completed a paining fellowship at Yale University before completing his Bachelor of Art at Columbia University in 2007. He lives and works in New York.

Lindman has had a series of notable solo exhibitions around the globe, featuring in London, New York, Geneva, Chicago, Brussels and Paris. These include at the Almine Rech, the Ribordy Contemporary, the Hannah Barry Gallery, the West Street Gallery and the V&A, New York.

Erik Lindman’s work is concerned with the culling and reinterpretation of residual objects, either ‘found’ or cast aside during the creative process. Sometimes taking portions of failed paintings or destroyed fragments left around the studio, he creates mixed-media paintings and collages, working intuitively and spontaneously.

He uses the defects of the both the canvas and his ‘failed’ materials as creative inspiration. “It ends up becoming positive in a way, instead of nihilistic. It’s the way this leftover stuff becomes the material”. Rejecting notions of finished (‘post-studio’) work, he is fascinated with the possibilities that exist within the studio experience.

One of the ways in which Lindman emphasises the fundamental importance of his ‘found’ material is by levelling it with the canvas so that the object is united with the structure of the art work. Lindman notes: “I use these surfaces as flat planes and tend to level their dimensionality by bringing the edge of the found surface into a continuous level with the surface of the canvas. The surfaces are adhered and screwed into canvas-wrapped panels … awareness of the scale and the negative space around the found element make up much of my work.”

This process is unusually executed in ‘Nanny’, 2012.

Lindman has painted the material such that the satin partakes in the negative space as well as being the subject. Moreover, despite being partially concealed in white paint, the folds, twists and contours of the covered fabric still command the viewer’s attention. Ironically, we are almost more drawn to the obscured. The soft, comfortable and familiar nature of the fabric has been altered such that it assumes a novel aesthetic and commands a new degree of respect from its audience. As such, ‘Nanny’s metamorphosis is reflective of the process by which Lindman’s re-envisions and re-establishes existing entities.

‘UNTILED’, 2012

This piece is a prime example of Lindman’s fascination with the surfaces of found objects. The disruption of the smooth Plexiglas is breaks into the work’s ‘canvas’, almost rendering it a piece of sculpture. Lindman challenges our notion of the three pigeon holes of art – sculpture, painting and architecture – by creating a simple piece that combines all three. In this respect, ‘Untitled’ is reminiscent of Lucio Fontana’s iconic slashed canvases. The violence and revolt of this piece is seen in the imperfection of the mark. Unlike the sensual, meditated slits that feature in Fontana’s work, Lindman has created a rupture in the surface of his material that appears more determined by chance. The contour of the rupture seems to reflect same serendipity as his process of sourcing his materials. Lindman’s is a practice of interacting with the world and letting his environment lead and govern his work.

ARTIST’S STATEMENT:

“My work often uses anonymous found surfaces as compositional elements: found sheets of painted luan, fragments of plastic armatures, or marred shards of stainless steel are joined, glued, and screwed together, initiating a cascade of decisions that ultimately articulate value and attention.

Cropping, awareness of scale and use of negative space combine with the absorbency, luminosity and superficial variation of these surfaces. All of this activity opens a space within the world around me, specifically focusing attention on painting’s cultural ramifications and the plain facts of their existence. I continually attempt to construct painting anew, calling attention to the reality that surface is always a coming together of materials made to adhere to each other. In this same way, my sculpture is an extension of this practice, but unlike the paintings, they investigate a sequential series of viewpoints, each dissimilar and separate from the next.

Instead of assuming a wholly autobiographical stance, my presence as an artist serves as a conduit through which each individual viewer is invited to participate in the shared activity of remaking our world, here and now, out of the things that exist around and within us.”

Works

Georg Baselitz

Counting among his influences Art Brut, Art Informel, and Abstract Expressionism, as well as artists Edvard Munch and Wassily Kandinsky, German artist Georg Baselitz’s work is characterized by expressionistic mark-making and unrefined, even grotesque, figurative depiction. Working in painting, drawing, printmaking, and monumental wood sculpture, Baselitz often addresses issues related to German national identity post-World War II, particularly the role of German artists. Along with Anselm Kiefer, Baselitz was chosen to represent Germany at the 1980 Venice Biennale, exhibiting a monumental wooden sculptural figure that appeared to be making a Nazi salute, causing an eruption of controversy and bringing the question of contemporary German identity to the fore. Baselitz is closely associated with fellow artists A.R. Penck and Eugen Schöenbeck, who demonstrate similar stylistic tendencies and emphasis on subject matter rather than strict abstraction.

Painter, sculptor, graphic artist

Georg Baselitz was born as Hans-Georg Kern in 1938 in Deutschbaselitz, Germany.

He is well known for his figurative, expressive paintings and has become an iconic member of the German neo-expressionist movement.

Baselitz’s numerous solo exhibitions include those held at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2007), Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina, Naples (2008), Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2009), Pinacoteca, São Paulo (2010), Albertina, Vienna (2013), and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2014).

He has been featured at the Venice Biennale twice (1980, 2019) and is currently being exhibited at the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

Georg Baselitz’s child hood was characterised by the suffering and demolition of World War II. The influence of destruction, nationalism and socio-political anguish continues to be a significant influence in his work.

Baselitz grew up in East Germany, later to become the GDR. Both his youth and early artistic career were conditioned by stringent socio-political codes against which he chafed. This struggle was ultimately to shape and determine his artistic career: Baselitz was sent down from the Academy of Art in East Berlin (where he was studying painting,1956) after only two terms for “socio-political immaturity”. It was this that caused him to apply to the Academy in West Berlin where he eventually graduated with a masterclass in 1963.

In the late 60’s, Baselitz made a series of efforts to make a shift from representational, content driven work to what would become an iconic, daring, expressive painting style. Bazelitz considers this transition to be a direct response to the tumult of his up-bringing. In an oft-cited interview with Donald Kuspit in Artforum 33 (no. 10, Summer 1995, p. 76), Bazelitz famously stated “I was born into a destroyed order, a destroyed landscape, a destroyed people, a destroyed society. And I didn’t want to re-establish an order: I had seen enough of so-called order. I was forced to question everything, to be ‘naive’, to start again.”

Aside from his bold, emotive and striking painting style, Baselitz’s most defining artistic characteristic has become his practice of inverting his paintings. The artist began the practise in 1969 in an attempt to break with the artistic codes that he felt he had, to a degree, internalised. By rotating the painting 180 degrees after completion, Bazelitz sought to re-focus the viewer on the pure pictorial merits of the painting and to emphasise the abstract qualities of the composition. Through this practice, Baseltiz was able to stresses the artifice of painting along with the artifice of artistic and political rules alike.

The trial proof for the ‘Adler’ portfolio (featured), is a good example of this inversion: the eagle (or, Adler) has been driven downwards, mid-flight, resulting in a capsized composition. The flicks of paint that would originally have conveyed an upwards kinetic energy are forced downwards.

The composition has an arresting top-heaviness that seems to defy gravity. The result is visually quite unusual: anti-logical, almost illogical. This is highly indicative of Baselitz’s philosophy of transgression.

The Reichsadler (“Imperial Eagle”) is featured on Germany’s coat of arms and serves as its national animal. The bird is a symbol of patriotism and allegiance to the state as well as, more universally, being associated with freedom. By choosing this symbol for his inversion, Baselitz’s statement is clear.

In his Adler series, Basellitz not only breaks optical, cultural and academic boundaries but also goes against the grain of his ‘revolutionary’ contemporaries. Although rebelling against the academic rules of painting was mainstream by the 1970’s, Baselitz’s work continued to stand out by channelling an expressionist paining style rather than following the conceptual art trend.

The featured study is of particular interest due to the use of a wood-block print to act as the base for his Fingermalerie (finger-paining). Firstly, Baselitz has had an affinity with wood blocks after first encountering Chiaroscuro woodcuts on a trip to Italy as a young artist. He went on to become an avid collector of these significant prints, many of which were later exhibited by the RA in their exhibition ‘Renaissance Impressions’.

Secondly, the juxtaposition of the wood-block print with the fluid, intuitive finger-art creates an interesting tension within the work between the reproducible and the original. Baselitz takes a clinical medium and is compelled to handle it, working it into a visceral expression. The exhibited trial proof beautifully serves to merge the spontaneous and the reproducible, eloquently conveying that which is at the heart of the artist’s process.

Notable exhibitions:

– the documenta 5 and 7 in 1972 and 1982,
– the Venice Biennale in 1980 and 2019
– the Royal Academy’s influential ‘A New Spirit in Painting’ in 1981 and again in 2007,
– the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina, Naples, 2008
– at the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 2009
– at the Pinacoteca, São Paulo, 2010
– Albertina, Vienna, 2013
– Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2014

Works

Ayan Farah

Ayan Farah makes unconventional mixed-media paintings, as well as installations, photographs, videos, and sound pieces, through which she explores the overlap between natural and manmade environments, and notions of chance and control. Her work, in her words, is “about weight and weightlessness, the making or the unmaking of the work and its nature, its cause and creation.” She is especially known for her work with textiles, which she weathers, stains, and otherwise alters with materials including terracotta, salt, vinegar, and ash. Working both inside and outdoors, she has buried textiles in the earth, left them outside to be beaten by wind and sun, and manipulated their surfaces with a mixture of acidic substances in her studio. Farah then drapes them onto wooden stretchers, where they appear as luminous abstractions, resonant with the time-based process of their making.

Born in the United Arab Emirates in 1978 as the daughter of Somali parents, she grew up in Sweden and Denmark and currently lives in London. She works all over the globe and her pieces bring together the various cultural perspectives of her life.

She studied Fine Arts at London’s Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, followed by Painting at London’s Royal College of Art.

Farah is an alchemist and a researcher; she creates unique of paintings made using unusual materials ranging from mud sourced from the Dead Sea to terracotta from Mexico and clay from Sweden. Each piece, each material, has a specific origin before being carefully treated by a different process. Her processes, though unorthodox, are tailored to produce a range of formal effects drawn from the traditions of painting. For instance, she might leave a canvas in a dried up well in the Somali desert or she might procure a piece of 19th Century Belgian fabric before carefully bleaching it in the sunlight of a specific location to obtain a very precise optic effect. As a result, each piece of fabric has its own story – its own history – before being woven together to create a single plane.

Despite carefully controlling and experimenting with the effects of different environments on her fabric, Farah’s process is ultimately dependent upon chance. To leave the final result of the work to the effects and whims of nature is to treat them as effects of nature. Although her placement of each material is carefully thought out, once she leaves the fabric in a natural environment she surrenders it to the influence of the elements. In this respect, each scrap can be considered a recovered – rather than a manufactured – artifact. Farah is as much the archeologist as she is the alchemist.

She is particularly well known for her works created by sewing together different fabrics (such as ‘Tahon’, featured by Blond Contemporary and pictured below). By sewing these different pieces together, Ayan Farah unites everything together on the same plane, both physically and conceptually. Because each fragment possesses an almost monochromatic colour, it’s individual history and the process behind its creation is not overt – it is left disguised. Until we know its story, each piece’s origin and creation story remain optically concealed.

This is very much intentional. We live in a society where most of the labour of productions outsourced. To the average individual, precisely this kind of labour and the history, use and value of materials and techniques are occluded.

Ayan Farah’s process is also clearly personal. As she brings the diverse histories of her fabrics together on one plane or into one exhibition, she unites them to create a single piece; each fragment contributes to the same work of art. In this respect, Farah’s work is almost autobiographical. The multitude of nationalities and cultures which shaped her up-bringing (UAE, Somalia, Sweden, London) all combine and contribute in different ways to shape her sense of a single, unique identity. Each piece of her history is an additional patch in her tapestry. Moreover, the artist often uses fragments or surplus cuts from her earlier artworks, weaving her creative past back into her present creative process.

Works

Ned Vena

Merging digital technology, industrial production, graffiti, and the handmade, Ned Vena makes paintings, sculptures, installations, and films through which he explores and, ultimately, upends notions of form, process, and concept in art making. Drawing inspiration from Minimalism, Op and Pop Art, and Frank Stella’s “Black Paintings,” he creates compositions out of an assortment of non-fine art materials—including vinyl, spray rubber, security glass, and commercial ink—which he covers with V-shaped, gridded lines, intentionally marred with a variety of surface imperfections. Vena begins on the computer, working out his angular grids, which he then transfers to canvases with vinyl stencils. He has also affixed these stencils directly onto gallery walls and other surfaces, blurring the boundaries between art and the everyday, and the unique, precious object and mass production.

Ned Vena completed the AICAD New York Studio Program in 2004, and earned his BFA from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2005. His work has been the subject of numerous solo shows, including at the Cohan and Leslie Gallery in New York, NY; Galerie Gebr, Lehmann in Berlin, Germany; Michael Benevento in Los Angeles, CA; White Flag Projects in St. Louis, MO; and Clifton Benevento in New York, NY.

Vena is a contemporary artist, primarily known for his abstract paintings and unusual choice of media. Inspired by the minimalism of the 1960’s Vena’s work experiments with the creation of a sterile, functional, absolute system that means nothing. These influences are clearly present in the bold geometry and line in Vena’s work.

However, the artist breaks with the clinical absolutism of the minimalist movement and allows for a subtle organic influence, evident, for instance, in the blurring of the lines in the lower left had corner of ‘Untitled’, 2011 (featured). In some respects this departure from the mechanical line seems to recognize and allow for the viewer’s inability to leave minimalist sterile; the audience intuitively reads into the work. The audience inevitably imposes their own perspective onto the art as they consider it. It is possible to argue that no work has ever succeeded in being truly ‘minimalist’ as it is piece of work is appropriate and made organic through the practice of human perception and contemplation. Perhaps Vena’s work avoids this ‘failing’ by occasionally including this blip of natural imperfection in his work.

(For this piece, Ned Vena begins his process on a computer using an angular grid. He then transfers this to canvas with vinyl stencils.)

This departure from the absolute sterility of a minimalist system is further evident in ‘Untitled’– Ned Vena , 2011 , (vinyl on aluminium) (pictured right , also courtesy of Blond Contemporary). In this piece – somewhat aesthetically reminiscient of 1930s Russian and Italian futurism – Vena marries the perfection, symmetry and geometry of the minimalist tradition with the fragmentation of 1930’s futurism. The relationship between the prominent vertical and diagonal lines – challenges the eye ; the easily recognisable and comprehensible vertical frame work is disrupted by an upward surge. The conceptual effect of this disruption – this ‘imperfection’- mirrors that of the splodge .

His bold use of line and provocative optics are occasionally evocative of Bridget Rieley’s optical illusions. Vena’s ‘Untitled’ 2009 (enamel on linin) (pictured, left) works with and against the human eye to manipulate its viewer.

Works

Louise Lawler

In a continuation of the institutional critique espoused by Conceptual artists such as Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, and Michael Asher, photographer Louise Lawler questions the very purpose and nature of art. Often presenting “behind-the-scenes” views of the art world, Lawler has photographed the Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach art fairs, the Museum of Modern Art, Christie’s auction house, and various galleries. Some of her best-known works include photographs of uniformed art handlers carefully transporting a Gerhard Richter painting, Maurizio Cattelan’s giant Picasso head in plastic wrapping, and a Damien Hirst spin-painting shown through a closet door.

Louise Lawler is a prominent member of the ‘Pictures Generation’ and marked as one of its most central by Douglas Crimp in his definitive essay ‘Why Pictures now’.

Lawler’s work is of high critical acclaim. Her contributions towards re-defining photography and conceptual art alike were celebrated by a retrospective at the MOMA (NY, NY) in 2017.

Central to Lawler’s photography is the exploration of the ways in which the context in which an artwork is displayed changes the meaning and appreciation of the work.

Some of her most iconic pieces depict other art work hanging in a gallery space : in the ‘white cube’. That is to say, without any further context. In Lawler’s photographs, the museum its self becomes the medium. The exhibition space becomes an aesthetic entity in and of its self (her photograph ‘A.C.A.D.E.M.Y.’, 1987 (bellow) is a good example).
She observes how pieces of art are deemed to be important because of where they are, not necessarily what they are. As such, Lawler exposes the importance of mind set and context in establishing the status of art. In a gallery space, the pieces command your time. They are potent in their own domain. Lawler depicts this as a quasi-entitlement.

‘Twice Untitled’:

In ‘Twice Untitled’ , Lawler depicts two works of art placed on a gallery floor with their backs to us. They rest on a blanket: these works are still cared for. Despite being placed on the floor, there is a sense of reverence. The pieces still demand our respect.

We have no idea what resides on the other side of the canvas. It could be the Mona Lisa or a child’s scribble. Lawler is rather provocative in this respect, exposing our automatic respect for a work of art despite not knowing what the pictures are actually of. Our sense of intrigue is almost more exciting than the art pieces themselves.
As in much of Lawler’s work, whether she is satirising the status of the art work or incriminating the position of the viewer remains ambiguous. There is something very protective about the way in which she shields the work, almost as if she is sheltering it from observation. One could consider that Lawler is demonising the voyeurism of the viewer and renders our gaze insidious.

‘Not Lizard’

Similar effects are at play in this piece. Lawler has manipulated a photograph taken of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s work hanging in a gallery. The piece, ‘Infinity dots silk screen 1’ , has been photographed at a tilted angle, drawing attention to the placing, location and context of the work. The perspective of the photograph very much assumes the perspective of the gallery visitor. Through this lens, Lawler focuses more on the space and placement of the art than the work its self.

‘Not Lizard’ is of further importance because it captures another iconic theme in Lawler’s work: the mutability of the art work. Again, this is an iconic characteristic in Lawler’s work. Famously, in her series ‘Adjusted to fit’, Louise Lawler stretches and distorts some of her own images. The pictures are manipulated to fit exhibition walls, so that a single photograph comes to have infinite permutations.

While ‘Adjusted to fit’ continues to draw attention to the importance of the exhibition space, it also serves as a commentary on the way in which people don’t care about the artwork when on the internet. They are happy to crop, stretch, pixilate and minimalize the work for it to fit their website or Instagram post. If you search the web for images of Lawler’s photographs, each one appears different. They are different sizes, different qualities and even entirely different filters and colour pallets. To Lawler, they are different works.

Works