LOVE PEACE & HAPPINESS
If you want to agitate even the most unrustled artist, ask then about the utility of art. Every artist who has the stamina to pursue a career has dealt with a continuous stream of incredulous uncles and joe publics asking the question ‘but what’s it for?’ One the one hand the special sovereignty of art resides in it’s ability to stand outside of norms of use, as art for art’s sake, separate-yet-reflecting. On the other, the greater context of an increasingly precarious world, in which art is pulled into the ponderous gravity of everyday life. The moral rumblings that art cannot be exempt from the squeeze that places all other aspects of society under pressure. The art of the past performed various functions, as a moral arbiter, a panacea, a condemnation. Technology mediates our contemporary needs but the lingering desire for something inwardly uplifting, dare I say spiritual, remains. These artists each respond to the question of art’s function in a different way. Where they come together, through painting and sculpture, is in their buoyant and playful spirit. They each show how form can be necessarily put to work in the stimulation of the intellect and the senses. By disavowing the traditional boundaries between the decorative, the crafted and the “fine” arts as a matter of course, these artists point to the possibilities of joyful form as a bulwark against the indifferent and mundane.
We’ve come home to painting and sculpture for good reason. They make us feel good. When we stand in front of a great painting we realise it’s a screen-beating picture. It simply cannot be reproduced, dimensional colour and texture that we can feel like warm rough hands with our eyes. A painting doesn’t remind you of the bureaucracy of life, it tells you to eat, enjoy, sleep in, dream. Colour and texture create sensations, they are the content of the work. Studies have shown that one hundred hours of art appreciation a year significantly improves your well-being and mental health. The radiance of a painting is a like a tanning booth that cooks the soul.
As the Japanese artist Taro Okamoto often said, Art is an explosion. It disrupts in the ways deemed necessary in a given period. In a time of frivolity and peace art explodes with questions of doubt and suspicion. In periods of turmoil and degradation, art breaks through with a timely reminder to return to simple truths. In this moment we need an art of life and celebration, that pops with colour and seduces with form. We need painting and sculpture to receive our confusion and worries and give back intelligence and complexity. These most ancient modes of production have the capacity to carry us, rich histories into which we can plunge ourselves, drawing on familiar forms but charging them with contemporary psychology. Art is gloriously useless, but it does serve a psychological function. It can be a rope to tether us to reality, or a screen to shield us from our worst excesses.
The work in this exhibition is imbued with an unabashed optimism, and a belief in the kick of satisfaction that comes from the manipulation of material for pleasing affect. In each case there is a sense of wrestling with the canon, the question of how to enter into a meaningful something with the legacy of the medium. The motif of the fragment, of segmentation and assembly, admits to the challenge. By working from details to whole forms the problem is reframed. Joy and elegance were sensations neglected in the nineties and noughties, but it seems (through the perennial influence of figures such as Matisse) and the new energy for painting and sculpture we can acknowledge the relationship between well being, joy and material play.
Exhibition views of participating artists
George Little seems to have discovered the fruitful metaphorical potential - and lots of other necessary ingredients like color schemes, motives and energy - in the sordid after-modernist decay of restaurant interiors and the iconography related to it. But he does much more; he aims at creating new narrative approaches in painting. He does so, upto now, by organizing a complex yet spontaneous interaction to take place - on the painting and while painting - between the culture of the studio (or perhaps the modernist idea of that studio) and that of the kitchen. Little has observed that these two environments are similar when it comes to strategies of production and presentation. But as sophisticated as this approach may seem, when looking at his paintings one experiences pure poetical energy.
George Tormod Little was born in Hammersmith, London, UK, in 1988. He lives and works in London. His recent solo exhibitions include shows at CO2 Gallery in Rome, Italy; Mother Space, Shoreditch, London, UK; Elephant and Castle - Winter projects, London, UK and Ana Cristea Gallery, New York, USA. His works were shown in groups shows at the Lion and Lamb Gallery, Shoreditch, London, UK; Fell Space, London, UK; the Saatchi gallery, London, UK.
His work is in the collection of the Saatchi Gallery, London.
Established in early 2011, The Grantchester Pottery is a decorative arts company set up by artists Phil Root & Giles Round. Drawing historical precedent from Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops as well as other artists’ decorative arts studios like the Rebel Arts Centre, Hammer Prints & Atelier Martine, The Grantchester Pottery seeks to produce a series of utilitarian ceramics together with other decorative household items such as printed & woven textiles, wallpaper, painted furniture and hand painted murals.
Working somewhere within the confines of exhibition, trade showroom, studio and workshop, Studio Wares concentrates on presenting functional products for the artist. Drawing inspiration from the studios directly above the gallery, the collection examines the art school and studio block as a point of departure, source material & as theoretical commissioner. The forms produced in turn become a series of blanks that form part of the portfolio to be used in further works.
By appropriating historical examples, such as the art school’s antiques room, the exhibition becomes a constructed environment in which the works exist to enable artistic production – albeit to prescribed forms. This tautology serves to delineate the gallery from the studios within the building, offering up what is exhibited to be used as a learning tool.
Recent exhibitions & presentations include House of Voltaire, Studio Voltaire at Jonathan Viner Gallery, London, 2012; Art & Craft: Objects in a field of signifying practices, a public in conversation with Glenn Adamson & Kit Hammonds, Royal College of Art, London, 2012; Décor, ROWING, London, 2012; Publish & Be Damned, ICA, London, 2012; Slipped, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge, 2011.
The Granchester Pottery
"I use paint in a similar way to camouflage, disrupting or confusing the subject of the work. Creating an ambiguity, a tension between figuration and abstraction. Ideas of the schematic and symbolic are played out though a game of hide and seek. My paintings can sit and rest for months, years, accruing marks both by accident and design. Surfaces become worn, imbued with a tangible history, a patina or geological layering of paint. Through this process images become reduced and distilled, developing a wrought existentiality, something between the visual and the imagined."
Anthony Banks is a visual artist, based In London. Having studied at Brighton University and The Princes School of Drawing, Anthony recently graduated from The Royal College of Art. In 2016, he was awarded the student prize at The Marmite Prize for Painting.
With a combination of abstract and kitsch, Nicholas William Johnson’s paintings blend a range of historical influences. The works are very textual, formed of layer upon layer of pattern, stencil, paint and colour. His paintings, whilst visually enriching, also examine art styles and discourses by blurring and resisting them.
“I tend to say I paint flowers. I know it can come off as naïve to say that, but I think the dissonance it can create around the current discourses in art. For me the concept of decay is important; the idea that anything, if abandoned, will ultimately be reclaimed and repurposed.” Nicholas William Johnson
Born in Honolulu, HI, United States 1982, Nicholas lives and works in London
Kiera Bennett (born Oldham 1971) studied at The Royal College of Art (2000–02) and Oxford University, The Ruskin School (1990–93) and Mid Cheshire College of Art+Design, Northwich (1989–90)
Predominantly working in painting (but also collage) Bennett has shown internationally and currently lives and works in London.
Past shows include 'New Contemporaries' in 2002, 'Collage' at the Bloomberg Space London in 2004,where Bennett showed alongside artists including Chris Ofili, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg and Max Ernst, John Moores Painting Prize 23, The Walker Art Gallery in 2004, 'Fuckin Brilliant/Maji Yabai, Tokyo Wondersite Gallery, Shibuya, Tokyo in 2006, 'Bad Moon Rising', a solo show at Rockwell Gallery London in 2007 and 'Precious Things', Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, Ireland in 2008, a group show curated by Graham Crowley, former professor of painting at The Royal College of Art, other artists included Ansel Krut, Varda Caivano and Paul Housley. She also received The Cocheme Fellowship at Byam Shaw School of Art in 2004 (concluding with a show alongside artist Ryan Gander).
Her work is in various collections including those of Mario Testino, Cornelia Parker and Julian Opie.
Nicholas William Johnson
Gwennan Thomas was born in Rouen, France in 1984 and grew up in both France and South Wales. She was nominated for Abstract Critical Newcomer Awards in 2012 and selected for Flowers Gallery’s Artist of the Day in 2013. She has shown regularly in the UK and has also participated in several curatorial projects, notably: Citrus Lush Bongo with Take Me Home Projects (2015) & MASK with Pluspace Projects in collaboration with Coventry University (2016).
Her playful and colourful paintings employ framing mechanisms and repetitive motifs derived from film scenes, collected objects and travelling. She is currently studying for her Masters in Painting at the Royal College of Art.