BOLD TENDENCIES 2020
Sheku & Isata Kanneh-Mason — 08/8
Samson Tsoy & Pavel Kolesnikov — 15/8
James McVinnie — 05/9
Es Devlin, Fraser T Smith, Carlo Rovelli — 09/9
Brian Dillon, Katharina Volckmer, Frank Wynne — 10/9
Isata Kanneh-Mason — 18/9
Samson Tsoy — 19/9
Pavel Kolesnikov, Elina Buksha, Aurelien Pascal — 19/9
‘Vajra’ (The Weapon of the Gods) means ‘divine enlightenment’ or ‘inspiration’ in Sanskrit. Depictions of deities carrying these sacred weapons are found throughout the ancient world. Here the Vajra is transformed into an imagined animal spine, playing with the language of reconstructive archeology and particle physics.
The Vajra may be a creature of the ancient world or a projection of a future entity brought to life through new technologies. Its form as much references depictions in ancient iconography as it does those found in contemporary technology, such as Lazar Weapon Systems or the Hadron Collider.
River, Roads & Fire, 2020
The epic of Gilgamesh (2000 BC) is the oldest story ever told. It contains the first record of human impact on the environment. The Sumerian tale describes vast tracts of cedar forests in present day Southern Iraq. According to the story, Gilgamesh defies the Gods by cutting down the forest, and in return, the Gods curse the land with fire and drought.
River, Roads & Fire is made of two charred trunks of cedar wood enveloped in rubber. The two objects speak to the widespread desertification of land in ancient Sumeria—now seen as the likely result of deliberate deforestation.
By 2100 BC, soil erosion and salt composites in the area had devastated agriculture, forcing communities to move north to Babylon and Assyria. Some of the first laws decreed to protect forests were established in the Sumerian city-state ‘Ur’ in ancient Mesopotamia.
Photography by Damien Griffiths
Sol Bailey-Barker is a multi-disciplinary artist working primarily with sculpture, sound and performance. Bailey-Barker is informed by the development of technologies that were for millennia seen as shamanic for their transformative power upon the landscape and their influence over life and death.
His work reconnects technological development and its ancient spiritual origins. Drawing on the sound of rhythmic machinery, deep space and sacred bells, Bailey-Barker’s sculptures often double as sonic ritual instruments.
Sol Bailey-Barker (b. 1987, London UK) lives and works in London.
A New Dawn MMXX, 2020
Jeremy Deller’s multi-faceted practice incorporates forms of social investigation and archival research, often celebrating British popular and vernacular culture. He represented Britain in the Venice Biennale in 2013 and won the Turner Prize in 2004. In 2016 Deller collaborated with Iggy Pop on a life drawing class. In 2017 he participated in Skulptur Projekte Münster.
His recent work includes Putin’s Happy, filmed in and around Parliament Square, London between January and March 2019—concluding with footage of the Brexit Betrayal March on March 29th; the film, Everybody in the Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992, a re-evaluation of acid house in relation to the social and political landscape of 1980s Britain, and we’re here because we’re here, a UK-wide event commissioned by 14-18 NOW for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in 2016. Deller is represented by The Modern Institute, Glasgow; Art Concept, Paris and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York.
Jeremy Deller (b. 1966, London UK) lives and works in London.
Take What You Can, Give Nothing Back, 2020
Take What You Can, Give Nothing Back is dedicated to the small scale cultural piracy in which we all partake in some form or another. It is equally inspired by the landscaping of Disneyland, the Buontalenti Grotto in Florence and a generic ‘Three Graces’ garden bird bath.
The fountain’s base imitates a limestone formation which peaks in a two-tiered crucible, evoking a beautiful stone carving which has succumbed to a long passing of time. The leaf blocks nestled below its first tier are modern and manufactured. The Caryatid ‘Three Graces’ are a scaled replica of those found in the Erechtheion in Athens.
Of the six statues that stood united for 2500 years, one was eventually removed by Lord Elgin in an act of cultural piracy. Legend has it the other five could be heard weeping in the night, which can now be heard in the gentle cascade of water flowing over their forms.
Jack Evans is a visual artist, film maker and sculptor. His work is interested in ideas of aspiration and cultural dissemination, drawing motifs from the aesthetic ideas of ‘luxury’ and the societies which reinforce it.
His work often uses common building materials alongside bespoke processes to simulate and distort the decorative decisions we make in our homes and gardens.
Through recreation and imitation, his work draws heavily from classical civilisations through to the more obscure symbols of aspiration revived from his Nineties childhood in the Midlands, familial trips to B&Q, and package holidays to the Mediterranean.
Jack Evans (b. 1992, Mansfield UK) lives and works in London.
The Throne Of The Third Heaven Of The Nations’ Millennium General Assembly, 2018
The Throne… is a reproduction and adaptation of the high-back chair designed by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and produced in 1901 for the Ingram Street Tea Rooms in Glasgow. The artist has doubled the height of the original design to 3 metres, stretching the proportions whilst retaining the sculpted back spokes to make absurd an already exaggerated design. The iconic chair’s curious new character, combined with its original function—the ‘high tea party’ of Edwardian Glasgow—sends us in the direction of the madcap absurdity of Alice in Wonderland or the surreal energy of Fantasia.
The work’s title is inspired by a sculpture of the same name constructed by American caretaker James Hampton. Over the course of 14 years between 1950 – 1964, Hampton created an equally absurd, ornate work in his garage from scavenged and salvaged scraps – embellished with light bulbs, scrap wood and tinfoil, a homemade throne of the gods. It was the only thing Hampton ever made and is housed in The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington.
Once in a Lifetime, 2020
The sword in the stone is an iconic symbol of the myth of King Arthur: the boy king who would solicit the legendary sword Excalibur and claim the crown of England. Here, the sword in the stone is a hollow fibreglass boulder and blunted weapon. The work is stage magic: an illusion that laughs whilst it entices. It offers a virtual experience of arrested fantasies: a form of myth for the consumer age.
Nathaniel Faulkner combines archetypal motifs and imagery with references to popular culture and recent events. His work draws from both ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture and is interested in the moment of their resulting clash or amalgamation.
References extend from ancient civilisations to science fiction, film and art history. Faulkner’s approach to history is eclectic, celebrating anachronism and ‘alternative fact’. The resulting work combines real and fictitious worlds, uncanny and elusive.
Nathaniel Faulkner (b. 1995, Chippenham UK) lives and works in London.
Embrace is a kinetic sculpture composed of six revolving cartoon arms spinning around a central axle. The work is a reconstruction of table-top paper collages made during lockdown, evoking touch in times of increased physical distance.
The work’s theatricality is conferred with comic animation – using industrial processes, metal sheets are bent and folded to employ the same logic as the visual and rotary delights of a fairground carousel ride.
The optical and mechanical reprise of Embrace is satirical—the revolving hands of arrested intimacy arousing a newfound optimism for the future.
Lucy Gregory is an artist working in sculpture, photography and drawing. In her work she creates immersive, large-scale kinetic systems of objects and environments that play with the themes of agency and materiality.
Fractured sets or propers are activated in bizarre and comic realsation.
Through her use of theatricality and flatness, her works often engage audience participation to activate surreal mechanisms that draw on bodies as flexible and unstable; undercurrent with tones of violent, slapstick humour.
Lucy Gregory (b. 1994, Amersham UK) lives and works in Buckinghamshire and London.
Conceived in May 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, EXPOSE is a reaction and response to the approach by the United States Government to the ongoing public health emergency.
Originally created for Instagram, the work was then adapted to LED trucks that toured the streets of Washington, DC and New York in May – a series of veracious and isolated words glowing red and pulsing toward the screen – RANT, RAGE, BLOVIATE, SCORN. Words strung together offer phrases – THE PEOPLE PERISH.
EXPOSE spotlights the President’s cavalier and incendiary attitude to the crisis and the mishandlings of the American government. As the world watches a crucial period in American history unfold, Holzer’s work incites us all to examine our beliefs and speak with vivid truth to unscrupulous power.
Animation: Paul Kamuf
For more than forty years Jenny Holzer has presented her astringent ideas, arguments, and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions – she represented the USA and won the Golden Lion for her presentation at the Venice Biennale in 1990.
Her medium, whether formulated as a T-shirt, a plaque, or an electronic sign, is text. Starting in the 1970s with a series of posters and continuing through her recent light projections on landscape and architecture, her practice has rivaled ignorance and violence with humor, kindness, and courage.
Jenny Holzer (b. 1950, Ohio US) lives and works in New York.
no more quick, quick, slow, 2020
no more quick, quick, slow is a call to action. It is a charitable gesture: to do,dance better. Inspired by a quote in Lucy Bland’s book Britain’s ‘Brown Babies’ (2019) that reads, “We English girls took to it like ducks to water. No more quick, quick, slow for us. This was living.”
The Lucy Bland quote references meeting, loving and dancing with black men, specifically black G.I.s – the messy dance of de-colonisation. Matić’s new work centres itself amidst interracial love and relationships.
It speaks to a moment where police brutality and the murder of Black peoples circulates on social media with agonising frequency. Through creativity, Matić creates a world for themselves so they do not have to die in those of others, but dancing alone cannot protect them. If only you would join in, you could take to it too.
Rene Matić’s work explores the immeasurable dimensions of Blackness through the lens of their own personal experiences as a queer, Black womxn living in the diaspora. Working across painting, sculpture, film, photography and textile, Matić aims to expose, combat and question the power relations that pervade society.
Recent work has explored the Skinhead movement, its founding as a multicultural marriage between West Indian and white working class culture and its subsequent co-option by far right white supremacists.
Rene Matić (b. 1997, Peterborough UK) lives and works in London.
Taking inspiration from the French libertine novel, Le Sopha: A Moral Tale (1742) by Claude Crébillon, Hoist explores the intersection of anthropomorphism and erotica. In Le Sopha, a voyeuristic courtier—the narrator—is condemned to inhabit the form of a sofa until two virgin lovers have consummated their passion whilst sitting on him.
Throughout the novel, the sofa recounts episodes of salacious activity he witnesses, ridiculing the hypocrisy of virtue, respectability and devotion he observes in 18th century France.
Crébillon’s combination of voyeurism and satirical impulse is reflected in the now torturous and harsh figure of the hoist. A half-filled Evian bottle with two necks made from Venetian plaster is hung by a limp galvanised chain and fish hook.
The body is pierced by the exertion of the equipment’s armature but remains unable to rise, vulnerable and exposed. The libidinal energy of the sofa or chaise lounge is substituted for the obsessive character of fitness, discipline and corporate self-help.
Lilian Nejatpour is a British Iranian artist who works with sculptural forms, sound structures and performance. Her work investigates displacement and duality through a range of influences, such as ceremonial practices in Southern Iran or her northern background in bassline music in Bradford.
Lilian Nejatpour (b. 1994, Bradford UK) lives and works in London.
Bod(y)ies That Weather, 2020
Bod(y)ies That Weather is a physical work composed of earth, pigment, wax, water, plants and gold. Taking inspiration from Astrida Neimanis and Jennifer Mae Hamilton’s 2018 essay, ‘Weathering’, here the artist embodies her own environment. Earth and compost have been gathered from spaces where the artist has previously experienced colonial or socio-political violence.
Like compost, these histories have been transformed through practices of care and attention into a new nutrient-rich life. The earth was subsequently used to pigment casts of her thumbs, combining them with plants cultivated by the artist’s hand. Placing signifiers of her body in water, the work examines ways in which her body weathers: politically, socially and materially.
Damp Atmosphere, 2020
Damp Atmosphere is a soundscape that entwines earth, dust and water with the artist’s embodied self. Splintered by sonic disturbances, the artist recites personal encounters of questioning she has received as a female body of colour, composed and delivered with self-effacing reverence. It is a soundscape of linguistic and colonial violences and articulates the impact these forces have on disabling the artist’s connections to her own body and surrounding environment.
Davinia-Ann Robinson explores the politics of colonial emotions and how these affect Bodies of Colour who reside within colonial spaces. She is interested in the implications of these emotions and the sensations they create in between the layers of one’s skin and the experiences of living within the societal peripheries.
Robinson is interested in how these emotions distort readings and connections to one’s physical and metaphorical body, connections between individual bodies and connections to one’s environment. Robinson is also the founding member of Narration Group, a collective of Women and Non-Binary people of colour who meet fortnightly at the South London Gallery to discuss, dissect and reclaim their narratives.
Davinia-Ann Robinson (b. 1987, Wolverhampton UK) lives and works in London.
Amber Chamber, 2020
Amber Chamber looks to the artist’s upbringing in north-eastern Poland—a regional area with strong Catholic and agricultural history. Chochoł (pronounced Hohou)—roughly translated as ‘sheaf’—is a Polish word describing the straw covering prepared for the autumn and winter seasons in order to protect shrubs and rose bushes. Villagers would personify chochoł in human form to endow it with strength and vitality, giving birth to an elemental spirit of the same name in Slavic folk demonology. A spirit protecting the household, caring but also jealous, mischievous if irritated.
For Amber Chamber, the artist has embodied the spirit of chochoł—preserved in an upright ventilated sarcophagus, cryogenically frozen for travel to a new frontier. Amber—known in Poland as ‘The Gold of the North’—is abundant in northeastern regions of the Baltics. It is said to form an umbilical cord to archaic and ancient cultures. It is equally said to preserve life and provide healing for those it touches. Installed in his chamber, this figure represents both decay and rebirth: the slow procession of winter followed by the restoration of spring – oscillating from archaism to futurism.
Rafał Zajko is an artist working in sculpture, performance and costume. His work deals with themes of monuments, socialist public sculpture and the relationship between body, technology and folklore. Zajko was born in the Polish People’s Republic a year before the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
Rafał Zajko (b. 1988, Białystok PL) lives and works in London.