For the last couple of months, working on the current exhibition at our Soho gallery, the idea of emergence has been at the forefront of my mind. First conceived as a nod to the fact that this is our first exhibition out of lockdown, I found it difficult to pin down just what emergence means, especially in relation to the show. I found comfort in G. H Lewes’ definition: he said that emergence happens when something completely new comes into being. When the sum is not suggested by its parts. Small things, things that might be thought of as meaningless in isolation, connect to create vast, meaningful structures.
This idea felt pertinent to the way the exhibition was shaping up. Although far from meaningless on their own, the artworks I wanted to show felt like they came together to create something genuinely new. My hope is that visitors to the gallery will find that seeing the 22 works on show in our space will create a new, unique and unexpected impression, based on the very personal way that they connect to what they see.
I also hope that this effect extends beyond our gallery. All of the exhibitions I have written about this month are group show. If you visit all of them, you will have seen work by 51 artists. Each one will be filed away in your mental encyclopedia - some with more prominent entries than others. As the encyclopedia grows, more internal references, and comparisons will arise and – with any luck – new ideas about art and the world will emerge.
EMERGENCE, RISE ART
JUL 29 - SEP 16
The second exhibition at our Berwick Street gallery features work by 20 artists, none of whom we have worked with before. Its title can be taken in many different ways; coming up, coming out, coming to light. Revealing, uncovering, disclosing. Quietly, slowly, gradually. We were deliberately liberal with our interpretation of the theme when selecting the artworks to show. The upshot of this is that the ideas expressed in the exhibition are varied and multifarious.
In Sabrina Shah’s mixed media painting Bananas three anthropomorphic animals share a potassium-rich meal, one of them staring down at the lilac cotton wool ball attached to the work’s neighbour, Abigail Hampsey’s It could be the one round the corner, or the other one. Elsewhere in the space, the tone is more sombre: crammed-together faces rendered in ink on canvas in Maddie Yuille’s In Expectation stare blankly across the room towards the deathmask-esque disembodied face in Fu Liang’s Mirror.
There are many different ways that one can map this exhibition. The way that each viewer connects each artwork – aesthetically or conceptually – will vary between individuals and over time. Working within the gallery space most days, I am still coming up with new ways to do this and look forward to continuing to do so for the duration of the show.
ENTANGLEMENTS IN TIME, LEWISHAM ARTHOUSE
AUG 6 - 15
Curated by Kristine Tan and Mariana Lemos, this exhibition features artists working in a range of media from drawing and sculpture to virtual reality and video. Taken together, the works on show challenge the anthropocentric way that we think about time by looking at durations far longer than that of a human life. This timeline is one that we are entangled in – a small part of a far-reaching whole – and not at the centre of.
I am particularly looking forward to seeing Bart Hajduk’s tender drawings that place sympathetic-looking animal friends in futuristic, almost sci-fi, dreamscapes. Having followed Hajduk’s work online for a while I have always thought of him as being part of a folk art-inspired movement alongside other draftspeople like Penny Davenport and Casey Jex Smith. However, shown alongside so many works in ephemeral and dematerialised media – such as Yambe Tam’s VR experiences – the ideas, rather than formal qualities present in Bart’s work come to the fore. A question about where his characters exist in the temporal mesh that this exhibition focuses on emerges as a result of this new context.
PRISMATIC MINDS, FLOWERS GALLERY
JUL 21 - AUG 28
Entering Flowers Gallery’s Cork Street space, you find yourself surrounded by a colourful cast of human and humanoid figures. In the gallery, each one becomes part of a wider story. Transported from their former homes in the individual artists’ studios, they become part of a narrative about solidarity, family and companionship. I’m sure that, in this figuration-focussed group of artists, Bart Hajduk’s drawings would take on a different significance.
The six artists in this show, most of whom are self taught,charm and delight effortlessly with their light-hearted and energetic representations of human life. The exhibition’s celebratory tone carries and builds throughout the space, which feels more like a welcoming folk art museum than a po-faced commercial gallery. I am particularly taken by Keisuke Ishino’s sellotaped paper sculptures which stand to attention, each wearing the same wide smile and red eyes. Anywhere else the recurring face might be menacing, but here they are warm and welcoming.
MOTHER OF MANKIND, HOFA
JUL 22 - AUG 31
Gallerist, curator and writer Adora Mba first opened ADA \ Contemporary as something of an incubator for emerging African artists; a place for them to develop their practices whilst also having their work exposed to a global audience. After seeing many talented Ghanaian artists moving to Europe or America for their thriving art scenes, she decided to begin building a commercial art world in Accra that would reflect the city’s wealth of creative talent.
Less than a year later, this exhibition – curated by Mba - showcases the work of 16 women artists, all taking a bold approach to figurative image-making. Some figures are solemn, others are cheerful. Some works border on abstraction, others on photo-realism. Similarly to in Prismatic Minds, they come together to form a heterogeneous celebration of black femininity.