STATE OF FLUX: DRAWINGS OF LONDON BY
“Architecture is the simplest means of articulating time and space, of modulating reality, of engendering dreams” - Ivan Chtcheglov
Working from observation on the streets day after day, George Colley stands witness to the changing city, recording both the transient life of the pavement and the larger architectural alterations that occur over longer spans of time. Hurried street traffic flashes past, leaving traces, broken outlines and vague forms which populate and animate the space. Fleeting moments of beauty are suggested by glorious light and atmospheric perspective created with watercolour pencil; at times delicate washes complement line drawings, in other pieces the page is worked at, scrubbed and rained-on and redrawn, resulting in an altered page as physical record of experience. New buildings gradually thrust upward attended by flitting cranes, marketplaces spring up in a bloom of striped canopies and steel framework, rows of brick buildings curve and receive the current of people and vehicles which flow through the images. All is enlivened by fluid markmaking and the ability to create an atmospheric quality of light which is faithful to the observed moment yet condensed and made resonant with feeling.
George Colley studied Fine Art Painting at the University of Brighton before attending The Drawing Year 2012-13 at The Royal Drawing School and was awarded a residency at Dumfries House in Ayreshire at the end of 2014.
19th March - 5th April 2015
MERCER CHANCE GALLERY is proud to present True Life Stories, an exhibition bringing together recent work by JAKE GARFIELD and HEATH LOWNDES. The show will document the ongoing dialogue between the two artists, exposing the common threads in their printmaking practices. With curatorial support from CHARLOTTE BAKER.
JAKE GARFIELD’s wood-cuts and etchings in True Life Stories are a series of ‘secondary self-portraits’. Referencing visual story telling through film and comic books, he looks to create a loop between the self and the external reality of popular culture.
It’s Dark And We’re Wearing Sunglasses is a manual restaging of an industrial print process. Garfield has subverted the CMYK dot structure common to mechanical printing through hand-drawn dry point plates. The self-referential title quotes the character of Jake from the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, while also alluding to a problem of perception.
The large scale reduction wood-cut Jake The Boxer draws from another 1980 film, Raging Bull, with another protagonist called Jake. The artist cites Bonnard’s vulnerable self-portraits posing as a boxer and Manet’s portrait of Emile Zola, in which the subject acts as a ventriloquist’s dummy onto whom the artist projects concerns about himself.
HEATH LOWNDES uses painting and printmaking to explore the diaspora of ancient Germanic tribes and their legacy within the modern European identity. Inspired by the writing of W.G. Sebald, Lowndes’ work acts as anthropological documentation, providing an expressive response to key events in European history with the aim of better understanding them.
This series of prints deals with the aerial warfare between the RAF and the Luftwaffe in World War II, whilst simultaneously examining the movement of tribes between Germany and Britain 1500 years prior.
Lowndes’ aesthetic recreates the atmospheric conditions of analogue cinema as well as reproducing the characteristics of photocopied material. By the use of filmic storyboarding, the work becomes a distilled narrative through which the conceptual themes are explored.
MAX NAYLOR : HEADLANDS
Only a practiced hand and a mind rich with fresh experience could so fluidly conjur these imaginary vistas. The speed of execution - more than a sheer demonstration of talent - forces quick, intuitive decision making, with a degree of playfulness; parts of the images logically cohere and seem referent to some particular reality, whilst others dissolve and reform through joyful gestural marks.
Each work has a sense of time which is not related to the nostalgic associations of landscape, but the chopped, synthesised time of modern life. A narrative movement through each image feels natural, yet is undermined by a confusion of perspectives and the free interplay between the familiar and the exotic.
Are we leaving the city, or arriving? In these works we are never certain; caught in a whirling oscillation between the urban and rural that rejects resolution. It could be a suburban nightmare, but it has the feeling of a daydream, where paradox is accepted and every strange thing fits happily together without need to justify itself by anyone else's rule.
Max Naylor is a London based artist who studied at Falmouth College of Art, in 2012 he graduated from The Royal Drawing School in 2012.
His work has been exhibited widely in London and the UK including at the MAC Birmingham and the 'Betweenlands' exhibition hosted by Blain Southern in 2014, and has been short-listed for the Jerwood Drawing Prize and the Pizza Express Contemporary Drawing Award.
5th - 15th February 2015
JAKE GARFIELD & HEATH LOWNDES:
TRUE LIFE STORIES
19th February - 1st March 2015
NIKKI GARDHAM & ALEX CHILVERS
FIELD OF PLAY
In these charming works deceptive simplicity begets space, openness and a wonderful lightness of touch that dances across each different subject with a sense of easy grace.
Nikki’s brushwork seems almost faltering, yet utterly deft and concise in its ability to create pastoral and personal scenes from the drag of bristles across coarse paper, or the pooling, blotting and bleeding of subtle inks. They seem like urgent observations whose liveliness is undiminished despite the deeply considered approach to composition and mark-making.
Alex’s work is brought to life by a warm sense of humour and astute, thoughtful observations that delve straight to the simple essence of any given subject and seem to celebrate the co-existence of the absurd and the everyday. A sophisticated use of colour grounds the playfully simplified application of paint.
5th - 15th March 2015
SCULPTURES AND DRAWINGS BY
Mercer Chance is proud to present an exhibition of new works by John Mercer which reveal his wide interests. In particular, the links between objects, images, memories and experiences. In this exhibition he is showing the journey he undertook to develop tolerance towards woodworm, something all wood sculptors hate to find. By looking again, he became fascinated by the forms they create and the evidence of the decions they made as they appear to destroy the timber. It led to the question "Whose wood is it anyway?"
John links wormholes with computer punch cards, piano rolls and codes, then imagines communication between the species and what they might say to each other. The discovery of a wormhole in a piece of wood, becomes an abstract form which becomes an abstract line, which seems to signify something, but which never communicates directly.
John works in many materials, with a particular fondness for wood and for drawing. A new series of paintings underway is working with techniques and colours from the Renaissance including gold leaf panels in order to abstract the sense of plane and to distort the flatness of a painted surface.
16th - 26th April
Mercer Chance is proud to present an exhibition of portraits by Claire Price. Drawings and paintings of people, each made in a single sitting; intimate and playful images from a London life.
“Over the past few months I have been asking friends and acquaintances to sit for me. Each drawing marks a specific time and place of a shared experience. For some it has been a repeated exercise, the drawings charting a period of our evolving relationship, changes happening in each other’s lives.
To draw portraits is intimate. It is a peculiar situation of mindfulness, particularly in our digital age. To be alone in a room together, still, not exchanging many words. To be actively invited to dwell on the playful pleasure of exploring another person. Taking in the way they hold themselves, the character of their expressions, their features, lips, hands. Becoming aware of the distance between you, their weight, strength and fragility. And to leave a record of this on your page – a record that can be surprising to both of you. It is a reverential process to try to make a truthful image of someone, whatever that is.
Among other things it is an exercise in empathy and love. I often find myself laughing aloud while drawing as I get caught up in how extraordinary this person is, how endeared I am towards them and their particularities.
I know all the sitters, in one way or another, but they don’t all know each other. Some of them I had only met in this past year. I soon realised that I was interested in bringing their portraits together for this exhibition. They represent the diffuse social network that I experience living in a city. Versions of my own identity seen in the relationships that make it up. I enjoy the playful relationship which this gallery of characters has to the galleries of snaps that we see on social media.”
MERCER CHANCE GALLERY is proud to present an exhibition of drawings by young artist Michelle Cioccoloni, a recent graduate of the Royal Drawing School, London. In 2014 she received the Richard Ford Award, a travel scholarship for figurative artists to travel to Spain in order to study the Spanish Masters. Michelle has recently returned from three-months of intensive practice-based research at the Museo del Prado, in Madrid. Drawing from the paintings in the museum's vast collection, Michelle was able to carry out in-depth study of works by El Greco, Velázquez and Goya.
During her time at the Prado, Michelle used drawing to investigate each piece, using the hand and eye to lead the mind toward a deeper understanding and appreciation of the artist’s conception. Translating paintings into drawings requires the artist to condense the painting’s structure and effects into a form that reveals the essence of its meaning.
It is not a process of replication or simplification, nor can it be considered reductionist, since the artist seeks to chart the relations between the elements of a picture in order to arrive at its meaning as a whole. In that respect it is also perhaps a circular process; in a painting’s initial impact upon us, we perceive it as a whole - a dramatic perceptual event - then, through our prolonged study we break it apart in order to put it back together and learn its secrets.
In her drawings Michelle has successfully combined these two modes of perception through a masterful and intuitive marriage of line and tone. Each drawing exposes the essential ideas expressed formally within the painting, whilst also conveying a feeling of it’s immediate sensational impact.
Michelle soon realized that “the prevailing mood of the collection had a strong dramatic component, with extreme emotions, extreme passions... often the result of strong contrasts between light and shadow. What most pictures in the ‘Spanish Manner’ seem to share is a sense of desperation”. You would imagine that creating sustained studies of these dark, psychologically intense imaginative worlds would take its toll on the artist, yet we sense Michelle fearlessly squaring up to them, utterly composed, emerging with a piece of her own that is ruthless and direct in its enquiry, yet nuanced and beautiful in its execution.
Working from Goya’s ‘Black Paintings’ was captivating and revelatory. Michelle: “I was able to linger over every face for quite some time and scrutinize every part of the picture. The longer I spent looking at them, the more contradictions I noticed, especially in the way [Goya] renders the forms and features.” The people in his late paintings are effortlessly, economically described, yet unquestionably there. Their form is utterly palpable whilst equally beguiling, distorted by motion and emotion into bizarre semi-human shapes. Michelle has investigated these forms by making a series of sculptural heads from her drawings, physically manifesting the strange logic of the artist’s imaginative vision.
Michelle is an artist and educator, born in the United Kingdom but raised in Italy, which aided her understanding of the depth and meaning of art in its historical context. She currently teaches young students at The National Gallery, London. Since graduating with a First Class degree in Drawing and Applied Arts from UWE Bristol, Michelle has studied on The Drawing Year, a one-year MA-level postgraduate course at The Royal Drawing School, London. Michelle has completed artist residencies in Salzburg, Austria and Dumfries House in Scotland.
MERCER CHANCE GALLERY is proud to present RECURSIONS, a collaboration between brothers Matthew Roy Arnold (sculpture) and Brendan James Arnold (electronics).
This intriguing installation invites the viewer to enter an interactive space in which our perception of reality is teasingly undermined; where we are confronted by pieces which allude to the infinite landscapes of mathematics and virtual reality within a physical form. Each artwork is a focal point for meditation on the real and the virtual, whilst serving as an example of how digital technology can be used to build upon traditional sculptural practice.
In a world of cloning, 3D printing and virtual reality, mankind is approaching the fulfilment of its ancient desire to attain the power of creation; to rival and even overcome the Gods which we have feared for so long. However, the greater our power over nature grows, perhaps the more apparent our flaws become. Our mastery of technology has progressed at astonishing speed, yet has our philosophical and spiritual understanding of reality undergone the same transformative advancement?
In these works we are presented with groups of repeating rock-like objects, arranged in seemingly ritualistic fashion, resembling the astronomical and religious stone structures of our early ancestors suddenly exposed to the harsh, artificial light of the 21st Century. Some appear to be natural, found objects, while others are geometrically carved to reveal some kind of inner Platonic form. The ‘real’ rock is juxtaposed with its abstracted self – but which strikes us more forcibly with an authentic presence?
On closer inspection a wide variety of materials become apparent: plaster, glass, silicone, organic matter, resin, wood, metal and stone. As we approach the works our proximity is measured by in-built sensors, which cause the piece to alter before our eyes: LEDs shift from visible light to Ultra-Violet light, revealing hidden patterns on the previously austere faces of the rocks.
Each artwork is constructed so that its robotic innards are openly visible: circuit boards are drawn and printed in intricate patterns, plugs and wire are transparent and the metal framework forms part of the electrical circuit. In this manner, the boundary between the functional and the aesthetic is dissolved.
PORTRAITS BY CLAIRE PRICE
A Sense of Place is an exhibition of new drawings and paintings, which explores Kim’s experience of nature within urban, domestic and rural environments found in London and Scotland.
In May this year Kim was awarded a two-week artist residency at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, Scotland. Having grown up in rural Ayrshire, Kim immediately connected with the identity and character of the area and quickly set about recording her direct responses to the unique qualities of this somewhat familiar place. The emergence of spring blossom, the river, walled garden and woods all provided ample subject matter and the immersive environment allowed the time and space to be involved in experimentation, reconfiguring her approach as she adapted to this new outdoor studio.
Having only really scratched the surface of the plethora of subject matter this wonderful location had to offer, Kim returned to London charged with the excitement of working directly from nature and ready to tackle a new subject. The residency acted as a catalyst for an exploration into both the wild and tamed nature close to Kim’s studio in north London and the beginnings of a new body of work.
In exploring new ways of seeing and experiencing the urban environment, Richard Mabey’s book ‘The Unofficial Countryside’ has been a great influence giving historical context and insights into the wild land around London. While delving into the nearby woods Kim is reminded of Mabey’s musing on city parks in the 70’s and while some of what he experienced still exists today, there is reason to feel optimistic about the diversity of these urban spaces supporting all kinds of life.
This idea of the wild within the urban setting and in finding a ‘sense of place’ are not only the stimulus for this recent work but have established a dialogue between the artist and the nature which she encounters in her urban dwellings be it within the city or other more domesticated ways of experiencing nature i.e. still life.
Mercer Chance is proud to present an exhibition of new work by Elsie Phipps, featuring mixed media paintings alongside an installation of sculptural and found objects.
This body of work was made in the months after the loss of a friend who shared Elsie’s studio. The work centres around an altered sense of reality caused by this change, and the absence that she felt to resonate in that space; including echoes of conversations past.
During this time, the studio became very present in her mind imbuing a strange significance to the space and its contents. Scraps of white lace reveal themselves, both skeletal and spectral. They are photographed in winged form and collaged into the surface of Moths In The Studio, representing transformation.
These themes are further explored in Metamorphosis. The elegiac atmosphere in these paintings is created through a subdued, yet nuanced palette and diffuse, pervasive light. The work gains a temporal dimension through the palimpsest-like treatment of the surface, which gains in richness with every erasure, collaged addition or repainting.
The paintings are complemented by a sensitive installation of objects. Some were left behind in the studio, while others were created by Elsie in response to the notion of a presence leaving a physical remnant, or rather the impossibility of physically representing an absence, an abstract form of memory.
Mercer Chance is proud to present SUMMER DREAM, a joyous meeting of two talented young contemporary painters. Madness, beauty, mystery and humour colour this strange new world of intuitive image making.
In this new series of paintings Katie Brookes has used imagination to bypass her observational work and focus on colour and composition, working along the themes of stereotypical British culture, seaside and leisure in the summertime.
Focused on the material qualities of paint and the pure enjoyment of colour, these new works explore exaggerated British-ness now. These bold and ironic escapist fantasies first appeared while Katie was on a rainy residency in Scotland, but they have become a promising avenue for a richly inventive studio practice going forward. In September she will attend the Turps Banana painting school, where she hopes to make her paintings “bigger and more... mad”.
Katie Brookes grew up in Belgium, studied at Camberwell College of Art and the Royal Drawing School, and now lives and works in London.
Elizabeth McCarten's recent work explores the idea of a dream evoked by real places being re-presented. When we dream we recycle images and experiences that we have had that day, week or a thought that has been on our mind. Our mind breaks these experiences down and reconstructs them into a series of new images, thoughts and sensations. Working directly from observation, she gathers information before deconstructing and breaking down the image to lyrical lines and marks. Her dream-like colour washes serve as emotional responses to the landscape which is used as a means to recreate a world where imagination and reality can merge together in the freedom of paint. Scenes are reduced to shapes and colours that evoke darkness and light, that invite the viewer to see differently into a landscape of possibilities.
Elizabeth McCarten is a painter with a strong interest in light and space, and in particular developing her understanding of the semiotics of seeing. Elizabeth studied Fine Art (Painting) at the University of Brighton before completing the Postgraduate programme at The Royal Drawing School. Elizabeth lives and works in London.
Mercer Chance is proud to present an exhibition of new work by Michael Chance, featuring interior spaces and figures drawn from observation, memory and imagination.
These paintings depict live/work spaces, including the warehouse I used to live in
(The Peanut Factory, Hackney Wick) and the gallery where we currently live and
work. I found these spaces inspiring visually, but of equal importance was the way
in which they seem to represent an alternative way of living, a solution to many of
our modern city problems. Allowing people freedom to tailor their living space to
accommodate their profession and to nurture a close-knit network of support
enables people to set themselves up with creative and fulfilling work which feeds
back into the community. Unfortunately, living in a warehouse one had the sense
that it couldn’t last forever; whether it was rising rents, council regulations, property developers, or a leaky roof that you couldn’t afford to fix.
The more I paint, the more it takes over; the thought of somehow having a neat
divide between "life" and "work" seems ludicrous. I am interested in the ways that
artists model their life circumstances around their practice; making compromises
and accepting certain oddities to create the right conditions for art. I’ve been
studying other artist’s studios in London and Manchester, but I’m most drawn to
depict my own present and past spaces, painting what is closest to me. Whereas
the warehouse pieces are painted from drawings and memory, the work made in
the gallery is directly, yet loosely observational. Pots of emulsion, portfolios and
paint splatters decorate the ‘bedroom’, kitchen sides collect a muddle of jars; turps, jam, rabbit-skin glue, whilst the gallery opens up as an empty cavern for self-reflection.
In observing life’s everyday clutter building up and filling a certain space, I hope to
show a portrait of its inhabitants, whilst altering, selecting and adding to what I see in order to tease meaning out of every object I depict. People are brought into the space from memory and imagination; friends and self-portrait figures that are
shown to relate strongly to and create their environment despite seeming lonely,
self-contained and alienated in other ways. We are the generation that came out of university and into economic depression; unsettled, we have moved house every year, always eating on borrowed crockery. And yet, we and many others have claimed temporary ownership of a space and poured all of our energy into it to create not just a living space, but a way of living and working that is personally
fulfilling and positively contributes to the community.
Massimo Franco, David Caldwell and Daniel Shadbolt have been friends for a long time. They came together whilst studying at the Royal Drawing School in 2004. Over the years they have shared studios and subjects. They have painted each other many times.
Each artist has his distinct voice but there is undoubtedly something shared in their work - perhaps down to common influences, perhaps even influenced by one another. Whatever the reasons, there is a discernible shared ideal: that is to paint, to record the world around them, and to make something permanent that will endure despite the subject. The three are united by paint, each committed to the medium and engaged in a dialogue with its history in Western painting.
There is a mutual respect amongst them, perhaps a self-recognition in their counterparts, or a shared understanding of the solitary trials of the painter. Each on his own path strives towards a common goal,: taking on the traditions of Western art - still-life, the figure, the landscape:, whilst responding to the world around them;
Their work reflects this world, scrutinises it. It is a comments on the human condition. Whether through unpeopled cityscapes or seemingly accidental still-lifes, the pictures burn with human presence, with stories untold and suggest a world outside the picture plane. Narrative is deliberately avoided but there is a an undeniable sense of human presence in these works. Apparently mundane, everyday subjects are painted repeatedly and intensely, making them all the more intriguing. Figures meditate in silence, seemingly frozen in eternal thought; still-life become anthropomorphic; cityscapes and interiors become stage sets with the players having either just left or about to enter.
Additionally, painting itself becomes the subject, with each artist keen to exploit the figurative/abstract duality of the medium in his attempt to construct something permanent. The work on display, though unashamedly representational, belies a shared preoccupation with the formal aspects of picture-making; those of composition, structure, form, balance and so on. That the paintings can 'fend for themselves' is important to each artist.
This exhibition is the first that the three have held together. It attempts to focus on subjects in common in order to create dialogue and comparison. It looks at how three artists deal with similar subjects in different ways; highlighting not only what unites them but also what sets them apart.