Writen by Nicola Anthony for Zeitgeist Magazine, see the original article here
“London: Bold and evolving. Multitudes of faces and places. Bulging at the seams…”
These are just a few ways our diverse capital has been described. The creativity here is cutting edge, ambitious, exciting and quirky. I looked at the myriad of different and unknown worlds that make up ‘London’ in my previous article, and asked the question – how can it all be represented through art, and in just one exhibition?
In an important USA show, this difficult task has been achieved at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art – a pocket of London within the OC. This is rather exciting for me because it provides a unique perspective. Residing in London, surrounded by it’s high energy art scene and steeped in its culture, it’s often difficult to truly appreciate. In taking a closer look at us, our American neighbours have allowed us to venture out through theirLondon‘portal’ and turn back to peer in at the view.
The London Calling exhibition was like a who’s who of the young, UK art scene. “In conceptualizing the exhibition the focus was to capture the diversity of medium and perspective in UK contemporary art,” says Lisa Popp, the Director of Exhibitions for the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, (affectionately known as OCCCA). Lisa selected and curated the artwork for London Calling by working with West London gallery Debut Contemporary, alongside the curation team and fellow artists Joella March and Stephen Anderson. They selected diverse work, “from portraiture to abstract expression, print to new media and multi-layered meaning sculpture.” Traversing the gallery space, we are even encouraged to participate in some pieces such as Carlos M Burgos’s peep boxes which offer an alternative glimpse of the urban world.
Popp notes, “I can feel the London art scene vibe infused in the pieces of the exhibition. Artists are reflecting the high energy, cutting edge thoughts, multitudes of people and places, light, hot colour, boundaries bulging at the seams and yet, there is a consistency to scholarship and a sense of polish and respect for tradition in the vast majority of the work.”
The flavour is undeniably British, with works such as ‘Benji’ by Victoria Heald (below) which references a pose taken from Antonioni’s iconic 1966 film ‘Blow-Up’ – the epitome of 1960s ‘Swinging London’. Heald flew over to attend the Private View. “It was so animated and full of energy, attracting visitors from all over LA.” she said, “It was fantastic to have my paintings received by an international audience”.
So does London really have an influence on the artist’s work or is it simply their base? Their playground? Their exhibiting platform? I spoke with the London Calling artists about what London means to them.
Tinsel Edwards is making a splash in London, she explained – “I love London. I love so much about it, there is creativity everywhere, you can always find amazing art exhibitions and different gigs to go to every night of the week. I love the feeling of possibility that London has, it has an ever-evolving energy which I find really inspiring. You can have anonymity yet also meet interesting people constantly in this city.”
Honest, characteristically anti-establishment, and often tongue in cheek, her work is directly influenced by her experiences of living here. She describes our city as “steeped in fascinating history and because it’s so big there is always something new to discover and visually there is always something new to absorb.” Her paintings are a response to her immediate surroundings, “many of my pieces even include London landmarks such as ‘White Cube’ and ‘Shoreditch Bridge’.”
Tinsel’s statement-making artwork in the show was entitled ‘Shoebox’ (below), and references the increasing problems with the London housing situation, the imagery in the piece was based on a shoe shop on Shoreditch High Street and took text from real adverts for rental properties on the market.
A painter at the other end of the spectrum is Tahnee Lonsdale, an introspective artist who paints what she thinks, not what she sees. Her work is a direct and highly personal representation of her life in London. “What I paint is a reflection of me and an expression of how I view the world”.
Lonsdale’s paintings are a patchwork of colour, layered with working and reworking, and smudges of charcoal writing, often wiped away with only traces visible. The very process of painting is inherent in her pieces and the text-scarred surfaces record a history of each artwork. She explains text as thoughts spilling out her head and onto the painting, often incoherent and barely visible.
The artist noticed the clarity with which she could view the London art scene through the exhibition. “Sometimes it is only possible to see something when you take it out of the box. This is how I feel about the London Calling show. It’s difficult to see how our London art collective might be perceived when it is hanging in a gallery in London. The OCCCA show was like a small piece of a jigsaw puzzle removed from London and placed within the LA art world, it suddenly stands out more, has a more defined expression and definitely gains more attention.”
Silvia Krupinska is a sculptor born in Poprad, Slovak Republic, and living in London since the age of 18. Her work (above) utilizes recycled materials, including her own skin, tennis balls, hair, plaster and fruits. “The influence of new trends is visible faster in London and the underground scene is strong as well. The artists in London in my mind have the confidence to express what they believe in.” For Krupinska, the essence is its variety and richness.
That’s the thing about our city – it’s so diverse in culture that there is a lot to be expressed at once. Krupinska noted that this means that international art also has it’s portal via London Calling, with selected artists originating from Europe and Asia and South America as well as London. “That is what’s so special about London… the ability of artists to link and work together whatever their place of birth, creating the lively and strong message, like nowhere else – Together we are stronger!”
And certainly at the present we can see more innovative and collaborative working in the arts and creative solutions to opposing the diminution of diversity in UK art. Perhaps the most exciting thing about London Calling as a collective of artists, is that in our climate of limited art funding, they have come together and taken it upon themselves to promote and raise the profile of the London Art scene overseas.
Gallery director Lisa Popp observed that whilst there seems little difference between the London and the Californian arenas, “the contrast lies in the support artists are given in the UK and the differentiation in government systems.” We can see the influence of this at times like the present where art funding is being shrunk all the time and the space in which art and new ideas can be realized is becoming scarce – affecting how the artist flourishes or is challenged. But new ways of working are arising – Samir Ceric, Director of London’s Debut Contemporary, notes passionately: “I feel this is just the beginning of a very exciting project which has come out of this unique way of collaborating between Debut, Artists and art professionals in the industry”.
I spoke with Nick Lisica, Director of Hudson Link (an boundary pushing LA based curatorial group and nomadic gallery), when he popped along to the private view. “Not only was it great to check out the London art scene, I was also able to establish a working relationship with a number of the artists, laying the groundwork for future collaborations” he said.
The richness London, of it’s art scene, as well as the challenges it presents have been showcased beautifully in this compact survey of contemporary art in London, and it’s clearly not the last we have heard of this fledgling relationship forming between two distant places. I urge you, if you’ve not peeked at this show already, to see it for yourself on the links below.
Click the link below for a 3D virtual walk-through of the exhibition – tip, use the arrows to navigate or switch to 2D mode to see specific images:
Abigail Box, Agnetha Sjogren, Azadeh Fatehrad, Beth Nicholas, Carlos Martyn Burgos, Chantal Powell, Darren MacPherson, Katerina Stavrou, Katrina James, Kimi Wylde, Henry Wood, Joe Cruz, Lloyd Durling, Lyndsay Martin, Masa Suzuki, Nicola Anthony, Rachel Noble, Rosie Emerson, Robert West, Senghye Yang, Silvia Krupinska,Sylvia Morgado, Sun Ae Kim, Tinsel Edwards, Tahnee Lonsdale, Twinkle Troughton, Victoria Heald, Vikram Kushwah
Nicola Anthony is an artist and art writer living & working in London. She seeks to discover things which make her mind crackle with creative thought. Catch @Nicola_Anthony on twitter, or her artist’s blog