London Art Fair 2020

London Art Fair Business Design Centre 2020

My first visit to London Art Fair, what a treat!  It was not at all what I was expecting. It was much warmer and inclusive than Frieze, and a broader range of art than I assumed.  A shout out to Shtager Gallery first to say hello!  It was a surprise to find older work on display as I thought it would be mostly new work, but what a delight to be able to view my personal favourites Patrick Heron, Victor Passmore, Adrian Heath and of course Terry Frost.  My photos no way give the art its merit, but I was intrigued to see The Spanish Civil War Dreams and Nightmares 2001 by Sir Terry Frost RA.  Great to see the iconic red, black and white in such bold sweeping strokes.  The perfect dark at heart gushing blood red from the centre, exploding into scarlet rays, alternating with textured grey smudges, and trickled with red dribbles.  Dreams and nightmares captured brilliantly with the utopian belief and aim of a civil war with the dark consequences of conflict.  Interesting to see how the work, commissioned for the cover of the Imperial War Museum brochure of the Spanish Civil War exhibition in 2001, was cropped to almost remove the heart and replace Frost’s flourished and freely written title with a staid emotionless font.  I am bewildered at the cropping not only of the image, but also of the energy, power and sentiment behind the original.

Speaking of Frosts, at the Beaux Arts stand there was representation of Anthony Frost, a beautiful colourful display of prints and mono prints  The twelve mono prints share a familial likeness in colour and tone, strangely muted and pallid, but with insistent and vibrant contrasts with bold crosses, flurries, and controlling coloured frames around some, which invoke a heated discussion and interaction between all twelve.  Indeed a familial altercation, heated but respectful.

Just loved the Juvenile Baboon 2020 by Kendra Haste, what skill with such a formidable medium, I make a note of the up-coming solo exhibition at the Beaux Arts Maddox Street Gallery in October, and note the blue Terry Frost behind.

The display that had the most effect on me was the Catalan artist Jordi Alcaraz.  I revisited the work three times over the day, completely seduced by it.  Intrigued by the effect the images had on me, the execution of the work and the dip into the life of an artist I was unfamiliar with was intoxicating.  Happy to chat with me, the Galeria Miquel Alzueta were informative and friendly, and I wish I had known before as I visited Barcelona earlier in the year.

The two book based works were tantalising in obscuring the contents of the pages, masked by paper, then poured and splashed resin, and/or broken perspex.  The work is savagely punctured, peeled away as if attempting to reveal some hidden force or meaning, a great study in obscuring, obfuscating, of secrets hidden and paradoxically revealing or bursting forth.  I was captivated by the distortion of the work by the plexiglass, by the bouncing light from its many twisted surfaces, and the fragile, old, cream paper hidden underneath.  The central image of gouges from a surface reminiscent of grey plasterboard, punctuated by black resin drips that stand tall like organic teasels, with the hard poured resin, and smudgy grey shadows playing tricks with perspective.

I loved the Clare Woods too that beckoned to me from the Southampton City Art Gallery display.  Funnelled Hole 2011, uses oil on aluminium which has the effect of illuminating the paint from behind, catching what light there is to accentuate the contrast of colour as it gathers what surrounds it into the vortex that is the funnel and we are drawn towards and within.  Jostling with other visitors it was some time before I could get a clear view without interruption, not wanting to disturb the intense conversations happening around me.  The London Art Fair was exciting and stimulating on all sides.

Choosing to go on Friday the available events were photography related, a medium I am unfamiliar with, so instead of dismissing it, I decided to embrace it and learn more by taking a photography tour of the fair.  Diane Smith was a knowledgable and enthusiastic tour guide and visiting many stands exhibiting photography of a variety of styles was informative and interesting.  My fellow tour guests were very knowledgable and their interaction was useful for me a novice.  This piece Water Lilies No.3 2018 by Santeri Tuori, dominated the staircase with its bold colour, luminosity and definition, really stunning.

Almudena Romero an artist from Bow Arts with the Nunnery Gallery gave us a personal account of her work, using the offcuts of her photographs as business cards which was memorable.  She explained her intriguing and enigmatic photographs, About The Thamesmead Chapter, sadly my lack of knowledge served only to mystify the process further, however her website relates: 

“These fibre-based silver gelatin prints (traditional black and white photographic paper) have been manually developed with a unique method so the unexposed silver in the paper (the highlights of the image) becomes a silver mirror.”

Almudeno Romero

The delightful way the mirrored silver shines through the photographs of the brutalist architecture is wonderful.  Hopefully this illuminates her work, but to be honest the effect is mesmerising, so don’t stop Almudena!

The other delight, before my train called me home was to see Susan Derges images.  I had encountered her work before, where she does not use a camera, but photographic paper under water to capture the waves and light with only the moon, or a handheld torch as a light source to create the image.  This beautiful yellow Alder Brook 2, 2017, displayed by Purdy Hicks Gallery really took my eye with its contrast of black and yellow, but with the movement and haze of the water stilled, it somehow shimmered.

Exhausted both mentally and physically I enjoyed my day.  Great coffee and cake in the cafe, where I again shamelessly eavesdropped on so many snippets of conversation that my mind was buzzing.  Chatting with fellow tour guests was enlightening and in some ways a companion to chat to about my experiences would have been good, but maybe the fact I was on my own made me concentrate on my thoughts.  I shall engage with more people on my next visit.

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