Oxo Tower Bargehouse
Four floors of an old Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf on the South Bank in London, a prestigious venue and exciting opportunity to exhibit here! Intersillient were proud to secure a place for Bryan B. Kelly to present his work in such an atmospheric, quirky maze of a place. His naive, nostalgic and colourful pointillist style prompted much discussion beforehand on the best way to cover the suggested exhibition theme of “haunting”.
Bryan decided on The Silence as a first and obvious choice. This was originally painted as an entry into the local Leamington Studio Artists exhibition Response to Journeys With “The Waste Land”, an exhibition from Margate’s Turner Contemporary and Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery’s shows based on the T.S. Eliot poem “The Waste Land”. The work is a consideration of the Hyacinth Girl:
I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.T.S.Eliot The Waste Land lines 39-41
The unsettling ghost-like figure centred against a deep black walled garden, contrasted with the shock of pink sky, suggests an apocalyptic vision.
Lockdown, a comment on the death of cafe culture during the covid pandemic, The Old Mill Wheel, evoking nostalgia, and the striking Golden Ruin on its fantastic red hill have an other worldly feel. Leila Bibizadeh, Founder and Director of Exhibit Here suggested a theme of “haunting”, but with no imperative to follow it rather weakened the exhibition. The maze of different styles and artwork may have benefited from some continuity and the theme would have contributed to that cohesion. The resulting eclectic mix was stimulating, but maybe different choices of work may have been made if the haunting theme had been abandoned altogether. Limited by the strict labelling criteria there was little opportunity to expand on a narrative. This laid a level of importance on the Private View to gain more information and insight on the artworks by personal interaction, and also on the invigilation of the exhibition to promote, or indeed, prompt any sales. The organisation of the whole event from submission to de-install was extremely well organised, with clear instruction and calm, efficient execution. I was impressed with Leila’s coordination.
An artwork that did appeal to the theme of haunting was Anne Bennett’s Synchronous Kaleidoscope, a beautiful cloud of butterflies hovering in the very cool and creepy top floor. Dark at one end, even in daylight, with the far end of the room illuminated by sunshine, the glowing butterflies fluttered and bobbed in the slight movement of air as people walked underneath. It was magical! It would be gorgeous installed in a restaurant as long as the butterflies were out of an arm stretch reach. Singly they were delightful, but en masse they were captivating.
Light as air the feathers captured in Alessia Sissa’s photograph The Catch are similarly engaging. The fragility of the spider’s web and the feathers appearing to tremble in their captivity added a lightness to the industrial surroundings. Alessia’s concrete wall was impenetrable and once giving up to the vagaries of the surface which dictated its position, it positively enhanced the space; contrasting the delicate subject with the unforgiving environment somehow accentuated its beauty.
Sharing the space with Alessia was Orsina Pasargiklian exhibiting Free Fall. The depth and perspective achieved in this work with the shading and shine is remarkable. The one image that myself and my four other companions on the Private View all photographed or mentioned as important in the show.
Personally I always fall for an abstract and this one has “haunted” me since the show! Abstract 220125 by Verónica Marcano. Apparently a larger version of a previous piece, I believe it could go larger and be even more impactful. The lighting at Bargehouse is minimal, and difficult to negotiate enough limelight for every artist. It is imperative not to mess with the lights we were told and this work did not reveal its true relationship of colours until photographed. The background appeared black and murky, but the light from the camera revealed a rich navy blue. The orange lines are beginning to subvert the pattern and break up the surface, but we see as yet still confined.
Round the Bend by Bev Jones attracted me with its strong palette. The bold colours of the trees, shrubs and leaves created a jungle of vegetation, but obviously a British park, ambiguous in its purposeful cultivation, yet feeling wild and unknown. The fracturing of the space and colour with the stark black branches was a clever device and one was left wondering why there was a person, a solitary man, in the frame. Bev said she wanted to encourage the viewer to go “round the bend.” Rather than madness there was a thoughtfulness and maybe the pop of turquoise is an invitation to stand still or the gateway to another bend.
Alice Dunn Ribeiro showed how to maximise the simple lines of one white wall, this image catching the sunshine on the day after the Private View where she had sold 3 of 4 of her quiet, confident, contemplative and gentle studies of the human form. Best position in the gallery and made the most of the natural light.
I imagine Jill Desborough was delighted to see her spot in the opposite corner. How amazing her sculpture display looked with the backdrop of an incredible wall, distressed, peeling and crumbling, framed and protected by glass it looks like a work of art in itself. The Bargehouse rocked its quirkiness to extreme, enigmatic and spooky in the evening, but funnelling and splashing the light around in the daytime. I wanted to join the Dance Macabre, joining hands and following their lead…even if it might be to a place I don’t want to be…! The loneliness of the Minotaur in Solitary was palpable, the dripping effect lowering and oppressing the figure as the daylight accentuated his despair.
Origami Chair by Philip Michael Wolfson the video installation it contributes to. A loud soundtrack of booming and clanging sounds, reminiscent of what the chair might sound like if hit, resounds through the first floor of Bargehouse. The video by Maxim Nilov is projected with the stationary figure balanced on the grid of marks on the wall. The dancer slides in from the left and performs an intricate display of folding limbs and body, around, inside, on and through the image of the Origami Chair projected on the wall. The frozen element occasionally captures the dance movement as a still, superimposing more movement and then fading away. The hard surface of the steel chair is questioned as the movement flows around it, however the empty chair is in front of the viewer. Do we want to sit on it? Yes! Are we encouraged to? NO! Will we do so anyway? Our stasis as viewer is not fluid and we are a frozen audience. The choreography by the dancer Kirill Burlov is fluid and mesmerising, and the resonating sound was created for this Bargehouse event. The whole work has a new soundtrack, by Dom Bouffard, so the fluidity of interpretation is evident, but only if you know the earlier incarnation on the YouTube version is different, more shrill and less calamitous.
I found the companion Origami Dancer informed the piece, but was on the ground floor along with Tsukumogami-Pinkie, sheep sculpture. The mirror polished stainless steel, although static, did in fact suggest movement, especially when looked at from all angles, taking on light, reflection and shadow in a silky, shiny form. The precision folding essential to origami is replicated in the steel in both pieces, not an easy task. Great fun to see the glamorous sheep, it made me smile. Hello Dolly! came to mind, shocking pink and beads galore!
Kate Crumpler definitely had the most innovative business card, a limited edition I was privileged to be presented with one! Disturbed and challenged, but fun too is how I describe Kate’s work and it has left me thinking long after leaving the exhibition. The Grief That Never Was I found disturbing as the puddle of red fabric it sat on and drops of red felt suspended from the bulbous willow frame, not only looked like blood but also reminded me of menstrual blood. The title summoned miscarriage to mind and I was profoundly sad. I studiously ignored the looming black bin liner effigy. I was expecting it to reveal something interesting beneath the blackness, but no it remained taking up space like a blackness in the corner with a human or animal like shape and presence. I turned my back on it and concentrated on the Golden Golf Shoes! It wasn’t until later I realised that the blackness and the shoes were one piece entitled The Choice. I had unwittingly made my choice of going with the Dorothy-esque fairytale shoes and finding great joy in them. My daughter was invited to wear them and did so with alacrity, it was joyous as you can see in the video.
Everlasting Joy another piece by Kate Crumpler in a different room, sparked a fountain of joy, yellow and cheerful, springlike and indeed joyous. It looked like it was, or could be any minute, spinning and twirling, spilling its yellow joy for everyone. Thank you Kate for giving me food for thought. An eclectic mix of work in an interesting and unusual space, the whole experience was a positive one. I learned a lot and met some lovely people. It was uplifting to see a return to large gatherings of like-minded people, enjoying a mutual love of art in all its forms; a spark to ignite the future which promises much.