Saturday, 13 September 2014

Personal reflections on William Morris & 'In Paradiso' by Deborah Baker

Book cover of new publication In Paradiso by Deborah Baker
Available for the special price of £30 during the exhibition (£40 thereafter)

The first time I became aware of William Morris was a little pack of gift cards I received as a present as a teenager. They were a selection of his patterns, repetitive, natural & somewhat old fashioned to me at the time. His work takes maturity to appreciate, I know that now. The cards were useful as thank you's for gifts at birthdays & Christmas, but that was as far as my thoughts went back then. Without any contact with his work (I was living in my hometown of Manchester at the time) it was of no importance to me. 

The Morris Room at the V&A 

Then I was to encounter him again years later walking into the Morris Room at the V&A & falling in love with it at first sight. The pressure to live in minimal surroundings, free from clutter or homely touches rarely transfers to reality. This room - & subsequently his furniture, politics & associates in the arts -  made me think of alternatives to the crisp white walls & trendy furniture we are supposed to be striving to live amongst. 

Presenting ourselves online through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & all the rest of the social media options as having amazingly happy lives where we are always out with friends enjoying ourselves, in glamorous locations with fancy food & drink is a facade, a perpetual press release to the world.  

Why not allow for alternatives, to be somewhere where patterns with all the tangled aesthetic complexity of Morris can be quietly studied, reflected upon & absorbed. The profundity of a visual a statement is often found when the image does not reveal itself all at once. Powerful images rarely deliver in seconds, sometimes they can take a lifetime to appreciate as we mature & find more within them, as our own experiences in the world grow so does our eye for meaning. Morris' work remains timeless & popular as ever for the simple reason that it is carefully studied, using the already profound certainties of the natural world as inspiration to weave layers of humanity into each design. (See the selection still available here)

I have fond have memories of patterned wallpaper or frilly doilies on furniture, tiny ornaments grouped on windowsills or in dark wood cabinets. In them lie homely comforting memories of places where care was taken to surround themselves with pleasing things for themselves, not to show off to others (as the monetary value of such things weren't high) but to enjoy & treasure. 

In this age of post-modernism where do we go? Conceptual art can often lack aesthetic & decorative art vice versa. Finding the balance of meaning, emotion, passion & avoiding pretension is the battlefield we cross when we enter into the domain of the arts. But when we find it, oh what joy there is to be had. 

I found this in Deborah Baker's work - currently on display at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow - her raw emotions are transformed into poetic visual feasts of nature. 

©Deborah Baker Betulanimbusi
Courtesy of L A Noble Gallery

When embarking on the creation of her garden it seemed futile to just record each stage as the plants were continually growing & changing, the seasons transforming their appearance in perpetuity. With this in mind her response as an artist was to depict this growth by making the plants 'breathe' through the fracturing & movement infused into her aesthetic. The leaves in Betulanimbusi seem to burst out from the land skyward, exuberant & free. 

©Yayoi Kusama “Leaves”-1954

There is an obsessiveness, repetition of forms, spectral wonderment in a  fractured assemblage of photographic imagery which operates on many levels, just as a painting does, layering each shape amid the planes of colour built up in intricate detail. Well known doyen of the art world Yayoi Kusama's explorations of the natural world dance amongst the vibrant colours of her palette in her early work pictured above. Her compulsive style of working is in itself a therapy to Kusama. The therapeutic effect of both Baker & Kusama's work extends to the audience that views it. (If you have chance to watch the documentary on her do, it may surprise you a lot)

Whenever people come into a room with Baker's pictures they always become quiet, reflective & calm. In breaking down natural elements without completely removing the recognisable plants within her work, Baker doesn't merely record, she recreates the feelings of being in a garden, with all senses alert to receive the visual dance of the living with a reverence of the past.

©Deborah Baker Pruneucalus

I am the happy owner of one of her works, which fills the long gap in the view from my bedroom window of the cherry blossom that comes & goes so fleetingly each spring. 

©Laura Noble Cherry Blossom April 2013
All rights reserved 

The movement in her work through the multiple layers of light, dark, form take you into the picture & beyond its physical borders to a psychological space somewhere between waking & dreaming. When I look at Pruneucalus I am sometimes filled with lightness of being, sometimes it understands my dark self too. 

It is this dichotomy that renders her works longevity.They are not just pictures of plants, trees & flowers, they are filled with the fears, hopes & dreams of life where words fail to express. 

In Paradiso Folded cards in 3 designs also available 

In Paradiso will be on display from 3 September - 2 November 2014 (click for all info)

To accompany the exhibition the Limited Edition book In Paradiso (500 copies), including essays by Laura Noble and Nancy Ann Roth will be available to purchase for the special price of £30 for the duration of the exhibition, (RRP £40). Deborah will be signing copies of her book on 3 October.
Wear a work of art

3 crepe de chine scarves of immense beauty & delicacy are also on offer, each in an edition of 50 only, they measure 100 x 150cm & hang like a kimono when worn loosely around the shoulders.  £240 each

In Paradiso book:  Deluxe Limited Edition of 10:

Available to buy within a slipcase complete with a print of Raouliexigu, priced at £200 each

In Paradiso will be on display from 3 September - 2 November 2014

Transport: Walthamstow Central (Victoria line and national rail) or Wood Street (national rail)
Please note that there is limited pay and display parking available on site

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Love London Life!

On the left just past White Cube before the church.

Ring the bell, we are on the 1st floor.

The view from above

The view inside

Now approaching its last week, the ‘London Life CompetitionExhibition’ at L A Noble Gallery in collaboration with Art Bermondsey I thought I would share with you some of my observations, weird coincidences & visitors comments. It has been a breeze for some, a learning curve for others but I hope, ultimately a great experience for all the finalists.  
The Private View, announcing the winners

Opening night was a lively affair as always, with many of the finalists in attendance.

1st Prize - Carlotta Cardana

The winner Carlotta Cardana is now an L A Noble Gallery artist see her wonderful work here. (There are 2 projects including her latest series, more about that in another post) She is currently showing her 'Modern Couples' at the Noorderlicht Festival as well, busy times for a worthy winner!

The series pictures Mod couples in their chosen locations. By asking them to choose each couple is clearly comfortable therefore the resulting photographs reveal much more than a studio sitting. 

2nd place winner: Sheryl Tait 

During the evening we discovered the most wonderful coincidence - 2 photographers had both discovered their imagery in the same place. 

This extraordinary fact came to light when David O' Mara pointed to the buildings in James Reid's picture & said that is where he found the negatives he printed from. London really is a small place after all! 

These 2 approaches reflect the diversity of this city in one place, a council estate in Elephant & Castle that was once the largest in Europe (now gone) full of many souls all living their lives in many different ways… 

© David O'Mara  
Heygate Palimpset 2 / 2012

O' Mara's salvaging of negatives & printing them despite their dilapidated state , then presenting them in frames worthy of any great image elevates them to be appreciated by a new audience in a new way treats the snapshots taken of & by  an unknown family with respect. In one image the edges of the frame have worn away to create a portal of an image which beautifully resembles a silhouette of a woman in profile - in the aperture a woman in a pink headpiece reinforces the suggestion made by the shape. Another wonderful coincidence…?

3rd Prize winner: Alison J Carr

The difference in experiencing the work in the flesh is further emphasised with Alison J Carr's work. Her recreations of dancers on cigarette cards from the 1930's really transform the origins of the objects which inspired her to a whole new level. 
The back of the card duplicated exactly & the same size as the original
to offer the context & physicality of the initial object to the work.
We are treated to the attributes & talents of the dancer that 
was pictured on the other side of the original card, 
as well as a great additional caption. 

As the originals were black & white so are Carr's (hand-printed silver gelatin in fact). However to give them some colour she has framed the works in the dominant colour of each costume she wears in the picture. The more home-made nature of the costumes makes for a more authentic picture of the period.

©Walter Rothwell
Walter Rothwell's silver gelatin prints have to be seen in person to see the perfect 
example of quality printing with all its deep blacks & variety of tones. 

Rothwell's work has a wonderful duality, you look twice & see the humour & irony after the contents of the images' reality sinks in. The limo is so glossy that it is only upon closer inspection that you realise that it is rusting & abandoned. By using the cinematic proportions & cropping out the rest of the street the windows act like frames on celluloid & the context reveals itself slowly. This is the place where the artist sets the tone & narrative through composition. 

©Walter Rothwell

In another of his images Kate Bush's old house once owned by a man who was done for multi-million pound fraud (see here for details) depicts the fading hopes & grandeur of the aspirational dream of fame & fortune & acts as a warning to us all. Wuthering Heights indeed! 

©Louis Savage  Der Spiegel  2013
To further prove that beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places, Louis Savage's work takes us into familiar territory with pleasing results. The geometry of the tiles interrupted by the black outline of the woman walking through the tunnel makes me wonder if she uses the domed mirror to check if anyone is coming the other way or if she just uses it to check her appearance each day… Capturing these tiny moments is what photography does so well. Why not come & see for yourself?

Here are some more of the finalists with their work:

Stuey Burnett looking sharp with his work.

Emma Mapp as colourful as her photo

Pat Doyle happy angles!

Finally, a big thanks to all my amazing staff, Kelly here on the left & 
Co-Curator Chloe Rosser on the right wields the drill.

Lovely coffee nearby, don't be put off by the name! 

See for info.  

The exhibition runs till 4pm Friday August 29th.

Portfolio reviews can be booked for next week, last review at 2pm Friday, to see more info read here

Art Bermondsey
183-185 Bermondsey Street, First Floor, London, SE1 3UW
Visiting information:
Tube: London Bridge
Buses: 42, 78, 100, 1 and C10 (direct to Bermonsey Square) or all buses to London Bridge.