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The third annual Art Rooms exhibition took place at The Meliá White House Hotel, Regents Park, from January 20th to 23rd. Such was the quality, the originality and the variety of the art on display, this must now be regarded as one of the leading contemporary art events in the country. A fine, international showcase for emerging and developing talent in a prestigious and exciting setting. Art Rooms 2017 has also provided an inspirational start for the Connected Cultures year.
Leaving the Skin on a Border is unsettling. Deliberately so. The barbed wire is chillingly sprawled across the bed with scraps of newspaper and images pinned beneath, depicting the remnants of the struggle to flee oppression. Desperate passages to a safer or otherwise better world are made every day by migrants and refugees. The artist is acutely aware of the dangers in crossing into Europe over the Spanish border and the border between Colombia and Venezuela.
Despite having comfort and security in my own land, I somehow instantly felt an emotional connection with those who have suffered so traumatically, and whose pain has been conveyed through this highly evocative piece. We are all connected, politically, socially, economicially.
The room also contained a collection of old photographs which emphasised the human element of the struggle and the theme of memory. The process of ageing is heightened by the sepia and black and white tones. I felt both a personal and collective sense of loss and an appreciation of an attempt not to forget those who have gone before us. A strong, commemorative sense of family, but also sadness at the relentless passage of time.
This is the kind of art that means most to me. Creative brilliance combined with a hard-hitting social message. Moving and relevant on a personal and international level.
Liminality is a stunning piece, and deservedly one of the Project Art prize winning entries. At first glance the exhibit is simply a mass of black hair, but it quickly begins to feel quite disturbing. At the centre there is a human form underneath, entirely covered and inevitably unable to breathe. There is a hint of Schrödinger here. The person is either dead or alive. Both, unless or until you dare to explore further. The title, an anthropological term for a state or transition, ambiguity or disorientation, is perfect.
There is another contrast here; a sense of organic growth displayed in synthetic form. This links up with the socio-economic implications for women across the globe who have to sell their hair in order to make a living, with many women in wealthy circumstances having few or no qualms about beautifying themselves at the expense of the natural beauty of others.
Back to life and death. The artist told me of her belief that people die twice. The first time when they physically expire, the second time when the last person who knew them has forgotten them. I’m still contemplating this idea.
Mireia displayed some particularly beautiful and absorbing pieces. I loved her colour schemes and relished the satisfaction I gained from admiring her paintings. As with all my favourite abstract art, I wanted to engage with the pictures for as long as possible, to gaze, to explore, to discover more. Again, it’s easy to see how Mireia’s work caught the attention of the Project Art judges.
In a contrasting style, Damien Borowik, the third of four Project Art winners, entertained and captivated with his mechanical display. This is not something I would normally say about art, but the delight here was mainly technological. Damien, originally a mathematics graduate before developing his artistry, has produced a machine that creates highly attractive, mesmerising images. Much of the attraction comes from straight lines and squares, although I gather the motion is circular. A technically artistic wonder.
Obsessed with news and current events, Tracey enjoys enhancing the process of information exchange in a creative and teasing form. She recycles and manipulates newspaper in a highly engaging way to produce a skilful combination of words and images. The wood grain effect of the pieces captures the source of the material and the links with the natural world. This is refreshing alongside the dominance of technology in the media industry. Similarly, the presence of type-writers in the room added to the archaic feel to the display. There is also considerable, topical humour here, with a Brexit cartoon piece which points to the triggering of article 50 and Britain’s upcoming status as a lone, rogue state.
Claire is a supremely accomplished and prolific metal artist and silversmith. Her room was full of beautiful exhibits, skilfully and attractively crafted out of gold, silver, copper and tin. Some of the items have been recyled from simpler objects including previously humble oil cans. They have amazingly intricate designs, indicating great confidence and precision. My favourite item was Spiral Form, fashioned out of copper, which is perhaps an under-rated material but one which just felt so good to hold and to behold. The touch, weight, and colour scheme of the copper combined to give me quite a frisson; a moment of pure, artistic excitement.
If photography belongs in an art exhibition, then it needs to be transformed in clever ways. Dario has done exactly this, presenting original images which he has enhanced with acrylics and then distressed through scratching and other ageing techniques. His super-sized image of New York is breath-taking. This was well supported by portraits of classical figures, which bring out the Roman in this gifted Italian artist.
Silvia was one of a handful of returning artists, and the only artist I have featured in both my 2016 and 2017 reviews. I was happy to see the latest instalment in her artistic journey. Alongside new elements to her Mind the Gap tribute to London’s infrastructure, Silvia displayed a rich, naturalistic tapestry entitled Ivy. The contrasting shades of blue and green created an enchanting effect in the room. I would like to find myself completely surrounded in a forest of such rich, deep, ivy hangings.
I was particularly keen to meet Justyna, having previously introduced ourselves to each other online in the build up to the exhibition. Art Rooms is a fine event for establishing artistic and cultural connections. Here, it became even clearer that we share at least one very strong link: we are both drawn to the sea. Much of Justyna’s art depicts water in a range of forms and settings, including the apparent tranquility of faraway beach paradises but also the chilling aftermath of a tsunami in Japan. Her colour scheme is bold and built up in layers, with underlying brightness, warmth and depth.
There is a shocking array of colour in the art of Colin McCallum. And yet I found myself wanting to be shocked. The centrepiece in the room was a staggering array of vivid, ultra-modern neon pinks, yellows and greens which appear to have been dripped and splashed, yet somehow contained within a semi-formal grid. This initial effect was somewhat misleading. This is a spectacular experiment in colours and combinations, indeed, yet one which was skilfully controlled and presented. I felt compelled to enter the room to allow my traditional artistic senses to be assaulted. A look at the artist’s website shows prolific and dynamic output which will call me back for more.
This was another brilliant Art Rooms event with an extensive and varied collection of contemporary art from independent artists from across the world. Europe, the Americas, Oceania and the Middle and Far East were well represented. A repeat request for next time, though: a corridor dedicated to African art would do even more wonders for the exhibition.
I’d like to say a special ‘thank you’ to event founder and organiser Cristina Cellini Antonini for welcoming me to the event and into her circle of artistic friends, all delightfully talking Italian. Grazie mille. And to Johannes Fröhlich, co-founder of Project Art, for also welcoming me to the special preview evening and into the competition winners’ room. Danke schön.
I enjoyed myself immensely and felt artistically and culturally enriched. I look forward to returning again in 2018.
© Eddie Hewitt 2017
January 24, 2017
Project Art – The Social Arts Market ™ is a superb and remarkably innovative online platform for artists and art lovers everywhere. Artists have the opportunity to present themselves as well as to offer their works for sale. In turn, art lovers can learn more about the artists and can make more informed impressions about what they appreciate most, as well as having the opportunity to make purchases. It’s a bold claim, but Project Art offers a ‘different art experience’.
It seems best to let the Project Art founders say a few words: "Project Art’s vision is to democratise the arts by building a new art market model, a level playing field for artists, art lovers and newcomers alike." (Project Art website)
Founded in 2016, Project Art is headed by co-founders Johannes Fröhlich and Clemens Hackl, dedicated art enthusiasts who recognised an opportunity to develop a new form of artistic interchange. The website has attracted many subscribers and has enjoyed millions of hits, and shows every sign of increasing exponentially in its popularity. Johannes and Clemens are on a mission to revolutionise the art market, where the members and subscribers, even the visitors, are the curators. This is clearly a ground-breaking, inspirational and exciting opportunity in the world of contemporary art.
Recognising strong links and many shared aspirations with the annual Art Rooms exhibition, Project Art decided to sponsor the exhibition this year. The links include a strong international element, a desire to promote and encourage truly gifted and inspirational artists, and to provide enhanced opportunities for cultural and artistic exchange between everyone who has a shared appreciation of contemporary art. There is also a shared desire for excellence and an enriched, life-enhancing experience through creative expression and shared social connectivity.
The sponsorship included a fiercely contested competition with the winning four artists being presented with the opportunity to display their art at the 2017 exhibition.
The winners of the Project Art completion were:
Project Art is impressively different from many art websites and market places. This is so much more than an online catalogue or shop window. The site provides a genuine opportunity for information sharing and for learning about the artists and their art, their motivations and their creativity. Art lovers have the opportunity to develop their knowledge and appreciation of art in their own time and chosen environment, and to click on and view as much or as little as they choose to at any one time.
© Eddie Hewitt 2017
January 24, 2017