ArtMan: At last, a decent exhibition worth writing about

This week Kevin Wilson invites you to see a quality street of an exhibition at the Courtauld Institute

I go to lots and lots of exhibition openings in London and many are not worth writing about.

Sometimes the artwork is great but the space is too dull, or the people are Prada dressed lemmings ooing and ahhing at their neighbours’ comments en mass without having an individuality bone in their body.

At the other end of the scale, the let’s-be-scruffy-as-we-are-in-the-East-End private view is often forced into a different direction: one where the majority feel they have to agree with the art on the walls lest the free Budweiser disappears.

So, this week I am coming out, to say, I generally hate private views - openings, previews, whatever - I hate them.

So, it’s a zing of a palate cleanser when a show opening pops up that has it just right. 

This time it is the East wing X: Material Matters show at the Courtauld Institue.

Young, bouncy, very friendly curators who have more than a mogadon of enthusiasm, and an on the ball press officer (Jerome), who actually replied properly to my emails at 11pm (gold star).

Every two years the Courtauld Institute gives a group of students carte blanche to create a show, it’s a part training exercise and certainly the right thing for the sometimes staid Institute to do.

This year saw a labrynth of scuffed rooms, and a really well put together mix of artwork from 55 artists who sung and danced us around the show. This is the alchemy needed for a good show. So please, student curators from EastwingX, do try and retain your niceness when you move into the real artworld and show up the snootyites.

The artists

Laura Keeble’s star genius of stained glass security cameras are amazing but were too obscurly mounted in the room corners to gain the recognition they deserve – a sign needed maybe? We wanted to know there were cameras watching us!  There’s something ominous about survelance being cloaked in a veneer of decoration. This is a strong zeitgeist statement piece from Laura that like all great art will sing back to us in 100 years time.

Laura Keeble, Observance

Laura Keeble, Observance

A lovely designer and artist called Freya accompanied me on this reconnaissance mission and I watched her ordered eye admire the endless foldings of artist Mung Lar Lam’s work (pictured below). This is something that wouldn’t normally catch my eye so I was intrigued that Freya she was fixated by the carefully ironed and pleated cloth artwork. The work apparently appealed to her meticulous sense of order and tidyness. Given that Freya then professed to loving the action of ironing it made even more sense. But this left me pondering if messy people respond better to messy art?  

Mung Lar Lam, Ironings

Mung Lar Lam, Ironings

Next door, something strange happens in your head when you look at A Couple of  Canals by Patrick Hughes (pictured below). I’m not trying to be profound, but there’s a great trick of the mind at play. The streets follow you around the room and would unnerve even the Queen in her automated state visit mode.   

I can’t show you the effect here sadly, but I urge you to go along and see for yourself: trust me, it’s worth it. Once there, walk backwards and forwards in front of it. But, please, don’t be very drunk or too high, otherwise you may get too upset.

Patrick Hughes, A Couple of Canals

Patrick Hughes, A Couple of Canals

Speaking of drink, while listening to a wonderfully drunk arts director debate (with herself) what role “poshness” plays in the artworld, and at what point Northerners are fully accepted into the South, I looked over her shoulder at the amazing photographic image of Dirk Dimirsky’s Nicole II (pictured below).

I then realised it was actually a drawing and not a photograph. This perfectly executed work would have been great as a photo, but sang opera as a drawing. Luckily I was so mezmorised with Nicole II that I lost track of the North vs. South vs. Common vs. Posh argument which still raged as the drunken director (still talking to herself), faced the wall and argued the toss with a painting, which probably wasn’t listening either.

Dirk Dimirsky, Nicole II

Dirk Dimirsky, Nicole II

Simon Monk’s work (pictured below), is spot on photorealistic painting with a kitsch twist. 

But the kitschness adds to the wonderful worlds Simon has created. In Monkland, toys we remember from childhood are bagged in cellophane bags. He wraps and seals our quirky memories forever, we like that.

Simon Monk, Leisure Bag

Simon Monk, Leisure Bag

Overall then, a memorable experience with all the elements of a good show. It’s a show for all and for that reason alone all should go see. Praise to the young team who put it together and a final reminder to please stay lovely.

East Wing X: Material Matters is on until June 2013 at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, The Strand WC2R ORN

Kevin Wilson is an international arts consultant, curator and collector. He advises on collections, investments and projects. His clients range from the historical royal palaces, international corporations, to private individuals and collections worldwide. 

Social Bookmarks