London has forever been a centre for the arts. Since the city’s foundation both artists and their works have found a natural respite within the confines of the city’s limestone and brick walls – birthing not only a definitive pantheon of greats but also entire artistic movements that have shaped the world. Today, we find galleries and artists more emboldened then ever, confronting yet another challenge, this time in the form of a global shut-down.
Nevertheless, art reigns triumphant and manages still to penetrate the gloom to offer us solace and comfort. We round up some of the most exciting exhibitions coming up and the phenomenal artists moving the art world forward:
At Blenheim Palace
From September 17th, 2020 – 03rd of January 2021
Acclaimed British Artist Cecily Brown unveils a major new exhibition at Blenheim Place this Thursday. Composed of entirely new works, the show is inspired by the Palace’s renown collection of paintings, tapestries and decorative arts.
This will be the first exhibition of the Blenheim Art Foundation to exclusively reference the Palace’s history as an English country estate and as the home to successive generations of the Spencer-Churchill family.
Rendered in her emotive, frenetic brushstrokes, Brown’s new series will visually reference masterpieces by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Anthony Van Dyck on view at the Palace, as well as family heraldry, armorial banners and the martial scenes of the Blenheim Tapestries that line the State Rooms.
At David Zwirner London & New York
From September 15th – October 31st
Starting this week, celebrated transatlantic contemporary art gallery David Zwirner will present concurrent exhibitions of new work by the New York–based artist Josh Smith. On view at the gallery’s London location (the artist’s first presentation at David Zwirner London) and at 69th Street in New York, the shows will feature a new group of paintings depicting empty streetscapes from a series that the artist began in March 2020. Reflecting on the experience of creating these new works during the 2020 pandemic, the artist wrote:
Mid-March, in the studio I was spending the new entirely free days messing around and wondering why I was doing painting at all. Maybe then I stopped painting entirely. I definitely started walking the neighbourhoods around me. Never before would I or could I do this. Normally, taking long walks was not something I could justify squeezing into my days. Also, normally, it is far too loud and busy. Worst of all, the air is filthy. If you leave a window open here, there is a layer of black soot on the windowsill at the end of the day. It does not make sense to walk anywhere for no reason here. It’s gross.Josh Smith, August 2020
Where I live and work, people should not live. This is not a place for a happy life. This is an industrial area, which gradually turns into hardy residential neighbourhoods. Around here there tends not to be many people out at all. When a person would appear on the horizon, we would each take pains to avoid each other.
The first group of 10 paintings was a surprise. I was not expecting to make anything. Then these paintings came. The air was so clean. Without all the cars and the people, I could look up and see where I was. It was soft and not threatening. What I saw calmed me down. I had not felt like that for 20 years. The colours, the edges, the relationships of things, appeared with clarity.
A few more weeks passed, which I spent using up the remaining 5-by-4-foot stretchers I had in my studio. (I had 20. The first 10 were featured in the online presentation High As Fuck, and the next 10 are in London.) The paintings in London were made on fresh canvases, while the first 10 were painted over unfinished paintings I had around my studio. The other large work in the London exhibition came later.
Josh Smith is a New York–based painter who also works with collage, sculpture, printmaking, and artist’s books. Since the early 2000s, he has developed a prolific and expansive body of painting that employs specific visual motifs as a means of exploring the potentiality of the painted surface.
At Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London
From September 16th – October 31st
As one of Britain’s fastest rising artists’, Jadé’s work is featured by some of the world’s most prestigious collections. Her work explores a complex emotional landscape, and offer an insight into the artist’s quest for identity and self-knowledge. For Fadojutimi, painting is like looking into a windowpane and seeing the reflection of her self, the context in which she lives, and the distorted fusion of these two.
Using the canvas as a sounding board, she grapples with memories of everyday experiences, both good and bad. Through this process Fadojutimi examines how her sense of self is constructed so that her paintings communicate forms of emotion which are impossible to convey through language.
In her interrogation of identity, and how it informs and is informed by one’s surroundings, Fadojutimi is fascinated by the ways in which we adorn ourselves with clothes and accessories in order to construct a sense of self. The shapes of patterned stockings and bows, as well as eclectic swatches of fabric, recur in many of her paintings. Outlines of objects that resonate with the artist but often elude the viewer also feature surreptitiously.
The artist also reflects on the trauma of feeling displaced or alienated from one’s surroundings. Many of her works depict mysterious landscapes which toe the line between figuration and abstraction, an attempt to create a form of reality which is parallel to but separate from the real world.
Fadojutimi explains that her works ‘question the existence of feelings and reactions to daily experiences. They question our perceptions and perspectives whilst manifesting struggles. They recognise a lack of self caused by automatically thinking that my identity is already defined, and also a frustration that paint can accept these characteristics better than myself.’
At The Sunday Painter, London
From September 14th – September 26th
Rachel Jones presents four new works that explore her relationship with the Black Interior. Using painting as a form of interrogation, Jones uses symbols and motifs to explore representations of blackness, which through explorative colour combinations and intuitive forms, are rendered as larger than life images of mouths and teeth.
Made with oil sticks and oil pastels, these works develop Jones’ approach to using colour as a form of visual language. Through the use of vivid colour formations and gestural marks that struggle to stay contained on the torn and pinned canvas, Jones brings to life images that portray an autonomous, multiplicitous and fervent inner landscape.
Meanwhile – Nicholas Pope’s work references complicated themes of spirituality, belief, death and society. The works are personal, infused with intimacy, or a ‘sticky intimacy’ as he puts it, occupying an uncomfortable space between the sacred and the profane. Pope came to prominence in the 1970s and early 1980s for his large-scale sculptures made of wood, metal, stone, sheet lead or chalk which held a powerful abstract quality that is softened by his use of natural materials.
Fifteen Holes (above) – completed in 1981 – was made from a single Elm which was carved into fifteen rings, each brimming with character with some swollen and misshapen and others balancing precariously, all with a rough repetitious surface, a gesture typical of his work up until the present day.
At Sadie Coles, London
From September 16th
Helen Marten (b. 1985, Macclesfield, UK) studied at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London and Ruskin School of Fine Art, University of Oxford (2005-2008). In 2016 she was awarded the Tate Turner Prize for her complex work across sculpture, print, video and writing. Marten’s body of work juxtaposes high and low, serious and comedic, made and found and questions the stability of the material world and our place within it.
Alluding to ideas, systems and experiences, her work across all media sets out to articulate complex ideas about the way in which we exist in and understand the world around us. This new exhibition tackles these theme through 18 new works on paper.
With so many incredible exhibitions on display, it is certainly enough to quench our artistic thirst left by the world’s prolonged lockdown. We cannot wait to dive in…