Three new Royal Academicians have been elected to round off the year. Shirazeh Houshiary, Brian Griffiths and Clare Woods are all sculptors. They join Michael Armitage, in the category of Painting, Peter Barber and Assemble in the category of Architecture, and Ryan Gander, in the category of Sculpture. In addition this year, professor Dame Sarah Gilbert and Hisham Matar were elected as Honorary Fellows.
Since rising to prominence as a sculptor in the 1980s, Shirazeh Houshiary’s practice also encompasses painting, installation, architectural projects and film.
Houshiary investigates the friction between the conscious and unconscious, control and chance, reflecting on the physical and immaterial qualities that shape art and human life. Veils, membranes and mists are leitmotifs in Houshiary’s work that tries to visualise modes of perception.
Houshiary finds assistance in transforming material: two words, one an affirmation, the other a denial, are pencil-stroked onto canvas so lightly and clouded over by finely wrought skeins of pigment that they morph in front of the naked eye. So too, aluminium or glass elliptical brick towers, charged with dynamic tension, appear different from every angle, as if negating their presence.
Shirazeh Houshiary was born in Shiraz, Iran, in 1955 and moved to London in 1974; she studied at Chelsea School of Art in 1979 and lives and works in London. She was awarded Professor at the London Institute and short-listed for Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery in 1994. She was given Asia Arts Game Changer Award in Hong Kong in 2018. Recent publications include Artists and the Rothko Chapel: 50 Years of Inspiration, published by Moody Center for the Arts 2020; The slowdown ‘At a Distance’: 100 visionaries at home in a pandemic, published by Apartamento and A Thousand Folds, published by Lehmann Maupin, New York, Seoul.
Significant Projects and commissions include Rice Public Art, Moody Center for Arts Houston; East Window, St Martin–in–the-Fields London; Sydney Biennale, Australia; Kyiv Biennale, Ukraine; Camden Arts Centre, London; Magasin-Centre National d’Art Contemporain Grenoble; Musee Rath, Switzerland; ‘Breath’ Torre di Porta Nuova 55th Venice Biennale; Tate Liverpool; Villa Stuck Munich; Bonnefanten Museum Maastricht; Hochschule Fur Angewandte Kunst Vienna; International Biennale of Contemporary Art Cartagena Colombia; Skulptur Projekte Munster; Sonsbeek, International sculpture exhibition Arnhem; Les Magiciens de la Terre, Centre Pompidou, Paris and Negotiating Rapture, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Since graduating from Goldsmiths College in the late 90s, Brian Griffiths has made sculptures and installations full of overblown theatricality and pathos.
Griffiths attempts to think with things and considers how things believe. Collected objects become rich material to be laid out, directed and persuaded to perform. He has made exhibitions with Bill Murray, invisible entities and wood.
Griffiths’ exhibitions privilege imperfect descriptions and freewheeling associations and position material facts with competing interwoven fictions. They approach visual languages and styles like fancy dress to be enjoyed and changed frequently as a recent show title raps out ‘No No to Knock-Knocks’ – a warning (to self and others) about falling into fixed routines, fixed thinking.
Significant solo exhibitions and commissions include Camden Arts Centre, London; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK; Tramway, Glasgow; Art on the Underground, London; Fundament Foundation, Tilburg, Netherlands; Arnolfini, Bristol, UK; The Saatchi Gallery, London; City Racing, London.
Over the last two decades, he has exhibited in numerous institutions, including Tate, UK; CAPC Musée d‘art Contemporain de Bordeaux; The Groninger Museum, Netherlands; Museu de Arte de Belém, Brazil; Barbican Centre, London; Hayward Gallery, London; Jeu De Paume Museum, Paris; The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, USA; Mostra D’Arte Contemporanea Milan; Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Fruitmarket, Edinburgh.
In 2011 Crummy Love, Griffiths’ first monograph, was published by Walther König.
Brian Griffiths is a Senior Lecturer at the Royal Academy Schools.
Clare Woods was born in Southampton in 1972. She received a BA in Fine Art Sculpture from Bath School of Art in 1994 and an MA in Fine Art from Goldsmith’s College in 1999. She lives and works in Hereford.
Her background in sculpture informs Woods’ distinctive style; large, gestural brushstrokes are used to sculpt objects within the pictorial plane. Woods’ still life and figurative paintings are unmistakably rooted in real space and time but abstracted by bold, fluid marks upon the aluminium surface. Through the materiality of paint, a simultaneous de/re construction of form obscures that which seems immediately discernible.
Woods’ concern with landscape has been paramount in much of her previous work. However, since 2011 her images have been increasingly preoccupied with conveying the human form. Much of Woods’ recent work concerns fragility, vulnerability, mortality and disability; the delicate border between sickness and health, cruelty and humanity, and ultimately life and death. Despite the varying degrees of brightly coloured abstraction and compositional distortions, Woods’ anthropomorphic studies bring to mind heads, limbs and torsos. It is like seeing the body through a distorted lens, defamiliarising and estranging it.
Woods has had many solo exhibitions in Britain and international locations, including Copenhagen, Berlin, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Athens, Madrid, Prague, and Art Basel in Switzerland. She is currently represented by Simon Lee Gallery in London and Hong Kong, Martin Asbæk Gallery in Copenhagen, Buchmann Gallery in Berlin and Night Gallery in LA.
Her work is found in many significant public collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, US; Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Arts Council Collection, London, UK; Government Art Collection, London, UK; Southampton City Art Gallery, UK; Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle, UK; The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Wales; The Towner, Eastbourne and The Hepworth Wakefield, UK.
Top Photo: Artlyst © All Other Words/Photos Courtesy Royal Academy