Contemporary Visions V: Beers Contemporary – Hierarchies And The Hyper-real

Contemporary Visions V

Beers Contemporary presents ‘Contemporary Visions V’, its fifth annual open-call group exhibition. This year, nearly 2,000 applicants were adjudicated by Amanda Coulson (Artistic Director of VOLTA New York/Basel); Paul Carter-Robinson (Editor Artlyst); Kurt Beers (Director of Beers Contemporary, Author of 100 Painters of Tomorrow); as well as previous exhibitor, artist Phil Woodward. In its fifth year, Contemporary Visions is all about emerging artists. Since the inception of the group exhibition, it has sought to identify current trends in contemporary art through the discovery of exciting emerging artists working in various mediums, and employing a diverse range of practices.

This is the fifth instalment of the annual open, and is comprised of nine international artists chosen to represent the cutting edge of contemporary art. It’s that time of year, with Zavier Ellis and his dual exhibition ‘Young Gods’ over at CHARLIE SMITH London, and Justin Hammond and the Catlin Guide, and Catlin Prize, not to mention Bloomberg New Contemporaries – the London and UK art world is looking to those in the know for the next generation of vision and market-busting artists; and some of these artists overlap – giving them quite a heads start.

American artist Austin Ballard creates organic sculptural forms, like ‘concrete coral’, the work plays with the juxtaposition between the man-made and organic forms; addressing sculptural language through tensions between materials, seemingly pushing at the boundaries of gravity, the work is aware of its own volume and weight. When viewing the artist’s work Rebecca Warren springs too mind; with the inclusion of the minimalism of glass, as an ‘off-set’ to the opposing organic form. Ballard’s work is playful yet employs a knowing use of sculptural language.

Where the sculptural works in this show are concerned there is an intentionally whimsical bent, another American artist, Luke Armitstead’s ceramics cross the divide between the decorative arts and contemporary visual arts, with another playful tone. The ceramics question their own status as ‘decoration’. The artist’s work blurs the line between objects as ‘purposed’ ceramics and that of sculpture, through the subversion of visual language, from architectural models to a punk aesthetic.

British artist Oliver Hickmet’s work questions value with a humorously irreverent voice, an intentionally ironic and contradictory tone. The artist’s practice is a varied one with painting, sculpture, even video, used to investigate the globalisation of the ‘image’ and its transformative effect on language. At this point the exhibition begins to feel thematic, the whimsical is a thread running through the show, with more than a hint of irreverent badinage, surely welcomed from any emerging enfant terrible.

Swedish artist Max Olofsson ‘digital paintings’ form a dialectic concerning hierarchical modes of expression, where ‘low art’ and ‘high art’ merge. The artist reverses traditional processes where the original form is documented, the documentation of a form may indeed become the final object in another context, blended, ‘smudged’ together, a challenge to the individual status quo of accepted structures of language, where high art meets hobbyist, and the limiting of process via a set language of ‘painting’ or ‘photography’ is discarded, for a liberating act of ‘art fusion’.

British artist Felicity Hammond has created a powerful photographic composition depicting a desolate urban wasteland (in this case an East London landscape) in hues of cobalt blue, a seeming trademark for the artist, as the colour is apparently scientifically proven to trigger cognitive pleasure in stark contrast to Hammond’s apocalyptic, dystopian scene. There is also the further contradiction between the negative scene of urban decay and that of a Venetian scenic painting – the work almost feels like a subverted homage to a form of accepted traditional beauty – the contemporising of traditional modes of image in high art, at the same time as questioning the idea of photography as ‘truth’ – a wholly outdated concept in the digital world. Hammond is doing the rounds; the artist also features in the Catlin Guide this year, and Artlyst believes she may well be an artist to keep an eye on – in hues of Cobalt blue.

Another British artist Jonny Green creates small maquettes, built out of Play-Doh, forming various monstrous figures verging on abstraction; the artist then painstakingly repaints these as a strange hybrid between still-lives and figurative paintings, with oil on canvas. The resulting work is a gloriously enjoyable piece of hyper-reality, depicting crudely rendered Play-Doh monsters, in lavish colours, with the final work being a representational painting of an object that is in itself the primary source of hyper-reality, faintly reminiscent of British painter Richard Patterson, with process forming a delightfully cyclical concept.

Jose Carlos Naranjo Bernal, an artist from Spain, is also a representational painter, the artist breaks down the primary source of the work through mark-making, where subject matter becomes incidental. Bernal takes the object in reality and renders it pattern, or abstraction, often finely tuning his work to represent multiple principles in painting simultaneously. The artist is a painter’s painter: interested in the act of – and the nature of painting.

Another Spanish artist Alan Sastre’s paintings, are about the working of surface and the resulting topography of the canvas itself. The paintings are formed from layers of psychedelic hues and a determined working (and reworking) of the surface texture. Sastre is another artist who blurs the distinctions between practices in art. The paint takes on a positively sculptural language as it serves to turn the two dimensional painting into a form. As the artist’s work continues the viewer might assume the evolution of the painting taking on ever-more sculptural over-tones.

Finally German artist Peter Baader’s paintings conversely refute any illusion of infinite space. The works are entirely about the artifice of painting, expressing the opposite purity of painterly language. Clearly abstract in nature but with the addition of the singular practice of using paint to identify its utter flatness. These painters have each taken an aspect of paint, perception, and art-historically-based language, and not only taken that language to its conclusion, but often subverted it to highlight a singular painterly element, often through the use of its opposite as a signifier. In fact all the artists in ‘Contemporary Visions V’ blur distinctions and subvert traditional practice.

As British Artist Oliver Hickmet’s work exclaims: ‘Remarkable value with so much included!’ as the artist states with a knowing irony, questioning the very nature of the construct in which the art is being viewed.

Contemporary Visions V – Beers Contemporary – until 7 March 2015

Words: Paul Black Photo: Courtesy of Jonny Green © Artlyst 2015 all rights reserved


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