For the Silly Season I've set myself the challenge of visiting a different art exhibition on every day of the month and blogging about it.

Thursday August 13

Exhibition: The London Open Show
Place: Whitechapel Gallery

On Day 9, during my visit to see Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait, I saw that the Whitechapel Gallery was also staging the long-list of the triennial London Open art competition, which is “open-submission” but limited to London residents over the age of 26. On Day 13 I came back to take a closer look at it.

Mitra_Saboury.jpgMitra Saboury Hardscape

On this evidence, London artists are besotted by video: there’s A LOT of it here. But video art embraces different types that rest on various conceptual foundations. Many are simple fixed, single camera film without any intervention; others are single fixed camera with modifications – editing, speed changes and so on; and then there are the full-on artist’s films, usually some form of documentary. In all cases, however, the importance is for the film not to outstay its welcome. Of Mitra Saboury’s three short-enough offerings the best is of a lipsticked mouth in sharp close-up eating chocolate cake, with every morsel of cake, every bead of saliva, succulently visible. Lucy Joyce’s Gold House is another fixed-view video of a nondescript bungalow half draped with a huge golden space-blanket pressing and billowing against it in the breeze. The film is projected at eye level through a small screen made of finely frosted glass. In this the glitter of the gold was so intense that it left my eyes dazzled for several minutes.

Hollly_Antrum.jpgHolly Antrum Catalogue

At the other extreme is Holly Anstrum’s Catalogue, an art-doc video tribute to the eccentric 93-year-old artist Jennifer Pike. It’s filmed  “badly” (with apparently uncontrolled focus, framing and stability), is loopingly repetitive and dwells too long in almost every shot. Perhaps I’m missing the point but it is tiring to watch and I couldn’t help feeling Pike might have been better served by the Alan Yentob treatment.

There isn’t much sex in the show, though Adamh Faramawy’s video of three attractive naked young people smearing each other with mud looks as if it might be Swedish soft-porn from the 1960s,while Salvatore Arancio has made some startling and assertive phallic ceramics.

Lizi_Sanchez.jpgLizi Sanchez

By contrast Lizi Sanchez’s paperchains are super-reticent. These hang high up near the corners of the room, like remnants left over after the ripping down of the Christmas decs.

Alex._Duncan.jpgAlexander Duncan

Alexander Duncan’s installation Cove looks at first, second and third sight like a piece of land art: a bank of beach pebbles dumped on the gallery floor. In fact they are plastic flotsam degraded by their long immersion in the sea. I wanted a forbidden touch to make sure of this, so exact is the illusion.

Damien_Meade.jpgDamien Meade Janus

Among a small sample of paintings on display, one of the best is by Damien Meade. His head Janus is gloopily sculptural – maybe an early very wet stage of a clay model – though I would say it also owes something to both Francis Bacon and Rene Magritte.

Ben_Cove_2.jpgBen Cove Head Construct 2

Ben Cove’s abstract Head Construct paintings are stylish throwbacks to modernism, but I wished they hadn’t been hung against a super-enlarged photo of what look like exhibits in some anthropological museum. A white wall would have done them more favours.

Emma_Hart.jpgEmma Hart Common Condition

My favourite work of art here – my clear winner if I were the judge – is Emma Hart’s glazed ceramic locker-room unit. The four lockers have been ruined, broken open, violated, as if by a terrifying apocalyptic explosion, yet they stubbornly retain their identity. I enjoyed contemplating the distance between the fragility of the material from which the artist made them and the battered resilience she's representing.

Posted on August 14th, 2015


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