Art Rooms 2017
The third annual Art Rooms exhibition took place at The Meliá White House Hotel, Regents Park, from January 20th to 23rd. Such was the quality, the originality and the variety of the art on display, this must now be regarded as one of the leading contemporary art events in the country. A fine, international showcase for emerging and developing talent in a prestigious and exciting setting. Art Rooms 2017 has also provided an inspirational start for the Connected Cultures year.
Highlights of the exhibition
1. Catherine Salvargh (Colombia / Spain)
Leaving the Skin on a Border is unsettling. Deliberately so. The barbed wire is chillingly sprawled across the bed with scraps of newspaper and images pinned beneath, depicting the remnants of the struggle to flee oppression. Desperate passages to a safer or otherwise better world are made every day by migrants and refugees. The artist is acutely aware of the dangers in crossing into Europe over the Spanish border and the border between Colombia and Venezuela.
Despite having comfort and security in my own land, I somehow instantly felt an emotional connection with those who have suffered so traumatically, and whose pain has been conveyed through this highly evocative piece. We are all connected, politically, socially, economicially.
Leaving the Skin on a Border
The room also contained a collection of old photographs which emphasised the human element of the struggle and the theme of memory. The process of ageing is heightened by the sepia and black and white tones. I felt both a personal and collective sense of loss and an appreciation of an attempt not to forget those who have gone before us. A strong, commemorative sense of family, but also sadness at the relentless passage of time.
This is the kind of art that means most to me. Creative brilliance combined with a hard-hitting social message. Moving and relevant on a personal and international level.
2. Emese Wu (Hungary / UK)
Liminality is a stunning piece, and deservedly one of the Project Art prize winning entries. At first glance the exhibit is simply a mass of black hair, but it quickly begins to feel quite disturbing. At the centre there is a human form underneath, entirely covered and inevitably unable to breathe. There is a hint of Schrödinger here. The person is either dead or alive. Both, unless or until you dare to explore further. The title, an anthropological term for a state or transition, ambiguity or disorientation, is perfect.
There is another contrast here; a sense of organic growth displayed in synthetic form. This links up with the socio-economic implications for women across the globe who have to sell their hair in order to make a living, with many women in wealthy circumstances having few or no qualms about beautifying themselves at the expense of the natural beauty of others.
Back to life and death. The artist told me of her belief that people die twice. The first time when they physically expire, the second time when the last person who knew them has forgotten them. I’m still contemplating this idea.
3. Mireia de Coursey (Spain)
Mireia displayed some particularly beautiful and absorbing pieces. I loved her colour schemes and relished the satisfaction I gained from admiring her paintings. As with all my favourite abstract art, I wanted to engage with the pictures for as long as possible, to gaze, to explore, to discover more. Again, it’s easy to see how Mireia’s work caught the attention of the Project Art judges.
Mireia de Coursey
4. Damien Borowik (France)
In a contrasting style, Damien Borowik, the third of four Project Art winners, entertained and captivated with his mechanical display. This is not something I would normally say about art, but the delight here was mainly technological. Damien, originally a mathematics graduate before developing his artistry, has produced a machine that creates highly attractive, mesmerising images. Much of the attraction comes from straight lines and squares, although I gather the motion is circular. A technically artistic wonder.
Damien Borowik's mechanical art wizardry
5. Tracey Falcon (UK)
Obsessed with news and current events, Tracey enjoys enhancing the process of information exchange in a creative and teasing form. She recycles and manipulates newspaper in a highly engaging way to produce a skilful combination of words and images. The wood grain effect of the pieces captures the source of the material and the links with the natural world. This is refreshing alongside the dominance of technology in the media industry. Similarly, the presence of type-writers in the room added to the archaic feel to the display. There is also considerable, topical humour here, with a Brexit cartoon piece which points to the triggering of article 50 and Britain’s upcoming status as a lone, rogue state.
Tracey Falcon with portrait of Rupert Murdoch
Brexas - A Lone Star State 2017
6. Claire Malet (UK)
Claire is a supremely accomplished and prolific metal artist and silversmith. Her room was full of beautiful exhibits, skilfully and attractively crafted out of gold, silver, copper and tin. Some of the items have been recyled from simpler objects including previously humble oil cans. They have amazingly intricate designs, indicating great confidence and precision. My favourite item was Spiral Form, fashioned out of copper, which is perhaps an under-rated material but one which just felt so good to hold and to behold. The touch, weight, and colour scheme of the copper combined to give me quite a frisson; a moment of pure, artistic excitement.
Claire Malet with Spiral Form
7. Dario Moschetta (Italy)
If photography belongs in an art exhibition, then it needs to be transformed in clever ways. Dario has done exactly this, presenting original images which he has enhanced with acrylics and then distressed through scratching and other ageing techniques. His super-sized image of New York is breath-taking. This was well supported by portraits of classical figures, which bring out the Roman in this gifted Italian artist.
8. Silvia Lerin (Spain)
Silvia was one of a handful of returning artists, and the only artist I have featured in both my 2016 and 2017 reviews. I was happy to see the latest instalment in her artistic journey. Alongside new elements to her Mind the Gap tribute to London’s infrastructure, Silvia displayed a rich, naturalistic tapestry entitled Ivy. The contrasting shades of blue and green created an enchanting effect in the room. I would like to find myself completely surrounded in a forest of such rich, deep, ivy hangings.
Silvia Lerin with Ivy
9. Justyna Pennards-Sycz (Poland / Netherlands)
I was particularly keen to meet Justyna, having previously introduced ourselves to each other online in the build up to the exhibition. Art Rooms is a fine event for establishing artistic and cultural connections. Here, it became even clearer that we share at least one very strong link: we are both drawn to the sea. Much of Justyna’s art depicts water in a range of forms and settings, including the apparent tranquility of faraway beach paradises but also the chilling aftermath of a tsunami in Japan. Her colour scheme is bold and built up in layers, with underlying brightness, warmth and depth.
Justyna Pennards-Sycz, various works
10. Colin McCallum (UK)
There is a shocking array of colour in the art of Colin McCallum. And yet I found myself wanting to be shocked. The centrepiece in the room was a staggering array of vivid, ultra-modern neon pinks, yellows and greens which appear to have been dripped and splashed, yet somehow contained within a semi-formal grid. This initial effect was somewhat misleading. This is a spectacular experiment in colours and combinations, indeed, yet one which was skilfully controlled and presented. I felt compelled to enter the room to allow my traditional artistic senses to be assaulted. A look at the artist’s website shows prolific and dynamic output which will call me back for more.
Untitled piece by Colin McCallum
This was another brilliant Art Rooms event with an extensive and varied collection of contemporary art from independent artists from across the world. Europe, the Americas, Oceania and the Middle and Far East were well represented. A repeat request for next time, though: a corridor dedicated to African art would do even more wonders for the exhibition.
I’d like to say a special ‘thank you’ to event founder and organiser Cristina Cellini Antonini for welcoming me to the event and into her circle of artistic friends, all delightfully talking Italian. Grazie mille. And to Johannes Fröhlich, co-founder of Project Art, for also welcoming me to the special preview evening and into the competition winners’ room. Danke schön.
I enjoyed myself immensely and felt artistically and culturally enriched. I look forward to returning again in 2018.
© Eddie Hewitt 2017
Art Rooms 2017 www.art-rooms.org
Project Art – The Social Arts Market ™ www.projectart.com
01. Catherine Salvargh www.catherinesalvargh.com
02. Emese Wu www.emesewu.com
03. Mireia de Coursey www.facebook.com/mireia.artaffair
04. Damien Borowik www.dborowik.com
05. Tracey Falcon www.traceyfalcon.co.uk
06. Claire Malet www.clairemalet.com
07. Daniel Moschetta www.dariomoschetta.com
08. Silvia Lerin www.silvialerin.com
09. Justyna Pennards-Sycz http://justynasycz.com
10. Colin McCallum http://colinmccallum.com