Art Rooms 2018
January at the Meliá White House Hotel. Is it really a year since the last Art Rooms in London? And could the 2018 exhibition live up to the exceptionally high standards set in previous years? Yes and yes. The event does seem to have come round remarkably quickly, and it was as extensive and as inspirational as ever.
This year I enjoyed an introductory chat with event founder Cristina Cellini, who made me feel welcome once again and part of the Art Rooms family. I also spent more time talking to the artists, which I found highly rewarding, though I ended up scrambling to take in all the exhibits in all of the corridors. Four hours was just not enough. Here, I have picked out my annual selection of favourites for your consideration.
1. Armando Alemdar
Macedonia, Project Art competition winner
Armando's art is extraordinarily evocative and beautiful. I was inspired by the knowledge he imparted about his subjects and the stories behind them, and his quiet but compelling sense of commitment to his artistic vision.
A founding member of the Neomodernist movement, Armando is passionate in his approach to creating art that transcends the passage of time. He adopts Renaissance techniques in a modern style, and arrives at pieces that are both historic and new. Armando is inspired by Titian, though his own art has a unique style.
He starts with ink drawings and then replicates them on in oils on canvas. This involves the application of transparent glazes, building up layer after layer, sometimes ten or twelve, until the desired effect is created. There is always some excitement about exactly which colours will come out in the end. Armando uses either cotton white or linen brown canvases, subtly influencing the final colouring in the image.
Armando Alemdar in the Project Art Winners' display room
Two main elements are at work in his pictures: Movement and depth and Energy around the body. This came to Armando early on in his sketches of dancers at the Royal Opera House, where he amazed his subjects by his ability to predict and capture the shape and movement of their dancing.
The paintings in Armando's Art Rooms display draw on the Book of Lilith, a pre-Biblical story from the Dead Sea Scrolls. This came as a complete surprise to me, but Lilith appears in these ancient manuscripts as Adam’s first wife. Lilith was apparently quite a handful, even more so than Eve, and can be seen as the first feminist. I feel the urge to delve deeply into this story, and to explore the beauty and the mystery emanating from Armando’s art. I was enraptured by The Embrace, and indeed by all the pictures in this collection.
The Embrace by Armando Alemdar (image via artist's website)
2. Edwin Barrington Lue-Shing
China / Project Art competition winner
The term that springs to mind here is ‘artistic creations’. Edwin’s works have so much going on. His pictures are bold, distinct and captivating, demonstrating creativity in the process as well as in the actual image. They have the appearance of being painted on glass or ceramic, but they are actually paintings on canvas, using blended acrylics, coated in resin. The resin is applied hot and moved around by the artist’s hands, with the aid of clingfilm for control, and finally breathed on to disperse any bubbles. A perfect surface results. Glitter is mixed in with the resin to create a semi-secret sparkling effect, which you can only see in certain lights.
African Violet by Edwin Barrington Lue-Shing (image via artist's website)
In some cases, the images may be familiar, but they have been re-imagined and reconfigured. Edwin likes to present a fresh and striking approach to his subjects. Native Wisdom, conveying balance and eminence, is stoic and dignified. Pink Tiger in a Blue World smoulders. Sins of Man, a disturbingly titled and otherwise intriguing image of a young girl, represents the hidden corruption of mankind. African Violet is especially magnificent. This was the piece that gained him his votes in the Art Rooms contest. In his series Crazy Sexy Cool, Jack Nicholson, the crazy one, is great fun. Marilyn Monroe is sexy and Steve McQueen is cool.
The artist with (L-R) Revelation, African Violet, Native Wisdom
and Pink Tiger in a Blue World
Edwin is s a Connected Cultures star, with Chinese, Jamaican, German, Scottish and Creole connections.
3. Violeta Bravo
Violeta Bravo loves the natural world and cannot resist including her favourite creatures in her paintings. Two major pieces dominated her collection. The first, a lioness painted in red, serene with perfect poise, appears as a giant in the landscape all around her. To me this shows both the female strength and the sheer beauty of this animal.
Lioness in red by Violeta Bravo
The second, Origen: caballo en la nube (in ink, watercolour and pencil), was a horse, another fine looking creature, coloured from grey to black, surrounded by birds, plants and sea life, racing ahead with its nose disappearing into a puff of cloud. This seems to represent all of us when we get ahead of ourselves, travelling fast when we don’t quite know where we are going.
The artist with Origen: caballo en la nube / Origin: horse in the cloud
Violeta’s paintings have surrealist elements, as well as links with astronomy and ‘other’ realities. As well as the many cats and dogs she loves so much. The pictures I liked most in Violeta’s room were the self portraits, a series of three silhouettes, set in different lights at different times during the day. The locations are 'in the middle of nowhere', according to the artist, who then opened up a little bit more by adding ‘somewhere in Spain’, invoking memories from childhood. Slightly mysterious and very charming.
Changing states in La Mancha by Violeta Bravo
4. KV Duong
Vietnam / Canada
KV’s stirring black and white creations are more than just paintings. They tell the story of a series of performances, created by the body as well as by hands and brushes. This involves smudging and scraping in addition to brush strokes, using acrylics. The process can be quite intimate and visceral. A video of one such experience was being shown on screen in the corner of the room.
There is a recurring train image in his paintings, representing the various journeys we go through in life. I missed at least one of the trains on first glance. Well, the canvas was 5m x 3m, so there was a lot of picture to take in.
Train Journey No. 3 by KV Duong
One of these journeys is from the general to the personal and back again. Creating art can be an activity designed to result in public interest, but it is also a deeply personal and individual experience. The pictures and the way in which they were painted convey the sense of finding one's way in life. In this artist’s case, this creative journey provided a means of ‘coming out’, expressing his sexuality with boldness and ingenuity.
5. Yuet Yean Teo
Yuet’s images are all of London, a fine compliment to the city hosting this Art Rooms Exhibition. Sites include the Thames, historical buildings, and the more recently developed Westfield shopping centres. Here we find another artist who has specialised in a monochrome scheme in her main collection of works. Yuet uses ink on rice paper, including delicate watermarks depicting blossom and bamboo. Many of the pictures are in circular form, a shape with well known symbolic powers and life force.
Image from the artist's website
Many also depict the act of swinging, looking down on the city from above. Motion and height are crucial elements here. Yuet felt this was the best way to capture the feeling she has whenever she discovers a new location, particularly one as grand and complex as London. The importance of observation, making sense of the distance between the perceiver and the perceived. Several images were displayed on revolving stands which the artist designed especially for this exhibition. I like her technical inventiveness almost as much as her art.
Yuet Yean Teo with swings and spins
6. Jody Craddock
UK. Winner of the Art Rooms public vote
Many professional footballers have the brain the size of a pea. Jody Craddock is not one of them. If his main attribute was once a cultured right foot, he has long since extended his creative output to figurative art. For Art Rooms, he displayed a series of images of gods and goddesses, with Neptune making the most waves. For all Craddock, Wolves and Sunderland lovers, this really was a classic.
The Gift by Jody Craddock
7. Irena Iris Willard
France/Poland, Project Art competition winner
The element of her display which made the greatest impression on me was her collection of photographs depicting the spirit of resistance in France after recent terrorist attacks. Using filters, reflection and images of flowers bordering city landmarks, the pictures depict beauty and hope alongside the harsher aspects of society. Irena showed me her book entitled “Metamorphosis of Light”, setting out the photographic process, and I came away feeling uplifted.
Irena Iris Willard's display: the links between music and books, flowers and architecture, light, reflections and photography
9. Alizé Wilkinson
France, Project Art competition winner
Alizé is a contemporary impressionist who favours soft, pastel colour schemes. Though modern, her style also looks and feels traditional and is likely to please Monet enthusiasts. I count myself firmly among them. Alizé's paintings were engaging and truly a pleasure to behold. Soothing, with a hint of a challenge to gaze at length, to search, to dream.
Landscape 6 by Alizé Wilkinson (image via the artist's website)
9. Jessie Pitt
Jessie’s room was the first one I entered, and where I received the most delightful of welcomes. I was immediately impressed by the range of stunning mountain scenes in front of me. A subtle colour scheme, with greys, whites and a hint of blue from a pewter base. Jessie likes to think of these scenes as food for the soul. I would have liked longer to gaze up into the stratosphere.
The State of Being by Jessie Pitt
10. Terry Beard
Terry’s work has an urban architecture theme, but one where there is a combination of structure with softness and irregularities. She also likes grids, but overlapping and consisting of imperfect lines. I particularly liked the predominantly blue colour scheme, with different scales of depth. Manchester City blue is going to be the colour for 2018. There was a hint of red in her collection, but that painting looked anomalous and belonged in a lower division.
Blue Tiles by Terry Beard
11. Focus on Pakistan
For the first time this year there was a section for Pakistani artists, who are increasing in prominence in the art world. The majority of the displays were by female artists. In conversation, it came out that this seems to be a mixed blessing. Women are excelling in creative fields, but this is one of the few areas where they are really free to flourish. There is still considerable male dominance in Pakistani society. Nevertheless, female artists are determined to grasp this opportunity to shine, in some cases depicting a surprisingly bold range of subjects, including distorted figures. Scheherezade Junejo is a fine example here, with her disturbing images of rearranged human bodies in Bridging Time and Faceless II.
Faceless II by Scherezade Junejo
Abstract act is the dominant style in this special collection. Calculated Vandalism by Ujala Khan is completely wonderful. I always fall for a bit of creative gold leaf, and this picture has it in abundance, in a fantastic colour scheme.
Calculated Vandalism by Ujala Khan (image via the the artist's website)
Sara Riaz Khan's Human in Residence V is another marvellous painting with a curious title. I really did not want to walk away from this one. There is so much in this image to explore and to delight in.
Human in Residence V by Sara Riaz Khan (image via artist's website)
An artistic tribute to Hidden Figures?
If you're the artist, please get in touch with the real title!
Once again, the Art Rooms fair was a spectacular event, with brilliant art from far and wide. There was so much to enjoy, and I would have liked to have included many more artists in my review. I always enjoy hearing their stories, learning about their techniques and building up a rapport within a creative network. I like to observe and to ask questions, but I am also always keen to be given a steer on new and exciting artistic concepts and forms of expression. The display environment at the Melia White House thankfully lends itself to fascinating cultural and artistic exchanges. In this way, Art Rooms leads the way in contemporary exhibiting.
Your Connected Cultures correspondent at the entrance to the exhibition
I'd like to extend my thanks to Johannes Fröhlich, the Project Art team, and congratulations to all the exhibitors in room 193. Looking forward already to next year's competition and another spectacular presence at the Art Rooms 2019 exhibition.
And finally, to Cristina Cellini and the Art Rooms orgnaisation: Grazie mille! Magnifico di nuovo! The art world is a much better place thanks to your events.
A global sensation: the origins of the artists. (Image via Art Rooms)
All photos © unless otherwise stated.
© Eddie Hewitt 2018
See the Connected Cultures review of Art Rooms 2017 here
See the Connected Cultures review of Art Rooms 2016 here
Art Rooms https://art-rooms.org
Project Art www.projectart.com
Armando Alemdar www.armando.co.uk
Via Project Art www.projectart.com/art/picture/painting/The-Embrace
Edwin Barrington Lue-Shing www.singaart.co.uk
Violeta Bravo www.violetabravo.com
KV Duong www.kvduong.com
Yuet Yean Teo www.yuetyeanteo.com
Irena Iris Willard www.projectart.com/artist/Irena-Iris-Willard
Alize Wilkinson www.alizewilkinson.com
Jessie Pitt www.jessiepitt.com
Terry Beard www.terrybeardart.com
Focus on Pakistan
Scheherezade Junejo https://en-gb.facebook.com/schjunejo
Ujala Khan www.facebook.com/pg/ArtByUjalaKhan/photos
Sara Riaz Khan www.sarakhan.org