Sunday 7th July 2019, Kings Cross.
The Other Art Fair, promoted by Saatchi Art, offers a regular opportunity in London (also in Bloomsbury and Brick Lane), New York, Los Angeles and Melbourne for both amateurs and professionals to exhibit their latest collections. A chance too for art lovers, collectors, prospective first time buyers and those with merely a casual interest to take in an eclectic mix of artistic genres, media and techniques. Oils, acrylics, pencil, photography, string, metals, plastics, ceramics, even magazine cuttings; there’s something for everyone.
And so, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I made my way to the West Handyside Canopy for the latest London staging of the event. There was a buzz of regeneration in the air; Kings Cross has developed a much more attractive cultural presence in recent times.
I started in the London Futures side hall. Straight away I was delighted to come across a contemporary art sensation, Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018, Samira Addo. Jujuu’s Aqaba stood out, in customary style with strong brush strokes going in unexpected directions, in geometric shapes and colour schemes that I find baffling yet brilliant. I dared to suggest to Samira that she sometimes seem to use the ‘wrong’ colours, with blues, lilacs and yellows going into her the faces she paints, but the outcome is always just right. Beautiful representations of the human visage, through a process of experimentation and revelation, resulting in a striking and delicate outcomes. And on the evidence of the Sky Arts series, her subjects always love their portraits.
I was also impressed by Samira’s a series of single colour paintings. Primary and bold in yellow, red and blue, but full of subtlety and a feast for the imagination. The discovery process as a viewer is astonishing. Study them closely and you see intricate depiction of form and movement, and then the emotion comes in. They are figurative masterpieces. And finally, I caught sight of Zanzibar Boys, a sublime, joyful picture that suggests mischief and giggling, and reminds me of the early, happy moments in Chigo Obioma’s novel The Fishermen.
I moved on, and was quickly intrigued by what looked like a pink satin ribbon contraption, Muscle Contraction, twisting first one way, then the other. The material in Riko Yasumiya's exhibit was actually a combination of latex and silicone. Binding itself in ever so slightly in different formations but maintaining a constant essential shape. This display was all about muscular tissue, flesh, tendons and blood vessels. The skin cut away. Represented in still images, in cross section, as well as in moving fabric models. Skilfully exploring physiology through material craft. The potential for this artistic exploration is huge.
And now into the main hall. Hustle and bustle and some more very fine artists and exhibits. Inevitably some were not my cup of tea, but you need plenty of those to really appreciate the ones you connect with most.
Eva Mitera paints captivating, abstract, scenic paintings, again applying discernibly broad brush strokes, but here using a relatively limited palate to creative evocative images. Rainforest in multiples shade of blue, bordering on green, with a dash of white. Effective. Enchanting. I find myself lost in their splendour. So much so that I don’t notice the much brighter, multi-coloured burst on the adjacent partition wall. How could I miss that?! I quickly adjust my line of viewing, and discover a mélange of colours befitting the rainbow being celebrated on this weekend of pride.
Next, another collection of extraordinary art incorporating unexpected shades and skilfully positioned, delicate blocks of colour, creating highlights, undertones, shadows and reflections. Emily Kirby's paintings take the form of anatomical explorations, with a suggestions of internal structures rather than dissections. Her Rhinoceros Calf is a joy to behold. It’s also a reminder of the dangers of a fragile environment, and the need for preservation. Still Waters, depicting a figure performing a back flip is both playful and probing, exposing both an external joie de vivre and, no doubt, intense internal excitement.
Something different now. A mass of faces, sketched in pencil, sometimes a touch of oils, used in recreating or transferring images from original archive photos. All looking rather serious and sorrowful. There’s a good reason for this impression. Georgia Kitty Harris presented a collection of faces of inmates / patients in a psychiatric institution. The delicacy of the images suggests a soft, respectful approach, capturing the humanity of the subjects, as well as their troubles. There is resignation and sadness in the visages. Calmness might be stretching it a bit. But the images are finely and beautifully depicted. And there were many of them! I could stare at these faces for hours and I want to know their life stories.
Now on to a pageant of mythical figures presented in various artistic forms. Predominantly blue and white, derived from a cyanotype technique, with occasional hints of copper and gold leaf. The artist, Chloe McCarrick, told me that her subjects are all female figures from different mythologies, frequently appearing in avian and celestial images. Again I would like to know so much more about them and their stories. My mountain of further research, for scaling later on, just became even higher.
And finally, to Jonathan Speed, and his grand scenes; seascapes, mountains, valleys and deserts. Awe-inspiring pictures with varying depths of colour, subtle transitions, light and warmth, as well as incredible finesse and smoothness. Gentle sunsets in some paintings, hints of hostility in others. Never quite turning into a tumultuous rage. One piece stood out in particular to me. It reminded me of Turner, but without the external raging of the sea and the inner trauma. Also without the ship, as Jonathan pointed out. But I’m convinced there is subconscious homage at play.
Eventually, I left the exhibition hall. I crossed over the canal again, descended into the rainbow tunnel leading into Kings Cross, and embarked on my journey home. Feeling buoyant. And cultured. How to best some up the experience in one line? Allow me to paraphrase Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons:
Afternoon well spent.
© Eddie Hewitt 2019