On the east side of London’s historic Hanover Square, the modern classical elevations of Nos 4 and 5 completed by the architects Squire and Partners in 2012, hide the credentials as one of London’s most environmentally-sustainable office buildings.
The six-storey mixed-use scheme, with its rectilinear black brick façade and tall deep windows, provides a high-quality contemporary reinterpretation of the adjacent 18th century buildings. The discrete top floor mansard is designed with saw-tooth geometry to maximise solar collection on the 130-panel photovoltaic installation, grey water is harvested for flushing the wc’s and the building has a heat recovery system, daylight sensors and presence detectors for lighting.
On the outside elevations and continuing into the reception area is a black and white geometric artwork by the artist Esther Stocker which responds to the architecture:
“I came up with the idea after seeing renderings of the building. I was interested in the building’s repetitive structure. As an artist, I connect to the architectural framework of the grid; it provides a cognitive rhythm for me…….I wouldn’t be an artist if I didn’t believe strongly in the power of art, but this work is an open sign – it doesn’t symbolize a certain thing, or have a certain message – and so it represents aesthetic freedom. I cannot overload it with meaning; that comes from perception. There are forms that you see and those that you don’t, so people’s responses will have a lot to do with the connections they make in their minds”. (Esther Stocker)
In contrast to the cool classical precision of the building, Blain Southern’s gallery on the ground floor has been taken over by overgrown forests, tumbling rocks and swirling seas, with no hints of buildings or manmade structures at all. Perhaps the canvases represent windows onto an imaginary Hanover Square several millennia ago before man claimed the territory?
In fact, the artist Joanna Kirk takes her inspiration from the rugged, isolated, changing landscapes of Iceland and Wales as she explores ideas of isolation and the complex relationship between humans and nature. The detail in her pastel works has hints of the curving forms in traditional Icelandic or Celtic art. The tangled roots, twisted branches and broken rocks under dramatic skies are both beautiful and sinister. Within the thick forest, the face of a boy appears – is he trapped or is he exploring; his expressions suggest the latter? Other children appear, seeming to explore and wonder at what they see; they are not trapped as in “Sleeping Beauty”; they seem to be well dressed – have they come from the city to wonder at unspoilt nature?
Blain Southern set up by Harry Blain and Graham Southern from the Haunch of Venison Gallery opened here in 2012 in the white double-height gallery space that is now characteristic of several new galleries in Mayfair such as Phillips in Berkeley Square and Hawser & Wirth on Savile Row but here, to reinforce the quality of the development, while the ceiling is exposed, the floor is of natural stone rather than polished concrete, providing a natural contrast to the rough tumbling rocks in Kirk’s paintings hanging above it on the white walls.
Kirk’s work is quite a contrast to Uni Rondinone’s on show at Sadie Coles HQ; the two exhibitions reveal how different artists interpret similar themes in radically different ways.