Surrounded by the building sites of the Old Street area regeneration, BEERS London has established its art gallery in a building which now seems restrained in contrast to the tall blocks emerging everywhere around it and internally is a simple cool simple white box in for art. The Gallery works with emerging and established artists through a thematic exhibition programme “highlighting an approach to contemporary art that is both progressive and thought-provoking”.
“The Fantasy of Representation” has been curated by the Canadian artist Andrew Salgado, who now lives in London, with the aim of combining work by established artists such as Francis Bacon and Gary Hume alongside those of new representational artists, including Salgado himself “one of the eminent emerging painters in both the UK and North America”. (Saatchi)
This is a powerful exhibition of paintings, each of which draws the viewer in to imagine the hidden meanings behind the symbols, in their individual and different ways.
At the entrance to the exhibition in Salgado’s own powerful self-portrait “When I Grow Up”, which has a great deal of colourful animated content in it, contrasting with the white mask which hides his face: “I feel that if you’re working with the figure, you’re always dealing with identity. There’s simply no escaping that reality. Often people ask me why I don’t do more self portraits, but since the entire process of painting is quite self-indulgent, solipsistic even, I feel like the self-portraits need to come sporadically, and only when I have something to say particularly about myself. I recently completed one called When I Grow Up which was the last work for my current series but brought in so many new ideas about painting that it really feels like an open door.” (Andrew Salgado)
The theme of portraits continue in several paintings including Francis Bacon’s “Head Drawing”, Blake Daniels’ “The World Erectors”, Dominic Shepherd’s “Quark, Strangeness and Charm” and the mask reappears, for example in Lou Ros’s “INC5” and in Sverre Bjertnes “The New State”, all inviting a search into identity and meaning.
By contrast, Hurvin Anderson’s “Skinny Dipping” seems relaxed, but there is more to the painting than first appears: “The careful positing of groups of people and the white splash of water contrasts with the otherwise simple geometric shapes and use of empty space to create the buzzing atmosphere of a municipal swimming pool. Yet for all that this is a busy meeting place and one usually associated with pleasure, the opaque figures and distance from the scene create a feeling of disconnect with the artist as an onlooker rather than a participant.” (Simmons Contemporary)
In his essay that accompanies the exhibition, Salgado says that “The intention of this exhibition is to showcase the work of talented painters, both emerging and established, who, I believe, are exciting representatives of the contemporary state of representational painting. An artist like Dale Adcock, for instance, straddles the line between such severe, stark abstraction, and pure imaginative figuration, so that classifying him as either seems impossible. Sverre Bjertnes transcends the expectations of the figurative artist: both hyper-real and ‘not-at-all-real’, a stylistic schizophrenic. In discussion on the telephone with Scott Anderson’s Los Angeles representation, we both referred to him, very casually and confidently, as a representational painter, and personally, I love that duality, where his work – ostensibly completely abstract – is actually anchored in some dreamy, shape-shifting (sur)reality. I see a tree. I see eyes. I see a monster. It makes my mind work.”.
“This exhibition is something of a celebration of painters: a series of representational painters’ painters, who illustrate the infinitesimal possibilities of imagination, as introduced by representation; its bounds, and our desire (as artists and viewers alike), to transcend, to challenge and to subvert”.
This is art as it should be, full of depth, and challenging the viewer to stretch his or her imagination.