The area north of New Oxford Street in London, around Eastcastle Street, is developing as a centre for art galleries, spreading west from Cork Street and north from Soho. In 2012, the Carroll Fletcher Gallery opened to designs by Allsop Gollings Architects. The galleries are ubiquitous white boxes, but what makes this gallery are the sculptural concrete elements, cast in situ, which form the reception desk and the staircase connecting the ground and basement levels.
It all looks so simple, so easy, but casting these concrete elements in a tightly constrained site with limited headroom must have been quite a challenge for the main contractor Delcon. The architects wanted the different elements to read as one and used the same concrete throughout, with the concrete shuttering lined with phenolic paper-faced plywood to achieve a simple but robust, almost natural, finish that has a timeless feel.
The current exhibition of the work of American artist Evan Roth brings technology and art together, looking at our relationship with telecommunications. Several of his works relate to Porthcurno, Cornwall, which is where the first transatlantic telegraph cables came ashore in Britain in 1866, a momentous achievement of the time and perhaps a defining moment at the start of the modern technological age. His work searches for ghosts of that achievement: Benben is a half scale model of the stone monument which today marks the location, but created in a 21st century way using scanned prints, while Burial Ceremony provides a figure-of-eight of direct bury fibre-optic cable, which has now replaced the telegraphic wires. The shape at the centre is evocative of the stone pyramid in the room below, but with 21st century materials. In the front gallery the series Dances for Mobile Phones (2015) reflects on modern technology where the mobile phone screen is now our access to the internet and raises the question – are we in control or is technology in control?
Next door at Pi Artworks is an entirely different theme, blending together art and the gallery space itself. Where does the architecture stop and the art start? Indeed, is there any art here at all or is it just an architectural incident where parts of the walls are curved and twisted but where two pairs of legs suggest human presence. The Turkish artist Mehmet Ali Uysal, who trained as an architect, has created a white space, where even the floor is white and the fluorescent lighting reinforces the whiteness, but within which he seeks to turn the perception of art displayed in a white gallery on its head.
“Today, the process of creating, exhibiting, and perceiving contemporary art is deeply intertwined with the austere, white walled gallery space that continuously erases traces of its history in order to look perfect and untouched. Uysal wants to invert this tradition and revive the gallery space as a living entity by interfering directly in the structure of the white cube and deconstructing both its formal characteristics and inherited traditions.” (Pi Artworks)
The human legs are the artist’s: “It is a bit of a joke about myself and the way I am trying to get into the skin of these buildings and almost become consumed by them”.
Two different artists raising questions about the our relationship with the technology and architecture of our modern world.