Scores of artists let their inspiration run free…

Art and auctions, Events, Exhibitions, Maritime Art, Paintings and Sculpture — By on October 18, 2015 at 8:08 AM
Alex McIntyre with her painting Morning Run I.

Alex McIntyre with her painting Morning Run I.

Scores of artists let their inspiration run free in exhibits at The Other Art Fair London 2015

By James Brewer

Originality – sometimes variations on the great themes of art, sometimes challenges up to the point of eccentricity, but always exciting – is the leitmotif of everything on show at the London October 2015 edition of The Other Art Fair. This latest such production – the 10th – has been at the Old Truman Brewery venue in Spitalfields and maintains the perky and sometimes quirky values that have been fostered from the beginnings of the enterprise.

Rod McIntosh with his painting Towards Touching.

Rod McIntosh with his painting Towards Touching.

The principle of The Other Art Fairs is rare in that it is artist-led, and what resourceful and ingenious artists had brought their wares to the extensive centre that is part of what was in the mid-1800s the largest brewery in the world.

Organisers say the fairs are a “pivotal platform for emerging artists.” Emerging they may be, but most of them already can boast impressive CVs. This was the biggest ‘Other’ to date, with 145 participants, but each exhibitor was able to appreciate ample space to show and talk about their specialities.

We met some of the artists during the October 15-18 fair to ask them about their work, and the importance of being there.

Hertfordshire-based Alex McIntyre was exhibiting at The Other Art Fair for the first time. She showed a new body of work which is the result of the past year’s explorations of the relationship between striding out into the countryside and what that inspires her to commit to canvas.

Carolina Mizrahi.

Carolina Mizrahi.

Her landscapes consist of sweeping, swirling lines in ink and gesso on board. The images often originate from the hills and fields around her when she takes a walk or a run in the morning. Her skies are majestic and a little mysterious, and one of her pieces,  Running through Sunlit Mist, evokes an early morning when that was exactly her experience, with haze enveloping her up to the waist. Other works have titles such asMorning Run 1. Most of the landscapes are inspired by the countryside of her favourite areas of Hertfordshire and Cornwall.

Alex says in her statement: “I developed a practice of running and walking as a process of recording. This enables the close, embodied observation of changes of light, land and sky connected with breath and movement. Whilst making in the studio I try to re-capture the distilled impression of a particular journey.”

From Carolina Mizrahi's fantasy creations.

From Carolina Mizrahi’s fantasy creations.

She is an artist fellow of Digswell Arts Trust, and a member of Free Painters and Sculptors. Her artist residencies have included Watford Museum in 2014, and during Ballet:Fused with English National Ballet.

Alex said it was wonderful to be a part of the fair, “because of the dedication and the warmth of the team, and of all the other artists.  I feel very proud to be here among them.”

Besides being an exhibitor, London artist Rod McIntosh was deeply involved in another aspect of the fair – he set himself “a bit of an epic task” (a task recorded on a YouTube video) in creating 1, 421 individual private view and VIP invitations. Rod painted gold-dusted black circles on each card, the total representing all the days since the opening of the first Other Art Fair.

Clare Johnson with works from her Gasometer series.

Clare Johnson with works from her Gasometer series.

The technique of drawing with metal fascinates him. Within his works, he has begun to etch lines with silver wire: the impression starts off as light grey but within 48 hours begins to darken. Including metalpoint improves the materiality of the finished work, he says.

In doing this, Rod is treating of an old technique, which as he pointed out is the subject of a British Museum exhibition (until December 6 2015) Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonard to Jasper Johns with 100 drawings of some of the greatest artists including Rogier van der Weyden, Leonardo, Raphael, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein the Elder, Rembrandt, and Pre-Raphaelites. There are four sheets by Leonardo da Vinci from the Royal Collection.

Yukako Shibata with works from her Shadowfall series.

Yukako Shibata with works from her Shadowfall series.

Rod produced his largest work to date – entitled Towards Touching – specifically for the fair. It is an ink painting on mulberry paper. He said that the extent of the booth he was allocated at the fair tempted him to contribute the 2.9 m long canvas, its making quite a feat as Rod works on a horizontal plane – on the floor of his studio. Of the work, he said: “It is all about body, and movement, and flow.” It is a big work, but still reflects the fluidity expressed in its creation.

It has been a hectic time for Rod, as he was working to the last minute because he could use his studio only 15 days before the show deadline, as a ceiling remodelling was in progress. So the pieces for the show were “incredibly fresh.”

Chicken by Beast&Burden (Emma and Emily).

Chicken by Beast&Burden (Emma and Emily).

Meanwhile, Blandine Bardeau, who like Rod is a member of the NOHO Artists’ Collective, presented her latest work of mixed media drawing and collage including Paradise Islands. To be precise, this was a combination of acrylic, water colour, paper cut-out, graphite and coloured pencil on paper. The conglomerate of elements that came together included a representation of feathers which gave the impression of palm trees and hence some exciting tropical getaway.

What Blandine calls her “play-based” technique engenders “a quality of the feminine spirit that attracts both women and men, perhaps because it alludes to an ancient sense of the feminine that exists in us all.” It is certainly a spirit that charms the viewer as he or she enjoys the effusiveness of Blandine’s brush and pencil strokes.

Lowestoft-based Clare Johnson showed graphic prints of just one feature of the industrial landscape: gasometers – although the results are far from dull, thanks to her technique. This involves transforming photos into screened black and white images, overlaid with monotype hues so that each postcard-style print has a unique colour scheme.

Clare’s message is that these icons of urban architecture are under threat of destruction. Since North Sea gas began to be piped into the UK, gasometers increasingly have been considered obsolete, and the National Grid has been dismantling them and selling the land to developers. Some of the campaigns to preserve the gas holders have been successful, others not…

Emily (left) and Emma with works including Turkey, Duck and Triple Yolker.

Emily (left) and Emma with works including Turkey, Duck and Triple Yolker.

Further along the aisles, we encountered a pink – totally pink – fantasy living room, complete with fluffy rose coloured carpet. This was the brainchild of Carolina Mizrahi, born in Rio de Janeiro, and living in London, a photographer who is adept at designing sets. It was perhaps significant that women were the majority of fair visitors who stopped to find out more about her creation.

Carolina’s surreal transformations of scenes are an investigation into gender stereotypes and the representation of women in western society (advertising and beauty rituals for instance) and are part of what she calls her Avatar series. The theme is predicated on the virtual hyper-feminine “second life” disconnected from reality and made possible through the internet. Fulfillment or happiness is sought through simulation and imitation of a transient impression of reality.

The colour palette “opens the door to endless potential messages, ” says Carolina. The choice of pink is related to gender stereotypes and how our perceptions of femininity are imposed by the social system.

Paradise Islands (detail) by Blandine Bardeau.

Paradise Islands (detail) by Blandine Bardeau.

Carolina, who gained her BA at London College of Fashion, has been commissioned by among others Vogue Brazil, Vogue Italy, Vogue Portugal and Time Out.

Food sculpture is a speciality of Emily Bridge and Emma Witter who are known professionally by the title Beast & Burden.

The London-based partnership holds the title of Most Eccentric Artists of the Year 2015 as chosen by the Eccentric Club. The club (“celebrating eccentricity since 1781” and whose patron is the Duke of Edinburgh), said of the two women in its award citation: “With their use of experimental materials and processes, they create scenes that are often playful, texturally rich and, most certainly, eccentrically original.”

Emily and Emma met on the Performance Design and Practice course at Central Saint Martins and their interests evolved to encompass set design and much else.

Their focus is on “extravagant ways of serving food” and the skins, shells and bones thereof.  A series of egg cups which some might see as macabre is supported by real bones from the birds involved. “Our mutual love of eating and lack of cooking skills have given us an almost childlike fascination with food and dining, ” say Emily and Emma in their statement. “We often explore ideas of absurdity, disgust and surrealism, fabricating imaginary meals and tableware.”

Blandine Bardeau with her work Paradise Islands.

Blandine Bardeau with her work Paradise Islands.

In complete contrast is the lightness of material in the practice of Yukako Shibata’s work, which is a hybrid of sculpture and painting. She gives rein to the gentleness of subliminal colours, especially in her Shadowfallseries with its subtlety of many shades and of light. Tokyo-born Yukako, who works in London, produces seemingly simple compositions that interrogate one’s understanding of appearances of what is around us.

Ryan Stanier, director of The Other Art Fair, says that the immediacy of the event as a channel for direct sales enables artists to fund and develop their practice, encouraging them to form relationships with collectors, galleries and curators. In 2016, further editions are planned in April at Victoria House, London; in July at Bristol; and in September at Sydney. In addition to fairs themselves, free seminars, workshops and lectures are organised throughout the year.

The latest fair brought the series visitor total to well over 90, 000, with 11, 000 artworks sold by 1, 100

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