A great yarn at London Art Fair…

Art and auctions, Events, Exhibitions — By on January 22, 2016 at 11:17 PM
DP 5. By Zak Ové. Vigo Gallery.

DP 5. By Zak Ové. Vigo Gallery.

A great yarn at London Art Fair: artist Zak Ové crafts a masterpiece from disused doilies

 By James Brewer

Visitors to the London Art Fair 2016 could hardly miss it: a huge canvas at the top of a short, open flight of stairs in front of them as they entered the capacious hall of the London Business Design Centre.

The work goes under the title of DP5, in other words “Doily Painting five.” It is nothing to do with keeping the dust from the sofa or providing a base for a plant pot. It is a compellingly colourful patchwork of Caribbean-sourced cotton rosettes.

This is one of the latest creations of Zak Ové, who lives and works in London and Trinidad. Zak wove and tacked the doilies in random patterns onto sacking stretched over a 180 cm by 120 cm plywood frame. He collected the crochet items from friends and acquaintances while visiting the tropical island  perched on the continental shelf of South America.

DP 5. By Zak Ové. Detail.

DP 5. By Zak Ové. Detail.

Thus the work is in his tradition of using relatively modern materials to pay homage to the African roots of spiritual and artistic identity, an identity that persisted despite the disruption caused by the terrible transatlantic slave trade over more than four centuries. The Caribbean island imported slaves to cultivate sugarcane and cacao.

Zak’s composition brings together a happy conjunction of motifs. Each of the openwork pieces had varied uses in their earlier ‘lives’ but the raised designs are now linked in a hitherto unimagined artistic thread into a fabulous fabrication. New life is breathed into what some might have thought of as old-fashioned ornamentation. In fact this work, shown by London-based Vigo Gallery, chimes with the persistent interest across (mainly Continental) Europe, North America and Latin America in crochet skills and materials.

Works by Anthony Frost at Advanced Graphics stand.

Works by Anthony Frost at Advanced Graphics stand.

Having graduated in Film as Fine Art from Central Saint Martins, Zak understandably has a three-dimensional approach to his projects in sculpture, film and photography. In addition to participation in many group shows, he has since 2008 had nine solo exhibitions, in London, Berlin and Connecticut.

Most recently, from July to September 2015 as part of the series Celebrating Africa at the British Museum, he created two sculptures of what are known as Moko Jumbie: his 7 m high carnival male and female figures on stilts and dressed in striking black and gold costumes, were placed in the museum’s Great Court.

Contemplating works at the Fair.

Contemplating works at the Fair.

The museum commissioned the mannequins, which were inspired by aspects of African masquerade, to coincide with the Notting Hill Carnival of August 2015. Moko Jumbie figures, having been treated as guardians of villages who could foresee danger and protect inhabitants from evil had become incorporated into carnival in Trinidad in the early 1900s. After emancipation from slavery was enacted in Trinidad in 1838, they were adopted as symbols of redress for social injustice.

Much else leapt to attention at the 28th edition of London Art Fair, which was packed with galleries from the capital and far beyond, showing modern and contemporary pieces by more than 1, 000 artists.

Visual excitement was a feature of the display staged at Stand 46 by Advanced Graphics London.

Centre of attention: Zak Ové’s work at London Art Fair.

Centre of attention: Zak Ové’s work at London Art Fair.

Just short of its half century, Advanced Graphics has since 1967 provided wide-ranging support to the world of prints, with its artists exploiting all the dramatic possibilities of the medium. The business comprises a studio specialising in screenprinting and woodblocking techniques, and a publishing department selling original limited edition prints, paintings, drawings and monoprints. The current curators have a long association with the institution: Bob Saich joined in 1971 and Louise Peck in 1996.

Among artists featured by Advanced Graphics, Anthony Frost, born in St Ives, Cornwall, developed his own technique for monoprints in silkscreen with woodblock, which fill his works with uninhibited vitality.  Among his many commitments over the years, he has been artist-in-residence at Cyprus College of Art, Paphos, and Montmiral School of Painting, France.

Works by Albert Irvin RA shown by Advanced Graphics.

Works by Albert Irvin RA shown by Advanced Graphics.

Equally keen on dynamic colours is Albert Irvin RA, who was awarded OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2013. His extensive CV includes years teaching at Goldsmiths. The results of his screenprints with woodblock have a vigorous quality that call to mind a fireworks explosion dispensing streaks of light all around it.

Advanced Graphics gives prominence too to Vienna-born Tess Jaray RA, a former teacher at Slade School. She continues to produce screenprints highlighting her fascination with Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935), the Russian pioneer who shook up the art world with his Suprematism – abstract geometric art, often in blocky form, in bold colours.

Advanced Graphics shows works by Tess Jaray RA.

Advanced Graphics shows works by Tess Jaray RA.

The letterpress prints of Alan Kitching meanwhile underline that radical experiments with printing styles and presentation have been progressed energetically by artists previous to, and alongside, the 21st century internet obsession with fonts.

See www.londonartfair.co.uk,  www.vigogallery.com and www.advancedgraphics.co.uk

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