Saturday, June 7, 2014

'Futures: Art and Design Show 2014' at The Old Truman Brewery, 6th June 2014

Where on earth do you even begin?  Sprawled over the gargantuan interior of the old brewery is so much art it makes your head spin (and that's even before I indulged in the complementary beers).  It'd take the some serious discipline, time and patience to comprehensively catalogue this, three things I don't have. As I see it, the honest way to approach things is to let yourself get caught up in the drafts and currents of the rooms, to drift amongst the art and artists until something catches your eye.  Often it's easy to tell why something stands out, be it because it uses materials in a different way from everything around it or simply because it's pleasantly lit.  Other times it's more subtle, a photograph or painting that has some weird magnetism to it.  So here's what dragged me in:

by Katt Wade
In the midst of this mild sensory overload Katt Wade's spookily compelling stills caught me off guard.  To look at them, particularly the one pictured above, is to get the impression that you've seen something you shouldn't have.  The nondescript urban landscapes are strangely sterile, to the point where I wondered for moment whether these might be computer generated backdrops.  The massive flat grey of the ground extends upwards into the woman's clothes, giving the eerie impression that she's grown out of the asphalt.  Her stare, both accusing and sad, pierces right through the membrane of the photograph, and it's this stare that dragged me into its orbit.

by Husna Lohiya
Nearby something else was attracting me, but this time not through sight or sound - but rather smell.  Like a cartoon character lured in by a floating cloud of deliciousness I sniffed and got a dose of cardamom, tumeric and garam masala.  Following my nose I rounded a corner to find Husna Lohiya's awesome creation.  Laid out in whorls and spirals across the gallery space was a winding, sensuous pattern made with spices.  Against the pure white walls and industrial cement of the ground it practically shines off the floor.  The effect reminded me of the mandalas that Buddhist monks create from coloured sand.  Chatting to Husna she explained that she'd intended people to walk through it, smearing the pattern, something which again echoes the destruction of a mandala after it's completed.  I always enjoy art that engages smell and taste; and Husna's piece is that rare piece of art that can be enjoyed even with your eyes closed.

by Roberto Landin Baamonde
Rounding the corner you find Roberto Landin Baamonde's hermaphroditic sculptures.  They're enormous corpulent torsos, limbs and head shorn off to leave a bulbous mass in the middle.  I'm not sure if they're life casts of a rather fat man or some composite from the mind of the artist, but the overall effect is disconcerting.  They're strongly reminiscent of the Venus of Willendorf, one of the oldest representations of a human being ever discovered.  They're lit dramatically from above, the sharp spotlight throwing the textures and shadows into sharp relief.  Alongside these two there's a third, dissected and dismembered, suspended from razor wires like something out of Clive Barker's Hellraiser.  In a space largely filled by the small and intricate, these pieces stand out like an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence.

by Roberto Landin Baamonde
Almost functioning as a response to Baamonde's work is the alarmingly honest photography of Lauren-Becki Rowlands.  In a prime location, staring out across the gallery are her nudes.  These aren't the stock-shiny airbrushed android women of fashion, they're 'real', painfully so.  Blown up across a wall is a portrait of a nude woman with stretch marks across her belly, looking weirdly like some kind of medieval representation of martyrdom.  Her facial expression has the beatific echo of an icon too, staring off into the middle distance with a relaxed, yet poised dignity.  That the models don't have any makeup on, and their hair hangs unstyled across their faces adds to the effect.  They're quietly powerful, successfully indicting the viewer's expectations of conventional beauty.

by Mira Varg

Further along in the photography section it was difficult not to be drawn to Mira Varg's Fruit of my Mind. On a wall of flat, two dimensional photography her latex arms and legs violently emerge from the wall, threatening to ensnare passers by.  These rubbery, tactile limbs have designs printed onto them, the faces of smiling women or mechanical/organic drawings traced across the surfaces.  The slightly gross discolour of the material makes it look creepy, as if these casts are the remnants of a chrysalis, the husk from within which a butterfly has emerged.  Given that this is a final year show with most of the artists leaving the swaddling confines of academia for the wider world, this transformative element feels appropriate.

by Aleksandra Klicka

Elsewhere, the sex/death/muscle car aesthetic of Aleksandra Klicka (who has an excellent name for a  photographer) pressed all the right buttons for me. I love it when wholesome, masculinity becomes infected by the morbid death drive that lurks under the surface of our culture, especially the interplay of the straight, rigid aerodynamic lines of the car and the malleability of the female form in the centre.  The female body in the form of a sexualised corpse crops up throughout popular culture, particularly in fashion photography and it's a trend that's disturbing and interesting in equal measure.  In Klicka's photos the form is often further bisected by sharp shadows, as if reality itself has bad intentions for these women. There's a load of stuff swarming underneath the surface of these pictures, none of it particular pleasant.  But that's makes them so fascinating.

All of this is merely me dipping my toe in what this show has to offer.  It's a kaleidoscope of colours, ideas, sounds and imagination that it'd take a week to fully process.  My recommendation is to get down to it and see for yourself.  Everyone I met last night was friendly, open and ready to discuss their work, so if you want to meet the next generation of creative thinkers this is absolutely the place to be.  I can always tell how good a night I've had by how easy it is to write about it the next day.  This was a breeze to explain, and my only regret is that I don't have the space or time to do anything but scratch the surface.  

Futures is at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane.  Open to the public on Sunday the 7th, 10am-6pm and the 8th and 9th 10am-7pm.

Cover picture by Shaun Evelyn

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