Thursday, 7 June 2018

Transcript | May-Jun 2018

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present ‘Transcript’, a group exhibition curated by gallery director Zavier Ellis and artist Hugh Mendes. Both Ellis and Mendes have an enduring interest in text based work and in the occurrence of text itself in our general cultural environment.
This exhibition will explore the use of text in contemporary art that has been transcribed from every day or alternative sources. For over a century, ushered in by Pablo Picasso’s inclusion of the fragmented word ‘JOU’ and collaged oil cloth in ‘Still-Life with Chair Caning’ (1912), artists have turned to low sources and materials gleaned from everyday life, thereby navigating visual communication away from its traditional reliance on imagery. Found elements derived from life in the studio, street and café were deployed to confront the audience directly with the stuff of reality at a time of great political, social and cultural flux. Fast paced change was axiomatic of the modern period, echoed by incessant industrial, technical and mechanical progress. Additionally, during a period of economic depression during and between the two world wars, adopting the use of accessible collage elements and found objects represented a democratisation of materials in themselves.

Picasso’s introduction of text as a prominent surface component prepared the way for contemporary artists to develop it into a subject in itself, and to engage directly with popular culture; commercial strategies; and semantics. The artists in this exhibition wholeheartedly embrace the dissolution of hierarchical materials and sources. ‘Transcript’ will include painting, work on paper,
video, installation, sculpture, performance and assemblage derived from film, signage, posters, advertising, newspapers, notebooks, diaries, clichés, graffiti, tattoo and schizophrenic acoustic hallucinations.

Beyond this framework, ‘Transcript’ will investigate the disruption of language. In 1916 ‘Course in General Linguistics’ by Ferdinand de Saussure was posthumously published, and became a critical work in the field of semiotics. Central to Saussure’s theory is the arbitrary relationship between the signifier and signified. Taking the written word as the ultimate signifier, where meaning is attached by general consensus, text based work has the facility to communicate universally, at least to an audience who speak and read the same language. However, again from synthetic cubism onwards, text based work is often characterized by fragmentation and incoherence, where the association between signifier and signified is disrupted. This exhibition will assert that broken, covered, erased, reversed, redacted, or dissolving words, letters or sentences serve to deconstruct language in order
to encourage ambiguous, new or unintentional meanings, both cognitively and instinctively.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Kiera Bennett’s second solo exhibition at the gallery
 Bennett continues her exploration of making paintings about the practice of painting, and the actions and emotions that accompany the process. Beginning by making repetitive line drawings, and then repeating the process when making the paintings themselves, Bennett relentlessly seeks to hone her line and form in order to arrive at an essence. This distillation replicates the process of depiction to abstraction that was so well refined by early 20th century Modernism, which in turn referenced perceived notions about early non-Western art.
 Bennett’s paintings contrast the Modernist dictum of objectification, however, in being highly personal abstractions (to varying degrees) of life in the studio or working en plein air in imagined landscapes. They might refer directly to artwork or artists that have influenced her, or with which she is preoccupied – Munch’s sun paintings being a prime example. From cave painting to postmodernism via Picasso, Matisse, de Kooning and Guston, Bennett’s reference points are broad, but are employed in a manner which can be unique only to her. 
 Singular formal elements are appropriated, or transcribed, and worked into an expansive composition. This is in combination with an emotional response to seeing and feeling the original work; making and digesting her own work; and re-imagining and depicting the process of making. And as a female artist working in a post-postmodern arena, Bennett is embracing, inhabiting and deconstructing the tradition of linear, white, male dominated Modernism.
 “The work usually turns into conversations with other paintings by other painters. Painting for me is ultimately about creating structures within which I can try to paint in all the ways I want to and establish an ongoing dialogue with the history of art; the behemoth of art history to the present.” 

Friday, 20 April 2018

VOLTA NEW YORK | Kiera Bennett & Hugh Mendes | Mar 2018

The painter, the artist’s studio and the act of painting itself are often the subject of the work. Autobiographical references are filtered through an instinctive selection process. Driven by a desire to make the fleeting and the fugitive permanent and immovable, my paintings are abstractions of these experiences.”

“The use of newspaper clippings provides a very flat spatial field, recalling certain trompe l’oeil 17th century still life painting. Obituaries condense a life into a few column inches and a single image – a scrap of newsprint that becomes a heavy token, a memento, even an icon, when rendered in paint.”

CONTEXT: Gallery Artists & Collaborators | Feb-Mar 2018

Thursday, 22 March 2018


Peter Ashton Jones, Emma Bennett, Kiera Bennett, Tom Butler, Dan Coombs, Florian Heinke, Sam Jackson, Reece Jones, Kate Lyddon, Eric Manigaud, Wendy Mayer, Hugh Mendes, Alex Gene Morrison, Gavin Nolan, Dominic Shepherd, John Stark, Geraldine Swayne, Barry Thompson, Gavin Tremlett

In our first exhibition of the year, CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is pleased to offer a unique opportunity to view our gallery artists and key collaborators in context. Gallery Director Zavier Ellis states:

“In some ways a gallery artists show is a pretty dull and unimaginative thing to do. But, on the upside it enables our audience to digest our stable in context. We are mostly a painter’s gallery, albeit with a curatorial emphasis that embraces every medium when appropriate. The artists we exhibit are technical, but this is nowhere near enough in itself. You will find that each one of them makes work with an intense emotional, philosophical or psychological charge, and so their work operates in a challenging, profound way.

These artists are lateral thinkers who know that the trajectory of history is not as linear as is often presented, and that everything operates in a complex, non-hierarchical, interconnected way. Embracing doctrines and tendencies from the modern and postmodern periods, as well as near and deep history, they conduct their investigation without irony or sentimentality, but rather with positive affirmation, intelligence and deliberation. 

Added to the gallery artists in this show, we have invited others with whom we collaborate regularly, who work in paint, pencil, charcoal and installation. So in actual fact, a potentially dull and unimaginative idea becomes an intriguing and engaging proposition. This is not for everyone, but those that get it will be rewarded for their conviction.”                      

Volta New York | 2018

Kiera Bennett & Hugh Mendes 


Hugh Mendes is well recognised for his obsessive, ongoing series of obituary paintings. Since 2001, Mendes has made paintings of newspaper clippings, tracking significant stories that have a personal resonance for the artist. The series began when Mendes made a double portrait for an exhibition due to open on September 11th, 2001. It soon became apparent that Mendes had unwittingly painted a relatively unknown Osama bin Laden aiming a Kalashnikov at the more familiar George W. Bush.

This painting led to a ten-year project documenting the war on terror, alongside which Mendes began making paintings after newspaper obituaries. At once portraits and still life, they operate as memento mori on several levels. These works also refer to visual history generally, in subtly engaging with historical painting as well as the mechanical reproduction of imagery, including photography and newspaper printing. As the artist states:    

“The use of newspaper clippings provides a very flat spatial field, recalling certain trompe l’oeil 17th century still life painting. Obituaries condense a life into a few column inches and a single image – a scrap of newsprint that becomes a heavy token, a memento, even an icon, when rendered in paint.”

In recent years Mendes has come to focus almost entirely on obituaries of artists, and this series represents the first time that he has depicted those that have not recently passed away. This allows for historical artists to be considered as potential subject matter, including in this exhibition late 20th century painters such as Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.     

Illustrated by the fact that Kiera Bennett is collected by artists including Graham Crowley, Julian Opie, Cornelia Parker and Mario Testino, she is often considered a painter’s painter. And in her recent, ongoing series of paintings about the life and work of an artist in their studio, Bennett ratifies this idea: she is an artist who is absorbed in making work about making work. As she states:

The painter, the artist’s studio and the act of painting itself are often the subject of the work. Autobiographical references are filtered through an instinctive selection process. Driven by a desire to make the fleeting and the fugitive permanent and immovable, my paintings are abstractions of these experiences.”

There is a lyrical fluidity to the paintings where form is implied by swathes of colour delineated by line and striations. We are presented with abstracted depictions, often made in series, that are informed by relentless and repetitive line drawings. The resultant paintings invite us to decode depictions of semi to almost pure abstraction. These formal attributes recall early Modernism, and in combination with the artist’s intentions and preoccupations exemplify something closer to Metamodernism, where a constant and cyclic relationship between Modernist and Postmodernist doctrines is affirmed.


Emma Bennett, Kiera Bennett, Sam Douglas, Sam Jackson, Hugh Mendes, John Stark, Barry Thompson

Emma Bennett, 'Alter the action', 2017 Oil on canvas 122x91.5cm

Kiera Bennett, 'Light Cave Painting', 2017 Oil on canvas 45x35cm

Sam Douglas, 'Shrine to St. John of Kronstadt', 2017 Oil, varnish on board 30x48cm

Barry Thompson, 'Love you so much it makes me sick', 2017 Oil on panel 11.5x18cm


Kiera Bennett, Florian Heike, Gavin Nolan, Dominic Shepherd, John Stark

Kiera Bennett, 'Hand and Head', 2017 Oil on canvas 55x45cm

Gavin Nolan, 'Spread Spectrum', 2017 Oil on canvas 18x24cm

John Stark, 'Meditation', 2014 Oil on oak panel 30.5x40.5cm

Friday, 8 December 2017

HAUNTS | Emma Bennett | Nov - Dec 2017

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to announce Emma Bennett’s fourth solo exhibition at the gallery.

Bennett is well known for her sumptuous paintings that set figurative elements against black, monochromatic grounds. Potentially incongruous elements might be included in any singular piece including flowers; fruit; fire; water; fabric; or game; and more recently interior objects and details including lamps, table tops, curtains, stairs, alcoves and mirrors. Any indication of dissonance, however, is assuaged by fundamental, underlying interpretation and superlative compositional awareness. Bennett’s use of memento mori is well documented, as she intelligently navigates traditional motifs in combination with alternative, contemporary imagery derived from film and photography.

The ephemeral and intangible are relentlessly depicted, and now in combination with notions of place, as well as time. There is a foreground and background; and movement through, from or within a tangible space is suggested by stairs or mirrors that lead the eye around the picture plane. Presence, or rather absence, is effortlessly evidenced. These more spatial paintings suggest film settings and Bennett’s love of cinema is palpable within this collection. Referencing Laura Mulvey’s discourse on film in ‘Death 24x a Second’, where she suggests film ‘combines, perhaps more perfectly than any other medium, two human fascinations: one with the boundary between life and death and the other with the mechanical animation of the inanimate’[1], we come to appreciate how creators throughout history have continued to meditate on the fundamentals of existence.

[1] L. Mulvey, Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image, Reaktion Books, 2006

Thursday, 19 October 2017

RUN TO ME | Sam Jackson & Derek Ridgers

RUN TO ME brings together the work of painter Sam Jackson and photographer Derek Ridgers. Curated by Faye Dowling, the exhibition celebrates the sacred ceremonies of excess, desire and experimentation which intoxicate our youth.

British artists Ridgers and Jackson are united by an instinct to document the characters and compulsions that have driven the heart of our youth culture. Their photographs and paintings lead us into the nocturnal romances of passion and performance which ignite our passage of youth. The ceremonies of dressing up and dancing, the seduction of exposed flesh and of kissing in dark doorways. The melancholy and mischief, the ecstasy and heart break.

Sam Jackson’s compulsive oil paintings explore themes of transgression and power in intimate portraits of youth culture and desire. Jackson’s text appears propelled to new, heightened voices. Symbols and statements speak of inner dialogues and desires, driving us to question the tensions between our public and private identities; and to navigate truths about intimacy, fantasy, and will. With gravity and compassion, Jackson’s paintings walk the line between violence and vulnerability, regret and desire, kissing and fucking.

Over four decades Derek Ridgers has been photographing the beautiful and the damned in his ongoing portrayal of youth culture and identity. Photographed in iconic clubs such as Blitz, Billy’s and Skin II, his portraits capture the subterranean club-life of the 1980s and 90s, conveying a dark carnival of music and fashion, love and lust. Caught in the flashlights, we see ourselves reflected in the faces of his photographs; and witness the tensions between power and vulnerability, questioning who is in control - the observer or observed?

Eric Manigaud | October 2017

Manigaud is recognised for his impeccable photo-realist drawings made after original, archival photographs. Working in series, he investigates profound, historical themes including injured World War I soldiers; bombed World War II cities; 19th century murder victims; and asylum inmates. His subject matter, therefore, is commonly brutal and uncompromising. 

In this exhibition Manigaud has focused entirely on the Paris massacre of 1961, when the French National Police attacked a peaceful demonstration of pro-National Liberation Front (FLN) Algerians, which resulted in the ruthless and intentional murder of numerous unarmed demonstrators (estimated between 200 and 300 despite the French government eventually acknowledging only 40 deaths in 1998).

Anthology 2017

Selected and curated by internationally respected art world professionals, Anthology is a multi-disciplinary exhibition that reaches out democratically to artists worldwide. The 2017 jury is Kate Bryan (Art Historian, Curator, Broadcaster), Matthew Collings (Artist, Writer), Faye Dowling (Curator, Editor, Producer), Zavier Ellis (Gallery Director, Curator, Collector) and Bert Moore (Collector)

The 2017 finalists:

Tae Eun Ahn
Helen Bermingham
Claudia Carr
Graham Crowley
Luigi Francischello
Giulia Lanza
Steve Moberly
Margaret O’Brien
Lorella Paleni
Jay Rechsteine

Presented at the CHARLIE SMITH LONDON gallery in Shoreditch, London, the exhibition will continue to be a key barometer of emerging and established talent, and will continue to provide unforeseen opportunities to artists. Previous winners and finalists have enjoyed notable success as a direct result of their inclusion in Anthology, having been curated into significant exhibitions; placed in prominent private collections; and represented by CHARLIE SMITH LONDON. 

OLD ENGLAND | Dominic Shepherd

In his fourth solo exhibition at the gallery, Dominic Shepherd continues to marry a deep and ongoing interest in mythology with a personalised, idiosyncratic worldview. Made as part of the series Old England, the paintings in this exhibition reach beyond the personal and historical to the political.

“Britain, surrounded by water, is a haunted isle. Colonialism; slavery; conquest; feudalism; reformation; democracy; civil war. Every locus is invested with ghosts of the past, a misty and sentimentalised landscape.”

In a climate where nationalism has gained so much traction globally, Shepherd addresses the relationship between actual and nostalgic notions of received traditions, opening onto a consideration of the complex relationship between Romanticism, folk, patriotism and nationalism. Viewed in the shadow of fundamental political change, Shepherd has been forced to confront his interest in English folk and Englishness, and ask where, and how, these themes have been recontextualised. Being aware of nationalism’s tendency to mine and appropriate folk traditions, and a new sensitivity towards the localised and regional, Shepherd allows these concerns to permeate beneath the surface. 

Shepherd employs water as a newly dominant motif. Figures are found submerged, wading or crossing bodies of water that he encounters daily in the wooded estate where he lives in Dorset. Sinuous rills, lakes, dew ponds, streams, storm drains, culverts, canals and weirs are permanently transitory and allude to the hidden: 

“To contemplate water is akin to viewing the painted surface; a mirror that reflects the viewer’s standpoint; an intricate surface formed by tortuous rules; underwater lurk the unseen, the ghosts.”

These paintings continue an evolution in Shepherd’s practice where meaning and presence have become increasingly oblique. The ghosts to which he refers are those of the past, who populate a civilisation’s historical narrative, or an individual’s memory or unconscious. As figures navigate idealised land and waterscapes in contemplation, trepidation or with unknowing ease, this hearkening for a paradigmatic time and place should serve as a warning that nostalgic longing can also harbour unseen threat and malevolence. 

REMAINS | Alistair Gordon & Hugh Mendes

 Gordon and Mendes share an interest in trompe l'oeil painting and in the representation of other people's work within their own. For this unique project, they will produce a series of diptychs relating to recently deceased British artists. This will consist in each case of two paintings: a panel painting by Alastair Gordon representing an artist's studio wall, replete with paint smears and other consequential marks. Adjacent to this Hugh Mendes will present an obituary painting featuring a rendition of a self-portrait by the deceased artist. 

The common factor in these is the use of paint to represent paint, either as left over detritus from the act of making, or in the depiction of an appropriated painting. This serves to investigate representation in itself, whilst simultaneously paying homage to the artist and their working practice.

As the first occasion in an ongoing project, Gordon and Mendes will present diptychs memorialising Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Craigie Aitchison and Michael Andrews.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Part IV: Interiority | VOLTA 13

Emma Bennett, Kiera Bennett, Florian Heike, Wendy Mayer, Gavin Nolan, Tom Ormand, John Stark

Curated by Zavier Ellis

Interiority, a group presentation of seven artists that is designed to operate as seven solo presentations, defined physically by the design of the booth. Representing the fourth in a quadrilogy of exhibitions that also serves to psycho-geographically link the two remote locations of art fair and gallery space. A version of Interiority will take place simultaneously at the gallery in London, following on from Street Semiotics and The Turning World, thus representing a collection of investigations into the city, landscape and interiors. 

The notion of interiority arose from identifying an aspect within each of the artist’s wider practices, and the exhibition seeks to reveal the psychological aspect of the interior view, as if the representation of a physical interior can be used to decode the interior mind of the artist and audience. An interior place must define itself by the presence and absence of objects, and the condition of them, and in its relation to the exterior. Conscious and unconscious drives are revealed by what is left in, and what is left out, all of which might reveal elements of identity, beliefs and desires. Notions of nostalgia, longing, hope and the private and personal will dominate, whilst also asking what is beyond the threshold, both physically and psychologically.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Part III: Interiority

Emma Bennett, Kiera Bennett, Sara Berman, Marcin Cienski, David HaugheyLee Maelzer, Michal Mraz, Tom Ormond, John Stark

Curated by Zavier Ellis

PRIVATE VIEW: Thursday 18 May 6.30-8.30pm
EXHIBITION DATES: Friday 19 May – Saturday 17 June 2017
GALLERY HOURS: Wednesday-Saturday 11am-6pm or by appointment

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON presents the third in a trilogy of interconnected exhibitions, representing a collection of survey shows investigating the city, landscape and interiors.       

‘Part III: Interiority’ features nine artists from Ireland, Poland, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. The notion of interiority arose from identifying an aspect within each of the artist’s wider practices, and the exhibition seeks to reveal the psychological aspect of the interior view, as if the representation of a physical interior can be used to decode the interior mind of the artist and audience.  

An interior place must define itself by the presence and absence of objects and people; its architectural aspect; and its relation to the exterior. Conscious and unconscious drives are revealed by the subject portrayed, and its condition. Additionally, what is left in, and what is left out, reveal elements of identity, beliefsdesires and philosophical or political preoccupations 

The stark compositions of David Haughey and Lee Maelzer use absence and the moribund to suggest previous or pending presence. Abandoned places and deteriorating objects denote the passing of time, as does Emma Bennett’s deployment of the memento mori, whilst also suggesting longing, love and desire.  

Tom Ormond’s complex compositions are also without human presence. Real places are reimagined as exploding environments that are in an ongoing state of flux, growth, decline and disorder. Michal Mraz also employs the architectural to devastating effect. Populated interior views combine abstraction and figuration with disrupted scale, form and surfaces to pose questions about politics, power and consumerism.  

Figuration is employed in various guises throughout the show. John Stark adroitly combines the political with mythological and draws special attention to separation from the exterior, when viewed from the interior. Marcin Cienski creates dramatic, foreboding paintings that call to mind the interior world of dreams or nightmares. Kiera Bennett and Sara Berman, on the other hand, abstract the figure to the point where it assimilates with its surroundings. Bennett uses Modernist tropes to suggest artists at work or rest in the studio, whereas Berman utilizes pattern and form to fuse the subject with the environment and objects within  

Please contact gallery for images and further information