Friday, 4 October 2019

Dominic Shepherd | Downstream | Sep-Oct 2019


Shepherd is known for his all-over symbolic painting, seen most emphatically from his early career psychedelic phase until circa 2014. Since then, Shepherd has painted singular scenes that are advertently more subtle, but which retain the ongoing core interests of the artist: mythology, dream, nostalgia, the occult and Englishness. Following on from his 2017 exhibition ‘Old England’, where he painted mostly intimate water scenes as a means to obliquely investigate national identity, Shepherd focuses entirely on waterscapes in this exhibition, and to a heightened level.



Ranging from intimate paintings at 21x24cm to substantial pieces at 92x115cm, Shepherd presents us with a technically superlative combination of swimming figures; those at water’s edge; and water studies. They are celebratory paintings, where the subjects immerse themselves freely in nature, but are also ritualistic. ‘Circle Round the Sun’ and ‘The Source’ suggest the ceremonial and reverential; and are deeply meditative paintings. In fact, the whole series carries an advisory note: slow down and seek stillness in ever changing waters.     



Shepherd also uses water as a signifier of alternate states. Dream, hallucination and role play have always been at the heart of his work, and the distorting effect of bodies in water suggests transformation. Pools or lakes might become liquid portals or gateways, but to where might they lead? A magical realm? The afterlife? Shepherd, as ever, implies but always retains ambiguity in order to allow the audience free interpretation according to the desire of one’s own imagination. 


Wednesday, 14 August 2019

10 Years | CHARLIE SMITH LONDON | Jul-Aug 2019

Dale Adcock, Emma Bennett, Kiera Bennett, Sara Berman, Jelena Bulajić, Tom Butler, Paul
Chiappe, Adam Dix, Susannah Douglas, Tessa Farmer, Tom Gallant, Florian Heinke, Sam
Jackson, Simon Keenleyside, Thomas Langley, Wendy Mayer, Hugh Mendes, Sean Molloy,
Alex Gene Morrison, Tamsin Morse, Gavin Nolan, Dominic Shepherd, Carolein Smit, Barry
Thompson, Gavin Tremlett


CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to announce ’10 Years’, our anniversary exhibition produced to celebrate a full decade’s operations in Shoreditch.


During this time we have presented 88 exhibitions within the gallery, defining CHARLIE SMITH LONDON and gallery director Zavier Ellis’ unique curatorial vision. The gallery has also established itself as a discovery zone by being the first to exhibit many acclaimed young artists via its annual graduate exhibition Young Gods. Beyond the gallery walls, the gallery has participated in
over 30 art fairs in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, UK and USA. Zavier Ellis also launched the monumental annual exhibition THE FUTURE CAN WAIT with Simon Rumley, a ten-year project that was presented in partnership with Saatchi’s New Sensations for four years and culminated in helping organise the seminal fund-raising exhibition In Memoriam Francesca Lowe.
Ellis has also curated or co-curated gallery, museum and pop up exhibitions in Berlin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Klaipėda, London, Los Angeles, Naples and Rome. And, perhaps most notably, the gallery has placed millions of pounds worth of artwork into collections globally, working with many of the most prominent international collectors, and enabling artists to continue to do what artists do
best: making work.

This exhibition consists of some (but by no means all) of Ellis’ favourite artists who have shown over the years at CHARLIE SMITH LONDON; some whom he has been tracking and wanting to show; and gallery artists.





Sam Jackson | Chronicles | May-Jun 2019



‘This is a continuation of the overall narrative arc of my practice, but also seeks to establish new ground, new discussion and new dialogue between myself and the paintings; and also, importantly, between the viewer and the work.’ - Sam Jackson

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to announce Sam Jackson’s solo exhibition ‘Chronicles’.

Known for his portrait paintings where tumultuous text cascades upon subject and painted surface, Jackson has created his most complex body of work to date. Varying scales; patterned backgrounds; geometry; foregrounds adorned with diamanté; spray paint; and ever more expansive application of text coalesce to make intense, beguiling paintings.     

‘Chronicles’, at 162x114cm, is the largest painting that Jackson has made. ‘So Real’ rides above the defiant, bewitching portrait in blue spray paint; ‘The closest thing to living’ emblazoned over her hair; ‘Wisdom’; ‘Courage, Truth, Love’. Is this, as Graham Crowley states, a portrait ‘of the departed as if summoned by a medium’? Certainly, the ethereal portrayal in ‘I Know I Can Make It’ has ‘the appearance of an apparition’.



‘Jackson seems inevitably part of a discussion about the way any painting process carries the past along with it. He throws different speeds, shapes, processes and spanners into the works, in order to counter inevitable ideas of perfection, to create cultural congestion’, states Sacha Craddock. Indeed, the congestion of text, pattern, signs and symbols suggests urgency and obsession, as if personal outpourings and broad cultural references including poetry or song lyrics have been spat out onto the surface.

The past, or rather time, is a key component in these paintings. Jackson’s subjects often appear historical, as if elicited from a different era, but personal histories or memories prevail. ‘Say you’ll remember me’, implores the wistful subject in ‘Never Lie To Yourself’. ‘Cherish…every…moment’ we are told. Fragmented, and clashing against each other, grand narratives cohere with the thoughts, memories, pleas, confessions and exhortations of subject and artist.    



Friday, 3 May 2019

Decreto 349 | Apr-May 2019

Ariel Cabrera Montejo, Concha Martinez Barreto, Javier Torras Casas

Ariel Cabrera Montejo | Behind the Scenes from the series Secondary Papers | 2018 | Watercolour on paper | 66.5x86cm 

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to introduce Ariel Cabrera Montejo and Concha Martinez Barreto alongside Young Gods alumnus Javier Torras Casas. Cuban artist Ariel Cabrera Montejo makes drawings, watercolours and oil paintings that serve as a segue to another time and
another place, whilst operating very much within the contemporary arena. Stylistically, Cabrera Montejo’s ‘La Tregua Fecunda’ series suggests French fin de siècle painting. Exuberant brushstrokes depict man and woman at leisure, cavorting and experimenting. The title La Tregua Fecunda – The Fertile Truce – substantiates this notion. However, the term refers to the interwar period in Cuba between 1878 and 1895, after which Cuba regained independence from their Spanish colonial rulers in the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898). With this in mind, Cabrera Montejo’s depictions of jouissance become redolent of a debauched, military interlude where the affirmation of life is expressed via pleasure. Again, we are minded of late 19th century French painting, where people at leisure, enabled by industrialisation (new wealth and improved transport) and Baron Haussmann’s regeneration of Paris, became popular subjects for avant-garde artists. 

The broader subjects of Cabrera Montejo’s ‘Secondary Papers’ series provide a more panoramic view of his practice. Often opening out into larger scale pieces, we are presented with intricate compositions where protagonists operate within complex environments. Recalling Cabrera Montejo’s earlier experience as a stage designer, figures and objects might appear to be cut out and collaged into view. His subjects interact within a stage, film set or fairground, again referencing the colonial and militaristic in combination with leisure and pastime. In Spanish there is no distinction between the definitions of history and story. 

Ariel Cabrera Montejo | From the series La Treguna Fecunda | 2018 | Watercolour on paper | 38x28cm

This fusion of meaning is encapsulated by Spanish artist Concha Martinez Barreto’s work. Martinez Barreto emphasizes not the grand lineage of canonical history, but rather small, personal stories that might subvert official, linear narratives. Her finely painted scenes are derived from collected, anonymous photographs and so can be considered a version of history painting, but Martinez Barreto prefers to focus on the notion of memory and its capabilities as well as its fallibilities. As such, she embraces the plurality of events and interpretation, whilst illustrating that the universal is often discernible within the personal. She wants to enliven the past and to create something durable from the ephemeral; and elicit the known from the unknown.

Concha Martinez Barreto | S/t 8 | 2017 Oil on canvas 40x50cm

Martinez Barreto’s compositions often depict figures and animals where their scale is disrupted. Babies who are bigger than adults or sheep who tower above children are located mostly in landscapes. Symbolically, this is to assert that our memories of time, place and people do not necessarily coexist with clarity. Occasionally Martinez Barreto will employ the Medieval device of
depicting the same person within the same painting, but at different ages, emphasizing that past and present are interconnected, but not coherently. These paintings are subtly uncanny, their dreamlike qualities reinforced by Martinez Barreto’s monochrome palette.

Javier Torras Casas | Tapestry | 2018 Clay, wax and found objects | 180x70x25cm

London based Spanish artist Javier Torras Casas explores personal and objective histories in his mixed media installations. Combining hand worked organic materials such as clay with blown glass and collected industrial objects, Torras Casas makes work that proposes correlations between natural and manufactured; durable and fragile; historical and new. In ‘Tintes y Mercerizados de especialidad’, a sculptural assemblage that is titled after his grandfather’s now defunct textile factory in Barcelona, Torras Casas utilises original parts of machinery found in the warehouse alongside other collected and manipulated objects. The piece is finely poised, where a delicate interplay between balance, weight and fragility conveys the impermanence of place, people and memory via the precariousness of objects and their interconnections. 

The objects that Torras Casas uses become evocative of specific political conditions by association. ‘Tapestry’ is composed of archived parcels of thread that are accompanied with hand written labels, denoting the material they are made of; the machine that was used to process it; and year. Considering the factory was operating during General Franco’s totalitarian regime, classified
bundles of organic material take on a sinister tenor. Torras Casas’ work, therefore, operates autobiographically both personally and generally. It seeks to memorialise and in doing so imparts considerable symbolic significance to the discarded, defunct and forgotten.

Thomas Langley | Mummy's Boy | April 2019


An exhibition of new paintings by Thomas Langley.
In collaboration with five contemporary galleries, Langley shows
works from his on-going series ‘Mummy’s boy’, for the first time
in a dedicated solo exhibition.


Having started this nonsensical paradoxical quest to ‘buy mum a
house’ during his studies at the Royal academy schools, Langley
now fully fledged, flexes this newfound artistic adult hood with a
big shiny solo show hosted by Camden's renowned Cob gallery.
Large-scale text-based paintings sit alongside newly developed
representational landscapes. This exhibition marks a completion
in what until now has been an on-going series.


Archaeologies | Mar-Apr 2019

Michael Boffey, Gina Soden, Danny Treacy

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON presents ‘Archaeologies’, the second exhibition of 2019 to be curated by gallery director Zavier Ellis. 

The exhibition brings together three artists whose practice is rooted in photography. However, they are multi-disciplinary, processed-based practitioners who mostly employ photography as a founding principle, which enables them to develop unique
and complex methodologies. Fundamental to their practices is a labour-intensive approach to researching, collecting, documenting and making; and a profound meditation on the passing of time, and its effect on objects and locations. Exploring derelict churches or hospitals; working with
found objects from rivers or cruising sites; or engaging with domestic ornaments and paraphernalia, each artist uses place and time to investigate the self, transience and mortality.

Michael Boffey | Bouquet | 2017 | Mixed media on wallpaper on board | 112x79cm

Michael Boffey embraces the historical notion of still life as memento mori. Working predominantly with flowers, Boffey makes work in three ways: wall mounted bronzes cast from flowers; vitrines encasing vases of flowers; and large-scale photographic works. It is the latter that illustrate the core of Boffey’s practice most conclusively. Recalling domestic interiors in which Boffey would have grown up in the 1970’s and 80’s, which in themselves were residual of the 1950’s, Boffey prints vases of flowers amongst other signifiers including doilies or crucifixes onto embossed wallpaper that is then painted and treated. These works are autobiographical, with visual remnants coalescing to represent a meditation on loss, regret and reminiscence.

Gina Soden | Asylum Entrance Hall on Mirror | 2018 | Photograph hand printed on antique mirror with 24 carat gold leaf & acrylic seal | 45x69cm

Gina Soden has established a process of hand printing images of dilapidated interiors onto found mirrors that have been treated and corroded with industrial tools and materials. Informed by the idea of the Grand Tour, she travels to abandoned territories and buildings throughout Europe. Soden seeks out disused public buildings including palaces, churches and asylums, often having to
access them illegally. Her objective is to transport the viewer to the location that she discovers, and to demonstrate the beauty of decay and the poetry of ruins. In this latter sense, Soden references John Ruskin’s ‘Seven Lamps of Architecture’, a text that became influential in summarizing thought around the 19th century Gothic revival. Ruins were of course a primary Gothic trope,
and Soden locates ideals of beauty, life, memory and truth in both decay and abandonment. Her work makes for complex viewing where symmetry, corrosion, reflection and image combine in a beguiling singular object.

Danny Treacy | Rituals (River) | 2019 | Found shoes, found clothes, wood | Dimensions variable 

Danny Treacy’s practice incorporates photography, sculpture, performance, collecting, archaeology and anthropology. Embracing the fieldwork ethic, Treacy explores bifunctional sites in order to locate, collect, manipulate and document found objects. This might include discarded clothing; objects from the River Thames; or used condoms at cruising sites. Treacy considers these
objects as the ‘fallout’ of human activity and questions the impermanence of value and function. By collecting, adapting and documenting, he renews the discarded and gives new value to the otherwise worthless, ultimately asserting their status as contemporary artefacts. The transitional flux to which these objects are subjected to, alongside the locale in which they are discovered, discloses behavioural characteristics of society at any given time. Therefore, Treacy’s practice could be considered as an exploration into community; identity; the politics of space; memory; and the ulterior.

Plan B | New York | March 2019

Sam Jackson | No more talking | 2018 | Oil, marker on board | 32x22cm

Young Gods | Feb-Mar 2019

Eliza Bennett, Teal Griffin, Thomas Langley, Alexi Marshall, Rosie McGinn, Irene Pouliassi, Yasmine Robinson

Thomas Langley | Mummy's Boy XXL (Orange on White) | 2019 | Oil, spray paint on birch ply | 211x215cm

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present its first exhibition of 2019. Celebrating its tenth year at the gallery in Shoreditch, it is fitting that Young Gods launches this significant and celebratory year.

Gallery director and independent curator Zavier Ellis is a respected talent spotter who has curated Young Gods at various locations for fifteen years:

“This is one of my favourite projects in the calendar and this show is one of the strongest selections yet. I have enduring relationships with many of the Young Gods that I have selected over the years, and I’m delighted to see them achieving so much consistent success. This is something I have done since the earliest stages of my career, and my appetite for discovering new artists is undiminished.”

Selected from graduate and post-graduate final shows in London, the exhibition will consist of printmaking, installation, painting, video, assemblage and sculpture from artists who have graduated from Chelsea, Goldsmiths, the Royal Academy Schools, the Slade, Wimbledon and City & Guilds.

Eliza Bennett | Faux-Foe | 2018 | Pins (brass, nickel, steel, gold-plated), velvet, latex | 70x24x7cm

Eliza Bennett (MA Fine Art, City & Guilds of London Art School) works across disciplines including sculpture, installation, printmaking, book making and photography. Bennett explores a range of issues relating to the shifting forms of both individual and social reality. Embracing archiving and categorization, she subverts meaning by adroitly manipulating the audience’s expectations. Bennett subtly employs our inherent tendency to classify in order to destabilize the notion of classification, thereby navigating value systems, affectation, acceptance and exclusion.

Teal Griffin | 5 years | 2018 | Textiles, insulation foam, wood, steel, plastic, cardboard box | Dimensions variable

Teal Griffin (MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths) investigates profound, universal human experience by departing from the subjective: most recently his ageing dog Zen, his late father, his first wrinkle. Griffin’s practice is a non-hierarchical, multidisciplinary process of bricolage (including sculpture, installation, video, poetry / text and spoken word). His presentation is nuanced with a lightness of
touch, enabling the audience to navigate constellations of objects that coalesce to encourage contemplation and the decoding of implied narrative.

Thomas Langley | Mummy's Boy Small (Sky Blue) | 2018 | Oil & oil bar on birch ply | 51x39.5cm

Thomas Langley (Postgraduate Diploma, Royal Academy Schools) is a multi-disciplinary artist who has recently focused on painting. Langley draws on specifically personal experience to make work that resonates broadly. Combining text, materiality and objecthood at varying scales, Langley’s statements read as declarations or pleas, such as his already iconic “Buy mum a house” or “If its shit, make it better”. Employing the visual language of rough, instinctive graffiti, Langley embraces the rich history of text as visual device, from naïve graffiti itself to signage, slogans and political polemics.

Alexi Marshall | The Party | 2018 | Linocut on Japanese paper | 200x290cm (ed.5)

Alexi Marshall
(BA (Hons) Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art) investigates sexuality, spirituality, womanhood and youth using print, drawing, fabric and embroidery. Her uniquely large-scale linocuts are intensely laboured, densely populated tableaux. Desire underlined by threat is conveyed, as human, bestial and hybrid figures cavort in unspecified environments. Heavily informed by religion, myth, tarot and the wild, divine nature of the feminine, Marshall’s work draws parallels between the ritualism of occult or tribal ceremony and contemporary social nightlife.

Rosie McGinn | GET IN | 2018 | 2 windscreen wiper motors, 2 football stands, hanging structure, cut out arms and heads, wire, hooks | Dimensions variable

Rosie McGinn (MA Fine Art, Wimbledon College of Arts) identifies sport and leisure as a subject through which she can explore the psychological drives underlying euphoria, despair, achievement and failure. Working in video, sculpture and kinetic installation, McGinn appropriates imagery and footage from bingo halls, weight lifting, boxing or football matches to make effortlessly complex works. McGinn acknowledges both the pursuit of transcendence via extreme human achievement and the escapism inherent in group hysteria (worship), whilst conveying the absurdity of consistently dedicating oneself to watching or participating in singular, obsessive, repetitive behaviour.

Irene Pouliassi | #Thedeathnautsdiary_Clothing Options series, #1 | 2018 | Used clothes, faux Converse shoes, knife, Scoubidoo laces | 60x20x20cm

Irene Pouliassi (MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Arts) investigates trauma and mortality in her beguiling, often hanging constructions. Combining collected garments, found objects, sex toys; and organic material including teeth, hair and animal intestines, Pouliassi confronts her audience with work that simultaneously captivates and repulses. Recalling voodoo or other ritualistic occult objects, Pouliassi presents nihilistic, fetishistic assemblages that suggest the body, but also its propensity to
decay, degenerate and expire.

FEBLU | 2018 | Oil, spray paint, crepe paper, rope and tarpaulin on canvas | 240x160cm

Yasmine Robinson (MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Arts) makes assemblages that respond to her experience of the urban environment of Belfast, and specifically its post-conflict identity defined by rapid regeneration and reconstruction. Her work explores themes of identity, and re-interpretation of contemporary Northern Irish culture, embracing the friction between nostalgia and progressive adaption. Consisting of found elements and painterly techniques, Robinson’s work combines the visual languages of the city and historical abstract painting, encouraging both instinctive reading and linguistic decoding.

London Art Fair | Jan 2019

Barry Thompson | Down on my knees and my hands in the air again | 2018 | Oil on panel | 11.5x18cm


Thursday, 13 December 2018

Tom Butler | Ensemble | Nov - Dec 2018




‘In spite of their unearthly strangeness I had a feeling that there was something familiar about them.’ William Hope Hodgson, The Crew of the Lancing, 1914

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Tom Butler’s third solo exhibition at the gallery.

‘Ensemble’ will include three bodies of work. In addition to Butler’s ongoing series of painted cabinet cards, for which he is most recognised, the exhibition will represent the London debut of two new photographic series. Conveying a fascination with photographic portraiture from the medium’s earliest phases, combined with an enquiry into Victorian Gothic literature, and specifically its tendency to describe the body as liable to ruin, shape changing or re-assemblage, Butler continues to make beguiling, uncanny images. 


In ’Ten Elmers’, Butler has collected ten identical cabinet cards in order to work on the same image with various motifs. In doing so, he suggests identities are characterized by embellishment, but also by what remains unadorned. The performative self-portrait ‘Figure’ series adopts a similar strategy. By using a remote-control shutter release and black fabric to mask most of his body, Butler creates images that are determined predominantly by what is concealed, rather than revealed. In his ‘Homunculi’ series, Butler directly references Gothic and alchemical tropes. In contrast to the shrouded ‘Figure’ photographs, Butler combines multiple images of his own exposed body parts to create singular, abject self-portraits.



Taken together, this fascinating body of work is far more revelatory than Butler’s previous canon, elucidating on the body as an objectification of self. The physical transformation of body or body elements renders the subject ambiguous by obscuring its identity, whilst infusing it with disquieting psychological resonance.  


Peter Ashton Jones | Blind Man's Buff | Oct - Nov 2018



CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is pleased to present Peter Ashton Jones’ first solo exhibition at the gallery, curated by Jemima Rose.

The exhibition title refers to the traditional parlour game that has been played throughout generations, and is associated most notably with the Victorian era. Latterly known as Blind Man’s Bluff, Ashton Jones introduces ideas around wordplay, linguistic evolution, and slippages between fact and fiction from the outset. Buff is an old English word meaning tag or touch, and Ashton Jones uses his interpretation of the game and its semantic implications to create a framework that informs his reasoning and decision making when creating this series. He simultaneously refers to the relationship between artist and audience.

In broad terms, Ashton Jones begins with the traditional notion of landscape painting being a window on to the world. His landscapes refer to real places in West Sussex where he grew up, but are not specifically topographical accounts of that landscape. Rather, they are places in which painting is explored through light, rendering, layering and dynamics of line, form and colour; and operate, therefore, in a space between reality and imagination.

As well as being partially observational, Ashton Jones’ paintings might also recall his experience when in or passing through the landscape. The large painting ‘The Roll Up’ began with witnessing a grave digger from a train window that came to inspire a poem that he wrote called ‘An Exploration of a Railway Tunnel’, which was published in the poetry magazine ‘Navis’ in 1996 – ‘I saw a gravedigger, filling in with only the idea of being left with the means of getting out.’

Another theme relates to the myth of Theseus’ red ball of twine, which was given to him by Ariadne before entering the labyrinth to slay the Minotaur, in order to enable him to find his way back out.  

Given the plastic artificial nature of painting, what ultimately binds together the above themes, and the diversity of imagery and language, is a questioning of what is real and what is fictional in a painting? What is believable? This question is posed directly in the large painting ‘Blind Man’s Buff’, which depicts the artist’s left hand with index finger pointing, which might be judgemental, or directing, or simply pointing towards something. It also refers to the biblical account of Doubting Thomas, who had to touch Christ in order to know whether he really had resurrected from death. Ashton Jones then, embeds narratives deriving from the personal to historical to mythological, in order to disperse clues that guide towards or away from a definitive destination.   



Friday, 12 October 2018

The Discontents | Bermondsey Project Space | October 2018


Zavier Ellis | La République ou la Mort | 2018 | Oil, spray paint, house paint, pencil & collage on board | 200x300cm

The Discontents brings together five artworld protagonists who are recognised for their work in the industry including art criticism, journalism, running galleries and museums, educating and curating. Whilst establishing themselves in their respective capacities Matthew Collings, Tommaso Corvi-Mora, Zavier Ellis, Matthew Higgs and Max Presneill have refused to navigate a singular path through the artworld and have been insistent on maintaining a rigorous studio practice, developing successful careers as artists. 

Including painting, collage, objects and ceramics, the exhibition will be diverse despite formal and thematic correlations emerging.

 Matthew Collings presents impasto oil paintings where abstraction vies with figuration. They are narrative paintings that are deeply personal, referencing events and relationships from his early to current life.

 Tommaso Corvi-Mora’s ceramics reflect his interest in the history and tradition of British Studio Pottery. Investigating the relationship between art object and functionality, there are also political undertones including deliberations on overpopulation and compulsive consumption. 

Zavier Ellis will present a monumental 2x3 metre painting. Continuing his exploration into the historical, from where he draws an internal, symbolic logic, this recent series is inspired by research into revolutionary flags and events, and specifically in this case the French Revolution.


 Matthew Higgs will exhibit archetypal work that draws directly on the history of the readymade. Continuously scouring book stores and markets to add to his collection, Higgs appropriates elements of found books and re-contextualises them. Engaging with notions of authorship, originality, typography and linguistics his work is resonant and nuanced.


 Max Presneill’s large abstract paintings represent a labyrinthine, simultaneous enquiry into presence and mortality; masculine codes and gender; networks of understanding and cognitive associations; and sub-cultural references. They explicitly engage with the history of mark making, and by combining abstraction with collage elements Presneill seeks to undermine the hierarchy of visual signs and materials.



Together then, the artists in this exhibition engage with historicity; the personal political; the act of making; abstract versus figurative; found objects and materials; narrative; the disparate; and the interconnectedness of things.


Thursday, 11 October 2018

Hugh Mendes | Autorretrato | Sep-Oct 2018


Hugh Mendes’ third solo exhibition with the gallery. Mendes is recognised for finely rendered obituary paintings that operate simultaneously as portrait and still life. This obsessive
project, ongoing now for over ten years, evolved originally from making still life paintings of newspaper cuttings. Considering still life’s metaphorical function within the history of Western art from 16th century Netherlandish painting onwards, adopting the obituary as a singular subject enabled Mendes to embrace and affirm the inherent meaning of memento mori: remember death.

In this series Mendes continues from his 2016 exhibition ‘The Death of the Artist’, which represented a shift from painting various notable figures whose life and work resonated with Mendes, to recently deceased artists only. Significantly, in this exhibition Mendes turns backwards to paint heroic artists from throughout the centuries, all of whom have expressly impacted upon him and his practice. And in using their own self-portraits as source material, Mendes has been able to engage profoundly with the artists’ intentions:

“I used Lucian Freud’s self-portrait a few years ago, then continued to explore this theme with others, such as Francis Bacon and Michael Andrews. This gave me a fascinating new perspective, as I was engaging with their psychology and how they saw themselves. It also allowed me to engage with their idiosyncratic use of paint and perhaps consider a degree of existentialism.”


Indeed, this process has facilitated a meditation on and enabled a conversation with the titans of art history: Picasso, Matisse, van Gogh, Cézanne, El Greco, Vermeer, Rembrandt and Goya all feature. During the making of each of these paintings, Mendes has engaged profoundly with the personality of the artist, investing in and befriending them. He will talk with fondness of the characteristics of every subject, as well as the challenge of integrating their techniques with his own. Each painting, therefore, is activated differently, and represents an audacious synthesis of contemporary and historical painting.


Mythos | Beth Carter, Lisa Ivory & Josef Ofer | Jul-Aug 2018

A three-person show investigating foreboding, personalised mythologies in oil, bronze, plaster and ink. Each of these artists engages with universal mythology in order to derive a unique, subjective and relentless vision.


Lisa Ivory’s crepuscular paintings are simultaneously sensual and abject. Often depicting beasts coupling with naked women in open landscape, we are presented with an alternative meditation on man and animal; civilization and nature. Ivory states: “As both myth and symbol, the Wild Man could be both savage and sublime, evoke fear and admiration, and represent our antithesis and ideal. It is a universal condition, as evident within ‘civilization’ as without.” Ivory employs the bestial as an affirmative metaphor. Narratives throughout history have presented the beast as an exiled, malevolent aberration that induces fear and horror, representing the antithesis of society’s expectations. Ivory again: “The monstrous; primitive, irrational Wild Man is at once our fall guy, our belonging and our otherness. The foundling, the waif, the abandoned and the fallen woman share this plight.”
In contrast to prescribed narratives, Ivory’s monsters are Outsiders who are accepted and embraced, no longer the excluded Other.


Beth Carter’s plaster and bronze sculptures often combine man and animal, drawing on a rich and ancient history of hybrid mythologies. As the artist states: “Working within the realms of a sculptural tradition where the symbolic use of animal imagery is a potent and continuous source, my work creates allegories by, amongst other things, integrating the human form with animal forms. The resulting imagery holds both a timeless significance and a contemporary relevance despite and because of our separation from the natural world.” The integration of human and animal forms within Carter’s work is effortless, creating an entirely tenable slippage between the imaginary and reality. Referencing, for example, biblical and Celtic mythologies including the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse or the Underworld, Carter appeals to an internal place that is informed and dominated by storytelling, dream and universal archetypes.


Having been one of the youngest ever pupils to be admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris at the age of 17 years, Israeli born Josef Ofer has lived in a community of 80 people on the banks of the Amazonian Rio Negro for over two decades. Recalling Francisco Goya, Honoré Daumier and Victor Hugo, Ofer’s ink drawings of often solitary, skeletal figures convey an incomparable inner, existential angst. Occasionally hybrid and bestial, and always redolent with despair, Ofer’s work provides a counterpoint to both Carter and Ivory. More internalised, and inhabiting an isolated wilderness, Ofer’s figures truly depict a Romantic vision, and a critique of society and civilization that can only be achieved by one’s removal from it.

VOLTA 14


 Alex Gene Morrison | 'Orange Eye (Yellow Border)' | 2018 | Oil on canvas | 35x25cm

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.