Friday, 7 May 2021

Emma Bennett | All Aflame | 7-17th May 2021


CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is excited to announce an outstanding solo exhibition of new work by Emma Bennett near to its previous gallery site in Shoreditch at 64 Charlotte Road. New work will be presented on the ground floor, accompanied by a retrospective in the basement. 

This group of paintings were made in a turbulent year for Bennett, which began with several journeys back and forth between London and Wales to visit her poorly father. Visits to the hospital bedside and then, after his death, to the old family home resonated with a wistfulness that is familiar to the artist, whose primary interests include those of memory, time and transience. Upon returning to London, and during the Covid pandemic, these paintings were made.

Bennett adopts enduring motifs including fruit, flowers, drapes, hanging hare, mirrored reflections and ascending stairs, bestowing them with astounding emotional resonance. The artist states: “It is the fragments of still life painting that dominate these images, with clusters of flowers infused with love. Within the endless space of the black grounds, I wanted the compositions to be a guide that leads you, as if following a family line. The figurative elements that coexist here reflect on our relationships with family and significant others – those who inspire us and those who have diminished us.”

Fire is another motif that Bennett has explored in recent years: Still life and fire have coexisted for some time in my paintings as I’ve attempted to hold the flame and the flammable in a precarious balance or on the point of combustion. Here there are multiple fires: for a lost spark can ignite a memory of a past flame. White heat threatens to scorch the fruit that encircles it.”

Bennett emphasizes that nature is preeminent. She meditates on individual events that have a long-lasting legacy, transcending the lives of those who live through them as well as the imaginations of those who follow.  

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Project Papyrophilia | Peter Ashton Jones, Kiera Bennett, Michael Boffey, Cecilia Bonilla, Adam Dix, Graham Dolphin, Zavier Ellis, Sam Jackson, Simon Keenleyside, Melissa Kime, Hugh Mendes, Richard Moon, Alex Gene Morrison, Michael Scoggins, Dominic Shepherd, Richard Wathen | April 2021


CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to announce the launch of its new bespoke work on paper website

Conceived during the first lockdown by gallery director, independent curator and practicing artist Zavier Ellis, PROJECT PAPYROPHILIA experienced a hugely successful first year. Dedicated to work on paper only and priced at just £250 per piece, several hundred pieces were sold globally during its first phase, from first time buyers to prominent private collectors.  

Our initial second phase offering will follow the same principle of unique pieces at £250 each. Our inventory will consist of three new, unseen pieces by each of 16 artists, including project curator Zavier Ellis and new addition Richard Wathen.

We also look forward to introducing you to special sections including Featured Artist, Collector's Choice, Curator's Choice and Q&A, where you will find selections and analysis by Ellis and inaugural guest collector Werner Grub.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Hugh Mendes | In Focus: Love in the time of Covid | Feb-Mar 2021

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present a solo exhibition of new work by Hugh Mendes.

Mendes is well known for his ongoing series of obituary paintings, which in recent years have focused on artists. But in the early stages of his career Mendes’ practice responded entirely to political events. Mendes began making oil paintings of newspaper pages in 2001 when he found a scrap of an Arabic newspaper in Brick Lane, east London. Blowing onto his feet, he picked up a picture of a turbaned man aiming a Kalashnikov, which he later made into a painting that formed part of a diptych, the other being a portrait of George W. Bush. Scheduled to be shown at Mendes’ MA final show, opening on September 11th 2001, the artist had portentously paired Bush with a Kalashnikov aimed at him by the then relatively unknown Osama Bin Laden. This became the precursor of one of Mendes’ two obsessions: the first being The War on Terror, a ten-year retrospective of which was exhibited at Kenny Schachter / ROVE; and the second being an unyielding recreation of newspaper Obituaries.

During this fateful last year, Mendes has found himself responding once again to the tumultuous events that we have witnessed, specifically the Covid pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. As Mendes states: “People have noted that these events have had the most significant global impact since 9/11 and the subsequent fallout. I spent several days in hospital suffering from what was thought to be Covid related symptoms affecting my heart. I was rushed off in an ambulance with my heart lurching from 220bpm to 30bpm. I thought I might die, but my response was to make work on paper from my hospital bed, relating to Covid headlines…”

Death has always been a dominant factor within Mendes’ oeuvre, from his direct engagement with obituaries to the more oblique symbolism of memento mori in still life painting. Death, and the political, have always been intertwined in the artist’s life. He was born on Armistice Day in 1955 in the British Military Hospital at Hostert, Germany, which ten years earlier served as a Nazi experimentation and death camp during the war. His mother worked as a nurse and was one of the first people to enter the Belsen concentration camp. She never fully recovered from the experience and suffered a consequential and untimely death when Mendes was 7 years old. His father worked with British intelligence during the war as a code breaker and interrogator of Nazi officers. After the war he became a newspaper editor, and significantly, after his death in 1998 Mendes found a collection of newspapers and clippings that covered important world events. Upon his father’s death, Mendes spent several hours with his body over two days and subsequently painted his portrait as a corpse. In this exhibition, then, Mendes returns to early methodologies and interweaves death, the political and love:


“All my paintings come from a place of love in response to death, in the form of obituaries and what are often very difficult political events. The obituary paintings in particular are attempts to honour the subjects out of respect and love. They are loving memorials.”

Friday, 11 December 2020

Concha Martínez Barreto | Letters I didn’t write | Dec-Jan 2021

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Spanish artist Concha Martínez Barreto in her debut one-person exhibition in London.

 Martínez Barreto, the gallery’s most recent addition to the roster, presents us with a stunning collection of paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and a diptych formed of erased antique letters. This diptych, titled ‘A letter to the son and a letter to the daughter’, is a critical work in the exhibition. The letters, originally written in 1943 by a mother to her son, represent a mode of communication that is rarely employed today, and which is both intimate and enduring. However, Martínez Barreto apparently disrupts both their permanence and the original intention by personally erasing sections of text. In doing so, she creates new meaning and arguably reveals a hitherto undisclosed subtext, whilst adopting another’s reinterpreted words as her own.      

Martínez Barreto’s work in other media might be considered similarly. Her strategy is to appropriate collected imagery and objects and to reinterpret by recontextualizing them. Martínez Barreto’s monochromatic paintings are derived from a combination of found anonymous imagery that is then rendered entirely personalised. Her paintings continually epitomise the uncanny and carry hidden meanings that might be interpreted variously, dependant on the story of the viewer as well as the story of the artist.

The sculptural work ‘Bird’ is a deeply autobiographical piece. Martínez Barreto has often adopted birds as motifs to signify innocence and fragility. In this example, an outsized sparrow carved from linden wood lies recumbent, subtly humanized in its form and directly in its painted eyes, which recalls the ancient tradition of Egyptian statue making. Also referencing the Catholic sculptural tradition of Spain and the pietà, Martínez Barreto’s bird is not about life or death but rather the feeling of being alive and dead at the same time. It represents vulnerability but also resilience.


The exhibition is completed by two drawings and a series of photographs. Both sets of work embrace the familiar, which is subverted by fragmentation. Misplaced or missing drawn elements; or small vintage photographs inserted into apertures within larger appropriated photographic images unsettle and disorientate. In ‘The Tunnel’ a woman lies on a bed smiling. A photograph of a tunnel is substituted for part of her face and the tunnel renders her eye socket skull-like. The subject becomes deathly and the tunnel suggests a journey toward the interior self.

In totality Martínez Barreto’s work is redolent with implied narrative and disguised autobiography. Indeed, the exhibition as a whole and each individual piece within can be considered a letter that Martínez Barreto did not write.

Friday, 18 September 2020

Geraldine Swayne | Annunciation | Sept-Oct 2020

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Geraldine Swayne in her first solo exhibition at the gallery, which was originally scheduled for March 2020 and postponed due to the Covid pandemic. 


Swayne is well known for her intimate portrait and figure paintings in enamel on copper or aluminium. Her subjects engage in everyday activities – listening to music; sewing; putting on lipstick; drinking. Sometimes they are clothed, and often they are unclothed – sitting, lying, having sex, or being spanked. Engaging in everyday activities.


In this exhibition, recalling earlier work, Swayne effortlessly scales up to combine small paintings with larger paintings. Her subjects are derived from various sources, including 18th century ceramics; anonymous vintage photographs; a cache of photographs found in a serial killer’s lock up; and her own iPhone pictures. The identity of the subject, therefore, is often unimportant, or at least less important than the feeling conveyed. It is the emotional and psychological register to which Swayne responds, and then mediates. As she has previously stated: “I paint atmospheres. The insinuated, unspoken and unspeakable evidence of the human personality. The bodies and faces of the subjects I choose reflect an interior mystery, and I try to amplify this riddle in the rendition of the subject.”

Technically, Swayne’s style is uniquely fluid and transfers expertly from miniature through to monumental.  And her approach to her practice as a whole is instinctive. Underlying her work is an ongoing exploration of humanity, subtly played by presenting us with, at face value, the familiar. But Swayne loads the unfamiliar into the familiar; and extraordinary into the ordinary, as if conveying messages or annunciations from elsewhere that are channelled from the macro, via the micro, and vice versa. 

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Project Papyrophilia | April-Aug 2021

Online exhibition PROJECT PAPYROPHILIA sells a phenomenal 55 pieces in the first week!

Launched in April by CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, the gallery’s anti-virus initiative PROJECT PAPYROPHILIA sold a remarkable 55 pieces in its first week.


Curated by gallery director, curator and practicing artist Zavier Ellis, PROJECT PAPYROPHILIA is the gallery’s response to the unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves. PROJECT PAPYROPHILIA is an exclusively online exhibition of work on paper that is live on Artsy, the online platform for discovering, buying and selling fine art. Ellis states:

“I and the artists are delighted with the phenomenal response of collectors and the support they have shown. All artists have sold and Sam Jackson, in particular, has absolutely flown - we simply can’t get enough of his work. I have some great artists joining the project soon and we’re developing a virtual reality version of the show.”

All work is available at just £250 including P&P and the exhibition is an ongoing, fluid project where new work and new artists are continuously added.


Friday, 14 February 2020

Hugh Mendes | Autorretrato: The Female Gaze | Feb-Mar 2020

Taking obituaries out of context is a very important aspect of my practice. Fundamental. I hope to engage the viewer in an entirely different way. Painting is a very slow process.’

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Hugh Mendes in his first solo since his sell-out 2018 exhibition ‘Autorretrato’. In response to that exhibition, where he made a series of obituary paintings based almost entirely on self-portraits of male artists, Mendes switches focus here. Having emphasised the inherited bias of a male dominated history of western art, Mendes continues by affirming the breadth and power of women artists from the 16th to 20th centuries who are influential and inspirational to him.     

Mendes began making still life paintings of newspaper articles in 2001. As his practice has evolved his intentions have become gradually more specific, progressing from painting mostly political articles to obituaries of those of interest generally, to obituaries of artists and then those derived solely from self-portraits. Mendes also began to revert from the present exclusively to historical figures. And always, throughout his career, he has steadfastly painted subjects of profound personal interest.

Mendes goes to great lengths to understand his subjects. As an experienced artist and BA / MA tutor at City & Guilds of London Art School, he is most often familiar with their life and work. However, Mendes embarks on deep research by reading; watching videos; listening to interviews where possible; and most importantly going to visit the original work. He seeks to bring the persona of the artist into his studio; and almost inhabit their work, entering into a profound dialogue with his subjects. The result is slow painting that represents an intriguing synthesis of the style of Mendes; his subjects; and the mechanical reproductive processes that occur in between.     

Friday, 17 January 2020

Words that transform, vibrate and glow: 13 paintings inspired by the lyrics of Nick Cave | Jan-Feb2021

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to invite curator and collector Angela Koulakoglou to present Words that transform, vibrate and glow: 13 paintings inspired by the lyrics of Nick Cave | 
Emma Bennett, Daniel P. Carter, Nadine Feinson, Maggi Hambling, Florian Heinke, Sam Jackson, James Johnston, Susanne Kühn, Concha Martinez Barreto, George Shaw, Dominic Shepherd, George Stamatakis, Rose Wylie 


The exhibition was conceived over a year ago and its timing is prescient; Cave’s latest album, Ghosteen, was released with a hallucinatory painting as its cover in October 2019. Unprecedented in their visuality and striking in their ability to conjure apocalyptic landscapes, all the songs on Ghosteen are visions. As Cave embarks on a world tour in 2020, a conversation between his lyrics and painting becomes all the more relevant. 

‘I can’t write a song that I cannot see’, Cave once stated in an interview. Having started his career as a painter, he soon turned to song writing and over several decades has produced a body of lyrics unparalleled in their consistent richness, unforgettable imagery, and unique combinations of darkness, humour, despair and hope.  Drawn from songs written throughout his career, from the famed Peaky Blinders signature tune Red Right Hand to the early and more obscure Release the Bats, the thirteen paintings included in this exhibition are testimony to the fertile but often unexplored territory that lies between the arts. Three of the artists present are musicians: James Johnston was in fact a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds between 2003 and 2008; Emma Bennett is the bassist for Dear Thief; and Daniel P. Carter, who also hosts BBC Radio 1’s Rock Show, performs with metal group Krokodil.

The participating artists represent different generations, backgrounds, and ethnicities and they approach their art in different ways.  Each one has ‘seen’ their painting in Cave’s lyrics in a reverse trajectory to that of the poet. Connecting word to world, the paintings in this exhibition occupy the space in between, opening up new imaginative possibilities. Deeply personal, unexpected and moving, poetry meets image in these thirteen powerful paintings that stretch our sensory and spiritual boundaries. 


Friday, 22 November 2019

Barry Thompson | Bleeding for the light | Nov-Dec 2019

CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present Barry Thompson’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. Thompson, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in 2005, is recognised for his impeccable miniature landscape paintings and figurative drawings.

Having grown up in Essex, Thompson consistently references the sites and experiences of his childhood and adolescent years. We might consider his landscapes as a setting of the scene where activities and rites of passages would occur: a place of escape in an apparently rural area which was in reality the urban wrapped wastelands of Dagenham and nearby. Fittingly, the paintings are titled after songs that Thompson would have been listening to at the time, alluding to the soundtrack of formative years; obsessions of youth; and performance. Indeed, Thompson went on to play in a band and considers the activities of his youth and the act of making work to be performative.    

Within this locale, Thompson sublimated aggression by playing war games; or sexual urges by reading illicit magazines; or more innocently developed a keen interest in ornithology. He would, as so many others have done, act out fantasies during the phase orientated period of adolescence, and it is these experiences that inform his drawings, leading to series depicting soldiers, birds, rock stars and pornographic motifs.

In this exhibition Thompson continues to combine source material that signifies an ongoing exploration of the historical and the autobiographical, blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality; self and other; past and present. He has progressed from depicting First World War soldiers from the Artists Rifles regiment, who were based in his home town of Romford, to a combination of those with shell shock and characters from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’, which explored the psychological pressures undergone during military training.

In his erotic drawings, Thompson depicts Mary Millington (often in absence), a 1970’s model and actress of whom Thompson was familiar. Millington suffered from depression and eventually committed suicide with a cocktail of vodka and medication that Thompson himself takes. In combination with twilight landscapes that suggest the hallucinatory or transcendental, and studies of graffiti strewn trees, Thompson presents us with a body of work that interrogates psychological disturbance; the metaphysical; performance; nostalgia; creativity; and ultimately the self.