Curiosity: An art practice as a way of looking5. Oct - 20. Oct 13 / ended The Crypt Gallery - St Pancras Church
11-7pm every day
Curiosity at the Crypt
Julie Caves at the Crypt Gallery.
The exhibition is located a 5-minute walk from the Frieze Art Fair, in Central London during Frieze Week.
Julie Caves’ first major solo exhibition presents work from the past two years, celebrating beauty and its many juxtapositions: work and play, nature and synthesis, life and death. Housed in the peaceful and contemplative 19th century Crypt Gallery in Kings Cross, Caves has sensitively curated a largely site specific show comprising of Colourist painting, sculpture and installation.
What are you looking at?
The artist peers at you on a huge scale, an intriguing look, wondering who you might be, and why you’re here at all. This close cropped self-portrait mirrors how you might feel about this show, huge eyes full of Curiosity. This show is all about that fascinating conundrum that will endlessly be debated in pubs and cafes all around the world: what is art?
Art, to Julie Caves, is all around us. There’s a fine line between a work of art and the art of nature, and she is constantly walking the tightrope between the two. This is most notably seen in her large window paintings, where she has created a series of works of views through windows, some with panes in view so the window is quite apparent, and in other compositions no pane is shown so the work resembles and references traditional landscape painting. Reminiscent of Gary Hume’s enamel Door Paintings from the mid-90s, instead of confronting us with a barrier to a world beyond, Caves’ windows invite us to explore that same world, and realise it really is quite beautiful. An installation composed of textured glass and obscured plant pots behind express the same celebration of the world in which we live; "I looked out a friend’s window into the garden and the effect of the dimpled glass and the objects beyond looked like an impressionist painting". So why shouldn’t it be brought into the gallery and be called art?
Similarly, why are you not a work of art? Julie Caves says you are, in the interactive piece ‘The Third Colour’, where she invites participants to have colour applied to them and be documented for an artists’ book. The piece expresses the artist’s belief that we are all blank canvases and that our experiences colour our identities. This belief extends and manifests itself visually in the participation of this piece, which aims to celebrate ourselves as works of beauty.
Other concerns within Caves’ practice intrinsically revolve around juxtapositions of life and death, and work and play. Each of her large scale abstract paintings (for which she is best known) are a record of a process carried out by the artist; set rules and decisions are established to start a painting (much like the invention of a new game), and devised as a means of creating pathways into explorations of colour and texture. As the process plays out for a time, the rules fall away and intuition takes over, and although Caves has no fixed idea of how each painting will look at the end of the creative excursion, she knows when the painting is completed. Titles such as 'Queen's Knees’ or ‘Blood Blister’ refer to what the paintings resemble but the real meaning and depth in this work lies in its process and the performance that once occurred behind the closed studio doors.
In other alcoves within this intriguing exhibition space, Caves has responded directly to the Crypt; this peaceful resting place underground. Her visual eulogy to the deceased is particularly profound; pillow cases like spirits exiting this world are suspended among tombstones, the effect is like a shaft of light that also alludes to lives lived, personalities, conversations, blood pulsating. It reminds that the very essence of life is transient and precious, and its passing is equally beautiful. The main corridor is decorated with small egg tempera panels encased as if modern day icons, except rather than images that command worship these are quiet, contemplative, incidental observations of everyday life. They quietly request us to slow down and appreciate the world, and that, ultimately, is the role of art according to Julie Caves.
Text written by Lisa Freeman
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