3. Jul - 20. Jul 14 / ended Karin Janssen Project Space

Thursday until Sunday 12 - 6 pm

Exhibition | Multi-disciplinary | London

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image Tessa Farmer

image Tessa Farmer

Group exhibition with Tessa Farmer, Julian Farrar, Chiho Iwase, Karin Janssen, Suzanne Moxhay

Relishing in the gloomy, decadent beauty of decay, this exhibition brings together five international artists with very individual approaches to the Vanitas theme. The Vanitas tradition became popular in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century, featuring dramatic still life paintings symbolising the transitory nature of earthly pleasures. “Mortal life is fleeting”, they declared, “whereas the afterlife is never-ending.” The artists in this show explore the subject in a contemporary context, engaging the viewer with highly expressive and accomplished work.

Suzanne Moxhay originally studied as painter and this training is apparent in her eerily desolate photographs. Depicting urban and semi-rural landscapes, Moxhay's subtle and expert use of colour creates an atmosphere of temporal confusion, both recalling a time past and hinting at future to come. What were once inhabited scenes are now devoid of human presence, the emptiness seems suspicious (electric lights still glow) and wild nature has reclaimed the abandoned spaces. Moxhay's emotional and technical manipulation is masterful, leaving the viewer with an uneasy sense of foreboding and a story untold.

At first glance appearing to be a cloud of beautiful butterflies, Tessa Farmer's intricate, almost obsessive creations contain altogether more sinister creatures. Look closer and you will see minuscule beings riding upon the backs of the flying insects. Farmer's fairy-like creatures are a malevolent species, delighting in decay and ruling their miniature world of insects and birds with a merciless violence. Not content with torturing their minions these malign masters use the bones of their victims to create their architecture and even reanimate the (near) dead to serve as their guileless slaves. Farmer's fervid imagination is matched only by her immaculate skills and attention to detail.

Chiho Iwase's loosely modelled sculptures seem to distract and divert through their simplicity. Complex human emotions are expressed with an economy of means. Iwase, born in Japan and a graduate of Chelsea College of Art, combines the obsession with ‘Kawaii’ (roughly translated as ‘cuteness’) in young Japanese culture with more troubled expressions of human nature. 'Angel', the sculpture Iwase presents for Vanitas, is a tragic figure, its neck stretching heavenwards, the effort to rise from its earthbound state deforming the body, which seems subsumed by impossible desire. What at initial encounter could be a facial expression of spiritual rapture, becomes one of pain and frustration.

Karin Janssen's drawings seem to come to us in the very midst of a terrifying transformation, anatomical features bulging and mutating into abstract configurations. At once both magnificent and repulsive, the drawings appear to be manifesting deeply buried desires and emotions. Their bold, unabashed colours and forms issue a dire warning against the naive folly of presuming that such feelings can be suppressed.

The skilled draughtsmanship of Julian Farrar's large-scale drawings is at the mercy of his more destructive techniques, creating pieces that tread a fine line between obsessive control and chaos. A multi-disciplinary artist, Farrar presents work from his 'Glass Jar' series, a project exploring memory and the distorting effect of time. The Jars contain objects that hold very personal memories for Farrar, but evoke for all of us that impossible desire to hold on, indefinitely, to the precious moments.

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