From the 1990’s to the 2010s British artists created some of the most outright original and genuinely interesting art anywhere in the world.
Most of the artists in the exhibition 25 Years of NOW were at art college in the UK through the turbulent years of the Thatcher era, as British society was transformed from a set of ideals that were born post-war to those that came to define the world today.
In the late 70s and 80s the UK moved in spirit from the social master plan thinking that brought about the NHS, collective bargaining and the great social housing programs to that of the free market, de-regulation and the valorisation of greed.
The contrast this thinking created across society is played out in the art that followed. For the artists that grew up in this time the historical tenets of modernism just didn’t cut it anymore. Modernism was
steeped in a language of utopia, hope and the noble idea that art and architecture could morally improve you and in so doing create a better society for all. This didn’t chime with Margaret Thatcher’s ‘There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.’
In light of the upheaval in the country artists couldn’t look to the language of modernism, they needed something new and relevant. They had to create a different kind of art – and in so doing a new contemporary visual language. Gone was the idea of minimal art that perfected a geometric idea and became ‘spiritual’ in so doing. Gone was historical, academic figurative painting. Gone was pop. Gone was the idea of traditional artistic ‘meaning’.
In its place artists looked to what was actually real – what was relevant to them. Kerry Stewart’s ‘Pregnant Schoolgirl’ is an icon of the time in content and form. Taking figurative sculpture and then
subverting it with its subject matter and the plainness almost banality of its modelling makes for a powerful social punch – even today, 25 years after it was made.
Michael Samuel’s sculptures ‘Beacon’ and ‘Bad Moon’ mix simple model making techniques with resin and found furniture to articulate the anxiety and existential strangeness of being at that time. All in a way that is uniquely his.
Robert Davies takes us on a train journey in his video piece ‘Of time and the railway’ with the journey from Birmingham to Aberystwyth – taking in not just all the scenery but an entire year of seasons. In this
strangely beautiful trip you experience a hundred journeys and none, all in one. The seamless weaving together of these journeys opens up the gap between the feeling of what is happening and what you think is happening or what you remembered happening.
The monumental ‘Zoe’ by Jason Brooks is a tour-de-force of painting and airbrush skill that presents a deadpan tattoo artist staring out at us offering nothing but her story in her ink. Jason’s rendering of her
rendering of her tattoos is the perfect story of identity in our time and how art in all its forms plays its role in the stories we tell each other.
The strangeness of reality is further reflected in the surreal paintings of John Greenwood. His ‘Feast’, ‘Podding’ and ‘Helios’ are plays on 17th Century Dutch vanitas paintings. However in John’s hands we don’t get flowers, dead rabbits or the fruits of the harvest. Instead we get the an alternative, hybrid world of objects and entities that ironically and perfectly articulate our reaction to the constant newness of things that science and technology presents us with. John’s paintings are built on our struggle to
perceive and process what is familiar but different.
The show also includes the perfect selfie opportunity! Gavin Turk’s ‘Authorised Reflection’ gives every viewer an authorised image of themselves thanks to his autographed mirror piece.
Join us at the show, take your time, enjoy a coffee or glass of wine and see what the British Art of the last 25 years can show you.
The artists included in 25 Years of NOW are: Jason Brooks, Stephen Murphy, Dan Hays, Mariele Neudecker, Kerry Stewart, John Greenwood, Leigh Clarke, Gavin Turk, Lisa Milroy, Robert Davies, Michael Samuels, Ian Dawson, George Shaw