Spanning 28 years of his practice the exhibition will bring different facets of Toren’s multifarious practice into play.
Toren frequently develops works in an extended series of iterations and variations, following conceptually-driven processes with a formal sensitivity. The works gathered are examples of outcomes from these processes.
The exhibition takes its title from Safe City (2017 – ongoing), a sculptural work in which Toren has gathered and preserved banana skins from around the streets of London. Delighting in their organic formal simplicity the artist has followed and pursued a personal compulsion over an extended period to see it where it takes him.
The exhibition includes Untitled (kill rushdie) (1990), from Toren’s ongoing series of Armchair Paintings alongside Jessica (2018) from his new series Frameworks.
In the Armchair Paintings Toren combines found thrift-store paintings with phrases culled from graffiti and posters encountered on the street. Untitled (kill rushdie) shown here for the first time in Britain, points to a particular moment in global history and how it resonated in the UK. Toren has lived and worked in East London since the 1980s and recalls the time when Ayatollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa ordering the execution of writer Salman Rushdie for his publication of The Satanic Verses (1988). Though the edict does not appear so commonly on the streets of London today, the fatwa nevertheless remains in place.
The text in these works is not added to the surface but created through a process of removal, emphasising the three-dimensionality of the otherwise flat image. The work shifts continually between image and object; neither a painting nor a sculpture.
Jessica draws on similar formal concerns. Toren acquires large gaudy frames and proceeds through a process of filing and reducing the frames down to dust, which is then mixed with an acrylic base. This mix is then applied to a canvas in strips determined by the width of the original frame through repetition of the process which creates a frame within a frame until the centre of the painting is trapped. The final works suggest an architectural image or an animal, bone-like object.
The works trouble their status as paintings or sculptures, being either both or one or neither one nor the other.
Amikam Toren is represented by Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco.
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Matt’s Gallery thanks the Arts Council England and Ron Henocq Fine Art for their generous support.