Since its inception, Contemporary Visions has sought to identify current trends in contemporary art through the discovery of exciting young artists working across all artistic disciplines. Contemporary Visions V presents nine international artists who stretch the limits of their practice to create works that are playfully abstract, invariably bright, with a distinctive, almost acerbic energy. Together, they create a vision of contemporary art that is both unique and referential, quoting from an art historical language to reinterpret and reinvent their chosen media.
Austin Ballard’s organic sculptural forms are tempered by the inclusion of metal and carpentry. The cold calculated cuts of metal interlock with the loose natural forms of clay and wood creating a subtle tension between the materials, a dialogue playfully mimicking that of manmade structures and the natural landscape. Ballard’s sculptural works often appear to defy gravity, precariously dangling on one edge of a surface, plinth or clay foot; certainly a further reminder of the fragile and perilous relationship between industrial and natural forms.
Luke Armitstead's ceramics interact with their surrounding space by playfully questioning their status as objects of 'use' or 'decoration'. These colourful, geometrically-charged forms take the shape of deconstructed architectural models, funky planters or tribal masks. Oliver Hickmet’s work also explores a relationship between truth and artifice through painting, sculpture, (even video, though not on display here) to investigate the role that the 'image' plays in forming a globalised culture and language. His practice invites us to question discrepancies that exist in any aesthetic dialogue, as well as in contemporary society more generally, and the highly mediated experiences of life we have become so used to consuming. Max Olofsson reaffirms this: using his laptop to create 'digital paintings' and rehashing tropes from within a pixelated language. His digital-photograph-paintings thus reverse the relationship between ‘original’ and ‘documentation’ to relinquish the very concept of being limited to (or inhibited by) a single artistic medium or method of display. These are artists actively challenging the barrier between real and imagined.
Felicity Hammond’s photographic compositions explore the constant construction and destruction of the urban environment. Hammond’s recent series depicts the transformative landscape of East London, composed like a collage and steeped in an unearthly cobalt hue. Together the still images feel charged, as though reverberating with the movement of urban decay. The entire composition questioning the authority of photography to depict reality – or, its ability to manipulate the viewer to interpret it as real and entirely free of farce.
Jonny Green performs a similar element: first composing small maquettes, the artist then painstakingly repaints these still-lives with oil on canvas. The resulting hyper-real paintings depict crudely rendered Play-Doh monsters, decked out in dollar-store Christmas lights, paper flowers and decommissioned clock parts. Yet we are reminded that we are viewing a carefully recreated scene, a painter's scarecrow, meant to trick us into believing the silliness and its veracity like a type of representational mise-en-abyme. True, they are hyperreal, but to what extent, if the very imagery they depict is detached from reality? Jose Carlos Naranjo Bernal, the only other representational painter here, finds a breakdown of reality through mark-making, where subject matter seems incidental, almost as an afterthought to their framing within the painted plane: where elements of urbanity (a chainlike fence, for instance) become purely aesthetic.
Similarly, Alan Sastre’s paintings don't feel like paintings at all. Awash in psychedelic hues and a determined working (and reworking) of their surface texture, where wide brushwork and the attention to their topographic nature belies such a miniature scale. These small tokens seem like leftovers of cyber-reality; almost jewel-like, radioactive remnants that seem to buzz and hum with an unearthly glow. Comparatively, Peter Baader's paintings refute entry, pushing viewers away from the illusion of infinite space and establishing their flatness and artifice. As a result, his canvases become ambiguous, as though both referentially laden and void, where we are viewing an expanded field of sorts, an abstract reality of the artists own imagination.