Freya Tewelde, Irene Pouliassi,
Lora Nikolaeva, Weichung Lu,
Curated by Will Coups
‘...you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.’
In his seminal work the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams takes time to explore all the possibilities that a towel in space can provide to its owner. Composing a lengthy list of situations in which this one seemingly insignificant object can play a much larger role in the life of a hitchhiker. Within this exhibition the artists employ objects in the same way, exploring the capabilities of what their works can offer the viewer through the gaze of the millennial era. Distress It acts as both a critique on current times and a call to escape to a substitute reality. The pieces react to each other, some proposing the future while their counterparts pull them back to the actuality of the present.
Lora Nikolaeva is concerned with navigation and engagement within a dense media landscape, where the self and the greater human journey becomes both assayed and diminished. Investigating the influence of digital media, communication and online culture on the human experience, and the situation of oneself in a social fabric increasingly infiltrated by commercial interests, politicised platforms and moral posturing. Her background in the medical sciences influences the aesthetic choices made within her work, a clinical sensibility contrasted against libidinal overtones that define our consumption and regurgitation of popular culture and fragmented content in the digital slipstream.
The presence of the mass media can also be felt in the works of Irene Pouliassi. Allegorising the current socio-political situation utilising utopic release from the confines of her carefully constructed dystopian home, detecting how art is connected with periods of trauma and intense social concern. Exploring her personal trauma through the collective social unconscious of our epoch, Pouliassi creates fetishistic assemblages that combine collected garments, found objects, sex toys; and organic material including teeth and hair.
In opposition to these first works, Weichung Lu provides us with a gleeful opportunity to examine our innate human impulses. Her abstract paintings challenge us to explore our subconscious and reveal the primitive memories within us that bind us together, aiming to allow us to find out where we truly belong. Using oil paint, Lu begins by creating abstracted canvases through which she draws out futuristic and imaginary animals, contemplating our desire towards nature.
Working across sectors of interdisciplinarity in art, Freya Tewelde analyses postcolonial studies in complex urban environments. Touching on the notion of blackness and ambiguity through isolated performers and moving images that re-orientate post-identity construction. Performative elements of her practice explore the overlooked and the reaction to public perception. Tewelde aims to form a clear consideration that art remains committed to fixing roots and mending traumatic experiences that define and isolate selfcare. Her works attempt to re-evaluate regimes of systemic power that bind the position of the individual in relation to cultural and global forces that govern our societies.
The exhibition moves to a film projection by Ani Mkrtchyan who investigates the microcosm of the town where she was brought up in Northern England. With more narrative tones, Mkrtchyan grants us a gaze through the window to the private life of an unhinged individual who documents his exploits with a hand held camera. The work is a character exploration revolving around certain types of men that she grew up seeing. Mkrtchyan alludes to the nefarious nature of the character but never explicitly shows us proof of his wrong doings.
Distress It brings together the works of five recent graduates from the MA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art. The artists involved, who are now all based in London, come from a variety of cultural backgrounds including Greece, Taiwan, Bulgaria, Eritrea and Armenia. Each one offers their personal insight on how they navigate the complex socio-political landscape of the world in which we all live.