Thursday, 20 January 2011


On a winter’s day that happens to be sunny and unusually dry for London, I'm attending the press day of the 23rd annual London Art Fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington. 
This is an event that features Contemporary and Modern British Art, and with a diverse selection of new and established artists of finest calibre, it truly reflects the vibrant gallery scene.

I start my tour upstairs where Jonathan Burton, director of the fair opens with the assurance that this year's event is their biggest to date. With 124 galleries and more than 25 000 visitors expected by the end of the week, it does sound much bigger than what I have seen in previous years. I'm a big fan of photography and it appears Mr. Burton is too. His passion for the medium is what drives the focus on photography this year and the dedicated showcase Photo50, now in its fifth year, featuring works by emerging artists and at affordable prices.

The first work that strikes me is a sequence of pictures of Margaret Thatcher by Lisa Barnard. It's gripping to see all seven works together as they show the same image with a variety of accidental surface damages. The photographs were found discarded in the old headquarters of the Conservative Party at 32 Smith Square (also the title of the series). 

Next I spot Bill Armstrong's pastel-coloured, out-of-focus human figures and I learn that he uses found images and photographs them with lens set at infinity, thus achieving a severely blurred result and to me it is all about colours and shapes, far from the conventional portrait as we know it. These visions are ethereal and luminous and in stark contrast to the sharp images of Helen Chadwick, the 13 photographs of glowing clusters of flowers resting on a variety of domestic fluids. So far, colours are all I see and an abundance of them.

Moving down to Art Projects, I witness the first sale of the day. It is a 27 x 40 c-type print of a smashed Coke can on a pavement by Julian Stallabrass (Hotshoe Gallery) and is a mere fifty pounds. Impressed by the price I spend the rest of my day hunting for a similar bargain but sadly, I see nothing like it. Though a great majority of good works come at around £5000, I cannot spot any particularly low-priced deals.  

On the bright side, there are plenty of striking works that captivate me and I'm happy to loiter around for a little longer. Moving on to the main hall I pass by a boy in a red jacket, sitting on a table, wearing the Dart Vader helmet. Made from wax this life-size figure is poised in an emotionally evocative stance. One of ten amazing installations by the duo "littlewhitehead" it is certainly one my highlights from the fair so far. 

Others include: 

Ziwom Wang's cybernetic sculptures (Hanmi Gallery) with their serene and meditative expressions juxtaposed against moving, mechanical machinery parts.

Jeffrey Blondes (GBS Fine Arts Ltd) : The Length Of Days - video art of a landscape, filmed in tiny segments week after week, over a period of a year and is 24 hours in length. 

Marilene Oliver ( Beaux Arts) : Orixa - a dissected human figure made entirely from MRI scans and covered in beads. Eerie and dark, yet gentle and utterly beautiful.

Pamela Stretton (Mark Jason Gallery) : Snap and Relaxed Nude - two montage-like compositions that take the form of pixilated inkjet prints built up from squares of iconography drawn from food, fashion, consumerism and other similar industries.

All in all, The London Art Fair has increased its appeal
after suffering for a while with Freeze and the Affordable Art Fair
overshadowing it in recent years.
It closes on Sunday 23rd Jan, so make time and go see it for yourself.


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