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Thursday 8 October 2009

“The Embassy is dead. Long live The Embassy!”

Produced by Alex Dellal’s 20 Hoxton Square Projects, in collaboration with Zoom Art Projects, The Embassy is a multi-disciplinary group show being held during Frieze Art Fair. Curated by Dellal and Xerxes Cook, the exhibition is a parody of outmoded cultural diplomacy in the form of an anonymous country’s embassy, a dystopia whose tyrannical government has tested the patience of its people and brought them to tipping point.

Participating artists include: Marco Brambilla, Terence Koh, Rosey Chan, Tom Gallant, Alastair Mackie, Oliver Clegg, Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, Bruce French, Henry Hudson, Michael Lisle-Taylor, Laurence Owen, Karim Rabik and Hugo Wilson.

A mixture of painting, sculpture and installation, works featured in The Embassy include a national anthem by the pianist Rosey Chan, a presidential palace built from mud by Alastair Mackie, a flag by Tom Gallant, and former service man, Michael Lisle-Taylor will present his Tournament of the Dirty Nurse, an ornately embroidered boxing ring still covered in the blood, sweat and tears from bouts that have taken place within it. Other works include paintings on old school desks by Oliver Clegg, lungs in three stages of the pulmonary cycle - shock, agitation and panic by Hugo
Wilson and caricature regal portraits by Henry Hudson in his distinctive plasticine style.

Less than 100 metres from Regents Park, the BBC headquarters and opposite the Chinese Embassy, The Embassy will take place at the former residence of the Sierra Leonean ambassador to Britain, 33 Portland Place. As the Internet allows the art, culture and news reportage of countries to become ever more accessible to each other, what were once bastions of this exchange – the embassies of countries wishing to create a dialogue with their host nation – now retreat behind metres of concrete, becoming fortresses of espionage. Globalisation has rendered the sometime patronising kind of cultural exchange once conducted by embassies dated. Yet, occupying a privileged position apart from their host nation – indeed, retaining their sovereignty in a foreign land – these buildings and their interiors provide a revealing glimpse of how a country chooses to represent itself abroad.

The Embassy tells the story of a deposed diplomat representing a government that has just been overthrown at home. A pastiche of the manner in which embassies promote their country’s culture abroad and set across the two floors of 33 Portland Place, works from over 15 artists will speak of themes relevant to the mismanagement of a country – greed, egotism, repression, theocracy, malnutrition, gluttony, tyranny, currency, geography and sex – because the dictator always gets the best lines.

Without wishing to recreate the mise-en-scene of an explicit narrative, the site-specific exhibition engages with the extraordinary history of its location, a 6-floor Georgian townhouse on London’s Portland Place. Between 1954 and 1998, 33 Portland Place was occupied and used as the embassy for the government of Sierra Leone. The Embassy seeks to engage with some of the factors that led to demise of successive Sierra Leonean governments – corruption, diamonds, personal gain, ethnic conflict, pride, drugs, jealousy – but without being specific to the Western African country or indeed, any other. The Embassy is that of an anonymous country, a very badly managed one at that. It is, in short, how not to run a country.

An interesting project, rife with critique. Well worth the visit if you're in London for the Fairs.

The Embassy is a collaborative project between 20 Hoxton Square Projects and Zoom Art Projects, curated by Alex Dellal and Xerxes Cook.

The Embassy
October 15 – 19th 2009
33 Portland Place, London


All images (c) the artist.
Wolf von Lenkiewicz, Lincoln Eagle, 2009, Courtesy of All Visual Arts.
Alastair Mackie, Mudhut, 2005, Courtesy of All Visual Arts
Michael Lisle Taylor - Black Knight Squared Away 2008, courtesy of the artist.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Adam Neate: A New Understanding

The UK’s most promising artist’s work takes a new direction in his latest solo show in the heart of Soho. 31-year-old Adam Neate’s trademark cardboard works have become one of the iconic symbols of the UK street art generation, avidly collected worldwide. A New Understanding marks a significant step in the young artist’s career, setting a new level of artistic growth and witnessing a significant development in Neate’s technique and innate sense of composition, use of colours and movement.

After nearly two years of painstaking preparation, the Ipswich born artist presents his new collection of paintings and three-dimensional sculptural pieces in a museum quality exhibition at the Elms Lesters Painting Rooms. The familiar cardboard, a seminal element of his work from his early beginnings, is now reworked, skilfully sculpted and combined with Perspex, metals, collage and other sourced objects, depicting everyday life and emotions in a uniquely intense and almost cubist interpretation of reality. A collection of 22 new works offers a 360 degrees revolutionary interpretation of a mixed media approach, where 3-dimensional pieces enable the viewers to gain a new perspective and to develop a greater understanding of Neate’s complex aesthetic. These works are a collaboration of all the styles and techniques Neate has evolved over the years.

The artist’s interest is in mixing different styles, referencing the languages of Expressionism and Futurism, Cubism and Fauvism. Layering and juxtaposing different media, Neate conveys a compelling sense of poignancy and movement in his vividly figurative pieces.
“This body of work has changed totally from how I was working on it at the beginning, to how I am working on it now; I have a whole new direction with it. For me it has become a whole new way of thinking and learning. In some ways I feel like I have pushed it so far in the space of a year that people who know my work might now not recognise it, or that it will be unrecognisable to some. There are signs in there, bits of my language that have continued, but ultimately this exhibition demonstrates that I have tried to go one step further” Adam Neate

Neate’s work can be defined, in the words of art historian Ben Jones, as a “clash of materials – gold leaf oncardboard, cheap clothing material draped over a painted figure against a digital photo background blown up onto foam board, spray paint, layered over oil paint, employing materials of impermanence to produce images of Neate’s second solo show at the Elms Lesters Painting Rooms represents the climax of a number of artistic achievements in the past months, from the sell out Adam and Ron Show, in collaboration with the father of Agit Pop Ron English, the epic 'public participation' art installation The London Show, where Adam Neate and teams of helpers distributed, over the course of one night, 1000 multiple works on cardboard in the streets on London, generating a treasure hunt in which an estimated 50,000 people took part.

The exhibition opens on 9th October and continues until 21st November
Elms Lesters Painting Rooms, London


All images (c) Adam Neate courtsey the gallery.

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