DRIFT curated by Nico Kos Earle
Lluís Lleó Suki Jobson Simon Allison Phillip Hunt
DRIFT Lluís Lleó, Suki Jobson, Phillip Hunt, Simon Allison JGM Gallery curated by Nico Kos Earle November 23rd 2017 - January 20th 2018
This drift is dedicated to the lasting memory of Toby Grafftey-Smith
Published by JGM Gallery, on the occasion of the exhibition Publication designed by Alice Wilson
Jennifer Guerrini Maraldi Director JGM Gallery 24 Howie Street London SW11 4AY email@example.com ISBN 978-1-9998458-1-0 © 2017, JGM Gallery and the artists All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any manner without prior permission. Leaf image from detail of work by Phillip Hunt
DRIFT curated by Nico Kos Earle
Lluís Lleó Suki Jobson Simon Allison Phillip Hunt
Contents Introduction from JGM Gallery Director Jennifer Guerrini Maraldi - 7 A Conversation in Drift with Nico Kos Earle and Paul Carey-Kent - 10 LluĂs LleĂł - 24 Suki Jobson - 34 Simon Allison - 42 Phillip Hunt - 50 Credit and Dedication - 59
opposite page detail from Ghost by Simon Allison
Jennifer Guerrini Maraldi photograph, Tony McGee 2017
I love Nico Kos’s art writing and so I was very happy to meet her last year at a Knightsbridge gallery where she was curating a group show, The Blue Edition. This exhibition was quite wonderful and on a whim, I purchased an exciting sculpture by the artist Suki Jobson. I had not heard of Suki before but love the humour and colour of this piece so I somehow knew I would love the artist. A brand new liaison with Nico and Suki proved to be serendipity - we are certainly all on the same contemporary art page. In March this year I opened the doors of my beautiful gallery space JGM Gallery in Battersea’s newest creative hub. Nico and Suki were there to support me and this was the beginning of many conversations and meetings between us - and so the DRIFT idea was hatched. I had already made a conscious decision to exhibit a broader range of contemporary art in the new gallery alongside our existing programme of Indigenous Australian Art, so this stunning group show, including work by artists Suki Jobson, Lluís Lleó, Phillip Hunt and Simon Allison is a monumental end to JGM Gallery ‘s inaugural year. I would like to say a big thank you to all the artists and everyone who has contributed so much to DRIFT.
Jennifer Guerrini Maraldi, November 2017
Opposite ‘Morpho’s Nest in a Cadmium House’ installed on Park Avenue by Lluís Lleó image credit Martin Crook
double spread louis in studio high res to follow
LluĂs LleĂł in his Manhattan Studio image credit Martin Crook
A conversation in Drift with Nico Kos Earle and Paul Carey-Kent
In the first of eight definitions in the Merriam-Webster, to drift is “a. the act of driving something along or b. the flow or the velocity of the current or a river or ocean stream.1 ” To drift is to “become untethered” and be carried by the current, destination unknown. A cloud drifts, but you can also drift a flock of sheep over the Alps and then run into definition number two: a drift is ”something driven, propelled, or drawn together in a clump - a mass - as if by natural agency.” Driftwood, snowdrift. This show emerged from a curatorial drift between continents (Europe, North America, Africa) and a series of fortuitous encounters with four artists, with whom I experienced a profound and visceral connection. These artists all come from and work in very different places - Lluís Lleó from Manhattan and Barcelona, Suki Jobson between Sligo, London and Marseilles, Phillip Hunt in Cape Cod via New York and Johannesburg, Simon Allison between Oxfordshire and Auckland - across a broad range of media. Yet their distinct, authentic and often uncompromising voices seemed in compliment, as if sharing elements of a common language that transcends time and place. Their interconnections became a conversation in my mind. That found purchase in a book, The Reenchantment of Art, which Suki gave me; and resonance in the feelings unearthed seeing Axel Vervoordt’s landmark exhibition Intuition, at the Palazzo Fortuny, Venice. My desire to drift these artists together in a show was partly to resolve my own questions about this connection, but also to see what manifested in the process. What hidden aspects of their work or practice were relatable? Were there common threads that one might pull together? Or did their work simply offer something unexpected - space to expand, to tether then untether - to feel? I began curating without a title and invited the artists and Jennifer to meet each other and agree to show together. These encounters - in JGM Gallery; visiting Simon’s studio-foundry in Oxfordshire and Suki’s studio in Whitechapel; catching Phillip in downtown Manhattan in a spring blizzard; following Lluís to his lofty studio in Red Hook, then to the opening of his show “All Mighty Pencil” in Barcelona - were drifting conversations that allowed a title to percolate to the surface: Drift. Like many words in the English language, drift’s etymology maps a shift in meaning across time and space that makes a single definition impossible. Like its third definition, “a general underlying design or underlying meaning that you might catch - the drift of a conversation for example,” Drift became a generous organising principle, further enriched by the art critic Paul Carey-Kent accepting my invitation to drift around certain thematic aspects of their combined works. There was a danger, he warned, of drifting endlessly, but my thoughts might be corralled into three main holding points: how all four artists reflected movement between places; transition between one way of being and another, often incorporating ‘the Call of the wild’; and an openness to the use of found and contingent materials. 1 www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/drift
Simon Allison atop a sculpture from his Spin Cycle series
Drift as Movement Drift is both motion and action, a balloon drifts, a raft drifts, a mind drifts. A conscious letting go but also an unconscious meandering. To drift is to deviate off course, so the idea of moving away from a place became a key aspect of this conversation - with all of us journeying to and from studios mirroring the artists wide ranging peripatetic practice. Why did they need to leave, and what was it about the places in which they now work which supports their creativity? Is it in letting go of one place that you can fully experience the rhythms of another? The fifth in line to generations of painters, Lluís “had grown up completely immersed in the culture of painting, watching his father… who taught him fresco 2 technique” (Robert Hughes). At 27 he moved to Manhattan, and working from a lofty studio in Red Hook, developed a hybrid lexicon of geometric and organic shapes - parallelograms, tunnels, bulbs pierced with an arrow, the edge of a butterfly’s wing, pyramids - that integrated New York’s dominant minimalism (the language of Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella) into a Catalunyan sensibility. This summer he unveiled a Park Avenue commission - five freestanding frescos hewn from Spanish sandstone and invested with bold swathes of matt ultramarine blue and cadmium red “Morpho’s Nest in a Cadmium House,” - and decided to return home. Celebrating with the opening of his museum show “All Mighty Pencil” at the Tecla Sala, Barcelona, Lluís also reclaimed his old studio in Guinardo where he was born (plus a barn one hour away in the countryside). The moment of his return could have been predicated on this success, but our birthplace is something we carry within us, and this might unconsciously lead us back. In his statement for the show Lluís says, “The drawing teacher… told us to draw the house that was seen from the window of the school. A boy from the class said: ‘The house does not fit on this sheet!’ It is possible that on that day my pencil box became the treasure chest that kept those magical objects made of wood and painted in yellow and black with a lead soul. That innocent comment still accompanies me today when I doubt that my world can fit on a sheet of paper.” Last year Simon went back to Auckland, New Zealand and bought a studio where he worked alone for three months. This led to an acceleration of production; the space organised as a total studio. “I was completely free to make work without interruption and set up various stations which I drifted between as the works evolved.” With this new sequence and a flow, he created an entire solo show, appropriately titled ‘Shift’. Suki journeys by train from her studio in Whitechapel to Sligo, Ireland and Marseilles, France about every six weeks. There she walks with her dog, Finch, or with shepherds and their flock making the summer transhumance. Sometimes she brings elements of her studio with her, such as a dress made from canvas 2 Lluís Lleó By Robert Hughes
dyed in Rose Madder. This leads to new image sources or thematic directions in her work. In walking with animals, slower movement is experienced, a different rhythm noted. A compulsion to move beyond the physical studio and walk out into any landscape, specifically to move from pasture to pasture and from valley to valley following the day and night of animals enables Suki to sense the continual shifting and synergetic movements surrounding her, the circadian rhythms of life, “a cadence or flow” she seeks to convey in her work. Equally Phillip finds the wild coast of Cape Cod a ballast to his work: “it is possible to take walks that shift from dense forest to lunar-like dunes within minutes. This is emotional space. Especially in winter. In painting I like the idea of disappearing into an image or emotion. The landscape here can be very much like that.” Formerly practicing between Johannesburg and New York, Phillip left the city for Cape Cod and has a studio there which he occupies predominantly in the winter months, “I have always been attracted to very subtle landscape. Places you can quietly disappear into. I generally work with a muted palate – that might be South African Bushveld.” Perhaps this was the place he needed to find to make the work he had carried within him until now. Phillip’s large scale paintings, one made every winter, are lonely and majestic, picking up the thread of Abstract Expressionists, like Clyfford Still, who struck out on their own with colors and form to make works that speak to our human struggle with society, nature and time. We surrender our imaginations before monolithic shapes that crouch on a glowing horizon and begin to feel what it means to disappear. As with Suki, Phillip’s wanderings into the unknown allow for the invisible to manifest. This touches on a theme of deconstruction and reconstruction in contemporary art proposed by Suki Gablik, and is perhaps the entry point for my own deep connection 3 to this work. It feels generous, expanding. 3 Gablik, Suzi (1992). The Reechantment of Art (1. pbk. ed.). London: Thames and Hudson
Flocking Sheep in Sligo image credit Suki Jobson
Suki Jobson in her London Studio Image Â© Steven Fisher
LluĂs LleĂł in his Manhattan Studio image credit Martin Crook
Drift - as Transition Some of these procedural aspects could be likened to a mapping of the unknown, or perhaps laying the ground for new work to emerge. To move beyond the physical, emotional or psychological limits, as Jean-Francois Lyotard suggests in his Drift-Works “...drift is the only form of subversion 4 that doesn’t reinforce the status quo.” Rather than a deconstruction of the dominant ideology, why not, as Suzy Gablik proposes, transition from Cartesian Dualism altogether and begin anew? All four artists have transitioned from something. Suki was a professional geographer who studied law and worked for 15 years in the field of geopolitics, specifically on resolving boundary and territorial disputes which involved working extensively with maps. As words came to seem restrictive and inadequate to her, in journeying she is acquiring other modes of expression. She is looking to find clues, exploring to find marks, and searching to unearth a more universal language - a pre-language “… I like to think of those first people who sensed that they were in the middle of something much greater than themselves, and from where they stood realised they could make a map of relationship to everything else - that everything was connected. I imagine myself to be doing this…I am looking again…mapping again my own relationships to that which surrounds me.” Suki’s “drift” is something that carries her forwards along paths that are meandering and not manmade. Having moved across the edges of primordial coastline in Sligo or made the transhumance with shepherds and their animals, is she then mapping when she returns to the studio? In her work drawn lines and threads meander from one work to the next (Float, Measure) as if to express the interconnected nature of things. Interested in the autonomy of form, primal shapes and our intuitive response to them, Suki returns to talismanic objects like Moon Jar (British Museum) and shapes that speak of fecundity, fertility, fullness, spilling, flowing.
Suki aims through her ‘total studio practice’ to organise the space around her to allow the works to manifest, drawing lines that drift between the inside and the outside, conscious and unconscious, knowing and unknowing. As Vervoordt says, “The artist follows intuitive feelings in a free way that one might describe as liberating. They are seeking a connection… to a source of global knowledge. 5 Artists have a unique ability to share this knowledge with us, while not always revealing the source.” There is no straight path to discovery, just a drift. Lluís grew up immersed in the Catalunyan culture of painting, one that emphasised the special nature of the fresco as a medium: uniquely vulnerable yet miraculously durable water-based paint chemically bonded into wet plaster, so the support and design become one. In 1989, he emigrated to America and “began my life as a professional painter,” with work shaped by the hallmarks of fresco: flat, matte surfaces, thick, thin, powdery or absorbent. On first encounter with his Gran Green Room, shown on his return to Barcelona, one thinks of billowing sails. Is this his imaginary flotilla created for a homecoming? Verdant green parallelograms hover over the surface of the paper with a shadow created by the oil in the paint. Often working with a single tone across series, Lluís further emphasises the colours’ resonant qualities by investing them in his recurring lexicon of shapes. The colour speaks to the emotions, the shapes float. A tendency towards the monochrome in Suki and Lluís’s work suggests they, like Ad Reinhardt and Barnett Newman, put enormous stock in the in the mystical profundity of colour. That to immerse oneself in a tone is to know something. 4 Jean-François Lyotard, Driftworks, Roger McKeon,1984 5 Axel Vervoordt, Intuition, Introductory Essay, Palazzlo Fortuny, Venice, 2017
Simon visits the wilderness often, and notes, records or brings back traces of humanity that he finds there. Through the fiery process of lost wax casting, these secret gestures become sublime, 6 transported into a future perfect. In his essay, Facing the Wilderness, Peter James Smith describes Simon as “a peripatetic artist traveller in the vicinity beyond the post-modern… By its very nature the object maintains its old accustomed history, yet its presence now in a different time and place has a piercing effect. History is breached. This piercing is much akin to Roland Barthe’s photographic punctum, a term he used to define that which is extraordinarily noticeable in a photographic image.” In Phillip’s work, painting becomes primarily the medium of self-discovery. Recurring monolithic shapes dominate the scene and obscure or interrupt the horizon. The eye seeks its way round. Painting is an act of memory, but also an investment of energy. Phillip let go of commercial filmmaking, but continued to paint because he needed to. Whether to process or simply to disappear in the making, since 2009 he has produced one monumental work a year. Time is key here, not just in the making but in the sense of time spent with the work. As Ann Temkin says of Ad Reinhardt’s paintings: “There is no way to perceive, optically, the glowing colour hidden in the black paintings without standing in front of them for several minutes, a commitment… that allowed for a 7 shift from an ordinary to an aesthetic state of mind.” (Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today) 6 “Facing the Wilderness” essay on Simon Allison by Peter James Smith 7 Ann Temkin Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, Moma, 2008
Phillip Hunt in the woods
The Drift of Materials in and out of work
The discovery of or encounter with materials can be the catalyst for a series of new works. An object can be rescued from entropy and given new life / meaning - such as with Simon’s bronze cast of corrugated iron or Lluís’s outdoor frescos on sandstone blocks. Or it can simply form the platform, the substrate, for the idea to emerge as with Suki’s Ova or Phillip’s Paper Jets. This summer, Lluís shipped five 6,000lb sandstone slabs to Park Avenue from his native Catalonia, and planted them like erratics in the flowerbeds. They are both ancient and contemporary, as if they have drifted into and absorbed elements of the urban landscape. You might say he drifted these home, with a series of works on hand pressed Nepal Mitsumata paper, currently on show at the Tecla Sala, Barcelona. Signature forms recur - drift between - the different media: stone freestanding frescoes, canvas, paper. Poetical in nature, they carry a significance for the artist that we can only intuit, and begin to unlock over time. They allow us to become familiar with something that is preverbal. “His work … signals a health-giving shift away from art that is about other media, that is conceptual, not physical, that denies the body (including that fundamental metaphor of the body, so eloquently celebrated by Lleó, pigment itself). This shift goes towards an art that is complex but nevertheless 8 seeks a straightforward and anti-ironical link to the natural world…” Robert Hughes 8 Lluís Lleó By Robert Hughes
Suki Jobson work in progress image credit Suki Jobson
Phillip Hunt in his Cape Cod studio
From a suitcase of old linen found under the stairs of her father’s studio, Suki picked out shapes that spoke to her. These old, stained pieces of ancestral cloth became a foundation for her work in this Drift. Led by the shapes (ovals, strips and rectangles) she reassembled the pieces forming a triptych of three dimensional layers, folds and rips onto which she has drawn elements that might suggest aspects of reconstructed memory/relationship and how this is transmitted from one generation to the next. With Ova she has taped and sewn oval shapes that hover like giant eggs. A birthing. Her artistic production, like Louise Bourgeois’, is an ongoing experiment, and process about resistance and testing of matter. This circles back to question of imprint of place on our psyche, and how primordial shapes drift in and out of our consciousness. Suki shares such contingent discoveries with Simon. His “Spin Cycle” series emerged from the sighting of a young fallen tree (the title refers to domestic but it also refers to the wringing out of water). Simon has a fluid, shifting practice that moves between media, and process. The ancient method of lost wax casting (he casts corrugated iron, fruit, bark, even tissue paper) is used to explore themes like time, permanence and personal history. Translating the haphazardness of a found object into a bronze cast, a discovery becomes an allegory. Across all his work he tends to let things fall apart and then puts them back together, stronger. Turning the wood of green bark he makes a time piece out of a fallen trunk. Driftwood. The Jurassic Coast image credit Suki Jobson
Phillip’s Paper Jets are more about drifting across time. He found a suite of old works on a trip home to South Africa after his father’s death. Perhaps he found a part of himself he had forgotten… “I remember soaking and stressing the edges to achieve a sense of contrasting frailty to the surface substance.” He brought the pieces back to Cape Cod and completed them with small abstract biomorphic overlays in three or four colours of acrylic paint - which hover over the subdued and earthy palette of mixed media, including his own hair. All these discoveries remind us that we have no control over what we leave behind, or how it is perceived, let alone valued or reimagined. It may not be in the nature of the drift to reach an end point, but Webster’s definition Number 7 is “an assumed trend toward a general change in the structure of a language over a period of time.” This mirrors the accumulative threading of ideas which leads to a curatorial idea, in addition to the way this idea might bring the conversation back into the studio, and then the gallery, and finally into how we appreciate or experience art. Just as these works defy any single reading, they also create a space - a refuge - for us to let go of what we think we know and just drift.
Image of Flow by Simon Allison
Image credit Martin Crook
Lluís Lleó (b. 1961) comes from a family of painters and was born in his father’s studio in Barcelona. Immersed in the culture of painting, with frequent visits to rural churches in Catalunya, his formative years could be likened to an intense traditional apprenticeship in the fresco as a medium. In 1989, he moved to New York and “began my life as a professional painter,” absorbing the bold geometric landscape of abstract minimalism and the language of Stella and Kelly into work shaped by the hallmarks of fresco: flat, matte surfaces, thick, thin powdery or absorbent. This summer he unveiled his first major public commission on Park Avenue, “Morpho’s nest in a Cadmium House” five monumental frescos in sandstone covered in brilliant matt geometric and biomorphic shapes in ultramarine and cadmium, and decided it was time to go home. He returns to Barcelona celebrated with a museum show “All Mighty Pencil” which opened at the Tecla Sala.
Nest (Tritpych) Oil paint, graphite and ink on hand pressed Nepal Mitsumata paper 101.6 x 76.2 cm each 2017 Image credit Martin Crook
Gran Green Room Oil paint, graphite and ink on hand pressed Nepal Mitsumata paper 300cm x 200cm
Image credit Martin Crook
1966 NYC Oil on canvas 203cm x 152cm 2016
Image credit Martin Crook
Rupia Oil, graphite and ink on canvas 203.2cm x 152.4cm 2016
Image ÂŠ Steven Fisher
Suki Jobson (b. 1976) was born in Wicklow, Ireland, into a family of artists, and moved to London in 1994. She spends her time working between her studio in Whitechapel, London, and explorative journeyings. Concurrent to winning a scholarship at the Royal Drawing School, Suki established a cycle of journeys from her interest in working with shepherds and droving of grazing livestock between the valleys in winter and the high mountain pastures in summer. Her practice is fluid and encompasses a wide range of media including works on paper, collage, painting, textiles, sculpture, and most recently site specific works. Mostly abstract in nature, there is a raw symbolism - a primitive aspect - to Sukiâ€™s work. Many of these works investigate the relationship between gesture or form and the cadence of natural cycles: birth, death, day, night, wet winter, dry summer. Much of her process involves a kind of excavation, a searching for and unearthing of primordial shapes (ovals, geodes, triangles) and exploration, one that seeks a connection.
Studio Triptych Canvas on board with linen and cloth, rose madder, charcoal, chalk and pastel 117 x 87cm 2017
Above: Madderlake Pigment Installation: Dress and cloths of canvas, Colour and Roots of Rubia Tinctorum
Radial Pigment, Chalk and Medium 122cm x 152cm 2016
Simon Allison (b. 1955) was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and graduated from the University Canterbury, Ilam School of Art, in 1978. With a practice rooted in the three dimensional, he combines an avant-garde interpretation of the ancient method of lost wax casting with a Duchampian â€œreadymadeâ€? and a playful zeal. In 1980 Allison joined The Court Theatre, Christchurch, N.Z. as scenic artist and set designer and the following year was awarded a N.Z. Arts Council grant to travel and study theatre in Australia, and continued travelling to the United States and Canada in 1983/84. Finally settling in England in 1984, he set up his first studio foundry Red Bronze Studio, in London. In 1993 he moved to Oxfordshire and established Lockbund Sculpture Foundry and then expanded it to include large studios and a gallery space. After the completion of a major public art commission eight monumental sculptures - for Merck, Allison returned to Nelson to buy a studio and now splits his time between both.
Ghost Bronze and Plaster 35.5 x 61 x 7.5cm 2016
Washboard from Winged Victory Series Bronze cast corrugated iron 76 x 91.5 x 7.5cm 2016
Spin Cycle Series Oak 190.5 x 80 x 61cm 2016
Phillip Hunt (b. 1969) was born in South Africa and living in Manhattan with a thriving career as a painter (Linda Goodman Gallery) and film maker, when the momentous events of 9/11 changed everything. Already disenchanted with the commercial art world, he watched helplessly from his studio as people jumped from the twin towers. This precipitated a decisive shift for the artist, Hunt left the city and began a new life in the tiny coastal fishing village Well Fleet, Cape Cod. Abrupt and constantly evolving, the geological contours of this coastline gave form to Huntâ€™s sense of place as something we perceive emotionally. He began painting again, but only for himself, working with oils on monumental canvases. Over a decade of winters, without the pressure of deadlines, Hunt has painted one large scale work a year.
No.4 Oil on canvas 204 x 198cm 2012
Paper Jets Photo Emulsion on paper with acrylic, charcoal powder, shellac and hair 96 x 127cm 1999-2016
Leaf image from detail of work by Phillip Hunt
So many thanks go to the wonderful Jennifer Guerrini Maraldi and her team at JGM Gallery - Alice, Ralph, Janis, and Davide - who have made this show possible, to Mali Parkerson, and to Paul Carey-Kent for organising my drifting thoughts. To the artists, Simon, Phillip, Suki and LluĂs I will be thanking you for the rest of my life. To Rob and the incredible support of Gtechniq with the logistics for this show, and Diana so much gratitude. To my little ones Laszlo and Romy, thank you for being so patient with your drifting mama. You are everything.
Publication to accompany the exhibition at JGM Gallery