North South Divine (online catalogue)

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DIVINE Alison Wilding, Kate Davis, Annie O’Donnell, Phil Illingworth, Deb Covell, Tony Charles, Boa Swindler, Chiara Williams

WW Gallery, London Wednesday 3rd April – Saturday 11th May 2013 Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough 17th May – 20th June 2013

Keeping it real | 7 North South Divine | 12 Alison Wilding | 14 Kate Davis | 16 Annie O’Donnell | 18 Phil Illingworth | 20 Deb Covell | 22 Tony Charles | 24 Boa Swindler | 26 Chiara Williams | 28

KEEPING IT REAL - In Teesside and East London Kate Brindley, Director, mima

Although born into a family of cutlery makers and factory workers, I feel rather dislocated from making and manufacture. This isolation may be rooted in the generational dominance of the mystery that is financial services, which makes nothing but dominates everything and is most demonstrable in this current government’s deficit reduction programme. Living and working for the last four years through the deepest recession since the 1930s, in post-industrial Teesside, has provided me with a fresh appreciation of what it means to make art and to see how the act of making is still necessary, whilst navigating the current erosion of basic, and hard-won, equality. I would suggest that the group of artists who have curated and exhibit in 'North South Divine' are grappling with some of these same vexations and contradictions. Issues that characterise our shared 21st century experience in the UK and in the art world we chose to inhabit. Their strident investigation into, and reaction to, the dogmatism of modernism is laced with warmth, witticism and a selfdeprecating humour which speaks to me. With the conscious weight of 20th century art theory framing their practice, they


punch out, commenting, humouring, and referencing, suggesting that we too keep holding up the mirror. The artists play with the domestic and public space. In art and civic worlds that still privilege the heroic and virtuoso associated with the masculine, they question the dominant narratives of art and society. Boa Swindler takes the stuff of our covertly misogynist culture she calls ‘everyday sexism’ in her witty ‘Music for Brainwashing’ series. Through her palette of seemingly democratic language and found images, she reveals how we are all colluders in this culture of demeaning. Annie O’Donnell’s playful, plastic sculptures are the height of 'Teesside Rococo' in their bright improvisation and gaudy approachability. With reference to her lineage in Billingham, capital of plastic products, O’Donnell takes the working class everyday and creates new narratives about herself, where she is from and what we view as the monumental, so familiar in urban settings. It's as deeply rooted as Hepworth is in Yorkshire in the use of the vernacular but it's a new sort of romanticism, one born- out of the Smiths generation of the anti-heroic, which is both generic and specific to her roots. This same jocular, ornate quality can be found in Chiara Williams work, who is equally as obsessed by objects and materials, found and manufactured, although here there is a more overt set of signifiers at play. She uses copper wire from televisions to form beautifully coloured flowers, with all their association to the feminine and to the Venus and Aphrodite myths which still persist in our post feminist world. Her 'Birth of Venus' lays this bare, with its plump, glistening yolk on ultramarine pigment. The most precious of painters’ pigments,


associated with the virgin’s mantle, sits in a compact, the everyday device found in handbags. Nothing is too banal to escape her commentary. In Kate Davis’s work the sensual and intellectual meet as she combines manufactured materials with the natural to create eloquent metaphors. She says ’the stuff of living is not enough’, and so through her work she searches for other knowledge. She combines elements that seek to show us a glimpse of the unseen world, imagined and possibly divine. Lemons are a recurring motif, their luscious colour and waxy texture are seductive as is their symbolism of sexual duality. Lemons make reference to mythology, yet remain reassuringly everyday. Mirrors too recur as they do with her pupil, Chiara Williams. They remain a symbol and a challenge for artists to reflect the world back to the viewer. Painterly matters are being explored by many of the artists in this exhibition. Painting, the ultimate modernist language is challenged and utilised on a number of fronts. Phil Illingworth's work speaks about abstraction in his use of organic and manufactured self-referencing objects. Colour is key here, to delight and to tease us. With Tony Charles, the surface is all important as part of the subject of his ‘paintings’. Charles’s years in steel manufacture show a deep passion for the material he uses. He paints, erases and finishes with a slick sheen, but don’t be fooled that this is an uncritical affinity with industrial material. The erasure of a painted composition with a grinding tool discovers tensions and divisions between practical purpose and aesthetic decisions. This activity challenges the artist during the process and questions painting in general,

resulting in a presentation of an industrial process as much as an abstract visual language. Alison Wilding is an under-celebrated figure in the current British art scene, so it is gratifying to see her work represented in ‘North South Divine‘. Her invitation to show again in Middlesbrough following her beautiful exhibition as part of the 1996 Cleveland Drawing Biennial, is also a welcome return to an artist who clearly understands the physicality of choosing and placing materials together in her powerful autobiographical work which speaks coherently of duality. Material and meaning also seem to be as one in Deb Covell’s paintings, these laboriously worked beautiful objects are somewhere between paintings and sculptures, with materiality again being the topic. Covell, as with Davis, is interested in the ephemeral, she creates spaces to pause and breathe, her practice ‘attempts to bridge the gap between the ordinary and the familiar with an often idealistic quest for beauty and purity’. 1 North South Divine is a confident dialogue and collaboration, between the artists at Platform A and WW Gallery. The stage is London and Teesside, the players are deliberately cross generational. Kate Davis and Alison Wilding are invited as respected, established figures to join the conversation about unity and divide. Their commonality is the visceral, they return repeatedly to the manipulation and critique of materials in their dialogue. Their spirit is independent, generous, mutual and respectful but with a desire to interrogate. Their style is subversive, cheeky and smart. Their shared endeavour is how


Simon Grennan 'Ply Series' 2011


to make meaningful work and in this quest they want to show us the power structures of art and civic life within which we operate, to think about what is tacit and covert, to illustrate the physicality of existence as a site for the imagined and to demonstrate that artists still have much to say.

" The reason I keep coming back to art is that it does feel like a place where a central focus is to look at ourselves in our environments and offer different narratives which will give different perspectives on what could be, as well as what is." 2

Kate Brindley has been Director of mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) since July 2009. She has 20 years experience in the visual arts and museums sector with particular experience in working with 20th century art collections and capital developments. Previous roles include: Head of Arts and Museums for Wolverhampton; and Director of Museums, Galleries and Archives for Bristol City Council. She is one of only four national advisors for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Arts Funding Programme and chairs their new museums and galleries initiative, “Our Museums”. Kate is Vice Chair of the AV Festival North East and an Associate of the Museums Association.


Kate Gray, Collective Gallery, Edinburgh. ‘Gallery as Community: Art, Education, Politics’ Editor Marijke Steedman



WW and Platform A are pleased to present North South Divine, an exhibition of works by eight artists which will be spread across two cities, in the North and South of the country. Organised in partnership between the two galleries, the exhibition will open in London at WW Gallery and tour to Middlesbrough’s Platform A Gallery. North South Divine makes obvious reference to the age-old geographical and traditional social tensions between both ends of the country. This opposition is brought into focus by the locations of the two collaborating venues: WW gallery is situated in Hatton Garden, the diamond district of London and home to purveyors of expensive decorative finery; while in contrast, Platform A exists within a North Eastern railway station, located deep in the heartland of heavy industry. The artists exhibiting in North South Divine have paid no heed to this dichotomy in the making of their work, yet all the artworks in the show possess a fusion of stereotypical bi-polar characteristics which suggest the gracefully gritty, the silently strong and the richly real. These are works which complement or overlap in their processes, materials, concepts and reference points. Strength meets sensitivity, serious creative practice meets humour; ultimately, the show expresses the very simple beauty of shared belief, the unity of ideas and the pleasure of real conversation. 12

About WW Established in 2008, WW is one of London’s leading contemporary artist-run spaces with a reputation for consistently forward-thinking and innovative projects. Spread across 1200 square feet of sky-lit rooms, the exhibition space, shop and lounge occupy the premises of a former jeweller's workshop in the heart of Hatton Garden, Clerkenwell, conveniently located between Farringdon and Chancery Lane tube stations. About Platform A Founded as an extension to Platform Art Studios in 2011, Platform A is a gallery dedicated to innovative developments in contemporary art through its diverse programme of exhibitions. Located in the railway station of central Middlesbrough, Platform A represents emerging and established artists and is committed to working creatively, exploring new approaches to arrive at the best outcomes to provide the highest calibre exhibition programme. Alison Wilding appears courtesy Karsten Schubert, London Kate Davis appears courtesy Fred [London] Phil Illingworth, Boa Swindler & Chiara Williams appear courtesy WW, London Annie O’Donnell, Tony Charles & Deb Covell appear courtesy Platform A, Middlesbrough.

Alison Wilding

Turner Prize-nominated sculptor Alison Wilding rose to prominence in the early 1980s. Wilding's first major solo exhibition was held at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 1985, her first international solo show was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1987 and a major retrospective ‘Alison Wilding: Immersion – Sculpture from Ten Years' was held at the Tate Gallery, Liverpool in 1991. She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1992, received a Henry Moore Fellowship for The British School at Rome in 1998 and was elected RA in 1999. Her public sculpture commissions include the installation of Ambit, River Wear, Sunderland in 1999. Alison Wilding lives and works in London, is represented by Karsten Schubert and exhibits extensively throughout the world in solo and group shows. Collections include Tate Britain, British Council, Arts Council, FRAC Pays de la Loire, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Scottish National Gallery, Leeds City Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute.


Alison Wilding Aeriel Laser cut mild steel, ink on Japanese paper 2008

Kate Davis

Kate Davis is primarily a sculptor whose practice includes performative lectures, video, drawings, texts and objects; which are often all brought together in the same exhibition. Her work addresses issues of the heart, mortality and desire. Kate Davis studied at Hertfordshire College of Art, Falmouth School of Art and the Slade, London. She has received numerous awards; including the Sydney Water Sculpture Prize; the first Jerwood Drawing Prize; the Sargeant fellowship at the British School of Rome; the Stanley Picker Fellowship and the Young Artist of the Year Award at Whitechapel Gallery, London. She has taught extensively throughout the UK and exhibits nationally and internationally. She is currently represented by Fred [London] and is a tutor at the Royal College of Art in the Sculpture Department.


Kate Davis Le vent se lève (The Wind Rises): steel, painted bronze, portfolio of drawings and texts (1982-2011) Original 1991, re-made 2003

Annie O’Donnell

Annie O’Donnell’s practice forms an idiosyncratic expression of the ‘hyperlocal’, the baseline spatial knowledge that each individual uses to interpret sites and their objects. Unfolding the links and intersections between people and their significant places, O’Donnell revisions the monumental sculptural paradigm, demonstrating the potential of alternative placemaking dialogues and strategies, and how they operate at various scales. Annie O’Donnell studied Fine Art at Cleveland College of Art and Design after a career as a community dance artist. Going on to Newcastle University to complete an MFA and PhD, her first solo exhibition, ‘Know Your Place’, recently formed part of ongoing sculptural research into place identity. O’Donnell’s work was most recently shown at SCOPE New York 2013. She lives and works on Teesside and is represented by Platform A Gallery.


Annie O’Donnell Black Pyjamas (Seeing Myself in the Dark) Fabric blinds, plastic cable ties, installation view (front) 2012

Phil Illingworth

Phil Illingworth has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the 53rd Venice Biennale with WW Gallery in ‘Travelling Light’. His work was selected for exhibition in the 2010 John Moores Painting Prize, the UK's most prestigious painting prize. Illingworth’s practice is defined by experimentation. The work tends to be driven by concept rather than discrete process, nevertheless the relationship between the concept, the materials he chooses and the form of execution is a meticulous and obsessive consideration. His most recent work explores stimulus response and conditioning, and the notion that 'truth' can be arbitrary, or little more than the outcome of a series of agreed conventions. His practice includes sculpture, painting, video, drawing and photography. He lives and works in England and France and is represented by WW Gallery.


Phil Illingworth The parasite and the host MDF, primer, gesso, acrylic paints, acryl rod, metal 2013

Deb Covell

The visual simplicity of Deb Covell’s work belies the intense rigor required in making her pared down refined compositions. Behind every painting there is a complex creative process, which is characterised by scrutiny and alteration. Throughout this process each step is reconfigured and reexamined with decisions being made subjectively until the paintings take on a resolute strength and insistency of their own. Through the transformative processes involved the works arrive at a point where they are temporally and materially invested objects that carry the weight and noise of life, yet become still and silent vehicles for contemplation. Deb gained her BA (hons) in Fine art from Liverpool Polytechnic and her MA in Fine art at the University of East London. Recent exhibitions include Secret, Royal College of Art, Station to Station , Scope ,New York and the 54th Venice Biennale. Her work is held in private and public collections in the UK and abroad including Paintings in Hospitals and the mima collection. She currently lives in Saltburn by the Sea and is represented by Platform A Gallery.


Deb Covell Unexpected Arrival Eggshell paint on wood support 2013

Tony Charles

Recent work by Tony Charles involves the investigation into the relationship between sculpture and the two dimensional representation of objects. In ‘Un-painting the abstract’ a continuation of Charles’ investigation into painting concentrates on a more traditional painting format where, again, the relationship between brushstrokes and grind marks explore the idea of objecthood. This time it is combined with an investigation of abstraction. These painted objects that again have been industrially ground back to metal, are a presentation of an industrial process as much as an abstract visual language. Tony gained a BA(Hons) in fine art from Teesside University and an MA in Fine Art from Northumbria University. His work was exhibited at the 54th Venice Biennale and he is the winner of the Premio Comel 2013 award in Rome. Tony’s work exists in both public and private collections internationally, including the mima collection, the Comel collection Italy, and a private collection in Singapore.


Tony Charles Unpainting (Fettled Sign) Gloss paint and resin on aluminium 2012

Boa Swindler

Boa Swindler’s work initiates from issues surrounding the language (visual & verbal) of power and persuasion. Her collage and assemblage practice is informed by the techniques of the Dadaists and frequently employs the use of visual puns. Swindler’s new body of work MFB (Music For Brainwashing) takes its cue from the 'cheesy listening' record label MFP (Music For Pleasure) and examines the not so easy lyrics associated with 'mellow' music. MFB is a comment on the misogyny still rampant in our society, especially given the recent vile attacks on academic Mary Beard. Swindler also looks at the role of women as ‘colluders’, or willing participants in ‘everyday sexism’, reinforcing female insecurities and hindering female equality. Swindler trained in printmaking and painting at CSM, LCC and UEL. Internationally exhibited, including the 53rd & 54th Venice Biennale, her work is in private collections in New York, Tokyo, Zurich and London, including the Factory Art Collection and the V&A Museum. She is represented by WW Gallery.


Boa Swindler MFB 1 Wood, aluminium sugar shakers, tassles, voice recording, headphones 2013

Chiara Williams

Working across sculpture, installation and painting, Chiara Williams assembles often unusual combinations of objects and materials to respond to and represent physical sensations, desires and frustrations. Williams is obsessively curious about the properties and behaviours of materials – and equally preoccupied by the sensations they evoke when they interact with one another. The work is rooted in a geometric tension that plays on several senses at once and her own Synesthesia which informs her approach. Williams’ work is in the Paintings in Hospitals Collection as well as private collections in the UK, Italy, Russia, Germany and USA. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, most recently at the 53rd & 54th Venice Biennales. She studied Fine Art at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford and Audio Visual Production at London Metropolitan University. She has worked in Venice and London lecturing in art history, fine art, design and media for over ten years, and in various gallery and museum contexts such as the Venice Biennale, British Council and Modern Art Oxford. She set up WW in 2008 with fellow artist and curator Debra Wilson.


Chiara Williams Transverse Venus (Bone) Jesmonite, MDF, enamel paint, paper 2013

NORTH SOUTH DIVINE Published by WW Gallery and Platform A Gallery 3rd April – Saturday 11th May 2013 WW Gallery 34/35 Hatton Garden London EC1N 8DX

17th May – 20th June 2013 Platform A Gallery Middlesbrough Railway Station Zetland Road Middlesbrough TS1 1EG © 2013 WW Gallery. All rights reserved All images © the artists

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