Two Young London Artists Explore the Depths of Transparency and Space

Using the mediums of painting and sculpture, two artists, Laurence Owen, from London's Royal Academy, and Vivien Zhang, recently graduated from the Royal College of Art, have activated London’s Rook & Raven gallery this summer, with a vibrant dual presentation. Utilizing shape, gesture, and pattern, in their respective works Owen and Zhang play with the visual dichotomy of transparency and opaqueness while juxtaposing historical and contemporary themes.  

Owen, a current student at the Royal Academy Schools, creates abstract paintings that are loaded with brushy, overlapping geometric shapes. In his painting, Perverted Font, (2013)a series of black, semi-circular strokes pile on top of one another, and cover over much more transparent angular shapes. He explains that his work looks at the “evolution of things,” and has successfully transitioned his paintings into ceramics, or as he calls them, “three-dimensional paintings,” as seen with his ceramic vase, Emoji (2014). Emoji repeats these same visual ideas, translating the same semi-circular shapes into the appearance of a face—instead of simple strokes, now these forms resemble the foundation for an eye.

Alongside Owen’s work are Zhang’s vibrant gridded and gestural paintings. Zhang, a recent graduate from the Royal College of Art, has said that in her work, sherevisits and confronts specific personal objects of significance,” and references African jugs that hung in her childhood home, Thai Khon dance and drama masks, as well as Chinese Classical painting. “I start to think about motifs and the way artifacts accumulate on the threshold of misrecognition,” says Zhang. Paintings like her Stencil Negative (2013) rely on a grid structure, but also challenge it, as large strokes of paint interweave and bend around opaque, repeating shapes. In System (rain room) (2012) the grid is less present, though Zhang’s motifs follow the movement of her gestures. Abstract paintings, for Zhang, are about the gaps built up between either side of her gestures. “What is to be managed is not only the space in the painting, but also the various openings and intersections that accrue beyond the painting,” Zhang has said of her works—a truism which applies Owen’s works as well, and intertwines the two artists in this dynamic exhibition.

Haniya Rae

Laurence Owen & Vivien Zhang” is on view at Rook & Raven Gallery, London, June 25th–Aug. 31st, 2014.

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