In celebration of ALICE BLACK’s 1 year anniversary, ‘In the manner of smoke’ brings together 9 contemporary artists in exploration of the wordless exchange that takes place between the body, the landscape, and the creative process. It is a show about osmosis and correspondence, multiplicity and synthesis. The works included by Venetia Berry, Ivan Black, Daniel Chadwick, Dante Elsner, Tanya Ling, Rory Menage, Andre Stitt, Nina Royle and Laura Wormell express a direct carnal affinity with our natural surroundings - in the manner of smoke, the exhibition seeks to reveal a relationship of fluid borders which goes far beyond language.
Venetia Berry (b. 1993) lives and works in London. She trained in Florence at the Charles H. Cecil School, 2012 and the Leith School of Art, Edinburgh from 2012-2014; concluding her studies at the Royal Drawing School, London in 2017. An accomplished oil painter, she has a particular interest in the female nude which she articulates through a process of lyrical abstraction. Transforming her subjects via a language of languid fluidity, her forms appear to rise and fall in space, or as she says, ‘to drift across the page or canvas like apparitions or ethereal beings’. The intertwining of faces, shoulders, arms, calves and buttocks define Berry’s sensitivity to line and asymmetrical composition and find multiple synergies with the same flow found in nature.
Ivan Black (b. 1972) is an award winning kinetic artist who draws inspiration from iconic natural geometry to create a striking interaction between science, art and technology. Living and working in the wilds of Pembrokeshire, West Wales, his work reflects a fascination and kinship with the mathematical patterns found everywhere in nature e.g. waves, leaves, shells, the human form etc. Tending towards the minimalist in design, his works reveal how order silently governs our seemingly disorderly world.
Daniel Chadwick (b. 1965) lives and works at Lypiatt Park near Stroud in Gloucestershire. Son of the late Lynn Chadwick (1914-2001), and a collaborator with Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), Chadwick has a unique background in both art and engineering which simultaneously infuse his art practice. Working in bronze, aluminium, carbon fibre, stainless steel and acrylic, Chadwick’s practice spans both kinetic and static sculptural works. Chadwick’s polished bronze, ‘We Go Together’, reflects a mystical feeling for the union of the human body with the body of the natural world – both landscapes of movement and growth, and both insistent on their identification with the other.
Dante Elsner (1920-1997) was born in Kraków, Poland. He lived in Paris for ten years after the end of World War II, before settling in London where he spent the rest of his life living and working. Elsner’s practice combined both painting and pottery, including raku. In both, he prized above all the qualities of spontaneity and honesty in relation to form, line and colour. He favoured the raku technique in his later pottery, because this traditionally Japanese process allows the artist to fire a pot individually, withdrawing it from the kiln (at about 1000 degrees centrigrade) to control the chemical reactions that affect the glaze. Earthy and irregular, raku pots are at once biomorphic and anthropomorphic - billowing forms give way to hollow caverns which could as much be inside the landscape as they can emulate the body.
Tanya Ling (b. 1966) lives and works in London, her established reputation is founded on a practice which spans fashion and textile design, painting and sculpture. Her celebrated ‘Line Paintings’, created from Dr Ph Martins acrylic paint were began in 2013 and are created instinctively and decisively in a single session. Guiding the pigment effortlessly and efficiently over White Somerset Satin paper, the lines converge and coalesce, before setting off again with seemingly no preordained route or direction. Mapping the paper like veins as she works, their organic fluidity suggests a direct correlation with nature’s own ever changing contours and abstract expressionism.
Rory Menage (b. 1988) lives and works in London and is best known for his figure based sculptural works made in a range of media such as limestone, bronze and iron. He says ‘in its most literal sense, a landscape is a physical view of one fragment of the world seen by one person in one position at one moment of time. But the term can also be abstract - psychological, non-physical. The word landscape thus infers differing perceptions, because not one person can perceive reality the same way as another. In visual art, landscapes are almost seen as a medium unto themselves - expressing a love for nature as it is seen, but really acting as an agent for higher thought and contemplation’. Menage’s sculptural works have a direct affinity with the earth/landscape which bore them.
Nina Royle (b. 1986) lives and works in Cornwall, UK and holds an MA in Fine Art from the Slade School of Art. Royle is best known for her hand sculpted painted panels which are individual expressions of body, landscape, weather, corporeality and time. The work can also be read as articulations of the constantly evolving painting process - fluid, fleeting and subject to change. ‘Stages Along a Rocky Spine’ forms part of a new series through which Royle equates the heat of the body with that of the landscape. Capturing, distilling and expressing the changing colours inside of her, here becomes an analogy for the carnal relationship they share with her surroundings.
Andre Stitt (b. 1958) was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and lives and works in Cardiff Wales. Although Stitt’s reputation was founded on his international career as a live action-based and interdisciplinary artist, he originally trained as a painter. His recent works are inspired by the emotive qualities of the housing estate where he grew up. Stitt's work has been included in exhibitions at PS1, New York 2000, Venice Biennale 2005, Baltic Contemporary Art Centre, England 2005, Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2008, Galerie Lehtinen, Berlin 2011, John Moores 2012, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
Laura Wormell (b. 1987) lives and works in London, and holds a BA in Fine Art from the Slade School of Painting. Driven by a desire to record the fantastic reality of the observed world, Wormell’s initial notes are made quickly and instinctively on site, most often in watercolour. Drawing from life is a chance to notice the complex relationships that exist between her eye, mind and body. In the studio, these marks and patches of colour and line take on a new purpose - they are set free from documentation and enter into a sphere of new logic. The colours, marks and patterns of the paint on the surface of the canvas become an abstract language not used to describe a place but to talk about it.
Artists’ emotional, experiential, bodily response to the landscape we inhabit is a genre as well trodden as the earth beneath our feet, yet it remains as relevant today as it will in millennia to come, reflecting a very human desire to ground ourselves.
Notes to Editors:
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Featured artwork: Venetia Berry ‘Cornflower’ 2018, Oil on Canvas, 110 x 120cm