A Review of Painting Made Me Do It at The Dot Project in Chelsea, London
This year The Dot Project, Chelsea will be the youngest gallery to have ever exhibited at the Art16 fair and Zane Lewis’s monumental, tonally playful images will be on show to breath life into their space at Kensington Olympia. Lewis's work will also be exhibited at The Dot Project later in the year to coincide with Frieze. Inclusion in Art 16 is indicative of the rise to fame of this youthful but precocious gallery founded by the interior designer turned gallerist India Whalley only a year ago.
Known for their dedicated curatorial support of an impressive stable of artists, the gallery is abuzz this Spring for their group exhibition, which showcases the work of four young British artists. Painting Made Me Do It is a group show focused on the physical act of painting with ideas drawn from Michael Blackwood’s documentary A Life Lived about the artist Philip Guston. It features work from Hannah Bays, Asger Harbou Gjerdevik, George Little and Jessie Makinson - all of which have attracted serious interest across the London art world from the likes of the Saatchi Gallery and Marcus Harvey of Turps Banana.
The young British painter Hannah Bays won the Jerwood Purchase Prize two years ago. Since graduating from The Royal Academy School she works in tandem with many of the artists she studied with, citing the collaborative atmosphere as hugely important. Described as ‘spontaneous, painterly, gestural;’ I liked her reference to the history of marks behind abstract shapes in Wrestler II and her pastel palette. Said colour palette, which was pronounced ‘seductive’ and often on ‘the brink of nausea’ in the Royal Academy catalogue only serves to add tension to her work, most obvious in Untitled (Happy Pill) 2016 which brings the viewer into a space not altogether comfortable, but compulsively examinable.
Space and setting are of central importance to each work included in Painting Made Me Do It. The Stockwell-based artist George Little’s paintings were influenced by a childhood spent in the kitchens of Soho and he uses the red/white check and striped patterns across his three exhibited works. The British artist is highly respected on the contemporary art scene in London and has previously exhibited in coveted spaces from the Saatchi Gallery to the Untitled Art Fair, Miami. His diverse array of materials, and experimental use of mixed media reflect the passion the artist has for his practice. And just like the heatwave outside the gallery, his work made me feel as though I was breathing in the London sunshine. It was the small compositional details that particularly added energy to his work such as the frame for Perennial, 2016, which didn’t quite touch at some points and at others extended past the image adding further dynamism to his already spirited work.
In Blackwood’s documentary Philip Guston talks about ‘a moment…a time, when a third hand is [painting]’ which reflects the work of Danish painter Asger Harbou Gjerdevik. Tall and focused, he talked in depth about his myriad of influences spanning time and geography. He draws from a broad spectrum of sources from 1970's German Neo-Expressionists, to the contemporary Italian artist Francesco Clemente and Pre-Rennaissance painters. Of all the images in the show Asyger's painting Soul Train, 2016 was the most beguiling. Reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg, but with the wild freedom of Francis Bacon, the viewer is drawn in by the diversified palette and certainty of line. Although it was the more romantic colour palette of Calypso 2016, which attracted an audience. Painting with a childlike abandon, he described his exciting use of materials such as wool as ‘anti-formula, tactile and sculptural’.
Having graduated from the Royal Drawing School in 2012, Jessie Makinson describes drawing as a central part of her practice. Her work has a fine painterly detail, which can only be grasped from a thorough understanding of a subject through drawing. This combined with a fluid and expressive painting style gives her work intense depth. In Fake French, 2016 the eye is concerned as much with the fine detail of the shoe as with the face or Makinson’s creation of space. A distortion of space and scale, was embodied by the handing of the exhibition's largest works in the confined basement space. It was a surprising success from the curator Amy Purssey. Ask nicely and she may let you sneak into the office to see Cosy Girl, 2015, which isn’t part of the exhibition but is detailed in the catalogue. Less abstract than Fake French, Cosy Girl pulls the viewer into the dialogue of its confusing, but colorful image.
When Philip Guston was asked about his evolving style in A Life Lived, he tells his interviewer, ‘you’re working in this style or that style, but what you’re doing is trying to stay alive.’ As a painter myself I know that the nature of the contemporary process of painting is a matter of ‘trying to stay alive’ by staying relevant and pushing your practice to new and exhilarating levels. These four young artists have certainly captured Guston’s ideal and it is clear from the curation of the group show that after only a year in business the gallery is proving to be an invigorating wake-up call for the sleepy Chelsea art scene, which has been pootling along since the 19th-century. In fact, The Dot Project isn't just ‘trying to stay alive,’ but leading West London's young contemporary art scene.
Written by Beatrice Hasell-McCosh, contributor to Arteviste.