A Review of Quiet Neighbours by Renata De Bonis at Lamb Arts, London
Across the board, there seems to be a pull towards painting as a medium both in artistic practice and art institutions. Abstract contemporary painting in particular is at the fore, promising material realness and meaning in today’s digital vacuity. London is currently scattered with painting exhibitions and Lamb Arts, a gallery which applies itself between London and Sao Paulo, appears to have followed within this trend.
Quiet Neighbours presents the work of Renata De Bonis, an artist who suitably represents the gallery’s dual focus. Living and working in Sao Paulo, De Bonis has dabbled in a multi-medium practice, including sculpture and sound installation which involve rocks, wood and plaster. She investigates the relationship between private and public spaces, finding solitude within nature and remaining sympathetic to her material’s organic proprieties. As part of an emerging generation of Brazilian artists working with painting, this new body of work is a step away from three-dimensional experimentation and a return to basics, communicating the same message and ideals whilst keeping within the proximities of primal materials.
Upon encountering the artist in the space, one is immediately confronted with a sense of logical discernment in the exhibition. Both Stephanie and Lucinda who run Lamb Arts identify with Sao Paulo, the gallery’s cultural focus is Sao Paulo, and De Bonis creates works which are materially connected with the city; her deeply personal pieces are made from found wood sourced between the two cities. There is a very clear narrative running through the curation of the exhibition, which looks at cities such as these as a metropolis for creative activity, and how nature behaves in direct contrast within and against it. The gallery presents precisely what it sets out to achieve, supporting the presence of South American artists in London.
Looking at the works, each irregular wooden surface is painted with abstract shapes resembling sound waves, the rolling surfaces reminiscent of Latin American 1970’s architecture; Felix Candela and Eladio Dieste’s rippling Church of Christ Obrero. Each piece of wood is cut down, buffered and arranged into a repetition of slats, which look and feel a bit like cumbersome Agnes Martins. Unsheathed, I would imagine one might be able to map out her geographical movements judging by the foreign wood, but painted on, her venture remains private. The show is hung in a symphony of radiation; some pieces are in threes, some in pairs and some which stand alone, all buzzing at different tempos. Between the painted regular shapes and unpredictable volume of the wood, there is a discord almost like an out of sync duet, but beautifully incoherent.
De Bonis’ work is understood as a retreat from a busy and chaotic lifestyle, likely in response to military dictatorship and political oppression, poignant in Brazilian society. Despite the escapism evident in her work, this series appears on the knife’s edge between sound and silence. The opening night quite literally played out this juxtaposition when the gallery hosted the band Ice Cold Slush, representing an urbanism that De Bonis has attempted to depart from. Although originally intended in disruptive contrast to its surroundings, perhaps this disharmony was just a question of tuning into different rhythms. The works feel oddly musical, and consequentially made for an appropriate setting for the band.
It is worth a trip down to Shepherds Market to see this new body of work if you are looking for an artist and a gallery which are mutually dependent in the right kind of way. There is a reassuring sense of consistency in the exhibition (depending on whether you count the introduction of Ice Cold Slush) that amplifies the gallery’s purpose and draws attention to its niche. Accordingly, rhythm and repetition are implemented as part of De Bonis’ practice in an attempt to find where the peace is. Her exploration of isolation verses widespread city-life leaves one contemplating how unsatisfactory it can be living in extremes. Buzzing cities like Sao Paulo and London are perhaps ironic settings to exhibit and create these works in. However, this metrical series made by De Bonis’s meditative hand, mismatched within these two contexts and against the backdrop of Ice Cold Slush, provides a somewhat harmonious overlap.
Written by Tatiana Cheneviere, a Contributor to Arteviste.