In ‘The Future Can Wait’, hipster gallerist Zavier Ellis might come across as dishonest for two reasons. Firstly, in spite of the fact that the show is advertised as one of ‘emerging art’, the truth is that the artists shown are professionals who have been around for a long time (in some cases, more than a decade). If these are emerging artist, it is taking them a hell of a long time to do so. Secondly, this show takes place alongside the mediocre Saatchi’s New Sensations which monumentalises one at the other’s expense. If you ask me, it is unfair to show a bunch of professionals (as ‘newcomers’) beside a group of spoilt kids from graduate fine arts programmes. Moreover, ‘The Future Can Wait’ is (and has been) a painting show which contrasts with the post-minimalist rubbish presented by Saatchi.
The Future Can Wait takes place in Victoria House’s basement which is sordid enough to fit perfectly the rhetorically deranged aesthetic proposed by curator Zavier Ellis. From this point of view, The Future Can Wait is an exhibition of mostly figurative paintings that depict violence and putrefaction in its different phases of adavancement. Black Sabbath’s witches, skulls, Virgin Suicide’s flowers, violated bodies and manipulated babies transform the exhibition into a horror show of sorts which fails as such for not being able to suspend disbelief.
The show stars with James Jessop’s Horror Tales who sets the tone in the sense that what is going to be seen is not real but a parody of what, according to him, is supposed to be real and I think this a curatorial mistake. It is as if curator Zavier Ellis is telling us: “Mind it, boys and girls, but what you re going to see is not real’. Really? Thanks, Zavier!
Hugh Mendes’s ‘Obituary: Lauren Bacall’ confirms this attempt at conflating glamour and death and the whole thing becomes a fashion statement before it happens. Disbelief is then never going to be suspended in this show. A rather confusing ‘scultpural object’ by Oliver Cregg (called ‘Reverse Psychology) explores the structures of Freudian socialisation with Ego and Superego carved on a wooden school desk. At this point, one starts understanding where this obsession for objectified horror comes from and so far all this is not even sarcastic but puerile and borders the language of advertising.
Then we have John Stark, an artist that I have been following for years. His new work is a conflation between Salvatore Rosa’s fallen landscapes and the subtle atmospheric perspective of the likes of Claude Lourrain. In ‘The Magician’s Return’ he comes back to the topos of the ‘black sun’. I own his best work by far which is (precisely) called ‘Black Sun’ and which is a pictorial (black and white) essay on negativity, evil and depression. In that work, he succeeds because it is abstract and does not try to be funny and erudite, at the same time. John Stark’s problem is that he tries to convince himself and us that he is serious and silly at the same time. That he is above Zavier Ellis but he is his loyal friend too. I believe his problem is that he cannot part from the silly hipsterish world of Old Street commercial art world. He should just run away but he won’t.
Next to John Stark there is Dolly Thomsett’s Fortress with Figures and Creatures where Mr.Ellis’ obsessions are summarised but projected as camp. Chris Hawtin’s Gregor belongs to John Stark’s imaginary and he should write him a cheque.
Michel Boffey’s ‘Grand Max’ tries to be humorous by conflating lower middle class camp with a Robert Mapplehorpe-ish sexualisation of flowers. His work is so topical that should not be considered as art but as decoration or theatrical prop.
Zavier Ellis has a fascination for deformed faces and of course there are many of them here. GlBrierley’s Felt, Sam Jackson’s It is forever (He is plagiarising Dr.Lakra), Luke Jackson’s Man of Hate and Tom Buttler’s ‘Individually Titled’ are the kind of work that has been around for a long time and is so theatrical that does not move or provoke fear. They belong to the realm of fashion. These are items that should be owned by a hipster that only drinks fair trade coffee. In other words, this is fear for those who cannot really deal with it.
Then we have the ‘innocence interrupted’ sort of artists where babies, foetuses and toys, are presented as raped, decaying or rottening. Wendy Mayer’s Ophelia and Michael Boffey’s Descendant are examples of this. An exception is Mr & Mrs Philip Cath’s ‘The Awakening Conscience’ which is interesting because it does not say too much and stops itself from patronising the viewer with that Zavier Ellisesque cornucopia of doom.
Gavier Nolan’s ‘From Here to Eternity’ is one of my favourite pieces in the show. His hiperrealistic approach is intelligent and he knows how to balance the in focus and out of focus to bring to his sitters’ horrific facial features a degree of narrative. John Stark’s round painting with a funeral pire is good.
There are very small (1.5 x 2cms) paintings by Geraldine Swayne which depict porn scenes and iconic moments of public terror that succeed in their (almost literal) lack of pomposity. Having said this, my favourite piece is Claire Partington’s ‘The Dance’ where the topsy turvy of the whole show coalesces into a conflation of historical nonsense, fashion and crafmanship. The two pigs with crowns facing each other are worth the visit. I also liked Ben Woodenson ’s That Bit From the Omen, Yes that Bit where a garden chair is intervened by cubistic glass perfectly arranged to create a sense both of balance and disruption.
WATCH THE PILL’S INTERVIEW WITH SWISS ARTIST ANGELA LYN
If I were Ellis, I would start removing my personal preferences from the curating and start allowing the artists to interact. It is as if he uses this show to assert his own fashionable identity. There is a narrative that the curatorship seems to inject that becomes an obstacle between the artists and the viewers and bores. Apart from this, I enjoyed this show. I think I like Ellis, after all. J A T