James Harrison, 'Wall Drawings' 2009
It’s difficult not to be wowed by the immaculate interior and super-high ceilinged space of the Sackler Building (the new RCA studio development on the other side of Battersea Bridge) that houses the Interim Painting Exhibition. Though that’ll soon change once the students are set loose, and next year it’ll be back to looking like what the typical artist studio should look like- a refugee camp.
Once that initial awe subsided, I particularly noticed the works of a few artists. Firstly, James Harrison. For ‘Wall Drawings’ (2009) he covered a large section of wall with a series of dynamic abstract watercolours, which ricocheted and repeated shapes and colours across the pages, like a visual chinese whisper. They were reminiscent of telephone conversation doodles, music and even psychoanalysis blobs.
Gareth Cadwallader, 'Gingham' (2009), 'Cairo' (2009) 'Dead Horse' 2009
Next was Gareth Cadwallader, who creates these small yet highly charged oil paintings on board, somehow transforming something mundane into an intense scene. These sensitive renderings are a departure from his previously huge and grotesque, dark humoured works that were once bought by fashion photographer Mario Testino. These newer works have a surreal quality to them (such as the painting of a golden women who seems to disappear in the next painting, or the frozen horses stopped in time) while others such as ‘Gingham’ (2009) are more ambiguous, showing what could either be a figure cuddled up by a fire or a captive adorned in terrorist attire. Around the corner from these are a canvas of plush black feathers by Annie Fernberger, seemingly sexy and fetishistic at first, but on the second glance rather camp.
the 'squished orange' piece
Overall the works were highly laboured and committed, as one would have expected, with many of the students having already won numerous awards and competitions, such as the Celeste Prize (Avis Underwood) or the Bloomberg New Contemporaries (Adam Bainbridge)- and except for one odd video, it was a refreshingly aesthetic exhibition. There was only one artist, who divided opinions and this was Lea Provencano with the work ‘Untitled 2009’, also known as the ‘squished orange’ which consisted of the orange in question woefully placed under a bit of geometric chipboard. It was either dismissed as a lazy ‘conceptual’ piece or hailed as humorous and playful- and it reminded me of something Matthew Collings said on ‘School of Saatchi’ (something along the lines of) “the best artists are the ones who are part geniuses, and part charlatans.”