I have not been to the Affordable art fair for a number of years. Last time I think was 2008 and in Battersea. It was both not very good and not very affordable. It was with a certain amount of skepticism that I went this year, mainly to the insistence of two friends. Its last day is today but there is another one in Battersea later in the year.
It was much better, and much more affordable. It was also large and there were a number of dogs wandering around (attached to their owners). My favourite was a red setter which ambled around roughly the same route we did.
You crunch your way in over multi-coloured gravel which presumably at one point showed an image of some kind but by the time we got there this had been mushed into a mess. The reason for the dogs became quickly obvious when we spied a dog photo both.
Onto the art. There was so much art. Lots of it was rubbish. Multicoloured posteresque modern stuff, white outlines of birds, garish nonsense, you know the sort of things. But there was much was good. There were also some galleries from outside the UK which really stole the show. I bought things. More of that later.
The fair is arranged in alphabetical rows pivoting around a central roundel of a wine bar and general one upping area. Initially it seemed to be the same old show but the quality increased as we went up the alphabet. The best row is row F.
One of the first things to catch my eye was this colourfull still life by Marion Thomson, a Scottish artist (see below). I really like this. I like the bold colours, the lines and the slightly abstracted shapes. The jug and its surrounding apples make for a good contrast and I particularly like the apple and bowl combo in the lower right hand corner.
There is plenty of sculpture, ceramics, glass and various other media. A good example of one of these are the over-sized seed pod range. My favourite of these was the one you see below left. A nice luster and an excellent contrast between the red and the light green. Who is it by you ask? A fair question but unfortunately the little sign was so shiny all I see when I look at my close up photo is a bright light, so excellent question.
The other two charming pictures of the bear and the sprite (below) are by the Anne Juul Chrisophersen. She is a Danish artist and her website is in Danish. They are good compositions these and I particularly like the fur and hair effects. My favourite is the one below left. She has captured excellent facial expression between the two figures.
I am big fan of humour in art so I was drawn to Chris Chapman's work, particularly Bananas (below left). I has a very pop art style but that very much suits the subject matter. There is something very engaging about the man and his dog, particularly in the way they are both looking at the painting. I also enjoyed the sensation of looking of a painting of figures of looking at a painting. I think I like Mr Chapman. Going through his website I also enjoy the terrible puns of his painting titles.
Apologies for the terrible photo but another picture I like was this rustic landscape by Padraig McCaul (below right). Seems simple with the white houses and the coloured roves, but of course the houses are not just white and the foreground works very well with the background, a background that road draws you towards.
A mantra I often repeat is that some artists work look better in person than photographed, particularly when photographed by an overexcited idiot on a phone camera. The picture then does really not do justice to the work of Nataliya Rusetska (below left). Rusetska is an icon painter and you can see this influence in her work which is done in gesso and tempera. There is something very beguiling about them. The odd perspective, the geometric shapes and the little animals (which can be hard to spot amongst the trees) all contribute. One of the couple we were with bought one of her paintings. I strongly considered doing the same. I look forward to seeing more of her work in future.
Everyone likes a vitrine full of things don't they? There is something very reassuring about them and this was certainly true of the 42 pieces of graphite (below middle) presented by Paul Fry. I like the angular spiky nature of them and the way that they are similar enough to work as a group but different enough to keep you interested. I could quite see this adorning the hallway of a modernist apartment.
I like glass. Not now as much as used to. Ceramics weighs more in the balance these days. These long tear-dropped spiky glass sculptures (below right) with their almost candyesque colours are exemplars of good art. They are produced by Phil Atrill, who I am sure is a name I have encountered before.
On the subject of putting things in cases I like this piece below left by Jordi Alcaraz. I don't know what it is. I don't know what it is made of. It seems to me to be some kind of strange office furniture tree. The scraggly lines join well with those leaf-life felted shapes.
It pears well I think with the vivid work of Anthony Murphy with his piece Cedars of Lebanon. That intense blue of the canopy has an almost enamel quality, but it isn't, it is oil. The trees are very striking, looking out of that stormy background.
Is it a bird, is it a plane? Well sort of but it also a whale and has the honour of being the only bronze sculpture (of which there were many) to make it into my selection (below left). It is by Adam Warwick Hall and is called Whanopus, which is an excellent name. It melds, very effectively, the shape of one thing into another.
Another singular entry is the only selection of colourful panels to make it into the selection (below middle) are these 6 by Christo Brown. The shimmering nature of the colours appeal, as does their interaction. I also appreciate the way that each panel works on its own but also as part of the group.
Ceramics. Lovely earthen ceramics with turquoise interiors (below right). Apologies for the slightly rubbish photos but these were excellent objects by Lilia Umana-Clarke. You can also see the little horse sculptures, which I also liked.
One of the best stands at the fair was that of Japanese gallery Ginza Gallery G2. They had a very good idea. They had on the back wall of their stand a grid of these very small paintings (a small sample of which are bottom left). They were all by Japanese artists in a variety of techniques and ranged from £70 - £230. A number of them were very good but they also benefited from the cheerleader effect, that is they looked much better together as a group. Doing something like this is a seriously good idea. It draws people into your exhibit and the price point, particularly of the cheaper ones is such that they can be an easy purchase. This means you have traffic to your stand, a tick-over of sales, increase in staff morale and probably, more likely to make a big sale. Some of them had already sold when we got there.
Some of their bigger works were very good to, like these large black gold and white paintings by Masako Jin. I like the layers, the shapes and the drippiness of them. Elegant simplicity is a hard thing to pull off but Jin does it well.
So taken was I by the above display that I returned to it at the end of the fair, and picked out two small pieces (see below). They turned out to be by the same artist which is obvious now, but was less so then, but somehow confirmed my selection. The artist is called Noriko Yamanaka, but frustratingly I can't seem to find a website for her. The mountain on the left is my particular favourite.
At this point in the fair my phone ran out of batteries so the rest of the photos are from the galleries websites. The following two selections are from Nine Gallery. They are a Korean gallery, and one of the great things about going these shows these days is seeing art you wouldn't usually see.
The one bellow left is by Tae-hoo Park. He does these very inviting pictures with these delightful and adorable little birds in them. Both the foliage and the birds are beautifully rendered in a very print like style. The foliage is mostly presented in one main colour, giving each piece its own tone and feel. Had I much more money than I do, I would have bought one (or more than one) of these.
The other one, below right is by Sul Park. Deceptively simple her work is these mountain vistas rendered with Korean ink on Korean paper. I like the different tones of black and white and the slightly watery nature of the medium. As you can see from the things I purchased above, this is a style that appeals to me. Sul Park's work is better than the stuff I bought, but also much bigger and much more expensive.
Continuing the Korean theme I was also impressed by the offerings of Gallery Tableau. Frustratingly my favourite artist of theirs is not featured on their website. He is called Yang Jong Yong and even more frustratingly I can't seem to find his website. He produces these very tranquil, very detailed floating bowls of moss (below). It is difficult to describe why but they are very good, very calming and well, just good. The moss is nicely textured and contrasts in texture to the plate.
Coming closer to home is the My life in art gallery. I can't tell you where tell actual gallery is because they resolutely refuse to say on their website. By far their best artist though is Lisa Swerling who produces what she calls glass cathedrals (below). They are basically little glass fronted boxes, which contain these 3d scenes against a painted and often glittery backdrop, augmented by these tiny figures. She will do you one to your own specification. I have to say I am tempted. None of the ones on display at that fair appealed enough to come home but others from her website certainly do.
I have saved the best to last. Colin Caffell, a Cornish potter and sculpture represented by the Eleven and a Half gallery. It was his pottery they had on display and very good stuff it is too. Representing either landscapes (as in the one below) or seascapes they are combination of blues and turquoises with the base a blend of different colours, often scored with these contour type marks. They look much better in person. I particularly like the slightly pock-marked textured rim. They are very tactile pieces. I could not resist and bought one.
The show finishes on 14th so you may (depending on when you read this) be able to go along.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.