I haven't been to the Other Art Fair for quite some time. I have a new job now and work in Holborn and the other art fair was conveniently located just up the road, in the building by Bedford Square and the old St Martin's College building. When you first go in the Other Art Fair it is an assault on senses. The main Bedford Square building is an odd space. It is crowded and cramped and strangely subterranean. The last time I went it was at Truman Brewery which was a much better space.
Also lots of what is on display is crap. Shiny, graphicy crap with pseudo inspirational slogans or, the ulimate sin, an nude female form, without a head or wearing a mask. This was tired and sexist 5 years ago. Why are people still doing this?
Still in the rubbish there was some gems in among the nonsense. The best stall by far was the Illustrated Menagerie. Two women, recently graduating running an animal themed store, colourful postcards, comics and colouring books. This is a really good idea as being quite cheap (£15) they put themselves firmly in the impulse purchase category. They are very talanted (going by the names of Aga Giecko and Doctor Gurlfriend) and will draw a caricature of you as an animal. Above is me as a puffin. Good isn't it.
Sander Steins is a great name for an artist and I quite like Sander's mixed media, washed constructions. They are quite joyful although at £750 each they are a tad steep. The pastel colours make for a relaxed feel to it. I might try doing something like this.
Mau Harrison as that large name plate makes clear has built these jointed bird and insect like pieces. They remind me of oversized fly fishing baits. This is not a criticism, I like that association. My favourite is the one in the centre of the bottom row which looks like a cross between a Swiss-army knife and a dragon fly. That seems to be the thing here, treading that line between the mechanical and the natural. I like that.
The work above left is by Blackie Swart has these seemingly simple pieces (above left). They look in a way like posh chocolate wrappings, with the way the colours intersect each other. The first two do any way. The third one is more complex and is my preferred, the discolouration on the bottom left and coffee bean like elements that get wider as they move right.
Going now to figurative with highly colourful pictures of birds by Fran Giffard (above right). They are very pretty, eye catching and attractive. They pop off the paper and make a nice accompaniment to the text (which is a diary entry and pretty dull to read) that fall down the side of the pages. There was particularly good Puffin (might have a thing about Puffins).
Will Teather's portrait (above) took my breath away and I think was the best thing in the main building (which I have discovered since starting this blog is called Victoria House). It is stunning picture. The golden dress, the fabric of which is very well rendered, with those folds and bows, goes really well against the grey background. Figurative portraiture can be a but dull but Teather has produced a very expressive, fearful face gazing out the painting. The mask she is holding (the hands are excellent also), lifts the feeling and tone of this painting. Its very good.
The other, much better part of the show was in the old college building over the road. It was a curated show, curated by Kate Bryant of Soho House and Sky Landscape artists, and was called The Not 30%. All the artists were women (the show title is a reference to the fact that less than 30% or artists in galleries are women). It was a much better show. The standard was higher, and the fact that it was curated means it was more coherent. There was some very good stuff. I really liked these green leaves, in almost geometric forms by Marianne Hendriks (above left). They are rather like icons and I like the sort of flat quality to them, and the simple green, black, white colour combo. Works very well.
Clare Crouchman's work (above right) is in ceramics. Reminds me of Islamic tiles but the works are more individual and the geometries are more complex. The paler one above, is my favourite with those inter-connected black squares. Something hypnotic about them all.
The above two are by the same artist, and far and away my favourite of the show. Her name is Mila Morton and she paints with inks on Japanese paper. I am sucker for this kind of thing, and I found the long picture (above left) with its blobs and stripes of ink making an abstract tree like landscape. The kind of landscape you could get lost and dream in. I was stating at it for a long time, lamenting the fact I had not the £3,500 to buy it. Turned out the artist had some cheaper ones in a box, so I bought one of those.
The wrapping room was in the same space as a tattoo parlour that had been set up for the show. Have many people got tattoos, I asked, more than you might think, came the reply. GIven the buxom and scantily clad nature of the tattoo artists I am going to make a solid bet that many of those patients, I mean patrons, were males.
Finishing my review with two very different types of portrait. Above left you have Gigi Lopez with these misty, steamy, smoky pictures, streaked with odd yellow stripes and the people appearing only as silhouettes. I assume the two shown were a diptych as the shadows of one seem to form a whole with the shadows of the other. As with lots of good abstract art you can project what you like, this time yourself into the picture.
My keyboard doesn't have the necessary cedillas to do the above right artists name justice, it is Serpil Mavi Ustun, or at least that's as close as I can get. There is something very emotive about these oddly flat figures. Intimacy I suppose it is, especially the one with the rollers in her fair. They are fairly sparse pictures, allowing your mind space, space to write nonsense about them a week later.
Anyway you can't go to the show as if finished on the 7th October. You both did and didn't miss much.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.