Contemporary Visions V

Installation View (Jose Carlos Naranjo & Luke Armitstead)
Install View (work of Luke Armitstead)
Installation View (Oliver Hickmet)
Installation View (Alan Sastre)
Installation View (Austin Ballard & Felicity Hammond)
Installation View (Luke Armitstead)
Installation View (Peter Baader & Max Olofsson)
Installation View/office (Jonny Green)
Installation View (Jonny Green & Austin Ballard)
Detail (Oliver Hickmet)

Exhibition Preview: Thursday, 29 January, 2015 / 6-9pm 
Exhibition Dates: 30 January - 7 March 2015 
 
Luke Armitstead |  Peter Baader  |  Austin Ballard  |  Jonny Green   |    Jose Carlos Naranjo
Max Olofsson  |  Felicity Hammond  |  Oliver Hickmet  |  Alan Sastre

Contemporary Visions V is Beers Contemporary's fifth annual open-call group exhibition. This year, nearly 2,000 applicants were adjudicated by Amanda Coulson (Artistic Director of VOLTA New York/Basel); Paul Carter-Robinson (Editor Artlyst); Kurt Beers (Director of Beers Contemporary, Author of 100 Painters of Tomorrow); as well as previous exhibitor, artist Phil Woodward.
    
Since its inception, the Contemporary Visions group exhibition has sought to identify current trends in contemporary art through the discovery of exciting emerging artists working across all artistic disciplines.  The fifth instalment presents nine international artists who stretch the limits of their practice to create works that are playfully abstract, invariably bright, with a distinctive, almost acerbic energy. Together, they create a vision of contemporary art that is both unique and referential, quoting from an art historical language and disciplines to reinterpret and reinvent their chosen media.

Austin Ballard’s organic sculptural forms, like concrete coral forms are tempered by the inclusion of metal and carpentry – as well as a severity of materiality. Here, the corporeal tactility of Ballard’s organic form (like some candy-colored Rebecca Warren cast-off) interlocks intimately, contradictorily, with a barely-visible pane of glass, creating a subtle tension between the materials, poised delicately on tip-toe. Like many works on exhibit, one sees a dialogue that playfully mimics the manmade structure and the natural landscape. Throughout Ballard’s practice, Ballard’s sculptures often appear to defy gravity, precariously dangling on one edge of a surface, plinth or clay foot; certainly a further reminder of the fragile and perilous relationships created both in – and out – of studio…a grand metaphor for our social interactions, perhaps?

Similarly, Luke Armitstead's ceramics interact with their surrounding space by playfully questioning their status as objects of 'use' or 'decoration'. These colourful, geometrically-charged forms often take the shape of deconstructed architectural models, appropriating the shapes of funky planters, tribal masks, or even a 1980s punk-aesthetic: the ‘figure’ in Caught & Twisted even has a barely-there ‘ear piercing’.  From here we are asked to consider Oliver Hickmet’s work, (the installation seen here inspired by the kitsch of travel brochures,) which explores a relationship between truth and artifice through painting, sculpture, even video, to investigate the role that the 'image' plays in forming a globalised culture and language. His practice invites us to question discrepancies that exist in any aesthetic dialogue, as well as in contemporary society more generally, and the highly mediated experiences of life we have become so used to consuming. Max Olofsson reaffirms this: his 'digital paintings' use a universal pixelated language to create a pastiche of visual clichés. His digital-photograph-paintings thus reverse the relationship between ‘original’ and ‘documentation’ to relinquish the very concept of being limited to (or inhibited by) a single artistic medium or method of display or hierarchical mode of expression (where cartoon eyeballs meet ‘high art’). These are artists actively challenging the barrier between real and imagined, high and low, fine art and hobby: such a challenging of form and content has never felt so topical. 
 
Felicity Hammond’s photographic compositions – like monumental explorations in nature versus that of a digital world - explore the constant construction and destruction of the urban environment. She is keen to remind us of its artifice: her most recent series depicts the transformative landscape of East London – depicted here as a apocalyptic-cum-utopian wasteland – seems like an updated tribute to Venetian scenic painting, is steeped in an unearthly cobalt hue: a color scientifically proven to trigger cognitive pleasure. Together these still images feel charged, as though reverberating with the movement of unearthly urban decay. The entire composition questioning the authority of photography to depict reality – or, its ability to manipulate the viewer into interpreting it with veracity and verisimilitude.
 
Jonny Green performs a similar ruse: first composing small maquettes, the artist then painstakingly repaints these still-lives (or are they figurative paintings) with oil on canvas. The resulting hyper-real paintings depict crudely rendered Play-Doh monsters, decked out in dollar-store Christmas lights, paper flowers and decommissioned clock parts. But what is hyper-real when the subject itself is not ‘real’? Here we believe the artist as omniscient. But we are reminded that we are viewing a carefully recreated scene, a painter's scarecrow, meant to trick us into believing the silliness and its veracity like a type of representational mise-en-abyme. True, they are hyperreal, but to what extent, if the very imagery they depict is itself so detached from reality? Jose Carlos Naranjo Bernal, the only other representational painter here, finds a breakdown of reality through mark-making, where subject matter seems incidental, almost as an afterthought to their framing within the painted plane: where elements of urbanity (a chainlike fence, for instance) becomes a purely aesthetic pattern. Where a blue-black silhouette leads us to read such a mark as a figurative painting?  
 
Alan Sastre’s paintings, for instance, don't feel like paintings at all. Awash in psychedelic hues and a determined working (and reworking) of their surface texture, where wide brushwork and the attention to their topographic nature belies such a miniature scale. These small tokens seem like leftovers of cyber-reality; almost jewel-like, radioactive remnants that seem to buzz and hum with an unearthly glow. Neither fully painterly nor fully sculptural, they sit paradoxically between states. Comparatively, Peter Baader's paintings refute entry, pushing viewers away from the illusion of infinite space and establishing their flatness and artifice. As a result, his canvases – like Sastre’s - become ambiguous, as though both referentially laden and void, where we are viewing an expanded field of sorts, an abstract reality of the artists own imagination. In fact, this is where each of the artist’s finds their link to the other – not through their hyper color-schemes or playful disposition, but through ideas of recognition and interpretation. So what is a true ‘Contemporary Vision’? Perhaps, these artists suggest, the ability to inspire beyond the limits of our perception of reality, to question through form, content, and function, and blur lines between the real and the imagined?
 
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LUKE ARMITSTEAD (b. 1989, Seattle) obtained a BFA in Ceramics, Sculpture, Painting, Design from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 2011 and his postgrad in Ceramics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2014. He has been part of several group exhibition including MONSTRVM IN HORTO, Courtney Blades, Chicago (2014); clay/material, UW Madison Ceramics, Common Wealth Gallery, Madison (2014); Overture Center for the Arts: “Elevating Clay: From the Wheel to the Wall”, Madison (2014); Hundred$, Zenxyth Art Collective, Madison (2013); Furniture 2013, Johnson Trading Gallery, New York (2013); Palm Reader, So What Space, New York (2013). Armitstead has been featured in publications such as: Dazed Digital “10 of the best Chicago artists right now” and Sight Unseen “Eye Candy: Luke Armitstead’s Ceramics”. The artists live and work in Seattle, WA.
 
PETER BAADER (b. 1965, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany) graduated from the Karlsruhe and Düsseldorf University of the Arts in the classes of Max G.Kaminski, Nan Hoover and Nam June Paik. Among the scholarships and prizes awarded to the artist are the Floodriver Residency Gartow (2014), the Förderpreis Jakob Eschweiler Stiftung Cologne (2009) and the Artist In Residence Bundanon Trust Nowra Australia (2003). His works are represented in renowned private and public collections such as the collection of Thyssen (Düsseldorf), Collezione Boltano (Zürich/Mailand) and Forum für Kunst (Herzogenrath). The artist lives and works in Köln, Germany.
 
AUSTIN BALLARD (b. 1987, United States) received his MFA in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design and his BFA from University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he also served as an assistant professor. Ballard has received numerous grants and awards including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Sculpture Scholarship, the Dan Bown Project Award, Jeanne Stahl-Webber Sculpture Scholarship, Rhode Island School of Design Graduate Studies Grant, the Attilio and Emma Della Biancia Scholarship and a 2014 Windgate Fellowship. He has received coverage for his work in the Providence Journal, the Charlotte Observer, ArtCat, Flux-Boston, Field Projects, and LVL3. He has been awarded full fellowships to Sculpture Space, Ox-Bow School of Art, Vermont Studio Center, Wassaic Project, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. Ballard has exhibited in over 30 group exhibitions including receiving the Grand Prize at the 2012 Boston Young Contemporaries exhibit at Boston University. Previous solo exhibitions include, The Shadow of the Palm is Deep at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT (2013), The Indivisibles at Napoleon in Philadelphia, PA (2013), and Phase of the Devout at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY (2012). Ballard is featured in private collections throughout the US and the UK. 
 
JOSE CARLOS NARANJO (b. 1983, Cadiz, Spain) graduated in Fine Arts, specialized in painting from the University of Seville where he also received his Master of Arts in Theory and Practice. Solo exhibitions include Ojo por Ojo. Sala Rivadavia, Fundación Provincial de Cádiz. Diputación de Cádiz (2014); Caprichos y Disparates. Galería Birimbao, Seville (2012) and selected group exhibitions include NEIGHBOURS II, CAC, Malaga (2014); SUMMA ART FAIR, Matadero Madrid, Galería Casa Cuadrada, Colombia (2014); Plan Renove. Plaza del Pumarejo, Seville (2014); XVIII BMW de Pintura. Casa de Vacas, Madrid (2013); Open Studio, SVA- School Visual Art, New York (2013); XIV Convocatoria Internacional de Jóvenes Artistas, Galería Luis Adelantado, Valencia (2012); Crisis, ayer y hoy 1912-2012, Galería Birimbao, Seville (2012). His work is part of several collections CAC Malaga, Spain; BMW Spain; ARS CITERIOR, Elche, Spain; SCAN, London and foundations Ruiz-Mateos, Spain; Cajasur, Cordoba, Spain; Henrique Leotte, Portugal; Rodríguez-Acosta, Granada, Spain; Museo Alcalá de Guadaíra, Seville, Spain; Museo Europeo de Arte Moderno, Barcelona; Foundation of Arts and Artists, Barcelona; University of Seville and UNIA, International University of Andalusia. The artist currently lives and works in London.
 
JONNY GREEN (b. 1966, North Yorkshire) graduated from the Royal College of Art with a Masters degree in Fine Art (painting). In the years immediately following art school the artist exhibited extensively both in England and the US, including representing England for the F.I.A.R. Art Prize, an international touring exhibition of the most promising young painters from several different countries. After a break from painting of nearly ten years (during which time he wrote, recorded and released 5 major label albums, toured the world as a musician, wrote 2 short movie soundtracks ((produced by Spike Jonze)) and had his songs used for numerous TV ads), Jonny returned to painting. Recent exhibition highlights have included a museum show ‘Beastly Hall’ at Hall Place in Kent alongside Carsten Höller and Damien Hirst as well as the Nanjing International Art Show in China.
 
MAX OLOFSSON (b. 1983, Gothenburg, Sweden) received his Master in Fine Arts from the Kungliga Konsthögskolan (Royal Institute of Art), Stockholm, Sweden in 2012 as well as his BFA in 2010. Selected solo shows include SCARF (Scandinavian Online Art Fair) - Digital Solo Show, for Stene Projects (2013); WTITB - What's That in The Background? – with Sebastian Nordbeck, Stene Projects, Stockholm (2013); Where To Now? (#2), Stene Projects, Stockholm (2012). Previous group exhibitions include Secret Show (a real allegory of a seven year phase of my artistic (and moral) life), De Geersgatan 10, Stockholm (2013); The Daytime Nesting Project, Edelman PR byrå + Stene Projects, Stockholm (2012); Ett Rop Från Barken (A Cry From Barken), Smedjebacken, Sweden (2011); Sumiko, Tokyo, Japan (2010). The artist has also been part of the Karbenning Biennal, Stationshusets Första Biennal, Sweden (2013) and Hjärta Spel - Traveling Group Show, Datamuseet, Östergötlands museum, Linköping, the show will travel to different museums around Sweden until the end of 2014. The artist lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden.
 
FELICITY HAMMOND (b. 1988, Birmingham) holds a Master degree in Photography from the Royal College of Art, London, 2014 and a BA in Fine Art Photography from the University of Gloucestershire, 2011. Selected exhibitions include Secret, Dyson Gallery, RCA (2014 and 2013); Splinter, Michael Hoppen Gallery, London (2013); ‘Photo Off’ Salon 2013, La Bellvilloise, Paris (2013); Open Studios, Cite Internationale Des Artes, Paris (2013); Made In Bow, Nunnery Gallery, London (2013); BYT (solo show), Westland Place Studios, London (2012); The Other Art Fair, Ambika P3, London (2012); PWP International Open Call Exhibition, NO Gallery, New York (2012); Tower Hamlets Spring Open, Mile End Art Pavilion, London (2012); Altered Reality, Calumet Photo Gallery, New York (2011); AOP Awards, AOP Gallery, London (2011). Felicity Hammond received the Metro Magazine Price, 2014 and First Prize, PWP 36th International Open Call Competition, (Composites), New York, 2012. The artist currently lives and works in London.
 
OLIVER HICKMET (b. 1992, Crawley, UK) graduated from the Fine Art Foundation, Byam Shaw School of Art and holds a BA in Fine Art from the City and Guilds of London Art School, 2014. Selected exhibitions include Recent Graduates, AAF, London (2014); Air, Piemonte Contemporary, Italy (2014); (DE)TOUR, Siauliu Gallery, Lithuania (2014); Need You 100%, Display Gallery, London (2014); Inside the Sarcophagus, MKII, London (2013); HacktheBarbican, Barbican Centre, London (2013); BA Interim Show, Factory Space, London (2013); +44, ArtsLav, London (2012); GRASSGRASS, Press Play Gallery, London (2012). Hickmet also attended a residency at the Martini Arte Internazionale, Turin, Italy, 2014. Oliver Hickmet lives and works in London.
 
ALAN SASTRE (b. 1977, Barcelona, Spain) attended the University of Barcelona and the Cooper Union School of Art, New York. Selected shows include Treatham Festival 14, ASC Studios, London (2014); Shuffle, Kreuzberg Pavillon. Berlin (2014); Hart Hat, ART NAKED. Library, London (2014); ALAN SASTRE // DUOLOGUE // JOSÉ ALCAÑIZ, Southfields Gallery, London (2013); PICTOBCN, Art production and research center Hangar, Barcelona (2013); Kaleidoscope, Mowlem Studios, London (2013); The Art Of Curiosity, Curious Duke Gallery, London (2013); Plaga Festival, Barcelona (2013); Barcelona Meeting Point, Barcelona (2010). The artist has also been acquired by the University of Barcelona; Das Eschmertal Museum, Herne, Germany; Rodriguez Acosta Foundation, Granada, Spain and Llotja Advanced School of Art, Barcelona. Alan Sastre lives and works in London.