Portmanteau Diary: Byam Shaw 100 Years - Central St Martins Fine Art and Architecture Exhibition

I grew up with art. Surrounded by art. Almost every holiday, throughout my childhood and teenagerhood, was planned around exhibitions and art fairs to an extent where I actually went through a phase of refusing to enter museums and used to just sit in the sun until my family came back out. I still find myself reluctant to delve too much into the art world - I know it too well to like it. However, I keep finding myself at art openings and galleries a lot more than I'd like to admit, simply because I am still surrounded by people involved in it (and I often wish they were fashion launches I get invited to instead). Needless to say that there is not a lot of art that touches me or manages to excite me. I tend to look at it, acknowledge it, but pick it apart before even being able to enjoy it. However, every now and then it does hit me, and so far it has done so with only a handful of artists, and even more concretely, only very few specific pieces of said artists, which I connect to on an absolutely personal level.

One of them is Jemma Austin. Jemma went through a phase a couple of years back of creating abstract expressionist paintings inspired by Mark Rothko, whose paintings themselves I count among the most boring I'd ever seen. I am a firm believer in the idea that art is personal and sure, I can acknowledge and even admire historical context and meaning, but that doesn't mean I like his pieces. Jemma, on the other hand, created a series of paintings which made me cry the first time I saw them. Bearing in mind I am not exactly a fan of abstract expressionists art (I prefer constructivist, clean, mathematical pieces), this came as quite a surprise. I bought two of her paintings, one of which is the center piece on my office wall and makes me sad and happy every day.


Ratio of Sorrow

So of course I didn't say no when she invited me to an exhibition at the Byam Shaw 100 Years foundation at Central St Martins. The fact that she is practically my sister in law plays only a minor role, I think, and I focused on trying to pick out the talent from the pool of rubbish that was unfortunately also present. Apart from painting and other countless talents, Jemma is also a gifted photographer, who strikingly depicted the concept of doll-like physicality and role playing that we are all involved in, not just when putting on make-up, but in general.


One of my favorite pieces of the whole exhibition was a canvas painting by Joshua Freddie Trewhella Vaughan.


His painting made me think of Keith Haring, both in thickness, strength of certainty in his execution despite the wavy, brain like curves and form of lines that he followed.


Photography by Annie Leibowitz

Hidden away in the hallway was a collection of paintings by Babette Semmer, which I would actually put up in my own hallway, and my picture really does not do it justice. A collection of twenty four contrast depictions of different variations of arms and leg compositions left the rest of the image to the imagination and manages to create an erratic, yet clean and balanced combination of shapes. And I am a sucker for black and white paintings anyway, so that might be one of the reasons I liked these two.


The only actual installation at the exhibition that appealed to me was that of Haruka Hashiguchi, who pedantically and precisely outlined a missing figure in a white space, which overshadowed all objects within it. I didn't quite see why she used fluffy wool, and colorful wool at that, but I enjoyed the concept of empty whiteness that is overshadowed by the absence of man. On top of that she had a striking resemblance to Susie Lau (susiebubble), which was perplexing.



There was also piece that made me chuckle. The piece was clearly a miniature model outlining what an exhibition space might have looked like could Jack Gregory Nelson have been bothered, had the money, space and time to do it properly. It wasn't his only piece, but his funniest. The third painting in a line says "Oh f*ck it" instead of having another would-be massive-mini geometric-constructivist painting. To me it was a very funny, tongue in cheek comment on the limitations of space and resources given in this space and how exactly that hinders the motivation of an artist. The fact that the third piece was just as neatly painted as the other two and the rest of the model underlines this.


Full of miniature figurines and constructed architectural pieces, Ellen Yeon Kim's fragile pieces reminded me of Jeanette Musatti's intricate worlds and surrealist depictions of situations, emotions and environments. I liked Ellen, she definitely contributed to the pieces by just being there herself. She was interesting, sweet, helpful and protectively surveying her (very big) corner of fragile installation in her amazing geek-meets-chic outfit.





“Sem título”(1987) by Jeanette Musatti


Despite the mix of talent and bad art I kept finding myself being distracted by some of the amazing outfits these students were donning and made me reminisce about the good ol' years I'd spent at Goldsmiths.


Taking the Miu Miu swallows found in every magazine a step further, though I'm sure not on purpose. Aren't they just the cutest, unbearably stylish couple?

Ranging from bared breasts (in form of a smoking Kate Moss) to Indian saris on a blond curly haired girl, funky head wear and perfectly placed chain necklaces on low cut tank tops and tailored short sleeved blazers on a guy, I thoroughly enjoyed the art-turned-fashion event.