Natalia Zagórska-Thomas wearing Julia Schrader. Photo © Jens Schaumann.
DS: Well, we managed to negotiate our way out of 2016 only to find 2017 looming before us like a rogue ice shelf. Yet although the festive season was full of foreboding there were occasional moments of optimism amidst the gloom; one of the most enjoyable events in my pre-Christmas calendar was the private view of Call of the Wild at Studio Ex Purgamento in Camden.
Antlers © Julia Schrader.
Visitors to the gallery are often wrong-footed by the address; it is located in a second-floor extension in a private home, a flat that belongs to artist and conservator Natalia Zagórska-Thomas and her husband Simon. If there was ever an enterprise that demonstrated devotion to an ideal of what art can and should be, Studio Ex Purgamento is it.
Going into the Thing Seriously; or These Influences Have Been Exerted for Good. © Natalia Zagórska-Thomas (alternative titles provided for the artist by Diane Williams).
Profit, apart from a tiny percentage above a certain price to try to recover some costs, goes to artists directly. Some years we sell a lot; others, not at all. I want to show established names alongside lesser known artists whose work interests me, and to mix visual art forms with text, design, performance, architecture, design, music and science. I show many Polish artists to promote their profile and contribution to the culture of the city.
As to the current show, Natalia describes it thus: This is not a tidy show. This is not a tidy subject. What I wanted is what I think I always want: a contemporary version of the cabinet of curiosities, a camera obscura, an idiosyncratic collection of specimens picked up along the way. It feels like life: messy, chaotic, undisciplined, joyous, violent and confusing.
Pale Blue Hexapod © Danuta Sołowiej.
Somehow, Natalia has managed to fit work by 25 artists into her small gallery; these include sculptures by Almuth Tebbenhof, Danuta Sołowiej, and Andrzej Maria Borkowski, wearable art by Julia Schrader, photographs by Jens Schaumann, Marzena Pogorzały (whose images of massive Antarctic ice sheets are elegant visual tokens of the strangled metaphor I opened with) and your own correspondent. The show also features an extraordinary ‘biological’ installation by Heather Barnett, and poems by such luminaries (and friends of The London Column) as Roisin Tierney, Christopher Reid and Katy Evans Bush.
Ice 3. © Marzena Pogorzaly.
© Andrzej Maria Borkowski.
You hardly need me to tell you that the London art scene is full of bullshit, any more than you need me to tell you that 2017 could be a rough year. We will need all the optimism we can get our hands on; and any blows against philistinism or the dead weight of cultural conformity are as welcome as they are necessary. As Katy Evans-Bush writes in Call of the Wild‘s exhibition catalogue: ‘At the time of going to print no one knows what’s going to happen next. Old ways of being uncivilised are being exhumed and new ones invented. The one thing we do know is that we will need to call on all our most civilised impulses – as well as our deepest, wildest aardvark’. Or, to put it another way, if you think the world is going to end tomorrow, plant a tree today. (Who said that? Answers on a postcard to …)
Ruan Minor, Cornwall, 1978. © David Secombe.
Gallery photos by Natalia.
Call of the Wild runs at Studio Ex Purgamento until 15 January; open weekends from 11 am — 6 pm. To visit during the week, call for an appointment. (132D Camden Street, London NW1 0HY; 07799 495549; email@example.com. http://www.studioexpurgamento.com.)
Empty Office, Clerkenwell, 2002. Photo © Peter Marlow.
The office as its redundant workers move out is spotted with relics of human degradation: that is, of the letdown from future perfect to mere life.
The screw stuck in the wall, reminder of that award for the old campaign that no one still here now remembers – although it was great work and targets were exceeded – surrounded by nails that hold their heads proud, knowing they held up the proofs of its successes.
Comfortable tea stains, paper clips wedged where the desk didn’t quite meet the wall, a blotched photo of Sarah who worked here half a decade ago, with a small child; she’d be wanting that back, if anyone knew where to find her now. Bits of phone chargers. A chocolate egg in foil. A bit of silk ribbon, some one-legged scissors, a dusty old bottle of Bristol Cream: why is it blue? Are they really that colour? A sad pile of paperbacks no one will ever read: Windows for Dummies and guides to blogging for businesses. Blu-Tack smears where no one thought they’d matter. Sticker-marks on the phones, where someone put the new supplier’s number. Dirt on the sills from the plants the receptionist had to water, because optimism always wins out. Optimism and sheer daily labour.
Things can’t stay clean forever. People are people and every negotiation will be tarnished. Its spreading spots will eat at your blind belief in silver and grey and the functional streamline that bypasses doubt and loops back to the bank, via mobile phones, and suits with reinforced shoulders, and platinum cardholders.
Forget your cheap tiles screaming masculine thrust from the Carpetland down on the roundabout. This office was made for pink fluffy sweaters, cake crumbs, to-do lists, pictures of cats, the darkening water in a vase, nail files and overstuffed folders.
… this is a reprise of one of The London Column’s early posts, from June 2011, in tribute to the English photographer Peter Marlow who died last month.
All photos © Tim Marshall 2014.
To the tune of Alabama Song*:
Well, show me the way
to the next hipster bar.
Oh, don’t ask why.
Oh, don’t ask why.
Show me the way
to the next whiskered bard.
Oh, he won’t shave;
oh don’t ask why.
For if we don’t find
the next hipster bar,
in bitcoins we can’t pay;
in Shoreditch we will die.
I tell you, I text you,
I tell you we must die.
Sing me Kurt Vile
in the next hipster bar.
Oh, don’t ask why.
Oh, you know why.
Oh, moon of dear old Hoxton,
We now must say goodbye:
We’ve lost our sense of purpose
And need hipsters to show us why.
Oh, moon of Dalston Junction,
It’s good morning, not goodbye.
We’ve missed our good old night bus,
We need espresso, oh, you know why.
Show me the link
to the best hipster URL,
it will lead the way.
It will lead the way.
Oh, retro moon of London,
How analogue you are!
We lost all our signal,
down in the cellar bar.
Oh, moon of old Stoke Newington,
We ne’er must say goodbye.
You shine on our old-style Instagrams;
We need filters, don’t ask why.
The moon shines over Clapton
and we now must say goodbye.
Some of us live in Walthamstow`
(though others would rather die).
Well, show me the way
to the next lo-fi bar.
The wood’s all ply,
the wood’s all ply.
For if we don’t find
a plaid-shirted earl
I tell you we must lie,
and tell them it’s this guy.
They’ll trust you. I’ll text you.
I tell you we must lie.
Show me the place
where the real hipsters are.
They don’t ask why,
they don’t care why.
Oh, moon of Lea Bridge Roundabout
Like bunting in the sky:
We’ve lost our good old Rastas,
And must have hipsters, oh, who knows why.
Anglers on the river Lea. © Homer Sykes 2006.
These two men were fishing in this spot in 2006. For all we know, they’d sat there every available Saturday since they were ten. But we know they’re not sitting there now. It’s in the past – that is, it’s in the Olympic ‘Park’.
The website for the adjacent Walthamstow Marshes says: ‘The reserve is one of the few remaining pieces of London’s once widespread river valley grasslands, and a space to treasure for many reasons!’
The Wikipedia page for the Lower Lea Valley, which means roughly the same place, says ‘the Olympic Games… will provide a legacy of facilities for this currently run-down area. There are plans to redevelop all the derelict and underutilised [sic] parts of the valley, which will take until 2020 or beyond’.
… for The London Column.
A selection of pictures from Before the Blue Wall, Homer Sykes’s project documenting the Lea Valley prior to the Olympic redevelopment, may be seen at the Green Lens Gallery (4a Atterbury Road, London N4 1SF) until the 25th of July. Homer’s website is here.
And so the day ends. The summer is a particular kind of time, like high noon: a bit brutalist. It doesn’t allow many shadings: you’re either in it or you’re not. The Heath gives a respite, with its dark nooks and ancient crannies, and the thronging Bank Holiday weekend is the end of empiricist summer. September, as timeless in its way as summer is always trying to be the new thing, is a second chance to bathe in warmth and light, in the presence – but still beyond the reach – of gathering autumn. For those of us who can’t relax when the whole world is ordering us to, and those who can’t go away somewhere in the de rigeur month of August, September is a valediction.
So into the woods we go. Not a wolf in sight. KEB
… for The London Column © Katy Evans-Bush 2011
Katy Evans-Bush’s new book is Egg Printing Explained
buy The Heath, by Andy Sewell
Things people do on Hampstead Heath:
Argue, bathe, be a human sculpture, break up, build a snowman, Capoeira, carve their initials, climb the hill, compose poetry in their head, cottage, daydream, do magic tricks, drink Ribena, eat crisps, examine the evidence, expose themselves, fall in love, fantasise about the past, forget the city, gaze at the city, get lost, get mugged, go fly a kite, go walking with granny, grope a stranger, hide from the mob, idealise the past, identify trees and insects out of a book, imagine the Heath full of wolves, jog, kiss, knit under a tree, laugh, lie in the grass, look at the sky, look for their lover’s lost wedding ring, look for their lover, make friends, meditate, mug someone, nobble an acquaintance by the bathing pond, open a packet of biscuits, play with the baby, pose, pull the dog on the lead, push-ups, quaff wine, question reality, read a book, read a Kindle, record a video, search for the change that fell from their pockets, shelter from the rain, sit on blankets, slip on the ice, splash, stare at the ground, strain their muscles, sunbathe, surreptitiously check their emails, Tai chi, tea and cakes at Kenwood, think about John Keats, think about what to have for dinner, tread carefully in the mud, unravel their picnic blanket, unravel the mysteries of the universe, visit Uncle Walter’s bench, walk off the tea and cakes, watercolours, weight training, whistle with a blade of grass, wish there weren’t so many people around, worry, write a book, yodel, zzzzz.
… for The London Column, © Katy Evans-Bush 2011
Andy Sewell’s book The Heath may be purchased here.
The Bog of Despair
We’d lunched on Greek salad and coffee
In a place with white walls and a skylight,
And when the guy in the corner’s phone
Went off in a polyphonic can-can
We laughed without even trying to hide it.
We’d looked in a shop where a scarf
Of silk sat waiting for me to buy it,
And walked past a dog in a puddle
Of mud, who shook his coat,
But missed us – and we laughed.
The Heath was lovely that day –
The air was full of spring.
We’d walked up a foresty path,
Past a rubber hung like a thief on a tree,
Full of swag, and we’d laughed and laughed.
We’d walked past the swimming pond
And up the mound of Parliament Hill,
Talking about John Keats,
And other people we know, and the dog,
Looking for somewhere to sit, and laughing.
But every bench we came to
Was engraved in memory of someone
Loved and regretted, young, a child.
I imagined them sitting quiet
Along the hill, or invisibly playing.
The benches sat on a fat slope
Far from the blue chiffon horizon,
The blink of Canary Wharf,
The London Eye’s diamond necklace.
We read them, and flinched, and laughed.
We turned and started down:
You had to get your kids from school,
And I had a shiny scarf to get,
And the jeweller’s-window view
Of London had ceased to amuse us.
Your new shoes from Paris stuck
In the mud, and we laughed: the Bog
Of Despair! We laughed because
We could feel, behind us, up the hill,
The children watching us.
see Me and the Dead, by Katy Evans-Bush
see The Heath, by Andy Sewell