Issy Wood at Goldsmiths CCA

Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art is, as the name suggests, located in the grounds of Goldsmiths College, which is probably the most renowned art school in the country, for a variety of reasons. An entertaining documentary was made in 2010 by BBC Four called 'Goldsmiths: But is it Art?' which is worth checking out if you're not familiar with what goes on there. Back to the review, and Goldsmiths CCA is not strictly linked to the students but London-based Issy Wood is alumna from the BA Fine Art and History of Art course in 2015.

Installation view. Issy Wood, All The Rage, Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, 2019. Photos: Mark Blower.

The building itself is also of interest, having only opened last year it was designed by Assemble, the Turner Prize-winning design collective. It's been fairly divisive but ultimately it is a great addition to Goldsmiths' real estate in the area. Goldsmiths CCA is currently split between Wood's paintings, a second show in the lower ground floor by the late Jef Cornelis and a fantastic smaller exhibition by Corey Hayman; the shows are very different but painting, sculpture and video work are sufficiently different to permit our attention spans to enjoy all three. I have seen a few exhibitions at the gallery since it opened and Wood's seems the most polished. Her work was at Paris Internationale last year with the gallery Carlos/Ishikawa and I instantly fell in love; the distinctive murky and earthy tones are undeniably enticing.

Installation view. Issy Wood, All The Rage, Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, 2019. Photos: Mark Blower.

In the upstairs galleries, the show starts looking incredibly polished and, frankly, expensive. Larger scale works are spaced out beautifully, allowing for ample space to observe both Wood's painting skill and the assets of the building. Emerging artists gaining institutional recognition are increasingly using more explicit references to global art histories, and iconography from Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt show an artist well in their stride and one who would not look out of place at the Tate or Hirschhorn.

Goldsmiths CCA's press release identifies how the artist "impulsively renders apparently unconnected subject matter on lush velvet or discarded items of clothing, mimicking the non-sequiturs of social media", and bringing more traditional forms and styles of painting into the contemporary moment is pretty delicious. There is one gallery in the building that I entered on [what was at the time] the hottest day of the year, the opening evening, only to be met by further sweltering heat as the room is seemingly made, if not lined, with a thick, molten metal. In that space lies three large scale paintings, one of which is 'Light layers / go, Daddy 3', a huge painting of a leather jacket split between purple and black. The materiality and evocations associated with different materials and objects is surely Wood's specialty, as I felt myself moving closer wanting to touch the work, excited further in learning that it was comprised of oil paint on velvet.

Issy Wood, Light layers / go, Daddy 3, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Carlos/Ishikawa.

'All the Rage' is a phrase you don't hear much anymore, and it does sound quite dated to hear it again, but it is reminiscent of fashion, which is a significant element of the exhibition. While it is less focused on trends, part of the show is Wood's paintings on repurposed articles of clothing. This didn't make much sense to me initially, but the understanding that we are witnessing the materialising of the ridiculous and uncanny nature of our online world and social media brings this together. We are then reminded that, even though Wood's work is comforting to look at in its style and subject matter, 'All the Rage' gives the audience the space to not only be fully immersed in the paintings, but also to think deeper about each idea beyond the surface. 

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