Dix-Sept Murs & Une Fenêtre at On Off Gallery, Online
For this iteration of the online exhibition model, of which there are many with varying degrees of success and relevance, On Off Gallery is a project devised by Côme Clérino, Laurent Allard and Antoine Pintout featuring a high calibre of international artists curated together in a gorgeous virtual gallery setting. I saw a tweet the other day saying "if your gallery website wasn't an "online viewing room" before, what the hell was it?" and I can't help but be amused every time I see half-baked online exhibition concepts, but it must be said: 'Dix-Sept Murs et Une Fenêtre' is not one of them.
For starters, and on an entirely shallow level, the virtual space is beautiful to look at. On Off Gallery has certainly been modelled on a private gallery in London, New York or Paris but really this just exposes the absurdity of how my mind goes straight to these cities as the be-all and end-all of the art world. This gallery is an online space with no geographical footprint and this has made me even more excited to explore less centralised art scenes once lockdown is over. The press release, or exhibition description, emphasises the need for the viewer to adjust the screen and indeed their eyes in a slightly more concreted way than we might be used to in the real gallery, making the most of real engagement in the art despite the physical distance.
The first piece to really grab my attention is Isabelle Cornaro's 'Reproductions, Metronomie #2', a large pink-hued canvas of acrylic paint, which is clearly visible in the above screen grab. The curvature of the canvas to fit the virtual wall is incredibly satisfying on the eye, and the use of spray paint allows a blurred aesthetic that is somehow refreshing in a world full of minute, and sometimes excessive, detail. Truthfully, in the work you do not comprehend what you are looking at, or how you should feel. Yet, the colours are there to comfort and envelop you; the 'Metronomie #2' part of the title is grounding, much like the metronome of making and practicing music. As the exhibition description reminds us, if we somehow need reminding, being at home under lockdown leaves us with limited options, and Cornaro's painting finds us and helps us melt into the space of our body and stay mindful.
Either side of Cornaro's work are pieces bearing a similarity of lightly abstracted forms with an array of textures and allusions. It's all very sexy and so contemporary, it is difficult not to love it, even if we may not be able to fully explain why. Hugo Servanin's work is such a great pairing with Cornaro that I am pretty livid I hadn't curated this show myself; with clear influences from the likes of Donna Huanca and Marilyn Minter, the artist's sculptural work, which has been positioned to cleverly bridge the wall-based and sculptural segments of the show, is an intervention into what looks like a NSFW image. There is not much written about Servanin so I haven't been able to research him as much as I would like, however I am very much excited by what I'm seeing so will be keeping an eye out. 'Foule Média 1' is on display in the show, and with its frosted display of steel, glass, water, heater element and screen, it stands out as being a large scale, heavily weighted piece with a contrarily soft focused visual impact.
On Off Gallery's virtual space is comprised of four rooms, generally housing a different medium each, but it does not feel that they have been curated this way for this reason alone. The second room feels more active and ready to speak for itself. One particular work from Vera Kox's 'Footprints to Fingerprint' installation feels very apt, given our current situation of being unable to use our sense of touch while adhering to social distancing. In recent years the colour palette used in this work has been described as "Millennial Pink" and at the risk of fitting into the stereotype, I am always drawn to it. Alongside the tactile desirability of Kox's piece, this is an easy win for me.
Installation view: OrtaMiklos, Lily, 2019. Armchair, steel, cardboard pulp, paper, acrylic paint, polyurethane foam, 300cm x 165cm x 165cm. Image courtesy of Functional Art Gallery
Another work achingly relevant to the time we find ourselves in is 'Lily', a sculpture based on an armchair by artist duo OrtaMiklos, who are based between Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Les Moulins in France. Domesticity has adopted an entirely different meaning since enforced lockdown, (some would argue how strict it has actually been here in the UK, to devastating effect) with stories of domestic abuse cases spiking and overcrowded accommodation, especially in cities, causing contamination. Again the pink and purple hues make the viewer's eye go straight to the work, yet the exposed foam brings a level of awkwardness about how the original structure of the armchair would be enjoyed as such.
The space between feeling comfortable and being irked are seemingly explored here, and while the viewer is at home with constant looming fear and uncertainty, the show does an excellent job of mirroring our current concerns and state of being. Even a hanging work by Olivia Bax, who is something of a firm favourite in London's art scene, hangs over us, ready to pounce. 'Chute' is tucked into a corner and is not jostling for our attention as much as the other pieces due to its pastel blue hue, however it does have a resemblance to a human bent over, perhaps attempting domestic errands, upside down. There is an undeniable tension present in the work, and its title does suggest a movement towards the humbling place of the ground. Amidst an array of sub-par online exhibitions, 'Dix-Sept Murs & Une Fenêtre' really stands out as a sophisticated but also fun and weirdly attractive show with a truy high calibre of artists. Everything has been thoroughly thought out, right down to the textures and palettes complementing each other in dialogue, telling stories between the artworks.