Flowers Gallery: Small is Beautiful XXXI - Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue? (until 4th January 2014)

At the Kingsland Road branch of Flowers Gallery, E2, the current exhibition is 'Small Is Beautiful XXXI'. As you may be able to tell from the title, this annual showcase is now running, rather impressively, into its thirty-first year. The pitch for this exhibition, again self-evident, is that the works cannot exceed 9 x 7 inches. Presenting such a challenge to the artists involved allows them to show us raw and concentrated art, comprising of aesthetically pleasing content and evocative context.

There are one hundred and fifty eight pieces included in this year's exhibition, so I do suggest that you visit them for yourself, as I will only refer to the canvases or sculptures that attracted me personally. Being one among such a vast number provides a form of charming chaos for both the individual piece and the visitor, as meandering around the exhibition, you find there is much to digest. The fact that Flowers have curated a collection with such a vast range of media and artists is thrilling to be immersed in, as there are so many canvases fighting for your attention.

The first item that succeeded in doing this was in fact a sculpture. One may think that this is an obvious thing to occur, as the sculpture was physically dislocated from the walls that the canvases are subjected to, however the aspect that I was drawn to was the childlike construction of Emily Mayer's 'Halcyon'. I should imagine that adhering to the 9 x 7 inches rule of 'Small Is Beautiful' is difficult but if an artist is adamant to submit a piece of sculpture, then it can produce a highly positive piece. Comprising of what appears to be office and DIY utensils, Mayer's piece uses the red, yellow and blue of the title for the creation of a bird. Using the bright, playful colours and the strong, sharp design shows that combining such elements can form a universally relevant and pleasing result. Naturally the sculpture will not be to the taste of every visitor, but a strength of the exhibition is that in caters to a great number.

A piece that could not be any more dissimilar from Mayer's playful ethos is Paul Tecklenberg's 'Spook'. Perhaps my favourite piece of the exhibition, the artist uses photography to form a supernatural image, with great emphasis on the natural dark tones he has embraced from his subject matter. A visually stunning piece of photography, 'Spook' provides a narrative that is familiar to most of us from films, folk tales etc, of a mystical forest. It appears that Tecklenberg wants to show us the depths of our own imagination, as there is a constant fascination with the unknown, and the glowing white focus in the middle (which in fact is not so much of a focus, as the rest of the image contends with it beautifully) reinforces this, suggesting how there is more beauty and wonder than we could ever facilitate in the realms of the unknown.

Although the exhibition is in no shortage of playful pieces with a secondary meaning, a piece that will capture the viewer regardless of their individual intention is Alyssa Monks' oil painting 'Being'. Her personal website claims that she is 'a figurative painter, blurring the line between abstraction and realism'. The portrait is essentially stunning. The textural detail that Monks has added with the white oil depicting the moisture brings the entire image to a new dimension, and as the subject looks submerged in the water, the viewer feels drawn to breathe in the place of the artist's girl. Monks is certainly an artist deserving of further research, and as such I have learnt that she paints her other portraits in a similar way, each exuberant with life and realism. The artist has exhibited at a wide range of exhibitions and events, excitingly including the Venice Biennale this year. However it is not often that she exhibits in the UK, so I wholeheartedly encourage you to visit this exhibition, to witness the practice of this talented artist.


'Being', an oil painting by Alyssa Monks. 
Image courtesy of www.alyssamonks.com

If you are intending to visit this exhibition, as an after-thought I recommend looking out for pieces such as Srinivas Kuruganti's 'Bodoland 1', a photographer specialising in candid shots of India presents a piece that will not be entirely unfamiliar to the viewer, but is inherently beautiful and poignant. Kuruganti is another artist whose work is definitely worth researching, especially his 'High Risk' collection, documenting the HIV/Aids issue in India, illuminating its sinister edge with the use of greyscale photography.


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