Gazelli Art House: James Ostrer 'Wotsit All About?' (until 11th September 2014)

Gazelli Art House, W1, is, for me, one of the most exciting art galleries in the Mayfair area. My last visit involved a re-imagining of Francis Bacon's triptych, 'Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards', where artist Michel Platnic produced a video piece literally bringing the painting to life. Witnessing this displayed across the gallery's upstairs window space inspired an essay I wrote, pitching a link between Platnic's interpretation and twentieth-century Futurist ideals. But I digress - today's visit was preoccupied by the work of James Ostrer, whose current exhibition addresses the issue of excessive consumption in the West, as the artist uses food to convey whimsical, comical characters relating to human attributes.

One of the first bright and bold features of the gallery space to notice is the wallpaper which lies under each photographic piece. These include the popular sweets, strawberry laces, and other deep fried treats, so as to entice the viewer and test how they react to the magnified goods. With Ostrer's constant use of intense, electric colours, it can be difficult to assert your attention thoroughly. This conundrum is most certainly present  for the collection to the first wall on the right hand side. Twelve 'portrait' photographs show the viewer the artist's ideas on both the vast waste and consumption of food. Excess is conveyed by Ostrer's use of colour in the food. 'EF 117', pictured below, uses bright, artificial blue and a deep red of the sweets against a black background to highlight how unnatural these tones are in respect of food.

'EF 117' by James Ostrer
Image courtesy of www.hungertv.com

As with 'EF 117', we can see a strong comic element to the collection, as the artist clearly wishes to deviate from a photojournalistic feel. While a more traditional rebuking of Western fast food habits might show health defects or revisit the obesity epidemic, Ostrer shows us a messy, modern take on Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach's famous phrase: "man is what he eats". So when we are consuming this vast array of artificial colours and flavours, what does this make us? 'EF 117' has the addition of the long strawberry laces falling from the mouth of the model, producing a rather nauseating effect.

It is clear that the artist is providing a satire on Western eating habits, but it also seems that his work delves deeper than the mere dietary perspective, as the viewer cannot help but sense that Ostrer has a wider concern with Western greed. The artificial nature of each photograph resonates with the ludicrous amount of money spent on vanity, from beauty products to plastic surgery, (according to The Daily Mail, the average woman will spend £18,000 "on her face" in a lifetime) accentuating the disparity with the fact that many around the world cannot afford food and shelter.

On this slightly more complex level, entering the final room provides an entirely different tone. During my last visit, this section was exhibiting work by a different artist to the main gallery space so possessed an ambiance deviating greatly from the rest of the gallery. However, now we have the climax of Ostrer's sweet canvases; these larger pieces are full-frontal depictions of the artist's ongoing theme of Western excess. This is intelligently emphasised by contrasting the models, apparently often himself, in almost tribal styles, including a basic, makeshift throne, as seen below. The full-body images are presented in a dark room with the exception of the spotlights which illuminate each photograph. The simplicity of this room's curation is both refreshing and alarming in stark contrast to the brash clash of the colours found in the previous space. While Gazelli Art House presents Ostrer's ideas, and subsequent concerns, with fervor, there is a certain aesthetic value which is likely to appease a younger audience and those with an interest in the role of colour in contemporary art.

'EF 127.5' by James Ostrer
Image courtesy of www.gazelliarthouse.com

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