Brockley Gardens: Francesca Mollett 'Keyholes' (until 23rd August 2019)

Brockley Gardens is a lovely new space in Brockley, south east London, taking the form of a repurposed garage. As with many of London's indie spaces, there is no way you'd know it is functioning as a gallery unless you're boring like me and follow the independent art scene closely on Instagram, or if you live nearby and happened to walk past during a private view. 'Keyholes' is a body of work by Francesca Mollett, an artist currently on the Royal College of Art Painting masters. Brockley Gardens as a location lends itself well to painting, with fresh air streaming through the front and clean white walls illuminating the details of the brushstrokes and textures.

Installation view: Francesca Mollett, Keyholes. Brockley Gardens, London. 10-23 August 2019.
Image courtesy of the artist and Reinis Lismanis.

In this case, the flooring is also an integral part of the exhibition. 'lightfast' is comprised of acrylic and ink on concrete, and viewers have no choice but to walk on it to access the smaller works. Incorporating this allows us to be fully immersed in Mollett's painting, and with other much smaller pieces either side of the garage door entrance, we have to experience the gallery's offerings by physically moving ourselves in new ways. There are several ways that Brockley Gardens is successful in this, whether leaving the space to view the show as a whole, or paying special attention to the ground to take in the painted concrete, in what becomes Mollett's distinctive palette.

The press release is an interesting piece of writing and is the latest in a series of what I've encountered as independent, artist-run spaces abandoning the traditional press release format. Having written quite a few in my time, I agree that they are sometimes uninspiring and formulaic, almost to the point of feeling like a sales pitch. Although I enjoyed the experience of looking at the paintings, the text helped me flesh out my own interpretation, without force-feeding me any ideas or concepts, which is actually an incredible achievement for a piece of writing; consider me inspired!

 Francesca Mollett, F.F., 2019. Acrylic and oil on calico, 30cm x 35cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Reinis Lismanis.

Despite the fact that the show is painting, an inherently 2D medium, there is a consistent feeling of texture in 'Keyholes'. Works on the wall use calico, a cotton-based textile, as their canvas, creating a soft texture where there would usually be none. Similarly, while the press release explores the "previous stains" of a newly inhabited space, it made me consider how anything has the capacity to look strange or disfigured if we look at it too closely, or indeed perhaps analyse it too closely. In this way, painting does certainly resemble life, and whether something is a physical remnant, or "stain", or a ghost-like memory or mental trace, both the paintings and the accompanying text remind us of the ways in which art has the ability to extract memories from within us, and make them concrete.

Aside from a private view on opening night, Brockley Gardens is open by appointment only, and is well worth a visit to potentially a new part of London. I've written a fair amount about the joys of art being located in residential areas, but this is applicable to nowhere moreso than BG. At such a small scale, I'm sure its curators and organisers are building strong connections with their chosen artists; maybe they're friends, but to an outsider it's irrelevant. Looking forward, I wonder whether the artist will adopt this style of exhibiting for her degree show, with painting transcending the canvas, or calico, onto the ground and the viewer's surroundings, almost hugging the viewer with an array of somehow recognisable palettes, textures and motifs. 

Installation view: Francesca Mollett, lightfast, 2019. Acrylic and ink on concrete, dimensions variable.
Image courtesy of the artist and Reinis Lismanis.

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