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Now that the initial rush to produce and curate exhibitions online has somewhat subsided, and the novelty has worn out, the art world is taking online platforms for both selling and exhibiting seriously. I viewed London gallery Pilar Corrias' exhibition '7 Up' on the Vortic app, which is an extended reality (XR) platform, but it is also available through the gallery's website. To access it through the website, you have to input your contact details; I'm not entirely sure why this is and for me it does put up a barrier to accessing art, and this shouldn't be the case when exhibitions are entirely online. In its physical form, Pilar Corrias is based on Eastcastle Street, parallel to Oxford Street, and is always a lovely retreat from the sensory overload of the shopping district. It is a space I always like to visit in person so seeing their exhibition programme brought to the virtual realm was an appealing prospect.
Tala Madani, Shit Mom (Remodel), 2019. Oil on linen, 182.9cm x 182.9cm x 3.2cm. Pilar Corrias, London
'7 Up', of course named after the popular soft drink, is a collection of works from seven of the women artists on the gallery's roster, curated in what they call "a spontaneous and playful manner", which I thought was a sweet way of putting it, especially as the latter is not a word I could use to describe any of my activity over the past four months. While they are not necessarily a natural fit in terms of immediate thematics, I did enjoy all the artists together, especially one of my favourite artists, Tala Madani. It was at Pilar Corrias that I first discovered Madani a good few years ago, and her work ticks all the painting boxes for me: it's fresh, her use of colour dabbles between bold and muted, the subject matter is brash and doesn't care for your approval... the un-idealised woman clearly lies at the core of the artist's practice and the way 'Shit Mom (Remodel)' uses both dripping paint and solid shapes to create the scene as one of chaos and misery with hints of comedy is highly effective.
Christina Quarles, Tilt/Shift, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 195.6cm x 243.8cm x 5.1cm. Pilar Corrias, London.
Although the theme may seem a little loose here, (it is certainly non-descript and non-committal), all can be forgiven when you take into account the high calibre of artists involved. If I were putting on a show to lift spirits (and sales, naturally) during the pandemic, I would want to curate these artists. Like Madani, Christina Quarles is also based in Los Angeles. Her paintings have been very popular recently, and the artist uses her mixed race identity as leverage to create works that "engage with the world from a position that is multiply situated". I've always found dual heritage, or mixed race, to be something that is not only difficult to discuss through writing but even moreso to express through contemporary art. The artist describes 'Tilt/Shift' as "a portrait, not of looking onto a body, but of living within your own body looking out into the world"; over lockdown there have been far too many opportunities to look within as well as outside, and the chaotic aesthetic of the work feels raw and timely. Even the domesticity of the checked pattern behind the figures is reminiscent of a homely fabric, trying to smooth over the messiness of the interior mood.
Tschabalala Self, Out of Body, 2020. Quilted fabric, 118cm x 100cm. Pilar Corrias, London
Quarles' work is very much unique and recognisable, as are all artists in the '7 Up' showcase, but if I were to partner two artists togetger for the most interesting dialogue, it would be Quarles with New York's Tschabalala Self. In 'Out of Body', one of her works shown here, the textures produced with the use of quilted fabric are outstanding and create these exaggerated forms, in an entirely different way to which Quarles also does successfully. I love how this exhibition has put seven women artists together in a way that could be misconstrued as being random or haphazard, but the different stories these artists tell are very much complementary and make for a full display without a strict theme to follow.
Each artist brings their own unique style and respective qualities to the show, yet seem to pair up nicely in terms of aesthetic: Quarles and Self as aforementioned, then Shara Hughes and Sabine Moritz's wild and bold landscapes come together beautifully, with Elizabeth Neel sitting somewhere in between. The final pairing, in my mind, would be Tala Madani and Sophie von Hellerman, the latter being the only London-based artist in the line-up. von Hellerman's paintings have a soft and fleeting look to them, heavily inspired by fables and stories of a bygone time but come across as incredibly fresh and current, refreshing old tales with respect to both the past and the future with sweeping brushstrokes. Being able to pair up the artists in addition to enjoying them separately and as a whole group of seven is a great achievement for an online show, and one I would love to see in real life should the opportunity arise in the near future.
Sophie von Hellerman, She is Little, But She is Fierce, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 180cm x 230cm. Pilar Corrias, London.
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