‘Good’ art isn’t always that expensive! Phew! – Affordable Art Fair Battersea, Spring Collection 2013

Mist and fog…why on earth did I expect the sunny weather from the beginning of the week to actually last? Also, not to mention the pouring rain! Anyhow, after a somewhat tired train journey from Canterbury East to Battersea Park, followed by a short walk in the rain, I finally arrived at Battersea Evolution. At first sight I was so glad that it was held inside a building. For some odd reason, I was under the impression that it would be inside a large tent.

So, thanks to the Lilford Gallery for their half-price voucher, I managed to get in for £5! Upon entry, I was immediately greeted with a display of contemporary works lining the walls of the entrance. Curated by arts specialists Jotta, this was an exhibition showcasing the works of emerging artists from art schools throughout the UK, entitled An Undelivered Postcard from the Edge of the World. The mediums vary from painting to photography to sculpture, and even film in Micha Harbon’s Gaping Epic Wide Shot 2012.Exhibiting a total of 17 artists, the exhibition focuses on world concerns, ‘exploring tensions between ideologies and personal judgement’ and considers ‘a series of points at which the physical and the digital world intersect.’

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Works by Luke Turner (left) and Edith Bergfors (right). Own photograph.

The architectural drawings of Minho Kwon explores the metaphorical capacity expressed by architectural elements. Ishai Rimmer’s paintings draw upon the banality of the life, memories and landscapes he left behind, while Elena Gumeniuk’s prints explore transformative and isolated suburban upbringing in the Ukraine. I particularly liked James Thurgood’s This is a Beautiful Image 2012, a 24ct gold leaf on C-type print that explores our subjective understanding and judgement of an image, and how this can be influenced by the ‘objective cultural rhetoric.’ The 3-D prints by Geoff Diego Litherland, making use of red and cyan anaglyph stereoscopy, were also rather intriguing and provided an interesting touch to the exhibition.

The other featured artists are as follows:

  • Lauren O’Grady
  • Edith Bergfors
  • Alzbeta Jaresova
  • Jessica Wilson
  • Luke Turner
  • Olenna Mokliak
  • Hyun Joon E
  • Vikram Kushwah
  • Trevor Kiernander
  • Iris Erlings
  • Kraggy

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James Thurgood (top left), Elena Gumeniuk (bottom left) and Olenna Mokliak (middle and right). Own photograph.

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Sculptural works by Lauren O’Grady. Own photograph.

So, after a taste of white wine, the name of which I cannot remember, courtesy of Laithwaite’s Wine, I headed into the main spectacle. And what a spectacle it certainly was! Showcasing the collections of 115 galleries from across the UK, parts of Europe, the USA, and even Hong Kong, the fair was filled with potential buyers of varying ages, from students like myself, families looking to decorate their homes, to serious collectors looking for the next big thing. Each gallery is assigned a stall within the grid-like structure of the fair, labelled from A1 to K1, selling works of art priced between £40 and £4000. All of them are intent on making at least a few decent sales in what could be considered the most commercially successful art fair in the world.

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Seems like someone’s spotted a potential purchase. Own photograph.

Since it would be absurd and ridiculously tiring for me to talk about all 115 galleries, as well as torturous for you readers to read, I’ll mention a selection that I felt rather attracted to.

To begin with, I rather liked the juxtaposition of abstract expressionist still life paintings against more realist works in the Tallentyre Gallery stall. Modernbook Gallery specialised in photographic prints, exhibiting the sensuous, semi-nude portraits of Marc Legrange and theatrical photographs by Tom Chambers. I even found a few works that used the wet-plate collodion process.

Four Square Fine Arts featured the seascape paintings of Marco Crivello, slightly reminiscent of Joseph Mallord William Turner. Two of their exhibited works by Eberhard Ross consisted of a painted canvas marked intensely with scribbled lines that had a strange, overall, metallic look to it, one of which was entitled Blue Spelcher 1812. This particular one was on sale for £3500.

Image Sheridan Russell Gallery. Own photograph.

Francis Iles exhibited a variety of glass pottery and paintings, including those by Jon Gubbay, whose cityscapes integrate the celestial and the artificial structures of modernity. Some of them appear fragmented; others faded, almost watercolour-like. Neville Contemporary Art, based in Hampshire, featured David Chambers’ paintings of sailing boats, and Sarah Berry’s joyful scenes depicting musicians and dancers.

I extremely liked the Cynthia Corbett Gallery’s display of dynamic, cityscape photomontages by Tom Leighton. The montages integrated various landmarks from around the world to form what appeared to be a super-wide angle photograph. Alongside this display were pop-art style prints by Deborah Azzopardi, similar to Roy Lichtenstein but without the dots.

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Jacky Tsai’s iconic floral skull imagery. Own photograph.

One particularly intriguing artist was Stéphane Gautier, whose works are a reflection of the world, its advertising, and childhood. He often makes use of toys and childish objects in his works, and on display at the Galerie Virginie Barrou Planquart stall was his God Save The Bears, made entirely of gummy bears to create the Union Jack.

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Stéphane Gautier, Detail from God Save The Bears. Own photograph.

The Greenstage Gallery showed Pierre Williams’ blue-and-white ceramic nudes that took typical ceramics to a more figurative approach. Edinburgh Printmakers featured The Lion and the Unicorn 2012 by Rachel MacLean which appropriated the images of cartoon characters, such as Simba from The Lion King, to form a digital collage. Swedish-based Galleri Final introduced us to the ceramic works of Johan Thunell with his Nyllen Heads, a series of miniature ceramic portraits almost resembling shrunken heads.

The work of David Downes in the Go Figurative collection drew on the ‘juxtaposition of history and modernity in London’, with Battersea 1, Morning 2012 depicting Battersea power station standing boldly against its older surroundings. The Mark Jason Gallery exhibited collages by Pamela Stretton that made use of brands and magazine names to piece together a photograph.

Image Own photograph.

One of Vasilis Avramidis works entitled OK 2011, shown at The Contemporary London, was extremely recognisable as evoking Pieter Claesz’s Vanitas Still Life 1630. The Bruno Dahl Gallery exhibited the illusionary sculptures of Stefan Mäs Perrson, such as Landscape, while Ellen Schipper’s La Vie en Rose series, displayed at the Redleaf Gallery, gave the impression of a showering female nude behind the painted surface of the canvas.

All in all, the success of the fair didn’t seem to be hindered by the dreary weather. I saw many pieces of artwork being sold and carried away to be wrapped, including a life-sized sculpture. The event gathered together a variety of artistic styles from across all mediums. There was realism, abstraction, collage, even miniature figures in the works of Lisa Swerling. It was pretty much impossible to dislike everything. As a result of this, it was suitable for any number of tastes in art, regardless of how far one might dislike contemporary art, including myself.

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Soozy Barker from The Barker Gallery alongside her own landscape paintings. Own photograph.

That’s it folks! Time to relax with some of Laithwaite’s Chilean Sauvignon…

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Affordable Art Fair Battersea runs until 10th March 2013 at Battersea Evolution, London, www.affordableartfair.com/battersea.

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