A Saturday late in October I walked past an Art Gallery I had not noted before but then living in East Central London that should come as no surprise. London EC is still a treasure trove of interesting places hidden until one needs to find them. In this particular case, I had not walked along this particular street in some time. Curiosity got the better of me and I went in and had a look around and was quite impressed.
The Art Gallery in question was the Beers.Lambert Contemporary based in Baldwin Street, London EC1, the nearest Underground Tube Station being Old Street Station. The space is a small one but quite impressive. So if you work in the area or socialise in the area, do drop me.
The Exhibition they had when I visited and runs until the 17th November is ‘Andrew Salgado – The Misanthrope. Details of this and future exhibitions as well as the Gallery itself can be found via their Website: www.beerslambert.com and via email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
The internationally know Art Critic and Historian Edward Lucie-Smith writes:
Sometimes – not often nowadays – at a contemporary artwork, or a series of contemporary artworks, I get a shock. Very often indeed, I am not at all shocked by things that are deliberately intended to provoke the audience. A case in point would be the now half-forgotten giant portrait of the murderess Myra Hindley (Myra, Marcus Harvey, 1995), which was perhaps the chief ‘sensation’ of the Sensation!exhibition of 1997, held at the Royal Academy, which established the YBA (Younger British Artists) group in the public consciousness. The fact that the image, copied from a police ID photograph of no artistic merit in itself, had been made, not with a brush, but with a stamp moulded from a child’s hand, caused a huge stir in the press, and provoked demonstrations from relatives of the children murdered by Hindley and her partner in crime Ian Brady. Simply regarded as a painting, a work of art made by putting paint on a flat surface, the likeness of Hindley was completely inert. It had less, not more, emotional force that the photograph from which it originated.
Where did it – does it – differ from the two portraits of Jeffrey Dahmer included here, another notorious murderer, which provided the catalyst for Andrew Salgado’s exhibition The Misanthrope? What they have in common with the painting of Hindley is that they have necessarily been generated from photographs. Yet Dahmer was killed in 1994 by a fellow prison inmate; he has been dead for nearly two decades, and was never physically within the reach of the artist. What is different is the sheer freedom and individuality of the handling: it lies in the power of the paint itself to convey intertwined thought and emotion. If you want a practical demonstration of what I mean, go to the Wallace Collection, here in London, a look at one of the most celebrated masterpieces in the collection: Frans Hals’Laughing Cavalier (1624). A very different subject, but in many ways, a very similar set of effects.
Hals belonged to a small group of major Baroque painters who were virtuosi in the use of paint, and in particular, virtuosi in creating the look of life and movement through often very loose handling of their material. Rembrandt, in his later work, belongs to the same category. So too does the mature Velazquez. That is the tradition to which the works shown here seem to belong.
Not surprisingly, however, things have moved on since the 17th century. The paintings are all heads, tightly cropped, not full length or half-length figures in the manner of Baroque portraiture. The focus is not only on the depiction of psychological states, but on the extreme rapidity with which the states can sometimes alter, like the shadows of clouds passing over a summer cornfield.
At a time when painting itself often seems to be a threatened, even despised, form of artistic activity, Andrew Salgado emerges as a dazzlingly skillful advocate for the medium he has chosen to embrace. These paintings tell us more than a video ever could about the characters whom they depict. A video narrative about the nature of misanthropy would never be even a quarter as informative. In addition, it is a narrative that we can study in our own time, at leisure. These are not paintings to be looked at only once. They do not operate within a fixed time frame. What they have to say will change from occasion to occasion, even when it is the same spectator involved.
Using a supposedly traditional medium, they are in fact contemporary in the best sense. We inhabit a society where feelings and perceptions are growing more fluid, rather than less. The paintings undoubtedly reflect that situation. However they go further, by reflecting it in a form where these changes can be held for a moment, and examined. They do not wriggle out of our grasp. Yet they always have something to add, something new to say to us.
The Exhibition runs until 17th November but the Gallery will be holding other exhibitions (which can be found via their Website so if work, business or pleasure brings you into the Old Street area of London EC1, do pop in and have a browse. The address of the Gallery is:-
1 Baldwin Street