Joanna Bryant and Julian Page are redefining the perception of art collectors and dealers within the contemporary art world. They are a collaborative duo supporting and championing established artists and emerging talent through context-led initiatives. By finding spaces and galleries for pop-up exhibitions they dispense with the necessity of maintaining a gallery brand and instead pour their focus into curating exhibitions that stand alone. This format often reveals surprising dialogues as the exhibition is purely focussed on the art work and the curation rather than the galleries identity.
This process has also enabled freedom in the selection and curation of the exhibitions. Their latest offering will be Creative Fury at The Clerkenwell Gallery, London. An alternative showing of works by William Kentridge (b. 1955 Johannesburg) in the context of the Hungarian Cold War artist György Kovásznai (1934-83) and four mid-career contemporary artists, Marcelle Hanselaar, Yvonne Crossley, Kate McCrickard and Cally Shadbolt.
This group exhibition coincides with the Whitechapel Art Gallery’s major exhibition of William Kentridge’s work titled Thick Time. Kentridge is renowned for his animated expressionist drawings and films exploring time, the history of colonialism and the aspirations and failures of revolutionary politics. Thick Time is an exhibition of six large-scale installations where music and drama are ruptured by revolution, exile and scientific advancement.
In contrast Creative Fury is showing just one of Kentridge’s films: 9 Drawings for Projection. Compiled in 2005, this feature length film, composed of nine short animated films, is a social reflection of South Africa 1989 – 2003; spanning the transition from apartheid to democracy. Kentridge’s film begins with a single drawing that he then alters, adds to and adapts bit by bit. By photographing every change an accidental narrative appears. It is at once melancholy, graceful and open-ended which is also reflective of the labour intensive working process.
“The first animated films I made were done on the basis of trying to get away from a program in which I could see my life heading out ahead of me. So I decided I had to do something that couldn’t possibly fit into that context, that wasn’t going to be in a gallery – something for my own interest and pleasure.” (William Kentridge)
To understand the curatorial decision to place Kentridge’s work alongside Kovásznai’s it helps to explore the parallels of their lives. Kovásznai was primarily a painter, of both canvases and on the cinema screen. His unique working style also branched out into experimental animation films as he desired personal exploration outside of what was expected and known. In addition his participation and commentary on the political environment around him draws an obvious partnership with Kentridge’s work. A key example being Kovásznai’s works that reflect on the spring and summer of 1968, and the events in Paris and Prague. Paintings are shown from his short film Ca Ira: The song of the French revolution, with Marat, Saint-Just and their companions depicted as increasingly threatening figures looming on the horizon. This is a visual assault that seems very contemporary: reflective of our current political challenges and world conflicts.
Kentridge himself is aware of the parallels:
“..what felt very familiar was kind of the impetus and the essentialness and the emergency of making. That is felt like an emergency. That work has to be made non-stop…. seeing his work, my immediate thought was ‘I want to be back in the studio making something’. There was kind of a collegial fury of creation which is the main thing that I got from him.”
Alongside Kentridge and Kovásznai’s work is a selection of works that all explore similar creative concerns and passions whilst celebrating the artist’s individual paths of interest. From Marcelle Hanselaar’s exploration of human nature in all its animosity and fragility to Yvonne Crossley’s work that relates to the human figure as a way of looking at the relationship between ‘the individual’ and ‘the rest’, both as something to celebrate and as a source of anxiety. These stand strongly alongside Kate McCrikards expressive pieces. She herself states that she “likes the 'honesty' of leaving the struggle of the working process visible.”
The films of Cally Shadbolt finish the group. These operate as animated sketches, a visible thought, and provide a place in which an object can revolve, repeat or change. A perfect complement to the artistic process of Kentridge. Creative Fury is being shown at the Clerkenwell Gallery, Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0DP.