Fine Art Alumni Feature in the Whitechapel Gallery's London Open 2015

This year, 20 of the 48 artists featured in the Whitechapel Gallery's London Open are alumni of the RCA. First held in 1932, The London Open is a triennial exhibition that is open to submissions from artists over the age of 26 living and working in London. The works on display encapsulate the multidisciplinary approaches evident through the Sculpture, Painting, Printmaking and Photography programmes and the Moving Image and Performance pathways at the College.

The entrance to the exhibition is demarcated with Connection (2015) a wall painting by Lothar Götz, who graduated from the Painting programme in 1998. The colourful geometric forms of the work were created in response to the atmosphere of the gallery lobby, a threshold connecting visitors from the street to the gallery.

Inside the gallery visitors are greeted by a freestanding brick wall, a work by Demelza Watts, who graduated from Sculpture this year. Watts commissioned her father, a bricklayer, to create the wall in eight hours, which now stands as evidence of his labour. Nearby, the work of Jodie Carey (MA Sculpture, 2007) holds a dominant physical presence in the space, and an installation by one of this year’s Painting graduates, Sophie Mackfall, explores the spatial potential of painting.

The perception of depicted space is also manipulated by Eva Stenram (MA Photography, 2003) in her on-going series Drape. Stenram augments vintage pin-up photographs to partially obscure the women posing, bringing the background curtains into the foreground. Close by, behind an actual curtain, Catalogue (2013), a multilayered film by Holly Antrum (MA Printmaking, 2011) documenting the life and practice of artist Jennifer Pike, is being screened.

The exhibition also features two moving image works by Lucy Joyce (MA Sculpture, 2013), which document interventions made in the urban environment. In one the artist attempts to cover a bungalow with a billowing golden sheet, momentarily transforming the mundane into the spectacular. Equally performative gestures are made by Mary Hurrel (MA Sculpture, 2011), who has arranged various platforms at the back of the gallery in anticipation, or as evidence of, a performance.

In the upstairs gallery, works from one of this year’s Painting graduates, Zehra Arslan, push at the definition of what a painting might be. In Untitled (Wit) (2015) she uses engraved dyed cotton and brass to form an abstract composition. Selected works from Guy Patton (MA Painting, 2005) and Dominic Kennedy (MA Painting, 2004) show a similar preoccupation with the surface of their work and the physicality of paint as a material.

Also in the upstairs gallery hangs Nocturnal Scene from a Swimming Pool (2015) a large canvas by Caroline Walker (MA Painting, 2009). Walker captures the luminosity of a lit pool at night, yet this apparently luxurious setting is offset by a figure watching the lone swimmer, giving the scene a sinister atmosphere. Similarly Tim Stoner (MA Painting, 1994) creates figurative depictions of familiar yet strange scenarios. In Essex (2014) two figures, seen from behind, walk down a wooded path, the hazy scene depicted in effervescent pastel shades.

Installed in front of Walker’s nocturnal scene is Cove (2007–15) by Alex Duncan, one of this year’s Sculpture graduates. The work consists of sea- and river-worn polyurethane and polystyrene, which resemble large pebbles and boulders. Abrasion has also played a part in the creation of Julie Roch-Cuerrier’s work, on display in a vitrine nearby. A copy of a National Geographic atlas lies open, revealing a blank space where the central map has been sanded away. Roch-Cuerrier (MA Printmaking, 2015) explores the vulnerability of the printed image while also addressing the history and politics of map making. 

In the next section of the gallery is a large resin cast of a section of a church wall in Barcelona, scarred by shots and shrapnel from the Spanish Civil War. This forms part of What we still have to talk about (2013), by Marco Godoy (MA Photography, 2014). Like Duncan’s plastic pebbles it simulates an experience with the actual object, exploring the slippery ground between reality and our expectations of it.

Nearby, a light box by Dominic Hawgood (MA Photography, 2014) displays an image from the series, Under the Influence. Hawgood utilises digital photography, lighting and CGI to create hyperreal imagery, exploring ideas of faith, with a particular focus on the performance of exorcisms in the evangelical Church. In contrast, Salvatore Arancio (MA Photography, 2005) works across sculpture, collage, animation and photo etching. On display here are his ceramic objects inspired by nature and science, which explore the grotesque and the natural. Madalina Zaharia (MA Printmaking, 2012) employs a similar approach to Arancio, combining sculptural elements to explore the traditionally two-dimensional discipline of print. Her work phonetically and playfully explores a popular catchphrase from an early 1990s Romanian television advert.


The London Open 2015 is at Whitechapel Gallery until 6 September, more information can be found here.