Wednesday, March 14, 2007

All the fun of the fair

Let me be candid with you: the artists were angry. Quietly, artistically angry, but angry nonetheless. Their slightly reluctant complaints bounced off the white partitions of their stands and echoed around the mostly-empty Islington Contemporary Art and Design Fair, which was the problem in the first place: how do you have an art fair without ravenous art-buyers?

The story was of woe. Saturday afternoon at the Candid Arts Gallery on Torrens Street in Angel and the foot-traffic was minimal. Nevertheless, the valiant artists battled on in search of elusive sales, enticing those who strayed near their stands with their aesthetic wares.

Considering the attractions of this type of affordable art fair - I saw nothing today above £500 - it’s hard to see why there weren’t people snapping up the prints. If something catches your eye and you just have to have it, you won’t spend too much and you’ll get pleasure from it.

Contrarily, if you’re business-savvy and know that art now fetches stratospheric prices at auction, laying out a few hundred quid on what could be the next Damien Hirst seems like a worthwhile punt.

Still, the quiet gave plenty of opportunities to talk to the artists, so without further ado, I bring you the Warhols and Testinos of the future.

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CLARE JOHNSON
Who? Clare graduated from Central St Martin’s with an MA in Fine Art, but is originally from Seattle.
What’s her work like? Small black line drawings on a nature theme, a little like Snow White in the woods, with a comedic/tragic riff according to the beholder. Clare says her work is inspired by Seattle for a reason: “I think art is about trying to comfort myself in the face of homesickness.”
On audience reaction to her work: “Some people look at them and giggle, which is great because I love when art makes people happy. Some people see them as very sad and lonely because of the remoteness of the places.”
www.clarejohnson.com

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ANTHONY BLISS
Who? Anthony was a commercial photojournalist before a cancer scare convinced him to follow a personal artistic path: “I’m showing my work the way I want to: it’s a huge relief.”
What’s his work like? On display is a series of moody, grey-green-black photos of haunted places in London, taken with a fisheye lens so the shot warps and wraps around itself.
On why he’s exhibiting: “A lot of people have said very nice things about my work. It’s very good for the morale. It’s never easy – I’ve freelanced all my life so I’ve always been putting myself up for rejection. It’s almost like an affirmation of my work at a show like this.”
www.anthonybliss.com

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ELLEN WETTERWALD and REBEKAH TAYLOR
Who? Ellen (right in pic) and Rebekah met while working at a special effects company and after visiting some exhibitions together decided to collaborate as artists.
What’s their work like? Photos of childhood sweets in dulled neon colours: lurid toffee apples and love-hearts in rows. Says Rebekah: “It has a vibrant contemporary feel of fun, something that jumps off the wall.”
On being a two-man team: “We separately take the images, but audiences see the work as one person. We wanted to put all of our creative energy sources together. Two heads are better than one when solving a problem.”
www.eandrdesign.com

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MARK PERRONET
Who? Mark is local to the fair, a Holloway native, and is a corporate photographer in his other life, spending his time shooting men in suits.
What’s his work like? “Irreverent,” says Mark. His prints are heavily influenced by Pop Art, especially Andy Warhol’s emphasis on what can be mass-produced, so you get liquorice allsorts against richly coloured backgrounds.
On his methods: “I like screen-printing because you get your hands dirty and it’s all very low tech. Corporate photography is good but this is obviously more personal, with brighter colours.”
www.perronet.com

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VICKI BUNN
Who? Vicki is an art student reaching the end of the academic track and finding that the only way up is to exhibit.
What’s her work like? Black and white photos of flowers, like Robert Mapplethorpe without the sexual edge. Very beautiful and delicate, but unreal too.
On being old-fashioned: “Everybody is going digital and [traditional photography] is becoming less and less there, so hopefully one day I’ll become one of the few people doing this. I’ve got to be true to myself.”
www.vickibunn.com

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Candid Arts Gallery, Torrens St, Angel (walk through Angel Square)
020 7837 4237
Friday 2pm-7pm, Saturday and Sunday 12pm-6pm
www.candidarts.com
2nd-4th March: painting, sculpture, time-based media
9th-11th March: photography, illustration, graphics, print-making
16th-18th March: fashion, textiles, jewellery
23rd-25th March: design products, ceramics, glass, furniture

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