I stumbled upon the exhibition ‘Slice’ at the Hanmi Gallery by chance on a day visit to London. As an outsider gazing through the glass window, I was instantly drawn in by the jutting, vibrant shapes striking out from the walls; and felt compelled to investigate what was hidden away inside.
The Hanmi Gallery is currently being rented out to artist groups on an independent basis, encouraging them to embrace its transitional nature of raw material and exposed walls; which are soon to become a generic white cube gallery. Built in such a central, desirable location, it’s understandable that the Hanmi Gallery’s owners would want to make the space more commercially viable, but what a shame it will be to lose the atmosphere and blatant history the building holds, when renovation is complete.
‘Slice’ was shown across all five floors of the building, incorporating a vast spectrum of different approaches to painting from 18 artists originating from 9 countries across the world. The first floor was electric with bold, vibrant colours splashed across various geometric shapes suspended and built up into sculptural forms; reminiscent of some of Emilio Vedova’s later work. Platforms arose from the floor, holding strange, unknown forms complemented by the gallery’s own decaying and layered shredded walls in the background. I’ll be looking out for future collaborations from Louise Mahony and Sarah Pager in the future.
All of the artists involved in the exhibition primarily base their practice in painting, but immersed the gallery space in a world beyond that; incorporating elements of sculpture, installation, video and photography. Liz Elton’s sculptural works in bright twists of material grew from walls of bare decaying brick, suggestive of a living environment where the art was quite literally emerging from the foundations of the building. Byrne and Elton worked well to complement the environment the work was shown in, highlighting the details of the cracked wooden floor-boards with great dark panels of paint awash in murky Earth-colours. In some cases, the paintings had been extended from their base onto the surrounding walls, creating a fully site-specific exhibition, utilising the individual strengths of the building almost as if it were an artists’ ready-made.
Thankfully for these artists, the work was just as intriguing as the setting it was placed in; turning what normally would have been an uninviting, dilapidated space into an inviting environment that I was reluctant to leave. Vanessa Maurice William’s installation on the second floor heightened my sense of adventure, layering semi-translucent materials that shone out from the walls producing a sort of mirage effect. William’s creates imagery that is neither here-nor-there but rather represents a portal between the actual world and a presumed future. Though darker than some of her previous works, the piece remained playful, and challenged the viewer to succumb to an imaginary world long abandoned in childhood.
As I ascended each flight of stairs to the next floor, I found my curiosity and imagination were continuously sated. Even more thrilling was the fact that many of the artists’ showing their work were present during the exhibition, allowing fresh-faced artists such as myself to wheedle out their individual inspirations and struggles as an artist.
Byrne and Elton curated the works on display excellently, and fully complimented the environment each artwork was shown in. What a shame it will be to lose such an exciting space to the bland outlines of a white cube! I can only hope that the space continues to hold such inspiring exhibitions before its inevitable renovation, as it truly is a space to be appreciated when immersed in such promising artwork as ‘Slice’.