Reviewed by Adam Kelly
★★★★ out of ★★★★
“The Bonzo pre-surrealist visionary circus is in town.” – Speak, Clown! press release, FOLD Gallery, 2013.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, come one come all to witness the greatest show on earth. They got hot-dogs, they got clowns, they got an entire circus rolled into one London gallery space with artworks of all sorts and tastes from painting to performance, video to sculpture, installation to photography, all wrapped up in a pretty bow.
The last show, following a trilogy of darker and obscure exhibitions curated by Neue Froth Kunsthalle (Brighton), Speak, Clown! triumphs as a blend of comic relief humour and darker undertones in contemporary art, examined “the way a man with a microscope might scrutinize the creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”#
It is always a treat to visit a gallery space unseen by this reviewer before, and FOLD Gallery was no exception. The venue went all-out for visitors to breathe-in the atmosphere of a true circus serving cider in plastic cups with striped straws, and a gallery floor covered in hay. Even the hired clown wandering the show was a delight, reminding each and every audience member about the child within ourselves that we forgot. The gallery has altered the ‘symbolic order’ of the art venue, the press release, and the exhibition presentation as attributed to Ancient Greek satyr as much as the modern life of clowns, confusing our perceptions of art languages much like looking at our reflections in a Funhouse mirror.
Upon entering the show, we are greeted by Kate Lyddon’s sanguine sculpture Stuck in the Middle which can be interpreted as either the ringleader or a minstrel performer, before falling witness to a ‘Sideshow Attraction (Freak)’ in the form of Dan Coombs’ phlegmatic painting Woman XXV, a disjointed female. We are then offered a virtual hot-dog and burger from Alastair MacKinven’s painting Choice is the choice … which discusses how we constantly find our reality warped by media, and turning the corner audiences are treated to a selection of wonderfully charismatic paintings in a variety of styles, colours, and temperaments and are greeted by a Edward Lipski’s sculpture, Chinese God Stack, before sadly arriving at the gallery’s dead-end. Featuring a painting with a very fitting title Hell, also by Dan Coombs, it illustrates the challenges faced by contemporary society and it’s less-than-saintly participants, as well as our eventual demise to a potentially eternal torment. We are reminded to enjoy ourselves.
Despite having a preference for painting over other mediums, this reviewer found that the neighbouring performance/video and photography pieces held up well against the others works in a show that saw colours, humour, and existential philosophies join forces. It was also delightful as always to attend an exhibition and discover new names of artists to research and follow further in the future where this was no exception. It was an extraordinary treat that this should be the first exhibition this reviewer sees at FOLD Gallery – and it won’t be the last.
A wonderful and must-see exhibition, if you miss it, you might as well slip on a harlequin or jester outfit and live your life as a fool because this is one fantastic show worth visiting, and then again and again.