The synergy of sound: Paul Benney at La Biennale di Venezia

Self-taught artist, Paul Benney, will make his Venice Art Biennale debut from 13th May with his monumental installation, Speaking in Tongues.

Speaking in Tongues, 2014. Oil and resin on wood, 244 x 366 cm. [ CA PSB ] - Large.jpg

The 12ft by 8ft painting on show at the 14th century San Gallo Church, just north of St Mark’s Square is the centrepiece of an installation that includes sound and other smaller works in oil by the artist. Curated by James Putnam and Flora Fairbairn, this is the first time Speaking in Tongues has been shown outside of the UK.

The work itself is secular but draws on the New Testament story of the Pentecost in which the twelve apostles encounter the Holy Spirit and then begin ‘speaking in tongues’. Modifying and updating this familiar interlude, Benney has painted twelve artistic contemporaries of various ethnicities and religious backgrounds, with the aim of capturing a collective state of spiritual awakening.

Playing with the idea of narrative painting, Benney introduced a sound element to the work, inviting each of the subjects to record themselves sharing transformative moments in their lives. These are relayed through holosonic speakers placed around the church. At first the viewer hears hushed murmuring, however, when they stand in a precise spot they hear individual voices, an effect achieved via sound-focusing technology that isolates the viewer from their own reality and the outside world. Then come the subject’s revelations. These are poignant and sometimes shocking – one man tells of how he accidentally shot dead his best friend; another reveals the joy of becoming a father – and, in the context of a religious setting they create the experience of receiving a confession.

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Sisters Doing It For Themselves: Brains & Lip Takeover at CNB Gallery

Monday 24th April sees the private view of Brains & Lip Takeover at East London’s emerging art hotspot, CNB Gallery. The all-woman exhibition, which showcases the work of nine fantastic artists, is curated by Claire Orme and Alice Steffen, the creative duo behind Brains & Lip.


Controversial, brash and witty, the artworks on view challenge and reclaim what it means to be a woman in contemporary society. The subversive painting, illustration and sculpture that feature in the exhibition explore discourses of identity, sexuality and female empowerment, resisting the restrictive expectations of the elitist, patriarchal art world.

Jess De Wahls, Consent, 2016, Fabric, 52 x 58 x 5cm.jpg
Jess de Wahls, Consent, 2016

We were thrilled to be able to speak with the two visionaries behind the ‘takeover’ in advance of next week’s exhibition.

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‘Degas: Little Dancer Rediscovered’ at Stair Sainty Gallery

In 1881, a fourteen-year-old girl divided the Parisian art world. She was a lowly dancer, only a small thing, but the subject of a now instantly recognisable icon of modern art, Edgar Degas’ sculpture Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. Degas debuted her at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition, where he was met with both ridicule and respect for his depiction of the seemingly unassuming moment a young student of the Paris Opera Ballet dance school stretched herself into a relaxed version of fourth position (although apparently not without some pain, as her strain is palpable). For an art world accustomed to idealised marble sculptures in imitation of classical antiquity, this was shocking – he had sculpted her from beeswax, and adorned her with a tutu and ribbons. Was this Degas’ frivolous joke, just a mocking wink at a straight-laced bourgeois society, or a more vicious indictment? Or was he simply trying to experiment, push the boundaries of what art could be?    

degas little dancer
Edgar Degas, ‘Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen’, 1880-1, cast c.1990s

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Dirty Market’s The Hearing Trumpet

ArtAttack speaks with bricolage theatre group The Dirty Market about their new production of Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet.
The Dirty Market’s production of The Hearing Trumpet

What first drew you to the works of Leonara Carrington?

We had begun devising a new show. We usually start work asking the group to bring in elements they’re interested in and we throw all that into the space to see if there are any connections. With this process, we’d already brought material around the occult, table rapping and old age. Meanwhile Jon was preparing a lecture on Surrealism and had discovered The Hearing Trumpet. So Jon brought it to the group – and we all read it together and laughed a lot and felt so much affinity with Leonora’s book – especially it’s values… We were also fascinated and astonished by Leonora’s prodigious artistic output.

Evening Conference, 1949. Photograph: Estate of Leonora Carrington

How did her art and writing feed into each other?

That’s a tough question. The Hearing Trumpet is a book that keeps rewriting rules, constantly morphing… her paintings seem to do that too. To us, they have a veiled quality and are of course full of riddles and jokes and allegories. Having reread the book a lot now, we can see she lays down so many clues at the beginning – which you’re unaware of when you first read it. For instance she references an old rhyme, The Man of Double Deed, in a single passing sentence really early on. The entire last part of the book uses that rhyme as it’s structure. Its an amazing moment when you start to notice those details. And we’re aware there are many we just haven’t spotted yet!

Why was she overlooked? Did the ‘artist’s muse’ label stick to her, or was it just a family nick-name? Was she aware of it?

Well in terms of being overlooked, that’s just in the UK / Europe. In Mexico she is very famous. From what we’ve read and watched, we think she may have been overlooked here because she steadfastly refused to let anyone else define her – or use her as an object. Perhaps she didn’t dance to the tune of gallerists or sellers. The idea of branding, explaining herself, being defined really in any way – other than as a woman and an artist (whatever those things might mean) – seems to have been anathema to her. She absolutely refused to be anyone’s muse – she was her own woman. This is so radical for anyone making anything now where the emphasis is so heavily on definition / description / explanation. It’s very inspiring

Dirty Market’s Jon and Georgina

How does bricolage theatre compliment her fantastic literature? Do we know enough about her working process to identify a bricolage/ conscious trial and error approach in her own art or writing?

From what we can gather, she would go into her studio everyday saying, “I wonder who I shall meet today” – she seemed totally open to what came through or up or however you want to define it. She seemed to follow cues from her subconscious (though she may have defined it differently… other realities / selves?) without judgement. She was also an avid reader, so had so many resources to draw on. Her technique was extraordinary. The fusion of these things: a belief in self, rich influences, openness to ‘who I shall meet”, a classical technique… and the idea of an alchemical pot where you stir all those things together,  seem to make a lot of sense for us as Theatre Bricoleurs… Though who knows if she would like the results!

Performances: 4 – 29 April 2017, Tues-Sat 7.30pm (4-8 April start time is 19:45)
(Matinees: Sat 15 & 29 April 3pm)

Tickets available here.

Theatre Delicatessen, The Old Library, 39 Wells Way, London, SE5 0PX


Occupation at the Tate Exchange: Art, access and education

The Freelands Foundation‘s Occupation of Tate Exchange starts today (Sunday 2nd April),  in partnership with the Institute of Education (IoE)/ University College London (UCL), and runs until Tuesday (4th). The Occupation seeks to broaden audiences of Art and redress the focus of STEM subjects at the expense of arts in school curriculums.

Artist and former teacher Henry Ward is Head of Education at the Freelands Foundation explained:

“Art is an essential part of a broad and balanced education. The UK has a tremendous global reputation for the cultural contribution it makes, from the visual arts and design through to music, drama and film. The current emphasis however on a narrow core in our school curriculum is endangering this, and now, more than ever, it is vital that we recognise the value that art education brings to society. Freelands Foundation’s partnership with UCL Institute of Education is about investing in art teachers at the very beginning of their careers. The work we are doing is about critically evaluating the practice of the art teacher and the spaces that art education occupies.”

The Occupation has an exciting range of events for anyone interested in the state of art education and access. These include interactive art works, performance pieces, panel discussions around education in the arts, screenings from PGCE students of IoE and UCL, and family workshops run by art teachers, such as Kate Warner’s “Mapping Tate Modern”. There will also be drop-in “parents evening” sessions where you can discuss your issues and questions about art education, devised by Jack Goffe. A detailed programme is available through the Tate.

The Freelands Foundation is Elisabeth Murdoch’s research and funding body that supports and funds artists, cultural institutions and education surrounding them, to broaden audiences including young people of all backgrounds for visual arts.


Lucy Tomlins’ Artwork for Vitrine’s ‘Sculpture At’ Launched Last Night in Bermondsey Square

Last night launched the 2017 edition of Vitrine‘s Sculpture At, presenting in Bermondsey Square, London a new artwork by Lucy Tomlins. Her sculpture, entitled Pylon and Pier will be on view until August 2017. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Lucy about the work in anticipation of this evening’s official opening.


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‘[Art is] my armour in this world, fighting against all the sput’: ArtAttack Interviews Lilias Buchanan

Inspired by the Richard Brautigan cult classic, Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel, young artist Lilias Buchanan has created a series of exquisitely detailed paintings to be debuted at Shapero Modern from 29th March – 11th April, 2017.

After reading Brautigan’s 1976 novel, Lilias became almost obsessed by the narrative, stopping people in the street who resembled its characters and practically buying eBay out of sombrero postcards. The result is this upcoming exhibition of technical, charming and at times chilling artworks.

Familiar desert landscapes intertwine with striking elements of collage and pencil drawings depicting strange encounters. Not having read the book makes it a bit tricky to figure out what’s going on, but somehow at the same time seems to make the work all the more intriguing.

We were delighted to be able to speak with Lilias about her practice, this body of work and what’s to come for the London-based artist, whose work is already in the collection of HRH the Prince of Wales.


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Calling all photographic artists: PhotoX award

ArtGemini, a fellow supporter of emerging art, has launched a photography specific prize, PhotoX. It has been set-up to find the best photography from both emerging and established photographers. Amongst the judges are Dr Michael Pritchard, Chief Executive, Royal Photographic Society and Brian Griffin, the influential creative portrait photographer.

Hania Farrell, Mincrafting. Winner of the ArtGemini Photography Prize 2016. 

Successful photographers will have the chance to show at two curated shows later this year, including at the Green Rooms, the art hotel and an ArtAttack favourite, and the New Artist Fair at the Truman Breweries. There is also a cash fund of £2,000, and various photographic prizes, including a photobook collection by nphoto. 

Enter here closes 30 April 2017