Mixing It Up at the Hayward Gallery – An Exhibition of Contemporary British-Based Painters

A little while ago, Ellie and I visited ‘Mixing It Up: Painting Today’ at the Hayward Gallery. The exhibition focuses on contemporary British-based artists. It runs until 12 December.

FRESH, COMPELLING WORKS OF ART

The brochure we’re being handed explains that the 31 contemporary painters were chosen for their ability to create fresh, compelling works of art that speak to this moment.

CREATE YOUR OWN REALITY, TELL A STORY

Moreover, the curators claim, these artists are not focused on just observation and depiction, decorative endeavours, mere effects or aesthetics. They are more interested in creating their own reality, allegories and illusions and in telling a story, while not losing sight of what’s out there.

 

BEAUTIFUL SPACE

Like every time we visit, we’re immediately taken in by the loft-like atmosphere of this beautiful space. Large, tall, stark rooms with mezzanine floors. There are staircases, temporary dividing walls that only reach half the way up to the ceiling.

   

THAT’S HOW YOU DO THE HANGING

We enjoyed the fact that artists with very different styles are having their paintings hung right next to each other on the same wall. You can sense that some serious thought went into the set-up. There are some patterns, it’s not completely random. The contrasts between some of the paintings enhances the experience and adds zing.

   

NO MORE BLOKES ON HORSES

Highly experimental digital and performance art and installations are becoming ever more popular these days. Sculptures are no longer blokes on horses but often merge with other forms of expression like the afore-mentioned installations.

 

PAINTING IS A DYING ARTFORM? NOPE.

In this new world traditional paintings might almost seem like a dying artform. However, this exhibition very much shows that no one needs to worry about it. Painting as a medium is very much alive and well in Britain today.

   

PAINTINGS AND SOME PLEXIGLASS

It should be mentioned, that ‘Mixing It Up: Painting Today’ is not entirely limited to paintings. There are a number of three-dimensional exhibits (could potentially still count as paintings) and some plexiglass panes that contain colourful objects. Aside from these few exceptions, the exhibition is indeed focused on paintings.

   

UK-BASED, BUT NONETHELESS A VERY DIVERSE MIX OF ARTISTS

While all 31 artists are based in the UK, they are from all kinds of different ethnic backgrounds, geographic origins and nationalities. More than a third of them were born outside the UK, including countries in continental Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America. The age ranges from 28 to 87. More than half of the bunch are women.

 

WHO ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

Their names are Tasha Amini, Hurvin Anderson, Alvaro Barrington, Lydia Blakeley, Gabriella Boyd, Lisa Brice, Gareth Cadwallader, Caroline Coon, Somaya Critchlow, Peter Doig, Jadé Fadojutimi, Denzil Forrester, Louise Giovanelli, Andrew Pierre Hart, Lubaina Himid, Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Merlin James, Rachel Jones, Allison Katz, Matthew Krishanu, Graham Little, Oscar Murillo, Mohammed Sami, Samara Scott, Daniel Sinsel, Caragh Thuring, Sophie von Hellermann, Jonathan Wateridge, Rose Wylie, Issy Wood and Vivien Zhang.

  

THERE’S ALWAYS TIME FOR A BIT OF KIDDING AROUND

Ellie & I couldn’t hold ourselves back joking about the possibility that all future art exhibitions in the UK will be limited to UK-based artists. I recently tried to send a package to continental Europe and it got returned after six weeks because of unexplained customs problems.

HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT

There is some serious concern that Brexit has harmed not just the performing arts like music orchestras and theatres, but also the art scene. No doubt the ‘Hostile Environment’ policy has reduced the talent onshore. However, so far, the impact seems somewhat manageable.

 

SPOT ON: THE ARTS DESK

Witty as always, The Arts Desk called Mixing It Up at the Hayward Gallery “a snapshot of pre-Brexit Britain, a reflection of the days before we changed from being a relatively friendly, open society into a grumpy, insular backwater.”

MAJOR PLAYERS’ SUPPORT

It will have helped that ‘Mixing it up’ at the Hayward Gallery managed to get the support of major players like David Zwirner, Stephen Friedman Gallery, and Thaddaeus Ropac.

 

VERY UPBEAT AND POSITIVE

A very upbeat, positive, and slightly mischievous (in a good way!) vibe permeates the rooms. We were particular fond of Beijing-born Royal College of Art graduate Vivien Zhang’s colourful patterns and Munich-born Chelsea College of Art and Design graduate Daniel Sinsel’s mesmerising works.

HIGHLIGHTS

Jonathan Wateridge’s painting of two men having drinks on a patio (our feature photo) has an intensity and mystery about it, that sucked me in (Ellie hated it). Graham Little’s ‘Dead Fox’ made me feel like I could grasp death and hold it in my hand. Surprisingly it did not at all feel depressing but if anything: stimulating and invigorating. Not sure what that says about me.

 

OSCAR MURILLO AND JADE FADOJUTIMI

Ellie loved the upper-floor first main room which is dominated by Oscar Murillo’s giant, dark, abstract ‘Manifestation 1919-20’. She was particularly fond of Jadé Fadojutimi’s extremely colourful, almost kaleidoscopic works.

KUDZANAI-VIOLET HWAMI

Hayward Gallery themselves highlight the works of 28-year old, Zimbabwean-born Wimbledon College of Arts graduate Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, and I can see why. Two years ago she made huge waves when representing her home country Zimbabwe at the Venice Biennale. She was the youngest person ever to have shown at the Biennale, what an incredible achievement.

Her collage-style paintings are influenced by all-time-greats like Robert Rauschenberg and Jean-Michel Basquiat, but are very unique and have an easily recognisable signature style. You can feel her rebellious and violently independent personality when looking at her paintings.

 

A PLEASANT SURPRISE

It was in this room that we bumped into an old friend of mine from Germany whom I hadn’t seen in more than twenty years. We had been in kindergarten together and stayed friends throughout school. Turns out she’s now an art teacher and living in Kent.

DON’T MISS THIS EXHIBITION

That alone would have forced me to give this exhibition a 5 out of 5, but even if I had not met my old buddy again, the rating would have been the same.

Looking for more artsy-fartsy stuff? Feel welcome to eyeball my posts about Frieze London, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and Anish Kapoor at Lisson Gallery.

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