Exhibitions | Contemporary Art at the Wellington Arch

Posted in exhibitions, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on April 13, 2022

Decimus Burton, Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, 1826–30 (Photo by Beata May, June 2012, Wikimedia Commons). Together with Marble Arch, Wellington Arch was conceived by George IV in 1825 to celebrate Britain’s victories in the Napoleonic Wars. From 1846, the arch supported a massive equestrian sculpture by Matthew Cotes Wyatt depicting the Waterloo hero, a statue many people saw as painfully out of proportion for the arch. In the early 1880s, Wellington Arch was moved from its original nearby site to its current location, and the statue was relocated to Aldershot. Adrian Jones’s bronze quadriga was installed in 1912. For a fine essay grappling with the site as a war memorial, see Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, “Peace Descending on the Chariot of War, Hyde Park Corner, London,” Bidoun (Winter 2008).

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From the press release (via Art Daily):

Contemporary Art at the Wellington Arch: Jordy Kerwick, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Matthew Burrows, and Marcus Harvey
Quadriga Gallery, Wellington Arch, London, April 2022 — January 2023

This year a programme of exhibitions curated by Vigo Gallery will be on display in London at Wellington Arch. The historic site, under the care of English Heritage, is hosting the exhibitions in its Quadriga Gallery from April 2022 to January 2023. Th installations include a series of epic paintings by Australian artist Jordy Kerwick, a group of never-before-exhibited works by Ibrahim El-Salahi created in the run up to his solo retrospective at Tate Modern, the much-anticipated exhibition of new paintings by #ArtistSupportPledge founder Matthew Burrows, and an exciting exhibition of specially commissioned work by YBA favourite Marcus Harvey. The partnership offers a new way for contemporary art to reach a larger audience and to encourage engagement with this important landmark in a new way.

Toby Clarke, Director of Vigo Gallery says: “It is a privilege to be able to bring contemporary exhibitions inspired by history to one of London’s most iconic landmarks and to work in partnership with English Heritage to create interesting opportunities for both the artists and public to experience this setting within a new context.”

Josephine Oxley, Keeper of the Wellington Collection for Apsley House and Wellington Arch added: “We welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with Vigo Gallery and are excited about the varied and diverse programme that they have put together. The exhibitions will give our visitors to the Wellington Arch a wholly new and exciting experience.”

Jordy Kerwick, Vertical Planes
6 April — 29 May 2022

Jordy Kerwick’s brazen, colour saturated paintings transport you to a dream world of mythology, folk law, and misadventure. The artist explores his own domestic family frivolity through the lens of alternative bodies or forms. Snakes, bears, wolves, and tigers are juxtaposed with his favourite books, still life flowers, trees, and domestic arrangements within almost fairy-tale narratives. His two sons Sony and Milo, for example, are often represented as double-headed beasts.

The current exhibition is a playful reaction to the history—or alternate histories—of Wellington Arch and some of the characters it immortalises. Tigers, bears, snakes, and unicorns all take sides in the artist’s own version of the Battle of Waterloo, replacing key characters such as Napoleon and Wellington but leaving these characters ambiguous and interchangeable. The work was by Ken Webster’s book Vertical Planes (1989), which documents the author’s experience of receiving contact from people of the 16th-century and the future who had all inhabited the same cottage in Dodleston, Cheshire. Webster believed in parallel planes of existence all running simultaneously, an idea that also fascinates Kerwick.

Ibrahim El-Salahi, Black and White
1 June — 30 October 2022

This group of Black and White works on paper by Ibrahim El-Salahi from 2012 have never before been exhibited. They were completed in the lead up to his 2013 solo show at Tate Modern, when he became the first artist of African birth to be featured there in a retrospective exhibition. The works show the ‘godfather of African art’ at his best with a confidence of line reflecting over seventy years of creating his surreal multilayered visions.

Born in Sudan in 1930, Ibrahim El-Salahi is one of the most important living African artists and a key figure in the development of African Modernism. El-Salahi grew up in Omdurman, Sudan and studied at the Slade School in London. On his return to Sudan in 1957, he established a new visual vocabulary, integrating various Sudanese, Islamic, African, Arab, and Western artistic traditions.

2022 is an exciting year for the now Oxford-based El-Salahi. The artist has been selected to participate with 99 drawings in the 2022 59th Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams curated by Cecilia Alemani. Alongside the exhibition at Wellington Arch, Vigo will also show El-Salahi at their gallery in Masons Yard, London (June 2021), and his Pain Relief drawings will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Norwegian Drawing Association (Tegnerforbundet), a show which will travel in an expanded format to The Drawing Center in New York in October. The Pain Relief canvases relating to these drawings will also be the subject of a solo exhibition at Hastings Contemporary (the Jerwood Gallery) from April to June. In a busy year the 91-year-old legend will further participate in group exhibitions at the Chrysler Museum of Art (October) and the Fisk University Galleries (October).

Matthew Burrows, In and Through
8 November 2022 — 8 January 2023

The paintings of Matthew Burrows explore a coalescence between stillness and movement. Work from the In and Through series has a preoccupation with watchfulness and the lines that delineate the landscape and our physiology. Burrows speaks of his work as an internal vigilance for place, creating images that meditate on the deep knowledge derived from repeatedly moving in and through the landscape. His relationship with habitat is not one of description or nostalgia, but one of dwelling and ritual. It is a process of mythologising, of drawing meaning from the particularities of the environment, of realising its wilderness and ours.

In 2020, a week before the first national lockdown, Burrows founded the Artists Support Pledge initiative, to help artists and makers through the COVID-19 pandemic. Artist Support Pledge has become a global phenomenon helping sustain thousands of artists across the globe during the pandemic. It has become a global movement empowering both artists and collectors. For his efforts, Matthew was awarded an MBE for services to Arts and Culture. Many are excited to celebrate this ‘artist’s artist’ who has contributed so much to his community.

Marcus Harvey, Waterloo Sunset
11 January — 19 March 2023

Marcus Harvey makes raw, expressive figurative paintings and sculptures. He seeks out imagery that is emblematic of a brutish but proud Britishness, iconic images—whether good, bad, or ambiguous—without commenting on his own relationship to them. Harvey’s most infamous work is Myra, a painting of the infamous child-murderer, which was exhibited as part of the groundbreaking 1997 exhibition Sensation. This chilling portrait derived much of its potency from the iconography of a photograph so engrained in the British psyche through years of media reproduction. A family man, Harvey was after sensation, and this painting regarded as so important in British art history is also one of the most misunderstood.

Recently, Harvey has started to work extensively with ceramics creating motifs and emblems of Britishness into collaged portraits of historical British figures, or foes, from history, from Nelson to Margaret Thatcher and Napoleon, to Tony Blair. He works the imagery, handling the clay in a battle to find its form through multiple firings. The result is tough but humorous sculpture, unapologetic and brash, political yet ambiguous, considered, and painterly.

Wellington and his eponymous boot fit snugly into Harvey’s ‘Punch and Judy’ ensemble as it fights to balance our nation’s patriotic sympathies with its dark imperial legacy. These complex and contradictory emotions will infuse the characters who will take temporary residence in the upper galleries of Wellington Arch.

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