Three Artists Are Pretty Vacant At London's Transition Gallery

By Kim Patrick | 27 August 2008
Two ink drawings depicting architectural details

Examples of Keara Stewart's work. Courtesy Transition Gallery

Exhibition review – Pretty Vacant at Transition Gallery until September 7 2008.

Pretty Vacant showcases new work from emerging artists Rachel Potts, Nina Ogden and Keara Stewart at London's Transition Gallery.

Taking its title from the Sex Pistols anthem the exhibition links the work of three artists who have a self-professed lack of commercialism and a rebellious rejection of the demands of the art market.

Denouncing current "art stuffing" and the price paid for a cohesive theme these artists are adopting an apathetic punk stance and producing lo-fi works with attitude.

Each artist presents a perspective on the theme of vacancy by making deliberate omissions, detachments and even imitating the characteristics of the punk movement.

A large pen and ink drawing showing the silhouette of what could be a yeti

Two of the artists' work on display. Courtesy Transition Gallery

Rachel Potts achieves a curious lack of interest in her chosen subject matter. In her painting Untitled (Woman) her subject fades into the canvas, the victim of a literal glossing over, and appears to have been forgotten by the artist herself. Potts has great command of her materials of acrylics, gel and varnish.

In Untitled (Church) it is not clear whether the artist intends to display or destroy her subject. This static conflict of interests reveals her refusal to illustrate too much and appeals for closer inspection, empowering the viewer to decide what is being depicted.

Pen and ink drawing of a cowboy riding a poodle made out of clown's balloons, as though at a rodeo

RodeoPoodle by Nina Ogden. © the artist

Nina Ogden’s take on the theme of vacancy is more explicit and, unlike Potts, there is a definite attachment to her subjects. Her ink drawings are fanciful works presenting fictive characters that have been captured by the artist and stripped of any narrative.

In Beeman she seems unwilling to divulge any specifics, but further inspection reveals what appears to be a fractured, faceless and loosely shaped portrait of an empty costume – a vacancy waiting to be filled.

Keara Stewart’s pencil drawings are the stand out works of the show. Her unpolished and disengaged drawings uproot buildings from their sites and reposition them without location. The Modern and Church blankly depict ubiquitous architecture in a lethargic style.

Pen and ink drawing of a grand old mansion with a drive running up to it

Manderley by Keara Stewart. © the artist

Stewart’s illustration of Manderley should be steeped in literary association as the infamous house from Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca and Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation, but the blunt quality of the drawing rejects these associations.

Instead, Stewart’s Manderley depicts a diluted version of the original in acknowledgment of the fact that Manderley was at one time the most common name for a home in England.

All three artists enjoy their liberation from the “art market whirligig” but it is their simultaneous rejection of, and dalliance with, the mainstream that fuels the irony in Pretty Vacant.

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