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The Shock of the Now - Issue #31

Hector Campbell - Art Historian, Writer & Curator
Hector Campbell - Art Historian, Writer & Curator
Evening All,
I hope you’re all well and welcome to Issue 31 of The Shock of the Now.
This issue’s Featured Exhibition is Laila Majid and Louis Blue Newby’s latest collaborative solo exhibition ‘not yet’ at San Mei Gallery in Stockwell, an impressive merging of artistic practices that has resulted in a moving and thought-provoking body of work encompassing post-modernist queer theory, environmentalism and comic book fandom, all hosted within an immersive marshland environment.
There are also seven weekly Recommended Exhibitions and two fresh Artist Opportunities.
I hope you enjoy Issue 31, and if so do forward it along! As always any questions, comments or feedback are welcome, so feel free to get in touch.
All the best, and speak soon, H x

Featured Exhibition: Laila Majid and Louis Blue Newby - 'not yet' Solo Exhibition - San Mei
With smeared windows, lights turned down low and walls dappled with murky green, San Mei‘s gallery space is transformed into the bowels of a Louisiana bayou for 'not yet’, the latest completely collaborative exhibition of Laila Majid and Louis Blue Newby. Alongside the harmonious cohabitation of their own practices, they draw from an ever-expanding pool of collective creativity, including for this exhibition interdisciplinary designer Elliot Elder, illustrator Alice Bloomfield and musicians Jennifer Walton and Dan S Evans.
Gleaming Dibond panels punctuate the muddy depths, UV printed with faded depictions of muscled mouse-men or cartoon gym bunnies with weighty breasts, all entangled or entrapped by the entrails of an encroaching abstracted swampland. In addition, a wall-mounted terrarium is abundant with living biological life, a miniature maquette of the intended environment complete with a large purple pitcher plant, mouth agape.
The exhibition’s principal moving image artwork, south florida sky, is composed of two distinct yet interlinked sequences, both concentrating on the DC Comics character Swamp Thing. Under the direction of writer Alan Moore, illustrator Stephen Bissette and inker John Totleben, Swamp Thing’s golden age in the 1980s saw the herbaceous hero reimaged as an entirely non-human entity, an anthropomorphic mass of vegetation merely imitating mortal form. Alongside the common comic superpowers of immense strength and regeneration, Swamp Things’ ability to accelerate the growth of other plant life was prominent, as was the use of their powers to not only protect their surrounding swamp from illegal polluting but also to promote wider environmental and ecological concerns.
The initial part of south florida sky revolves around the reanimation of a recovered comic panel from The Saga of Swamp Thing #35 (1985), in which we find Swamp Thing sitting on their grassy bog bank caught in a moment of post-coital self-reflection, as if perched on the corner of a bed, their lover lounging beside. This particular scene follows the famed ‘Rite of Spring’ storyline, which saw Abby Cable (née Arcane, nephew of Swamp Thing’s nemesis Anton Arcane) declare her love for the plant-based protagonist and engage in carnal communion akin to intercourse, yet free from the constraints of corporeal concern. After ingesting a tuberous root sprouting from Swamp Thing’s torso, Abby enters a psychedelic hallucinogenic state whereby she is able to view the world from the perspective of her marshy mate and accept her inherent connection to nature.
In recent times Swamp Thing, and in particular the romantic storyline of ‘Rites of Spring’, has undergone a queered process of disidentification, in part due to the innate androgyny or hermaphroditic ambiguity allowed by their botanical biological makeup, as well as their representation of the ‘othered’ experience thanks to that essential ‘thingness’ that sadly leaves Swamp Thing suffering the same superficial shunning that often befalls other so-called ‘creatures’ such as Shrek or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Majid and Newby embrace and amplify this queered reclamation of the enduring comic character through a muted voiceover with scripted subtitles, constructed as a patchwork of found paragraphs and salvaged sentences. Phrases from novels published by writers of the New Narrative movement that emerged partly in response to Stonewall riots and the AIDS epidemic, snippets of academic studies into the practice of ‘tea-rooming’ (‘cottaging’ in British parlance) and citations from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (another frequent subject of queered co-option) coexist against selections from Moore’s Swamp Thing story itself.
The second sequence of south florida sky employs the embryonic technology of machine learning, with Majid and Newby feeding a neural network stocked with images of Swamp Thing, swampland and swamp-life into a generative adversarial network (GAN). The resultant moving image documents the output of the GAN programme, a seemingly unending supply of ostensibly similar images, an ever-revolving Rolodex of uninterrupted evolution. We glimpse recognition amongst the mass of bodily or biological matter, as limbs sprout and shrink, eyes pop and recede into sockets, teeth protrude and retract. Scales fill the screen only to subside seconds later, fleeting figments that form and fade in frame, waxing and waning at the whim of the GAN. Such rapid transfiguration recalls time-lapse photography, whether growth or decay is unsure, as the boundaries blur between fact and science fiction, fantasy and physical, Swamp Thing and the real thing.
Recommended Exhibitions Opening This Week:
Vilte Fuller - ‘Little kiosk of bone juice’ Solo Exhibition - Niru Ratnam, Soho (10th March - 2nd April, opening Wednesday 9th March, 6-8pm)
Niru Ratnam presents Vilte Fuller‘s debut London solo show 'Little kiosk of bone juice’. Fuller’s recent paintings articulate a dystopian present where (presciently given the current times) danger seems to lurk just around the corner. These are landscapes of post-Soviet architecture, of domestic objects, food and characters who seem trapped in scenes that might not end so well.
Cathrin Hoffmann - ‘Probably Outside’ Solo Exhibition - Public Gallery at The Factory, Silvertown (9th - 19th March, opening Wednesday 9th March, 6-10pm)
Public Gallery presents ‘Probably Outside’, an offsite exhibition at The Factory of new painting and sculpture by German-Iranian artist Cathrin Hoffmann. In these stylised, distorted depictions, the artist imagines the body as an interface between the interior and exterior, examining the conflict between our inner and outer selves.
‘Inside Out’ Group Exhibition - The Artist Room, Soho (10th March - 2nd April, opening Wednesday 9th March, 6-8pm)
The Artist Room presents ‘Inside Out’, a group exhibition including works by Sophie Mei Birkin, Max Boyla, Sonya Derviz, Antoine Leisure, Kin-Ting Li (above), Ding Shilun and Scott Young. This exhibition explores how a dystopian consciousness permeates contemporary art. From subverting the so-called ‘natural’ to envisioning surreal cosmologies and carnal futures, this exhibition brings together a group of emerging artists that imagine life turned inside out.
Lawrence Calver - ‘Under the Sun’ Solo Exhibition - Cob Gallery, Camden (10th March - 9th April, opening Wednesday 9th March, 6-9pm)
Cob Gallery presents ‘Under the Sun’, a new solo exhibition of large-scale textile works by Lawrence Calver. Calver’s practice is built around sourcing and repurposing textiles into arresting abstract compositions. Working mostly within restricted colour palettes, he has developed a language that is as haptic as it is visual. Using processes including embroidery, stitching and sewing, as well as bleaching, dying and staining, he draws out striking, sensitive conjunctions of texture and tactility. 
Julia de Ruvo - ‘I Promise I Don’t Bite / Jag lovar att jag inte kommer att bita dig’ Solo Exhibition - Guts Gallery, Hackney (10th - 31st March, opening Thursday 10th March, 6-9pm)
Guts Gallery presents ‘I Promise I Don’t Bite / Jag lovar att jag inte kommer att bita dig’, the debut solo exhibition by Swedish based artist Julia de Ruvo. In this latest body of work, she contemplates survival as an artist and the yearning for community and a place in the (art) world as a self-taught artist.
Rachel Jones - ‘say cheeeeese’ Solo Exhibition - Chisenhale Gallery, Bow (12th March - 12th June, opening Saturday 12th March, 10am-12pm)
Chisenhale Gallery presents ‘say cheeeeese’, a new commission by artist Rachel Jones and her first solo exhibition in an institution. Working with painting, installation and performance, Jones’ work examines ways of expressing that which can be seen and sensed rather than uttered. Jones’ oil pastel on canvas and paper works often repeat symbols, colours and textures, creating associative, even familial relationships between works varying in scale from the monumental to the hand-held and jewel-like.
Aly Helyer - Solo Exhibition - PM/AM, Fitzrovia (16th March - 17th April, opening Tuesday 15th March, 6-9pm)
PM/AM presents Aly Helyer’s latest solo exhibition, featuring a series of new portrait paintings that continue her study into human connection and expression, pushed into the unconventional through a combination of traditional influences and a unique sense of colour and form.⁠
Artist Opportunities:
Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop are now accepting applications for their Solo Residency (May - July 2022). ​The gallery is offering one artist access for three months to one of its spectacular 350 ft² (35m²) studio spaces, with both natural and professional lighting. Working above the gallery space, the successful applicant has the opportunity to network with artists, curators, collectors and the wider public whilst visiting ongoing exhibitions and events organised in the gallery. The residency programme also provides guidance and promotion through our channels and network, as well as the Solo Residency Exhibition organised in the studio space upstairs.
Are you a creative practitioner or collective looking to take up space, share and inspire conversation, build creativity and connection? Autograph are inviting proposals for events to take place either at their building in Hackney, London or via our online platforms. Autograph are welcoming artists, producers, writers, performers, musicians, curators and collectives to propose and host an event that relates to Autograph’s mission to explore issues around race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice. This might include - but certainly isn’t limited to - launch events, spoken word or performance, in-conversation and Q&A events, creative workshops, or film screenings. Successful applicants will receive a £600 budget as well as a £300 curatorial fee. Selected proposals will take place between 2022 and early 2023.
The Mark Tanner Sculpture Award is the most significant award for emerging artists working in the field of sculpture in the UK. It is unique in its combination of offering financial support towards the production of new work, plus a solo exhibition to an exceptional sculptor. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the award and to celebrate the prize fund has been raised to £10,000. The award also includes a national touring programme, taking MTSA artists to partner venues across the UK. Applicants must be established residents of the UK. Students in current education are not eligible to apply. This applies to BA and MA students or equivalent, but those undertaking postgraduate research work leading to a PhD/Mphil/MLitt/ MRes or equivalent are able to apply.
RES. 007 will take over one of Changing Room Gallery locations in Soho, London for a 28-day long duo residency. Artists have access to their residency space 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the 4 weeks of their residency. During this time both artists will participate in a studio critique, a talk and artist-led workshop from a visiting artist and an interim interview with photography of studio work. Artists will also have a £250 materials budget and a fully-funded exhibition at the end of their residency.
The Mark Rothko Memorial Trust Funded Artist-in-Residency programme is now open for submissions, seeking two professional artists, working in any medium, currently based in the UK, who wish to travel to the Mark Rothko Art Centre (Daugavpils, Latvia) and are available on the given dates (1st-30th August 2022). Each artist receives studio space and accommodation organised and paid for by the Trust at the Mark Rothko Art Centre for the given period, as well as an award sum of £4,500 each, given in advance of the residency. Awardees will be responsible to organise and pay for their own travel arrangements, materials, stipend and all other associated costs.
The Trust would expect the awarded artist to make full use of the opportunity to travel, engage in a new culture, make new works and interact with the local creative community. In return the Trust requests only that the awarded artist sends a brief report on the outcome of their experience and provides the Trust with images that may be used on the Trust’s website, this will be of benefit to future candidates.
Turps Studio Programme is a unique opportunity for a select group of painters to take up residence in their own dedicated studios within an exciting studio and gallery development in South East London, just 10 minutes from Elephant and Castle. Participants embark on a year-long programme of intensive mentoring, dynamic group seminars, talks, and crits with the option to continue for a second year. Participants are expected to work within this professional environment with commitment and a strong work ethic, as well as participating fully in a community-based studio.
Turps Off-Site is an exciting mentoring opportunity for London based painters who want to develop their practice through the ethos of Turps Studio Programme but wish to remain working in their own studio. A team of Turps Mentors visit participants in their own studios for one to one tutorials, and painters will develop a supportive network of peers across London, through group studio visits to each other’s studios, crits based at Turps Studios and regular visits to attend talks at Turps Art School across the year.
Gasworks presents a residency opportunity for an artist whose practice is concerned with the advancement of participation within a contemporary art environment. ⁠The candidate must be committed to engaging with the local migrant community around the Lambeth and Southwark areas, while addressing the issues of mental health and wellbeing which are of relevance to them. The candidate will deliver a diverse range of regular participatory activities in a creative and enjoyable way throughout the 8 months of the residency. The programme should incorporate the artist’s own practice as a means of developing a cohesive project with an overall output at the end of the residency. Outputs could be in the form of a publication, film, podcast, exhibition, performance, digital media, sculpture or any other type of public presentation.
Residency dates: May 2022 to December 2022 (8 months), Artist Fee: £200 per day, Working days: 2 days a week, flexible working days and hours, Programme budget: £5,000 (includes materials for activities and final output), Location: Gasworks, 155 Vauxhall Street, London.
Applications are now open for The Drawing Year, Royal Drawing School’s one-year postgraduate-level course offering up to thirty students the opportunity to focus on drawing from observation. There are no tuition fees – all students are awarded a full scholarship and receive a free personal studio space (SPACE studios, Hackney) from which they can continue to work on the development of their practice alongside taught courses. The programme is taught by a distinguished faculty of over 75 practicing artists offering in-depth quality tuition. Royal Drawing School sees drawing both as an end in itself and in relation to other areas of practice.
MASS Studio Programme was launched in October 2021 at MASS Studios at Thames-Side Studios, Woolwich, London, SE18 5NR. MASS is in the heart of the largest single-site community of artists and creatives in London. Working in collaboration with the London Sculpture Workshop they offer a number of on-site studio spaces and a flexible exhibition and talks space to enable us to build a sustainable community of peers and mentors. Participants join an open plan shared studio space at MASS Studios at Thames-Side Studios with 24/7 access, receive to 15 artists talks and access to visiting artist’s mentoring, 10 one-to-one regular mentoring sessions, 2 one-to-one guest mentoring sessions, 2 group mentoring sessions, 10 MASS Seminar Points & 2 group review sessions. The programme runs in three 12-weeks blocks across a 10 month period.
MASS Off-Site is an exciting new mentoring opportunity for London based sculptors who want to develop their practice through the same successful ethos employed by Turps Mentoring programmes and wish to remain working in their own studio. MASS Mentors visit sculptors in their own studios for one to one tutorials, and participants develop a supportive network of peers across London, through group studio visits to each other’s studios, crits based at Turps Gallery and attending MASS artist talks.
Mass Correspondence Course is an innovative distance-learning programme of online mentoring facilitated through critical, supportive written reviews by a dedicated mentor. The course is aimed at sculptors based anywhere in the world and at any stage in their career who want to develop or reinvigorate their work, whether recently graduated from art school or those without any formal arts education. 
Turps Correspondence Course is an innovative programme of online mentoring facilitated through critical, supportive written reviews delivered by a dedicated mentor. The course is aimed at painters who want to develop or reinvigorate their work, whether recently graduated from art school, mid-career or those without any formal arts education. The course is designed and structured to be delivered entirely online so that painters, based anywhere in the world and at any stage in their career, can participate and receive informed, critical feedback from a mentor who is a practising painter selected by Turps. There are 5 review points throughout the year when you will be required to upload images of your work and a short statement or ‘letter’ to your mentor. Your mentor will then review what has been uploaded and write their response. It is a very different type of feedback from more conventional face-to-face tutorials but we believe this is what makes the correspondence course such an appealing and sought after professional development course.
V.O Residencies provide emerging and lesser represented artists with the time and space to research and develop new work. The 2022 V.O Residency Programme will host six artists across three sessions, inviting practitioners to experiment and create new work in an open and supportive environment. Residents are provided with free studio space, critical and practical support, the opportunity to present a solo exhibition, and access to useful resources and a broad network of individuals and organisations. V.O aims to bring together diverse voices and encourages applicants from all backgrounds. The V.O Residency Programme is focused on promoting artistic exchange, socially-focused discourse and knowledge production.
V.O Residencies are open to artists in their first five years of professional practice and with less than three solo exhibitions. Each resident is invited to present a solo exhibition or project at V.O Gallery, and will have the possibility of producing a publication or print project related to the work they have developed while in residence.
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Hector Campbell - Art Historian, Writer & Curator
Hector Campbell - Art Historian, Writer & Curator

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