Art fairs: A Day at Zoo 2009 – well, a couple of hours

Richard Bevan, ROOM

© Richard Bevan, There Must Be Happy Endings (Slade), Two SX-70 Polaroids, 2008, courtesy of the artist and ROOM

Why are contemporary art fairs like buses? Because they all come at once.

Frieze Art Fair has just finished its five-day extravaganza in Regent’s Park, London while Zoo Art Fair 2009’s event finished yesterday, so excuse the lack of posts. It’s been a week of looking, absorbing, and walking around art fairs and stalls. As I only had a couple of hours to get a feel for the new Zoo 2009 venue, (which has moved to a far more industrial space – a group of warehouses located behind and facing out onto Commercial Street in east London) the following observations are offered and are, by no means, comprehensive:

I could easily have missed it. Tucked away behind a wall, the whirring of the 16mm film projector drew me towards ROOM where Richard Bevan’s film Zoo (a remake of a film for Room, site-specific, 16mm film, 2009) was showing. A recent MA graduate from the Slade School of Fine Art, Bevan’s work does not announce itself with grand gestures – the film is projected at little more than A4 size at just above floor level, and another piece, There Must Be Happy Endings (Slade), Two SX-70 Polaroids, 2008, is simply framed on another wall.

It was the quality of light that interested me at first and the atmospheric feel which conjures up a metaphysical realm and reminded me, a little, of scenes from Andrei Tarkovsky‘s brilliant repertoire of films. Bevan’s use of gels, including cyan, magenta, and yellow (from the CMYK colour printing process) also recalls the colour tinting and toning processes used during the Silent Era of cinema. During this time, these colours helped to create mood, atmosphere and enhanced the narrative; blue was often used for exterior night scenes, orange for night scenes lit indoors and sepia in general. See Film Tinting for more. Each segment of Bevan’s film shows a figure repeating the same action and opening a wooden door to reveal an ever increasing frame of light, bathed in colour. It’s a discreet, subtle piece and, from what I can find online, Bevan’s work is well worth keeping an eye on.

Other works by Bevan include Usher, 2009 in which “four looped 16mm films are projected side by side. Each screen displays the same image of a figure shrouded in darkness, standing facing the viewer in what appears to be a cinema auditorium. On one of the screens a fleeting burst of light momentarily wipes out the image; its fading circular twinkle is unmistakably that of a torch shining directly into the camera. Another screen gives way to the briefest blinding flash in the same manner, and another, each returning to the semi-darkness occupied by this lone cinema usher who is once again visible in the returning gloom, holding a torch at waist height.” The artist-run g39 website says of Bevan’s work: “Richard Bevan’s work deals with the tension between film as a medium and light as its agent. It sidesteps the nostalgic trappings of film and offers the viewer the chance to experience a lyrical and contemporary aspect of the medium’s processes. His use of film technology is such that it also interrogates photographic traditions.”

Other pieces that made me stop to look closer included a work by Gonzalo Lebrija titled Fade Away, 2009, (C-print, 240 photographs, 8 pieces, 90x60cm each, 1/5), follow the artist’s link on website to see the work which consists of grids of small colour photographs precisely arranged in rows of five by nine. The sequence of images were taken at regular intervals throughout the day from morning till night until the sun sets, night falls, and the sequences of image become darker. The arrangement of the photos is repeated for all eight frames which were then positioned on the wall so as to create a further grid-like design with the frames placed in two rows of four frames. The photos depict a person sitting in a chair facing the sea. On the table beside the silhouette-like figure is a bottle of Havana rum. The scene is shot from behind the person who is looking out to the sea. Lebrija is represented by Travesia Cuatro in Madrid “main objective is to represent and promote the work of emergent and mid-career national and international artists”.

At the WORKS/PROJECT gallery a diptych from Sarah Dobai’s new body of work, Studio/Location Photographs, looked interesting, but not because of the empty shopping mall shots which are fairly generic, rather for the sets Dobai has constructed in a studio, and in which she then places models. According to the gallery’s website, Dobai’s work “consists of more than a dozen photographs that explore the nature of public space in the city… In the studio the models are pictured in a sets whose construction intentionally echoes the architectural qualities of the urban spaces photographed. The demeanour of the actor/models in the studio photographs moves between the enacted and un-posed, drawing parallels between people’s uneasy relation to public space in everyday life and how a model finds ‘a way to be’ in the theatrical context of the photo-shoot”.

That’s it for now. I’ll be returning to  Zoo 2009 for another post, including a couple of words from Zoo 2009 director Soraya Rodriguez and attendance figures etc, as soon as they are announced.

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