Ignota Recommends: Exhibitions (May)

As lockdown eases and venues re-open, Ignota shares a (non-exhaustive) list of shows we're excited to see this month.

Zadie Xa: Moon Poetics 4 Courageous Earth Critters and Dangerous Day Dreamers
Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds
18 May – 4 September 2021

“Drawing from a range of fields including ecology, science fiction and ancient religions, Xa explores how beings imagine and inhabit their worlds. The exhibition tells the story of animal kinship as a survival strategy to save an ailing planet. The concept is based on the Korean shamanic tale of Princess Bari, who travels to the underworld in search of life-saving water to cure her dying parents. Take a journey through multiple dimensions led by five animal guides who speak of the damages caused by industry and resource extraction. They call upon us to recognise the interconnectedness of every lifeform on earth and to take action, before it’s too late.”

Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy
Whitechapel Gallery, London
19 May – 29 August 2021

“Whether dancing on the rooftops in Paris, sharing ideas with Pablo Picasso, or gathering starfish on the beaches of Cornwall, Eileen Agar (b.1899 Buenos Aires – d.1991 London) transformed the everyday into the extraordinary. Her unique style nimbly spanned painting, collage, photography and sculpture, even ceremonial hats. Combining order and chaos, Agar’s work fuses vivid abstraction with imagery from classical art, the natural world, and sexual pleasure.”

Here Be Dragons, a Reprise
Copperfield Gallery, London
14 April – 28 May 2021

“The ocean is often identified as a void, as a great moat that divides territories, defines distances and sets trajectories. When people talk about remoteness and about distant places on the other side of the ocean, they unconsciously locate their position as the central point of global reference. From our land-based perspective, we perceive the geographic and political space around us taking only the surface into account: what we see on the horizon and what is measurable from a static, onshore point of view. These exhibitions propose a process of unlearning the way we conceptualise space, rethinking it from an ocean-based perspective that embraces a relational understanding of the sea and celebrates its complexity as an indivisible entity in constant transformation.”

Spirituality & Abstraction In Post-war Europe
Hanina Fine Arts, London
21 April – 31 July 2021

“The influence of ‘occult’ Theosophy and esoteric thought upon pioneers of abstract art in the early twentieth century such as Kandinsky, Kupka, Malevich and Mondrian has been almost erased from modern art history. But it is evident that Theosophist writings such as Annie Besant amd Charles Leadbeater’s ‘Thought Forms’ (1901), and ‘Man Visible & Invisible’ (1902), along with the teachings of their protégé Rudolf Steiner, were fundamental to these artists' motivations, in giving expression to the spiritual dimension and manifesting the ‘universal mystery’ through ‘art’. This exhibition looks at how spirituality continued to be an important source of inspiration for artists in the post-war years, not least Claude Bellegarde whose abstract ‘Chromagraph’ paintings derived from spiritual resonances, linked to Besant & Leadbeater's Theosophist ideas and vibrant diagrams of aural energies along with their ‘Key to the meaning of colours’, which defined the spiritual symbolism of the spectrum. Bellegarde became a devotee of Krishnamurti, (whose guru status had been created by Leadbeater's messianic proclamations on ‘discovering’ him as a child.)”

CFGNY: Collecting Dissonance
Auto Italia, London
21 May – 22 August 2021

“The exhibition takes a new capsule collection of garments is presented as a part of a sculptural installation, which employs motifs and visual languages drawn from the CFGNY’s ongoing examination of the economic and social contexts of ‘cuteness’: subcultural commodity aesthetics that include kawaii (かわいい) in Japan, Kě’ài (可爱) in China and Aegyo (애교) in South Korea. These cultural phenomena have been transformed into global economic exports, which are readily consumed and appropriated across Asia, the US and other Western economies. In this show, haphazard and patch-work sculptural constructions highlight an experience of hijacking, misusing and bootlegging authenticity, questioning established understandings of value and time. Through the use of atypical, recycled materials, these works embrace incongruity and polyvocality.”

Yu Ji: Wasted Mud
Chisenhale Gallery, London
22 May – 18 July 2021

“Motivated by an acute sensitivity to materials, Yu Ji’s work explores a tension between physical matter and energy. Recurring materials used in her work, such as cement, wood, metal, plastic and organic matter all have their distinctive characteristics, tactility and ‘temperatures’. In her installations, these materials oppose, rub and strike against one another; proposing by their proximity how they might merge, combine or absorb one into the other.”

Richard Porter: Night Glyph
Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, London
21 April – 29 May 2021

“Oil painting and sculpture... form an interlocked network of energy systems and symbols, collected and gathered in the artist’s studio over the course of the last year. Inspired by Buddhist teachings of ‘emptiness’ and ‘non-attachment’, Porter’s work explores a desire for truth and cosmic equilibrium through various processes that prioritise stillness and care. Gestures on canvas move between empty space, energy lines and symbolic forms, such as candles and birds’ nests. Porter draws from a myriad of pagan, Buddhist and Hindu symbols, and their relationship to the natural world. In one painting, flowers fall from a dark hole in the sky. In another, tremulous lines of vivid colour encompass and contain a field of emptiness. The alignment of these symbols does not point to a particular dogma, but rather posits mystical representations of what cannot be known through his own assembled ecology of symbols.” 

Imran Perretta: the destructors
The Whitworth, Manchester
19 May – Autumn 2021

“A new 2-screen film by London-based artist Imran Perretta. Drawing on the artist’s own experience as a young man of Bangladeshi heritage, the film explores personal and collective experiences of marginalisation and oppression. Shot on location in Tower Hamlets, East London, it reconsiders the figure of alienated male youth, exploring the complexities of ‘coming of age’ for young Muslim men living in the UK.” 

Lubaina Himid: The Mourning Kangas
Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool
27 March – 19 June 

“Made during the UK’s first lockdown period... Himid’s ‘The Mourning Kangas’ shows the artist’s ongoing interest in the visual language and communicative power of kangas; colourful patterned fabrics worn by people, mostly women, all over east Africa. In this latest series of kanga paintings, iconography recurrent in her work is joined by motifs such as a cage and a speed camera; imagery that speak to limits and containment and of the times in which the works were made.”