‘Chrysalis’ – The advent of Hyde Park Art Club and a show about the apocalypse
Our first show ‘Chrysalis’ brings together four artists, whose work intersects around a liminal space of change, potential, beginning, exploration and scene setting. It’s been a strange year – one that’s left the familiar behind, turned our kitchen tables into desktops, made touching a taboo and left us weirdly dancing with strangers as we navigate local supermarkets.
This shared choreography of awkwardness in the frozen aisle, is mirrored in Molly Palmer’s ‘Apple’s’ (2016). In the HD video loop, Palmer’s calm voice over eerily narrates the strangeness of human behaviour, the feigned casualness of mutual monitoring and the weirdness of modern life and its anxieties. All in just over two Technicolor minutes. The strangest part, perhaps, is that this ‘Mollywood’ classic was conceived in 2016, before any hint of a global pandemic that would bring our world to its distanced knees.
This pre-empting of absolute weirdness sits well with us, the whole show was conceived out of a strange amalgam of E.M. Forster’s short story sci-fi of 1909 ‘The Machine Stops’ and the current COVID-19 climate. Both carry this notion of an environment you couldn’t even write (but someone did) that could surely never happen (but did).
Rosie Vohra’s work shares an observational vantage point that dips into the surreal. Her mural ‘Creeping by Daylight’, shows slightly larger-than-life figures engaging impishly with the other works in the hang. The figurative ‘creepers’, a collection of miscellaneous players who have ‘stuck’ to her through past chance encounters, ground us in the space whilst offering apertures into elsewhere planes of drawing, paint, observation and Vohra’s own imagination. I watch as a storybook pine cone man is transformed with a shroud of clouds, and listen to Vohra’s own ideas of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The yellow wallpaper’ that she embeds within the walls. It’s a generous caché delivered by a joyous bodily act of making. During the install, Vohra seemed to dance with her creepers as she crafted them, stepping in close before moving back for a subjective vantage point on her creations as they emerged.
Ellie MacGarry’s works are of the body too, but it’s a different vibe. Her close crops create a sense of touch I can feel in my edges, I can literally feel my fingertips when I look at her gloved hands and soft nipples. She paints the peripheries of our bodies, focusing on the extremities like hair and skin – the parts of us we renew and cast off. These are presenting points – skin, hands and feet and heads, the bits we use to navigate the world, and to physically communicate with – through touch. And then of course there’s a piercing look at the intimate, MacGarry turns the idea of a slipped nip on it’s head, removing with her delicious shirts and socks any association of shame or taboo in exposure. At a time when we are being most careful, separate, and isolated – these bits of bared flesh subtly seep out of clothes and skins in the softest of palettes. The intimate is on show in a confusingly reassuring way. Nestled on the rear wall though, ‘Blush’ seems to carry with its deliciousness, a cautionary tale of too much too fast, a beautiful warning signal in fleshy reds.
Richard Baker’s work sits in a satisfyingly uneasy way against Ellie MacGarry’s exposed intimates. Whilst sharing a sense of sensuous longing, his formal creations sit steady within their canvases, contained portraits of desirous objects are the results of lusty searches for modernist furniture on eBay that long pre-date the pandemic. His objects and spaces, like their eBay ‘originals’, are seemingly ungrounded in the most generic of backdrops. But rather than creating anonymous images the absence of context in Baker’s paintings leaves space for us to populate the image, layering objects with memory and meaning. These depictions of the isolated domestic feel especially challenging right now, when our personal environments have become central to everything. I suppose it’s a lot about control, and Baker’s paintings in their grids and lines and chromatic series are loaded with that too.
As founders of Hyde Park Art Club (HPAC) Jack, Simon and I think artist-led spaces are essential in the growth of creative scenes and navigating weird threshold times for emerging artists by nurturing, connecting and showcasing in a safe test space. That feels so important right now.
We hope HPAC will compliment and work alongside other great artist-led venues that support artists in the city, the north, and beyond. ‘Chrysalis’ will be the first of many shows and happenings, we want to work with a wide range of creatives and to celebrate all of them. Like our illustrator Nathalie Lees who created our amazing ‘Chrysalis’ illustration and Babb Sabbath of Third Eye designs who made our hand painted HPAC sign. Between myself, Jack and Simon we are like this weirdly shaped triangle of literature, music and art. I think we all see HPAC as a sort of ongoing jigsaw puzzle to which we can all find pieces and be pleasantly surprised by the scene they add up to.
- Show #1 ‘Chrysalis’ is open daily 10am – late, 21.06,2021 – 19.08.2021 at Hyde Park Art Club, (Hyde Park Book Club, 27-29 Headingley Lane, Leeds, LS6 1BL)
- Check out SYNERGY – our mindful movement workshop on the 25th June, created by Composer and producer Eskimoh and Dancer Maddy Kirk.