The Discontents brings together five artworld protagonists who are recognised for their work in the industry including art criticism, journalism, running galleries and museums, educating and curating. Whilst establishing themselves in their respective capacities Matthew Collings, Tommaso Corvi-Mora, Zavier Ellis, Matthew Higgs and Max Presneill have refused to navigate a singular path through the artworld and have been insistent on maintaining a rigorous studio practice, developing successful careers as artists. Including painting, collage, objects and ceramics, the exhibition will be diverse despite formal and thematic correlations emerging. Matthew Collings presents impasto oil paintings where abstraction vies with figuration. They are narrative paintings that are deeply personal, referencing events and relationships from his early to current life. Tommaso Corvi-Mora’s ceramics reflect his interest in the history and tradition of British Studio Pottery. Investigating the relationship between art object and functionality, there are also political undertones including deliberations on overpopulation and compulsive consumption. Zavier Ellis will present a monumental 2x3 metre painting. Continuing his exploration into the historical, from where he draws an internal, symbolic logic, this recent series is inspired by research into revolutionary flags and events, and specifically in this case the French Revolution. Matthew Higgs will exhibit archetypal work that draws directly on the history of the readymade. Continuously scouring book stores and markets to add to his collection, Higgs appropriates elements of found books and re-contextualises them. Engaging with notions of authorship, originality, typography and linguistics his work is resonant and nuanced. Max Presneill’s large abstract paintings represent a labyrinthine, simultaneous enquiry into presence and mortality; masculine codes and gender; networks of understanding and cognitive associations; and sub-cultural references. They explicitly engage with the history of mark making, and by combining abstraction with collage elements Presneill seeks to undermine the hierarchy of visual signs and materials. Together then, the artists in this exhibition engage with historicity; the personal political; the act of making; abstract versus figurative; found objects and materials; narrative; the disparate; and the interconnectedness of things.
Matthew Collings (Born 1955; BA (Hons) Fine Art, Byam Shaw Art School, 1974-78; MA Fine Art, Goldsmiths, 1990-1992) has been one of the most relevant art writers since the 1980’s. Initially editing Artscribe Magazine, Collings then worked for the BBC as an art critic, writing and presenting programmes on art. Eventually he began authoring and presenting multi-part TV series, initially for Channel 4 and then the BBC. One of these, This Is Modern Art, received many awards including a Bafta. Collings has also written books on art, including the seminal “Blimey!”, which was described by Artforum as “the most popular contemporary art book ever.”
During his career as an artist, Collings has always made his own work, whilst working in collaboration with Emma Biggs as Biggs & Collings since the 1990’s. During the ‘90s his paintings were in a number of group exhibitions including Candyman II, and Something’s Wrong, curated by Matthew Arnatt and Peter Lewis, and Bob & Roberta Smith, respectively. He also featured in Instructions, 1992 at Gio’ Marconi, Milan, curated by Liam Gillick, and created an artist’s book for Matthew Higgs Imprint 93 series in 1993, which was later exhibited in Life/Live, 1996, curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Laurence Bossé at Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, and Century City, 2001, curated by Ywona Blazwick at Tate Modern.
Tommaso Corvi-Mora (Born 1969) has been running contemporary art galleries in London since 1995. His first gallery was Robert Prime, which he ran with Gregorio Magnani until the end of 1999. The gallery represented, among others, Kai Althoff, Angela Bulloch, General Idea, Isa Genzken, Liam Gillick and Lothar Hempel. In 2000 he set up Corvi-Mora and the gallery has been in Kennington, South London since 2004. The gallery's roster includes Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Roger Hiorns, Imran Qureshi and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye among many others.
Corvi-Mora started attending ceramics evening classes at Morley College in 2009 and since 2012 has been exhibiting his work regularly in galleries, both in the UK and abroad. In 2013 he started integrating his passion for ceramics within the gallery’s programme and over the years has held solo exhibitions of new work by Adam Buick, Simon Carroll, Julian Stair and Sophie Wiltshire and has exhibited works by Colin Pearson, Janet Leach, James & Tilla Waters, Walter Keeler and many other studio potters. One of his main concerns has been that of showing contemporary art and ceramics together, creating unexpected formal and conceptual links between disparate works.
Zavier Ellis (Born 1973; BA (Hons) History of Modern Art, Manchester University, 1993-1996; MA Fine Art, City & Guilds of London Art School, 2003-2005) is the Founder and Director of CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, a contemporary art gallery established in 2009 in Shoreditch that specialises in showing and representing emerging to mid-career artists with a curatorial perspective. He was co-founder and co-curator of the annual museum scale show THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (2007-2017), which between 2011 and 2014 was organised in partnership with Channel 4 & Saatchi’s New Sensations. THE FUTURE CAN WAIT was the largest independent exhibition of its kind globally. Ellis also curates an annual exhibition called Young Gods, which is his personal selection of London graduates and postgraduates. He has curated exhibitions internationally including in Berlin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Klaipėda, London, Los Angeles, Naples and Rome; and continues to place work in notable collections globally. Recognised as an adroit talent spotter, Ellis has identified and exhibited a number of important young artists directly from art college who have gone on to considerable success with galleries, museums and collectors. As an artist Ellis has exhibited at Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Saatchi Gallery, London; Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles; Klaipėda Culture Communication Centre, Klaipėda; Royal West Academy, Bristol; Dean Clough, Halifax; Paul Stolper, London; Galerie Heike Strelow, Frankfurt; Raid Projects, Los Angeles; and ENIA Gallery, Pireas. His work is featured in prominent private collections including the seminal Sammlung Annette und Peter Nobel, Zurich. In 2014 Ellis published the iArtBook 100 London Artists with renowned art critic and historian Edward Lucie-Smith.
Matthew Higgs (Born 1964; BA (Hons) Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic, 1984-1987) is a prolific artist, curator, writer and publisher. In 1993, he founded his own press, Imprint 93, publishing a series of artist’s editions and multiples including Billy Childish, Martin Creed, Chris Ofili, Elizabeth Peyton, Peter Doig and Jeremy Deller. Continuously promoting contemporary art that was an alternative to the YBA phenomenon, Higgs curated the renowned touring exhibition British Art Show 5 as well as Protest and Survive at Whitechapel Art Gallery, both in 2000. In 2001 he was appointed as a curator at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts at the California College of Arts and Crafts. In 2006 Higgs was one of the Turner Prize judges and in 2007 he selected EASTinternational with Marc Camille Chaimowicz. He is currently director of White Columns in New York. Since the 1990’s, Higgs has had numerous solo exhibitions including London, Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver, and participated in group exhibitions globally including The Whitney Museum of American Art, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, South London Art Gallery, Gavin Brown’s enterprise, Andrea Rosen Gallery, Anthony Wilkinson Gallery, Cubitt Gallery, Frith Street Gallery, City Racing, Paul Stolper and Anton Kern Gallery. His work is featured in the collections of Whitney Museum of American Art and Tate.
Max Presneill (Born 1963; MFA, California State University, 2001) is Director and Head Curator of the Torrance Art Museum, California, with particular curatorial interests in artist-led projects, emerging art, new models for curatorial methodologies and an international scope for partnerships, exchanges and building artistic communities. He is also Founder of Durden and Ray (2009 - current), an artists collaborative group and gallery in Los Angeles, as well as Founder and Curatorial Director of ARTRA Curatorial, an independent, voluntary, curatorial projects management team which organizes international exhibition exchanges. Previously, Presneill was the Founder and Director of the alternative space, Raid Projects, an influential gallery which had an international Artist-In-Residency program (1998-2008).
Presneill’s own work has been exhibited globally including Amsterdam, Berlin, Guangzhou, Istanbul, London, New York, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo and Vienna. Solo exhibitions include TW Fine Art (Brisbane), Garboushian Gallery (Beverly Hills), New Bedford Art Museum (New Bedford), Freight & Volume (New York City), Nicodim Gallery (Los Angeles), and group exhibitions include Museum Villa Seiz (Germany), Lancaster Museum of Art & History, the Yokohama Triennial and 13th Istanbul Biennial. His work has also been shown at art fairs including The Armory Show (New York), The Stray Show (Chicago), The Art Los Angeles Contemporary, Hong Kong Art Fair, the Los Angeles Art Show, Supermarket Art Fair (Stockholm) and Miami Projects.
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