Curated by Ariella Wolens
Charlie Billingham (L) and Oliver Osbourne (R)
Jesse Wine (pedestal), Celia Hempton (L) and Prem Sahib (R)
OHWOW Gallery is pleased to announce Bloody English, a group exhibition curated by Ariella Wolens. This exhibition introduces the work of eight contemporary artists based in London: Charlie Billingham, Adham Faramawy, Emma Hart, Celia Hempton, Patrick Hough, Oliver Osborne, Prem Sahib, and Jesse Wine. Each with his or her own distinct sensibility, these artists have been brought together in this exhibition to determine whether nationality can be read through images, and what may be distinct about English artwork. From the heritage of Gainsborough and Turner, to the celebrity of the Young British Artists of the ‘90s, these young artists are responding to their environment whilst delineating their position within a globalized art world, forming their identity in relation to their past and transnational present.
The title of this exhibition invokes the British penchant for irony, with a black humor that subverts Victorian decorum. In focusing on the English character, Bloody English highlights the contradictions between the stereotypical image of propriety and the English sense of humor that thrives on painful awkwardness. In Emma Hart’s video Dice (2009), the artist plays a game of chance with the sea. The absurdity builds with the repetition of the action, and the surmounting tension, in this deadpan performance with nature.
In analyzing British art, the importance of the institution plays a key role. The primary example, in this exhibition, is that of the venerable Royal Academy Schools. With works by Charlie Billingham, Adham Faramawy, Oliver Osborne, and Prem Sahib (all graduates of the Royal Academy), these artists act as examples to consider the precarious balance between pedagogy and creative impulse. Formal art education may be yet another touchstone that we use to discern the value of an artwork – a way of ensuring a connection to the discipline of art of the past.
Lastly, it is crucial to recognize that London remains a port of multicultural influx, a site of heterogeneous identities. These artists represent the fluidity of nationality that often comes with being a Londoner. To present an image of English identity in art may delimit it to a coherency; one that is ultimately false. Yet, we may align artistic practice with the history of a place as we attempt to provide ourselves with tangible information in order to classify artists and images.