Paul Abbott, Cécile Emmanuelle Borra,
Robert Cervera, Richie Culver, Sally Kindberg,
Alana Lake, Alex Roberts, Remi Rough
curated by EKCO London | Roberto Ekholm
2 Melior place
HAPPY HOUR brings together eight artists to exhibit at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery's London Bridge project space.
The Melior Place project space is housed within the building's glasshouse architecture and reverberates with the city's unique histories and energy. Sculpture, painting and video work are installed throughout the building to activate a dialogue between the artworks and the architectural space.
HAPPY HOUR allows us to glimpse a space of possibility between work, leisure and the domestic, an example of how this performative cross-boundary 'being-together' can come about through the communal or collective.
From origins dating back to the USS Arkansas American Navy in 1913, the term 'happy hour' derived from The Happy Hour Social, a place for those on board to drink, box and dance. The club addressed the very real need for conviviality, escapism and release from workaday realities.
By the same token, HAPPY HOUR offers a similar invitation to let loose and unwind, and to explore what connects the worlds of politics, work and pleasure.
Alana Lake’s Pleasure Drive series, (as inspired by Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle), conflates the life and death drives, positing that all life is a movement towards death. In her response to Freud’s work, Lake takes a look at the symbolism of objects to convey life, death, hedonism and sexual lust. She captures these tensions in paintings & in glass sculptures of objects such as saddles or motorbike helmets, suggesting speed, power, freedom and an inexhaustible search for meaning.
In this sense, HAPPY HOUR is a space of commonality defined by the means to which we tend to strive towards happiness - to lead a 'happy life' - and highlights the need for communication, the exchange of ideas and meaning-making in order to do so. With reference to relationships, both to oneself as well as to others, the Happy Hour, can be seen as a singular attempt in which to close distance between opposites, to spend time wisely, dancing at the twilight edges of 'working life' and 'private life'.
Paul Abbott and Alex Roberts explore similar lines of enquiry to confront the un-fixedness of who we are. Their focus is on traces of humanity and memory; how the inescapability of our pasts indelibly marks our ability to (re)present our different and changing selves. Living between Berlin and UK, Roberts encounters passengers of the everyday on her travels, observing their body language, human behaviour and tapping into latent sensitivities that lie deep below the surface. These observations transfer to her paintings on silk as she draws our attention to human tangibility through a painterly practice of figuration and abstraction.
Through the use of sculpture, video and drawing, Abbott explores boundaries between image and object with a question of how fragmented narratives may present new discursive possibilities. Merging the character of Robin Hood and O in Old English Cider, he recalls childhood memories of family alcoholism with what seems like daydreams of a mythical figure, setting up feedback loops between fiction and reality.
Richie Culver's work is laden with social commentary through the references of entertainment and consumerism. Rap lyrics, branding, sportswear - these are all symbols and aesthetics which invoke certain ideas around contemporary British working-class life. Frank and funny, the paintings and sculptures are filled with anecdotes of leisure time and social identity. There's a relatable quality to this vein of class-marked 'Britishness', irrespective of background and identity, since these everyday objects function as flash points of desire, aspiration and disappointment.
Sally Kindberg plays on the notion of the tragicomic in a society that is both civilised and ridiculous. She uses this humorous approach to tempt us in to explore other, more unsavoury emotions and insights. Extracting particular details of the everyday, we become entranced by finer details in the works, such as waves of immaculate hair or the intense colour of a pint, to the extent that they become peculiarly abstracted.
Remi Rough distils fragments of the world around him into powerful abstract compositions. Wall murals and paintings are infused with street-wise energy and the history of abstract painting, composing marks, shapes and colours to form a new sense of language. Here, parallel timelines of history and present day meet on a multidimensional painterly surface. The site-specific piece at Melior Place, for instance, connects the ground floor with the upstairs “glass” room, effectively dissecting the architectural space.
HAPPY HOUR becomes a place of the carnivalesque, if only for a short while, where rules are temporarily forgotten about, if not actually broken, and where, on release from the tyranny of social norms and roles, there's the possibility of being yourself, or someone different altogether.
Cécile Emmanuelle Borra works predominantly in installation using a variety of media including film, photography, text, wallpaper, textile as well as found objects. Examining the relationship between Desire and the Gaze, Borra's installations position men as object of the female gaze hence posing a challenge to the assumption of binary gender roles. Banal fashion and homeware paraphernalia are commonly re-configured and their readings are altered, they become surreal, a commentary on patriarchy in consumerism and a play on identity.
As we try to divide our lives neatly into 'work time', 'free time', 'me time', 'family time' or 'leisure time', it becomes impossible not to be hypervigilant of time as a precious commodity to conserve and protect. Afterall, it is 'our' time and how we differentiate these slices of life changes depending on our feelings around accomplishment, boredom, efficiency and crucially, those around us. Robert Cervera's work stems from a fascination with the materiality around us and within us. His concrete sculptures use an oppositional dialectic between formlessness and structure to look at flow and system.
For the Hard Disc series, concrete is mixed with eye drops, coffee, mouthwash, baby oil. Here the building material used to make permanent structures for our homes and offices are mixed with consumables such as drinks and toiletries. Their materiality changes but as the compound reacts to one another, they become one unextractable solid form. These discs have transmuted from their original source to become something entirely new, a brand new alloy of identity and data.
The curator asked each artist to make a small piece for HAPPY HOUR. Placed in the bookcase on the ground floor as a Cabinet Curiosity of Melior Place.
Join us for HAPPY HOUR, a celebration of often opposing ideas and identities, a break from work, from routine, to meet with others, to relax, be yourself, and still make it back in time for dinner.
A small scoop, 2019. Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 cm
Terracotta Triangles 1 and 2, 2019
3 o'clock, 2019. Oil on canvas, 65 x 50 cm