As art fairs go, The Other Art Fair is a personal favourite. Set in a fabulous warehouse space at Ambika P3, it takes art and the artists back to a place in which they should be, through a dialogue which needs to be happening; that of direct communication between the artists and the public. Breaking these established barriers down ties in with a general shift in culture which seems to be gaining momentum – that of the re-ignition of conversation. You will undoubtedly speak to untold numbers of people who deride (not-so)modern technology as having been the downfall of personal dialogue, but the irony is that speaking to whomever you like has never been easier. Whereas in the past you were unlikely to be able to have a direct discussion with a chosen artist/musician/writer unless you either moved in the same circles, were privileged enough to get an introduction, or lucky enough to bump into them in the street, all it now requires is a quick @ and your message is sent. Of course the recipient may embrace their prerogative and not reply, but the chances of this depend much more on the quality/interest value of your comment than your social standing and ability to get close, as it may previously have been in the past.
The Other Art Fair embraces this modern concept in a traditional manner – face to face contact – but without the (often money-orientated) gallery salesperson. Buying direct from the artist is, to me, ultimately more satisfying as an art lover, as opposed to the sales dance required of an art investor, who are more the clientele of aircraft hanger-scale ventures such as Frieze. Having been to The Other Art Fair in 2011, I then missed the 2012 incarnation but did manage to attend the 2013 artist preview at The Office Space last week. The evening took the form of a taster event, showcasing 3 specific artists in order to whet your whistle for the main exhibition at the end of this month. Both Dan Hillier and Alberto Fusco I remembered seeing at the 2011 event, but Damla Tokcan Faro came as an entirely new experience.
Hiller’s work breaches the boundaries of illustration to languish steadfastly in the boudoirs of 19th century stylistic portraiture using engraving, ink and screenprinting to produce often unsettling and surreal human and animal fusion pieces. His style mixes careful and tender treatment of detail with an underlying sense of provocation and much in the Tim Burton manner in sense (although more Film4 than Hollywood), he sets a dreamlike landscape, both within and around his portraiture. Said to encompass the ‘Steampunk’ sub-genre, I find his work rather more reminiscent of the Vanitas movement, albeit with extra humour and imagination and less adherence to the rules of our mortal framework. Instantly bringing to mind a woman in a burkha, The Veil must surely be a deliberate prodding of our modern uneasiness surrounding the issues of religious freedom, privacy and our fear of the unknown. The imagery, placement of the feathers and treatment of the medium all combine to lend the work a distinctly attractive exoticism. Other works, such as Cecilia Huntress, recall the masked ball, but with the overarching implication that the figure has become the mask; a mass of feathers replacing her traditional hairpiece, whilst Aviator leaves nothing of the original human behind and turns the idea of the mask on its head; who wears whom now?
Alberto Fusco, in stark contrast, uses mosaic pattern and collage as his inspiration, focusing intently on the geometricity of colour and form. Starting his career as a teacher, Fusco began working as a professional artist a year and a half ago, after his freestanding sculptures began to dominate his time. By this count he must have still been working as a teacher when I saw him exhibit at the 2011 Other Art Fair, although from the interest I observed him generating at that time, I’m not surprised he soon became a full-time artist. His work is full of positive contradiction – its explicit tactility inspires the urge to touch it, to open it and yet it will not open and cannot be touched. It uses the chaos of newsprint, the dialogue and the imagery, as a visual tool, and yet the strict geometric language by which it is ruled constrains that freeflow of information; hides it behind a wall of glue and varnish. It is constructed from words and images on paper, 2D materials which, in his hands, become contained 3D objects changing as you move around them in a space. Having specialised in mosaics as part of his degree in public art, he takes inspiration from tessellation and pattern, combining it with the manipulation of magazine pages, a favourite pastime as a child. Works such as Enterpe are instinctively reminiscent of fireworks and catherine wheels, tieing in with Fusco’s own description of his pieces as being ‘like a candy shop’; joyful, colourful, uplifting.
Damla Tokcan Faro uses digital photography and manipulation to create fairytale imagery with a sinister twist. Perfectly placed in the Alice down the rabbit hole-like areas of the The Office Space (complete with doors in decreasing sizes), his works at first seem rather saccharine; over saturated colours combined with superimposed cartoon graphics, or toy figures hinting at traditional tall tales. However, a closer look reveals darkly humorous modern comments on the realities of fairytale stories. In The Accident we see Cinderella’s fantastical coach post-pothole, amidst a tumble of fallen animals and bodies, while Mushrooms…mmm supplants the toadstool in a grassy field, alluring to its likely Lewis Carroll-inspired origins as being of the somewhat ‘magic’ variety. His choice to present the work on reflective material only helps to allude to the dreamlike illusion which surrounds the photographs, at the same time forcing the viewer to enter the scene themselves.
As a snapshot of the entire fair this preview could never encompass the range of artists and styles which will be shown. As a taster though, it certainly does the job. I’ll be there.