‘Pah-d’-Bah’, Olivia Bax

HS Projects is delighted to present ‘Pah-d’-Bah’, an exhibition of recent and new work by the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award 2019/2020 recipient, Olivia Bax.

The title of the exhibition is after a new sculpture Bax has specifically made for 5 Howick Place and is the pronounced sound of Pas de Basque, a term for a ballet step that is also used in Scottish Country dancing. It is often the initial move when a pair of dancers first meet, an appropriate reference for post-lockdown. Both dancers move to the right, then to the left as they progress through the dance.

‘Pah-d’-Bah’, 2021 was made to follow a horizontal plane, restricted in certain directions, it had to follow set dimensions. The openings in the pipes suggest places where liquid or a substance could fall or be collected. The colour tone is a new development, trying to emphasise where material might move or rest.

Olivia Bax’s work, though it sometimes references street furniture and other public spaces, is asymmetrical, wonky and bulbous. Her sculptures play with the relationship between public and private, inside and out, forming organic cavities that are also frames, making structures whose underneaths and insides are often on show, inviting the viewer to walk around, explore and peer in and through the work’s windows and crevices – to dream perhaps of nesting within. Deliberately questioning and confrontational, the shapes are problematic. There are sculptures within sculptures and mysterious embedded narratives.

By the window, ’Kingpin’, 2020 is Bax’s largest and most ambitious sculpture to date. A horizontal plane is pitted with holes, which dissolve into generous cavities or erupt into funnels. An irregular bulbous shape appears to be mutating. Bars feed into tubes, parts pivot, and fragments rest. Handles have been added for assistance and bright yellow vertical stands provide essential support. ‘Kingpin’ challenges the idea of a self-contained, free standing sculpture; its limits have been considered, its boundaries tested.

Nearby, ’Juicer’ (2020) is a product of distillation, of a slow transmutation of materials; which becomes, Bax says, ‘activated’ by our gaze, by our movement around it, while conversely retaining a sense of secrecy, of something invisibly at work within. According to Muriel Zagha, ’Juicer’ suggests at once a sewing table, a desk, a piece of industrial or domestic machinery and connected to it, an umbrella stand or golf bag.

Bax is known for using materials such as steel, chicken wire and a generated paper pulp, consisting of discarded newspapers and castaway household paint. She is guided by an interest in the process and physicality of construction. This is evident in the material she employs and the visual language and form of her sculptures. The texture speaks of the work’s history, revealing the process of forming the works.

’Monkey Cups’, 2018 is about balance and poise – each part provides the weight and support needed to hold the next. The title of the work is borrowed from a vessel-like plant and started a long body of work exploring containing, supporting and providing. Made with hand generated paper pulp, using recycled newspaper and discarded household paint; the vessels were made to house each other – like a Russian doll – in order to take minimum space in storage, and maximum space when presented.

‘Pah-d’-Bah’ is at Howick Place from July to December 2021.

‘Home’, Permindar Kaur

HS Projects is delighted to present ‘Home’, an exhibition of new and existing works by Permindar Kaur, surveying the artist’s continuing interest in the ‘public’ and ‘private’ and a common central question in her practice: ‘where is home?’.

Kaur presents a range of work from early in her career along with new works made specifically for this exhibition, including a major new sculpture, ‘Overgrown House’, 2020, a large steel structure, over 3 metres high with steel offshoots randomly growing around the fully grown house. Kaur makes viewers aware of the difference between the ‘private and public’ by abruptly converting this very public space into a bedroom in a private home. The central new work is ‘Untitled (Bed)’, 2020, a large steel sculpture, which upon closer inspection reveals a world of colourful creatures ‘lurking’ beneath it. These creatures are a conception of private thoughts and dreams, giving viewers a sense of domestic insecurities and vulnerabilities. In ‘Untitled (Small Table & Chairs)’, 2020, the artist removes these renderings of domestic furniture from their familiar context to challenge perceived notions of settlement and security associated with home.

Other works explore hierarchical structures at home and at work, looking at the unspoken, often hidden positions of power. One such work, ‘Tower’ 2014, a stack of seven chairs, each one smaller than the one on which it rests, together forming a tower over two meters high, reflecting how we have a ‘place’ in society. ‘Tall Chairs’, 1996 consists of two fabricated steel chairs each one over two meters in height with bizarre, seemingly mischievous yellow creatures, sitting, folded in on themselves, at the top of each chair. Playful as Kaur’s work might seem at first sight, it is also simultaneously capable of eliciting feelings of disquiet, unsettlement and vulnerability.

A new publication with critical texts by Prof Eddie Chambers (University of Texas) and Dr Alice Correia (co-chair of the Black British Art Research Group) is planned for publication in early 2021 to accompany the exhibition. The catalogue is supported by public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

‘Home’ is at Howick Place from December 2020 to July 2021. 

‘Ensemble’, Fernando Casasempere

HS Projects is delighted to present ‘Ensemble’, an exhibition of works by the renowned London-based Chilean artist Fernando Casasempere, most of which have not been seen in London before, including a new ‘construction’ sculpture that was completed a few days before the exhibition.

Casasempere’s work explores ideas of landscape, architecture and history but also proposes a profound sense of impending environmental collapse. Conceptually Casasempere’s use of earth and clay and his concern with nature and ecological issues connects him to artists associated with the Land or Earth Art movement, but Casasempere works out of a different cultural tradition, being profoundly inspired by the Pre-Columbian art and architecture of Latin America.

A series of sculptures made of porcelain and stoneware, evoke fragile structures on the verge of disintegration, drawing colours and glazes from unusual sources such as waste products from Chilean copper mines that Casasempere binds into clay, directly reflecting his interest in environmental responsibility and sustainable practice. These seemingly precarious configurations bear both ancient and modern references, of structures existing and connecting across long periods of time, from ruined Pre-Colombian cities to the built structures and bricks that dominate London. Clay carries human and topological associations that defy place and time and Casasempere’s dexterity and deep understanding of ceramics, enables him to move beyond its material limits, across eras and geographies.

A series of abstract ‘paintings’ in clay on felt, ‘Salares’, exploit the chance processes that create texture as the material dries and recall aerial photographs of alluvial landscapes. They are made of clay that Casasempere has imported from Chile and has subsequently layered onto large felt panels to create abstract images evocative of the landscape the materials come from.

‘Ensemble’ is at Howick Place from June 2020 to December 2020.