Marisa Merz @ Thomas Dane


It is Frieze Week in London and it seems as though the world is flocking to Regent’s Park. Everybody who’s anybody has already made it inside the world’s most famous art fair. Frieze is loud, it is busy. It is alluringly wonderful and horribly intense at the same time. Some of my readers may be happy to know then, that there are some quiet spots of artistic refuge breathing aside from the hustle and bustle that has succumb to the Frieze spirit.

This sense of calm can be found inside the smaller of the two Thomas Dane galleries on Duke Street. Resting serenely up the winding wooden stairs is a small exhibition of the work of Marisa Merz. Her neutral colour palettes and smiling, docile ladies allow the viewer to breathe peacefully away from the heaviness that we all too often find lurking in London.

All of the work on display at Thomas Dane is being shown for the first time by an artist who is still working well into her nineties. On show are portraits, dark works on paper and small fired clay heads. The sitters in Merz’s works are all smiling with their eyes are closed. They seem irresistibly calm and peaceful. Richard Flood has been quoted as saying that ‘twice she has taught me the meaning of silence and twice she has taught me the meaning of peace.’ While many of the images radiate a feeling of calm, there is an undeniable sense of other-worldliness in others. Some canvases seem to have multiple hands moving out of the portraits and up towards the top end of the images. It is not clear what this means: perhaps it is a gesture, or maybe some form of spirit. Either way, the images beguile and intrigue.

Also of note are a series of small black forms on paper. The description sounds ominous, yet the marks exude the very opposite of anything dark and menacing.

The whole show is completely enchanting.

Marissa Merz is on display at Thomas Dane until 12 November

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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