The Lotus Eaters @ Aindrea Contemporary

As humans, we are constantly driven to consume. Fashion, food, culture, and whatever it is that gives us a thrill; addiction comes easily, wrapping us up in a false sense of comfort, allowing our obsessions to consume us. In The Odyssey, Odysseus’ men find themselves on an island inhabited by “Lotus Eaters.” Here they join the island’s inhabitants, eating nothing but the intoxicating lotus fruit, an intoxicating drug that they simply cannot pull themselves away from. The only way that Odysseus could get his men away from this island was by physically dragging them back to his ship and locking them up. Seven artists respond to this thirst for consumption in The Lotus Eaters at Aindrea Contemporary.

Like the islands in The Odyssey, the exhibition at Aindrea Contemporary has been divided into several individual spaces, allowing the viewer to travel between “islands”, each of which handing out samples of a unique “fruit.” One of the most startling of these isles, is Sarah Roberts’ mixed media installation Peach Melba (2018). In what looks like a futuristic medical clinic, Roberts has created a room completely covered in objects that are the colour of flesh. Medical in its appearance, the room contains mirrors, bathmats, rubber gloves, and a whole host of other objects that would not be out of place inside a surgery. The installation is a visual representation of an obsession with hoarding. Not only is this space-age island completely peach in colour, but also in scent, with a fragrance sprayed inside every corner of the space to create a multi-sensory experience.

This feeling of being sent to another world is even more apparent in Harriet Fleuriot and Sarah Cockings’ installation. Based on Plasma Vista – a film that was first shown at Art Night 2017 – the pair has created an immersive concept-store like alcove, where objects used in the film are available to be purchased. Plasma Vista is a surreal, Stanley-Kubrick-like film, which plays in the background of Fleuriot and Cockings’ shop. In it, a blonde woman plays with strange liquids in curved glass vessels. It is a bizarre movie, as is the high-end store they have created. The space is filled with plants, beds, balloons, glass vessels, and even a yeti-like suit, which hangs from the ceiling. The whole set is a comment on desire and consumerism. The work is separated into pieces, which you can buy individually, but not as a whole. Just like the desire to purchase, there is always something else that can be bought, but you will never have the whole thing.

Nearby, Meng Zhou’s space is covered in wallpaper, aptly titled Lotus Eater (2018). The red material is inspired by the Odyssey, and is covered in crushed grey lotus flowers. The vibrancy of the crimson background upon which the grey petals are pasted represent an imagined trance-dreamlike state, which Zhou likens to the ecstasy those on Lotus Eater island would have been in. This idea of delight carries through to Jane Hayes Greenwood’s work. Her series of paintings are inspired by the Freudian Pleasure Principle, which centres on the human attraction to seeking pleasure. Her acrylic works show figures in sexual positions (Going Steady, 2018), and surrounded by phallic vegetation (Reverso, 2018). The paintings are set in the Garden of Eden, and she has also planted her own installation of trees within the gallery space.

Luke Burton’s contribution to the exhibition plays on an Ancient Greek influence, referencing Homer’s Odyssey. Across a series of paintings, Burton focuses on an ancient fixation with triumph and masculinity. He has done this through depictions of sports motifs in the form of totems, which comprise basketballs, tennis rackets and footballs stacked on top of one another. Having exhibited these towers side-by-side, he creates his own trophy cabinet, large in size, to show off the importance of his achievements. In addition to these prizes, he has also created a screen. Untitled (peacock and balls) (2018) plays on the Italianate medal tradition, with one side covered with awards that are framed by tennis rackets. On the reverse is a peacock, which plays on the idea of “peacocking” – showcasing your wealth.

The Lotus Eaters is rounded off with a selection of fabric works. Hannah Tilson’s Christmas Expansion Pack (2018) shows a Christmas tree behind a car wrapped in a bow, which has been painted on denim. The work comments on consumerism at Christmas, and is completed with Marcia Cut Out (2018), a life-size paper-doll that emphasises the throwaway nature of shopping and fashion. Beside this, Scarlett Bowman’s untitled fabric paintings consist of treated pieces of found materials that have been put together again like a patchwork. The pastel-hued images are a comment on the obsession of collecting, but also remind us of the disposable ways in which consumerist society moves on to the next big thing. By sewing these “forgotten” fabrics together, Bowman reminds us that everything we buy leaves a mark on society.

Through a contemporary analysis of the classic Odyssey, The Lotus Eaters prompts us to consider our obsessions, wants and desires. Cleverly curated into seven separate islands, The Lotus Eaters reminds us that although everyone has a different idea of pleasure, we are all greedily seeking that one thing that gives us a thrill.

The Lotus Eaters is on display at Aindrea Contemporary, 15-17 Triton Street, Regent’s Place, London, NW1 3BG until 7th December 2019

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and has written for After Nyne, Arteviste, Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, ReOrient and Suitcase Magazine. Lizzy recently curated Perpetual Movement as part of Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) Festival 2018 in London, which was featured in Vogue Arabia and The Art Newspaper.

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