A former health club in London’s Covent Garden has been taken over by a group of four emerging artists. In a collaboration between Harlesden High Street Gallery and curator Daria Borisova, the artists have repurposed the space, responding to its architecture and former purpose, creating a surrealistic feeling and immersive experience for the audience.
Walking into the building, the viewer first sees paintings by Sally Kindberg (b. 1970) hung behind the spa’s reception desk, as well as besides the changing rooms and toilets, affirming the spa’s new purpose as an art gallery. Heading downstairs, you arrive underground in a room where one wall is completely missing, with wires and pipes partially exposed, and subsequently covered by the work of Emmanuel Awuni (b. 1993). Awuni’s installation consists of an intervention within the space so that the fabric he has introduced and the converted spa become one. Covering the wall and floor with pieces of blue and black textiles, the colour palette is both a comment on water and a nod to the artist’s own skin tone. Floating on top of this sea-like fabric is a single coiled vessel while, hanging from the ceiling and suspended above it, is the face of a man who looks as though he is about to explode. Awuni explained that this character might just be about to lose control of his emotions, had he not managed to calm himself down at exactly the right moment.
Hung on a wall almost diagonally from Awuni’s installation is a painting by Kindberg comprising the portrait of a character carrying a completely different mood to Awuni’s stressed out figure. Parallel Rondell (2019) sips on a drink. He is many different levels of chill, and almost seems to communicate with Awuni’s creation, telling him to calm down. And surrounding Kindberg’s display of cool and Awuni’s tense character, are a series of spray-painted works by Maximilian Siegenbruk (b. 1990). Mimicking trees and forests, they hang from the ceiling and blend into the walls, providing an environment for them all to live in.
Climb up more stairs and more paintings by Kindberg welcome the viewer into the top of the spa-turned-gallery. A particular highlight is Night Time Extravaganza (2020). The painting shows candles that are lit during Advent in the artist’s native Sweden, but the flames here mimic wotsits, a favourite cheesy British snack. A series of mixed media works by Pascal Sender (b. 1988) accompany Kindberg’s paintings, which experiment and interact with our increasingly technological lives. Sender’s works include QR codes, which the viewer can scan with their iPhone, referring the viewer to filters on Instagram, allowing them to interact with the art in the way someone might previously have interacted with the spa.
Back on the spa’s ground level, Siegenbruk has lined a corridor with paintings on canvas. The right wall is covered in his images, each of them exactly the same size, like tiles lined up in formation. Hung opposite them, one sole work stares back, as if is is their instructor, and the other paintings have taken the role of spa-goers, ready to enter a class.
House Of Togetherness brings together four distinct artists, allowing them to disrupt and take over an unusual gallery space. At times in conversation, and at other times in opposition to one another, the works question the traditional display of exhibitions, as well as the concept of designation and reality.
House Of Togetherness is on display at Harlesden High Street, 14-16 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BU until 7 April 2020