The Shock of the Now Issue 55
Featured Exhibition Text
El Choque del Ahora - Nit de l’Art 2022, Palma de Mallorca.
21st September 2022

On Monday I returned from an intense yet invigorating week in Palma, Mallorca, where I curated the group exhibition ‘Pounding The Pavement’ at Galería Pelaires. My aim for the exhibition, over and above presenting a small survey of some of the most exciting painters working in the UK today, was to demonstrate the importance of nurturing an artistic ecosystem and cultivating a creative community. The exhibition, therefore, feels deeply personal at points, as it expands upon many of my previous projects and leans on both professional and personal relationships that I have built in the last four years of living in London. Lydia Blakeley and Minyoung Choi, for example, both featured in my earliest exhibition, 2018’s perhaps pompously titled ‘Young London Painters’, while Natalia González Martín, Charlie Billingham, George Rouy and Lewis Brander have all previously exhibited with Collective Ending. Additionally, this past year I have worked as a mentor for artist Oli Epp‘s renowned Plop Residency programme, which supports both national and international artists by introducing them to the scene that has so supported Oli previously (Natalia is a previous resident). Emma Fineman and I met on the occasion of her 2019 solo exhibition 'Realms Of The [Un]Real’ at a nascent Public Gallery, after I was invited to host an evening In Conversation, and we have since kept in contact, while Gori Mora, Mallorcan-born painter living and working in Glasgow, was introduced to me by Pelaires and I have had the pleasure of getting an insight into his practice through the process of contributing an essay to his upcoming debut catalogue. 

During my week in Mallorca, we welcomed guests to a gallery lunch of fideuá, a traditionally Valencian dish similar to Paella yet prepared with short spaghetti-like pasta; entertained numerous Nit de l’Art tours; and I dusted off my, conversational at best, Spanish for a press junket. Alongside gratefully short segments on terrestrial television and a picture in the local paper, I appeared on the local radio station’s weekly culture programme, where I was humorously introduced to the sounds of London Calling by The Clash. Surprisingly, with some help from a hastily prepared script, I was even able to adequately express my opinions on art history’s influence on contemporary painting, figuration vs. abstraction and the seeming rise of surrealism. 

Throughout my trip, I had many conversations with gallerists, curators, collectors and artists discussing the apparent contrast between the emerging or early-career art scene in the UK to that in Spain. Demonstrable in our exhibition with Spanish artists such as Natalia and Gori having relocated to enter arts education, it appears that Spain has comparative difficulty nurturing young, local talent.

After some consideration, I believe that the reasons behind the United Kingdom’s supposed superiority in this area are three-fold. Firstly, the UK is home to many exceptional art schools - ten of which are represented within ‘Pounding The Pavement’ - often with excellent teaching staff, evidenced by an unplanned but apposite coincidence in this exhibition, where Benjamin Spiers shows for the first time alongside three of his former City & Guilds of London Art School students (Oli, Natalia and Lewis). Secondly, in London especially there is a thriving network of small to mid-sized galleries willing to take the risk of exhibiting unknown, underrepresented or overlooked artists, nourishing and nurturing these artists in their earliest stages. And finally, we see museums and institutions supporting and promoting this vibrant scene through the likes of survey exhibitions such as New Contemporaries, The Whitechapel Open and The British Art Show, serving to adequately inform and educate the public on contemporary artistic trends.