Beyond the Door (2019) & Self-Portrait (2018) by Lee Kay-Barry (Image: Sara Quattrocchi Febles)
Set in a townhouse right in the conglomerate of tourists that is Covent Garden, artists Crystal Fischetti, Harry Rüdham & Lee Kay-Barry are shown in the exhibition The Water Drinkers. Presenting a series of works by all three, the curator and Courtauld graduate Eleanor Stephenson strategically uses the space of Burleigh Street Townhouse to harmoniously fuse and connect all pieces together through their dramatic use of color.
Upon entering, the bright white walls of the exhibition space stand out and remind the audience of the ‘white cube’ format for gallery spaces. In this case, what differentiates the space from this standardized gallery format are the large windows. The most alluring feature about this is that it heightens the feeling of having entered a separate and detached world. While the windows allow us to see the monochromatic and industrial architecture of London, the artworks act as windows into mystical and colorful worlds. This is especially evident with Kay-Barry’s Amis (2017), which is placed near a window. While the window depicts the gray London landscape, Amis portrays a world made whimsical through the use of rounded shapes and vibrant colors. Kay-Barry was actually inspired by the rooftop views of Seville, Spain, which led to her use of these warm hues.
The exhibition continues upstairs in another room, which is the real highlight of the exhibition. Here the Townhouse goes from being a commercial exhibition space to what could be seen as an abandoned artist’s studio. Walls with external piping, a green velvet sofa, and a couple of vases with plants are all props that give a personality to the room and further provide life to the pieces. Crystal Fischetti’s installation As Above, So Below (2019) seems to have literally done this. Although she uses similar circular abstract shapes as her other pieces, this one hangs in midair making it quite literally seem as if it has emerged from the other canvases.
Harry Rüdham’s piece Cut Out (2019) also benefits from the decadent yet alluring atmosphere of the second floor. It is placed against the only brick wall, which allows the piece to stand out through its warm brown color. It also guides the audience to both move away and towards the piece; from afar, the canvas seems to be covered in minuscule colorful spots, but once up close, these spots become human figures. Even though there are evident stylistic differences between the three artists, there is still a sense of unity that is further justified as all three artists currently live together and act as sources of inspiration for one another.
Through this exhibition, Eleanor Stephenson presents the pieces in a way that seems to directly translate how these artists might have lived and created their works. With the space and the placement of the artworks, Stephenson creates an aura of warmth and homeliness, which might also be due to one of the artists, Harry Rüdham, being a close friend of hers. Funnily enough Eleanor Stephenson is not a full time curator but actually works at Phillips. Although she has always “had her heart set on art business” she wanted to find something that would “be disconnected from capital” as she explains. In fact, she will continue this ‘capital disconnection’ through her second exhibition, What Am I Doing Here?, which will present the photographic works of William Waterworth starting October 30, 2019 at Burleigh Street Townhouse once again.