Being Somewhere Else
6 – 29 June 2018
This is the first solo exhibition by Birmingham-born fashion designer Osman Yousefzada. A leading light of London Fashion Week, Osman works at the intersection of art and fashion, combining his multi-disciplinary design practice with a strong sense of social commentary. His style fuses haute couture techniques and fabrics with strong sculptural designs and a clear perception of modernity, making him a go to designer for women from the worlds of art, film, entertainment and commerce.
Osman’s work has developed from a place where he considered himself to be “a product of multicultural England” and is shaped by a clear awareness of political contexts. Born into a conservative Muslim family in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, Osman’s Afghan mother ran a dressmaking business, making clothes for the Asian community. Having helped from a young age, by the time he entered secondary school Osman was cutting patterns for a variety of fabrics, including chiffon and brocade, and sourcing trims and haberdasheries at the local Asian shops: “as immigrant children we all had to muck in. People talk about the American Dream, but the British Dream isn’t dissimilar, you buckle up and you work as many hours as you can in a day”.
After a period studying anthropology at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), London, where he quickly became distracted by the club scene and making his own outfits, he enrolled briefly at Central Saint Martins, and then finally returned to finish his degree at SOAS before going on to do a Masters at Cambridge. His eponymously named label OSMAN made its on-schedule debut in 2008 at London Fashion Week.
Osman’s exhibition at Ikon consists entirely of new commissions, with a personal consideration of the contemporary fashion world and the industry’s inherent inequalities, juxtaposed with representations associated with the experience of immigration. Installations include a tent-like structure covered in delicate hand-embroidered cloth, patterned with a repeated signature based on Osman’s mother’s mark, which is presented adjacent to an evocation of an “immigrant’s bedroom” – inspired by his Afghan/Pakistani family’s experiences – full of furniture and decoration signifying cultural displacement.
Other installations feature imported garments made by low-wage workers for ‘fast fashion’ in the West and fetishised objects in a walk-in wardrobe redolent of male domination. Osman also presents a number of films, including a work made in collaboration with British artist Haroon Mirza, who returns to Ikon in the Winter for an exhibition of his own (November 2018 – February 2019).
To coincide with his exhibition, Osman is curating a four day festival, fusing themes of migration, fashion, art and music. The Migrant Festival celebrates Birmingham’s diverse communities and also alludes to The Collective: an annual publication edited by Osman bringing together protagonists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. The Migrant Festival runs Thursday 14 – Sunday 17 June 2018, see website for details nearer the time.
20 June – 9 September 2018
Curated by Marie Muracciole
Ikon presents a solo exhibition by Belgian-born, Mexico-based artist Francis Alÿs (born 1959, Antwerp). Organised by the Beirut Art Center, it is an outcome of Alÿs’ long-term interest in current affairs in the Middle East, his frequent travelling to that part of the world – especially Iraq and Afghanistan - in order to arrive at an authentic artistic response to his direct experience.
Featuring new work in a mix of animation, drawing, film, painting and photography, the exhibition is a reflection on the notion of turbulence, from simple instability to chaos, from a meteorological phenomenon to bigger geopolitical pictures, from a simple knot in the hair to an ascending spiral. Knots represent links and bonds, as well as resistance and binding.
Visitors enter the exhibition through Tornado (2000-2010), a video projection which records Alÿs’ chasing of “dust devils” in attempts to get inside them, with camera in hand to film their motionless eyes. The drama of such an action is compelling: the jolting imagery, the sound of the wind in and around the tornadoes only serve to compound a sense of danger, something the artist is prepared to endure before arriving at monochromes of dust, abstracting him from the outside world.
This work formally corresponds to an installation of hundreds of drawings, suspended in space at the centre of the exhibition. Here we find Exodus 3:14 (2013-2017), a projected drawn animation in an endless loop, portraying a young woman tying a simple knot in her long hair which then undoes itself. The soundtrack is a simple song, a kind of melodious chant for a gesture of self-absorption in which someone is at once engaged and detached. The drawings occur to us as the stills required to produce the three minutes and fourteen seconds of the film, physically illustrating a recurring theme in Alÿs work, the massive disproportion between effort and result, between work and labour. As Marie Muracciole, curator of the exhibition, explains, “Exodus 3:14 activates a game of opposite actions: mêler et dêmeler, arranger et déranger, faire et défaire, drawing and erasing, etc. Untangling knots is the only thing a machine is unable to do. Knots request and epitomise the work of the hands.”
Other works by Alÿs are located around the installation of drawings, in order to exemplify further the proposition of the show. For example, on a video monitor we see Do, Undo (2008), another looping film in which Alÿs flicks through papers with the words ‘Do’ and ‘Undo’ back and forth. The complementary nature of coalescence and dispersal and Sisyphean repetition are suggested as essential to the human condition, and an actual knotted rope hanging from the ceiling nearby, falling into a tangled mass on the floor, likewise has philosophical connotations in this context. A number of small landscapes, oils on canvas, on the surrounding walls literally spell out what is on the artist’s mind, being inscribed with Spanish and English words such as Turbulencia (Turbulence), Resistencia (Resistance) and Puro Desorden (Pure Disorder).
As a commission for the Beirut Art Center, Alÿs made a number of photographs that are available here as postcards to take away. They reveal the impact of a sandstorm, bringing yellow dust from neighbouring countries where the soil is no longer fixed by roots and plants, instead becoming unstable and volatile after years of conflict.
4 July – 9 September 2018
Ikon presents the first UK exhibition of work by Vladimír Kokolia, the renowned Czech artist who established himself on the international circuit at Documenta 9, 1992. A combination of new and recent paintings, plus drawings and installations, the show exemplifies an intensely experimental attitude that distils abstraction from everyday experience.
Central to Ikon’s exhibition are a selection of Kokolia’s paintings, produced in the small Moravian village Veverské Knínice where the artist lives and works, inspired by his rural surroundings. Paintings such as Apple Tree and Looking Into The Crown (both 2013) reflect his fascination with trees, in particular their constantly changing shapes and the way light travels through leaves. Kokolia is tireless in his observation of this motif, breaking the image down into discrete stains of colour. Key to understanding Kokolia’s artistic practice is his awareness of the possibility of epiphanies, seemingly unremarkable events that give rise to a kind of weaving of wonder:
“I usually paint some snapshot, some distinctly illuminated scene I glimpse somewhere, even peripherally, and which then remains in my head. It tends to have a differing measure of concreteness and resolution, but it always carries light in a unique way … My paintings may look like lianas, mazes, or winding footpaths but they have a source somewhere else. Their mesh is nothing but a screen through which the image percolates during the painting process.”
A large number of fragile figurative ink drawings by Kokolia are on display for the first time after more than thirty years in storage. Produced in an atmosphere of suppression and depicting grotesque stories of cruelty, weakness and the wretchedness of human endeavour, these early works acquired a sense of political commentary. Big Series 1, 2 & 3 (1983-84) show the human figure struggling for a glimpse of meaning in absurd circumstances:
“I am fascinated by the gulf between the utter matter-of-factness with which we accept our daily routines and the obvious senselessness of it all.” Vladimír Kokolia
Kokolia regards ordinary life as a source of astonishment. To this end, he wants the attention for his exhibition to be upon the visitor rather than the artist. Kokolia asserts that the right place for an image is not on a white wall but rather the viewer’s visual field, and through his exhibition at Ikon he hopes to produce a new moment of understanding for each visitor. In the new installation Light Agent (2018) he employs flashing lights to leave the visitor with an ‘after image’ of what they have just seen, whilst using a ‘wallpaper effect’ in Branch (2018) in which he invites viewers to build up the depth dimension of the image. Lastly his experiments in the visual field are further revealed in another new work in Ikon’s Tower Room, in which multiple camera obscura projections blend the outside world with the picture plane.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, including texts by Jonathan Watkins, Ikon Director and Miroslav Ambroz, independent curator and art historian. The exhibition is supported by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in London.