What a group of artists intend in cushioning themselves under the calamitous umbrella of the Caligula name is open for discussion. He was not a man known for his military or intellectual prowess, nor his humanitarian leanings; he was excessive, giving his pet horse a marble stall equipped with an ivory manger, and brilliantly vindictive, assassinating the very people that helped put him into power within the year. Nonetheless, Club Caligula, Stefania Batoeva‘s recent curation at Supplement Gallery in London, has joined her with three other artists under the questionable patronage of the mad ruler, whose feats of waste and carnage during his short four-year reign led him to be the first Roman emperor to be assassinated.
The Sofia-born and London-based artist continued her busy year with the small group show, this time modifying the London art space and inviting three fellow artists to collaborate and contribute to the exhibition. The once-bare gallery was transformed into a kind of South Beach, if South Beach knew about minimalism: white vinyl covered the floors, which had been transformed into a dance floor, chrome bar stools stood as if waiting for customers to sip sugary cocktails, and the windows wore PVC covering to block out the imagined hot Miami sun.
On the walls, Batoeva displays a series of new paintings, her characteristic large-scale canvases swathed in colour, but brighter this time, bloodier. The paintings, who abstraction only shows the glimmers of bodies or scenes, nonetheless spell disaster—they are aggressive, hostile, illustrating battles won and lost and suffered. Joining Batoeva in the exhibition were three international artists. From Berlin (and sometimes Sweden), Batoeva had invited artist and musician Ilja Karilampi. For Club Caligula, Karilampi produced a dubplate mix ripped from his Downtown Ilja radio show on Berlin Community Radio. The mix, to be played throughout the exhibition, came with a collection of vinyl stickers created in collaboration with Batoeva and distributed in various corners of the art space, displaying lyrics, tags, logos, and rules.
Batoeva invited the two remaining artists, Leslie Kulesh and Isaac Lythgoe, from London, where both are based. Kulesh, who returned to her limited “technomadic” womenswear collection, Temporary Autonomous Girl (TAG), for inspiration had transformed the existing pillars of the gallery with padded, digitally printed, electro magnetic resistant fabric used in TAG, while Lythgoe presents a sliding door-like piece called with a mouthful of a title, ‘here he is a serious dog, a democratic dog, but he doesn’t think he’ll spend a lot of time at the party today’ (2015).
Exhibition photos, top right.