Block 336

Jennet Thomas in Conversation @ Block 336, Oct 12

11 October 2016

Jennet Thomas will be in conversation with Simon O’Sullivan and George Vasey at London’s Block 336 on October 12.

Thomas, who is currently exhibiting new film The Unspeakable Freedom Device, will be discussing the work with Vasey, a writer and curator at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art and O’Sullivan, a theorist and artist who is part of collaborative group Plastique Fantastique and also a Professor of Art Theory and Practice in the Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths College.

Thomas’ new film creates a narrative that follows two women who “wrestle with the fascination and threat of techno-totalitarian supremacy personified by the all-powerful Blue Lady” and interconnects sculptural and painterly elements through a multi-media picture of an “absurd primitive-future world populated by a cast of uncannily familiar characters.”

Visit the FB event page for more details.**





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‘Ambit’ @ Block 336 reviewed

23 October 2013

Is it a truism to state that technology controls our lives? In the wake of the surveillance debate ushered in by the Edward Snowden scandal, the question has rarely been more pertinent; all-pervasive it may well seem, but to what extent does it influence our ethical and aesthetic decisions? Certainly, the Internet has had had huge implications for our use of language, but is this really any more than a cosmetic change? These questions hang heavy over Everything Wants to Run, a group show organised by Brixton’s Block 336 collective. The exhibition seeks to explore “conditions of materiality in contemporary art practice”, and convoluted though the term might appear, it’s a valid premise that throws up some extremely imaginative contributions.

Descending into the basement of Block 336, one is immediately assaulted by a wall of undulating noise; feedback howls are punctuated by the sounds of fuses blowing and thunder rolling into a drum rattle. An ominous, site-specific sound installation Ambit is a collaboration between composers Erik Nyström and Peiman Khosravi. The portentous sweep of the piece is initially disturbing and invasive, but once familiarity, if that’s not too vague a term in Ambit‘s ceaselessly ambitious context, is established, it becomes almost meditative, informing the rest of the work in the show and pulsing around the gallery like a subliminal instruction to look more closely.

The rest of the exhibition is a rewardingly multifarious proposition. Daniel Silver, fresh from his concurrent Artangel commission Dig, offers ‘The Artist his Father and his Son’, a pair of enormous cast aluminium sculptures positioned in the centre of the main exhibition space. Reaching almost to the ceiling, the structures are contorted, mottled and perplexingly voluptuous, a simultaneous dialogue with each other and the austere concrete columns of the uncompromisingly Brutalist gallery. The monumentalism of Silver’s work is joyously at odds with Kate Owens‘ ‘The Old You’, hung at a right angle to his totems; transferring the azure dye of her jeans onto squares of paper, Owens has created a series of auto-paintings that call into question the very notion of chance. There is a certain randomness to the framed and mounted works as we see them, but how far is their appearance pre-determined by the pre-emptive strictures imposed by the artist? It’s an age-old question given a fascinating new articulation by these beautiful and quietly powerful works in which authorship collides head-on with anarchy.


Two exhibits, Nathaniel Stern‘s Giverny Series and Charlotte Webb‘s ‘Flickr Nude or Noodle Descending a Staircase’, showcase the impossibly complicated limitations of technology with particular fluency and imagination. The former is a series of laminated printouts, the physical result of the artist strapping a scanner, a laptop and a battery pack to his person and attempting to make the machinery process the imagery of the environment around him. The prints -aqueous, indifferent bulges of luminous colour -articulate the fundamental inability of computer technology to independently read its surroundings in a way that has any rapport with physical reality. The implied frustration is palpable.

Webb’s installation is an interactive programme projected onto the wall of the entrance hall. Visitors are invited to type-search terms into an engine which then processes a live Flickr feed of every image related to them. The build-up of jpegs is bewildering; a search for “sanctity” gives an onslaught of monochrome photos of pensioners on benches, while “Conrad Black” is a trigger for pixelated puppies in the snow, pornographic ephemera and, eventually, a snap or two of the disgraced tycoon himself. As a dispassionate comment on the alienating banality of internet traffic when taken out of context, it’s revelatory; it is at once a celebration and a warning, a relatively simple but staggeringly comprehensive work. There is something curiously hypnotic about it as the images stack up listlessly in time to Nyström and Khosravi’s meta-musical score, but even then it’s hard not to shiver at the inhumanity of such a deluge of information and content.

Everything Wants to Run runs at Block 336, from October 12 to November 16, 2013.

Header image: Charlotte Webb, ‘Flickr Nude or Noodle Descending a Staircase (detail)’ (2013). Web application. Image © the artist.

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Robin Mason @ Block 336 reviewed

17 May 2013

The Deepest Darkest journeys into Welsh born artist Robin Mason’s autobiographical past in a series of spectacularly surreal works set against Block 336 Gallery’s stark Brutalist backdrop.

Within the basement space Mason’s story begins to unfold against white walls and cold concrete floors. Soaked in the strip light’s harsh glare a disco ball’s reflection meditatively spins a showbiz sparkle over the amusement arcades of yesteryear. Each is outdated, yet their resonance is accentuated against the backdrop.

Every one of them has inescapable charm. A wooden slot machine takes a dime to predict your future; The Super Love Test lets you know you’re the jealous type, while a “Multi Horn – High Fidelity” valve-operated jukebox awaits your choice from a selection of chart hits, like Jimi Hendrix ‘s ‘Purple Haze’ and Altry Inman’s ‘Be Bop Baby’. It’s the barebones of a vintage theme park. In a sense, it is Mason’s childhood fairground; the place where he worked as a young man, watched revellers gamble their fortunes and collected his winnings. Now Mason invites us in to play the same games, follow his footsteps and slowly become enthralled by the curiosities his mind has paced over time and again.

Robin Mason, The Funfair and the Altarpiece 2. Image courtesy of BLOCK 336.

Arrows out number any other symbol in The Deepest Darkest by ten-to-one. Across etchings and paintings, their simple black lines guide us through. Most obviously, a curved white arrow, adorned with colourful gem-like bulbs, leads us from one room to the next. More plainly, scribbled in a font commonly used by American diners, the word “Journey”, in bright neon acrylic paint, illuminates the appropriately titled painting ‘Search and Journey’. Travelling through worlds past and present, real and imagined, the discovery of missed details, the loss of old joys; these are the things Mason obsesses over. Across etchings, astroturf lawns, even mini-museums of exhibitions contained in hut-like structures, he rekindles memories and relives them. Most masterfully, in a behemoth canvass christened ‘The Funfair and the Altarpiece’ worlds touched on across the exhibition all collide.

A homage to Mattias Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece, where Christ is crucified in a contemporary landscape suffering from the same ergotism that caused plague victims’ to hallucinate, ‘The Funfair and the Altarpiece’ is a deliberate clash of Northern European medieval art history’s iconography with Mason’s own theatrical lexicon of pink English rock candy alongside wood-cut etching collected as he relived a childhood journey in 1968 from Porthcawl, South Wales, to the Black Forest in a search for his roots and the core of his identity as an artist.

As the exhibition unfolds, triptychs replace readymade arcades, small sharp works glean out of hidden nooks; colourful orange and pink paints descend on voids left by bold monochrome patterns. Darkness falls, a short animated film plays, and the viewers own journey into the dark forest begins.**

Robin Mason’s The Deepest Darkest is running at Block 336 until Friday, June 7, 2013.

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