One One One at Annex East, London

In the shadow of Anish Kapoor’s Olympic tower the sun retreats stealthily into the horizon casting an impenetrable orange haze across. It is in the middle of this that Annex East’s current exhibition One One One is housed. Under the watchful eyes of the continuously circling helicopters stalking the dusk sky and the increased police presence amongst the brutalist architecture of Stratford one could be mistaken in to thinking this a scene from 1984.

One One One is an exhibition produced in collaboration with five leading contemporary galleries in London. Each gallery has submitted a piece of art from one artist: Millington & Marriott Gallery, Neil Rumming, ANDOR Gallery, Julian King, COLE Gallery, Oliver Michaels, Hannah Barry Gallery, James Balmforth and Limoncello Gallery, Yonatan Vinitsky.

By bypassing the conventional method of exhibiting where a series of work by one artist is on display, Annex East has allowed the curatorial process to become a work of art in its own right. The exhibition forces upon the necessity for each work to have a comfort zone so as to not disrupt its own power and stature. However due to the limited space and architecture of the building, disruption is unavoidable. The hostility and paranoiac tension looming around the exterior of the building is mirrored and concentrated within the exhibition space, producing an incredibly high strung show engulfed with stimulation.

In the far left corner of the gallery is Julian King’s Discovery Of A Chamber a matt black octagonal construction with a black mirrored bottom and florescent lights at the top. Julian’s work here is dominated by perception and challenging the notions of it. The rigid structure of the chamber falls silently into the interior architecture of the room allowing the mirror to act as a vortex sucking in the viewer – an enigma as it pronounces its own reality within its structure. It transforms and forever evolves as one circumnavigates it. The black mirror illuminates a fictitious reality in which one must view in order to view the work properly as a whole. However in doing so the piece only exists outside reality and can never be fully engaged with within the parameters of what is real. An uneasy tension is aimed at this piece, as from the far corner spreads Oliver Michaels’ Something Else Out There (2010), a fitting title for its placement within the space as it snakes across the floor. A series of white plinths displays a screen looping a projection of a classical statue. The statue shows a monkey holding what appears to be a dead offspring in its arms. The statue has been animated to look as though it is talking. The accompanying soundtrack is of spoken directions that seem to engage the view personally yet it is juxtaposed with this animation that is watched by multiple groups of people at once. From the plinths stray the cables to the centre of the space where the projector is on display – a conscious decision by the artist. The surreal nature of this piece contradicts its expansion. The curating has beautifully allowed it to invade the delicate calmness and perplexing mystery given in Julian King’s work ushering out an almost antagonistic relationship between the two, which further envelops around the gallery seeping in to every nook and cranny.

King’s challenge of perception which seems to allow his piece to go deeper in to the ground is contradicted by James Balmforth’s We don’t have drawings we think and we build (2009). It is a rust coloured girder that sits like a pyramid upon the floor towards the entrance. The floor acts as a powerful force that holds this piece in place- seemingly that the floor and the girder are locked in a bitter struggle for dominance of power. However the hidden truth that was in never exposed to in King’s work, in Blamforth’s is revealed. Written on the inside is ‘WE DON’T HAVE DRAWINGS WE THINK AND WE BUILD’. At this point in time and in this location this quote can tackle a multitude of subject matters. Could it be referring to the quickly constructed buildings surrounding the area, or Anish Kapoor’s structure which is an example of how the role of the established artist today has evolved beyond the need to simply create strong two-dimensional works?

Yonatan Vinitsky’s What Do Attract and Repel Mean?????? (5 Chairs) (2012) and Neil Rumming’s Coming & Coming (2012) are the only wall based works and thus seem to sit with relative ease within their given space, at times they become withdrawn almost as if they are mere spectators to the conflict within the centre of the gallery. Vinitsky’s work, which verges on optical illusion, consists of a yellow backing board with a series of nails linked by elastic representing five chairs at different angles and depths thus casting shadows on the surface behind. Depending on where the viewer is standing the elastic also takes on different weights and depths, creating a rather bewildering sense of duality and transformation as one tries to explore the metaphysical relationship between shadow and elastic. Neil Rumming’s painting is a tongue-in-cheek composition showing lines of the same dismembered finger, most likely the middle one, descending diagonally down the canvas. Harbouring a fascinating blend of Pop aesthetic and overt symbolism, the piece takes on a lively personality within the gallery.

It feels as if at any moment this precisely orchestrated yet heavily unnatural balance generated by the curators within the gallery could be forever lost. The air of adrenaline heightens as one cautiously proceeds around the space trying not to be the catalyst for disaster. The peculiar arrangement and eclectic nature of the pieces as a series does vastly promote the individuality and uniqueness of each work. When viewed together they work as one and one and one – they never embrace as a collective. Thus the most superb abstracted dysfunctional tension is created and by chance this tension is nothing short of perfectly emphasised by the constricting strains on the streets surrounding the exhibition.

One One One, Annex East, Until 26th August, Annex East, Unit 2, Hutchins Close, Stratford, London, E15 2JE.

Text: William Davie