1 November - 22 November 2018
The Leontia gallery sits on the end of a row of ‘hip’ pink and blue shops near Willesden Green Station. Their new ‘Godliness’ exhibition explores the theme of religion in contemporary artwork. It is often easy to forget that much of art history revolved around religious themes. In the Leontia Gallery's exhibition these topics are taken up by contemporary artists and questioned in a way that relates to modern society. The exhibition ranges from photo’s to realist and abstract paintings.
The layering of religious imagery in these pieces allows the viewer to come to their own ideas about the issues discussed. This is particularly striking in Eugene Ankomah’s pieces where the artist explores the “extent people have to go to find God” and how social media stars can be seen as contemporary figures of worship. Taking his colour palette from stain glass windows and his use of brain scans to show a human being stripped from gender and race are suggestive ideas which he incorporates into his art. The layers of paint and collage in his work.
Some of the other pieces have more simple imagery, with Steve Smythe’s poster style work involving spray painting out the words divine and Magnus Gjoen’s Adam and Eve behind glass which seemed a little two-dimensional. Peter Zelei photography also constructs simple but beautiful imagery which questions viewers assumptions about people. However, I found his use of half naked women, who could have been pulled from Vogue, gratuitous, and it seemed to undermine the point of the photographs. Michelle Mildenhall’s work with latex and fetishised images of Mary and Medusa were visually powerful however did not seem to be very creative beyond sneaking phallic images into pictures of iconic figures.
For me, the stand out artist of the exhibition was Jean-Luc Almond, who painted realistic portraits and then spread the paint across the canvas. This led to paint that had once been a face becoming a more abstract work and the inner lives of the characters in the portrait being able to break through. These portraits are visceral and well worth seeing in person. Almond often works from Victorian photos to create his pieces. The traditional gallery portrait being given a fresh abstract make-over gives his work a familiar feel as if someone has broken into the National Gallery and given some of the older works a contemporary make over.
This exhibition ranges wildly in styles, but it contains some real gems of work which are worth seeing. Overall, it is a well-curated collection of pieces, that certainly makes one think about the place of Godliness in art in the 21st century.