1st October- 2nd November 2019
Perhaps one of the most prevalent subjects shaping conversation today is the issue of the consumer society, or rather the detrimental effects that derive from it. This narrative is threaded through modern media and literature, and it is now making an influx onto the international art scene, informing discussion further. In the small Mayfair space of Kamel Mennour, Neïl Beloufa adds to this wider discourse. Exhibiting a series of luminous flowers and cars made up of rubbish from his own studio, Beloufa cleverly uses art as a vehicle for transporting a sociopolitical ideology, toying ironically with the notion of a ‘civilisation of trash’.
Neïl Beloufa, Installation View. Image courtesy of Kamel Mennour’s website.
Beloufa’s anti-consumerist message is brought into the space of the gallery by a series of six pieces, arranged thematically onto two whitewashed walls. Acting as a collection of assemblages and overlaid strata, his artwork has depth, both physically and metaphorically, and thus invites the viewer to look twice. From a distance, the exhibition appears to be a rather repetitive display of luminously coloured cars and bouquets of flowers. Upon closer inspection, however, the viewer is confronted with Beloufa’s work in all of its dimensions: pizza boxes, wrapping materials and cereal boxes are just some of what makes up the images of cars and flowers, perpetuating a critique of consumerism and consumption. By incorporating these discarded materials into his pieces, the artist presents viewers with fragments of our everyday lives, deconstructing our own destruction before our eyes.
Neïl Beloufa, Installation View. Images courtesy of Kamel Mennour’s website.
'Why cars and flowers?' we may ask. There is no obvious connection between the two, and I must admit I was slightly discontented with Beloufa’s choice to pair these two objects to make up the core of his exhibition. Perhaps the intention was for the two to juxtapose each other; as Beloufa notes, cars stand for "one of the chief sources of waste both daily and long term", whilst flowers traditionally symbolise beauty. The artist’s intention is certainly open to interpretation, though I felt this unusual coupling gave the exhibition a rather arbitrary feel, particularly as there were no wall texts to inform and accompany the pieces.
Ultimately, though, Beloufa makes a proposal for recycling and eco-consciousness by enmeshing the subject of sustainability with modern art. His exhibition invites us to look, quite literally, beneath the surface as we are confronted with layers of both meaning and material. I would argue that the execution of such a significant message could have been better; a thematic disjunction between pieces creates somewhat of a lack of flow through the exhibition. In this case, informative wall texts would have been greatly beneficial in creating a sense of cohesion and further driving home Beloufa’s critique of consumerism. Much, if not all, of the artwork is open to interpretation, but Beloufa’s artistic innovation is clear, and his exhibition certainly provides food for thought.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor