Vanessa Photography
Image: Vanessa Photography

London Art Fair: a glimpse into the ever-changing nature of modern art

On January 16 2024, the annual London Art Fair, located in Islington’s Business Design Centre, began. This event was established in 1989, exhibiting contemporary and modern works from over 100 leading galleries. The Boar was given access to the preview of this event and thus an opportunity to be among the first to experience the chosen works.

The Fair introduced a new section this year named ‘Print and Editions’. This collection exhibited a range of artistic styles and materials, but our main focus is going to surround edition works, as those of Valda Bailey, Joe Berger, and Anouk Jouanne particularly sparked our interest.

Bailey’s technique is the perfect combination of using modern technology and traditional techniques to create an eye-catching, interesting piece

Valda Bailey was one of the many artists on display in the ‘Prints’ wing of the London Arts Fair. Having a background in painting, she switched to primarily doing photography, shown in her extensive portfolio, but her previous work using painting styles and techniques greatly influenced her photography work, evidenced in her use of “blur detail and abstract shapes in the landscape.” Her influences come from the “worlds of Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism”, where she feels the possibilities are limitless.

One series of her collection was particularly eye-catching, due to its distinctive show of colour, contrast, and shape. The four separate images are named ‘Eternal Flame (Koi Carp Blossom)’, ‘Eternal Flame III’, ‘Honesty’, and ‘Truth’, and are all made using differing gold leaf sheets, museum glass, and a variety of skills that really encapsulate the development of ‘printed’ art over the decades.

When we spoke to a gallery representative, she was able to describe Bailey’s production process. By controlling the opacity of certain objects or parts of her photographs in the digital editing stage, when it then came to printing she was able to impress this effect onto the glass panels. Her decision to use museum glass panels allows her work to be that much more specific and clearer as it is a clarity, reflection-controlled glass. This means the final image is not affected by light or any other exterior factors when on display.

After that, she hand-gilds the areas which are partly opaque post-printing with gold leaf. Using gold leaf in art has been a long-standing technique that became especially popular during the Renaissance on all types of art, including frescos, paintings, and sculpture. This technique needs an alcohol to help secure the sheets of gold to the object. Bailey uses gin specifically to do this, and with the variety of colours used on the panels, it creates this really beautiful shimmering perception of a three-dimensional image. As you move around the panels you can see the different coloured layers of gold leaf exposed, whilst not being able to see the original carved imprint, which only adds to the 3D effect. This “inventive” technique, as the gallery representative called it, is the perfect combination of using modern technology and traditional techniques to create an eye-catching, interesting piece.

Humour is the central factor, as Berger uses literature and stylistic texts, showing his influences from Robert Crumb to the New Yorker Cartoons

Another artist whose art particularly caught our attention within the new ‘Prints’ section of the London Arts Fair was Joe Berger. Berger produces simplistic but stylish and entertaining screenprints and giclée prints. In a lot of his work that combines cartoons and graphic art, humour is the central factor as he uses literature and stylistic texts, showing his influences from Robert Crumb to the New Yorker Cartoons.

Having appeared in several distinguished exhibitions, illustrated over thirty titles, and produced numerous solo prints, his work is hugely recognisable and clearly entertains an audience of all ages. Whilst Berger is unsure whether the perfect visual joke “even exists”, it is clear for anyone to see that his well-thought-out visual text is both distinctive and effective in connecting to his audience. As he explained, he enjoys “taking words from different situations and replacing words with others that have some other resonance”, making it a personal print for every single individual who looks at and appreciates the image.

However, when looking at his large collection on display, the three-part series of Fernet, Campari, and Chartreuse bottles takes centre stage. Purely based on drinks that he enjoys, the three bottles are delightful digital drawings that enjoy not being related to any exterior literature or thought. Starting out as original drawings, Berger is able to scan them, and using Photoshop add colour and composite, creating the limited edition giclée prints available to buy. New to his art portfolio, they are just as eye-catching and require just as much thought with regards to digital colouring and the printed end result, as his other pieces. “Fascinated with the interplay of words”, the variations of styles of text and integration of bright colours all combine into these final perfect decorative prints.

Jouanne’s photography aims to capture movement and performance in their rawest forms

The final artist we discovered during the preview was Anouk Jouanne, a dancer who allows one artistic aspect of her life to influence another. Her photography aims to capture movement and performance in their rawest forms, a point clearly exemplified in her first print, ‘Still Changes’. This photograph was created during a dress rehearsal of a performance that Jouanne had never seen before, conferring a raw spontaneity upon the artwork. By assessing the lighting in the limited time during the performance, the viewer can understand the performance through the artist’s eyes, emphasising the impermanent nature of the moment. Shot on 35mm film, the piece was later produced using a C-print, a process Jouanne undertakes herself. Her personal hand in the production offers a deeper understanding of her style, which is further demonstrated through the natural printed edge of the photograph, a stylistic remnant of a series of video images. This aesthetic choice underscores the dynamic nature of the subject, enhanced by the use of long exposure to capture the emotion the performers aim to convey.

Another piece by Jouanne that we found particularly captivating was her print, ‘Murmurations’. While this piece employs the same materials and printing process as ‘Still Changes’, the subject matter offers a unique and intriguing perspective for the viewer. This image captures a performance that Jouanne was familiar with, having seen it multiple times prior to taking the photograph. She was particularly fond of the exact pose between the two models, which she beautifully captured. The setting within this photograph mirrors the natural elements of the print’s edges, fostering harmony between the art piece and its setting. The ‘Prints and Editions’ section at the London Art Fair offered a celebration of individuals’ unique artistic journey and their ability to connect with audiences on such personal levels, from Bailey’s abstract photograph impressions to Berger’s comic-inspired prints and Jouanne’s dynamic captures of motion. Thus, it provides viewers with a promising future in the ever-changing landscape of modern and contemporary art.


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