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Unity in Variety VI at Gabriel Fine Arts


In the sixth edition of their most recent collaboration with Barikee, Gabriel Fine Arts showcased an expansive array of work, from the interpretive calligraphy of Bin Qulander to the poetic photographs of Adriaan van Heerden. The mere diversity in artistic origin, from Pakistan to South Africa and New Zealand to Germany, serves homage to the title and ethos of the exhibition, ‘Unity in Variety’.

“W. Somerset Maugham wrote that, ‘The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety’. This is a beautiful, expansive thought: what it means to me is that we are more beautiful as a whole if we make room for each other to flourish; and that the world is a more interesting place as a complex mess,” said Heerden.

The exhibition was as colourful in appearance as it was dense in evocative stories of peoples, lands, religions, and landscapes. Each of the artists who took part draws their influence from both the tangible and the metaphysical. Rosemary Clunie finds inspiration in fiction’s heroes and heroines, Sue Mac Dougall finds it upon floating in the sea, and Teresa Wicksteed paints from an interest in contemporary physics.

A piece, Surah Rehman I, by Bin Qulander (photo attached) stood out in its use of vibrant blue hues to accentuate geometric lines and shapes. When Qulander speaks on his art he explains his focus on an “aesthetic interpretation of calligraphy” and a fluidity with deeper philosophical context. In slight juxtaposition, Dmitry Dobrovolsky, of Ukrainian origin, showcased a colourful and oil based mosaic titled Holland Park Walk which focuses on the human as its subject. Both works communicate elements of their own culture in conjunction with constants in every civilisation.

Gabriel Fine Arts

The exhibition left an appetite for understanding and exploration. It also left a deeper consideration for the potential lack thereof a space for such diversity in the arts on a global scale. Upon considering this, “It depends on where you draw the geographical boundary of the question,” said Heerdeen. The arts provide a medium for one of the most imaginative reflections of current affairs of the world, and how people and cultures engage with one another. This showcase of work at Gabriel Fine Arts inspires refusal of the restriction of such expression.

The ethos and effect of this exhibition prompts a sense of urgency for consideration of the integral role that the arts still hold for each individual, community, and culture. Art is an important tool for an understanding of the worlds around us, close and near. It keeps us engaged and connected. ‘Unity in Variety’ was chaotic perhaps in its vast array of represented mediums and cultures but in its resonance it was harmonious and whole.

By Victoria Lancaster

Unity in Variety VI
Gabriel Fine Arts
18  – 26 November 2016

William Eggleston: Portraits


William Eggleston wrote far better than most writers write. He wrote without words through his portraits as fleeting and resonant as a Carver story. Currently on display in The National Portrait Gallery is one of his most expansive exhibitions of 100 works dating from the 1960s to the present day.

Eggleston’s work, aside from hugely revolutionising colour photography, captures far from extraordinary people. He photographed his mum, his friends, and the passerby here and there around Memphis petrol stations and in nightclub corridors. Aside from Eggleston’s subjects as insightful, he mastered techniques of dye-transfer that have since become archaic in practice with the rise of modern technology editing softwares.

The 1975 Untitled portrait features his then lover Marcia Hare sprawled on a half yellowed stretch of grass- the yellow colouring coming most likely from the dye-transfer as opposed to the sun. The portrait’s colours are spry and feminine, its original blues and reds exposed to light and turned to magenta, yellow, and cyan. The hues glow like a glimpse of nostalgia, something of youth and naive love. Marcia wears a floral dress that rests on the grass, half in and half out of focus, her face and the cherry red buttons on her dress like marbles clear. Marcia appears like an old lover that almost anyone can relate, her buoyancy loud.

Another dye transfer print, taken in 1969 Jackson Mississippi depicts a woman on a garden sofa, her calves thin and resting on the stones beneath her. She holds a cigarette gracefully in one hand and she peers out of the corner of her eyes which hide behind the frames of her glasses, perhaps to a singing bird or an old friend. The reds and purples of her dress sit against the yellows and pinks of the sofa. She was a woman we all knew once, in a passing moment and a typical one at that.

Eggleston’s colouring techniques would have required him to touch the surface of his photographs with a tool like a sponge, to expose them to light, and transfer them to photographic paper. This serves as good reason for why his portraits have a physical hold on a viewer, much like the physicality of his then and since obsolete editing process. The portraits are personal, they have been touched and they touch in turn.

Aside from his colourful work which once debuted in the MoMA in 1976, this exhibition shares some of his black and white work, arguably as loud as the colourful portraits. A lack of colour does not restrict Eggleston’s ability to capture a subject in their space with believable grace.

Some of the portraits in the exhibition have supplemental captions. It is debatable whether or not these distract or enhance the experience, but they nonetheless help us to weave a narrative together of Eggleston’s life as a normal guy in Memphis.

Eggleston can be thanked for coining an aesthetic enriched with nostalgia and deepened by colour and light- one that in a contemporary context is often copied and considerably á la mode. Eggleston’s work leaves a feeling a deja vu on a viewer. This is one that most all of us long for- to relive ordinary moments with important people or things. A viewer is left with the inability to comprehend whether or not Eggleston’s images have been seen before, perhaps in a dreamlike or supernatural state, or in their own real lives. His portraits will follow you on bus journey or a trip to the cinema, much like a short story.


By Victoria Lancaster

National Portrait Gallery Press OfficeWilliam Eggleston Portraits
National Portrait Gallery
21 July – 23 October

Wife by Tiphanie Yanique


Intimacy and infidelity, warmth and vacuousness, possessed and free. These are all the paradoxes that are found, lost, and found again in Tiphanie Yanique’s debut collection Wife. It is to no surprise that such an effortlessly honest portrayal of the female, as both confined and fierce, has won The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.

The collection is organised in parts that subsequently follow one another, as in most marriages. They reflect the mind of the self and in this case the self assumes the role of wife. The wife, however, can take multiple forms, one such that the wife is possessed, one such that she one with another, and one such that she belongs only to herself. It is these stages that we follow.

In part I, Notes for Couples Therapy, Yanique quickly establishes the capacity of strength of which the woman possesses by comparing her being to an island, below it which resides, ‘beautiful things, also-which can be the most dangerous.’ The island, most certainly a reference to the corporeal woman, is ‘small and vulnerable/ it is a woman, calling. You love her.’ More than that the woman holds all of which we are she, the island, is the portal to our histories which, ‘we will never be beyond.’ In this part, Yanique also offers a brazen but still rather elegant Dictionary which lists different origins of wife, most all of which allude to the woman in sexual servitude.

The woman becomes the mountain atop which the husband calls in part II Altar Calls. References to the sky and the sea and the forces of nature are connected to the wife again. The poems in this part alternate from the ‘I’ perspective to the ‘we,’ the joint unit of a wife and a husband- and the physical joy that comes along with it. Illusions to the natural elements suggest that while often resisted by humankind, these earthly beings will undoubtedly hold the history of our ancestors and turnout triumphant. Thus, it is the wife who will prevail fertile, and continue on, even when, after such degradation or infidelity, the we, ‘cannot believe our failure/is a wave coming/steadily at them/from behind.’ The wave is the wife.

Part III, Abandonment Stations and IV Words (Last, Fighting, True, Etc.) place emphasis on the abundant mother and the intimate nature between an infant and mother similar to the manner in which a wife becomes native to a husband and vice versa, ‘I am/ yours./I claim you.’

Yanique leaves us with the delightful To Capture Ghosts, a letter for Jean-Michel Basquiat and Moses Djeli. It is with this resolution that the narrator, most seemingly also the voice of Yanique, seems to speak directly to somebody who she tells that she, ‘travelled all the way from the Virgin Islands to the find love of my life.’ She speaks again of love, and she speaks that, ‘maybe I should dedicate myself to these people. To people and not the love of people.’ She speaks here also of ghosts, of mothers, and of lovers. She alludes to differences and inequalities regarding race and gender in a way that seems ironic but translates to hope. In the last line of the collection, Yanique gracefully mentions fear and the nature of humankind to be afraid- perhaps of such intimacy, such legacy, such nurturing and such versions of ourselves.

By Victoria Lancaster

wifeWife, Tiphanie Yanique, Peepal Tree Press, 2015, £8.99



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