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An expedition into the arty Engadin

Charlie Billingham and Ophelia Finke (Emalin)

Since 2008, at the end of August, the Engadin experiences an influx of art-lovers who, sportively or leisurely, climb up and down the mountains eager to attend the 10-day art and culture festival Art Masters St.Moritz. The festival presents established national and international art, with a special focus on India for this year’s edition. However, our attention was captured by the rather unusual presence of young curators and artists, many of which connected to the London art scene.

Lendi Art Projects in Celerina presented the work of british artist Freddy Dewe Mathews who spent three months exploring Graubünden’s mountains. Entitled Ritschercha, the exhibition includes drawings, photographs and an ambitious video installation. This is the artist’s first foray into film, something that Lendi Projects encouraged as it supports young artists in the early and experimental stages of new directions in their work. While challenging himself technically, Dewe Mathews also made a daring move by choosing Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg as the starting point of his exhibition research. Athens based artist-run project space Fokidos presented Mixed Four, an off-site project at Hotel Steffani in St.Moritz showing work by Bobby Dowler, Camilla Emson, Christopher Green and Sofia Stevi. Dowler deconstructs canvases and stretcher frames in order to reform them with accumulated tools and materials. These procedures stimulate unconventional decisions and techniques, helping to guide a work towards an eventual completion. The artist describes his work as an ongoing “experiential research process”.

Emson’s multi-disciplinary practice investigates the internal and external effects of making that is resonant with the effects of touching and being touched. The rawness and fragility of Emson’s sewn canvases and blown glass vessels that are made using found tools calls upon an innate body intelligence and involves intimate processes of repair, embodiment and re-configuration. The acquisition of her body and new materials imbues the work with a sense of discovery and presence. She also presented two installations as part of the Art Masters programme. Life is Never Completely Sewn Up was hung in a charming barn in Bever, while Group Process 2013 – a chair that invites people to face each other, learn from each other and share stories in a way that supports a natural process of giving and receiving – was exhibited in the Heilbad Garden Cafe’.

Green makes paintings informed by revision and reinterpretation; the experience of living in the world and working in the studio. The finished works; often ambiguous in the process of their creation – are initially conceived as groups, yet worked on without any singular, fixed statement of intent. Kept open; paintings cross-pollinate by way of Green’s faded recollection of past works, or in some cases, the physical transfer of one painting’s content to another. By doing so, each work becomes connected; a sum of both the past and future.

Stevi works on large and small scale formats with a wide variety of materials (including acrylic paint, plaster, fabric, rubber, plastic sheeting, string and ceramic) to produce sculptures, paintings and, most often, works that sit between the two disciplines. An experimental and instinctive colourist, Stevi often collects discarded objects on the street that she sees beauty and a new meaning in.

Least but not last, in it’s first exhibition Emalin – a moving platform promoting the work of young artists and run by Leopold Thun and Jasmine Picot-Chapman – presented Free Time with works but Charlie Billingham and Ophelia Finke. The exhibition’s title evolved from the notion of leisure, a word that has no direct translation into the German language, the closest being freizeit or Free Time. The evasiveness of the term is suited to the new bodies of work in which the artists explore jazz music and cricket respectively. Utilising the motifs of saxophones and cricket uniforms, yet being neither saxophonists nor cricketers, they have drawn upon the formal elements of these pursuits, subtly playing with the structures that divide participation and observation, work and play, profession and hobby.

 
See you there next year?!

Charlie Billingham ♦ Ophelia Finke 

by Cosima Bucarelli