In Momentum: Mary Macken Allen, Polina Barskaya, Amy Beager, Rune Christensen, Ralf Kokke, Alvin Ong, Holly Stevenson, Heidi Ukkonen

12 November - 18 December 2021 London

Private View: Thursday 11th November, 6:30-9 pm  

London (London Bridge) 


Occupying vivid domestic settings, colourful dreamworlds or otherwise rendered in three-dimensional form, the human body appears fluid, warped, fluctuating, fading, exposed, distant, amorphous. In Momentum, the latest group show at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery London Bridge, brings together the work of eight artists, who, in different ways, explore the flux and range of human experience. Rich in colour, detail and texture, the works present heightened perspectives, sensual forms and fluid gestures that reflect the magical visions of the subconscious and the surrealism of everyday contemporary life.


British artist Mary Macken Allen’s tender painted scenes explore human relationships and the fluid boundaries of self. While each encounter or interaction occurs within a recognisable domestic space, translucent layers of oil paint and soft yellow-tinted hues create a strange sense of ephemerality and solitude. The painting entitled Window, for example, depicts two women lounging on a bed, but the warmth and intimacy of the scene is unsettled by the direct, unwavering gaze of the figures and the surreal presence of a square shape floating above the mattress. As with all of the works, there’s a palpable tension between familiarity and distance, a kind of taut stillness that seems to reflect shifting psychological states. Alvin Ong’s paintings similarly explore notions of transition and instability, capturing the ephemerality of a collective psyche and the fragmented experience of moving endlessly between online avatars, profiles, images, apps, chats, and real-life interaction. As such, the body appears fragmented and glitching as if simultaneously emerging and fading from the canvas.


Meanwhile, fashion designer-turned-artist Amy Beager’s latest series of paintings explore dream states as a site of unbridled imagination where visions of the subconscious manifest in wild, passionate scenes. This is also reflected in the mark-making process: Beager alternates between smooth, velvety textures, quick, gestural brushstrokes and delicate areas of translucency to create a powerful sense of movement while her rich, vibrant colour palette adds to the otherworldly atmosphere. Dutch artist Ralf Kokke also finds inspiration in the surreal visions of dream and fantasy. While his compositions are typically unplanned, arising through the intuitive act of painting, the scenes are linked by a distinct graphical style that recalls the visual language of magical realism and mythology. The painting Underdog, for example, depicts a dog-like creature standing on the back of a larger animal wearing high heels on its back feet. Although the scene is deliberately playful and humorous, the presence of other creatures looming behind the dark backdrop of thickly tangled plants introduces an element of threat and unease.


Although Rune Christensen’s compositions are inspired by his travels around the globe, his intricate, bold paintings also possess a captivating mythic quality. Rather than depicting specific sites or encounters, he aims to capture inner experiences: the essence or energy of place and human existence as filtered through his own distinct perspective. As such, each work is infused with a diverse range of cultural influences and motifs, while the fervent, luminous colour palette and combined use of spray paint, oil pastel, pencil and acrylic creates a captivating sense of texture and dynamism.


For this exhibition, Antwerp-based artist Heidi Ukkonen presents two paintings titled Ordinary Life 1 and 2 which depict two different women seated in the same pose, each with a painting of a man’s face on their lap. While the domestic setting is immediately familiar, the mirroring of the figures combined with the intense colour palette and patterning creates an odd sense of the uncanny as the boundaries between the figures and their surroundings become blurred. Indeed, we might interpret the paintings as portraits of the women’s internal landscapes as if we are seeing the everyday coloured by their imagination. Brooklyn-based Ukrainian-born artist Polina Barskaya similarly presents visions of heightened reality that seem to reflect psychological states. Both of the paintings included in this exhibition are based on photographs that her husband took of her and her baby, and capture the intimate rituals of motherhood in exquisite detail from splashes of light up walls to crumpled bed sheets. While the scenes are recognisable, the direct gaze of the figures and the artist’s signature grey tones creates a haunted sense of time suspended which simultaneously draws our attention to the surreal in the ordinary.


In a similar way, Holly Stevenson’s practice engages with the concept of magic realism by transforming some-thing unspeakable into a desirable form through uncanny and humorous mechanisms. The starting point for her work is Sigmund Freud’s favourite ashtray and last cigar which she explores as a visual metaphor for gender: the yonic ovular dish representing the female and the cylindrical phallic cigar the male. In the studio, she habitually re-makes these forms first through sketches and then in clay, reconfiguring them into her own voluptuous figurative language that posits the body as a space and reflects upon the magic of the subconscious.


While each of these artists engage in different processes, styles and mediums, their work is linked by a powerful sense of vitality and a restless need to unravel the rich and varied complexities of human experience. As such, In Momentum welcomes viewers into a fluid, vibrant space of boundless creativity.