A friend of mine went to a pop-up restaurant in New York to find the chef in his living-room, watching TV. Seeing he had customers, he ambled over to the kitchen and rustled up some top-notch Italian food, served at his kitchen table. As my friend left, he went back to his television set once again. You got what you paid for: unpretentious, no-frills food in a charming setting. Intimate, which occupies the ground floor and basement of the recently-converted Frameless gallery, brought my friend’s story to mind.

The exhibition, spanning fifteen canvases and sculptures, is so named because of the artists’ exploration of intimacy in their works, either in the materials or the artistic process. In the upstairs room, Andreea Talpeanu’s “Low Speaking Nude”, a suspension made of recycled materials including brassieres, is placed opposite Mark Davey’s “Untitled”, a gold-plated steel wall mounting imitating the shape of a urinal. The artworks are austere but aesthetically-pleasing. They show a clarity of ideas that sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition.

Between them is Felipe Moraes’ “36 kg of Triangle”, in which three bungee straps are pulled outwards creating 36kg of pressure between them. The Brazilian Moraes gave the gallery his specifications and they built it with bungees bought on eBay. The piece dominates the room like a sort of manifesto for the exhibition, with its simple form defying simple answers. While Davey and Talpeanu question the value of an artist’s materials, Moraes challenges the artist’s connection to them, with a sculpture he has never laid eyes on.

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…Both artists explore drawing as a ritual, or mania…

The theme of the artist’s connection to their materials continues in Cale De Iser’s obsessive “Rosarium 1 and 2”, which features thousands of tiny circles drawn over a long period. Lauren Seiden in her “Flat Fold #2 & #3” relentlessly etched graphite onto paper until it was transformed through repetition into a thick, grey fold. Both artists explore drawing as a ritual, or mania, and the sense of intimacy here is an unsettling one. Camilla Emson strips away or unravels her two canvases shown here, reimagining the artist as a destructive presence.

There is a debt to the Arte Povera movement of the 1960s in many of the artworks. Alighiero Boetti covered eleven cards in ballpoint pen, while Lucia Fontana slashed or left holes in his canvases. Jannis Kounellis used found objects such as sack-cloth, as well as gold. In its overall themes, too, the exhibition puts an emphasis on simple forms and dynamic processes, which reflects Arte Povera’s concerns. Louise Bourgeois’s influence is also present in found materials that form a female shape, as well as the suggestive folds and curves throughout.

…hand-crafted in gold and silver to represent the male and female form…

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The fact that it has borrowed some familiar motifs doesn’t detract from the exhibition, but rather gives it a cohesive quality. Three artworks, however, break from the norm. Tom Leamon’s figurative painting “Ahaetulla Nasuta” doesn’t quite belong, and nor does Peter Jecza’s bronze “Package”, a critique of communism two decades older than the other artworks. The third, which stands out in its sheer beauty, is Rita Grosse-Ruyken’s “Aspiration 2”  featuring two vessels hand-crafted in gold and silver to represent the male and female form.

This exhibition was a pleasure from beginning to end, with the graceful “Aspiration 2” its highpoint. The intimacy of the gallery itself added to the experience, and the fact that they didn’t crowd it with artworks allowed one to enjoy each on its own terms. Like the chef watching TV on his sofa, Frameless Gallery prove that the venue’s size isn’t important. Although Intimate’s ingredients may not be the freshest, it’s what you do with them that counts: if you want to see good, honest art, I can recommend nowhere better.

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