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London’s art scene benefits from an international outlook, much of which comes from the presence of European artists. Yet that’s doubly threatened: first, by the troubling referendum outcome, which risks reducing artists’ ease of access; and second by the increasing difficulty of finding living and studio space in the capital – a problem, of course, for all artists. ‘Secret European Studio’ celebrates, somewhat mournfully, the current diversity of the London art scene by focusing on what’s being made by artists who come from EU countries, but live here. Carlos Noronha Feio (Portugal) makes paintings which seek abstract equivalents for power structures, and also sets the show’s soundscape as he reflects on what ‘Universism’ might be; Alzbeta Jaresova (Czech Republic) puts her figures into tense psychological relationships with transparent yet unfathomable versions of London’s infrastructure; Simona Brinkmann (Italy) uses metal and foam-padded leather to form half-fetishistic, half-architectural objects which suggest shifting boundaries between private and public; Willem Weismann (Netherlands) seems to mock both dystopia in general and the putative death of painting in particular in his colourful cartoon-tinged tableaux; Franco-German collective Troika bring sublimity to trauma as they draw intricate webs of lightning, and run a smoke bomb through a labyrinthine maze; and Nadege Meriau (France) lets snails and mushrooms impose their own dark logics on her photographic underworld. The works emerging from these Secret European Studios cohere in a darkly intelligent overview of where we are now – and we wouldn’t want to be without them… The vote to leave is a serious concern in that and other respects. Let’s hope we use our supposed increase in freedom to make it easier for artists to find the space to tell us how they see the Brexit world.
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