Eva Rothschild at Modern Art and Jessie Flood-Paddock at Carl Freedman Gallery, London

25 April 2014 By

I have two unmissable shows for you this week.  The Spring break means there is a traffic jam of exhibitions all opening together right now but I suggest that first of all you get along to see Eva Rothschild‘s latest body of work, inaugurating Stuart Shave’s much anticipated new gallery just to the side of St Luke’s church on Old Street. London audiences haven’t had a chance to see a major group of Rothschild’s works since her Duveen commission at Tate Britain in 2009; lucky Yorkshire will have seen her 2011 show at the Hepworth Wakefield. Ducking inside from the cobbled streets of Clerkenwell, you are met with a sensitively remodelled suite of airy, top-lit galleries and a pristine polished concrete floor. Rothschild’s works (all 2014) inhabit the spaces with effortless confidence in her use of material and form: there are floor and wall based works as well as pieces suspended from the ceilings. The show is called What the Eye Wants and you find yourself hungrily moving from work to work, absorbing the subtle formal games of perspective and juxtapositions of materials found and fabricated.  There are familiar elements – like the occasional rams horn or black ceramic hand that remind you of earlier, quite esoteric or occult references – and then entirely new devices such as the sculptures called Cosy Cone and Prismatics that present mirror image groups of small objects within tall, slender space-frame towers made from concrete reinforcing bars.

Jessie Flood-Paddock is the artist who immortalised the Wasabi Pea in sculpture, and for the Hayward Gallery project space produced a sculpture of a lobster so gigantically super-sized, it out-Dali’d Dali for Freudian impact. There is a long tradition of art’s engagement with food that goes back to votive gothic imagery, through 17th Century Dutch vanitas and on up to the famous Warholian soup can and beyond.  With her new exhibition at Carl Freedman, which opened on Wednesday night, the artist has again found sources in the everyday, this time using the typographic logo of a cosmetic brand as the formal and conceptual springboard for a new body of work focussing on another art historical genre, the nude.

Walk in without reading the press release and these origins are entirely opaque. Entering the space through a ‘forest’ of polystyrene forms drawn loosely from the curves of the Nude cosmetics brand logo, what you see is an elegant mis-en-scene of sculpture and wall-based work. In Flood-Paddock this is new. While one could make a feminist reading of the work in relation to perceived forms of idealised feminine beauty, what is really at stake here for the artist is an exploration of the formal possibilities offered by such a reduced source. One senses that the self-imposed restriction has been the opposite of limiting, but has freed her to consider material in new ways.  The central sculpture in the show is a riff on a reclining figure, formed from the four elements of the logo. She has cast forms in plaster and jesmonite and arranged them so that they unavoidably reference a sculptural tradition that takes you from the abstraction of Anthony Caro, back towards the figure through Henry Moore and beyond him to classical sculpture.  And once there you can make the connection between the white marble perfection of the classical nude and the airbrushed ideal of the 21st Century.  This show feels like a significant and exciting shift in Flood-Paddock’s work, and I recommend you keep up.

Bon weekend les amis.

Caroline Douglas

Eva Rothschild at Modern Art, 4 – 8 Helmet Row, London EC1V 3QJ. Open Tuesday – Saturday 11.00 – 18.00, until 24 May. www.modernart.net

Jessie Flood-Paddock at Carl Freedman Gallery, 29 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3PB. Open Tuesday – Friday 11.00 – 18.00, Saturday 12.00 – 18.00, until 24 May. www.carlfreedman.com