Roman Road is pleased to present Canon of Beauty, a group exhibition curated by Fousieh Mobayen, featuring artists Antonia Nannt, Murat Önen, Victoria Pidust and Lola Stong-Brett.
For hundreds of centuries there has been a question and negotiation about beauty, aesthetics and its classification, and very early on philosophers coined terms and theories around it, from Plato to Kant and Hegel. The term ‘aesthetics’, initially named by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten in 1750, refers to the "study of sensory perception." Today's aesthetics have two main aspects: it's a theory of beauty, including the sublime, magnificent, elegant and graceful, and also of the ugly and grotesque; these ideas expanded in the 19th century, notably with Hegelian philosopher Karl Rosenkranz's Aesthetics of Ugliness (1853). Overall, aesthetics explores how we value, experience, and judge art and beauty.
This profound dialogue has received great attention within the art world throughout various exhibitions. Looking back historically, many great works were considered as inappropriate or shocking because they broke with convention or simply were grotesque. Indeed, Marcia Tucker, founder of the New Museum in New York, curated an exhibition in 1978 titled ‘Bad Painting’, which initiated a new discourse in the art world: painting as a counter-reaction to avant-garde and stylistic dictates.
Canon of Beauty brings together artists whose practices and works exhibit different perceptions of singular aesthetic references. Through sculpture, painting and photography they collectively weave a narrative that explores unique experiences and observations, and the question of the relevance of aesthetics and how it is felt in today's world.
In contemporary art, different concepts of ‘beauty’ have emerged, where beauty and aesthetics are democratised, politically discussed, and are even becoming a statement of oppression and marginalisation, a place of unpredictable movements and visuals. We have entered a stage where there is no definite answer of what is meant to be aesthetic and not. Furthermore, how strongly does the western gaze influence these theories?
The artists of Canon of Beauty are paying contribution to the discourse of aesthetics in different ways, such as Antonia Nannt’s steel sculptures, which fill the room and resemble a garden of metallic flowers with substantial petals. Etched with the names of design movements, the sheer number of words sometimes causes petals to fall prematurely, revealing fragile coloured glass within. Coated in enamel, they glisten, questioning how they are used as part of the language of design to forcibly transmit nostalgia, reassurance, or even power itself.
Murat Önen's work is self-reflective, blending real-life situations and personal experiences with imaginative elements from art history. He references old masters, reinterpreting their artistic essence and forging new paths in the present. His confrontation with the socially defined and perceived conflicting notions of masculinity, as well as his quest for liberation from them, ultimately paves the way for a completely new mode of expression within his painterly repertoire.
Victoria Pidust’s work explores the idea of mirroring our world with a different perception, creating a shift in reality for the viewer. Her deep connection to painting led her to contemplate abstract possibilities in photography. In her iPhone zooming series, Pidust captures extreme close-ups, revealing algorithmic elements of the iPhone's in-camera programs. Any loss of quality due to zooming is offset by independently generated information.
Lola Stong-Brett’s paintings mingle abstraction with figuration to depict altered realities of the everyday. Taking imprints of her immediate surroundings, she uses gestural and emotive mark making to explore wider social themes of class, memory and nostalgia.
Canon of Beauty builds a forum for exchange of different ideas of aesthetics through the works of the artists involved, and is considered a place for discussion, motivated by different cultural viewpoints, experiences and influences surrounding the central question: what does it mean to live today in times of dissonance and chaos, and how does it create a sense of beauty and aesthetic?
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