History Lessons on Eastcastle Street

15 January 2016 By

As the new year grinds in to gear after the slumberous holidays, and new shows are starting to open across town, I thought I would just catch up on a couple that opened before Christmas and that you can still see before the end of the month.  As we leave the season of reviews of the year just ended, it seems like a good moment to consider how we create and articulate our histories.

Caroll/Fletcher are showing Children of Unquiet (2013/14) by Mikhail Karikis, one of the standout works that is currently part of the British Art Show 8, touring the country through 2016. Karikis, a Greek/British artist based in London, centres his practice on the use of the voice – singing, and speaking – as a sculptural material, and a means of exploring socio-political territories, in particular vanishing communities and ways of life.

Children of Unquiet (2013/14) is having its second London showing, after the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation last summer. Karikis’ earlier work, Sounds from Beneath (2011-2012), was purchased last year by the Contemporary Art Society for Worcester Art Gallery. Once again, Sounds from Beneath (2011-2012) is an ode to an extinct landscape, this time in the UK. Featuring members of the Snowdown Colliery Male Voice Choir, the work memorialises a Kentish coalmine through the former miners’vocal embodiment of memory.

Where Karikis’ work focuses on a specific history to explore wider ideas about the changing relationship we have to work, community and capital, Sabine Moritz’s strategy is to borrow from history in order to unravel her own biography. In Harvest Moritz has used photographs by the renowned war photographer Robert Capa, shot in Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. In 1947 Capa embarked on a tour of Ukraine with US author John Steinbeck. Steinbeck published his description of their travels in 1948 as A Russian Journal. Capa’s photographs for Magnum are available here: www.magnumphotos.com

Sabine Moritz was born into East Germany and moved to the West as a teenager following the death of her father in an industrial accident. The profound sense of displacement caused by the physical and philosophical shift from East to West has never left her, and in this new series of works based on Capa’s photographs of the Shevchenko collective farm in Ukraine she probes the subjective nature of memory, the formation of memory and retention of images of the past.

The artist has described herself as a ‘dinosaur’ because of her early formation in the East under Soviet rule. Newly arrived at the Düsseldorf academy she felt quite out of place among her West German companions in Gerhard Richter’s painting classes.  Capa’s photographs of the collective farm appear to portray socialist-realist style happy labourers bringing in a harvest under blue skies, where the reality was of a community struggling to return to any kind of normality in a land pockmarked with shell-craters.  Moritz returns again and again to the same source material, taking different fragments of images, different framing devices to describe the essential mutability of recall, or of interpretation. Moritz is a rare visitor to London, so this is a chance to get a look at a substantial group of her works, including some wonderful oil pastels on paper in the lower gallery.

Here’s to a thoughtful beginning to 2016.

Caroline Douglas


Mikhail Karikis: Children of Unquiet, Carroll / Fletcher, 56 – 57 Eastcastle Street, London W1W 8EQ. Open Tuesday – Friday 10.00 – 18.00, Saturday 11.00 – 18.00. Exhibition continues until 30 January 2016. www.carrollfletcher.com

Sabine Moritz: Harvest, Pilar Corrias Gallery, 54 Eastcastle Street, London W1W 8EF. Open Monday – Friday 10.00 – 18.00, Saturday 11.00 – 18.00. Exhibition continues until 18 February 2016. www.pilarcorrias.com