Swab 2015: The Highlights
Swab is an International Contemporary Art Fair dedicated exclusively to young emerging artists – most of the programmes within the fair are restricted to artists aged 45 and under. It is refreshing to see a fair which embraces and promotes those artists who are still launching their career, as well as supporting young galleries and alternative artistic platforms which would usually not have a place in an international art fair. Swab is special for its lack of pretensions and genuine passion for supporting emerging artists. As you walk through you can appreciate this, there are all types of art and artists and many programmes implemented to benefit the “underdogs” of the art world. The MYFAF programme, for example, selects three promising young galleries who have never participated in a fair to exhibit free of charge. This year there were several new programmes, New Photography from China; Swab Gate, bringing in African and Caribbean artists; Swab Seed, representing independent contemporary art spaces; and Swab performance.
This year the fair presented over 65 galleries from over 22 countries, including Spain, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, Greece, and many more. It was a great show, my only criticism and disappointment is that several of the galleries presented the same artworks as last year. But still there were many fantastic artists to discover, here are my top 5 finds, in no particular order:
- Juan Escudero in Galería Alegría, Madrid:
Galería Alegría represented Juan Escudero within the programme of “Drawing Applications.” Born in Bilbao and currently based in Barcelona, Juan Escudero’s drawings are simple, yet incredibly detailed, and form part of his series Piel (Skin). In them he explores the act of drawing a line and the natural wave and forms which can emerge naturally from that action. Using india ink, the artist draws line after thin line upon the paper, creating the effect of waves and textures from their varying closeness. They are abstract and process-lead drawings in which you can get lost and imagine different possibilities, one of which could be that they detail the relief of a landscape, like a topographic map.
- Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza in Galerie Alain Gutharc, Paris:
Presented under Solo Swab, a programme curated by Direlia Lazo and Carolina Ariza which presents individual Latin American artists whose work is of a procedural and documentary nature. Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza, an Ecuadorian artist based in Paris, exhibited a fascinating project. In her piece Untitled (Extras), 2009-2014, the artist used an eraser to remove the bodies and faces of anonymous people found in newspapers. She collected the eraser residue of each individual and stored them separately in tiny glass vials. Presented are a few of the newspapers, in which we can see large blurred areas where she has erased, a display case filled with hundreds of glass vials, arranged and labeled like scientific specimens, and accompanied also by a list which documents each person erased (the newspaper and date they were taken from) and links it to the corresponding vial. A tribute to the “extras” in our everyday life and a reminder of the many things that go unsaid, unnoticed, or unrecognized.
- Teresa Solar Abboud and Belén Zahera in Salón, Madrid:
Shown within the Swab Seed programme, curated by David Armengol and representing independent spaces dedicated to contemporary art, Salón presented a compelling exhibition of ceramics. Based on a text from Gulliver’s travels, the project explores the physicality of language, playing with ways of representing words as objects, giving shape to a gesture or a vocal cord. Teresa Solar Abboud, for example, materialised sign language by moulding her clay based on the gestures, spelling out words like “chicken” by putting together the shapes imprinted by her hands when forming each letter. The objects were arranged on a shelving unit, and moved around each day and combined in different ways, creating new dialogues and connections every time.
- Luisa Jacito, German Portal and Gloria Martín in Galería Silvestre, Tarragona:
I loved all the artists presented by Galería Silvestre and the way they presented them, but the highlight was discovering these three fantastic and captivating artists. Luisa Jacinto has a way with colour and brushstrokes, her paintings transmit a kind of serenity, as well as retaining a sense of mystery which keeps the viewer wondering what is happening on the canvas. Germán Portal’s paintings have a surreal edge. His large and striking painting, Figura al Sol, is clearly inspired by Picasso’s Nude Standing by the Sea, but in Portal’s version the figure is a structure made from cardboard templates. In this humorous series, Vanguardismo DIY, he questions the aura and glorification around certain works of art and artists. Gloria Martín’s paintings are simple but contemplative and clearly thought-out. She takes everyday objects and visions and by virtue of the attention she shows them, she gives them an importance, turning them into mysterious and meaningful objects.
- Javier Ayuso in 3k Art
3k Art is an online art platform which participated in the fair within the MYFAF programme of young galleries. What stood out the most in their stand was the work of Spanish photographer, Javier Ayuso. His series Walking Around (Sucede que me canso de ser perro) draws its inspiration from Pablo Neruda’s eponymous poem in which he reflects on the uncertainties and absurdities of existence and says “it so happens that I’m sick of being a man”. In his photographs Ayuso explores these concerns from the point of view of his dog, captured in moments where he appears almost human. Ayuso draws parallels between human and animals behaviors –encouraging the viewer to reflect upon the animal qualities which can perceived in human behavior as much as the human qualities seen in animals.