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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance
Arcus Pride Art 2023 – London<br />

Arcus Pride Art 2023 – London

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Pride is an Abstraction

The idea of pride, the idea of community, and of unity are at their core abstract ideals that we strive to, if not achieve, at least make some progress towards. It is often two steps forward and one step back. Yet each day brings more negative news from across the globe and at home. Our own Equality Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has proposed the erasure of trans people from the 2010 Equality Act, and in America, well, America.

Rights are abstractions and who gets to define and allow them in law is a contested space, how do we imagine equality, what is a fair share for each minority, why is it that people are simply not respected for who they are or say they are? Language is abstract as are pronouns and names and if you can learn to call Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson simply Boris (other names are available) or call Charles Windsor, King (nee Prince, though we all know there is only one true Prince) Charles then you have no excuse not using they for those who prefer that pronoun.

So this year as curator I have decided to focus on abstract or abstracted work for the 2023 Clifford Chance London Pride exhibition. Ian Rayer-Smith and Jane Dinmore work completely in an abstract vocabulary of colour, shape, size and brush stroke. Their works do not depict, they simply are - sounds like a familiar concept. There is pride in just being, in existing as an original, unique and true self. Abstract art works function similarly, they are there in your space, they are what they are, they do not have to be or mean anything other than themselves. You can like them, or part of them, or a large part of their makeup and still dislike certain bits, but it really has very little to do with you, or anyone else. The work is there, period. If you don’t like it, or understand it you can simply walk away, but don’t slash it, don’t attack it for not being a cat, or not depicting a dog, or replicating a family member. Abstract work will be the same no matter what you learn about it, even if you don’t like that knowledge, like all art work, it is independent of the viewer and it does not ask for permission to exist.

The conceptual artist Veronica Slater has made a series of abstracted painterly works based on Decorum & Dissent and while the marks can lean into figuration, the whole is abstract as a legal argument. Marc Standing creates complex, layered constructed paintings and wall hangings that at first appear as sole mixed abstract pattern but upon closer inspection reveal almost hidden areas of figure. Both their works have a foot in the figurative world but eschew easy mark making to create meaning, they fight to find hidden, more abstract worlds where things are what they are.

Lee Campbell on the other hand has asked others to make marks for his video work Dissonant Lines. He had small groups of students (8 or 9 at a time) draw images on the theme of collaboration but they all had to share one pen, which they had to all hold at once. He combined their many images into an abstract (non-narrative) video piece.

Queer art is many things at once, and while it can be recognisable depictions of our community, be they drawings, paintings or photographs, work by queer artists can, and is also very abstract. Like our diverse community, our artistic production is as varied as we are.

Dr Michael Petry
Artist, author and Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) London

Ian Rayer-Smith

'In a world preoccupied with technology, there is something remarkable about painting. It connects us back to man’s earliest and most elemental forms of self-expression.'

The emotional rawness of Rayer-Smith's work, as well as its diverse, yet distinct mark-making, is greatly influenced by the Abstract Expressionist artists of the mid-20th century. While the composition, light and movement within the canvas comes from observing the art of the Renaissance period. Using these two movements as a base and the main inspiration for his paintings, the artist layers it with influences from contemporary culture and his own personal experience. Experimenting with diverse colour palettes and expressive brush work, Rayer-Smith creates paintings that propose a series of questions rather than providing overt statements or narrative pointers towards any clear kind of answer.

After twenty years in business, working in the distribution and heath lifestyle industries, Ian began his practice as an artist, graduating from the University of Salford with BA Hons in Visual Art in 2013. Since then, his work has been shown in galleries throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. He lives and works in the North West.

Jane Dinmore

Jane Dinmore uses the freedom of non-representational abstraction in her work. Awkward clashes of witty amorphous lines and solid anthropomorphic forms create balanced compositions with a camp sensibility.

The work is an endless dialogue of vivid colour, shape, consciousness and the absurd transformed with a subliminal sense of omnipotence. Nonsense and familiarities are turned into landscapes, which have an energy and sense of optimism. Comical titles allude to mischief. Recognisable shapes like mouse holes and the characterful re-arrangement of standing stones are a favourite for Dinmore. These works are imagined places with the trace of human presence: the objects we leave behind or hide behind.

Jane studied Fine Art Painting at the Hertfordshire University, graduating in 1995. She continued her studies at Goldsmiths, London, graduating in 1999. Since 2006, she has lived and worked out of her East Sussex studio and home. Her work was featured in the 2022 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition as part of one of Grayson Perry's selection rooms.

Lee Campbell

Dr Lee Campbell is an artist, performance poet, experimental filmmaker, writer, Senior Lecturer at University of the Arts London, and curator/founder of Homo Humour, the first of its kind project on contemporary queer male film and moving image practices that explore humour and LGBTQ+ storytelling that has screened all over the world since 2020.

His experimental performance poetry films have been selected for many international film festivals since 2019. His film SEE ME: A Walk Through London’s Gay Soho 1994 and 2020 (2021) won Best Experimental Film at Ealing Film Festival, London 2022 and his film Apple of my Eye (2022) was a finalist in the Deanna Tulley Multimedia Prize 2022. He lives in London.

The imagery of Dissonant Lines was made by students at Wimbledon College of Arts, London as part of a workshop Lee delivered. In groups of 8/9, students were invited to draw images conjuring up their ideas around the term 'collaboration'. They only had one pen per group. 'I instructed them to hold the pen together at the same time and move the pen together across the page to make the drawings. They were then instructed to complexify the process at different stages, e.g. .with one person instructing and the others with their eyes closed. The resulting drawings are about the dynamics of a group and who controls the pen - who leads? What happens when the drawing goes in directions that a group member may not like?'

The resulting line drawings were then documented and filmed with the camera moving across the drawn paper. Now digital, the drawings were layered over one another and green screen processes were applied to create arresting tensions between the lines. The marks without sound makes you stop from thinking about the moment it was drawn and now, put into a different space, the viewer concentrates on the layers – all these tensions in the lines being made.

Marc Standing

Born and raised in Africa, Zimbabwean painter Marc Standing is inspired by the spirit of life and his native continent. The reference for his practice is the unearthing of identity, self-discovery and personal expression.

Standing’s works are genuinely complex in appearance as in creation. As he deliberately works on multiple pieces simultaneously, he employs his variant of the Surrealist technique of Psychic Automatism to avoid conscious intervention. His immersive process consciously absorbs him during his practice as the kinetics of anthropology, biology and the dilemma of existence direct his brush.

'When I first began painting I would do classes in a studio in Harare that was filled with taxidermy, dried plants, shells, coral, horns, pods, bones, and skulls. These objects to this day never cease to inspire me, as well as mythologies, mysticism, masquerade, patterns, colour, masks and textiles. I also find travelling, seeing the world and experiencing and learning from different cultures awe-inspiring.'

Marc has lived across southern Africa, Australia, Switzerland and Hong Kong before establishing his studio in London. He has taken part in numerous group and solo exhibitions internationally and has been a finalist in many art prizes over the years, including the Sovereign Asian Art Prize. He has been artist in residence at Amilla Fushi in the Maldives, and has taken part in residencies in the Philippines, Shanghai, and Mexico.

Veronica Slater

Veronica Slater's latest body of work Decorum & Dissent sets out to disrupt decorative conventions and displace their status quo. Through visual anarchy, the works seek to playfully explore the frivolous fiction of rococo & baroque within the narratives of decorum and dissent.

The origins of the ornamental lie within the desire to absorb nature into interiors, to create opulence and decadence. In palaces and stately homes these became symbols of wealth and power, often gained through the exploitation of others. The popularity of the ornate then transcended into a common currency for the middle classes to exhibit their status of taste and privilege.

In another twist and turn, the decorative is re-appropriated to create the ‘camp’ of Queer identities. Flamboyance becomes a symbol of rebellion and dissent against the heterogeneous norm, and opulence is liberated to celebrate ‘otherness’.

Within this multifaceted arena of meanings, the interfacing of works Ode to Joy and Ode to Silence depict the ‘decorative’ undergoing a range of mutations that shift in form and context. The viewer is invited to ponder the contrasts of random painterly terrains against the ordered, elaborate motif. In a realm of contradictions and abandon, the work offers a portal of escapism, one to Joy and the other to Silence. In mixed media, the series Troubled Horizons and Troubled States further explore these contradictions and tensions.

Veronica completed her BA (Hons) in Fine Art Painting at Camberwell School of Arts and has an MAFA in Fine Art from the University of Northumbria. Her work is in private and public collections, and has been included in prominent UK touring shows, including Along the Lines of Resistance featured in the recent A Tall Order! exhibition at Rochdale Touchstones. Plus, in exhibitions across Europe and New Zealand and has participated in many artist residencies worldwide.

Veronica has taught Fine Art at various university colleges internationally and in the UK, including a permanent post at The City Literary Institute in London. She lives and works in Brighton.

About Arcus

Arcus is our global inclusive employee network open to all Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans*, Intersex, Queer people and their Allies​​​. Arcus aims to encourage an inclusive and integrated culture within Clifford Chance that gives colleagues the choice to be open and out.

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