Austin Osman Spare with Richard Brown
17 February – 17 March 2012, Private view: Thursday 16 February, 6-9pm
Although an influential figure within the occult community and championed by experimental musicians and writers including Coil, Barry Humphries, Alan Moore, Genesis P-Orridge, Jimmy Page and John Zorn, the London artist Austin Osman Spare (1886 – 1956) remains a liminal figure in British art history.
Trained at the Royal College of Art, Spare became a celebrity after exhibiting at the Royal Academy, aged 17, in 1904 and was hailed as an artistic genius early in his career. However, his occult leanings (he was briefly associated with notorious occultist Aleister Crowley) made popular success difficult for the awkward, inward-looking Spare who became increasingly marginalised by the art establishment, before eventually dropping out of sight altogether. But, while Spare may have been down, he was not out, and continued to paint and draw at a prodigious rate, exhibiting his work in his flat or in South London pubs.
The Hidden Noise brings together a small yet potent selection of works by Spare from several private collections, and is curated to bring to the fore his exquisite draughtsmanship (often likened to Albrecht Dürer), and to highlight his interests in occult traditions, psychical phenomena, Eastern philosophy, wireless broadcasting and his own idiosyncratic theories about the unconscious. Works include obsessivelydetailed phantoms and grotesques; symbolist and astral landscapes; automatic drawings; hallucinatory pastels; examples of Spare’s anamorphic portraits (his ‘experiments in relativity’), as well as more traditional, vivid self-portraits and portraits of local cockneys.
Shown alongside Spare’s works will be Richard Brown’s ‘Electro-chemical Glass’, 1997, a time-based work using non-digital media comprising three disks of copper, aluminum and iron on a bed of liquid fertilizer, all encased in glass. Over fourteen years, through a series ongoing chemical interactions, the work is slowly unfolding and transforming, new shoots of iron and sheens of gold and lapis lazuli blue evoking ideas of alchemy, hyper-dimensionality and the magic of the real.
Austin Osman Spare (1886 – 1856)
During his early career Spare had a number of solo shows in central London including at Bruton Galleries, Lefeuvre Galleries and Baillie Gallery. However, with his esoteric interests and unfashionable Symbolist tendencies Spare gradually became sidelined by the art world; no longer exhibiting in Mayfair galleries but rather his impoverished flat and local pubs in South London. As well as an artist Spare was a keen writer and selfpublished a number of books including The Book of Pleasure and the Anathema of Zos as well as being the editor of the magazines Form and Golden Hind. Since his death there have been several solo exhibitions in London including a major survey of his work at the Cuming Museum, Southwark in 2010 and Spare was part of three-person show with John Latham and Mark Titchner at Flat Time House, London in 2011.
Richard Brown has a BSc in Computer & Cybernetics and an MA Fine Art. He works with a variety of media including computer programming, electronics, high voltage electricity, glass blowing and electrochemicals. In 2006 he was the first Research Artist in Residence in the Informatics department at Edinburgh University. In this role, he has developed projects combining art, informatics and communications research. The culmination of this research was an exhibition inspired by Gordon Pask ‘Maverick Machines’ showing in Edinburgh in August 2007.
Since 2001, Strange Attractor has carved out a unique cross-media platform for a diverse host of authors, anthropologists, historians, scientists, sorcerers, artists, filmmakers and musicians. Strange Attractor events and exhibitions have taken place at venues all over London, including the Horse Hospital, Conway Hall, the ICA, The Little Shop of Horrors, The Theosophical Society and Luminous Books. Last year Strange Attractor Press published Phil Baker’s acclaimed biography of Austin Osman Spare, while Richard Brown’s ‘Electrochemical Glass’, featured on the cover of Strange Attractor Journal Three (2006). More info at: http://www.strangeattractor.co.uk