Themes of balance and vulnerability explored in inaugural show from Gallery Shtorm

New international contemporary art gallery, Gallery Shtorm, opens with its first physical exhibition in London. Led and curated by Gallery Director and Founder Anna Shtorm, the Gallery will offer both physical and digital exhibitions. After the inaugural show in London, further physical exhibitions are being planned across Europe in 2021.

The inaugural exhibition, Equilibrium and Chaos considers the modalities we use to dissect, consolidate and make sense of the tumultuous experiences which inform our self-identity, our environment and our relationship with others. Featuring emerging artists Maja Quille, Derek Dickinson, Dawn Rowland and Alexander James, the exhibition converges on the importance of materiality in each artist’s practice as a vessel of translation, in an attempt to find a semblance of order in disorder. Across sculpture, installation and painting the artists utilise their mediums to communicate the sensorial reality of their tumult while also demonstrating their resolve to embrace the elegance and pleasure that can be gleaned amongst the commotion.

Maja Quille’s work examines the symmetries, historical narratives and interconnecting systems that underpin contemporary society. Many of her projects are developed through collaborations and dialogues with other professions and institutions such as physicists from CERN, Geneva and chemists, engineers and mathematicians from the University of Edinburgh. It was through discussions with a chemist that Quille first became interested in chaos theory and complexity theory, which investigate the underlying patterns of apparently chaotic complex systems. Much of her work seeks to map order within chaos and she is fascinated by the futility of finding logic in a constantly chaotic world.

Her recent series, Strange Attractors, will be shown at Gallery Shtorm and represents these theories through mandala-like compositions made up of tiny steel shards, a by-product of metalworking. Although these shards are the product of the same, mechanised action, they are all uniquely different, a result of the circumstances of a specific moment in time. The colour of the shards is naturally determined by the specific heat and friction of the process, transforming the composition into a form of colour wheel which changes depending on the quality of light.

Similarly rooted in material exploration, Derek Dickinson’s monochrome paintings draw on his experiences of drug addiction, loss and the lengths artists will go to in the pursuit of beauty. To create his paintings, he first soaks strips of muslin in paint before throwing them onto the canvas, capturing a moment in time, a shape, a figure. From here, Dickinson works back into the muslin to bring the figure to the fore. He often creates the figures first on board which allows him to develop their interplay before transferring them to the canvas. He likens this process to a performance, using a burst of chaotic emotion as the impetus to throw the muslin, then returning to control and refine the composition.

Dickinson is fascinated with performers, such as Rudolf Nureyev and Vaslav Nijinsky, for their undying commitment to their art despite the suffering it entails. He uses the image of the performer as a symbol for his own suffering, most clearly represented in his early stark white canvases. Dickinson explains that using white allowed him to strip away anything superfluous from the composition, so that the viewer could focus solely on the emotion of the piece. This emotion is bound up in the materiality of the muslin itself. Its contortions, tensions and frayed edges reflect the strain of Dickinson’s own life, before fading out invisibly into the sumptuous monochrome of the canvas.

Also utilising material process as a conduit for the exploration of emotion, Dawn Rowland’s sculptures take their form as a result of a negotiation with the unpredictable medium of stone. Rowland often carves directly into the stone, relishing both the chaotic struggle and elegant fluidity that it offers, reenacting the fragility, frustrations and joy experienced in the interdependencies of human relationships. Consistent throughout her work is the theme of duality; two hands, two figures, twins, mother and daughter, emphasising how one depends on another. Hands are especially important to Rowland, as she states they express a multitude of emotions, ‘they can be tender and loving but also angry and unforgiving.’

Multi-media artist Alexander James meanwhile, explores the fluidity of identity through observation in the bustle and mayhem of urban subcultures. Spanning London and Cape Town, James articulates his painted figures in bright and sunbleached tones hanging emphasis on impasto details such as posture, oversized accessories and lofty facial expressions. This vibrant body of work emphasises the importance of both personal memory, familial tradition and public interaction as an influence on the self and community.

Carbon literacy is a core value of Gallery Shtorm. Anna Shtorm believes the art world must take responsibility to ensure that it leaves a positive impact on the world. Embodying this belief, Gallery Shtorm aims to be the first carbon neutral gallery in the world. It has collaborated with CO2 Logic, an organisation that allows businesses to track their carbon emissions and offset them by supporting climate initiatives across the world.

Equilibrium and Chaos

Wednesday 28 April – Sunday 16 May

Royal Opera Arcade Gallery

5b Pall Mall

St. James’s, London SW1Y 4UY