INTERACTIONS : BODY & THEATRE
Tap & Bottle | 64 Union St | London | SE1 1SG
12 - 9pm | Wed – Sat | 08.03.22 – 07.05.22
PV | 4 - 8pm | 13.03.22
Artist Q&A | 7 – 8:30pm | 19.04.22
Flabbergast Q&A & Performance | 2 – 5pm | 01.05.22
Private Appointments Sun & Mon - Contact to Book
By Marina Renee-Cemmick
Interactions : Body & Theatre presents artwork by artist Marina Renee-Cemmick that interrogates the body and experience, expressing a personal phenomenology through memory, imagination, figuration, physical movement and theatre. The works are compositions woven from people, landscapes and structures inspired by life, warped in the imagination towards a poetic vision that closer reflects the experience of ‘reality’.
Fragmentation and obstruction are often present in the work, giving a sense of the fragility to that reality. Renee-Cemmick’s vivid dissection of form, and necessity for observing life, offers compassion and honesty towards the physical body that highlights our mortality, while acknowledging the depth of our spiritual and sensory capacities:
“I welcome the idea of the body being the vessel of experience. Our muscles, skin and bones are woven like a tapestry of memory, holding an entire language of knowledge.”
A two-part exhibition: Act 1 presents us with a retrospective look at Renee-Cemmick’s multimedia figuration and portraiture. Act 2 her practice’s recent development combining movement and theatre, with drawing and painting, working with physical theatre group Flabbergast Theatre.
Hosted by Tap & Bottle, the first floor of the two-floor exhibition follows an organic journey through Renee-Cemmick’s art created over half a decade. Ascending the staircase - under the watchful gaze of Macbeth in the artist’s imposing 4-meter drawing entitled Decent into Madness - the show spirals upwards alongside the viewer, from Act 1 to Act 2. The warren of grade 2 listed spaces presents equal character to support the art, conveying the potential for the supporting talks and performances Brushes with Greatness and Tap & Bottle will host with Renee-Cemmick and the Flabbergast Theatre Troop throughout the exhibition.
In Act 1 Renee-Cemmick’s far-reaching journey through figuration and portraiture combines classical figurative art with abstracted or fragmented forms, often layering multiple images to illustrate a sense of time and motion.
These pieces consider the body’s relationships with space, environment, history and natural order from ranging compositional, stylistic and personal viewpoints.
Her leading oil painting entitled Searching for the Light presents a personal reflection of London life. In this particular work, two figures can be observed sitting side by side on a tube subway car – close in proximity, arms touching - their eyes fixed towards the distant horizon. Looking towards the right, the third figure in the painting can be observed standing, pointing towards her chest in question, the basis for the painting’s title.
In the surrounding background landscape, the rooftops of the buildings resemble warehouse-like structures. In the far distance, the viewer can observe a figure climbing a ladder to paint a blank sign, his body disappearing seamlessly into the intense, bright sky.
At the forefront of the painting, pages of a book with a verse from T. S. Elliott’s Wasteland entreats the viewer to interact with the painting – placing the audience in the participatory position of one of the characters pictured in the tube scene described above. The assumed position of the audience as a subject in the painting references another art historical work entitled, Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio – underlining the dramatic theatrical atmosphere that the artist strives to create through the varied series of works.
We see Renee-Cemmick experiment with the further fragmentation of the body, creating a consistent motif via movement and quality of memory. Each work in her 6-piece series entitled Theatre of Instinct, painted on aluminium, seeks to capture vital elements of human existence: ‘Fight or Flight’ responses, personal relationships, feeding of intellect, life and death. Her featured Collection of Portraits series conveys a need for reconnection inspired by the sight of distant friends. Her water motifs seek to illustrate places of reflection, her passion for cold water swimming, and its symbolism for power, presence, and energisation.
Act 2 presents the first public look at Renee-Cemmick’s practice and work with Flabbergast Theatre Company. In 2021, Renee-Cemmick received Arts Council funding to examine drawing and movement as way to create a language between action, physical embodiment, and visual expression. Her self-forging of these various artistic genres and practices draw on a lifelong passion for dance, performance and non-verbal expression – evolving from tap and contemporary dance to Japanese ‘Butoh,’ physical movement and theatre.
Flabbergast & Renee-Cemmick’s 2021 tour to Poland represents the basis for work in this Act. Where the artist, the associate artist of the collective, captured the process and finalisation of Flabbergast’s now touring Macbeth production. Her larger scale work introduced alongside Descent into Madness, leading up the stairwell, via a collage of sketchbook pages and analogue photographs from the trip.
Moving between intuitive mark-making and considered composition, Renee-Cemmick has developed a clear understanding of how line can be used to record an action, tell a narrative, document an event or share a series of intimate experiences with the world. Shown in Act 2’s colourful figurative oil paintings characterised by the artist’s enhanced colour plate and cropped framing, Renee-Cemmick describes this practice and method:
“I try to capture the rhythm of the body as it moves through space. The movement is too fast to focus on details, so you are left with a trace of the energy, scribbled vigorously, in an attempt at harnessing the dynamic created by actors the body.”
This marrying of theatrical and observational life drawing, working from memory, and photographs, provides Renee-Cemmick with a unique space to combine representation and storytelling with abstraction and recorded action.