North London Food & Culture

Art: Painting From the Zabludowicz Collection – Albert Oehlen, Francesca DiMattio and Matthew Chambers

Oehlen. Photo: Zabludowicz Collection
Oehlen. Photo: Zabludowicz Collection

Unusually for the Zabludowicz Gallery, this season the focus is on paintings rather than more conceptual art. The shows are split into two, with part one now running until 5th May, and part two from 23rd May to 11th August.

This first exhibition juxtaposes works by internationally renowned German artist Albert Oehlen with those from US-based Francesca DiMattio and Matthew Chambers. No obvious collation between the three, for sure, but Oehlen is the grand master, certainly influencing the other two with his wildness and non-conformity.

The Oehlen canvases are large and unpredictable; provocative and overloaded; abstract and at times insecure. But he paints with humour, playing with illusion and dimension.

Oehlen. Photo: Zabludowicz
A work by Oehlen. Photo: Zabludowicz
In collage Nr9, a figure with flame hair, body contorted with the motion of a skater, lies under a projection of the film ‘9 ½ weeks’. The artist forces us to stand and view the moving image while staring unconsciously at the acrylic and oil painting underneath. How long do you need to look at a painting until it is remembered? How long before the image is burnt onto the subconscious?


An earlier work from 1982 (pictured) depicts an oppressive brick wall interspersed with mirror squares, the colours bleak and dull but his technique quick and vibrant, with the depth and texture of later works.

Matthew Chambers. Photo: Zabludowicz
A zine by Matthew Chambers. Photo: Zabludowicz
Likewise, anything seems to go with LA artist Matthew Chambers’ work. His slash paintings, created from reassembled strips of cut-up earlier work, and an image of an aggressive clenched fist, all revel in a skater punk aesthetic.

Yet while these are impressive, it’s the zines laid out in a back room that fascinate even more. A photocopied collection of drawings, doodles, sketches, interspersed with words and statements, they lie printed out, numbered and dated. He hands these crude makeshift zines out randomly to a cross selection of people, spreading his art and word to those who maybe wouldn’t otherwise know either.

But for me the absolute star of the show is Francesca DiMattio. A 2008 piece Diptych is a mash-up of hovering items: umbrellas, chairs, Greek sculptures, and a showerhead, giving the viewer an abstract sense of perspective.

Francesca. Photo: Zabludowicz
Francesca DiMattio. Photo: Zabludowicz
As with Oehlen, you can often make out the process of her technique with unhidden, blurred and botched marks and lines. Images abound of marble statues, Roman arches, and decorative tiles, adding contrast with stark black and white grid lines which introduce elements of structure to the chaotic. Totem 2012, a recent painted ceramic sculpture, highlights the notion that traditional decorative craft is still seen as a women’s art form. As such, it’s an organic jumble, both grotesque and beautiful.

Set against the vastness of the rooms at the Zabludowicz gallery the show is captivating, gratifying, hypnotic. It shares characteristics of the punk movement – anti-establishment, rejection of the norm, a hard edged rebellion.

In fact, I can’t wait for Part 2, with even more Albert Oehlen on display to lose myself in.

Paintings, Part 1 28th February – 5th May. Part 2 23rd May – 11th August. Find the Zabludowicz Collection on our Nearby Map here.

Words: Nikki Verdon

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