Sometimes I go to some odd places in pursuit of a blog post – bits of London I’ve never been to before, trips out of the capital or out of my comfort zone (or both). But this exhibition was one of the oddest. For one thing, I couldn’t find it. ‘Just behind the Tate Modern,’ it said. Not too challenging, you’d have thought. But I walked up and down the street twice before I spotted the gallery – disguised as a Dry Cleaners.
No, not disguised as a Dry Cleaners – it actually is a Dry Cleaners, called Spots. When you go in, you find the left hand side of the gallery space lined with clean clothes in plastic bags. You might even find yourself behind a customer bringing in a pile of shirts like I did.
The right hand side and upstairs is where the artworks are. Even more confusingly, the gallery is called Unit 24 but it’s at 20 Guildford St. You work it out.
The exhibition is called A Shapeshifting World. It’s a series of drawings and sculptures from Tokyo-born but London-based artist Takayuki Hara’s three year project based on the idea of our ever-changing and fluid identity. He says he is inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which ‘human forms constantly transform into other entities, suggesting a new potentiality of being’. Just as dry cleaners transform into art galleries.
Here’s a couple of examples to give you an idea of Hara’s rather intricate drawing style.
This one is called Our hearts unravel in unison in the midst of shapeshifting.
And this one is In the darkness that blinded me, you’ve become a ghost who broke my heart.
I preferred his sculptures – they’re small and disconcertingly odd.
Like this set of three, titled Salvation, Simone, Glory.
Simone in close up.
‘Nothing retains its original form, but Nature, the goddess of all renewal, keeps altering one shape into another. Nothing at all in the world can perish, things merely vary and change their appearance. What we call birth is merely becoming a different entity; what we call death is ceasing to be the same.’ (Metamorphoses Book 15).
Got the idea?
An interesting feature of this show, which I wish more galleries would try, is that you can buy quite reasonably-priced goods (mugs, soft toys, cushions) with designs based on Hara’s work.
I’m not sure whether you pay the gallery or the dry cleaners – or if indeed they will have transformed into something else by the time you get there. Or whether a mug will turn out to be a cushion when you get it home. Could be fun.
The exhibition continues until 14 March.
The photos of Simone in close up, Mephisto and Monkey come from Takayuki Hara.