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New exhibition of works by Gandalf Gavan at October Gallery
Gandalf Gavan, Knot Nots, 2011. Mixed Media Installation, Photo by Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy, October Gallery, London.

LONDON.- October Gallery is showing a new exhibition of works by Gandalf Gavan. This will be his first solo exhibition in London.

Born in 1975 in Berlin, Gavan lives and works in New York and Mexico. He studied at the Repin Academy of the Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia, also Bard College and Columbia University in New York, where he also worked as an adjunct professor of art, teaching printmaking. He has exhibited in Europe (Manchester, Berlin, Geneva), South America, the U.S. and Mexico.

His works are rendered via a prolific use of media - painting, drawing, glass, neon, anamorphic mirror, photography, ceramics and weaving.

A formalist by training, Gavan’s works project a dazzling energy, the shapes and forms are both playful and exuberant, “I am attracted to art that has that sense of humour and tension between seriousness, ambivalence and play.” (The Brooklyn Rail).

The new works created in the artist’s studio in Oaxaca, Mexico, utilise traditional local techniques; Large-scale paintings are treated with two layers of gypsum, then lime (from local lime stone), tinted with earth pigments from Oaxaca. Applying nopal (cactus) juice to bind the medium, Gavan, then burnishes the surface of the works with plastic bags. In the past, the Zapotecs used stones. This fascinating process was traditionally used on temples.

Like fellow artist Rachid Koraïchi, Gavan actively involves local artisans’- the one felt woven piece is produced in collaboration with textile workers from the town of Teotitlån del Valle, while black polished (raku) ceramics also reference Mexican tradition.

Gavan subverts the history of portraiture as representation of self. His drawings on paper allude to self-identifying thoughts, referencing knot structures and Sunni calligraphy. Neon rods represent self-identity, strategically positioned within space to create ‘a line’ of conversation, a dialogue that alters with the perspective of the viewer. The artist enables an exploration through reflective surfaces of paint, as well as warped mirrors, so the viewer is partially reflected in the work and becomes an active participant. Attempting to remove the baggage of ready-made self-image, Gavan keeps the experience as simple and direct as possible. An athletic and charismatic presence at nearly two metres tall, he describes, “an enlarged mode of thinking about how perception takes place within your own subjectivity: how you put something together within your own perception and how you put something together as compared to the rest of the world.”

His 2003 installation in Oaxaca, Daedalus’s Song, “created an impossibly beautiful sight, a canopy of thousands of mirrored glass orbs hung over a historical street in Oaxaca, Mexico” (Glass Quarterly). The Miami Herald called the installation “blown glass rain suspended over Oaxaca.“

Gavan’s last show in New York (Larissa Goldston Gallery, 2010), was dedicated to the memory of his mother, painter and muralist Zara Kriegstein.
Kriegstein was Artistic Director of October Gallery from 1979 - 1980.

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