Shadowplay: art hanging in discordant harmony

September 12, 2023

‘RE:membered and gone’, a photo montage of drawings by Levin Pfeufer

Sadie Souter reviews shadows unveiled through art at Espacio gallery

Tucked away in the narrow, graffitied streets of Shoreditch, the Espacio gallery recently played host to Shadowplay, an eerie exhibition melting from sculpture to soundscape to nightmares in paint. Found in the pulsing heart of east London’s cutting-edge art scene, this unique venue stands as testament to London’s network of community-driven art spaces.

I crept inside and down the stairs towards the dimly lit allure of the exhibition spaces. The walls were adorned with a freaky, eclectic mix of artworks that may as well have crawled straight out of a bad dream. The atmosphere was intimate yet piercing, an almost liminal space, half in shadow. The rooms permeated by a discordant soundtrack leaking out from the projected film space that covered me in trippy visuals and chills.

Embracing the dark side doesn’t have to be gloomy, it can spark magic. What struck me immediately about this exhibition was the colour and vividity it fizzed with; this play with shadow was, in fact, a Technicolor affair.

The twelve artists’ work weaved together a brilliant tapestry of twisting fables and subliminal fears, dancing through grief, social media, nightmare-fuel and mortal coil.

Whether it was Jennie Sherman-Cox’s decapitated baby-doll heads ‘Mind over Matter’, Doug Selway’s cynical painting ‘The abandoned brides of Tinder’, or Karen Christensen’s cardboard-boxed night terrors, ‘In my dream, I always hear a step on the stairs’, the collection was anything but predictable.

Levin dedicated his exhibits to loved ones that have passed, exploring the transience of existence

One of the standout pieces for me was a photo montage of drawings by Levin Pfeufer, ‘RE:membered and gone’, a collage of intricate and unsettling portraits.

His piece filled me with a morbid curiosity and the strange feeling of being watched. I scanned across the faces, over sketchy, raw skin and piercing eyes, all oozing with feeling. Levin dedicated his exhibits to loved ones that have passed, exploring the transience of existence and the way our lives interlap and entwine with each other.

He says that “by recognising and coming to terms with the shadow self, it helps to realise all parts of yourself and others.” Levin is also a regular filmmaking mentor at Exposure – his pièce de résistance is directing our award-winning film about friendship, ‘Slice O’ Bread’. Check out Lev’s Instagram here.

Another haunting artist’s work was Alison Bournes’ ceramic sculpture collection exploring life and death through twisted, folkloric figures, including the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood of Shadows, consisting of eight contorted torsos with barb-wire crowns.

To me, her most striking piece, titled ‘Turning a blind eye’, depicts a gory severed head served on a plate to a dismissive king. She explains that it embodies selfishness, “the idea of how sometimes we don’t see the damage we can cause to others”. Check out Alison’s Instagram here.

‘Turning a blind eye’, ceramic sculpture by Alison Bournes

The Espacio Gallery is a must-visit destination, a peek into the ever-evolving world of contemporary art, warping expectation and reality itself. You can check here to find out more about the exhibition and the gallery!

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