Friday, 8 April 2016


ART NOW:   Vanilla and Concrete
My Toe, 2010 white marble, lacquered wood 75 x 50 x 5.5cm
Once upon a time Art Now at Tate Britain was the place to be. Ben Luke in a review  in the Evening Standard commented that it used to be 'the beating heart of contemporary art at Tate Britain'. Well it's back.  Three artists — Rallou Panagiotou, Marie Lund, and Mary Ramsden - take relatively mundane objects or actions and make them extraordinary in a smallish gallery full of delights and surprises. Vanilla and Concrete is about transformation.

Take Rallou Panagiotou's My Toe for example. Toes are never still.  They are our  playmates and our lifeguards as we walk or run or dance or climb, reacting in micro seconds to keep us the right way up every moment of our waking life. Of necessity they are usually hidden, for warmth or protection or to disguise the distortions of age or disease. They are strictly utilitarian - or are they? Sometimes we release them from the humdrum and mundane.We dress and drill them - toes artificially enhanced to  signify choices beyond the daily round, the common task.

My Toe is a fragment with an invisible body. It's made out of exquisite, smooth, erotic marble, which is crying out to be touched and stroked. The nail is painted a playful, ambiguous green: while green calls up images of growth and beauty and foliage, green in the human body can suggest bruising, damage and decay.  Panagiotou's work looks at our modes of display, drawing attention to how we decorate this utilitarian corner of the human body in order to symbolise value and desire: self-presentation with a hint of leisure and luxury.

 Rallou Panagiotou creates sculptural compositions with an intensified materiality. In her work prime matter like marble and bronze becomes superimposed on surfaces where corporeal elements become mediated, flattened, generalised and transformed

Somehow the artist has taken this usually invisible corner of the human body and 

turned it into something beautiful and luxurious, or as one critic wrote something ' refined and cartoonish at the same time'. We stand there - our feet and their ten toes usually well out of sight - and admire this delightful transformation in the pristine, impersonal environment of an art gallery.


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