ORGAN | 8 January 2023

CACOTOPIA 07, the 7th show in a series of yearly exhibitions at Annka Kultys Gallery featuring emerging artists, was reviewed in Organ by Sean Worrall, who described it as ‘without a doubt a strong show’.

ORGAN THING: Off we go then, the art year kicks off with a positive start as Cacotopia 07 opens at East London’s Annka Kultys Gallery…

Cacotopia 07 at Annka Kultys Gallery, Hackney Road, East London – Off we go then, first opening on the 2023 art year, here we go again. There’s a diversity to Annka Kultys as a gallery, more importantly, there’s also a strong identity, a thread that runs through it all, almost but not quite a theme, certainly a positive feel that connects all the shows. The gallery has been on The Hackney Road (in a couple of different spaces) since 2015 now, and the Cacotopia shows have almost become the traditional way to start an East London art year now. Always opening in the first week of January, for the last couple of years they’ve taken the form of a more conventional group show, no bad thing but I do miss the brilliantly ambitious shape they once took when four artists would get a one week solo show each over the first month of the year. That old format really did throw a serious first taste of a number of exciting artists – Bex Ilsley, Garrett Prutner, Richie Culver, Nicole Coson, that compelling Rui Lin week and especially the introduction of the excellent Marton Nemes via one of the early Cacotopias a handful of years back (I’m sure I’ve missed out a few, the Cacotopia shows have thrown up a lot of interesting art).

Group shows, when they’re done well – and they’re not always of course – when they are done well then group shows are wonderful, vital in terms of getting little tastes, hints of things to come, names to note and search out again. This is a strong group show, it has to be said though, the show has nowhere near as much of an impact as the previous Cacotopia format did. Sure, the Annka Kultys Gallery has moved to a bigger space now, that more compact above the shop space on the Hackney Road did lend itself to the whole short solo show format a little more then this bigger space (on the industrial park on the same Hackney Road just behind where the previous space was) potentially does (maybe there could have been a series of two artist week-long shows?). And yes it probably was a little intense curating  four shows in four week (as those of us who’ve done similar things ourselves know well), but that format and those shows were a rather exciting, rather adventurous way to start a year.

So here we are once more, the first week of January 2023 and another art year, a seventh year of Cacotopia then, a conventional group show and a dozen artists sharing the space  – Ana Benavides, Jesse Draxler, Lennart Grau, Florïne Ïmo, Rachel de Joode, Sam King, Signe Pierce, Emerson Pullman, Kora Moya Rojo, Juliette Sturlèse, Vickie Vainionpää, Addie Wagenknecht are the artists invited to take part this time around  –  last year it felt like the gallery had lost that touch, in all honesty Cacotopia 06 felt a little flat, a little disappointing (so much so although we went a couple of times, we opted to not cover it), this year it feels like the Gallery mojo might just be back. Cacotopia 07 is without doubt a strong show, you’ve got Twelve artists, a simple hang, an overall feel of something strong. There’s a couple of really interesting pieces that maybe didn’t deserve to be left in the badly lit reception area at the front of the gallery rather than in the main body of the space, there’s an excellent Kora Moya Rojo painting in the dark and almost lost behind a table in the entrance area – do like that snake wrapped around  bluey green jug, do like the rich orange earthiness of that rather fine painting. 

Yes, this is a good show, nearly everything in here is worthy of the time and space afforded it, and although we are only getting a small taste of each artist and well, not really enough to tell us that much, there’s certainly enough to intrigue – Florïne Ïmo‘s furry pieces hint at lots more, as does that black and white Jesse Draxler mix of collage and paint, do want to know more about Rachel de Joode as well as Sam King and those two impressive paintings he or she has hanging on the wall. And that’s the thing here, you can’t really make any serious commitment to any of the artists, there’s not enough to really hang a serious opinion on. It is a group show, you don’t expect to be able to form strong opinions about artists you don’t already know and yes, like any decent group show, you’re left with a healthy list of names to watch out for and maybe explore some more, artists you need to go check out. There’s certainly more than enough to be curious about and engaged with here, six or seven names that arouse healthy curiosity, which, rather obviously, is just what you want from a well considered group show.

Not all group shows work, they can so often feel like a thrown together dogs dinner, that no real effort has been put in to the hang, they can feel like a waste of everyone’s time, this one, Cacotopia 07, work well, this is one of the good group showsThere’s some strong work in here, some good curation, a well hung exhibition (although the artists in the front area did draw a rather short straw). This is a show that works as one whole thing, good conversations between the pieces on the walls, names to go find out more about, a piece a two that stands out, curiosity more that stimulated. Good crowd for a cold wet first Thursday of the year as as well, good healthy feel to the start of what we hope will be a good 2023 in terms of art. I like the Annka Kultys Gallery, I like the strong sense of identity she has, the idea that the shows are almost always going to be rewarding – true, the attitude in terms of East London’s artists can be frustrating but then this isn’t the only East London gallery that appears to show no interest in engaging with those based on their doorstep – and yes, the focus might be just a little too much on what’s happening at art schools (and who went to which one) rather than who had managed to survive and progress as an artist without that art school safety net, but I do like this gallery and their consistently stimulating shows, I do like the gallery finger print and yes, this might be a little more conventional that previous Cacotopia shows but it is worthy of the name, it is a show very much worth checking out before it closes on February 4th. The Annka Kultys Gallery is always worth your time, the year is off and running in a rather positive way, bring on lots more, I’m off to google a name or two, bring on the art of 2023… (sw)    

The Annka Kultys Gallery is at 472 Hackney Road, Unit 9, London, E2 9EQ. No longer up those stairs above that shop on the main street, you now need to go around the back through the red gates to the small industrial estate and the gallery is to your left at the back in the far corner.    

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