THE ORGAN | 29 July 2022

Sean Worrall reviews Kate Bickmore’s solo exhibition ‘Unfurling’ at Annka Kultys Gallery in Organ Thing, describing the body of work as something ‘to unfurl and enjoy, to explore, to dive into’ and remarking that ‘it does almost feel revolutionary’.

ORGAN THING: Kate Bickmore, Unfurling at Annka Kultys Gallery, East London. She’s at her best when she goes big, these paintings are deliciously exciting…

Kate Bickmore – Unfurling at Annka Kultys Gallery, East London – Better almost too late than never I guess, if it hadn’t been for an e.mail about the show ending this weekend then this would have passed by. The previous Kate Bickmore exhibition at the same gallery was one of our picks of the art year back 2021, this second show for Annka Kultys Gallery is pretty much the same as it was first time around, well besides the two video screens on the wall and the digital pieces made in collaboration by British digital artist Sian Fan.  Got to be honest here, digital art on gallery walls, on the whole, leaves me cold, standing looking at televisions in a gallery isn’t my idea of progress and yes I know, I’m a Luddite and mechanical looms are evil and I’m here for the paintings, I can watch a video on my phone (I don’t like phones much either). These paintings are wonderful, they’re big, they’re bold, they’re exciting, I have the space all to myself on a summery Thursday afternoon (well the artist is over there but I really don’t want to have any kind of discussion about them right now, I just want to enjoy this)   

Unfurling features four large-scale “florascape” oil paintings, Kate Bickmore is at her best when she goes big, she was a little lost in the group show  at Annka Kultys at the start of the year, she needs to be big, bold, expansive and once again, like last time, these paintings are deliciously exciting. Sure, you could say that on the surface they’re maybe not that groundbreaking, they’re nothing that revolutionary, but does it always have to be? And it really isn’t about the surface, there’s loads to unpack here, loads to unfurl and enjoy, to explore, to dive into, large floral paintings on a gallery wall, it does almost feel revolutionary actually. 

You really do want to get in there, you are pulled in there, you want to push back the layers, see what’s behind, to delve deeper, to discover, to read and yes, you do start to pick up on what she might be saying (or just thinking), you do get a sense of (very personal) things, that there might be relationships that that there are deeper meanings here, signals, stories, they feel strong but there is a personal sense of something maybe a even fragile? Is it vulnerability? Longing? is it Lust? Actually I almost feel like I’m imposing on something here, that i shouldn’t be looking so intently, I’m kind of aware she’s sitting over there, yes she is talking to the gallery owner but still, these big paintings feel rather intimate, kind of private…   

– “Bickmore is best known for her enthralling florascape oil paintings that interweaves hyperreality with fantasy in her signature visual language that reflects the artist’s lived experiences as a queer woman. Through these florascapes the artist explores new modes of perception, unconscious urges, and systems of meaning. Continuing this, Unfurling explores the complexities of navigating a long-distance relationship; how we relate to one another across time and space when physical proximity is limited” –   

– “Through the process of making the paintings, which requires full physical immersion and sensory expansiveness, the flowers become powerful agents of healing and connectivity between the artist and the world around her” – Hey, look, I think Kate Bickmore is a glorious painter, a private painter, her paintings say so much and yes, I am sucker for a leaf and a flower and what they might say if you let them, for a layer or two. People keep talking about hyperrealism but that isn’t something I get, hyperrealism leaves me cold, it bores me, these are warm paintings, I love the way she uses paint, I love the beauty in the (slight) flaws, that the flowers aren’t “perfect”, that I can see movement, that I get a sense of her working on these pieces, that these are very much paintings, and yes, they are comfortable, they are like a warm bath, they are a pleasure, an escape when they need to be but there’s so so so much more than that to Kate Bickmore’s glorious paintings.

Love this show, adore these paintings (not that bothered about the videos), only sorry that I almost missed it and we’re only covering it now, a mere day before it ends, sorry!  (sw)   

The Annka Kultys Gallery is at 472 Hackney Road, Unit 9, London, E2 9EQ. For those who haven’t been to the gallery since the Pandemic, it has actyually moved. 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. As is so ofte nthe case, there are no signs but it is there in the far corner of the yard.

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