Caroline Walker, Study for Floors, Room 324, 2018 (detail). 20th Century & Contemporary Art.
On 14 October, Phillips, in collaboration with Comic Relief, will offer a group of four works in the London 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, donated by contemporary UK-based artists Antony Gormley, Caroline Walker, Tracey Emin, and Michael Armitage. All proceeds from the sale of these works will be donated to Comic Relief to invest in organisations in the UK and across the world, including those that harness the power of the arts for social change. The works will be available to view online and in Phillips’ galleries at Berkeley Square from 6 October where they will be displayed alongside highlights from the Day Sale ahead of the auction on 14 October. Here, we highlight the participating artists, each exploring the human condition on an intimate scale through sculpture, drawing, or painting.
Born in Dunfermline, Scotland, and now living and working in London, Caroline Walker illuminates the overlooked work of women traditionally omitted from art history. Her paintings depict individuals in the workplace or engaged in intimate moments of introspection within the home. The richly painted environments, rendered in as much detail as the women within them, are characterized as psychologically charged spaces. "The subject of my paintings in its broadest sense is women’s experience," Walker says, "whether that is the imagined interior life of a glimpsed shop worker, a closely observed portrayal of my mother working in the family home, or women I’ve had the privilege of spending time within their place of work. From the anonymous to the highly personal, what links all these subjects is an investigation of an experience which is specifically female."
Study for Floors, Room 324 is a preparatory work for the large-scale painting of the same name. Created in 2018, the painting belongs to the series Housekeeping, which depicts womens’ labour within the hotel industry. Paintings from the series have been included in significant solo exhibitions of the artist’s works including Women’s Work at the Midlands Art Centre (MAC), Birmingham (May-September 2021), and Caroline Walker at KM21, The Hague which is on currently view until 29 November 2021. In recent years, Walker has garnered significant critical acclaim and her work can be found in international collections including the Arts Council Collection, UK, Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague, and the De Ying Foundation, South Korea.
Michael Armitage, Snake Charmer, 2020. 20th Century & Contemporary Art.
© Michael Armitage. © Photo White Cube (Theo Christelis)
Living and working between London and Nairobi, Kenya, Michael Armitage’s work questions Western cultural assumptions by bringing them into discourse with East African sources to explore contemporary social and political issues. For Armitage, "Painting is a way of thinking through something, trying to understand an experience or an event a little better, and trying to communicate something of the problem to others." Having received a BA from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, in 2007, he completed a postgraduate diploma at the Royal Academy of Arts in London where a number of his large-scale paintings were recently exhibited to great acclaim in Michael Armitage: Paradise Edict (May-September 2021).
Snake Charmer is a compelling example of the ink drawings created by Armitage to capture the Kenyan landscape, its wildlife, and life on the streets in urban East Africa. These include character sketches of performers, entertainers, and musicians as represented by the present work on paper. Reflecting the rich subject matter explored through his artmaking practice, a selection of Armitage’s ink drawings was recently exhibited at White Cube’s online exhibition, Michael Armitage: Another’s Tongue (July-August 2020), and at the 58th Venice Biennale under the title May You Live In Interesting Times (2019). Snake Charmer is the first drawing by the artist to be offered at auction, a rare opportunity facilitated by the charitable collaboration between Phillips and Comic Relief through the Art For Change initiative.
Antony Gormley, LIFT 5 (MEME) III, 2018. 20th Century & Contemporary Art.
Turner Prize-winning artist Antony Gormley creates sculptures that explore the relationship between the human body and its environment. Best-known for his large-scale public installations, including Angel of the North (1994) and Another Place (2005), the striking impact of Gormley’s sculptural works has cultivated global appeal. LIFT 5 (MEME) III belongs to the artist’s MEME series, commenced in 2007, which encapsulates the principles of scale and multiplication that are integral to Gormley’s practice. Each work in the series is comprised of 27 consistently sized cast-iron blocks arranged to depict bodies in different postures that evoke varied psychological states. The title of the series borrows the term coined by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his best-selling book The Selfish Gene (1976). He defines a meme as a carrier of cultural ideas or behaviours which are transmitted from person to person through the act of imitation. Gormley’s small-scale sculptures transmit the emotional states suggested by the carefully positioned figures to the viewer through the dynamic expression of the human body. Gormley notes, “These small, solid iron works use the formal geometric and architectural language of blocks to articulate a range of body postures. The ambition is to make intelligible forms that comprise an abstract lexicon of body posture but which nevertheless carry the invitation of empathy and the transmission of states of mind.”
Tracey Emin, Like an Old Fashioned Time, 2013. 20th Century & Contemporary Art.
Tracey Emin has occupied a prominent position in the British art scene since the 1980s, when her raw, autobiographical approach to artmaking garnered widespread critical acclaim. Profoundly personal in nature, her work draws upon the universal themes of love, desire, loss, and grief in her exploration of womanhood and the self. In recent celebrated exhibitions including A Fortnight of Tears at White Cube, Bermondsey (2019) and Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2021) Emin has reaffirmed the significance of the nude within her practice. Executed in gouache, Like an Old Fashioned Time is characteristic of Emin's idiosyncratic intervention in the genre. The work on paper depicts a reclining female figure articulated by the artist’s distinctive gestural brushstrokes. Expressing her understanding of the body as a means to convey the rich inner life of the subject, the drawing is deeply compelling in its simplicity.