Frameless at Marble Arch Place
In our world, where distances are dramatically shortened by digital communication and it may seem we have seen all of the masterpieces from the past, art finds new enveloping and experiential fruition: Frameless gets rid of the frames surrounding renowned paintings from the 16th to 20th century to dramatically expand their magnetic field of attraction for the young and adults alike. Extending over 30,000 square feet underground in one of the most central areas of the city, the exhibition entails four permanent spaces plus a fifth dedicated to emerging digital artists premiering every month at a Friday Lates event. Each room makes best use of technology to devise a tailored pattern for impactful enjoyment of famous artworks. Visitors can enter and exit in whichever order they prefer, though it is suggested they stay for at least an entire cycle in every gallery (which lasts roughly 15 minutes).
Beyond Reality lures viewers into the irrational universe of the surrealists, with smart setting of mirrors and disjointed elements falling, swiping and fading. The clocks in The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí multiply to become infinite, covering the surfaces; a reddening of the screens anticipates The Scream by Edvard Munch, when darker hues appear until the infamous human figure materialises; a dramatic developing of shapes occurs for The Fireside Angel by Max Ernst. The projections are supported by a playlist curated by Chapman Hammond, which is wonderfully selected, each track elevating the experience to totally immerse visitors in the dynamic.
An apparently more tranquil interlude occurs in the Colour in Motion gallery, where motion detectors allow the public to play with the colours so dear to the Impressionists. The Waterlily Pond by Claude Monet, Mont Saint-Michel, Setting Sun by Paul Signac and Starry Night over the Rhone by Vincent Van Gogh are among the vibrantly chromatic works summoned by gestures or walking. The original score complementing the encounter is by Nick Powell – already a household name on the West End theatre scene (among others, he has been involved in for the music of The Lehman Trilogy and The Glass Menagerie starring Amy Adams).
Countryside, lava and ocean waves tumble over those who enter The World Around Us in a breathtaking 3D projection spread out the walls, ceiling and floor. With the centre likely to be the best seat in the house, the room takes the audience into the eye of the storm in The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich, seamlessly moving then to the calm Italian square of Piazza San Marco by Canaletto and the even arboreal path of Avenue at Chantilly by Paul Cezanne. Here, Hammond drifts decidedly into the classical music archives.
The predominantly jazz-inspired soundscape produced by Powell for The Art of Abstraction makes this space pulsate. Unfolding over rectangular stands, the decomposed squares and lines of Yellow, Red, Blue by Wassily Kandinsky and Castle and Sun by Paul Klee pop like bright ideas and creative instincts. There are few seats along the sides, but these artworks are better appreciated with a slow walk around the panels.
On the day of our visit, the fifth gallery has on display the funky and cartoonish animations of Chasing Happiness by Lewis Osborne, the second Frameless artist-in-residence after Cemhah in August. The prompts come from everyday life: the ups and downs – not always visible but still affecting the individual – of the hectic rhythm and social interactions we are plunged into. Short episodes, each with three different scenes on the walls, make for a kaleidoscopic journey that fluctuates and balances between sadness and happiness, possibly trying to reach for the latter.
Modern technology is going beyond making it easy to observe and study art: it is pushing the tools available to challenge our notions, generating new forms. Frameless is a spellbinding exhibition, far from traditional curation, stimulating the imagination and encouraging viewers to rediscover the potency of art history.
Photo: Richard Blake
Frameless is a permanent exhibition at Marble Arch Place. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.