It’s a hanging offence…


I come from a family where my parents would argue for a whole day about whether a picture should be hung three inches to the right or the left; the loser would often sulk for a week. So you might think that after such a traumatic childhood I could care less whether people had pictures on their walls or not.

Far from it. I find picture-less walls an appalling abdication of aesthetic responsibility. I’m totally unforgiving and will brook no excuses, such as ‘oh, you see, Daniel is a minimalist’ or ‘Sadie isn’t really interested in art’.

Hanging pictures on your wall can be a celebration of what you love about art or falling in love with a painting or a photograph and telling the world about it. It can be a brave declaration of taste or it can even be a subtle signal as to what your singular passions might be. And talking of passion, earlier this month, the online erotic print specialist gallery Obsession Art opened a show, only this time with real pictures and prints in a real gallery in London’s West End. This was to celebrate their fifth year of existence.

And here is another reason to deck your wall with pictures: Obsession Art’s prices for prints begin at a very modest £24.50. For the same image you can pay £160.00, but that would be for a whopping 40 x 60 inch print. Perhaps it should be stressed that these are ‘open edition’ prints (i.e., no limitation on the number printed); for limited editions, which are usually produced by the artist/photographer in question, you would pay far more. But it’s really nice to have the choice.

Wandering around this show, it was clear that this was a selection of original works that tried to be as representative of the large number of the gallery’s artists as possible – no easy task.

If there weren’t enough of John Wellington’s both surreal and haunting paintings on view, as with most of the other artists featured in this show, his hugely enjoyable imagery is very well represented by the large number of Obsession Art’s prints that you can find on their website. Lee Jones’ careful nudes and semi-clad models fell into an almost photographic, certainly pin-up, style of painting. However the tastefully muted colours or sepia tones did little to mitigate the Bayswater-Road-railings subject matter. In complete antithesis, Saturno Butto’s hot, almost angry colours and bold gold-ground halos were used to portray fetishistic women, some holding a rubber enema bulb like a piece of religious paraphernalia; Butto’s Caravaggesque chiaroscuro is impressively ‘old-masterly’: you could imagine one of these rather splendid paintings hanging in the bedroom of some powerful Camorrista.

The international flavour continued with four exquisite watercolours by Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama, something of an exhibition coup. These were on sale at eye-watering prices but then, hey, if that’s your obsession, then you won’t mind, will you? Go on – just mortgage the cat. The pièce de resistance was Ukiyo-e 3, a fantastical marriage of Utamaro’s 18th century ‘floating world’ of shunga elegance and Sorayama’s brilliant ‘android pin-up’ style. There were some excellent examples of French photographer Dahmane’s oeuvre, my favourite being the cheekily posed Laminah, Ibiza. Yet another international photographer, Russian Igor Vasiliadis showed work that would not have been out of place on a Condé Nast editor’s light box. Here were high-end fashion-shoot images, mysterious and chic. Mick Payton’s timeless (yes, well, up-to-a-point timeless: her belly-button stud places Anais II firmly within our era), classical nudes with their perfect, single-directional lighting and Stephen Perry’s more contextual naked figures. I liked the latter’s pleasingly grainy portrait of John Major’s ex-daughter-in-law, Emma Noble, seated astride an armless, slightly depressed-looking centaur.

Congratulations, Obsession Art, and don’t wait another five years for your next show.

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