Shave, 2019–21 Oil on canvas 25.5 x 17.5 cm
Drummer Boy, 2021–2 Oil on canvas 23 x 16.8 cm Courtesy the artist and Josh Lilley Gallery
Starfish, 2020–2 Oil on canvas 27.3 x 23.5 cm

Gareth Cadwallader

with Wells Fray-Smith

‘My work isn’t necessarily about one idea that I find different ways of looking at. If anything, it’s a kind of visual diary, where images from everyday life are used to represent thoughts or feelings about personal events.’

Listen to the full interview here:

I am Gareth Cadwallader. I make paintings. They tend to be quite small, and usually in oil paint. My work isn’t necessarily about one idea that I find different ways of looking at. If anything, it’s a visual diary, where images from everyday life are used to represent thoughts or feelings about personal events. Sometimes this happens consciously and sometimes unconsciously, so it’s not always possible to describe intentions in a meaningful way.

What are you showing in The London Open 2022?

I’m showing three paintings: Shave (2019–21), Drummer Boy (2021), and Starfish (2021). Shave was a change in direction for me, evolving more out of drawing than from the staged photography of my previous work. I spent 2019 travelling in India and Asia, where I saw a lot of barbers working outdoors. I imagine the bearded character as a recently returned wanderer, having his traveller’s beard removed before starting a new chapter of his life.

Drummer Boy is a bit more difficult to explain. It was supposed to be a companion piece to an older (unrealised) painting of a teenager playing the guitar in his bedroom. Outside his window would have been a tall, white picket fence, kind of hemming him in. I imagined that on the other side of this fence there might be another boy playing the drums, as if the two of them were bandmates that weren’t allowed to play together. In the end, of course, there was only one boy, and he doesn’t even have any drums! I think both ideas came out of the first lockdown; I started to think of the freedom, the mindset of adolescence being in some way the opposite of the lockdown.

The final painting is called Starfish. That came out of watching a documentary about the band Pixies. In it, the singer Frank Black visits an aquarium with his wife and child. They’re standing over a tank of starfish and he’s trying to persuade his son to reach in and touch one. But the closest he is willing to get is to place one hand on his dad’s arm as he reaches in. There was something about the nervousness of that gesture that I found quite moving. Around the time I was working on it, my partner and I were trying for children. We’d already been trying for a long time and I got it stuck in my head that we wouldn’t get pregnant until I’d finished the painting… then, weirdly, I did finish the painting and we did get pregnant. So, for me, this one also played some mysterious role in helping us to conceive!

All three of these works share a similar palette with blues and oranges – as though siblings with a family resemblance. What is the significance of colour for you, and do you see these pieces as related?

The palette came from a preparatory sketch I did for Shave. In a way, it was a happy accident because I was using a packet of cheap crayons and didn’t have most of the colours I needed. But I liked the way it came out and tried to make the colours exactly the same in the painting. I ended up using them again and again simply because I liked them so much; they seemed to make everything feel very fresh and clear. I often find it useful to repeat myself in one area when I’m trying to push things forward in another.

Works in the exhibition:
Shave, 2019–21
Oil on canvas
25.5 x 17.5 cm

Starfish, 2020–2
Oil on canvas
27.3 x 23.5 cm

Drummer Boy, 2021–2
Oil on canvas
23 x 16.8 cm
Courtesy the artist and Josh Lilley Gallery

Gareth Cadwallader (b. 1979, Swindon, UK)
2010 MA Painting, Royal College of Art, London
2004 BA Painting, Slade School of Fine Art, University College London
2003 Hunter College of Art, New York
2000 BTEC Foundation Studies in Art and Design, Gloscol, Gloucestershire

Selected exhibitions: Mixing it Up: Painting Today, Hayward Gallery, London (2021); Tasting Menu, Barns Art Center, Easy Fishkill, New York (2021); Particularities, X Museum, Beijing (2021); and I will wear you in my heart of heart, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2021); Transparent Things, Goldsmiths CCA, London (2020); Half-Lowered Eyelids, Josh Lilley, London (2019); Slow Painting, Hayward Gallery Touring Show (2019–20); John Moores Painting Prize, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2018)

What makes London’s art scene so vibrant? What are the concerns of the next generation of artists? What insight does their work offer in challenging times?

This triennial exhibition showcases a cross-section of the most dynamic artistic talent from across the capital. Established in 1932, this much-celebrated open submission show features 46 London-based artists working across painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance.

Since the last London Open in 2018, the city has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, demonstrations demanding racial and climate justice, and widespread questioning of institutions and their structures.

The London Open 2022 traces the ways in which artists have witnessed and responded to these events with resilience and heart. In times of hardship and crisis, and when exhibitions were cancelled and moved online, these artists experimented with new sites of production and means of dissemination, from the kitchen table to the back garden.

The exhibition is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social, moving from individual to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, the political and the environmental.

The artists were selected from over 2,600 entries by a panel of experts including collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, lnês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.

Gallery 1, Downstairs

The relationship between our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear like hybrid beings, processing the gluten found in wheat and barley flour, leaving us unsure if this is for machine or human consumption.Likewise, Madeleine Pledge‘s stretched fabrics and ceramic boots imply absent bodies and their physical role in manufacturing.

Materiality and belief systems intersect in Candida Powell-Williams’ handmade objects. A unicorn and swing inspired by medieval tapestries are fenced off by a trellis, prompting questions about the divisions between what is mythical and real. Alicia Reyes McNamara‘s paintings feature non-binary, shapeshifting figures drawn from various mythologies, from Meso-America to Ancient Egypt, to consider alternative notions of time and embodiment.

Gallery 9, Upstairs

This gallery features works that delve into the impact of technology, algorithms and quantification on our lives. In his series The Spectre of a World Which Could Be Free  2019, Ben Yau looks at the parallel rise of Neoliberalism and the CIA’s role in sabotaging the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, bringing together both economic data and declassified documents.

Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner 2049, The Underlying by Ami Clarke considers the implicit role of capitalism in environmental disaster.

Meanwhile, Rory Cahill and George Mackness offer a walk through a dystopian, corrupted digital landscape of the future, with an immersive soundtrack. They consider: what does a digital wasteland look like, what happens there and what is its afterlife?

Gallery 8, Upstairs

The artworks in this gallery reflect on family, identity and community. Seema Khalique travelled to Bangladesh to photograph two communities of transgender people called hijras. In this behind-the-scenes series, she questions the prejudices they face, revealing the economic hardships they endure alongside the strong network of mentorship and care they create.

Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta took photographs of his neighbourhood on Walworth Road during lockdown. This work celebrates the increased relevance of our localities during the pandemic, as well as reflecting on the processes involved in created photographic images.

On three vintage TV monitors, Hussina Raja‘s short narrative films look at the subject of migration to the UK from post-Partition India, tracing the continued experiences of displacement and exploring nuanced notions of identity.

The works in the last part of the show focus on our relationship to and impact on the environment. In Agrilogistics (2022), Gerard Ortin Castellvi films in an automated greenhouse, in which the growth of tomatoes, tulips and chrysanthemums is controlled by cameras and sensors, in order to question the future of food production.

Having spent lockdown excavating her back garden, Maria Roy Deulofeu meticulously records each layer of soil like an archaeologist, collecting artefacts and ecofacts, before assembling a kiln to fire hand-thrown urns with the different layers of clay. The process is recorded in a video shown alongside the objects. Finally, a flock of parakeets cast in lead are scattered on the ground in Patrick Goddard‘s Blue Sky Thinking (2019).The parakeet exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks and hints at a mass extinction event, highlighting mankind’s role in the impending climate disaster.

See the full list of works here.

An illustrated catalogue is available to purchase from the bookshop.

Artists have generously made limited editions to coincide with the exhibition to support the Gallery’s education programme.