Brixton and the curious Coutts Bank connection

My artist friend Hannah Williamson, asked me to visit the Block 336 space again. With it being the first day of half term, this made a very good start to the holidays. The show runs from 8. Feb – 7. Mar 14  and is definitely worthy of a visit. We were greeted by one of the artists Robert Bell who showed us around.

Block 336 is a gallery and  artist space just a short walk from Brixton Tube. The current show features artists that actually work and help manage the space.

P1090261336 Brixton Rd
Opening hours: Thurs – Sat, 12 – 6 pm (or by appointment)
Studio visits by appointment
Brixton tube station: 7 mins walk

The artists in the exhibition seemed to share an interest in organic and abstracted sculptural forms which were all represented 2-dimensionally, beginning with Tom Groves,  with his series of observational paintings. Although the subject matter was ambiguous, I enjoyed the balance between something living with their fleshy pink colours and the regimented  and plastic-like glossy surfaces. They looked liked a hybrid between packaging, sculpted plasticine and lost mass-produced fragments from children’s toys.


something there- oil on canvas


an unsuitable substitute- oil on canvas


TOM GROVES painting in background- the not not- oil on canvas

Next we spent some time examining the intricate and beautiful work by Jane Hayes Greenwood. Again, we ‘recognized’ the origins of these drawings,  being familiar somehow, but in fact not of anything we could place and therefore quite alien. The drawings were made up of what looked like graphite and pencil and incorporated a mixture of flowing marks; recording indents, and malleable  surface textures against crisp edges. One piece,  Jane Hayes Greenwood had torn the paper to give a sense of decay and age.  This dichotomy of perfection and destruction created an interesting tension to her work. The objects were captured on a shiny table top, blocked off from any context of their use, so they appeared like archaeological objects from a museum. The work had a primitive and child like quality,  but with ritualistic and perhaps sinister undertones.


JANE HAYES GREENWOOD-‘ the returned’ – 14 framed graphite drawings


close up Jane Hayes Greenwood-‘back up’


JANE HAYES GREENWOOD – ‘profane fingers’



Alex Virji’s paintings on raw linen were  reminiscent of landscapes, of trees and plants, combined with solid geometric forms. I discovered how Virji initially writes down a title to begin a body of work, to help create a focus. The paintings sat quietly in the exhibition and embodied a sense of purity and freshness with their thin glazes of paint and clean blocks of colour in acrylic and gouache.


quarry (after durer)
acrylic and gouache on linen


installation shot of DEERBORN- ALEX VIRJI

Alex Gough’s paintings were iridescent and shimmering smoke like forms, filling the entire canvas. The paint disappeared into the weave of the canvas, so it  appeared misty and faded. The paint was captured in a state of flux, colours marbling into one another to create complex and organic forms. The work seemed to be an enjoyment upon the physicality and beauty of paint.



wilderness in paint 20


installation shot from Block 336
wilderness in paint 20 – left hand side
pigment, acrylic binder, gouache, gesso, polyester and canvas


which means wilderness in Finland

Finally Robert Bell’s work. His paintings are made up of many layers of scrubbed spray paint, so sanding, smoothing, coating stripes of colour onto wood to reveal all and none of the paintings history simultaneously. The work had so many beautiful qualities, I took several close ups.


ROBERT BELL close up of surface


close up of painting- reminded me of a shop selling the universe.

The title of this painting is called ‘we came out of the light, into the darkness we go.’

The work was abstract, yet conjured up so many other possibilities, such as circuitry, landscapes and figures. Below is the entire painting.



Robert Bell had also created digital animations, using photographs of his paintings and mapping these over textured 3-D objects. The concept closely mirrored that of his paintings, being a display of the quantities and qualities of paint, with the painting surface becoming manipulated and exposed all the way through, like a dissection. The shapes became  flowers, organs, sea creatures all at once. They were mesmerizing to watch as they gently spun around.

Robert  Bell also showed us his line drawings and many photos which documented the systematic planning for his paintings. I found this surprising as his paintings looked so much about chance, but in fact he had carefully mapped out the shape and position of different colours before he began the work. He said that his paintings took him about 5 months to create and consisted of hundreds of layers of varying colours of spray paint.



P1090292 P1090293 P1090294




close up of Robert Bell’s painting

 Click on LINK BELOW to view his animations. A series of short edited clips.



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