ART / Ooze of delight

Women artists are poking fun at convention. Rose Jennings reports

"My friend Billy had a 10ft willy. . ." begins the limerick in the catalogue. Well it's one way to explain the adjoining picture - a computer-generated, toweringly erect cheese souffle. And who wants everything explained anyway?

This is the line taken by Leah Kharibian, the curator of "It's a Pleasure". This exhibition shows work by nine women artists, all of whom, according to Kharibian, "allow pleasure a prominent place in their work and in their attitudes to making it".

What does pleasure mean in the context of contemporary art? Not much, perhaps, to the older, more painterly wing of the viewing public, for whom the occasional chance exposure to establishment Modernism continues to suggest only numbness and lack of effect. Wander round a few of the alternative venues, however, and pleasure is very much on the agenda. West Coast Neo-Decadents, women looking at images of men, Modern Bestiary (all those shows of seemingly unconnected artefacts): the styles might be various but the message is always the same. Enjoy! Then again, hasn't there always been a powerfully sensual strain in European art - from the Surrealists through to what Lucy Lippard called Erotic Art (the touchy-feely constructions of artists like Eva Hesse)?

"It's a Pleasure", while referring to many of the contemporary "debates", also plays with many of these older influences. There's a kind of jokey languor about much of the work, an easy inclusiveness. Jemima Stehli's wonderfully nickable potatoes (wax modelled, brightly coloured) might recall, perhaps, some of Louise Bourgeois's more spud-like pieces - while also sounding an anxious note about biotechnology. And is Hermione Wiltshire, who shows the souffle video, laughing with or at the idea of wimmin-centred art processes (or penises, for that matter)? Elsewhere Nicola Petrie's candied-fruit chandeliers and Emma Rushton's anatomically correct toy baboons recall Surrealism at its most sour-sweet: the child-woman bearing the poisoned gift.

One of the largest pieces in the exhibition, at nearly 6ft high, is also the least easily explicable. What the hell is that pinkish, gooey, mushroom-like thing? It feels hard, but light, like spun sugar. And what are those mauve-grey blobs over on the far wall? Rubbery, aureoled, like nipples - but wet-seeming too, like those gleaming gobs of freshly hawked snot that you step around in the road. Are they by any chance related?

Even from this thumb-nail portrait, goo-enthusiasts will almost certainly recognise the work of Laura Godfrey-Isaacs, who started out as a painter but who now works predominantly with industrial compounds and catalysts not normally associated with paintings. The nipples, where the effect is achieved by mixing resin with industrial hardeners, have already been widely exhibited, but the foam mountains are new.

Here the material is a fast-setting polyurethane resin which foams up to 30 times its original size when you add a catalyst. ICI sells it for building insulation, while in the United States a similar material is being developed by a defence lab for"non-lethal deterrence".

At the John Jones gallery in London later this month you can see a whole gallery full of these foam mountains. The colours vary, from a custard yellow through to a rather beautiful dirty strawberry. the largest measure over 15ft in diameter. The effect is like walking through a factory after some terrible industrial accident. And the excitement lies in the sense of inappropriate use of a volatile and therefore regulated material.

Then again, why shouldn't art have access to new technologies, to the "smart" materials that are changing our world? Beats dusting any day.

n `It's a Pleasure', Royal Festival Hall, London SE1, to 19 Feb. Laura Godfrey-Isaacs, John Jones, London N4, 26 Jan to 25 Feb, then Spacex Gallery, Exeter, 7 April to 13 May

Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album