Amongst The In-Betweeners: Brandishing The Beautiful Bardo [Suburban Light @ Doomed]

I love ‘Doomed’. (Yes, that really is how I have chosen to start this.) It has quickly become my favourite gallery due to its versatility, its locality and simply because the two gentlemen at the helm [Ken Flaherty and Pascal Ancel Bartholdi] are genuinely lovely people to be around.

Amidst the stale smell of day-worn fish and rotting fruit, beneath the ever darkening barely star spangled blanket with its infinite reach that silently resides above, there exists a single warm light in a shallow doorway. Step inside and allow this light to transport you to a new and ever-changing world; one currently inhabited by the virgin convergence of four London based artists within the exhibition known as… (wait for it…)



Suburban Light is four times a lady in this four woman strong exhibition, combining the works of Sophie Barr, Penny Dampier, Talitha Robert and Naa Teki Lebar who bring us an expose of the beauty within the in-between spaces of life, where urban and rural collide.

I entered the altered state of my familiar space, saluting Ken and Pascal as I descended the final set of steps, and literally found myself wowed by the existence of one of the most striking images my eyes have ever had the pleasure of digesting. I stood before the endless green-laden matrix of repetition that leapt out of the frame like the snake I thought I saw within. Fragments of almost blinding light, meet segments of darkness who both converse with masses of green, each tone and colour working together to highlight and emphasise each other while seemingly vying for your undivided attention in the very same moment. The piece, belonging to Talitha Robert, is actually an abstraction of a simple potted plant but with this skewed perspective at play it really creates an almost tangible new life-form that is powerful for its absence of clarity and clear classification. The stems and vines between leaves seemed to further enhance the reptilian aura with its invertebrate stance while, the fact that it was difficult to see where one thing ended and another began seemed to reverberate a notion of the interconnectivity of existence itself. We are all here and we are all part of this universe, this planet, this world, this thing called life. The variance of scale also added to the impact of this image; starting out bold in the middle while being small and concentrated at the beginning and end. And that’s life right? Or at least what we hope of it. To be bold, outstanding, memorable and captivating within the confines of repetition, between the bookends bestowed upon us by our beating hearts and the eight digits carved into the headstone which serves as a reminder that we were here once upon a time. (hmm…guess I got a bit carried away there huh?)
Another piece by Talitha I really enjoyed was the framed offering of a slightly sinister, practically naked tree who was somewhere in the valley of seasonal death and rebirth, reaching for the heavens like a soul in the centre of a prayer. The intercepting memoir from a plane between places lightly etched into the sky, spoke to me of us humans and the mark we leave on nature. Even when we have left a space, generally there will always be a remnant of our being, be it a physical mark or the shimmering silhouettes in motion within a memory.

It is probably clear at this point that there was a commonality  throughout the work on display, revolving around the signified. Sure, it could just be me reading into it and seeing more than is actually there (it’s not like that is unbelievable with my mind) – after all, that is one of the beautiful things about ‘art’, it can mean so many different things to so many different people – but whatever the case may be, there is something very special about these images.
The in-between is another commonality coursing through this exhibition as an array of photographs from Austrian artist, Naa Teki Lebar. Her set really seemed to delve into the idea of being between two circumstances. One image in particular stood out as such, displaying a man mid dive who is suspended over the anticipating still waters of a lake in such a way that it looks as though he could have been pushed or simply dropped in. A breath away from this we see a table littered with plates, adorned with cream centred cakes. Throughout each image I was filled with a feeling of these really being about life in progress, or more specifically life in suspended motion. Something about them made me feel like I was looking into a photo album; like these images were more than just quick camera snaps for the sake of an exhibition but that they were the capturing of memories which now exist as little fragments from within Naa. Here they rest, pinned to a wall, brandishing tales of a space in time occupied by something important to the eyes behind the lens. And when they have been taken down after the conclusion of their tenure, the surface on which they momentarily occupied will still speak of their presence by the dozens of little holes that now adorn the space in their absence.

This meeting point between the absence of presence and the presence of absence is undeniably one of my favourite things about Suburban Light. There is something very remarkable about the absence of presence which causes your mind to run wild. We as humans need to fill in the blank, place things in boxes and generally be able to identify and define so whenever we encounter a scenario where that is difficult or  far less than viable it forces our neurones into hyperdrive. It is for this reason that a piece by Penny Dampier has etched its way into my mind with ease. Her images had this unfocused shimmering appearance to them which made everything feel like the apparition of a fading memory. You know when you wake from a dream and you instantly begin to lose the image which was so very vivid just a moment ago, but the more you try to hold it the more hazy it becomes? That aching moment just before it vanishes. I can’t say that this is what she was trying to achieve, but this is certainly what I felt from it. There is a small white frame near the back end of the room filled with blue. I know that is not a very strong description but it is apt and the image is beautiful. I look at it and I feel like I am drowning. Sinking beneath the waves, looking up at the fading white light of the distorted sun and you could argue that doesn’t particularly sound like a beautiful thing, but I implore you to stand in front of this image and not love it. This is the power of absence. And continuing with this train of thought, I shimmied through the now thickening crowd that filled the room over to the work of Sophie Barr. Work which I can only describe as a disjointed photo album. We are presented with memory triggers in the form of postcards, placed in frames that they don’t quite fit into creating a fragmented display with bits crossing into places they don’t necessarily belong. This made me think; where does anything belong and more importantly where does anything belong if not where it currently is? Any space we occupy we only do so temporarily and while we are there, is that not where we belong? We are there for a reason, even if we cannot readily identify that reason. This is often the problem actually – the inability to identify and define has the tendency to freak us out. We are afraid of the space between worlds, the moments between this and that; so we search for clarity and yearn for the black or the white, terrified of the uncertainty of the grey without realising that generally the most beautiful things occur when two opposing things collide. The absence of certainty and the presence of that absence can lead to such wondrous things. As I began my walk home, my mind riddled with memories of what I had just experienced – memories which were probably already fading – and this barrage of thoughts thundering through my skull, I smiled upon noticing the absence of my footsteps against the concrete decorated with autumn debris. A reminder that we are actually always between states; sometimes more than two. That is the beautiful complex simplicity of life.


Suburban Light concludes this Sunday (Remembrance Day). Doomed is open from 12pm until 8pm Wednesday – Sunday so there is ample time to get down there and experience it for yourself. A new collection will be up next week Wednesday [November 14th] so please, get there in the next few days to avoid missing this masterpiece.

Here is the address: Doomed Gallery: 65-67 Ridley Road, E8 2NP (now you have no excuse)


Thanks for reading, please share with as many people as possible as this exhibition really is worth seeing.


I leave you with these:




Much Love,


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