Renaissance Foundation

Living in urban environments has become a norm for the majority of post-industrial societies. Our experience is removed from the cycles and rhythms of nature and we live in highly designed and measured dwellings and spaces. Hidden in the shadows of St Paul’s cathedral, Sink Art has transformed a large London office into a pop-up contemporary art gallery bringing imperfections to the heart of the city. The Crooked Tree has been possible as a result of a fruitful collaboration with The Renaissance Foundation that supports young people at overcoming difficulties and hardships they encounter.

Alex Baddeley, the curator of the show, quotes Tom Waits’ A little Different Dad story to celebrate difference and uses it as a premise for the aesthetic choices of the works presented and the variety of media used by the artists. We are not a uniformed mass as our experiences are unique and we need to create space and time to celebrate these. We become stronger through experiencing difference.

“Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest. So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.”

Natasha Peel and Serena Porrati both use heat to affect the matter they work with. Mutability and transformation of material is their way of telling stories. Peel uses black sheets of plastic to create suspended moments of transparency, moments of stillness and yearning. Porrati’s metal sculpture 365 Days of Sun in a minimalistic site specific way takes us on a journey through time to witness iron and carbon embroidered through heat into the surface of an otherwise plain steel bar.

In the office overlooking the dome of St Paul’s there is an igloo in which you can experience a rhythmical multiple screen projection Before the Final Blast. A viewer is completely unguarded inside the round structure and gets hypnotised by pulsating silvers, blues and yellows. Serena changes our focus from the industrial qualities of steel to the poetics and alchemy of this often overlooked material.

Once you get out of the steel igloo you are poured with colour, courtesy of Luke George and Elizabeth Rose, the Griffin Art Prize 2013 winners. Their drawings and paintings are a result of a unique collaboration mirroring their experiences of each other and the urban encounters they are exposed to daily while living in a big city. The dynamic of the pieces is created by the clash between beauty and aggression confided to the limits of the surface. Similarly to the sculptors in the exhibition they push their practice by working with and against the materials and surfaces they leave their marks on.

Intimate photographs by Lily Rose Thomas use time as a tool to discuss change and difference. She goes back to places and photographs the same people over a period of time adding layers to earlier experiences. In Girl on Bed a haunting and unforgiving stair of a girl brings back childhood tension and intensity; kids are real people with their own difficulties to overcome.

Mary Wintour’s complex paintings and drawings shake our sense of perspective and false security. With lots of details a dreamy angular landscape makes you wander, things do not add up. They are your nightmares framed into the office urban existence. They might leave you speechless. The feeling of tongue tightness is captured in an abstract drawing by Natalie Ryde who used confined threading to express the unpleasantness of this mental block.

The Crooked Tree, according to Alex ‘makes use of aesthetic qualities to overcome personal issues. Forming these personal experiences are underlying forces in the work which ultimately benefits from irregularity, imperfection and the realm of the imaginary. Cracks appear through paint-works and journeys are explored through photography whilst routine life is re-imagined and disruptive forces shape new identities.’



In the interview with Alex he shared with me his passion for social enterprise which stems from his background in philosophy and business. Sink Arts aims at showcasing emerging and established artists in new settings not confined to the white cube. Forging collaborations and stimulating new work to be shown in unexpected locations is their goal. Their heart and soul is creating a platform for ‘giving it a go’ and often this is exactly what it takes to make it in a very busy competitive art world.