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Founded in 1979, October Gallery, in central London, exhibits innovative, contemporary art from around the world. For over 40 years, October Gallery has pioneered the development of the Transvangarde - the trans-cultural avant-garde.


Intelligence Now!

5 November 2004 - 29 January 2005

October Gallery in Bloomsbury is celebrating its 25 year anniversary this Autumn, with Intelligence Now! A spectacular exhibition of work by contemporary artists from around the world.

Intelligence Now! includes the work of some of the most gifted established and emerging artists from Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and the Americas, presenting 'a distillation of a world of artistic creation'.

It was a quarter of a century ago, that the October Gallery’s doors opened, proclaiming 'Artists from Around the Planet: Intelligence, Intuition and Action'. Led by Director Chili Hawes and Artistic Director Elisabeth Lalouschek, the Gallery has since become London’s foremost venue for cultural exchange in the arts. The former derelict Victorian building, originally renovated by a group of artists and volunteers, is now a hidden gem and a second home to two generations of artists, audiences, scientists and innovators from diverse cultures.

Many of the participating artists with whom the Gallery has worked during its twenty-five years, have created works especially for the anniversary exhibition. Intelligence Now! takes its title from a masterpiece by British artist Gerald Wilde, whose show of paintings opened the October Gallery in 1979.

List of Artists

El Anatsui (West Africa) regarded as the pre-eminent African sculptor of his generation, he is collected by the Smithsonian Institution and the British Museum. His sculptures in wood, metal and mixed media are totemic and iconic, ancient and futuristic.
William S. Burroughs (U.S.A.) One of the literary giants of the last century, and father of the Beat Generation. He began to paint in the last decades of his life, and, pioneered shotgun art. The October Gallery held his first exhibition in Europe.
Ira Cohen (U.S.A.) Like a force of nature, Cohen’s ‘maximalism’ has resulted in a prodigious torrent of photographs, poetry, films, and adventure. Photographs of Jimi Hendrix, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Francis Bacon and others are but one aspect of his artistic output. His photographs were first shown at the October Gallery in 1982.
Paul Friedlander (UK) kinetic light sculpor, has been commissioned to transform the October Gallery’s entranceway with a light installation of 'Wave Equations' to be displayed for the three months of the Festival. He has installed his light sculptures around the world, including a twenty-meter ‘DNA’ strand that hung in the New York Hall of Science.
Ablade Glover (Ghana) Art professor and recipient of many awards, Glover’s work is a testimony to his conviction that oil painting has its place in the contemporary arts of Africa. His is known for his oil impastos of Accra’s markets.
Brion Gysin (UK/Canada) influential painter and writer, collaborator with William S. Burroughs, The October Gallery presented the first UK showing of his calligraphic works, Sahara series, and cut-ups. Thames and Hudson recently published a book, Brion Gysin: Tuning into the Multimedia Age,
Robert Hahn (USA) Photographer, studied with Minor White. He presents a photograph of Allen Ginsberg.
Marie Harding, (USA) Painter, filmmaker, and co-founder of October Gallery.
Emmanuel Taïwo Jegede (UK/Nigeria) painter, printmaker, sculptor in wood, bronze, ceramic and a poet and story-teller. Jegede’s work draws much from both his Ekiti Yoruba background and the UK where he has lived, taught and exhibited for many years.
Rachid Koraïchi (Algeria) an installation artist of vision and extraordinary range, working in ceramic, metal, textile and calligraphy. His work has adorned the Comedie Francaise and been collected by the British Museum.
Elisabeth Lalouschek (Austria) Painter. Graduate of the RCA, now Artistic Director of the October Gallery and specialist in Contemporary African Art.
Frantz Lamothe (Haiti) has worked in New York, Haiti, Germany and France. He developed his unique 'graffiti style' in New York along with close associate Jean-Michel Basquiat. He currently lives in Paris as an internationally acclaimed artist. The October Gallery held a solo show of his work in 2004.
Corinna MacNeice (UK) Painter and video artist, she came of age in the Punk era, chronicling the time with large and bold portraits. With her studio in the American Southwest, she is now 'Wild Lady of the Cerrillos Hills'.
Rosella Namok (Australia) member of the dynamic 'Lockhart River Art Gang', fast becoming one of Australia’s hottest artists after winning several high profile prizes. Her premiere in the UK is at the October Gallery this Autumn.
Francesco Rimondi (Ethiopia/Italy) His magical and humorous paintings and found-object sculptures are collected throughout Europe and have been exhibited at the Gallery since 1988. He has worked for many years in Provence.
Julieta Rubio (Colombia) Her paintings and designs are full of vividness and colour. Rubio with Charles Beauchamp annually design award-winning costumes for Notting Hill Carnival and Thames Festival.
Laila Shawa (Palestine) Painter. Exiled from Gaza, Shawa now lives in London from where she continues her artistic crusade against oppression in all its forms and at all levels of society.
Thrity Vakil (Zanzibar) Painter, performance artist, co-founder of the Zippies.
Steina and Woody Vasulka (Iceland/Czech) Renowned pioneers of digital art and founders in 1971 of seminal New York media arts theatre 'The Kitchen'. Their contribution to our Festival includes digital prints and video installations, including one using interactive cameras, projections and software-modified feed-back loops.
Wijdan (Jordan) Painter and Collagist. Founder of the National Gallery of Jordan and an authority on Islamic art and contemporary women artists of the Arab world.
Gerald Wilde (England) Painter. One of the only abstract expressionists in London during the post-war era. The October Gallery opened its doors with an exhibition of his work and championed him from then till his death - the Tate has two of his masterpieces; our Anniversary takes its name, Intelligence Now! from one of his finest works. ('Intelligence Now' is the title of a book by Anthony Blake published by Coombe Springs Press, 1973)
Aubrey Williams (Guyana) one of a generation of Caribbean artists who left a legacy of influence on the British art scene after his arrival in London in the early 50’s, shown by the October Gallery since the early ‘80s. The Whitechapel Gallery held a major retrospective exhibition of his work in 1998.
Kenji Yoshida (Japan) survived a Japanese kamikaze squadron to become an artist of exceptional talent. The first living artist ever to be granted a solo exhibition at the Japanese Galleries of the British Museum.
Xu Zhongmin (China) Works in video, woodcuts and performance. Organiser of an artists’ group disbanded by the Chinese Authorities, Zhongmin moved to the UK in 1992. He was awarded Guinness Prize for best first exhibitor at the Royal Academy Summer Show, 1997.

Review in The Times 24th November 2004

Bright October light

EXHIBITION: John Russell Taylor
Our critic celebrates a quarter century of London’s most dazzlingly adventurous commercial gallery


PICTURE the scene: in the same cheerily informal space, littered with café tables, you can see one of William S. Burroughs’s pieces of shotgun art, a huge hanging from West Africa made of liquor-bottle tops and copper wire, and a bright abstract from Ghana. Over there is a delicately silvered piece from China that looks like a screen in four panels and a blobs-and-bars abstraction by Aubrey Williams from Guyana. And here’s a labyrinthine red-on-red painting by Gerald Wilde entitled Intelligence Now!, from which the exhibition takes its name.

So where are you? There could, in London at least, be only one answer to that. You must be in the October Gallery. The names of Gerald Wilde and William S. Burroughs offer an immediate clue, since both are artists primarily associated with the gallery, and the selection of other, what for want of a better term we might call ethnic, art clinches the matter. For the past 25 years the gallery has offered a variety of unfamiliar art that nowhere in this country begins to match.

How on earth has it managed, given that it is a commercial gallery that depends in large measure on sales for its continuing existence? There are some unseen assets. The building on the fringes of the West End comes at a peppercorn rent, so that some income can be made from hiring out its various subsidiary spaces. In early days it attracted the interest of an eclectic collection of art-world grandees such as Sir Roland Penrose, Tambimuttu, Lawrence Durrell, Ronnie Scott and Burroughs.

All of these were invaluable for attracting attention and forging contacts. But the most important element through the years has been the dedication (they laugh if you say fanaticism, but it still has an element of truth) of the director Chili Hawes and artistic director Elisabeth Lalouschek, aided and abetted by Kathelin Gray and Gerard Houghton, in charge of special projects.

And what are they fanatical about? Well, the label when the gallery opened in 1979 was “Artists from around the World: Intelligence, Intuition and Action”. Nowadays they say “the Ecology of Art”.

Of course it takes more than dedication, or even fanaticism, to run a gallery for a quarter of a century, particularly one that needs to succeed to some degree commercially, It certainly takes all the intelligence, intuition and action that can be mustered. The directors have canvassed opinion tirelessly, checked on artists from exceptional backgrounds who happen to have studied or worked in Britain, and travelled themselves in search of art. Hawes once took four years out working with Australian aborigines — and came back with a slew of new artists for the gallery.

The present exhibition offers spectacular witness to the gallery’s success. For me, one of its most worthwhile achievements has been its continuing championship of Gerald Wilde (1905-86), the pioneer English Abstract Expressionist and the ultimate bohemian outsider. Another is its support of, and support by, Aubrey Williams (1926-90), whose glowing abstractions bring a whiff of his native Guyana into the often staid purlieus of his later home base in London.

Those choices were bold when made in the late Seventies — and, sadly, remain so. But one thing the gallery has never done is stagnate. Much of the most exciting work in this show comes from recent discoveries, introduced into the international scene for the first time by the October Gallery. Take El Anatsui, he of the bottle-top hanging. He is every inch a sculptor, a master of working with unlikely found materials. Flag for a New Nation looks like a hanging, but is in fact a sculpture, frozen into its apparent folds as though a mighty wind has stopped and the world stopped with it.

Or again, consider Rosella Namok, a 25-year-old Aborigine (and mother of two) who continues to live close to her place of birth in Queensland and paints in a totally individual manner which one would relate to aboriginal art only if one had been told the artist’s origins in advance.

The great characteristic of contemporary native Australian artists is their ability to live happily in two realms at once, both retaining vitalising contact with their traditional culture and relating on equal terms with the 21st-century world outside. If this is what the gallery means by “the ecology of art”, then they have surely found their way with absolute certainty to the heart of it.

This review may be found at The Times Online: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,585-1371363,00.html

Review on 24HourMuseum.org 15th November 2004


By Aidan Jones

Pulling on a party hat and dusting down his best outfit, Aidan Jones headed to the capital to help celebrate the October Gallery's 25th birthday.

Launched on the same day President Bush won 'four more years' the 25th anniversary exhibition at London’s October Gallery is a timely reminder that life beyond our own borders is richer and more complex than some would have us believe.

Intelligence Now!, celebrating the efforts of the gallery to promote contemporary cross-cultural artists and on show until January 29 2005, bristles with ideas and experimentation.

Some of them work and others are more opaque. Either way the range of styles, meanings and mediums makes for a provocative visit to this thoroughly unconventional gallery.

"Art is a way of making people see that nothing is achieved by following a path you don’t understand," Nigerian painter, poet and storyteller, Emmanuel Taiwo Jegede, explained. Inspired by Yoruba folk-tales and driven by his gift for storytelling, Jegede weaves lyrical metaphors into his small, intense and alluring paintings.

Themes of power, poverty and wasted efforts are prominent as Jegede rails against those he considers responsible for suspending the development of Africa.

"History tells us that bad government and injustice sow the seeds of revolution. On our own we can suffer hunger but can we let our children take it? Sooner or later people will rise up and demand something new. It is inevitable," he said.

The exhibition showcases a range of colourful and striking non-political works. But the presence of artists such as Jegede and Palestinian-born, Laila Shawa, show how urgent political and social need in the majority world translates into engaging and expressive art.

A study of the work downstairs rightly complicates our perception of faraway cultures. Unfamiliar images implore us to look with fresh eyes and shake-off the layers of assumed knowledge and cultural stereotype.

Acclaimed for her political work, including the Walls of Gaza series, which depicts messages of defiance against the Israelis scrawled by the inhabitants of the war-torn city, Shawa’s selected painting shows a more personal and humorous side.

She is at pains to point out, however, that politics is never far from her mind, "I was born in Gaza and have lived amongst violence and corruption so I always seem to revert back to the political."

The October Gallery, which is wholly dependent on charity donations for its survival, is all about making distant artists, cultures and unexpected art forms less remote.

The Vasulkas, an Icelandic-Czech couple in their 60s who shared the cosy upstairs theatre with the Theatre of All Possibilities, perfectly represent this manifesto.

Pioneers of electronic art, Steina and Woody Vasulka, teamed-up with the 35-year-old theatre group for a unique collaboration of digital art and virtual acting.

Human performers acted out a play live alongside automated characters composed on a computer. Advancing on animated characters such as Shrek, the credibility of the November 13 performance was dependent upon the emotional responses programmed into the virtual robotic characters.

This digital technology had previously been dominated by corporate sponsors and has only recently been taken into the public realm. With this in mind, the fusion of technological prowess and theatrical reality is about as avant-garde as it gets.

You would be forgiven for walking past the unassuming doorway to the gallery. However, to do so chances missing a captivating and challenging exhibition set in a comfortable space that feels more like the home of an eccentric relative than an art gallery.

Dominated by El Anatsui’s vast bottle-top tapestry that curls onto the floor, the main room also hosts an array of installations, paintings, photographs and sculptures.

The October Gallery, named after the month it opened and a season of productivity and harvest, is unusually laid-back and accommodating - reflected in its popularity amongst school groups.

It is an ideal space for Intelligence Now! The café, garden and mini-theatre provide a fitting venue for the series of seminars, performances and screenings that will accompany the main exhibition throughout the winter.

This review may be found at 24HourMuseum.org: http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/exh_gfx_en/ART24865.html


October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3AL Tel: + 44 (0)20 7242 7367