| Art

At What Point Do We Begin to Feel?

A review of Softer, Softest at Guts Gallery, London.

Guts Gallery’ Softer, Softest (2024) is a project that coaxes us to consider the caresses we give and receive, whilst also encouraging us to contemplate the point at which we, as observers, begin to feel and are felt for in return. The contributors; Emma Beatrez, Albie Romero, Vanessa Liem, Kyler Garrison, Alexandra Rubinstein, Preslav Kostov, Laura Footes, Elsa Rouy, Daniel Santangelo and Angélique Nagovskaya, present themselves as employing a spontaneous modus-operandi, that makes their works solely dependent on the meaning, given to them by their observer. Preslav Kostov’s lascivious figures, for instance, contort in-and-out of a peripheral realm where physicality and sentimentality adopt the most base forms of impression whilst the artist breathes life into it through a considered, albeit subdued, palette.

Preslav Kostov, What is Silence to Noise, 2024

Simultaneously, Vanessa Liem, whose projects have previously interrogated the relationship between the looker and looked-upon, introduces  hyperbolic, if not grotesque creations, that evoke voyeurism, whilst suggesting central, pertinent tropes including power fluctuations. Consequently, Softer, Softest conjures not a single individual’s macrocosm, but a looking glass into our own, summoning a reflection that’s fogged and cracked, but not yet entirely broken. The key to putting these pieces back together lies in recognising which voices to listen to. With seven artists exhibiting, this creative project certainly makes it strenuous to hear.

Vanessa Liem, From Blue to Yellow, From Yellow to Pink, 2024

That’s not to say that these voices; articulated through varying approaches, are entirely ignorable. Particularly those of Daniel Santangelo, with his acrylic phantasmagoria UNTITLED (2024) that’s inhabited by various intangible figures, or Angelique Nagovskaya, with her oil-on-canvas fata morgana ‘where no wind wanders’ (2024), composed out of disorientating, maze-like silhouettes.

On the contrary, by relying on practices that have continued from preceding creations, both artists encourage us to ponder whether we’ve been listening, and more pertinently, considering, in the first place.

Softer, Softest feels like a much-needed counterpoint to the harsh, dehumanising nature of a rapidly shifting modern world’ ruminates Angélique Nagovskaya.
‘As we experience monumental societal transformations—technological, political, environmental—that, despite their positive impacts, can also drown us in intensity and disconnect us from our fundamental humanity….[t]he unforgiving pace of social media saturation, geopolitical conflicts and rapid production cycles can slowly harden us over time if we don’t intentionally pause to reconnect with our core selves.’

Angelique Nagovskaya, Faith Consuming Hope, 2023

This exhibition offers that pause, she asserts, ‘exploring the sentimental, physical essence of what makes us human. By rendering emotions and embodied experiences in delicate, soft ways, the artists compel viewers to reconnect with their own vulnerability, recollections and physical forms. These expressions of elemental human states become portals towards deeper self-actualisation, connection and appreciation of the act of simply being.’

Certainly, whilst  endeavouring to conscientiously consider and acknowledge their surrounding environment, this group of creators seem to have a preference for presenting the world in its simplicity, as opposed to its overly politicised complexity.

It’s not to say that existential interrogations such as those around sexuality, technology and sentimentality are avoided. Rather, the project reaches out to them and ponders whether we can be benign in their midst, particularly as they continuously fluctuate, transmogrify and gain a rejuvenated urgency within broader societal discourse.

Softer, Softest 
26th April – 21st May. 
Guts Gallery, London. 
Unit 2, Sidings House, 10 Andre St, Lower Clapton, London E8 2AA


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