• Saxifrage

    Azeri Aghayeva, Camilla Bliss, Max Boyla, Sophie Goodchild and Penelope Kupfer | Curated by Victoria Gyuleva and Natalya Falconer
  • Saxifrage: a low-growing plant of poor soils, bearing small white, yellow, or red flowers and forming rosettes of succulent leaves or hummocks of mossy leaves

    Saxifrages emerge from rocks (the Latin word saxifraga means ‘stone-breaker'), coming out of dark dens and finding scarce sunlight to blossom. The exhibition creates an analogy between the flourishing of these shapeshifting plants and the artists’ creative processes and ways of seeing. The works featured in the show are influenced by cave-like habits of complete immersion in making, as well as by the digital ‘caves’ of online interaction.

  • Installation views

  • Penelope Kupfer’s Saxifrage and Wall-E works are inspired by the blossoming of the stone-breaker plants: their growing out of rocks...

    Penelope Kupfer, Kiss the Sun, 2022

    Penelope Kupfer’s Saxifrage and Wall-E works are inspired by the blossoming of the stone-breaker plants: their growing out of rocks and coming to the surface, as well as by their materiality: the moss and lichen co-existing and emerging alongside the flowers. The artist is interested in the transformation of materials, such as the cleaning cloth, repurposed as a canvas in one of her works, as well as the materiality of the image of the flower, emerging almost organically from the sponge surface of the cleaning fabric. The sponge also appears as an element in Kupfer’s paintings Kiss the Sun and Chores, in which we see an abstract figure, wearing rubber gloves and washing dishes. The act of washing up and the big gesture of the figure’s arms can be interpreted as both gentle and violent, showing endless transformation in emotions within the enclosed cave of the domestic. It is interesting to note the transformative element in relation to the scale of these works too: the large painting acts as a sketch and depicts the thinking behind the smaller work - one can recognise the same figure across the two canvases; however, each work brings a new, slightly different, dimension to this domestic scene.

  • While Kupfer's works consider the act of emergence, Max Boyla's paintings use layers of paper and paint to see how...

    Max Boyla, Dead Or Alive, 2021

    While Kupfer's works consider the act of emergence, Max Boyla's paintings use layers of paper and paint to see how far an image can be lost within the excess. Boyla came across the figure of his space-cowboy on social media and began drawing it on his phone. From beginning to digitally drawing the figure, he transferred this process onto the canvas, building up layers, to then begin obsessively trying to extract an image from the build-up. This process recalls how an image can be lost among layers and layers in Photoshop, so much so that it becomes lost in a digital cave. In considering what can be extracted from the excess, of whether endlessly chasing after echoes of a lost image can yield a true original, Boyla toys with the threshold of the Baudrillard-ian hyperreal. The hyperreal litters our physical and digital spheres, being a 'real without origin or reality' that creates an illusion and makes it more desirable for people to buy the reality of what it gestures to, such as Disneyland, plastic Christmas trees, or more recently, AI-generated Instagram influencers/musicians.

  • Entering and emerging from digital caves also preoccupies Camilla Bliss' work. Bliss' process of working with plaster and ceramics has...

    Camilla Bliss, Orbital Gulp, 2022 (detail)

    Entering and emerging from digital caves also preoccupies Camilla Bliss' work. Bliss' process of working with plaster and ceramics has been affected by our attention spans when on our phones. Her impasto textures are made in what Bliss calls 'a non-being' state of timelessness. She likens the hand-gesture motions she uses to build surfaces to the unconscious movement of her hand swiping across a phone screen. These surfaces provoke a highly psychophysical response within us, drawing us closer to touch and confirm their textures. Indeed, paralleling the way we are dragged into a timeless digital world through the surface of our phones. Timelessness and the illusory preoccupies Bliss' subject matter too. The orifice structure of Orbital Gulp combines the shapes of navigation buoys with siren mythology. Despite not being able to read the language of navigation systems, Bliss was interested that we still understand buoys as boundary objects that demarcate one space from another. Communication, specifically deceptive communication, is also at the heart of siren mythology, and Bliss creates in the centre of her structure an orifice form akin to an open siren's mouth. The ominous enticement of the siren's song, leading those who would hear it to their deaths, offers a starker example of being sucked into an all-consuming force. Making us ask, what will it take for us to emerge out of these caves, or doomed tunnels of consumption?

  • Similarly to how Bliss uses the physical act of creating work to experience a ‘non-being mode’, Sophie Goodchild’s process of...

    Sophie Goodchild, The Immortal Bottom Dweller, 2022

    Similarly to how Bliss uses the physical act of creating work to experience a ‘non-being mode’, Sophie Goodchild’s process of creating work always involves a heavy hands on approach, usually building up layers, ground and textures fast, working with and against the chosen material. The artist celebrates the role of craft in art history, and is particularly interested in the use of repetition in craft history. Craft has been marginalised for a long time, labeled as an activity for women and thus, not taken seriously, left to stay in its own cave and to not interact with the external artistic world. The Immortal Bottom Dweller depict the artist’s interest into methods of preservation and protection through the use of clay and process of firing, embracing the huge risk of unpredictability of the elements. The work is also influenced by the artist’s research in how we as humans, as well as the non-human in society, gravitate towards and need aspects of security, comfort and variables of the haptic for example- the physicality of touch to grow, develop and continue to exist.

  • Made in the peak of the pandemic, Azeri Aghayeva's works developed from heightened periods of film-watching. Like many of our...

    Azeri Aghayeva, Bekle dedi gitti, 2021

    Made in the peak of the pandemic, Azeri Aghayeva's works developed from heightened periods of film-watching. Like many of our contemporary attention spans, her focus lapsed while watching, moving from screen to drawing on the side, and back again. A cinematic lens inadvertently entered her work, leaking out from the enclosed universe of a film. Within the enclosed universe of lockdown, the model who appears in both her prints and her painting was the only person she would see during this period. This pattern of working and seeing only one person has parallels with obsession, which is insular, vortex-like: an act of constantly searching for satisfaction from an entity, but never truly achieving it. The obsession of depicting the same image over and over again, as well as the enclosed universe of watching films in the background are similar in their way of immersing audiences and engaging them with the main character of the story.

  • About the artists

    Azeri Aghayeva lives and works in London. She is a recent Slade School of Art graduate, co-winner of the Bloomsbury Festival Art Competition (2021), and recipient of the Cass Art Painting Prize (2021). She has always been informed by the presence of a lens through her practice, painting from manipulated photographs. Her works explore objects with animated expressions, blurring the lines between inanimate and animate, flattened figures within a fish-bowl atmosphere that collapses perspective. Everything takes place within a room whilst the world looking in is vacant, playing with the push and pull of existence and imagination.
    Select recent exhibitions include: Habitat, Contemporary Six, Manchester (2022), Slade Degree Show,
    Slade School of Fine Art, London (2021), Virtual II, Go With Yamo, online group exhibition (2021),
    Bloomsbury Festival Presents Azeri Aghayeva and Noorian Inam, Bloomsbury Festival, London (solo,
    2021), Rome Art Programme, online group show (2020), and Ausgang Vienna, Dessous Gallery, Austria


    Camilla Bliss lives and works in London and recently received an MA in sculpture from the Royal college of Art. She was awarded the Yorkshire Sculpture Park graduate award (2021), and is also a co-founder of the curatorial collective HAZE.
    Bliss regularly draws on motifs found in historical craftsmanship, myth and folklore to communicate ideas about the modern world. She places an importance on the handmade and sculptural, yet at the same time references our relationship to digital technology.
    Selected exhibitions include: Synthesis, Delphian Gallery x Saatchi Gallery, London (2022); SWELL (solo), 87 Gallery, Hull (2021); Hawks in Her Hair, Alice Black Gallery, London (2021); Final, Not Over - Again, Unit 1 gallery, London (2021); Radical Craft 3, Direktorenhaus, Berlin (2021); Summer Exhibition, The Royal Academy, London (2018), Threads Salon, Turner Contemporary, Margate (2018), and Closed Curtain (solo); Barbican Arts Group Trust, London (2017).

    Max Boyla is an artist based in London, where he is currently a postgraduate student at the Royal Academy of Arts (‘23). Prior to this, he completed a Correspondence Course with Turps Banana, London, as well as graduating first class with honours from Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen. Holding to a tradition that sees painting as a form of illusion, Boyla’s art can be viewed as existing in a perpetual limbo: a place where the limited and real world mingles with the eternal and fictional. Recurrent characters offer a sense of familiarity as they navigate a foreign cosmos shorn of all sense of time and place.
    He received the Dewer Arts Award in 2019 and 2020. Selected recent exhibitions include: The Sound of Silence, Royal Academy of Art, London (2021), Interim Show, Royal Academy of Art, London (2021), Disco, Fitzrovia Chapel, London (2021), Somewhere Else For A Little While, Eve Leibe Gallery, online group show (2020), A High Hang, London (2019), and GIFC, Fisher Parish, New York (2018). He also participated in the Sunday Studios Auction in New York in 2020.

    Sophie Goodchild lives and works in Nottingham where she is the Graduate Resident Studio Holder at Backlit Gallery. She received a BA in Fine Art from Kingston University in 2015 and studied with the Alternative Art School, School of The Damned, graduating in 2019. In 2021 she completed her MA in Painting from the RCA. She has just finished the Artist in Residence programme at Troy Town Art Pottery and participated in London Bronze Casting Editions in 2021.

    Goodchild works across traditional mediums of craft within a broader fine art practice. Combining traditionally hand crafted techniques such as felting and ceramics, she responds to the undeniable physical act and action of making. Structures taking centre stage: craft, repetition, trust, territory and rhythm. An entangled order.
    Recent exhibitions include: (Upcoming Solo show) Flatland Projects, Bexhill (2022), Sticking Ground, One Thoresby Street, Nottingham (2022), London Grads Now, Saatchi Gallery, London, (2021), and Peach Fuzz, Thorp Stavri x The Factory, invited and curated by Haze Projects, London (2021). 


    Penelope Kupfer lives and works in London. Her critical outlook focuses on questions of identity, selfhood, the family and motherhood under a patriarchal system. Penelope’s practice includes drawing, painting and printmaking as well as curatorial work.
    Penelope received a BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2019. In 2021 she completed her MA in Painting at Slade. She is a recipient of the Audrey Wykeham Prize (2021) and of the Sarabande Emerging Artist Prize (2021).
    Selected exhibitions include: (Upcoming) SOL, group show curated by Alexandre da Cunha, Marli Matsumoto Arte Contemporânea, São Paulo (2022); London Grads Now.21, Saatchi Gallery, London (2022), Clifford Chance's Postgraduate Printmaking in London (2021), Slade Runner, ASC Gallery, London (2020).