Transient Space

Ealing, London, 07/21/2017 - 09/16/2017

18 Woodstock Street


In ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ (1863) Charles Baudelaire called upon artists to attempt to capture the fast-changing landscape of modern life by creating images of the ‘transient, the fleeting, the contingent…’ For Baudelaire modernity was located firmly in the city and just over 150 years later, for many, this remains the case. Urban space remains a key subject of enquiry for many artists.

Transient Space is a group show exploring different approaches to urban space in the work of six leading contemporary artists. The works included adopt a varied series of positions in relation to urbanism: critical, observational, participatory, performative. Taken together, they form a series of open-ended propositions about the contemporary urban environment, the way it is experienced and how it affects us. Indebted to Baudelaire’s beloved flâneur, the observant urban wanderer, as well as the Situationist notion of the dérive, the works suggest a journey through urban space. The city is explored in relation to Modernism, but is here also an environment that encodes both past and future. It is a palimpsest, a politically demarcated zone, a stage, a generator of obscure visual codes and languages. It is both a map and a space that must be navigated. Seen through the framework of the exhibition, the contemporary urban environment is revealed as complex, threatening, energised, confusing and vital but also, to use the titles of Tim Head’s works, which echo Baudelaire’s incitement: ‘transient, fragile, terminal’.

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Nathan Coley

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