Aliki Krikidi | Babette Semmer | Grant Foster | Ben Westley Clarke | Denzil Forrester | Lucy Stein | David Harrison | Melissa Kime | Vanessa Mitter | Jack Catling | Robin Bale | Stuart Brisley | Curated by Vanessa Mitter and Ben Westley Clarke
January 12, 2018
 to February 25, 2018

Free & open to all

In a world that has really been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood – Guy Debord
“There is nothing funny about Halloween. This sarcastic festival reflects, rather, an infernal demand for revenge by children on the adult world”
– Jean Baudrillard   

The ubiquity of photography and advertising and our involuntary immersion in the mediated world assembled by it, demand a creative human response. How can we live, uninhibited, when constantly bombarded by the instructive and the inauthentic?  How can we know embodied, unselfconscious experience in the society of images and spectacle? Perhaps a solution lies in bearing witness to its cacophonic multiplicity of truths. Perhaps the highly personalised, playful nature of the activity of painting confronts its tyranny directly, with its antidote.

Painters transform their childhood impulses to shriek, taunt, sing and run wild into vociferous, effusive experimentation. Like ecstatic bambinos, clutching watermelon slices and plastic axes, faces are painted like skulls; they play, unbounded, as a matter of course. Wielding paint, they throw themselves, cackling, into the dance of art and life. The tradition of painting goes back and back.  They invoke their ancestors and invite the dead to dance with them, their frisky rebellion allowing modernity to be reimagined as anything other than drab. Beneath the dull concrete of the everyday lies the tropical beach of expression. Sweetness doesn’t just emerge out of nowhere. It has to be willed into existence.

All of the painters in this exhibition are ‘painters of modern life’. The life impulse coexists with the death impulse. The painters bear witness, with an inextinguishable verve and energy, like spirits walking amongst the living. They have one foot in the grave. It dangles precariously. ‘No, no, the work of art is not destined for the generations of children to come. It’s offered to the innumerable dead. Who approve. Or refuse it1

Frivolous Convulsions is an exhibition which collides carnivalesque and celebratory renditions of modern life. From effusive expressionism to calculated documentary; from the folksy to the ultramodern, the clash of idioms and practices proposes the impulse towards painting as an essential social phenomenon. Each painting simultaneously addresses a need to converse and interact, and a need for individualism and boldness. In dialogue with the dead painters of history, the artists continue relentlessly in their search to marry storytelling with formal, pictorial invention.

1 Jean Genet, The Studio of Giacometti


With thanks to Arts Council England and Croydon Council for their generous support.



Cadaverous in Croydon // Paul Carey-Kent, FAD Magazine
Review: Frivolous Convulsions at TURF Gallery, Whitgift Centre // Charles Barber, The Croydon Citizen


Install images by Tim Bowditch

Performance images by Pouya Mota:
– ‘Bad Blood’ by Robin Bale, approx. 20-25 minutes
– ‘Pieta’ by Vanessa Mitter, approx.15-20 minutes
– ‘Mechanism’ by Jack Catling, approx 5 minutes

a colourful illustration of four people around a table



Ben Westley Clarke studied at Byam Shaw School of Art, The Slade School of Fine Art and the New York Studio School, before studying at the Royal Drawing School. Before the Drawing Year, Ben’s paintings documented a working-class, Irish pub in Somers Town, with its regular characters and unpredictable goings-on. Since enrolling, Ben has worked towards livelier, more cacophonic images – his interest in social communion and interaction has led him to explore the carnivalesque and the festive. Drawing at Carnivals, Barn Dances and Gay Pride parades, Ben seeks a Rabelaisian image of modern life. Recent shows include “The Cock Tavern Paintings Part 2” at Chalton Gallery and “Grit: 11 Painters” at Mercer Chance, London.  


Vanessa Mitter is a painter and a performance artist, who lives and works in London. She graduated from Central St. Martins with a BA in Painting and completed a Postgraduate Diploma and an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art (2010). Selected exhibitions include: The Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize 2017, Piano Nobile Gallery (London),  I Am A Beautiful Monster, Arthouse1 Gallery (London), Unquiet Brides, Unit G Gallery (London), And The Dark And The Dark, A-Side B-Side Gallery (London), Strange Attraction, A.P.T Gallery (London), The Painting Game, K Projects (Berlin), de Kooning, de Kooning, de Kooning, David Risley Gallery (Copenhagen), Then I Remembered, Carter Presents Gallery (London), und wieder lockt das Weib, Strzelski Galerie, (Stuttgart), New Force, Galerie4828 (Venice), Scapegoat Society, Guest Projects (London). She has been shortlisted for: The Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize 2017, 100 Painters of Tomorrow (Beers Gallery, London), The Red Mansion Foundation Art Prize and GAM – Gilbert de Botton Art Prize.  


Born in Grenada in 1956, Forrester came to England at the age of ten. After completing his BA at the Central School of Art and his MA at the Royal College, he won the Rome Scholarship in 1983, followed by the Harkness Scholarship which took him to New York for eighteen months. In 1987 he received the Korn/Ferry International Award for work of exceptional merit of any category; ‘Carnival Dub’ at the Royal Academy Summer Show. In 1991 he was awarded a touring exhibition by the Harris Museum & Art gallery In 2000 he was awarded the Scottish Gallery, Dianna King Prize for a painting in any medium; ‘Bag Bag’ at the Royal Academy. Denzil Forrester’s work is rich, complex and highly sophisticated. The strength of his draftmanship and his extraordinary use of colour enable him to bring to his canvasses dynamic movement and purposeful power. London’s urban life is his main source of inspiration. The music which permeates his work comes from the West Indies; the range of iridescent colours into which he translates the music has been evoked by the light and colour of Italy. Forrester recently moved to Truro, Cornwall, after painting at his London based studio for the past 30 years.  


Grant Foster, born 1982, Worthing, UK, lives and works in London. He graduated from The Royal College of Art in 2012. Foster’s recent solo exhibitions include, Ground, Figure, Sky, Tintype, London (2017); Popular Insignia, Galleria Acappella, Naples; (2016); Salad Days, Ana Cristea Gallery, New York (2015); Holy Island, Chandelier Projects, London (2014). Recent group exhibitions include, You See Me Like A UFO, Marcelle Joseph Projects, London (2017); Mostra, British School at Rome, Rome (2016); The Classical, Transition Gallery, London (2016); SPORE, Kennington Residency, London (2016); Carnival Glass, Block 336, London (2015), Rx for Viewing w/Jesse Wine, Ana Cristea Gallery, New York (2014) and Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Spike Island, Bristol and ICA, London (2013). Grant Foster was a prizewinner in John Moores 25, Liverpool, and in 2016 was awarded the Rome Fellowship in Contemporary Art with The British School at Rome.  


Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, the Steven Allan now lives and works in London, UK. Allan received his MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art in London, UK (2012), and his BA in Fine Art from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, UK (2010). Recent exhibitions include: Steady Rolling at Berloni, London, UK (2014), THE FUTURE CAN WAIT, Victoria House Basement, London, UK (2014), Young Gods pt 1, 2012 London Graduates at The Griffin Gallery, London, UK (2013), Catlin Art Prize 2013, Londonewcastle Project Space, London, UK (2013), Catlin Guide, London Art Fair, Islington, UK (2013), VOLTA 10, Basel Art Fair, Switzerland (2013) New Order-British Art Now, Saatchi Gallery, London, UK (2013), and New Sensations, Saatchi Gallery, London, UK (2012). Allan was also shortlisted for 100 Painters of Tomorrow (2013), a finalist for the Catlin Art Prize (2013), the recipient of Artist in Residence, Ridley Scott Associates (2012), and his work is included in public and private collections such as the Franks-Suss Collection.  


Babette Semmer, born in London in 1989, is currently studying at the Städelschule in Frankfurt with Amy Sillman and Monika Baer.  In 2014 she completed a BA at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Recent shows include “La Diablesse” at Tramps,  “Why do all the things I say sound like the stupid things I’ve said before” at Lima Zulu and “All the Elsewheres of the World” at Zona Mista, all London, 2017.  


Melissa graduated from MA painting at the Royal College of Art in 2015 where she won the Gordon Luton Prize for Fine Art. She has exhibited as part of the British Drawings exhibitions at Christies, New York, (2016) and has recently had two solo shows Do You Think I’m Pretty? At The Chalton gallery (2016) and Oh! I think I just lost my appetite at gallery 286 (2016) In 2014 Melissa was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries at The ICA. She was awarded a 3 months Studio Residency at Drawing School Central, London, (2015) and a year long Residency at The Royal Drawing School, London, (2013). Melissa was awarded The Windsor and Newton Prize for drawing (2012)  


David Harrison lives and works in London. His paintings, drawings and sculptures expand the languages of contemporary art making to speak vividly about our own time, drawing into play age-old symbols and fanciful mythologies, the legacy of Victorian Fairy painting, exuberant sexuality, barbed wit, modern-day politics and an inexhaustible wonder at a world in which the natural and supernatural go hand in hand. The artist is represented by Victoria Miro, London; his works have recently been exhibited internationally at Churchgate Gallery, Porlock (2017), TRAMPS, London (2017 and 2014), Sargent’s Daughters, New York (2016), VeneKlasen/Werner, Berlin (2012), Vilma Gold, London (2012 and 2003) and Daniel Reich Gallery, New York (2008).  


There is no defined beginning or ultimate resolution, like the infinity of past before archaeological material, the infinity of future after all vulgar though strictly factual media images of today that will have faded away as memories of the void you cannot touch or see. No purpose for triumph or catastrophe. On violently composed explosions the melting entropic lava of discomfort underneath department stores or war zones. As words randomly put together, cancelling each other to extinction. Abstract memories of the specific, motionless faces in motion, dead faces that are not really dead. Aliki Krikidi lives and works in London and Berlin.  


Lucy Stein is a painter based in St Just-in-Penwith. She studied at Glasgow School of Art and de Ateliers in Amsterdam. Recent solo exhibitions include On Celticity at Rodeo gallery in London, 2016, and Moonblood/Bloodmoon at gallery Gregor Staiger in Zurich 2015. She has been included in group exhibitions at ICA, London, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, UKS Oslo and Newlyn Gallery, Penzance. Between 2012-2015 she toured with the band Death Shanties, making live paintings and collages. In 2015 she was artist in residence at Tate St Ives, and curated the collaborative performance event “The Wise Wound”. In 2016 she co-curated the group exhibition NEO-PAGAN BITCH-WITCH! with France-Lise McGurn at Evelyn Yard, London. In May 2017 she ran a Banishment Workshop at The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle where in 2018 she will also organize a series of interventions in the collection and a performance event. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich  


Stuart Brisley was born in 1933 in Haslemere, Surrey, England. He studied at Guildford School of Art(1949–54) and the Royal College of Art in London (1956–9), as well as at the Akademie der Bildende Künste in Munich (1959–60) and Florida State University in Tallahassee (1960–62). He has been singularly consistent throughout a career spanning over 70 years in his involvement with political and social issues (he was a founding member of the Artists Union) and a desire to challenge the established cultural expectations has been embedded in his subject matter. Although often hailed as the ‘godfather of British performance art’, Brisley is a more complex figure, Emeritus professor at the Slade and enfant terrible of the art world since the 1960s, whose seminal practice extends to painting, sculpture, community projects, pseudo-curatorial installations, sound, video, films and teaching. Uniting all these working methods is a concern for the everyday and for things that have fallen down (detritus on the streets, human excrement) and the marginalised (miners, bin men, homeless).Recent solo exhibitions and performances include: Writing on the Wall Is,  This Way Out of England. Gallery House in Retrospect, Raven Row, London, 2017, Interregnum, Galeria Jaqueline Martins, Sao Paulo 2016, Hales Gallery, London 2016, Drawn, David Roberts Art Foundation, London 2016 4 day performance, Stuart Brisley, Headwinds, MAC Belfast 2015.  


Jack Catling is a London-based artist whose practice explores the illusory nature of our everyday world, creating performative works that outline threshold positions, often mimicking the form of theatrical gestures, magic acts, and ceremonial mysteries that are then encountered in passing moments. These are identified as ‘activation points’, elements which, when encountered, call the viewer in to a questioning state, akin to wonder. Jack Catling is a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art, and has exhibited in numerous countries worldwide. He is the current director of the performance group The Parlour Collective, and Co-Director of Cabaret Melancolique.  


Robin Bale is a London-based poet/performer and sound artist. He makes improvised performances utilising verbal and non-verbal vocalisation and musical equipment. He also makes recordings that experiment with aural space and what he calls “dub aesthetics”, the creative deployment of studio technology to create sonic landscapes that reflect the fragmented space of urban and exurban environments. His performances incorporate ritualised antagonism, the intonation of found texts and enigmatic phrases, historical trivia, grunts and howls, and the pouring of Special Brew onto the floor as libation for the spirits of the dead. The texts are infested with sphinxes, ghosts and winos.
Nothing yet! But check below for related events and writing.

Related events:

Join us for the opening night of the Frivolous Convulsions, with a collection of performances from Robin Bale, Jack Catling and Vanessa Mitter.
Join us for a Family Art Fun Day inspired by current Turf exhibition Frivolous Convulsions!
Join us for the performance of a new work from 'godfather of British performance art' Stuart Brisley, following on from his work Next Door (the missing subject). 
February's crit will be led by Frivolous Convulsions curators and artists Ben Westley Clarke and Vanessa Mitter.