Art: Navigating in the Dark Part III

In this medieval gallery without fanfare or introduction, Kalliopi Lemos’s compelling sculptures engage with themes of spiritual and physical migration

-George E Harris

Euston Road is probably the least pleasant area of the capital.  Constantly clogged with taxis and buses, it provides a noisy intermission for pedestrians visiting the many galleries, cyclists weaving towards their offices, and travellers emerging from the railway stations.  The Wellcome Collection recently installed loud-speakers blasting out the sound of waves crashing on a Dorset beach to counteract the ceaseless racket.  What a cheering surprise it was to find a sanctuary from the thundering pulse of London’s lifeblood.

The Crypt Gallery can be found beneath St.Pancras church, at its rear entrance on Duke Street.  It is a gallery without fanfare or even an introduction; after being greeted by the warden, visitors are at leisure to enjoy the exhibition on their own terms.  It is a dark space, and eerily quiet (In fact, the whole of Duke’s Road is like this, and has a second hand bookshop at the end, specialising in Middle Eastern history).

It’s clear when first experiencing the Crypt that whatever art is shown here will be defined by its surroundings.  Unlike an art gallery, this is a medieval space, with the minimum possible lighting and only the rich aromas of soil and stone.

The current exhibition is by Kalliopi Lemos, and is part three of a series exploring “passage through life” and “themes of spiritual and physical migration”. To the visitor, the aims of the exhibition are opaque, but the lack of information suits the Spartan surroundings.  We don’t know any Greek Scrawlers who can report on the first two parts of the exhibition at Athens and Crete, but this is the only part displayed in a burial site.

The sculptures in this exhibition are arranged so that the visitor may experience them as close as possible. The first encounter is with a rowing boat filled with giant snakes, modelled with wire.  This is followed by a disturbing group of similarly modelled human figures, huddling in a boat.  Here, the audio track gives an impression of isolation, as the faint murmurs of the boat’s occupants are barely heard above the lapping water.  They appear becalmed and terrified, and the final sculpture of this trio confirms their fate; a group of crows circle and land upon the empty vessel, calling across the waves.

The other part of the exhibition follows a long tunnel, through which the visitor is led by the humming of bees to find a chamber filled with suspended sculptures.  Although they are sparingly lit, it is possible to wander right through the swarm; a truly disquieting experience.   There are also glimpses of renewal and growth, as tunnels often reveal copious growths of wheat, lit from behind by distant lamps.

Lemos has used the Crypt to achieve a compelling result with his works.  Considerations of the technical merit of each sculpture are not useful when their source of beauty is drawn from the surroundings, and from each other.   The Crypt Gallery will be a new experience for any busy Londoner, and is an ideal size for a lunch hour.  You will emerge into the light feeling nourished and peaceful.

The Crypt Gallery, until 27th November

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