London artist George Henry Longly is fond of drawing on classicism and postmodernism, sport and sexuality in his works. So far, so fashion. But he somehow brings to these riffs a novel fusion; he’s as interested in drawing from commercial culture as he is from ancient Greek sculpture – one piece features marble slabs with whipped-cream chargers and golden tubes of YSL Touche Eclat. His new exhibition, Indiscretion, runs from Thursday September 22 to Saturday October 29 at Studio Leigh and promises a total transformation of the Shoreditch gallery space, which usually echoes its former life as a 19th-century workshop. Installing carpet and coloured walls (first picture), Longly has devised a way of changing how the two rooms are experienced through his imaginative approach to hanging – sparse, almost stage-like, with the second room singling out just one work in the centre.
On the one hand, the show consists of individual pieces – a hanging mirror (£6,000, second picture), a wall-mounted marble object (£6,500), a bench (modelled on a gymnasium horse, £6,000), a spectacularly streaked copper table (edition of three, each unique, £5,500, first picture), and a series of phallic wall hooks (edition of 50, £250 each, first picture). On the other, it’s an immersive experience (complete with a soundtrack of remixed Rihanna tunes) that positions these sculptural objects to redefine the feel of the space.
This ability to comfortably ride the duality of the material-led design world and the sensationalism of contemporary art makes Longly a neat match for Studio Leigh. The gallery was founded last year by Tayah Leigh Barrs with a view to refreshing the design-art space, which she’s done with a fierce eye for talent and capable hand at production. Longly’s ambitious exhibition might just bring the gallery into a different sphere.
Longly’s practice is primarily performative. He might be the cleverest performance artist alive in that the pieces starring in his shows (which also incorporate films and live performances) are highly desirable objects, or he might be a sculptor with the commercial savvy of an art director. Either way, his works are standalone artisanal items that work in a domestic setting, despite all the bombast he gives them in his exhibition setups. His attention to craftsmanship, materials and finish is what shines once they are in the home, which means they’re likely to stand the test of time, as well as being utterly of the moment.