Daylight catches the surface of a Korean moon vase in the window of 99 Crawford Street, the location of Francis Gallery’s inaugural show in Marylebone, London. Across a stretch of oak floorboards, an expansive, circular band of jesmonite lends an open focal point to the room. Behind it, smaller forms, like otherworldly pebbles, line a Georgian mantlepiece. These sculptures, resting at various levels on plinths, tables, and window sills, are by Mari-Ruth Oda, a Japanese-born artist based in Manchester. Her work compels the visitor to move and sense the space around it, as they explore its fluid forms and surfaces.
Works on watercolour paper in Chinese black ink, painted with evocative, abstract brush strokes, are displayed on either side of the gallery. These are original works by Spencer Fung, a Hong Kong-born artist inspired by his deep, personal connections to natural landscapes. Below the paintings, on a wooden block, a handwritten note from Fung explains that one series responds to the peaks of Hong Kong, and another to the rock formations of the Catalonian Pyrenees.
Through an open doorway, a panel of light shimmers on the wall above a group of octagonal ceramic vessels, their off-white surfaces illuminated momentarily. Haeinyo, the artistic moniker of Kim Sang-In, created these in his studio on the outskirts of Seoul. From the ephemeral moon jars to the small octagonal tea cups, raised stands, and vessels, all of his ceramic works share a luminous blue tinge. Made from local Korean clay, and inspired by traditional shapes from the Joseon Dynasty, these pieces reflect the traditional Korean aesthetics that inform the gallery’s setting.
The scent of roasted brown rice tea rises from a low table, flanked by two benches. The furniture – made of long planks of ash with walnut butterfly joints – and the plinths have been custom built for Francis by Fred Rigby. Kim Sang-In’s ceramic cups rest on bespoke coasters; and the tea, produced by Seoul-based Tea Collective, brews gently in Korean tea pots, ready to be shared with the gallery’s visitors. As the day advances, Mari-Ruth Oda’s sculptures cast lengthening shadows across the floors and walls, and the planes of Kim’s ceramics appear to shift in the changing light.
* Francis Gallery will launch its website with an online gallery at the end of October, and will open a permanent gallery space in central Bath in early 2019