London's historic Curzon cinema in Mayfair, famed for its palatial boxes and alternative programming, is the focus of a new exhibition at the West End's Marlborough Contemporary gallery.
Liverpool-born visual artist Laurence Kavanagh worked in-situ at the Curzon, taking surface rubbings from its board-formed concrete walls and repurposing them for a new series of collages. In doing so, he comments upon how the 'architecture and atmosphere' of the cinema plays into our impression of the film on show.
'A cinema is a building created to house the projections of our inner psyche onto a screen,' Kavanagh tells Wallpaper*. 'It represents the constructed relationship between the real and the imagined.' By using physical traces and residues of the building, Kavanagh celebrates these carefully curated surroundings, and places them centre stage. He delicately layers one cast upon another, creating theatrical 3D impressions.
Each layer peels back, onion-like, to reveal the Grade II-listed cinema's chequered past. It opened in 1934, only to be controversially knocked down in 1964 to make way for an office block, before being reconstructed two years later. It's a credit to Kavanagh's project that the staff were accommodating of his penetrative on-site stint. 'Firstly, they let me physically work with the cinema building; and secondly, they aided my conceptual work by providing me with a list of all the films shown since the cinema opened.' Kavanagh called upon his own childhood memories of these films to influence the abstract images embedded in his collages.
Kavanagh was also inspired by the films on show during his residency, that he could hear playing through the cinema walls. 'During the period I was working at Curzon, both The Revenant and Anomalisa were showing,' he says. This explains the eclectic mix of colours, styles and influences woven into the series.
Transport for London recently declared the Curzon's nearby Soho branch a 'surface of interest', meaning it could be bulldozed within the next two years to make way for the Crossrail 2 developments. It seems the Mayfair Curzon was also a 'surface of interest' for Kavanagh (albeit in a very different way) – the Marlborough Contemporary showcase couldn't have come at a more important time for the London institution.