Russell Tovey and Alexander Petalas’ personal art collections prompt reflection in London
At The Perimeter, London, ‘My Reflection of You’, a joint exhibition by collectors Russell Tovey and Alexander Petalas captures the reflective gaze and combines work from established and emerging artists
‘My Reflection of You’, a new exhibition at London contemporary art space The Perimeter, puts the personal art collections of owner Alexander Petalas and actor and arts advocate Russell Tovey in dialogue with each other.
The collaborative exhibition is a self-proclaimed ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ with no start or end point, encouraging viewers to explore at their own pace.
Petalas and Tovey have deliberately mixed more established artists, such as Wolfgang Tillmans and Phyllida Barlow, with more emerging names like Leidy Churchman and Shawanda Corbett. They disregard traditional hierarchies in favour of bringing together artworks that can induce reflection. The goal, explains Tovey, is to champion art through ‘accessibility and allyship, amplifying, and encouraging artists to keep going and enabling people to enjoy art as much as possible’.
As we tour the gallery, Petalas and Tovey’s consideration and curatorial instincts are apparent in the moments they provide through the subtly placed artworks, and insightful themes that have been woven throughout the show.
The show feels like a salient moment in their careers as collectors, where they are displaying perspectives that they have understood by hearing the stories of each artwork.
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s The Abstraction of a Continent, 2018, sits in unison with Katarina Frisch’s Muschel (Rosa), 2013. The two pieces stand in an intimate basement room and are strikingly lit to aptly capture a moment of meditation. Odutola’s piece is part of a series of visualisations of a Nigerian gay utopia, where royal families are brought together by queer sons. Frisch’s emblematic sculpture complements the painting in both its colour and symbolism of ‘coming out in the world and becoming who you want to be’, explains Petalas.
The exhibition also explores viewing works from varying perspectives. A microcosm of Phyllida Barlow’s repertoire sits below the foyer, to be seen from above, allowing it to hold a slightly removed space alongside the show’s titular painting by Ana Benaroya, as well as a 2016 painting by Etel Adnan. Descend the winding staircase into the basement and you get a 360-degree view of Rebecca Warren’s Sachs, 2013, seeing the spindly metal structure from all angles.
Tovey and Petalas selected focal works to build on for each room and expanded naturally from there, led by their respective knacks for curation. The resulting array delves into art’s ability to connect us in discrete moments of common humanity. It triggers an ‘inward reflection of yourself, reflection on other people, of how you can affect someone’, explains Petalas.
A highlight of the exhibition is the Wolfgang Tillmans’ photograph Sicily Morning, 2018. Its portrayal of a hand clutching an orange conveys the idea of unguarded moments that have inspired Tovey and Petalas’ curation.
It anchors a naturally lit space on the first floor, which Tovey says is ‘meant to feel like a spring morning’. Nearby are a sculpture by Guan Xiao, depicting two celestially ambiguous figures who lead you around the room, as well as paintings by Doron Langberg, Lisa Brice and Ann Craven, each capturing a blissful moment. Collectively, the artworks suggest a mix of euphoria and nostalgia.
Other spaces within The Perimeter have a more contemplative tone, including works by Joseph Yaeger, Salman Toor and Toyin Ojih Odutola, who consider snapshots of impactful moments. Sculptural works by SoiL Thornton, Rebecca Warren, Katarina Frisch and Prem Sahib look to incite discussion around queer experiences, class divides and self-perception. The exhibition realises Petalas and Tovey’s joint vision to capture the reflective gaze in its diverse forms, and in doing so, creates a space that stimulates contemplation. §