By Jane Pickersgill-Gardner, Final year student on the MFA Fine Art course at Wimbledon College of Art.

Leonor Antunes, The frisson of the togetherness – Whitechapel Gallery until 8th April 2018

The contextual reference for this show is This is Tomorrow – the Whitechapel Gallery’s 1956 exhibition in which the gallery brought together influential artists, architects and critics of the post war modernist movement. Antunes references this event in both the title of the exhibition (a quote by architect Alison Smithson) and in the way she has researched its content and installed it. The phrase was used to explain how young people translate their sense of themselves, and each other, into style.

Leonor Antunes, The frisson of the togetherness – Whitechapel Gallery until 8th April 2018

Antunes has reaches back to the history of the neighbourhood, its trades and brings them to play with an installation inspired by, amongst others, Erno Goldfinger, Eileen Grey, Annie Albers and Mary Martin.

Early female members of pioneering modernism, such as Grey, were often relegated to the role of craftspeople; working on the interiors of buildings rather than on the constructions themselves. Integrated into Antunes show is work by two other female practitioners; Danish designer Nanna Ditzel and Brazilian jeweller and sculptor Lucia Nogueira. These are curated alongside a sourced textile piece by constructivist artist Mary Martin (a This is Tomorrow contributor

Leonor Antunes, The frisson of the togetherness – Whitechapel Gallery until 8th April 2018

Artisanal skills are celebrated; metalworking, glass making, saddlery, knotting, rugs, bespoke lighting (designed by Antunes herself) and a tiled cork and lino floor in geometric patterns. The room is screened, though open, by taut hemp rope, knotted and woven through hooks on the floor. Like many pieces in this work, they are titled Erno or Willow Road, in this case a reference to the banisters in Erno Goldfinger’s house of that address. Some of the ropes are slackening, just as the original does. Present day visitors to the house (National Trust owned) are told that Goldfinger gave his children the job of tightening the ropes every day. Here, no such process happens and the contrast of the tensioned, the loose, the knot and the loop are clearly intentional. The coffered ceiling of the space (formerly a library) is mimicked in grids of knotted ropes and hangings of both bridles and woven strips of leather. Larger hides have been cut and assembled into panels which echo modernist chair components. Further partition like constructions are made from teak with triangular cut-outs, ‘stitched’ together by hemp rope; possible intending to evoke the garment making and textile workshops which proliferated in the neighbourhood until quite recently.

Leonor Antunes, The frisson of the togetherness – Whitechapel Gallery until 8th April 2018

The geometric pattern of the floor is to a design by Mary Martin. This triangular mosaic is rigidly followed by the placing of Antune’s lighting with identically bent bases; elements re-interpreted from her brass suspended constructions such as discrepancies with M.G. (2011).

Leonor Antunes, The frisson of the togetherness – Whitechapel Gallery until 8th April 2018

Antunes documented work can leave one with the sense that she is fetishizing modern architecture and glossy interior design. However, as you move through this space it is apparent that the primary concern is how we experience and inhabit interiors. Here we are offered the smell of teak, leather and cork, the haptic qualities of rope, the interplay of light and pattern. These are natural materials brought indoors in the service of art and architecture.


Leonor Antunes the frisson of the togetherness is open until 8 Apr 2018

Find out more about the exhibition on the

Whitechapel Gallery website


About the contributor:

Jane Pickersgill – Gardner, Final year student on the MFA course at Wimbledon College of Art.

‘My work investigates our expanding cities, landscapes constantly being re-made, in flux, sold to us as aspirational destinations and dwelling places. I am especially interested in the anonymous, corporate non-spaces which are the in-between spaces we pass through daily, scarcely noticing their characteristics and features. They are haunted by the architectural concept of the city as a ‘machine to live in’. My current research uses structurally banal and ubiquitous materials to suggest a ‘ghost’ of these super-modern global landscapes which we increasingly inhabit’.