The first work catches your eye as you ascend the stairs to the gallery. Just outside the exhibition, you are met with a wall covered in fluorescent pastel flowers, a bright orange chair sitting to one side and a note, hand-written on the wall saying ‘Thanks’. ‘Thank You Darling’ sees Camden Art Centre present one of the Netherlands’ most celebrated contemporary artist, Lily Van der Stokker, for the first time in a London institution.
The exhibition brings together works made by Van der Stokker over the last 35 years exploring society, home, caregiving, families, friendships and work. Often tiny preliminary sketches and plans are shown alongside final works painted directly on the wall. This exchange between the small and large is delightfully playful – causing you to peer in or step back to take in the works. In the final space, one wall painting covers the entire double-height wall, engulfing the viewer as they gaze up. On the other side of the space, a small piece of text is written above an object suspended halfway up the wall – almost impossible to view unless on tip-toes.
Despite this seemingly-spirited approach, once up close, the works often feel melancholic. They talk of stifling expectations, strained families and in the more recent works, the global pandemic. Van der Stokker resists these dark feelings with brightly coloured motifs; flowers, clouds, spots and stripes. The artist utilises items from the everyday; washing machines, pots and pans, and cupboards, to explore the personal and the often-overlooked domestic spaces. Doing so with over-exaggerated sweetness, Van der Stokker exhibits a radical feminist artistic practice unlike no other.
With no interpretation of texts and only a short opening paragraph about the artist, the exhibition may be difficult for those who prefer to be guided. At times the works feel a little confusing – short pieces of text throwing you off even further ‘Not itchy’, ‘childcare’, ‘bi-ba-ba by boomer’. However, if you are able to stop attempting to unravel meaning, you’re better placed to fully experience the works. ‘Thank You Darling’ is an assault on the senses – in a good way.
‘Lily van der Stokker – Thank You Darling’ is showing at Camden Art Centre until 18 September 2022. Tickets are free and are available to book here.
‘Lily van der Stokker – Thank You Darling’ is supported by Mondriaan Fonds, Cockayne Grants for the Arts and the London Community Foundation, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Thomas and Sabine Casparie.
The kitchen photo was taken by Amy Melling (see her biog below)
Reviewed by Amy Melling – Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.