Artist's Long-Planned Spectacle Becomes More Poignant After the Pandemic
C.J. Hendry's Confetti-in-a-Church Pop-Up Show Opens in London
The mystery about C.J. Hendry’s new art installation as pop-up gallery at an abandoned church in East London that opens today isn’t why she renovated the local church exclusively for one event. After searching Mexico, Philadelphia and and upstate New York for a venue that would allow her to stage just the event she had in mind, Hendry stumbled upon this church through an old architecture friend from her native Australia. “Whenever I plan an exhibition,” she says, “the concept comes first.” That means she has to keep an open mind about location—”and cast a very broad net.”
“The concept was set to include falling confetti so high ceiling was a must,” Hendry says, “and I liked the idea it would link back to death.” Having found the right place, she needed restore the abandoned church enough to hold the event. Since the structure wasn’t hers and would potentially become a community asset after she was done with it, she “worked extensively with Heritage experts to get it to this point today.”
The mystery isn’t anything to do with the planning and execution of the event, that’s all documented on her Instagram account in nearly obsessive detail. “Nearly” because Hendry reserves her truly obsessive level of detail for the pencil-drawn photorealistic works she makes depicting all manner of difficult to depict source images ranging from crumpled cigarettes and pantone color swatches to boxing gloves, consumer luxury goods and intensely colored rorschach tests made from rich impastoed pigment.
This isn’t the first time Hendry has created a totally unique pop-up event to promote the sales of her meticulous photorealistic drawings. For her “Rorschach” show of multi-color paint blobs, she commissioned a custom-made bouncy castle. It looked like a padded room in a mental hospital. “Monochrome,” was a show of drawings of crumpled Pantone chips; it was hung in a series of rooms made of modular plastic bricks decorated in different colors. Then there was the show in December where drawings of wigs were featured in a pop-up chocolate shop
The confetti-in-a-church show is called Epilogue. It will feature 11 tons of recyclable confetti falling from the ceiling continuously and coating the floor of the church for 10 straight days. The spectacle is the draw but the point of the show is to see Hendry’s floral drawings and a few cast works added at the last minute. They’re also for sale but only after May 19th.
This is what Hendry does. A natural at Instagram, she documents every aspect of her work on the social media platform. She has no trouble selling the works. But she understands the value and importance of events. So she plans them to the nth degree just like the painstaking 80-hour process required to make her drawings.
Epilogue, with its elegaic references, was conceived before the pandemic. Hendry concedes that the whole thing may have gotten a bit darker during the two-year hiatus when the planning was put on hold. “ The artworks themselves are more fitting for a post pandemic world,” she says. “Back in 2020 they were much more colorful and joyous, and now everything is monochromatic. This was an intentional decision because putting an image in B&W removes all pre-conceived emotion. The works are more melancholy, more serene. They are also very technical, you have to find shadow in the black and ensure that the flowers sit properly in the frame not on top of it.”
Hendry hardly needs to stage these events. Her affinity for spectacle is inherent in her art. It also points to the mystery about her work which is why with limited output and a long line of collectors ready to snap up her work it hasn’t begun to appear on the secondary market. The answer to that mystery may lie in a bias against photorealism which many collectors think of as a gimmick. Or it may be that her passionate base of buyers won’t part with works. How long that lasts is anybody’s guess.