Florence Peake :
Empathy Hole

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15 February –

30 March 2019

Florence Peake’s exhibition titled Empathy Hole is her second solo exhibition with Bosse & Baum.

The works in Empathy Hole were made during 2015 – 2016, after Florence Peake’s performance entitled The Keeners, an ambitious public dance performance in London Fields and an exhibition at SPACE, London in 2015. A video of this performance is projected above the entrance to the gallery. The work was inspired by the notion of ‘keening’ as a starting point, where professional mourners in Irish and Celtic traditions grieve the losses of others on their behalf. The Keeners abstracted this tradition and presented a collective grief in the form of a public performance to mourn a spiritual or culture loss, which has been absorbed by consumersium and a society where culture and capital constantly reinforce each other. The losses were collected through a public open call and the dancers mourned every one of the submitted personal losses.


In Empathy Hole, the abstracted and ghostly figurative representations, are juxtaposed to capture the heartfelt and empathetic outpourings of despair and loss of hope. They are re-staged in the gallery for this time of environmental crisis. Recalling the expressive painting technique of Frank Auerbach and the gestural styles of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s portraits, Peake’s works record the performers’ anguished faces. The abstract marks on paper and canvas become the painterly traces of the wailing mouths belonging to the figures, taken from the video documentation of The Keeners, which are echoed on the gallery walls. The intimate gestures resemble holes, a cavern or space for emotion to transform itself, or a vessel to aid and support catharsis. A series of recent ceramic works made between 2018 – 2019 in one-to-one performances, on the gallery walls and arranged on the floor, are moulded by the physicality and movement of the emotional outpourings, a visual reference to the clay used in The Keeners performance and to the empathy hole on the plinth in the gallery. Peake has a longstanding relationship with the medium, most notably used in RITE, a performance and exhibition which took place at De La Warr Pavilion in 2018. The ceramic sculptures in the exhibition provide a durational continuity from her past and present bodies of work, recording and preserving traces of the gestures and movement over time.

The works in Empathy Hole encapsulate the feeling of alienation and torment, they are witnesses to the current global political crisis and collapse. Though there was much to grieve when The Keeners was first performed, those grievances pale, to some extent with that we are experiencing today, given the political, social and environmental catastrophes that have manifested in the last four years. The works in Empathy Hole, made after the performance in 2015, might, in 2019, speak to this collective despair. Offering a supportive space where this state can be recuperated, through the gesture of mourning and catharsis.

As a trained dancer Florence Peake’s background in choreography and painting stimulates a studio practice that is both diverse and immersive. Often working performatively to incorporate drawing, painting and sculptural materials, Peake’s work explores the relationship of materials to the moving body.

Through public performances and carefully choreographed works Florence Peake challenges notions of physicality, loss and political concerns such as the commodification of art by the corporate world. By encouraging chaotic relationships between the body and material, Peake creates radical and outlandish performances, which create temporary alliances and micro-communities within the audience. In believing that objects and materials have their own autonomy and subjectivity, Peake draws on the expansive vocabulary of materials to enhance and contextualise her work. The sculptural works and paintings operate as documentation of the performance, but never in a reductive way, as Peake attempts to incorporate the effect of site, audience and much more than the pure physicality of the performance.

Florence Peake lives and works in London. She was born in London, UK, in 1973. She completed an MA in Contemporary Performance Making at Brunel University in 2009 and a Dance Diploma at Lewisham College in 1994. Florence Peake’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions and performances at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, UK (2018); Palais De Tokyo, Paris, France (2018); Studio Leigh, London, UK (2017); Bosse & Baum, London, UK (2017); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2016); SPACE, London (2016); ICA, London (2016); Modern Art Oxford, Oxford (2016). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Crac de Sète, Montpellier, France (2018); Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge, UK (2017); Sara Zanin Gallery, Rome, Italy (2017); Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston, UK (2015); Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2014). She will be included in the Venice Biennale 2019.

Installation Views

Publication launch:

14 March, 7 – 9pm

Archetype by Clover Peake


27 March, 7 – 9pm

Publication launch for Empathy Hole & Florence Peake in Conversation with Adelaide Bannerman


Florence Peake : Empathy Hole