Review: Lola Frost – Taking Risks

By Tally de Orellana:

Lola Frost, ‘Between Here and There’, 2008. Oil on canvas. 78x68cm

Individuals are guided in their choice between risk-avoiding and risk-accepting strategies by their worldviews – their culture.[1]

Reader; think about ‘risk’. The idea will inevitably take your hand through the everyday sphere: whilst investigating new paths, investing in unfamiliar fields or smelling new flavours. As articulated in the quote, risk appears as a human condition, one that we tease, that we avoid and even, somehow and hopelessly, attempt to ignore. The notion of risk takes visual shape in the hands of South-African-born painter Lola Frost. Whilst the rain threatens to drench every single soul in the city of London, sheltered in the exhibition space in the East Wing of Somerset House are to be found twenty-three paintings – produced over the last sixteen years – that unveil her unique visual expression of risk under the title ‘Taking Risks’.

Lola Frost, ‘Taking Risks’, 2014. Oil on Canvas (117 x 124cm)

Fleshy, highly intricate patterns endowed with a somewhat gloomy reading of the human psyche are the visual elements composing the narrative presented in the show. Upon entering the room, the path is set to place the observer in a position of wonder; what is one’s human relation with ephemerality and movement, and, in a wider context, why is it at stake in political terms? Indeed, it seems worth mentioning that this exhibition is Frost’s visual arts input to the initiative by the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, an initiative to open up socio political conversations in relation to the visual sensitivity embedded in art. The recurrent impression of shift and movement offered by the series of paintings reflects and questions the orthodox representation of nature, as expressed in ‘Taking Risks’ (see photographs of works below) whilst the fleshly hues as in ‘Between Here and There’ can be directly connected with the human body. One might read in these representations, as Jeremy Theophilius suggests in the exhibition catalogue, an orchestration of the ‘reflection of both landscape and the human form’.[2] This reading can be enlarged through political and philosophical lenses, for intricate patterns such as those in ‘Coming Alive’ can be seen as a commentary on gender identity whilst the themes of the works – loss, void, expectation – recall conceptualisations of ethics. It is this unsettling impulse, expressed by the un-tangible and un-recognizable shapes, that Frost sets as arena for the viewers to take risks, an aesthetic risk.

Lola Frost, ‘Coming Alive’, 2010. Oil on canvas. 140x166cm

It is of great interest to observe the role that contemporary art plays in this case in the engagement with critical political theory. As it has been assumed more often than not, the latter has seemed to present itself as a hermit within the social sciences. Engaging in further discussion within a non-fine arts-centered institution such as King’s College, this show will serve as platform for a series of conversational events between the artist and the Department of War Studies, where the spheres of aesthetics and politics are to be re-ignited and, I would argue, finally re-united.

Lola Frost – Taking Risks King’s College London, Somerset House East Wing, 7-25th October 2014


Natalia de Orellana is a second year graduate student in the dual degree program Arts Administration and Policy and Modern Art History, Theory and Criticism (2016). She holds an MA in Art History from The University of Edinburgh (2012). Since 2010 she has collaborated in a number of curatorial projects in the United Kingdom and in the US (Chicago). She is at present a curatorial fellow for the MFA Show 2014-2015 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


[1] Michael Thomson, ‘Aesthetics of Risk: Culture and Context’, 1980.

[2] Jeremy Theophilius, 2014, Taking Risks exhibition catalogue, available here:

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