Tuesday, 25 October 2016


Up Now in London

Rachel Goodyear: Approaching the Surface @ Pippy Houldsworth, 6 Heddon Street - Central

Girl with Frog, 2016 - charcoal, ink and watercolour on paper, 76 x 57 cm
Having found a characteristic language of the wittily macabre through black and white drawing, Rachel Goodyear has been able to expand her trigger-points for unconscious fears into painterly effects, sculpture and film, and also threatens the citadel of colour. The essence, though, remains off kilter scenarios faced by characters who seem to have stepped out of time, and Goodyear is in top form here: a woman plays – chess perhaps – with cairns; another makes men; a girl seems about to co-opt a frog into who knows what ritual purpose. And sea urchins cover - or replace? - a face’s eyes: positively, they look like rays of light, but have the eyes been spiked?
Urchins 2, 2016: pencil, charcoal, watercolour and ink on paper, 72 x 53 cm

David Batchelor: Reef @ Handel Street Projects, 14 Florence Street - Islington

Large plinths either end of the room each support fifty-odd grey concrete echoes, into each of which is set an irregular section of transparent, opaque or mirrored Perspex offcut. That makes for a hundred opportunities for David Batchelor to explore his interest in found artificial colour.  As he says ‘the shapes appear to serve no other purpose than to support their given hue’.  Perhaps not, but the concrete introduces the suggestion that graffiti might be somehow floating free of its environmental constraints to yield a neo-Platonic vision which separates the ideal from its source in gritty reality.



Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Portals @ Victoria Miro, Wharf Road, Hoxton - to 5 Nov: www.victoria-miro.com

Danny Rolph:  East Central @ CNB Gallery, 32 Rivington Street, Shoreditch -  to 6 Nov:  http://cnbgallery.com

Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Super Blue Omo, 2016 - Acrylic, transfers, colored pencils, collage on paper 213 x 274 cm - with detail

It sounds an awkward - if potentially resonant -  idea to integrate differently scaled transfer images from photographs into a figurative painting so that, say, the history of Nigeria appears on crockery, TVs, furniture, wallpaper and clothing of interior scenes of the family life of an artist of African origin. Yet Njideka Akunyili Crosby pulls this off with considerable aplomb at the macro scale of the 'main image' and micro scale of the images seen up close. That may seem quite a contrast with the dazzling spread of apparently-abstract colours motifs which  Danny Rolph is able to present at considerable scale in the large gallery under the Tramshed restaurant. However, Rolph's starting point has always been his views over London when growing up in an East End tower block, and here that is explicit in the titles* of the latest of his signature 'triple walls' (layered into plastic sheeeeting with a fluting down the centre). And in fact, all sorts of things are there when you're drawn in, including the river, the architecture, album cover designs and collaged photographic elements taking us back to Rolph's boyhood.

*  ie EC1 - where Rolph lived, EC2 where he went to school, EC3 - where he wandered the streets on empty Sunday mornings and EC4, where his father worked for Fleet Street newspapers.


Danny Rolph: EC1, 2016 - mixed media on Triplewall, 100 x 487cm - with detail


Stephanie Quayle: Jenga @ T.J.Boulting, 59 Riding House Street - Fitzrovia

To 10 Dec:


Golden Lion Tamarin, 2015

   You’ll smile at the cavalcade of forty-odd monkeys which Isle of Manner Stephanie Quayle concocts from clay in the manner of a watercolourist who can capture character in a fluid sketch. Gallerist Hannah Watson can specify the six types for you. Yet the jenga on which they clamber is a rickety-looking construction of old railway sleepers, suggesting how the delicate balance of their habitats might come toppling down like a set of blocks in the game of removal and addition; and the backroom is populated by orang-utans, lounging on the crates in which they were presumably imprisoned to be brought here. All seven species are endangered, so maybe you shouldn’t smile - but it’s still hard not to.

Jenga, 2015, Reclaimed timber, terracotta, toasted stoneware, white stoneware clays, bolts - 3 x 4 x 3m




Levi van Veluw: The Foundation @ Rosenfeld Porcini, 37 Rathbone Street - Fitzrovia

To 26 Nov: 

Subdividing matter I, 2016, Walnut wood, Black ink

In 2011, Dutch artist Levi van Veluw built three versions of his boyhood bedroom, covered with thousands of symmetrical wooden shapes to symbolise his ‘urge for order and fear of losing control’. He has since developed that theme of the world on the edge of order or just tipping over it through charcoal drawings, installations, photography and film. All are present in his first London solo show, an immersive alternate reality realised with fantastic control which is at once unsettlingly and uplifting. Surely that much obsessive regulation will collapse at some point - as the video performance 'Archive' suggests - but for now the exhilaration of its realisation predominates.

Factory 2, 2016 - charcoal on paper

Neo Rauch @ David Zwirner, 24 Grafton St - Mayfair

To 12 Nov:

The Incident, 2016 -  250 x 300 cm

Can this really be Rauch’s first solo show in London? It has everything you'd want in it, with Rauch's character creations seemingly emerging from his favourite 19th century into darkly modern scenarios. His task, says Rauch, is to bring us the our disturbed condition in a form we can live with, which he does by working simultaneously on a group of paintings, starting on the left with little idea how they will turn out. Plus, in the project space, a collaboration between Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon makes for a subsidiary attraction which could easily act as a main event....

The Cure, 2016 - 250 x 200 cm

Donna Huanca
SCAR CYMBALS   @ Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road - Chalk Farm



Where is action painting now? Here’s where… as enacted in slow motion by ten performers during Frieze week (and two thereafter) on three storey glass structure which responds to the religious height of the main hall, and among Huanca's previous works in another room. The upcoming American (or, now, those trained by her) paints her models every day, and their semi-choreographed movements paint the space in turn over the show's long duration. Viewers and models between them trigger an atmospheric soundscape.  


Cindy Sherman and David Salle:

History Portraits and Tapestry Paintings @ Skarstedt, 8 Bennet St - Central

To 26 Nov: www.skarstedt.com  
David Salle: Lampwick’s Dilemma, 1989
This imaginative combination works as if always meant to be, and while the Shermans are likely familiar, the Salle are a rarely-seen revelation:  complex multi-image paintings which jeep their balance while ranging across continents (all have content from at least three), historical eras (old master quotes, visibly modern models in his studio now), art forms (painting,collage, performance, photography, sculpture, cartoons, tapestry as the backdrop) and painterly languages.  Join the Salle Army!

Hugh Mendes: The Death of the Artist @ Charlie Smith, 336 Old St – Hoxton

To 12 Nov: http://charliesmithlondon.com/artists/hugh-mendes/

Obituary: Chantal Akerman, 2016
After fifteen years of painting still lives of newspaper clippings, many of them obituaries, another show of Hugh Mendes’ indirect portraits of the dead might seem otiose. Yet three factors stop this being so. First, hisTrompe-l'œil means of slowing the news into still life remains smoothly alluring. Second, a  focus on 20-odd artists allows him to sneak Barthes into the show’s title and provides a survey of influence even as it undermines originality; third,  many  of the images Mendes finds prove skewed and apt: Rauchenberg oddly bandaged; Lucien Freud is a painting of a photo of a painting of himself; Chantal Akerman has a bright elfin glamour at odds with her suicide; On Kawara is naturally suited to a date painting; Francis Bacon appears indirectly, via the notice of photographer Jane Bown.

Obituary: Robert Rauschenberg, 2015

Molly Soda: Comfort Zone @ Annka Kultys, 472 Hackney Rd - Cambridge Heath

Lynn Hershman Leeson: Trans Genesis: Evaporations and Mutations @ Vilma Gold, 6 Minerva Street

To 29 Oct

Molly Soda in suitable phone action in her pink-tinged world

I often feel that artists using new media ending up making ersatz versions of what could been made by other means, but American Molly Soda’s stream of screens, iPads, selfies, messages and images does feel genuinely alternative.  Her online persona has a huge following, on the back of which she’s able here to expand her practice to appropriate all the comments made about her. Comfort Zone includes her satirical self-insertion into online self-improvement advice, tales of relationships collaged out of pop songs, laptops on the floor of her speed-scrolling her phone, and 18 hours of selfie footage which – despite her prolific posting – is a ‘gallery exclusive’ compilation of unreleased clips – with plenty of crying in what I saw. And there's an effective 'compare and contrast' available just 100 yards away - with how the pioneering Lynne Hershman Leeson (given a 25 work 30 year survey by Vilma Gold)  used interactive modes in the 1980's.

Lynn Hershman Leeson: Seduction, 1985

Rachel Libeskind: The Circumcision of Christ and Modern Oblivion @ Contini, 105 New Bond St

To 31 Oct: www.continiartuk.com

Rachel Libeskind with her version of Holbein (for half the tapestries, the back / negative is displayed)

Rachel Libeskind, a US-based Berlin-born Jew of Polish descent, presents tapestries ordered online from Wallmart for digital production, showing a dozen medieval paintings of the circumcision of Christ. That triggers a host of issues: cross cultural similarities and differences; drawing attention to how little we look at the subjects of old paintings, this being a ubiquitous, strange, but little-noticed one; parallel suppression of images and beliefs, the circumcision being rendered unmentionable by Vatican decree in 1900 even though the holy foreskin was considered a powerful relic (and indeed our calendar is based on initiating the year with the ceremony, eight days after Jesus’s birth); and the application of modern techniques to tweak the tail of such ancient conundra as ‘did the resurrected Jesus have a foreskin?’. Weirdly interesting.


Andrew Curtis: Garage Door Paintings @ PayneShurvell,

71 Blandford St - Baker St

To 26 Oct (by appointment + closing event
26 Oct 7-9pm): info@payneshurvell.com

Installation view

Andrew Curtis has tended to configure modernism as an alien presence in suburbia: now the two merge in one-to-one scaled silver paintings of six garage doors propped against the walls rather like their models, all of which were metal garage doors which Curtis found abandoned  in the urban landscape. Frank Stella comes to mind in the pleasingly various parallel lined compositions, actually achieved with tremulous patience by painting several layers of aluminium around the still-exposed cotton duck.


Preparatory photo


John Wood and Paul Harrison: Some Things Were Recorded 1993-1998 @ Carroll / Fletcher, 56-57 Eastcastle Street - Fitzrovia

Still from 3-Legged, 1996

It's pretty-much the non-surprise of the autumn season to report that this extensive collection of Wood and Harrison's video work from the 90's, supplemented by their working drawings, is a delightful reprise of the many ways they found to position themselves somewhere between Buster Keaton and Sol LeWitt: tied three-legged while dodging tennis balls, choreographing an 8 x 4 ft board, using portable steps or, more disturbingly, making the best of being trapped in a cube half-full of under water... There are eight screens downstairs at Carroll / Fletcher, but it's quickfire stuff so that the total running time for scores of actions is only 35 minutes or so.


Still from Harry Houdini (there's no escape that I can see), 1994





Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09)and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, The Art Newspaper and Border Crossings. I have curated five shows in London during 2013-15 with more on the way.Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.