Saturday, 21 April 2018


Up Now in London

Hermann Nitsch: Das Orgien Mysterien Theater @ Massimo de Carlo, 55 South Audley St - Mayfair

To May 25

This three floor survey with extensive film documentation of Nitsch's Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries, plenty of paintings and rooms full of relics gives a powerful overview of what Hermann Nitsch has done these 60 years. Plenty of transgressive and blasphemous animal slaughter, ceremony, nudity and crucifixion of course, but what’s it all about? Nitsch is an existentialist who seeks to maximise intensity by embracing extremes as - in his words - ‘the artist who is into meat and blood'. He believes that natural human instincts have been repressed, and that the rituals will release their energy, purify and redeem us. Even if you're not convinced, the spectacle remains.  


Christian Boltanski: éphémères @ Marian Goodman Gallery, 5-8 Lower John St - central

To 12 May

Animitas (Blanc), 2017 - installation

This is just as elemental and impressively installed as the Nitsch show, but in a quieter register focused on the transience of life. That's represented most directly by a new film projected onto torn veils, documents mayflies - éphémères in French, with both languages building in the insects' brevity.  It sounds great, too, with the tinkle of Japanese bells on stalks (from a double installation of of Boltanski's roadside shrines to souls) contrasting with Mysteries, 2017, in which something like whale song results from colossal trumpets mounted on the Patagonian coast so that the ocean winds pass through them.  

from Mysteries, 2017


Aslan Gaisumov: All That You See Here, Forget @ Emalin, Unit 4 Huntingdon Estate, Bethnal Green Rd - Shoreditch

To April 28

Still from Keicheyuhea

Emalin have made a considerable effort to maximise the impact of Chechnyan artist Aslan Gaisumov’s linked films, remodelling the gallery and changing its entrance.  People of No Consequence (2016) documents a gathering of survivors of Stalin's mass explusion in 1944 of mountain settlement in the Galanchozh region of Chechnya. Keicheyuhea follows the artist's grandmother as she returns, at 90,  for the first time allowed to that remote landscape. She recalls being ordered to leave 'with fifteen minutes' notice - no trucks, only with what we could carry'. 'Hail place!', she exclaims, but 'only the mountains are standing' from what she remembers. Gaisumov pulls off an elemental and personal, yet  universal and thought-provoking, meditation on history and experience. 

Still from People of No Consequence

Maeve Brennan: Listening in the Dark @ Jerwood Space *, 171 Union Street - Southwark

To 3 June 

London seems to be in something of a cave moment just now. If you want paintings of them, see Mimei Thompson’s dark places in a show about light at ArthouSE1; for a psychedelic encounter with the astro-cthonics of alien abduction, spectacularly installed, head for Megan Broadmeadow at CGP. But I like bats in my caves, and Maeve Brennan’s 43 minute film Listening in the Dark makes the most of them, bringing the unintended fatal consequences of wind turbines on bats (their lungs explode in the pressure drop  behind the blades) together with ultrasound detection, scientific research methods, geological history and the operation of whale calls to explore bats as a symbol of how convenient it can seem to be to ignore what we are doing to the environment. It’s effectively paired in the Jerwood's 'Unintended Consequences' with Imran Perretta’s film about refugees, something else with which many would prefer to ignore. 

* Jerwood's web coverage is unusually good


William Coldstream @ Browse & Darby, 19 Cork Street – Central

To 2 May

Orange Tree, 1974-5  (with Seated Nude 1952-3 in the background)

He’s hardly high fashion, but William Coldstream (1908-87) is having something of a moment. A new catalogue raisonné has just been published, three of his paintings feature in Tate Britain’s survey of London painting ‘All Too Human’, and a further 27 are at Browse & Darby. Those 30 are a big proportion of the whole, given that Coldstream completed only 200 works (due I would think to his extensive and influential teaching, as well as an intense and fastidiously calibrated approach which meant that 60 x 90 minute sessions might be spent on one painting). Not many of the 200 are nudes, the subject for which he’s best known, but both shows have great examples, including two titled ‘Seated Nude’. The Tate’s, from 1952-3 after a 14 year gap, is paired with a still life in which it appears in the background twenty years later; Browse & Derby’s, from 1959-60, is of Monica Hoyer. That was a life-changing and all too human process of scrutiny for the 53 year old professor: he left his wife afterwards and married the 26 year old model in 1961. 

Seated Nude, 1959-60


Signe Pierce: Metamirrorism @ Annka Kultys Gallery, 472 Hackney Rd – Cambridge Heath

To 28 April

 Installation view with the artist's Signeture presence

Observing the methods of projection, reflection and lighting, and the various films and holograms which populate her studio environment in New York, Signe Pierce saw that she could create a visually echoic gallery installation. All is controlled through her mobile phone, but the effects are actually ‘real’ rather than digital, forming an ever-shifting ‘projector painting’ which responds to fanned air, visitor movements and changing light - both natural from overhead and artificial Red-Blue-Green from the floor level.  The factors are too numerous for full control, which keeps things lively, but I was reminded of Larry Bell paintings, lava lamps, fun fair mirrors, swimming underwater and the Aurora Borealis. 


Bernard Cohen and Nathan Cohen: Two Journeys @ Flowers Gallery, 82 Kingsland Rd – Hoxton

To 5 May

Bernard Cohen: Octet, 2011 - 137 x 167.5 cm

It’s possible to draw a sharp contrast between father Bernard (84) and son Nathan (55) in this unusual pairing: the former is a free, spontaneous spirit, the latter maps everything out beforehand. But both make complex abstractions, and the results are similar enough that you could believe that Nathan’s work is the newest direction of his father, as for all their intricacy they are simpler than Bernard’s thrillingly complex networks. Bernard - from gliding towards a limpid late style - seem to be upping the ante as he ages. That can be seen more fully in his current ‘Spotlight’ display at Tate Britain (to 3 June), which covers six decades.

                  Nathan Cohen: Crystal, 2017 -   111 x 107.5  cm                   

Damien Meade @ Peter von Kant, 25 Tanners Hill – Deptford

To 27 April

 Installation view with Untitled, 2018

Damien Meade’s paintings feel at home in Peter von Kant’s battered, brick-heavy interior in the deep ford which became Deptford, partly because they, too, make use of clay: Meade sculpts faces from it, and then paints from those models, so doubling up on artifice. Here, in a rare London solo, four of those visages  share the space with three flatter, more abstract depictions of clay as it could be after a head, unfired, is mashed back ready for the next to emerge. Do they represent the void for which all human clay is bound? Perhaps, but the plinth-necked presences seem more ineffable than salutary.

                 Untitled, 2017 - oil on linen, 44 x 35cm


In Quotes @ the Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham Collage, Mottingham Lane - Mottingham
To 19 May

Cristina Garrido: Hymn, 2012 - homonymous work by Damien Hirst from the series of altered postcards Veil of Invisibility, 2011-present

The Gerald Moore Gallery makes a fine venue for Ann-Marie James’ stimulating presentation of collage and assemblage by 13 artists ranging from perhaps the most famous current practitioners (Linder, John Stezaker and Susan Hiller) to less known artists also finding logical reasons to represent and combine to generate a fresh aesthetic. For example Tim Davies subverts the function of bridges by sanding away their ‘from’ and ‘to’; Cristina Garrido almost erases the works of art from postcards, leaving us to wonder which are improved by the process; and Holly Stevenson’s riotously conjoins vintage postcards of 1950’s cowboy actors with the landscapes in which they acted, the latter in turn inhabited by snippings from jewellery adverts to ramp up their theme park qualities. I liked it more when Holly told me how one of the actors died following a marital row: he drove off with all his wife’s jewellery, crashed, and his head was fatally cracked by the flying casket of bling. 
Holly Stevenson: Phosphoresent, Palmy Bonheur Series - 6 silver gelatin postcards, 22 linen type postcards, magazine cut-outs. The series, says Stevenson, applies happiness to images that have come to foolishly symbolise a perpetual state of readiness for a good time.


Invisible Cities: Architecture of Line @ Waddington Custot, 11 Cork St - Central

To 4 May

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva; Le couloir (ou Intérieur), 1948
oil and graphite on canvas, 46 x 55 cm

It would be easy enough to throw together a few artworks relatable to Italo Calvino’s famous book of imaginary cities. Harder, though, to obtain works by four artists whom Calvino actually wrote about (de Chrico, Melotti, Paolini, Arakawa), complement them with three whom he certainly could have engaged with, and persuasively relate each artist’s oeuvre to a particular ‘invisible city’. That’s what curator Flavia Frigeri achieves here. Her three ‘extras’ are Tomas Saraceno (matched logically enough with Octavia, 'the spider web city'), Gego (steel drawing-constructions linked to Ersilia, a constantly regenerating metropolis based on a ‘pattern of strings’) and the Portuguese-Brazilian-French painter Helena Vieira da Silva. Her six shimmering visions of cities on the cusp of abstraction – the most I’ve ever seen at once – are the highlight, delicately teamed with Diomira, one of Calvino’s cities as memory triggers.


Maria Helena Vieira da Silva: Sans titre , 1955 oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm

Lorna Simpson: Unanswerable @ Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row – Central

To 28 April


Woman on Snowball, 2018 - styrofoam, plywood, plaster, steel, epoxy coating, 277 x 210cm

Having set up a matching weather backdrop, Lorna Simpson’s first London exhibition uses snow and ice to dance her female protagonists between suggestions of stasis (attempts to arrest modernity in the USA, perhaps), misinformation (stacked issues from 1930-80 of the black culture magazine Ebony are seen through icy distorting prisms) disaster (paintings based on mash-ups of mountains, volcanos and strips of news text), froideur (cold shoulders from the ‘Me Too’ movement?), and transformation between forms. And it’s the edge-of-surreal transformations in the latest 40 of her subconscious-tapping collage couplings of agency photos with heads cropped from Ebony which communicate most directly. One of them leads on to the dominant sculpture of a woman precariously, if funkily, placed on a giant snowball - even before we deduce that only the collaged-on head will remain once the ball-plinth and body go the way of all melts. 

nstllaion view,
Lorna Simpson. Unanswerable
,Photo: Alena Simpson. Unanswerable
, &a
The artist explains her collages: that for Woman on Snowball is just above her                               


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, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.