Wednesday, 18 January 2017


London Art Fair seemed a little more even - and so a little duller - than usual this year: less dire stuff, less outstanding material. Here are a few things I feel moved to make awards to in reasonably pointless categories... More officially, Hannah Farrell (at PAPER, a good stand - see below as well) won the £2,500 De’Longhi Art Projects award for best artist in the Projects section.

Troy Makaza: Tender Trap at First Floor Gallery, Harare

The Zimbabwean artist has found a personal voice at just 22, using his own recipe for silicone infused paint to weave / sculpt / paint semi-disintegrating lattices.  They look like tasty abstractions where you might expect political engagement given Zimbabwe's problems - but Makaza says his foundational shape is the animal hide, and its easy enough to read the works as disrupted maps, damaged viscera or post-traumatic remnants.


Dod Procter: The Golden Girl, 1930 at The Lightbox, Woking
Woking’s Lightbox, ten years on from its opening, is the special institutional guest. The stand's impressive range of Modern British work from the Ingram Collection, included this from the underrated Dod Procter (1890-1972), who studied in Paris before settling in Newlyn in the 1920's. Solidity and light come together atmospherically in her figures, the best known being Morning (1927), which is often on show at the Tate.

 Helen Sear: View Finder, 2016 and Andreas Rüthi : Field I-IX, 2016 at GBS Fine Art, Somerset

The best sightline in the fair pairs Welsh-based Swiss Andreas  Rüthi’s nine colourful fungi-scapes with Helen Sear's Becher-tweaking set of twelve images of circular hay bales rendered strange by both the digital removal of shadows and their substitution for the camera’s lens in presenting landscapes. Nor is it just the works which get on together: the artists are a couple.


Sandra Kantanen: Distortions 8, 2016 at Purdy Hicks, London
Finnish photographer Sandra Kantanen achieves painterly effects by distorting her images of the natural world. Her latest floral series essays a dragged effect in the tradition of Polke's photocopy works or Gordon Cheung's more recent computer glitching of Dutch Golden Age still life paintings. The result looks decidedly watery, as if the flowers' colours have been spread into hue-intensified reflections  - and infect a dreamy beauty with a slightly alien undertow.


Bethan Hamilton: from the sequence Splosh! (Yoghurt) , 2016 at PAPER, Manchester
The artist-led Manchester gallery featured Bethan Hamilton's sequence of herself being 'sploshed' by increasing amounts of yoghurt: technically assured drawings in which the pour was the simple negative of blank paper. I learned that sploshing - also known as the 'Wet and Messy Fetish' (WAM), is for people who are aroused by the copious application of such substances. Hamilton's practice has often dealt with eating, so this fits at a slant to that, but can also act as a take on the painted self-portrait. 

John Hooper: To August Macke, 2004 at Beardsmore

John Hooper's highly textured chequerboard abstractions emerge from a mixture of rules and intuition: the primary underlying pattern of colour application in the knight's move from chess, but with exceptions, and the colours derive from his responses to the art he looks at (here August Macke is prominent) and the music he listens to (Benjamin Britten gets a mention), all of which is annotated by date down the side of the painting as he works on it. Beardsmore, incidentally, has joined London's rent-driven trend towards galleries giving up their permanent space but continuing to operate (see also eg Art First,  Jane England, INIVA).


Sea Hyun Lee - Between Red 016MAY02, 2016 at Atelier Aki, Seoul

For some years now, Seahyun Lee has been painting red-on-white landscapes which collide the natural world with the sociopolitical complications of Korea, the monochrome originating in surveillance photography, the redness in the political and personal . This recent square format example (horizontal  panoramas are more typical) poignantly  juxtaposes blossom with the Sewol ferry disaster of April 2014, in which 304 people died.


Melanie Manchot: ’11/18′, 2015 in Photo50
Film is rare at LAF.  Chrstine Monarchi's theme (in the generally reliable 'Photo50' curation) is adolescence, and the outstanding work is Melanie Manchot’s  nine-channel  installation, fading in and out the variously aged footage of her daughter, as filmed for one minute per month from 11-18. Given the constraint, its surprising how strongly the construction of selfhood comes across.

Monday, 16 January 2017


Up Now in London

Mudhook @ Tintype - 107 Essex Road - Islington plus three shows curated by me...

To 18 Feb (Tintype and Union) / 5 July (House of St Barnabas)

Emma Cousin: Inpatient, 2016 - 120 x 100cm

Separate entries might be a little excessive, but naturally I believe that 14 of the best artists currently on show in London are in three shows I’ve curated:  a wider view of Alice Anderson than her well-known copper wire bindings (see   for details); nine abstract painters showing how various distinctive processes enable them to play off chance ( and control to aesthetically transcendent effect; and my four favourite young figurative painters, creating a room full of character and presence (  What’s more, Emma Cousin, one of the four, also features in a lively two-hander at Tintype. She’s paired with Milly Peck, whose scribble-like sculptural versions of everyday forms enter into a lively to-and-from with Cousin’s leg play.
Alice Anderson: Cut Out Pieces from Repetitive Gestures,2016
                                                          ___________________________    .

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva: An Intimate Gaze @ Danielle Arnaud, 123 Kennington Rd – Kennington

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva  Gill’s Slits  2011 - skate bones, metal, perspex box  45 x 45 x 50 cm


Paul Nash: Flight of the Magnolia, 1944 (from Tate Britain show to 5 March)

It’s an old gambit to generate beauty from abject or repulsive material. All the same, Anglo-Macedonian artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva’s use of animal materials is striking: she’s best known for immersively delicate installations using waste products from the meat industry. Here, a domestic environment suits a transcendental drawing made from a cow’s guts, bovine intestines blown up to form vulnerable sculptures,  and four sheep testicles configured as rather attractive purses. The most radical form, though, is probably Gill’s Slits, made by simply alligator-clipping together the wing-like skeletons of several skates. This inside-to-outside move yields flyaway fish with a floral feel. I was somewhat reminded of Paul Nash’s 'Flight of the Magnolia' 1944, which you can see in the excellent survey at Tate Britain.
Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva Lady's Purse,  2011 - sheep testicle purse lined with silk, antique frame and chain, mounted in perspex box

I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper @ the Griffin Gallery, 21 Evesham St – Latimer Road *

To 24 Feb:

Stephane Graff: Untitled (Courbet / Fontana), 2015

Catherine Loewe’s exhibition is easy to enjoy: she picks nine artists who have appropriated the art of the past, and lets us explore their different methods and aims.  Diptychs by Stephane Graff wittily line up iconic works with mismatched texts from what seem to be auction catalogues, pricking the bubble of artistic identity which Gavin Turk undermines by taking on that of others, here through his British styling of Warhol as the silkscreener of white transit van crashes (there’s more of that at the Newport Street Gallery) ; Marielle Neudecker and Gordon Cheung both deconstruct the Vanitas still life in painterly non-paintings, the former as plastic, the latter as digital glitches; and Glenn Brown seems to reveal the atomic under-life of old masters in his re-imaginings on the cusp of painting and drawing. 

* worth being away also interesting shows in the Griffin's rear windows and at nearby Unit 1 Gallery

Glenn Brown: Hinckley Point, 2016 - Indian ink and acrylic on panel, diptych - Each 60 x 50 cm


    Heidi Bucher: Herrenzimmer (1977-79)

The admirable ‘Condo’ initiative, in its second year, sees 36 foreign galleries guesting in 15 London spaces, to generally lively effect. Some mix things up between host and guests, but my two favourites - Sadie Coles and Rodeo – are among those which juxtapose a separate host show with a guest solo. AT the former, Bridget Donahue presents Martine Syms, which is interesting, but the prime draw remains the outstanding group show Room, which brings together a wonderful combination of female artists reimagining domestic space. For example photographic work by Francesca Woodman, Nan Goldin, Joanna Piotrowska and Penny Slinger, and several room reconstructions in the gallery, including a smoking shed by Sarah Lucas; Heidi Bucher’s latex imprints of the walls of her father’s study; and a black room full of Klara Lidén’s teenage angst, the door into which is made harder to open by a hanging axe.

Penny Slinger: 
No Return (An Exorcism), 1977 Collage 33 x 48cm

Franziska Lantz: expanding arid zones & Haris Epaminonda: Vol. XX @ RODEO, 123 Charing Cross Road – Tottenham Court Road

Franziska Lantz: detail of  expanding arid zones 

Rodeo’s Condo share presents two installations representing found elements to transformative effect. Downstairs we can move on from the injustice of Michael Dean not winning the Turner Prize to admire an installation by his Swiss-German wife Franziska Lantz. Both are represented in Berlin by Supportico Lopez: here Lantz has trawled the Thames for detritus which she cleans with contemplative obsession, then hangs to form a shamanistic whole room installation featuring a surprisingly high proportion of camouflage wear. It’s complemented by her soundtrack – cluing us in to a wider practice which includes a regular broadcasts for Resonance FM. Upstairs are what might be termed ‘overlages’, by Berlin-based Cypriot Haris Epaminonda – collages in which the top layer (black and white images of ikebana flower arrangements) almost completely covers the lower layer (would-be-colour of Egyptian art). It’s mainly the captions, referring to pharaohs, which remain to complicate our interpretation of the bouquets. 


Irina Korina: Destined to be Happy @ GRAD, 3-4a Little Portland Street – Fitzrovia

To 28 Feb:

Russian artist Irina Korina, who trained as a set designer, is known for her theatrical installations made out of commonplace materials. Here she presents whimsical soft sculptures of black and white emoticon characters - a human meteorite, a fire-person, a teardrop smoking a cigarette. They’re set in a hostile forest environment which didn’t prove so easy to source as one might expect. When the show was put up in early December, dead Christmas trees were so rare that she had to have twenty healthy specimens torched. So if blasted joy is your thing, you’ll like the heavily ironic ‘Destined to be Happy’ - the more so as each of the six sculptural stations comes with its own atmospheric soundtrack generated out of aural bric-a-brac by Sergey Kasich.



Mai-Thu Perret: Zone @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St - Central

To 4 Feb:

Installation view with Zone, 2016

Genevan artist Mai-Thu Perret has made her name since 1999 through by mapping an imagined women-only would-be-utopian desert community through the writings and artworks attributed to them. Typically they tweak traditional crafts – ceramic, tapestry, wickerwork – towards a constructivist aesthetic which carries an incipient feminism. Zone sees things get darker: it cites a novel about a tribe of lesbian warriors; a faceless armed figure stands guard; inside is a ceramic fountain in the form of a mortuary slab, its tube more suggestive of ritual or abuse than of pleasure. But the total effect is ambiguous: the water babbles pleasantly and the wall-based works package their art historical references attractively, though not quite as perfectly as their systems seem at first to imply...  

Be fearful and alert, as if peering into an abyss, as if treading onto thin ice, 2016 - glazed ceramic



Ingeborg Lüscher: It’s 1 o’clock and the bell tolls 8 times @ White Rainbow, 47 Mortimer St – Fitzrovia

Ingeborg Lüscher at the opening

If you feel the need of some intensely spiritual abstraction, your main choices are Rothko and Newman in the RA’s Ab Ex show, or this first London solo for the German widower of Harald Szeeman, who got to know Ingeborg Lüscher through selecting her work for Documenta V in 1972. These works from 1987-91 make elemental use of sulphur dust (glowing more creamily then you might expect from admixture with acrylic) and ash. That gives her paintings body, and an offsetting darkness. The fire of inspiration and the remnants of its burning out might come to mind, but Lüscher seems sparky enough at 80.

Untitled, 1988 - sulphur, dust, plaster, cardboard


Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970's  from the Verbund Collection, Vienna @ The Photographer's Gallery

To 29 Jan:  (free  10 am -12)

Renata Eisenegger: High-rise No. 1, 1974

This may sound a narrow show until you realise how many excellent artists can be described as avant-garde 1970s feminists: Chicago, EXPORT, Ivekovic, Mendieta, Orlan, Pane, Rosler, Shneeman, Sherman, Wilke and Woodman obviously enough, but they're mostly represented by refreshingly less-often seen work: Mendiata counters her beauty and renders herself other simply by pressing up against the pane of glass, Ivekovic makes herself visibly silent by greeting her show's visitors with a taped up mouth. Moreover, there are 200 works by 48 artists, well marshalled into four themes, and almost everything is of interest. For example, Lili Dujourie makes a naked man look like a woman simply by how she has him pose; Renata Eiseneger irons the floors of her apartment block; and Brigette Lang proposes a headress which prevents intimacy by means of sharp spikes.... In spite of all of which, this is far from comprehensive: Adrian Piper, Chantal Akerman, Dara Birnbaum, Mary Kelly, Niki de Saint Phalle would all fit.

Sanja Ivekovik: from Inauguration at Tommaseo, 1977 / 2012


The Seasonal Others  

David Salle: Mingus in Mexico, 1990

There are too many good shows to review them all, and I tend to avoid the most obvious: those open over Christmas include:

Picasso at the National Portrait Gallery (to 5.2), a superbly balanced retrospective which happens to focus on known people - plus the bonus ball of Luc Tuymans’ portraits in glasses

The RA’s Abstract Expressionism (to 2.1). True, it’s a mess with an unduly tokenistic female presence, but is still full of great things, and the Still room is a triumph. Luc Tuymans bonus his curation of Ensor.

William Kentridge at the Whitechapel Gallery (to 15.1, plus various extras, none Tuymans).

Paul Nash at Tate Britain (to 5.3), bonus Rachel Maclean

Richard Serra’s third monumental occupation (to 25.2) of the Gagosian space in Britannia Street which was built to the spec of accommodating his work

Parts (30%) of Saatchi's latest show Painters' Painters (to 28.2) - David Salle (taking over from the recent Skarstedt show), Ansel Krut, Ryan Mosley.

If you like the spectacular, Anselm Kiefer at White Cube Bermondsey (to 22.1)

Rauschenberg at Tate Modern (to 2.2), not without a Salle chime at points...

The Wellcome Collection's current double, include Making Nature, a nice counterpoint to Marian Goodman's Animalia.

Robert Rauschenberg: Triathlon (Scenario), 2005

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.