Sunday, 7 February 2016


Up Now in London

 Second Edition at the Averard Hotel @ 10 Lancaster Gate - Lancaster Gate

          Ken Sortais: It is In Nature Always That One Should Seek Advice, 2015                  

The dilapidated Art Deco interiors of the Averard Hotel form a characterful backdrop to a series of six pre-renovation shows organised by Alex Meurice’s Slate Projects through to October.  The current five projects are generally good, evidence the presence of Damien Meade, Neil Gall, Raphael Zarka, Nika Neelova and Rae Hicks, solo shows from whom have all been among my previous selections. French curator Karina El Helou’s ‘A City Without A Song’ makes best use of the location to build a fictional city of romance past from cast and subverted elements. She includes Taisuké Mohri’s version of a Greuze portrait with the illusion of broken glass and the corporeal-tending double-take of Ken Sortais’ latex cast of the iconic Guimard art nouveau entrance décor from a Parisian Métro station (86/141 of which survive from 1900-12). 

Taisuké Mohri: The Cracked Portrait: Greuze's Boy in a Red Waistcoat, 2015

Kazuo Katase : mimesis: u tsu su @ White Rainbow, 47 Mortimer Street

To 24 March:

Kazuo Katase Bowl 7.4.2024 -  Pastel on hand-made paper, 105 x 140cm

Pastel is faring well this year: hot on the heels of its classical master (Jean-Etienne Liotard at the Royal Academy),  the freshest works in Chantal Joffe’s show at Victoria Miro also uses it. The German-based Japanese artist Kazuo Katase, on the back of a substantial history of conceptual installation, has used it since 2011 to boil down his thinking into an ongoing series of  empty bowls, which act as semi-hemispheres ready to be the halves of a globe in an east-west duality. Despite their uninfected rendering, they gain a zen-tinged standing-yet-floating contemplative presence through eerie lighting and the ectoplasmic mist in some images. If you asked Morandi and Turrell to collaborate in India, you might arrive somewhere like this…

Kazuo Katase Bowl 24.3.2012 - Pastel on hand-made paper. - 105 x 140cm


Rebecca Meanley: When Paint Takes Over @ Art Works Project Space, 114 Blackhorse Lane – Blackhorse Road tube

Untitled no 1 (dark ground), 2015 - oil on canvas, 146 x 186 cm

Rebecca Meanley looks for that moment when she loses control of what may seem a rather well-managed process of building from a dark ground made from multiple colours – no black allowed – into brighter hues brushed over wet-on-wet. The tricky bit then, I suspect, is judging which losses of control are fruitful. She talks of the ‘sheer inability to know beforehand ‘ but seems to get it right in retrospect in the four big canvases here: the space develops a luminous depth akin to Sean Scully’s, the thin strokes flicker between Twomblyesque and vegetal, the scale is right to immerse us in  a forest of speculation. Are we plunging into sombre thoughts or rising to liquid hope?
Rebecca Meanley with Untitled no 4 (dark ground), 2015 - photo, Olivia Bradford


Jamie Fitzpatrick: (loudly) chomp, chomp, chomp @ Vitrine, Bermondsey Square & Richard Ducker: This is the second evening I see 13 rabbits on the grass @ Arthouse 1,  
45 Grange Rd – Bermondsey


Perhaps theatrically paradoxical sculpture is a trend when two examples open close to each other on the same night. From the class of 2015 comes widely-noticed recent graduate Jamie Fitzpatrick, with a window (dis)play in which the hierarchies of human over horse are a source of conflict, just as the authority traditionally asserted by sculptures of great men is undermined by his use of base materials, shoddily impermanent aesthetic and cheeky mechanical movement. A sort of mash-up of Paul McCarthy and Phyllida Barlow which generates some transgressive clout. 1991 Goldsmiths graduate Richard Ducker constructs a complex account of what may be his inner life or just a range of proofs that the self is a construct. You get organic sci-fi; homely aliens; turntable-spun modernism;, self-portraits as a boy; wall texts channeling spam emails, misery from Facebook and the creeds of a manic cult; and  a psychic’s reading of the artist’s three past lives. I‘m not sure it’s worth untangling, as I’m not sure I’ve untangled it, but it is worth trying to decide whether it’s worth untangling.


Frame thy Fearful Symmetry @ Collyer Bristow Gallery, 4 Bedford Row – Holborn & Rachel Mclean at the Zabludowicz Collection

To 24 Feb 2016 (weekdays, by appointment):

Rachel Maclean: The Massacre of the Innocents, 2011

Curatorial duo Hi Barbara’s choices for the unusual location of lawyers’ offices combine a witty shelf of Richard Wentworth prints with a younger generation of photo-based interdisciplinary artists –  Ruth Proctor, Tom Lovelace, David Raymond Conroy, Eva Stenram, Rachel Maclean and Tina Hage – who reframe reality through performance, construction, re-presentation and manipulation. For example, those last two present themselves as the sole actor to contrasting effect; Stenram shows new twists on the questionable but compelling, quaint yet dark voyeurism she extracts from rephotographing and digitally altering sixties glamour shots; artist and ice skating coach Proctor documents her attempts to land the jumps she could nail in her competitive prime, opening up the possibility of failing better – if that’s what falling more often makes for – as she grows older.

Eva Stenram: Drape (Centrefold II), 2012

What's missing from the that show is a film by Rachel Mclean, but now you can see an excellent presentation of Lolcats, 2013, as the main reason to visit the Zublowicz Collection just now (to 21 Feb).  Mclean, as ever, plays all the characters from  posh cats to  Katy Perry, cyborgs and a gothic surgeon in maximlist makeup for this grotesquely sweet 15 minute tale in which a Tower of Babel tourist park forms the setting for her pussy-girl's journey through linguistic confusion, feline worship and trippy music. It could be a critique of both nationalism and pop culture's constructions of female identity - but mainly it's wow-factor fun.


Fiona Banner: Study #13. Every Word Unmade @ David Roberts Art Foundation, Symes Mews - Mornington Cresent

To 5 March:

Every Word Unmade, 2007: 26 neon parts bent by the artist, paper templates, clamps, wire, and transformers 70 x 100 cm each
Pretty often I reckon I’ve seen enough neon, but Fiona Banner – though not greatly associated with the medium – uses it freshly as part of what proves to be a concise retrospective in the guise of DRAF’s study programme. Her first, Neon Full Stop (1997), is wittily minimal and maximal at once, a breath encapsulated in glass which prefigures her move to big, shaped full stops – present here as bean bags. Every Word Unmade (2007) is a large and stutteringly clunky white neon alphabet ready to create meaning. It was  checked against the paper templates on which the letters were drawn, causing rather alluring burn marks. Beagle Punctuation (2011) turns punctuation marks into Snoopy. The Vanity Press (2013) is an ISBN number published as a book with that reference under Banner’s own imprint. 

Neon Full Stop, 1997 - Neon, wire, transformer, wooden box
Marie Jeschke: Can’t Remember Always Always @ l'étrangère, 44a Charlotte Rd - Shoreditch

'Kieshofer Moor, Always'
Berlin-based Marie Jeschke goes against gender stereotypes by using blown-up versions of collectible football stickers as the most prominent aspect of her main installation: they are shaped into the  form of familial symbols – dating back to pre-literate times – from Heddensee Island in Northern Germany, still used as signs on houses. That suggests one form of social identity usurping another, and Jeschke makes it personal by mounting the images on her grandfather’s images of the moors nearby, A similar back and forth features in a second room in which she immerses photographs of childhood scenes she says she’s forgotten in tanks of liquids from her current life to activate the past through the distortions of the present.

‘Can’t Remember Always Always’, with photos in liquids at front, bottles of liquids at right, processed photos behind

Mykola RidnyiUnder Suspicion @ Edel Assanti, 74a Newman Street - Fitzrovia

To 20 Feb:  and

From Under suspicion, slide projection of 33 frames, 2015

Upstairs at Edel Assanti is like a warzone, but is actually just Jesse Hlebo's dark and noisy curation. Downstairs is quieter and more measured… but we’re in Kharkiv, which really was on the verge of the war on the East of Ukrainecourtesy of one of the nations leading artists, Mykola Ridnyi. In Regular Places the camera is static, the city calm – but the soundtrack periodically bursts into the protests and violence which took place six months earlier. Under Suspicion lays bare the Government’s paranoia through photographs which imitate police archives by applying literally the instructions in official leaflets about what to take seriously as a terror threat - ie circling pretty much everything of interest. But as we know, being paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

Still from Regular places, HD video, 15:23 min., 2014-2015                          

Nathaniel Rackowe: The Luminous City @ Lobby One Canada Square - Canary Wharf

To 12 Feb:

The Consequence of Light, 2015, at Canary Wharf

London is been ablaze with light art. Nathaniel Rackowe features in the centrally Lumiere London, complements the Winter Lights show at Canary Wharf, and also has an external piece near Berkeley Square. Rackowe's work - essentially a re-purposing of urban architectural elements as art and half the way back again – may not be ideally placed in a marbled corporate lobby, but is strong enough to assert itself. There are expanded and  collapsed versions of a shed lit from within, a construction to be complemented by dancers, and the kinetic The Consequence of Light, in which the rise and fall of 48 neon tubes makes for a surprisingly epiphanic evocation of sunrise and sunset.  Another innovation is the use of dichroic glass, also seen at  Hay Hill. It contains no pigment but takes on different hues from different angles due to coverings of ultra-thin metal crystals.

Portal, 2015, outside the 12 Hay Hill Club

Marianna Simnett: Valves Collapse @ Seventeen, 270-276 Kingsland Rd – Haggerston

To 20 Feb:

Still from Blue Roses, 2015
Varicose veins and hyperventilation are the unlikely main subjects of Marianna Simnett’s striking show. The former are tackled by both surgery and remote-controlled cockroaches in the repulsively inviting film Blue Roses. Simnett has performed the latter to the point of fainting: here the soundtrack derived from such actions controls the pulses of light in the 10 minute cycle of the installation Faint with Light, built onsite. The relentless anxiety generated put me in mind of Tony Ousler, but without image or words being necessary – the most economically aggressive use of white light I can recall since Alfredo Jaar's  Lament of the Images, 2002.

Faint with Light, 2016


Julia Wachtel @ Vilma Gold and in Champagne Life @ Saatchi Gallery 

To 13 Feb (Gold) / 9 March (Saatchi) 

Hero, 2015 oil, flashe, lacquer ink on canvas, 152.5 x 320 cm

You have two chances to see recent work by Julia Wachtel, an American associated with the ‘Pictures Generation’ who has since the 1980’s been exploring how our take on images appropriated from popular culture can be affected by repetition, juxtaposition, changes of scale and clashes of register – in ways which predated the Internet but now feed off it. Each multi-panel work combines painted and digital realisations of her sources to further complicate the status of what we see. To take one example from each show, Landscape No. 19 (Witness), 2014, shows her typical use of cartoon characters from greeting cards to puncture the psychology of a scene. Hero, 2015, suggests that even a superhero – let alone one sourced from a fancy dress catalogue – is helpless in the face of the global warming represented by a stranded polar bear.

Landscape No19 (Witness). 2014 -  Oil, flashe and acrylic ink on canvas, 6 panels, overall: 152 x 325 cm



Leipzig Unfolding @ Lloyds Club, 42 Crutched Friars - Tower Hill

To 17 Feb: appointments via email to

Christoph RuckhäberleNetsuke 19, 2015 - enamel on canvas, 40 x 60 cm
A spacious city lunch club provides the unusual location for a 50 work primer of current trends out of Liepzig's Hochshule fur Grafik und Buchkunst, which has a track record for producing painters.   The fifteen artists chosen by curator Lavinia Feitas studied with such forbears as Bernhard Hesig, Arno Rink and Neo Rauch. Christoph Ruckhäberle, perhaps the best-known name, shows small scale but high impact enamels of his decoratively posed figures. Rosa Loy, Tilo Baumgartel and Hans Aichinger provide more of the mysterious cross-historical figuration associated with the Leipzig School, but there’s plenty else: Henriette Grahnert’s jokes about abstraction; Claus Georg Stabe’s ethereally obsessive biro drawings; Martin Gross’s intricately gridded woodblock overprintings; Thomas Sommer’s landscape dioramas…

Rosa Loy: Tuft, 2013 - casein on paper, 40 x 30 cm 


Shows to see in 2016

There are perhaps too many shows in the world to choose meaningfully for the year ahead, especially if you include commercial galleries, so this  cunningly biased list is just my planning list of some institutional exhibitions I’ll be placed to see and am looking forward to…


Heather Phillipson: more flinching -  Whitechapel Gallery 12.2 – 17.4
Rana Begum - Parasol Unit - Apr 13 - Jun 12
Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today - South London Gallery – 10.6 – 4.9
Ragnar Kjartansson - Barbican - 14.7 - 4.9
Abstract Expressionism – Royal Academy, 24.9 – 2.1.17
Paul Nash – Tate Modern 26.10 – 5.3.17
Robert Rauschenberg – Tate Modern 1.12 – 2.4.17

Michael Simpson: Flat Surface Painting - Spike Island, Bristol – 14.1 – 27.3
Gerard Byrne: 1/25 of a Second -  Mead Gallery, Warwickshire – 16.1 – 12.3
Prunella Clough: Unknown Countries – Jerwood Gallery, Hastings 23.4 – 6.7
Tonico Lemos Auad – de la Warr, Bexhill –  30.1 – 10.4
Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms – tate Liverpool – 18.5 – 18.9

Francesca Woodman: On Being an Angel – Foam, Amsterdam – to 9.3
Hieronymus Bosch: Vision of Genius – Nordrabants Museum, Den Bosch 13.2 – 8.5
Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round So Out Thoughts Can Change Direction – Kunsthaus Zurich – 6.3 – 25.9
Paula Modersohn-Becker: Intensity of a Glance – Musse d’Art Moderne, Paris – 8.4 – 21.8
Reinhard Mucha - Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel 19.3 – 16.10


Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 

Friday, 5 February 2016


Timothy Taylor’s survey (to 5 March) of Simon Hantaï’s Pliage ('Folding') works, 1960-82, mysteriously under-seen in the UK, is definitely a winner. All feature the Paris-based Hungarian exile’s signature approach of painting a crumpled, folded, or knotted canvas that is then straightened out and stretched. Hantaï (1922 - 2008) said his aim was to combine 'Matisse's scissors and Pollock's stick' -  the former's cutting into colour in the late work, and the latter's use of an uncentred composition. All the same, I’d have liked to see the sub-methods by which the various series were made spelled out in full. So here you are - I reckon there are nine main series, five of which are represented in the Timothy Taylor exhibition:

Mariales, 1960 - at TT

The Mariales or 'Cloaks of the Virgin' (1960-62) are inspired by the Virgin Mary opening her cloak to humanity. The canvas is creased edge to edge, the exposed parts painted, the canvas unfolded (but not fully flattened out) and the blank spaces painted, yielding colour pretty much all-over.
Catamurons, 1963 - at TT
The Catamurons (1963-64) are named from the house he stayed in at Varengeville with his family each summer. The folded canvas is painted, then covered with a layer of white paint; afterwards, the four edges are folded in, and the square that remains is again crumpled and painted several times.

Panse, 1985 - not at TT
The Panses ('Paunches' or 'Bellies' - 1964-65) knotted canvas at the four angles, scrunching into a bag-like form, before painting and unfolding several times to make one shape floating in space. 
Meun, 1968 - at TT

The Meuns (1967-68), painted after Hantaï moved to village of Meun, are made from pieces of canvas folded on both sides to resemble sacks with large knots at the corners and a string at the centre. They are is painted in one colour on white before the unfolding.

Etude, 1989 - not at TT

The Études (1968–69) are creased edge to edge, and are the first series in which Hantaïi switched from oil to acrylic, painting a single colour to contrast with the canvas's residual whiite 

Untitled, 1971 - not at TT

In the Aquarelles (1970–73) Hantaï used watercolour on thorough creasing in a smaller-scale tondo format.

Tabula (Terre Rose), 1975
The large series of Tabulas (1972-82) achieve an almost geometric composition by systematically knotting the canvas in strategically chosen spots, unfolding it into a large number of small squares or rectangles to make a grid offset by the irregular penetration of the white. Each square becomes a pliage of its own.

Tabula (rouge/noir), 1981 - at TT
Although not strictly a separate series, the effect is rather different when the square elements are simplified down to one or two elements only.

Blanc, 1973 - not at TT
The Blancs (1973-74) are irregularly folded, then painted with multipliple colors so that after unfolding, the unpainted white areas react diffirently with the various colours. They ask whether the unpainted area will become more active here than in the Etudes.
Tabula lilas, 1982 - not at TT

The Tabulas lilas (1982), made after a three year hiatus of not painting, employ white paint over white canvas. 

There was also a chance to see Hantaï in action - via a screening of Jeanne Michel Meurice's documentary film of Hantai at 55 - what was most striking was how hands-on and \9he didn't seem in the best of health) exhausting the process of making the big Tabula was, with scenes of the tying up of canvas, use of a lawn roller to flatten the folds in place, emphsison the non-mechanical in the painting ('you have to feel the canvas', he said), and scenes of Hantai diving under the canvas to straighten it out...  Bach and Cezanne ('colour is the place where brain and universe meet' was themost memorable Cezanne quote) emerged as his biggest inspirations.

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.