Sunday, 19 April 2015



Curated by Paul Carey-Kent

At Maddox Arts, 52 Brook's Mews, London W1K 4ED

24 April – 13 June, 2015

Opening:  Thurs, 23 April, 6-9pm

Of the many competitors for our attention when we look at a work of art – meaning, narrative, form, colour, gesture, scale, sound, movement – its weight is not generally high in the list, heavy as much sculpture and some painting may be (Bram Bogart's super-thick applications or Analia Saban's container canvases come to mind). Indeed, although WEIGHT FOR THE SHOWING is themed around weight, all the works have other interesting agendas, most notably perhaps the frequency with which they skew logic and the zest with which they engage with art history.  

Some artists  playfully substitute the heavy for the light or vice versa:  Gavin Turk’s bronze bin bags are well known, Andreas Lolis has made marble look very like card or polystyrene; Fishli & Weiss fashioned all manner of items out of polyurethane; and Sarah Sze recently made rocks out of photographs of rocks, which she showed alongside real boulders. Others have used surprisingly-weighted items, e.g. Andrew Palmer attaches rocks to paintings, and Aselm Kiefer fixes anything from soil to submarines to his canvases; Damien Hirst’s ping pong ball pieces might be the opposite end of that scale.

Such play is allowed here, but the show concentrates more on two other aspects: the relative weight of elements within or between works, which latter may be down to evident heaviness of mark, or else be a matter of ‘feeling’ heavy or light for no obvious literal reason; and the metaphorical association of weight with seriousness and being weighed down by troubles or history. There’s no neat division, but Barlow, Rickard, Schur, Ferro and Martinez are perhaps more in the first category; and Serra, Jankowski, Marin, Feldmeyer and Fontaine in the second.

Enough weight may also lead to collapse. Nietzsche worried about the possibility of Eternal Return, in which we’re doomed to repeat events for eternity, making existence a heavy burden, given the impossibility of escaping the cycle. Buddhism provides a potential way out of that by embracing the cycle, as does Milan Kundera when, assuming in contrast that such a cycle is impossible, he holds that 'life which disappears once and for all, which does not return is without weight...and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime...means nothing'. Decisions are then 'light' -  they do not tie us down - but meaningless and potentially empty. That isn’t entirely welcome either, hence the 'the unbearable lightness of being'. A more pragmatic view would be that we’re in the space between the baggage of the what's gone and the disintegration to come - but the interim phase may last a while yet, and we might as well enjoy it.  Just so, there’s plenty of wit in these works, so I hope they raise interesting issues but also contribute to visitors enjoying a few minutes of the gap.


Christian Jankowski: (Born Göttingen, 1968, lives in Berlin) Heavy Weight History (Ronald Reagan), 2013 - b/w photograph on baryt paper, 140 x 186.8 cm


Christian Jankowski’s full Heavy Weight History project, as shown at the Lisson Gallery last year, consists of an installation, a 25-minute film with an over-the-top sports-style commentary and a series of photographs. The German artist invited a group of champion Polish powerlifters to try to pick up massive public sculptures in Warsaw, including more than one Communist-era memorial and the statue of Ronald Reagan seen here. That provides a light-hearted and populist way of engaging with the contemporary relevance of such monuments, and as the past they represent. The weightlifters’ attempts to hoist the burdens of history onto their shoulders had variable results: Reagan was among those to resist their efforts successfully.


David Rickard (born New Zealand, 1975, lives London) Ouroboros, 2013 Suspended weighing scales - dimensions variable


The hanging installation Ouroboros interlinks a series of weighing scales, each of which measures the cumulative weight of those below. With the lowest scale registering no weight the dials incrementally step around the face of successive scales up the height of the work as they weigh the increasing number of scales below them. Maddox’s 2.85m ceiling height allows for eight scales, such that the top one registers halfway round the 25 kg dial. That implies the self-reflexivity of the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail. You might think, incidentally, that 16 smaller scales would have completed the full cycle in the given height – allowing the physicists’ puzzle question: why is that not so? 


Richard Serra (born San Francisco, 1939, lives New York / Nova Scotia): Level IV, 2010 – Etching, Paper 73.7 x 165.1 cm - Edition of 22

Richard Serra’s fame rests on his mighty sculptural explorations of weight and space, but his super-dense applications of paint stick, and linked prints, capture much of that spirit. He draws as an act, giving process precedence over results. That leaves a residue which depicts nothing but the logic of that action on his material: the paint stick fuses with its support, so there’s no figure/ground relationship.  Black helps in this: Serra regards it as the most objective hue, and says that since it the densest colour material, ‘it absorbs and dissipates light to a maximum and thereby changes the artificial as well as the natural light in a given room’.  Level IV defines its space in just those terms.


Nicolas Feldmeyer (born Switzerland, 1980, lives in London) 

Something heavy on something melting, 2010 – video, 1.03 mins

Trained in Zurich, San Francisco and London, Nicolas Feldmeyer’s varied practice tends to explore the energies of the world in ways which suggest, he says, that ‘there is much more to things and between them than I can understand’. ‘Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?’, we might ask along with Pope, seeing how weight picks on a substance which is losing its shape without any help.  Perhaps there a critique here of how we’re treating the arctic as well as a strong formal pre-echo of Serra’s Dead Load, 2014. Clearing Up II also hints at the meteorological, and contrasts with the Serra etching by making an evanescence out of blackness.

Clearing Up II , 2013 – charcoal on paper 


Richard Schur (born (1971) and lives in Munich) 

    Summer Lawns, from the Manhattan Series, 2015 - Acrylic on canvas 120 x 160 cm

The internal organisation of Richard Schur’s creamily sumptuous abstractions is all about comparative balance, weighing one colour and volume against another: look at the effect  such small sectors of yellow can have in these pictures.  But the whole painting can also seem ‘heavy’ (as in Up) or ‘light’ (Summer Lawns).  Yet Schur’s lightest touch is reserved for the tiller of art history - most obviously Mondrian – as he paints his way around the world in a series of residencies. His ever-mutating sequence of abstracts sails into actively serene visual spaces suffused with the light of those various places - here, America.

Up, from the Manhattan Series, 2014 - Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 80 cm


Livia Marin (born Chile, 1973, lives London): Nomad Patterns, 2015
Livia Marin presents objects from the series Nomad Patterns, in which the ceramic seems to have been arrested mid-melt, or knocked over only to spill instead of breaking, and then retained an improbable continuity of pastiche Chinese pattern. That poses questions of literal and metaphysical weight. Is that china or water?  A destruction or a restoration? Casually playful or threatening instability? Our judgement is likely to be affected if we know that much of Marin’s work deals with breakage and repair in the context of seventeen years of oppressive dictatorship in her home country of Chile…

Levi van Veluw (born Hoevelaken, 1985, lives in Arnhem): The Collapse of Cohesion, Archive, 2014 – video, 8.36 mins, 2014

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. Archive is part of his major project The Collapse of Cohesion. It shows cabinets laden with geometric forms crashing down in slow motion:  not only might that stand in for emotional trauma, molecular references could easily link it to the ‘Big Crunch’ which will be the ultimate end of times.  And yet the fabulous aesthetic offsets that sufficiently to leave us in an ambiguous space. He shows in Amsterdam with Ron Mandos, and also has a London solo lined up for 2016 with Rosenfeld Porcini.

Phyllida Barlow (born Newcastle, 1944, lives London): no title: brokenboxtube

2014 - Cardboard, ply, polyurethane foam, scrim, bonding plaster, cement, paint, spray paint, PVA, sand - 40 x 30 x 33 cm


Phyllida Barlow has recently taken over Tate Britain, Hauser & Wirth Somerset and the Venice Biennale with her mock monumental installations, which act as obstructions to viewers’ progress through the space as they parody the pompousness of phallocentric traditions. She employs workaday builders’ materials, which used to get recycled into the next exhibition until her rise to international prominence in the last few years. Consistent with the deflation of portentous weight, her work typically looks a lot heavier than it actually is. That facilitates her putting sculptures on the wall, which plays up their often painterly surfaces, as in this mini-anthology of forms.


Knopp Ferro (born Cologne, 1953, lives Ammersee):   Raum 22-37, 2010 - iron and red colour - 124x109x87cm


The Austro-German sculptor Knopp Ferro has a performance background, evident enough in the works he makes by slashing paper with a knife, but also implicit in his delicate mobiles. They repeat their slender units to lyrical effect, demonstrating a trembling lightness one might not – despite the precedents of Calder and Rickey - naturally associate with iron rods. The contrast is heightened when the sculpture hangs overhead, drawing a cloud in space. Here Knopp’s playful yet extreme deconstruction of the grid counterpoints  Phyllida Barlow’s rumbustious approach.


Cipriano Martínez  (born Caracas 1965, lives London) 


                      Orthodrome, 2012 and  - oil on canvas, 180 x 120 cm


If Ferro’s mobiles are grids in a constant, yet always balanced, state of change, Cipriano Martínez’ paintings and silkscreen prints are static works which use optical dynamics to resist any stabilization of their grids. That may represent the constant, and so never quite conclusive, change in urban environments and the systems which keep them going – nowhere more so than in his home city of Caracas. Doubt, it has been suggested, defeats reason in Martinez’ world of cartography corrupted to the cusp of abstraction. A heavy agenda, perhaps, but delivered with a shimmer.

             Untitled (From the Series Colour Testing), 2013: oil on canvas, 180 x 180 cm


Liv Fontaine (born (1989) and lives in Southampton), Plinth Piece, 20 min video loop +  performances


Liv Fontaine’s lively performance practice, recently seen at Shoreditch House and the ICA, typically uses alter egos to address sexual politics. Perhaps that cues in the phallic aspect of her would-be-flexible body’s battle against the constraint of a large and rigid plinth. Sculpture, of course, descended from the plinth fairly decisively in the early sixties, but nowadays it’s pretty common, nonetheless, to see small ceramics and sculptural items set atop a column – indeed, Fontaine says it was the number of such presentations which triggered her performance. Anyway, the plinth has come down along with the artist, cast here to reference the classic nude and so emphasise just what a weight of art history there is to be dragged around - and there is suffering involved...  maybe it's personal, too. 


Artangel / PJ Harvey: Recording in Progress

Somerset House, London: 14 Jan – 14 Feb 2015

There’s plenty of precedent for rock musicians turning back to their art school roots (Ronnie Wood, Paul Simenon and Pete Doherty, to cite three with recent London exhibitions), but their approach hasn’t typically been conceptual in nature. PJ Harvey has also continued to draw, indeed some of her sketches can be seen on the wall of the purpose-built studio at Somerset House in which she and her band are recording a new album with members of the public able to watch from behind one way glass. They can hear the musicians, but the musicians can’t hear them. Almost a hundred 45 minute sessions – instantly sold out – were available to audiences of 50 at a time in January and February.

Double Mercury award winner Harvey has built a dedicated following over her twenty year career, and many were keen to get close to her and see behind the scenes of her creative process.  I’d never been to a recording session before, but those who have confirm that these were par for the course:  ‘Nothing here is materially that different from any other studio session I've attended’, says John R Mulvey in his review for the music magazine Uncut, ‘and it's worth remembering that plenty of artists, especially in the past, have recorded albums in busy studios, full of friends, business associates, hangers-on and so forth’. There was, then, little to show that the public presence altered behaviours.  When I was there the band concentrated on alternative backing vocals for one track, running through them to recorded sound with occasional discussions (‘I’m not sure the tempo is right’) and distractions (‘have we got James coming in next week?’). It was interesting, and not without creative spark and drive, but the banal aspects of the process were sufficiently apparent to call into question Harvey’s assertion that ‘the best part of any creation is the creating itself. That is when it's most vital, most exciting’.  Sometimes that’s true, most of the time it’s not. Harvey, of course, is a performer anyway: you could argue that it’s her producer, Flood, whose role is archetypally ‘behind the scenes’, who is most intriguingly exposed and potentially demystified by the process.

However, Artangel’s presentation of Recording in Progress isn’t framed as a chance to get a different angle on your heroine and a sneak preview of future work, but as conceptual art – in Harvey’s words ‘a sculptural object in motion and on different levels’. So: in what ways might it be art? One way into that question would be to think about what characteristics are shared with the work of mainstream artists. Four typical strategies occur: might this be a found object, a sculpture, an example of relational aesthetics or of narrative deconstruction?

First, this is a found object of sorts. The very act of declaring the sessions to be art makes us look at them differently, as when an object is re-contextualised by being placed in a gallery. Indeed, as if to reinforce that association, the studio is a white cube, the scale of a typical gallery, and painted white and with white chairs and sofas. That said, given anything could be ‘seen as art’ in this way, one wants a bit more reason behind the particular choice. The most promising such logic might be that we are watching a creative process comparable to, say, painting, and are invited to reflect on its nature and draw parallels. One might think of the famous film of Pollock in action, all theatrical flourish and no sitting around wondering what to do next.  Maybe Pollock never did sit around in that way, but here we get a more typical and complete picture held up for inspection. There are also parallels with Warhol’s interest in celebrity, and the deadpan style of his films, privileging the minutiae of Factory life with a degree of attention which suggests it’s all art or the inspiration for it.

Recording in Progress could also be a sculpture, of three possible sorts. First, Harvey herself has said that music is ‘sculpting in sound’. Maybe so, but that’s a fairly standard trope to which nothing extra is added. Second, the sculpture could lie in the simple matter of what’s arranged in front of us: one woman and several men sat around in a room dominated by instruments, microphones and a large control panel. An aesthetic does develop out of that, and plenty of artists have created or replicated rooms as art:  Ed Keinholz, Marc Camille Chaimovitz, Fischli & Weiss. Robert Kuśmirowski… Certainly there are sculptural aspects – but both the agency and the purpose are different. This room is designed and made by non-artists for activity, not for contemplation, and so the sculptural aspect collapses back into its co-option as a found element. Third, it might be the activity which is sculpturally presented. At last year’s Folkestone Triennial, German artist Michael Sailstorfer buried 30 gold bars in the sand of the harbour, provoking more digging than usual: rather neatly, what one would expect to take place on a beach did take place, but the extent and purpose of the activity were different, and the people looking for the gold could be interpreted as a sculptural tableau caused by the artist. Folkestone Digs, 2014, seems much closer to what’s happening at Somerset House: what might have happened elsewhere and in private happens here and in public. What we see might be the same as it would have been elsewhere, or it might be altered by the intermittent, unseen and unheard presence of the public.

Another comparison would be with the recreation of concerts, as practiced by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. Somehow it’s not being your own concert makes it feel more like art. And if you push that aspect of performance far enough, there might also be an element of relational aesthetics: what Nicolas Bourriaud characterises as ‘a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space’, for which purpose the artist does not define the outcomes, but acts as the catalyst of a community.  That fits with how the presence of the audience of Recording in Progress – though not their actions - could alter the outcome… in due course, attendees will l be able to listen to the album and wonder. That, though, seems to be asking too much of the degree of engagement achieved.  There's a sort of distanced intimacy finding oneself five feet from Harvey without any actual mechanism for interaction, but that doesn’t make the experience a meaningfully relational one. Just singing along at a concert might amount to more.

Finally, it’s a common strategy of contemporary art – particularly film -  to undermine narrative conventions, and if Recording in Progress is approached as a rock’n’roll soap opera on the making of an album, then its fragmentary and repetitive nature soon dashes the expectation. Yet it’s probably too much to say that a narrative expectation is deconstructed, because there’s no strategy involved: we just see an existing process presented as it is.

I would conclude that, if Recording in Progress is art, then it’s only a weak exemplar of any of those four strands. Where it scores is in keeping all those options in play. That gives attendees plenty to think about during their 45 minutes – and, to end where we began, they get the bonus of an enticing, if less thematic, chance to see PJ Harvey’s working process and glimpse her next direction.


A version of this article appears in the April issue of Art Monthly

Sunday, 5 April 2015


The latest in my rolling top ten, together with previous choices which 
you can still see...

George Rippon: Now Panic & Lena Henke and Marie Karlberg: One step away from further Hell @ Vilma Gold, 6 Minerva St - Cambridge Heath

To 25 April:

George Rippon: Forever Summerhouse, 2015 Limonium, lentils, coins, paper, photograph, allergy tablets, bottle caps, egg shell, chestnut, models, plaster 58.5 x 115 cm
 This pair of shows operate just out of the range of direct meaning, yet in a way I found fascinating rather than frustrating. Young Frankfurt-based American George Rippon’s  sculptures and sculptural paintings make surprising use of the organic. They revel in such combinations as Allergy Allegory’s  ‘dandelion, models, black rice, allergy tablets, epoxy, plaster’, which seems to embed a personal narrative-by-association of elements into its containing block. And New York based German and Swedish friends Lena Henke and Marie Karlberg, who've organised exhibitions together,  present a two-hander in which it feels as if each artists’ work could be the other’s, though their backgrounds in sculpture and performance / fashion respectively are very different.

Lena Henke and Marie Karlberg: Installation view

Roger Ackling: Simple Gifts @ Annely Juda Fine Art, 23 Dering Street - Central

To 7 May:

 Voewood (2013) - sunlight on wood with metal.15.4 x 6.5 x 15.6 cm
For 40 years before his death last year, Roger Ackling created small sculptures by directing sunlight through magnifying glass to burn images of the sun to make up parallel lines to track their forms dot by dot. Sort of small-scale Daniel Buren of more poetry than concept. These 80 pieces from Ackling's last active year show lots of appealing variety of shape, size, contour effects, additional elements such as rings or an elastic band, and several variants pieces which enact a much freer line on the back of photo frames - as if to guess at an outline image the other side. If Ackling reduces the sun to an intimate scale, then it makes some sense that June Green, in the paired show, presents argangement of 'pebble shapes'  big enough to count as serious rocks.

Voewood (2013) - sunlight on board with hinge support, 20.2 x 15.3 x 8.5 cm

Group show @ Ibid, 27 Margaret Street - Fitzrovia

To 2 May:

Robert Gober Untitled, 1993-94 photolithography on archival paper

What do you want in a group show? An interesting theme,  links between works, some favourite artists and an interesting new one seem like a plausible requirements – which Ibid delivers. The easy familiarity of capitalist consumption at home is disrupted by a comedic trip in Francis Alys' sensitive little encaustic, and the macabre aspect of roasting a whole pig in Robert Gober's editions of newspaper adverts. That triggers our questioning of the apparent calm in Paul Theck's painting on newspaper and leads thematically and onomastically to the new-to-me Romanian Razvan Boar, who - aside from his great name - abstracts from rote commercially sourced figuration by casually painterly blobs, scuffs and dirt somewhere in the space between Warhol and Oscar Murillo (David Spiller also comes to mind). Ross Chisholm provides two suitably weird portraits of parents to overlook the scene. All that's missing is a porcine title - well, any title - for the show... 

Razvan Boar Juice Tree, 2014 - oil, charcoal and spray paint on canvas


Ravilious @ Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Rd - Dulwich

To 31 Aug:

The Greenhouse, cyclamen and tomatoes, 1935
It isn't hard to work out why Ravilious's paintings appeal: his quirky eye for the objects and landscapes of the decade to his death in 1942 plays in to nostalgia tinged by the war to come or in progress; his apparently straightforward depictions are seeded with an almost vertiginous sense of underlying strangeness; he has a remarkable sense of how to build up a persuasive whole from detailed patterning of grass, sea, wallpaper or repeated flower pots, largely achieved by importing experience of making woodcuts into his watercolour production; and he has the most amazing watercolour technique, lighting clarity from within through  the blazing white of the paper. Art history has taken little notice, but these 80-odd paintings are your best-ever chance to enjoy a ravishing achievement.

Tiger Moth, 1942

Ydessa Hendeles:  From her wooden sleep… @ The ICA – Central

To 17 May:

Ydessa Hendeles, From her wooden sleep…, 2013 (detail) photo by Robert Keziere

Draw a Venn diagram of two fascinating recent exhibitions -   the Fitzwilliam’s history of the artist’s dummy, ‘Silent Partners’; and the Barbican’s ‘Magnificent Obsessions’ cornucopia of artists as  collectors - and the intersection would contain this dramatic whole room tableau. Canadian Ydessa Helendes might best be described as a collector-curator who presents her finds with a precision which is art. Previous shows, mostly in her own Toronoto Foundation, have included a trove of 3000 photographs featuring teddy bears; here the central feature is some 180 very variously sized articulated artists’ manikins (used to supplement life models), complete with extensive seating, five mountain banjos and 18 fairground distortion mirrors contributing to an atmosphere made childishly menacing by Chopin’s ‘Golliwog’s Cakewalk’. On trend, for sure, but a trend which Helendes initiated… 

Ydessa Hendeles, From her wooden sleep…, 2013 (detail) photo by Robert Keziere


Roman Opałka: The End Is Defined @ Christie's Mayfair, 103 New Bond Street

Polish-French artist Roman Opalka’s amazing 46 year project ‘OPALKA 1965 / 1 – ∞’  used counting as a means to ‘paint irreversible time passing ad infinitum’. He reached 5,607,249 on the 233rd such canvas by the time of his death in 2011, so the typical canvas contains some 24,000 seven digit numbers. After a few years he started adding 1% of white to his initially black paint to move each canvas towards the deathly white on white he’d reached by 2008.  Was this hermetic process just measuring time for its own sake, or moving beyond the proto-modern urge to use time to advantage? Either way, this chance to take in a dozen paintnigs – the most I’ve ever seen gathered in London, and niftily paired with Darren Almond’s clock works – is well worth taking.


Martin Wilner: Making History: The Case Histories 2014 @ Hales,Tea Building, 7 Bethnal Green Rd - Shoreditch

To 16 May :

Five years ago Martin Wilner showed some of a fascinating and somewhat Opalka-like ten year project (2002-12) based on monthly accumulations of a daily drawing of what caught his eye in the newspapers. Now Wilner has embarked on a collaborative version, in which the items are taken from daily correspondence with a different person each month: Wilner transcribes the letter (often rather imaginatively) on one side of the paper, and draws what it triggers on the other. The results form calenders with Monday always top left so that slightly irregular shapes result - as months don't tend to start on Monday and finish on Sunday.  The new project not only forces Wilner out of a decade’s way of working, it also plays more directly into his USP: a half-time job as Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell Medical College. The new work is more layered, and parallels his other professional practice of  asking questions and interpreting answers to understand his subjects.

Images are Recto and Verso of Making History: Case Histories, February 2014: Dr Jorn Gunther, 2014 pen and ink on Bristol board, 41.9 x 43.5 cm copyright Martin Wilner, courtesy of Hales Gallery

Organic Sculpture @ Alison Jacques, 16-17 Berners St – Fitzrovia

Installation view with Janine Antoni's Polyurethane resin to twine, 2014 and behind it 
Pier Paolo Calzolari Untitled, 1988 - Salt, lead, refrigeration unit, refrigerator motor
This isn’t sculpture made from organic materials, but 38 works by 15 artists, all of which arrives at  broadly organic forms, resembling plants, eggs, bodies and their underlying geometries: the predominant media are ceramics and metals. It’s full of highlights, really, but hard not to mention Pier Paolo Calzolari’s refrigeration piece; Alina Szapocznikow’s polished bronze stones fitted cancerously into a tablet; the plaster works of the Slovak Maria Bartusova (1936-96), who only came to prominence in the last Documenta; and Janine Antoni’s twining of two cast spines in a transcendental connection which puts Marc Quin’s mating skeletons firmly in their place.

At the opening, visitors Sissy (left) and Marta made quite a contrast with the aesthetics of Paolo Icaro’s white plaster Window Show, 1974 (and with the rest of the show come to that)

Santiago Taccetti: ISO 9001 @ Hus Gallery, 10 Hanover St & Nasan Tur @ Blain|Southern, 4 Hanover Square

To 25 April:  15 April

Santiago Taccetti: Untitled 15 (Einsatzbereich Innen - Außen), 2015 Household acrylic on canvas 200x145 cm  - I think that would translate as 'Application Indoor - Outdoor'

Two interesting shows from Berlin-based artists either side of Hanover Street show contrasting approaches to presenting conceptual work.  At Hus (say 'Hoos') Argentinian Santiago Taccetti pursues two lines of enquiry into material properties: seven towers of aluminium ashtrays covered in speckly stone plaster become mysterious ash sculptures; and the cheapest possible household acrylic is spread roughly onto what proves to be the back of eight pre-primed white canvases. The point isn’t economy, but the chemical crudity of cheap paint, which makes it the best at crinkling the canvas into intricate patterns as it dries onto it. All that remains is to constrain that sculptural effect in a metal frame engraved with the chemical formula which controlled the unseen paint. 

Compared with that, Blain Southern’s feels like a group show. Is that a Bill Viola slow motion human reaction film of people firing guns for the first time, a Walead Beshty pulping of what proves to be Das Kapital, a Martin Creed neon displaced to the floor, where it blazes a yellow CRISIS? And has that rather creepy collection of marble body fragments come from ancient statuary?  But no, Turkish German artist Nasan Tur is adept at repurposing a wide variety of languages to his own ends, wittily pointing up the slippages between the political and personal and their conversion to art. A wall painting reproduces the results of police covering over graffiti; loss of bladder control is similarly presented as if it were a mere mark-making process; and what do we read into the post-discharge expressions of those gun virgins?

Nathan Tur: Crisis, 2014


Eric Gadsby: Works 1966-1976 @ Austin / Desmond Fine Art, Pied Bull Yard, Great Russell Street

Untitled, 1971 - oil on canvas, 137 x 91 cm

Last year, a 70 year visitor to the Kinetica Artfair mentioned to Emily Austin that he had a stack of old paintings he was thinking of throwing away, as he needed to clear his living room.  You can see why: most of the 13 shaped and layered canvasses from 1966 – 76 are  over 2m across. The represent the bulk of Eric Gadsby’s production: he gave up in favour of teaching as, despite his involvement in the New Generation exhibitions, there wasn’t much of a British market for such work. Think Ellsworth Kelly with a curvy and slightly mysterious dash of the US west coast aesthetic, and you’re not far off: Gadsby’s painting-objects have genuine presence 'in the flesh', and are neatly complemented by contemporaneous Bridget Riley studies downstairs. Good call, Emily!
Rubescence,1976 - Oil on canvas, 198cm diameter

Lucas Simões: Perpetual Instability @ Space In Between, Unit 26 (2nd Floor), Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road - Hackney

To 11 April:

Gallery co-director  Laura McFarlane demonstrates the give in  Perpetual Instability, 2015

We’re used to neo-concrete Brazilian artists, but this cracking litle show features a concrete one. Inspired by a stay at the iconically brutalist Belfron Tower in Poplar, Lucas Simões has installed a concrete floor over a base of foam, so that over the exhibition’s run it breaks up and becomes a shifting platform under foot: soft social issues impacted by modernism, perhaps, but outlasting it? The concrete is more assertive in the accompanying shelf of sculptures: now the softness is concertinas of paper, and there’s a tension: are they trapped by the structures, or insinuating their lax values into the hard world?

Empty 03, 2014

Flore Nové-Josserand & The Still House Group @ the Zabludowicz Collection,  176 Prince of Wales Rd – Chalk Farm

To 19 April:

Flore Nové-Josserand looking suitably colourful with Flatland 5
The central presentation of New York’s Still House Group of young artists is interesting without being particularly persuasive. But Flore Nové-Josserand’s 'Zabludovicz Invites' multi-disciplinary tableaus are a joy: origins in colourful rhythmic abstraction have led her to paintings of stage-like ‘sets’ which she photographs and then presents in sculptural-come-architectural settings. The photographic flatness is framed and countered, and it becomes a challenge to sort out which medium is which as the viewer encounters a politely unruly streetscape merging private and public, twee and derelict. I also like the walk-through installation by three artists chosen by the Still House Group, in which Joe-Graham-Felsen’s Church, Mosque, Synangogue is the dominant element, merging potentially conflicting houses of worship (and in the Methodist Chapel, to boot) out of the stud walls which would normally support, rather than be, an exhibition. 

Installation shot with Joe-Graham-Felsen’s Church, Mosque, Synangogue

Maaike Schoorel: Sub-Lo @ Maureen Paley, 21 Herald St - Cambridge Heath

To 12 April:

Shez with disco lights, 2014-15 oil on linen, 165 x 135 cm
London-trained Dutch painter Maaike Schoorel, who recently returned to Amsterdam from a spell in New York, is known for monochromes which push at the limits of our ability to interpret minimal marks as images. That lures us into intimate contact with what turn out to be intimate scenes derived from her own photographs. All that remains true in Schoorel’s latest work, but her mainly white on white and black on black phases have given way to greys with what are by her standards vivid flecks of some of the colours – which is all of them – contained in grey. Moreover, while it remains true that every mark is meaningful when so few stand for so much, there are subjects here, like disco lights or paint in the studio, which carry on reading abstractly even after we’ve decoded them. Schoorel’s effects are pretty much unphotographable, so get down to Bethnal Green!

Lisa in the bath, 2014-15 - oil on canvas, 135 x 175 cm

Petr Davydtchenko: Hard Bass & Jodie Carey @ Edel Assanti, 74a Newman St – Fitzrovia

   To 25 April:

Installation view: Jodie Carey

Edel Assanti make the most of their new double space to pull off a resonant pair of shows which contrast sharply even as they tackle the common ground of prehistoric ritual and its recrudescence  in modern society.  Upstairs is all light and balance as Jodie Carey transforms disparate traditions of commemorative craft into a monumental installation of plaster vessels afloat on a sea of the pieces chipped off their blocky origins; woven canvas hangings dipped into plaster; and a delicately obsessive wall drawing. Down in the basement Russian artist Petr Davydtchenko provides a potted history of St Petersburg’s Hard Bass dance craze, executed in animal masks in most of his found footage, the growling sound system pumping out of sculptures into Stygian gloom.

Installation view: Petr Davydtchenko


John Skoog: Shadowland @ Pilar Corrias, 54 Eastcastle Street - Fitzrovia

To 17 April:

Still from Shadowlands, 2014

Swedish artist John Skoog has created a highly effective two-part show which pivots around the transformational ambitions of American cinema. Downstairs is a 15 minute 16mm black-and-white film of 44 locations in the topographical a diverse state of California, each chosen because they were used in films from the black-and-white era to represent other parts of the world. A list enables you to  follow what stood in for where. Upstairs are 21 photographs of US 'movie palaces' from the 20s and 30s which themselves looks to evoke other places architecturally. You could, then, be watching  Big Bear Lake as Japan in St Paul as a Spanish Castle... 

Still from Shadowlands, 2014


Simon Mullan: Popularis @ Belmacz, 45 Davies Street - Bond St

To 18 April:

Simon Mullan in pristine bomber jacket with 'naked’ versions

This show of facing triples contrasts two streams of work at the art–non-art interface. Simon Mullan’s tile collages exploit the skills he learned as a teenager in the building industry. They may look like bathroom décor, but the relationships of cut tile shapes, the three shades of grout and slightly differing whites à la Flavin (caused by using different tile manufacturers) and the way some tiles sneak around the back to emphasise these ‘paintings’ as objects, reveal that these are art. As are the Berliner’s collaged paintings made from the front of bomber jackets… but not the other triple on show here: the ‘naked’  jackets which remain after his collaging activities. They’re mere collateral, and as such are not for sale, but worn for free by people judged deserving.

'Roger.Samir and Kilian', 2015 - Tiles and wood, 89×116 ×4cm


Thomas Joshua Cooper: Scattered Waters: Sources Streams Rivers @ The Fleming Collection, 13 Berkeley Street - Mayfair

Twilight - Rapids on the River Ness,The Weir, Dochgarroch,Inverness, Inverness-shire, Scotland, 2002-2014 - silver gelatin print, hand toned and printed by the artist

Thomas Joshua Cooper has restricted himself to a narrow process for the past 45 years, 30 of them in Scotland after moving there from his native California: he walks miles with a 30kg kit to makes pictures of the outdoors, one shot per site. He uses an 1898 5 x 7 inch plate camera which he bought from the 70-year-old son of its original owner plus tripod. Cooper prints, avoiding any modern process, onto the world’s last substantial supply of silver-rich paper, which he bought up when Agfa went bust in 2006. Why so? He finds slowness suits him, he explained at the opening of this welcome selection of his Scottish river works, as a way of paying respectful attention to the spirit of things - grass, trees, water, air - and saying thank you for place, time and light – often capturing the dark of dawn or dusk with long exposures. The 15 images here are certainly quick with the sense of water as life force for the land.

Early evening - Near the mouth of the River North Esk St Cyrus Beach, Kincardineshire, Scotland, 2000-2014 -  Silver gelatin print, hand toned and printed by the artist


Henry Wessel: Incidents @ Tate Modern

Tate has a recent penchant for arguably underappreciated American photographers: I can't say I wasn't bowled over by Harry Callahan but Henry Wessel is more impressive. He moved from New Jersey to California in 1971 to chase the year round light, and his pictorially acute affirmations of interest in the world feed into the 27 photographs selected and ordered to make his summary work 'Incidents'. These work persuasively individual images of strangers, replete with shadow play, unexpected tilting and internal rhymes such as between grass and hair, crutch and railing, thoughts and branches; and as a group they emphasise vantage points as they move between youth and age, men and women, singles and couples to build a putative narrative.


Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries the artist and Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh (Cooper) + at Breese Little: Alexandre Singh, Number Eight, 2014, Photographer Kate Lacey, Giclee print, 138.75 x 111 cm, © Alexandre Singh, Courtesy Spruth Magers   Ged Quinn, Nekyia Modern, 2014, Oil on linen, 36.8 x 71.2cm, © The Artist. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photography Stephen White.