Monday, 21 July 2014


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


Sigrid Holmwood: A Peasant Painter’s Garden @ ASC Gallery, Erlang House, 128 Blackfriars Rd - near St George’s Circus, Southwark

To 8 Aug:

Three Women and a Cow, 2013: Mushroom pigment made from blood red webcaps (cortinarius sanguineus), chalk, chrome yellow, indigo, and red lead bound in egg on hand woven linen

Anglo-Swede Sigrid Holmwood, whose family background is in farming, has studied how the peasant paintings of South West Sweden emerged from medieval sources. Seeing them as an alternative to bourgeois accounts of art history, she’s remade the types of brush, and the earth, mineral and plant-based pigments they used, and depicted the peasant painter's world as one ‘full of magic, where meaning and emotion are inscribed into all materials, and the animal, vegetable, human and super-natural are all interconnected'. Her way of painting parallels returning to traditional farming in contradistinction to modern machine-dominated methods. Holmwood’s lively style is at one with a filmed performance in which she rides a giant paintbrush-come hobby horse as if it were a broomstick…. Add spalting, secret hex signs, mycorrhizal relationships and the modern twist of using mushroom colours, and there's plenty going on.

Sigrid Holmwood with brush

Samara Scott: High Street @ the Zabludowicz Collecton, 176 Prince of Wales Rd – Chalk Farm

Samara Scott describes her practice as a ‘slow digestion of cosmetic, edible and chemical cultural bedris’. That turns out to be largely a means of trapping the fluorescently pastel-coloured experiences of a synthetically freed body. The key development in her language here are resinous horizontal paintings – come sculptural accumulations – come low tables - come flatbed scanners, raised on various props. Add a toothpaste drawing on the wall, rolls of sellotape inserted into textile, and a multi-hued painting featuring the gussets from tights, and plenty else, and you have one of five good reasons to visit Anita Z’s summer shows, the other highlights being a persuasive selection of Sam Falls’ paintings, sculpture and less often seen videos; and a rebooted version of Rachel Pimm’s excellent show from Enclave in April.

                 Rasbs Blubs Strawbs Glee, 2014 - styrofoam, tight toes, tight crotches


Eric van Hove: V12 @ Copperfield Gallery, 6 Copperfield Street - Southwark

To 1 Aug, then 1-20 Sept:

V12 Laraki: Alternator (2013): Yellow copper, red copper, nickel silver, mahogany wood, cedar wood, cow bone, sand stone, cotton, ram's horn, cowskin, tin, chinese superglue and cow horn.

In an unusual twist on work not being what it seems, the apparent bling of intricate abstract sculptures in the second show of the third gallery to use this spacious former church hall is far from the point. Rather, they’re part of a project which revisits a failed dream of manufacturing a luxury sports car wholly in Morocco by commissioning to-scale versions of the 463 components in the Mercedes V12 engine which Abdeslam Laraki was eventually forced to use in the ‘Luraki Fulgara’. As such, it’s a social sculpture project orchestrated by the multi-national Van Hove to empower 57 of the estimated three million self-employed Moroccan craftsmen to make something other than tourist fodder.  They worked reclaimed and traditional materials such as cow bone and recycled aluminium to the point of looking precious, so harnessing traditional skills in a sort of reverse engineering of factory line production.

V12 Laraki: Alternator (2013) - exploded view

Phantom Limbs @ Pilar Corrias, 54 Eastcastle Street - Fitzrovia

To 1 Aug:

Antoine Catala:   :)

I was fascinated, if not wholly unbaffled, by Phantom Limbs. It posits a parallel between the way the digital affects us at a distance with the phenomenon of a lost body part which is still perceived as being present. Two artists new to me making striking contributions. Rachel Rose’s 10 minute film Palisades in Palisades (2014), projected with a welcome lounging mat, swoops atmospherically between remote distance and intense close-ups as it explores the site where a battle from the American Revolutionary War was fought.  Antoine Catala’s :) (2014), is an emoticon turned into a mildly robotic kinetic sculpture which varies its expression winningly as it trundles towards you; while his Storage (2013) represents residual memory by varying shape according to whether a vacuum sucks it in or not: a sort of reverse inflatable. 

Antoine Catala:   :)

Leo Fitzmaurice: /_\  @ The Sunday Painter, 1st Floor, 12-16 Blenheim Grove - Peckham 

To 27 July:

/_\, 2014 -  gummed paper tape on gallery walls
As another wordless title/_\  - hints, this is a show of framing rather than direct content. Merseyside artist Leo Fitzmaurice shows a near-empty gallery with what look like two small abstract paintings, but turn out to be (or do they?) arrangements of J-cloths and dusters - and how he got such a clean look, perhaps. His primary interventions are to soften the light to a cool white by applying a thin vinyl to the windows, and to run gummed brown tape along every edge and join in the architecture. The effect is a deconstructive demonstration of the parts from which the room is made… which proves, when one’s thoughts turn to the collapsed distinction between production and display, to be content enough.

J-cloth, 2013 - Permanent marker on tracing-paper


An Impossible Bouquet: Four Masterpieces by Jan van Huysum @ Dulwich Picture Gallery

To 21 Sept:

Vase with Flowers, c. 1715

The obvious reasons to visit the country’s oldest public gallery are the permanent collection (all that Poussin!) and (also to 21 Sept) a winning account of Ben and Winifred Nicholson and their circle in the 1920s. Yet there’s also a focussed gathering of four floral still lives by the Dutch painter Jan van Huysum (1682-1749).  Dulwich’s own example, set against a dark background, is from 1715. Here it’s joined by three loans which follow his 1720 switch in to setting his Rococo bouquets against gardens with statuary. Their pre-refrigeration ‘impossibility’ is, of course, that Huysum took up to two years over each painting, and so shows blooms from quite different seasons - up to 40 different species plus maybe ten insects in each - all of which are informatively set out by means of interpretative keys. 

Flowers in a Vase with Crown Imperial and Apple Blossom at the Top and a Statue of Flora, 1731-32


Sam Francis @ Bernard Jacobson Gallery, 6 Cork St – Central

Untitled (#2 Pri-Rain), 1964 - gouache on paper

As John Yau says in the accompanying book to this extensive and beautiful survey of works on paper by the Californian artist Sam Francis (1923-94), he’s hard to place as an American abstractionist, being neither an Expressionist nor a Colour Field painter. Plenty lay behind his fluid and spontaneous-looking work – flight, botany, Zen, Jung, alchemy, dreams and his considerable physical sufferings from a plane crash, tuberculosis, kidney disease and cancer. This show ranges from early Tobeyesque explorations to his petal-like phase to his radical use of the ‘empty centre’, to the ‘blue balls’ to structured pours as those background factors are reflected in different formal approaches. All of which might be bracketed as using colour to trammel between the physical world of paint and ground and the immaterial world of thought and air.

Untitled (L.A.), 1976

PERFECTIoNISM @ Griffin Gallery, 21 Evesham St – Latimer Road

To Aug 30:

Katerina Blannin: Three Piece  Suite, Vert, 2014
To 30 Aug: www.

Becca Pelly-Fry, the director of Winsor & Newton's lively space, has chosen ten artists whose work, shares an underlying 'perfectionism of process'. As teed up by an intelligently ludic wall text by Nick Hornby, they range from Lee Edwards’ intimate portraits on wood knolls to Inbal Strauss’ meticulously wrought pseudo-functional sculptures to Dale Adcock’s paradoxically intricate control of monumental surfaces to Iavor Lubomirov's canny sculpting of W&N's own graph paper. Katrina Blannin derives angular geometries from grids, then groups the forms into triptychs to complicate their visual dance of ghosting and mirroring. It's all precisely calibrated, yet the weave of the linen, along with the odd stray hair, is allowed to insinuate humanising touches of what one might call perfectly judged imperfections. 

Dale Adcock: Tomb, 2012



The Combinational @ Studio 1.1, 57a Redchurch St – Shoreditch

To 27 July:

Sarah Anne Johnson: Kissing Gold, 2013
It would be illogical not to recommend my own show! It starts from the found and the collaged as dominant modern modes, and looks at how six artists combine materials in sculpture, video, painting, photography and mergers thereof, to reflect on how we live together. Moreover, the show is itself a combination of Canadians – Sarah Anne Johnson and Wil Murray – and Britons – Susan Collis, Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Suzanne Moxhay and Catherine Herbert. Sarah, who flew in from Winnipeg for the opening, has installed 34 photographs from her Wonderlust series. She travelled throughout Canada to find people willing (but not too willing!) to be photographed in their homes during intimate moments which she then altered to enhance a refreshing variety of moods from tender to comedic to absurd.

Sarah Anne Johnson: Burnt, 2013

Jimmie Durham: Traces and Shiny Evidence @ the Parasol Unit, 14 Wharf Road

Smashing, 2004 (video still)
Some works lure you into a repetitive logic to compelling effect. I found myself repeatedly watching ‘just one more’ object get dispatched in Jimmie Durham’s 90 minute video of bureaucratic smashing . Durham, in a suit, sits at a desk. Assistants hand him a stream of items, each of which he pounds impassively with a prehistoric rock, whether with one blow or with mechanical persistence (he comes down 30 times on an alarm clock). Then he stamps and signs a certificate, and puts away the pen, ink pad and die we know he’ll need again in a minute. That's upstairs: below, the Berlin-based Cherokee's colourful installation of oil drums, pipes and spills proposes a compelling, if simple, echo of destruction.

Traces and Shiny Evidence, 2014 (detail)



Candida Höfer: Villa Borghese at Ben Brown Fine Arts12 Brook's Mews - Mayfair

To 19 Sept:

Villa Borghese Roma XVIII, 2012

Candida Höfer's Villa Borghese series is typical of her intimately monumental, formally similar records of culturally significant public interiors: she uses natural light only (Höfer adjusts her exposure time from minutes to hours as necessary), includes no people (though this set is statue-heavy by way of stand-in), centres the far wall from a slightly raised viewpoint, and generates an air of splendour and permanence. Indeed, despite the lack of digital intervention, you might say that Höfer  presents such spaces more as we might imagine them to be than as they would be likely to appear to us, were we there.

Phyllida Barlow: Fifty Years of Drawings @ Hauser & Wirth, 23 Savile Row - Central

To 26 July: - has 123 images of the show!

7 Bathing Hut, circa 1970

Filling a run of large galleries with 500 or so drawings culled from the archive of a sculptor may not sound the most stimulating prospect, yet this feels far more than a supplement to Phyllida's Barlow's feisty occupation of Tate Britain.  She has a four stage process: (1) initial idea sketches (2) worked up 'drawings', which are typically paintings full of colour (3) sculptural forms (4) combination / reuse of those forms. Here we have stage 2: given the historically temporary nature of most of Barlow's stage 4 production, as close as we'll get to a full retrospective – an energising demonstration of sculptural  thinking with more ideas for painting than the average dauber could shake a brush at...  
Untitled 2001
Rachael Champion: Primary Producers @ Hales Gallery, Tea Building, 7 Bethnal Green Rd – Shoreditch

Primary Producers, 2014
Hales’ space has two highly intrusive distinctive central columns. Far from worrying about sightlines, London-based New Yorker Rachael Champion uses them as the starting point for a modularly irregular, organically geometric set of shapes – half-building, half-landscape – which subsube the gallery in a combination of pebbledash (publicly derided by many, but secretly loved equally?), water, and the basic life form of algae (cleared from garden ponds, but an important source of oxygen, a super-food and a putative fuel)…  The result is a striking multi-ponded suburban takeover of Shoreditch’s cool which may speak, as the show’s blurb has it, of our ‘ever-mounting Anthropocene crises’.


Will Cotton @ Ronchini Gallery, 22 Dering St - Mayfair

To 9 August:

The Deferred Promise of Complete Satisfaction, 2014 - oil on linen

New Yorker Will Cotton’s first British show neatly summarises his practice in the pinks and whites of a macaron-hatted portrait; a candy floss cloudscape;  an abstracted wax-textured close-up of cake decor; and a photorealistic nude riding an ice cream fish. Koons, Johns and Boucher come to mind, and there are painterly issues at stake in, for example, the variety of colours in the whites. The dominant impression, though, is of sweetness pushed to an extreme which is both repulsive and compulsive, setting up the questions of which wins – of whether humankind is trapped by incessant desire or blessed by the gratification available – and of whether Cotton subverts or exploits the lure of what he so elaborately bakes and paints. 

Persistence of Desire 3, 2014, oil and wax on linen


Pangaea: New Art From Africa and Latin America @ the Saatchi Gallery - Sloan Square

To Nov:

Rafael Gómezbarros:  'Casa Tomada' (Seized House)

There are plenty of big shows which it hardly seems necessary to mention: such brilliance as  Matisse at the Tate Modern; Veronese, all theatre and colour at the National Gallery, any lack of depth well-aligned to modern tastes – or at any rate to mine; Phyllida Barlow in ramshackle glory at Tate Britain; and Giuseppe Penone at Gagosian. And the less convincing: Schnabel at The Dairy, for example, or Herman Bas's two sites for Victoria Miro. Then there are mixtures like Chris Marker at the Whitechapel, and Saatchi’s new ragbag of South America and Africa… if you’ve never been to the excellent Jack Bell Gallery, there’s a crash course here as three rooms are given over entirely to expanded versions of four of the African explorer’s lively shows. Still, Pangaea’s signature room is its first: Rafael Gómezbarros' 440 giant ants swarm the walls, each made of two cast human skulls with branches for legs, and held together by dirty bandaging. 

 Images courtesy the relevant artists and galleries + Mary Boone Gallery, New York (Cotton)


Wil Murray: In My Culture Food Was Not Very Important


at Studio 1.1 Gallery, 57a Redchurch St, Shoreditch

with Susan Collis, Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Suzanne Moxhay, Wil

Murray, Sarah Anne Johnson and Catherine Herbert

July 4th - 27th

private view July 3rd 6 - 9pm

The found and the collaged are dominant modern modes: what artists choose to use, and how and why they present or combine them, count for more than their ability with traditional techniques. One could also say that life in most of the world is less about individual survival than it would have been in pre-modern eras, more about how we live together and whether we can survive that. The Combinational looks at how six artists combine materials in sculpture, video, painting, photography and mergers thereof, to reflect on how we live together . Moreover, the show is itself a combination of Canadians – Sarah Anne Johnson and Wil Murray – and Britons – Susan Collis, Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom , Suzanne Moxhay and Catherine Herbert.

                                                 INSTALLATION & OPENING

Fellow artist Dagmara Genda helps Sarah Anne Johnson install Wonderlust

Wonderlust (detail)

Bella Easton shows her jewellery to Sarah Anne Johnson

Installation view with Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadem's film and Catherine Herbert's Cacti Combinations prominent

Catherine Herbert, Marguerite Horner and Uliana Apatina

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadem at centre of the external throng

Suzanne Moxhay at centre

Alys Williams (Wil Murray's gallerist) with the cold climate combination of Uliana (Siberia), Dagmara (Poland) and Sarah (Winnipeg)

Susan Collis
Suzanne talks to Sarah and Dagmara

                                                ABOUT THE SHOW

                           Sarah Anne Johnson

Party Boat, 2012

Sarah Anne Johnson (lives and works in Winnipeg, Canada) trained in photography at Yale, but takes that starting point to explore herself through such diverse projects tree planting, eco-volunteering in the Galapagos and joining a scientific expedition to sail through the arctic pack ice. One unifying approach across these projects has been an urge to expand the photographic record by inhabiting the experience afresh, such as by modelling the site or intensifying the photographs’ effects by chemical or painted interventions. Her series Wonderlust explores how she herself deals with intimacy, using other individuals and couples making love as her surrogates. Having photographed them in their homes, Johnson made studio interventions to point up and play off the wide range of emotional experiences of sex. From escapist to tantric to comic to aggressive, Johnson explores, critiques and celebrates the combinational of lovemaking – and leaves her viewers with an uncomfortable mix of voyeurism, bashfulness and sentimentality.

Splatter Paint, 2013

                           Susan Collis


The oyster’s our world, 2004: Wooden stepladder, mother of pearl, shell, coral,
fresh water pearl, cultured pearls, white opal, diamond

You may know Susan Collis as an artist whose work is easily missed, as she’s played with the values of material, labour and art by reproducing, for example, what look like accidental splashes of paint in mother of pearl. Collis is less interested, though, in invisibility than in shifting the perceived value and in rescuing the overlooked. What seems accidental and worthless proves to be deliberate and expensive to produce, whether in materials or labour. Here she takes those interest in somewhat different directions. In Depth Charge she brings together leads from propeller pencils, combining many potential drawings at the same time as repurposing the basis of drawing to minimalist sculptural ends. For value transfer of The Queens pearls Collis extracts the monarch's one visible earring from a dozen £50 notes, to form a pearl necklace and a face of sorts beneath a drawing pin nose. 


Anything really, 2011: 0.9 mm pencil leads, framed

                  Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom 



              Hot Chocolate, 2009: Sony 32″ Monitor,’The Alternative Fireplace’ DVD,

                                         Porcelain Cat, Tempered Dark Chocolate

Sculptor and film maker Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom (lives and works in London) uses the backdrop of the studio, in which everyday objects and found audio and visual footage are merged and animated into short performances, to document art as an activity through video, photography and installation.
Golden Underground shows him playing a piano with a paintbrush. Mindful of Proust's ‘remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were’, Boakye-Yiadom aims to investigate the connection between recording and the present. Photographed plantains invade the filmed space in lively style; the sliding motion of the ‘moonwalk’ dance step is in turn slid across the space on a tugged TV, emphasizing the object behind the image; the slippery relationship between the production of image and words is wittily emphasised by setting Picasso's painting movements to Felix Okoye's all-too-true words: 'It would be better not to know so many things than to know so many things that are not so'.

Golden Underground, 2011

                                                 Suzanne Moxhay

             Byway, 2012

The work of Suzanne Moxhay (lives and works in London) doesn’t immediately look like collage, but her haunting landscapes and interiors are actually composed by building up miniature ‘flats’ in the style of film sets, hence the ambiguities of scale and depth. AS a result, although they may look realistic at first, on closer inspection they begin to fall apart The familiar yet distanced atmosphere is explained by the main sources of the archive which feeds that process: images from the 1950-70’s, with the National Geographic Magazine prominent. To what extent, then, is how we live now a function of how the past has fed into the present? If significantly so, then Moxhay’s visions seem to point towards a foreboding, if not apocalyptic, world to come. 


    Copse, 2014

                                     Wil Murray


 If You Lived Free Or Died Here You Would Be Home Or Dead By Now, 2010

Wil Murray (lives and works in Calgary, Canada) hybridises painting and collage. His method arose from the thought that – although it’s inevitable nowadays that paintings will be photographed and distributed on the Internet – painters never address that. So Murray asked how he could move that into his process. The result is that you need to look rather carefully to sort out the nature of what you see in his constructs: is that a stroke of paint on a flat surface; paint which has been applied to glass, removed from it and inserted elsewhere; a photographed swathe of paint, cut out and collaged, sometimes alongside their original; or a photograph of another works (or, perhaps, of his studio). When found photographic elements and three dimensionality are also in play, complex settings arise for what is at root the basic painterly gesture. Adieu Vielle Europe 5 combines scenes from old travel and tourist photography books as if through an on-screen wipe. 


Adieu Vielle Europe 5, 2014

                                  Catherine Herbert

     Eurv, 2013

Catherine Herbert (lives and works in London and Chelmsford) makes intricate collages which combine cut-out shapes with acrylic and glitter, using a template made from her own preliminary drawings. So, for example, images of trees are applied to a shape taken from a drawing of an ivy’s growth, linking what strangles and negates the tree to its reappearance through different means. Other collages enact a parallel move by creating animalistic forms out of images of genetically distorted life, so building in the consequences of our maltreatment of the environment. Given those concerns, her combinations of cacti don’t just bring an alternative spiky beauty, they pose such questions as: is this unnatural act a stand-in for human relations or for genetic distortion? And, if the former, is that relationship symbiotic or parasitic?


               Cacti Combination, 2013

Images and participation courtesy of the artists and Julie Saul & Stephen Bulger galleries (Sarah Anne Johnson), Seventeen Gallery (Susan Collis),  Vitrine (Wil Murray) and Bearspace (Suzanne Moxhay).