Wednesday, 7 October 2015


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

The season has begun! Ai Wei Wei at the RA, Tate Modern goes Pop, William Kentridge’s expansion to cover China and revolutionary France as well as South Africa probably makes for the most ambitious show (Marian Goodman), and the recrudescence of 1950’s Cuban abstraction at David Zwirner for perhaps the least expected. You can – and should -  still catch Thomas Ruff at Gagosian West and Alice Anderson at the Wellcome Collection. The ICA continues in its current lively way with a new Fig-2 every Monday and Prem Sahib in the wings (24 Sep – 15 Nov). Or else there' are piled rocks aplenty, cunts, cocks and pretty much everything…

Neil Gall: Arrange your face @ DomoBaal, 3 John St – Holborn

Nightwatch, 2013 - oil on gesso panel, 52 x 36 cm

It’s ten years since Aberdonian Neil Gall showed solo in London: he’s still painting from photographs of the models which he constructs of studio bric-a-brac, but his sources have become less sculptural. The faces in these models, which cohere into caricatural types through a nice mix of strategy and accident, invade the viewer’s space with a flattened-up-close intensity. That’s enhanced by Gall's uneven, paint-like use of varnish, which glistens sensually.  The title ‘Arrange your face’ picks up on the  Arcimboldoesque aspect, but is also a phrase common in Wolf Hall: that fits particularly well with the contrasting pair of ‘Nightwatch’ and ‘Cut-Out’, as the latter is an empty version of the former’s headspace, bringing to mind the iconoclastic smashing of the Reformation. 

Cut-out  - oil on gesso panel67 x 51cm


Mustafa Hulusi: Flyposting @ London Metropolitan University, 59 Whitechapel High St

Olive trees on the street

This unusual show brings the history of London-based Turkish Cypriot Mustafa Hulusi’s flyposting practice to the gallery context, starting with late 90’s declamations of his palpably alien and then unknown name, merging it with disco effects to confuse more categories than just the fine art / graffiti / design divides. 2005 saw the debut of what became his graphic signature, the ‘expander’ which suggests heightened states of consciousness, be they aesthetic – as when paired with flowers – or otherwise. They were popular enough to stay on London’s sites well beyond their planned couple of weeks. More recently the sensual excesses of giant pomegranates and the Levantine image-as-ground of gnarled olive trees have taken centre stage. As well as posters on the wall, we get a documentary slide show and a broadsheet of further images.

Pomegranate in the gallery

Ugo Rondinone: clouds + mountains + waterfalls @ Sadie Coles, 62 Kingly St - Central

To 24 Oct:

orange yellow green blue pink red mountain, 2015

Ugo Rondinone isn't one to do things by halves, and this elemental air-water-stone / natural-romantic-existential show is no exception. Against the backdrop of a dozen ethereal cloud paintings which shape meditative skies into upper borders of cumulus, the New York-based Swiss artist places 33 ‘mountains’ made of 3-6 rocks stacked vertically on concrete plinths, essentially abstract and yet sometimes suggesting figures as well as landscape. They're painted in supernaturally intense Day-Glo colours, so that the whole ensemble has London galleries' biggest current wow factor. The waterfalls stand apart from this: spindly aluminium cascades which look more like Indian rope tricks.


James Hopkins: The Mirror’s Mirror @ Union Gallery,

To 28 Nov:

Stoned Turn - Turned Stone, 2015

It’s hard – says its curator, modestly * – not to commend this perfectly pitched quincunx of sculptures by James Hopkins, each of which reconciles opposites or sets up a paradox Thus a flame burns in water, stone mounts a ladder or hovers in the air, black turns to white and the word ‘mirror’ remains the word ‘mirror’, even though it’s reflected in ‘the mirror’s mirror’.  That then, is the set of illusions – all with intimations of what lies beyond appearances, from the nature of reality to the shadow of death to the possibility of an afterlife. What’s more, ‘Out of the Living at Supplement Gallery, which is next door to Union, is also well worth seeing.. 

Scaled Ladder, 2014

Judy Chicago: Star Cunts & Other Attractions Riflemaker, 79 Beak St - Soho

To 31 Oct:

Star Cunts #2, 1969

This economical yet broad survey of the key years in Judy Chicago’s development sees her emerge as a ballsy counter to the ab ex norm in early sixties LA (with studies for the car hood paintings, now on show at Tate Modern) then slip into less combative abstraction before finding her mojo by applying the colour lessons learned to a series named for how male painters bonded through matey insults. ‘Well, I’m a cunt’, I take Chicago to be saying in these subtly orificial images, ‘but I’m going to be a star’. She then took on another taboo – narrative – and taught herself china painting (shown in a butterfly plate sequence from 1973-74), and fused attitude and technique to famous effect in the 39 place settings of The Dinner Party, 1974-79, represented here by test plates and some of the 'goddess' sculptural elements.

Goddess #6, 1977

Gelitin: Prospopoei @ Massimo de Carlo, South Audley St - Mayfair

To Oct 10:

Installation view with Golems nearest to camera
In 'Prospopoei' * the cheerfully anarchic and obscene Austrian collective Gelitin escape the bourgeois value of consistency through a hugely varied display on the ground floor, from a stained vases and toilet to wildly busy drawings and flowers in their signature material of plasticine. A table of blobby white glazed ceramic 'Golems' is self-effacing in this cacophony, but the perspective shifts when you go downstairs to see that - upping the ante on the male genius painting with his penis - the film shows the four men of Gelitin literally fucking the clay into the forms we’ve just seen. 

Still from the making-of documentary  'I Love My Job'
* Prospopoeia'a figure of speech in which an imagined or absent person or thing is represented as speaking'. The press release uses two more attractive words you might need to check; rocambolesque: 'fantastic, incredible, fabulous' and fardel: 'small bundle'


Michael Bauer: butter Bebop (Transatlantic Crème Dreams) @ Alison Jacques Gallery, 16-18 Berners St - Fitzrovia

To 8 Oct:

Butter Bebop, 2015 - Oil on canvas, 229 x 247 cm

Michael Bauer’s colourful new paintings give the impression he’s enjoying piling up their illogically coherent  mash-ups of content and styles. On primed canvases stained close to the colour of unprimed canvas, we find about ten each of three categories. First, clearly figurative elements, often set to ping off each other oddly: Butter Bebop, for example, has hand, plinth, broccoli, baseball bats, clothes hanger and book. Second, abstract marks, variously smeared and drawn. Third, ‘in-betweeners’ - either crisp abstract zones which looks as if they could be objects – here a stripy tray, perhaps; or vague marks which may or may not signify jelly, hedges, flowers, breasts and an iguana.  If these are portraits of minds, then my own would suggest they have it about right.

Creme Dream 4, 2015 Oil on canvas, 184 x 153cm


Sinta Tantra: Fantastic / Chromatic @ Kristin Hjellegjerde, 533 Old York Road, Wandsworth

Simple Races No. 2, (Le Corbusier), 2015
 I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the colourful Kristin Hjellegjerde, who is herself married to an architect, should show the Anglo-Balinese Sinta Tantra. Her work brings a constructive aspect  to the exploration of colour, is here inspired by a book on colour* which was recommended to Tantra by her own architect partner. But the key to this show is how the space is split into three colours zones which successively bring us in from, separate us off from, and then lead us back to the world. First pink vinyl plays with light through the window; second abstraction’s all around against intensely coloured walls; then the found colour of bird prints by Audubon enters to triple the Tantran (or should that be ‘Tantric’?) chroma. . 

Night view through the window

* William Gass: On Being Blue: A Philosophical Enquiry, which is actually more like prose poetry than philosophy: blue ‘is the colour consciousness becomes when caressed; it is the dark inside of sentences, sentences which follow their own turnings inward out of sight like the whorls of a shell’ etc… 


Yada Naidenov: Eye Scaffold @ Josh Lilley Gallery, 44-46 Riding House St – Fitzrovia

To 8 Oct:

Young Mozambique-born London-based sculptor Yana Naidenov has a nice way of melding permanence and impermanence with a little duplicity thrown in. Her  tottering concrete geometries come across as playful variants on the Communist era monuments now deteriorating in the former Yugoslavia - but are actually made from pulped paper, so giving a different spin on the vulnerabilities involved. Taking the role of insubstantial paintings are framing devices with more transparency than pigment: there's reason as well as aesthetic in play, as their marker pen lines are coaxed through the paper by Vaseline, and the outer breath-light covers protect the undrying surface.


Jess Fuller: Fairy Smoke @ Herald St., 2 Herald St - Bethnal Green

To 4 Oct:

Fairy Smoke, 2015 - acrylic and gesso on canvas, 385 x 254 cm
There seems to be an endless supply of young American painters ready to be introduced to London audiences, and Brooklyn-based Jess Fuller is one of the most convincing. Matisse, Arp and Miro are channelled into an exuberant language all her own as she combines multiple pieces of canvas which have been variously shaped, folded, crumpled, dyed, put through the washing machine etc. She moves them round on the floor until these hints of 'women's work' parody male painterly traditions in a lively dance of surface detail and somewhat phallic biomorphism with titles which pick up wittily on possible associations. 

Lettuce offering, 2015 - acrylic and gesso on canvas, 238 x 205 cm

Moyra Davey: You’re a nice guy to let me hold you like this @ Greengrassi,1a Kempsford Road- Kennington

To 24 Oct:

Dr. Y., Dr. Y., 2014 - 15 digital C-prints, tape, labels, postage, ink Each: 12 x 18 inches overall: 60 x 54 inches Photo: Marcus Leith. Courtesy of greengrassi, London

New York based Canadian Moyra Davey seamlessly melds tone and structure in her films and collages of photographs which have been through the postal system: the tone relaxed, casual, intimate, yet literary; the structure apparently rambling and accidental yet arriving somewhere nonetheless. Here the film sees her take off from  Derek Jarman's last film Blue to pitch blindess, Borges, process, Anne Sexton, curtains, Julia Kristeva and  PJ Harvey into an evocatively meditative half hour. The postings use the functional chance abstraction of parcel tape, folding and stamps in making public traffic from the personal: coffee stops, the weather, old receipts, the thought that her dog defecating echoes herself giving birth in both pose and the urge to expel...

Still from Notes on Blue, 2015

Ralph Fleck @ Purdy Hicks, 65 Hopton Street - Bankside

To 28 Sept: www.
Londonbild 7. VII, 2015 - oil on canvas, 200 x 200cm

Unusually, Purdy Hicks give both floors over fully to one artist – but then it is their best painter, Freiburg-based Ralph Fleck, known for his ability to combine a seething abstract intensity close-to with figurative coherence when you step back. There’s something of a logical upper and lower split to his range of subjects here. Upstairs are aerial cityscapes and mountains disappearing into particularly energetic mist; downstairs it’s dying flowers, books and the city reduced to post-quake rubble.  Add a colour-chart-like canvas, which  could be buildings or books viewed from above, and these 25 paintings cover an impressive range.

Bild 3/VII Beben, 2015 - Oil on canvas, 200 x 200cm



Dominic Beattie: Studio @ FOLD, 158 New Cavendish St - Fitzrovia

Dominic Beattie in 'Studio Chair' with Untitled, 2015
Dominic Beattie's 2014 show in Fold's old space - like all his practice in the last three years - saw him knock up small scale, cheerfully abstract constructions with a DIY aesthetic (see the following choice). Given the run of a more expansive new space, he’s gone bigger and more complex, with four collages up to 10 feet wide which layer spray paint, ink, aluminium tape, paper and varnish, the dominant element being the jazzy use of tape to make fractured geometries with echoes of TV static, sound waves and op art. Beattie thoughtfully provides four chairs in what might have been sculpture’s space as monochrome resting points which encourage longer engagement with the paintings: they're built to his own design, hand coloured and finished with a rather cool 'Dead Flat' varnish.
Untitled, 2015

Invited @ Fair & Co, 9 Hillgate Street - Notting Hill Gate
To 19 Sept:

   Alexi Williams: Untitled (Garden of Transgression), 2015 - plaster / aluminium on dolly,

‘Invited’ is a pop-up in a just-renovated and surprisingly extensive Notting Hill house in which many separate spaces are turned over to a mixture of contemporary art and medieval carvings as the property is marketed. I was almost bound to like it, as Flora Fairbairn and Philly Adams’ curation could have been derived from Paul’s Art World: I’ve written on recent shows by Jodie Carey, Alastair Mackie, Liane Lang, Alejandro Ospina, Jodie Carey, Rafael Gómezbarros, Boo Saville, Dominic Beattie, Phoebe Unwin and Tim Ellis… and they all have good work here! And yet I was most struck by the new to me Alexi Williams, who has three rather baroque plaster sculptures on dollies: they look a little as if Rebecca Warren has turned to working with a cake decorating gun, but were made by filling and casting the somewhat floral complexities of cows’ stomachs.

Dominic Beattie: Untitled, 2014 - ink, spray paint, enamel and varnish on board, 47 x 30 cm


Oleg Tolstoy: Who’s Driving You @ Carousel, 71 Blandford Street – Marylebone

To 25 Sept by appointment: / / 07766756589

Oleg Tolstoy is a commercial portrait photographer who also takes on art projects. A room above the Carousel restaraunt holds his latest: after careful consideration of Philip Lorca-diCorcia 2006 legal victory, which held that he could take street photographs without his subjects’ consent, Tolstoy set out to catch not taxis but night images of their drivers at a central London junction. Ten such images selected from thousands are shown here alongside semi-abstract shots of traffic and a six minute film shot from cars, which turns passing headlights into kinetic patterning. The battle of black cab vs. Uber driver underlies this atmospheric documentation of what still proves to be an overwhelmingly male world - and none of them look too happy.


Out of Chaos - Ben Uri: 100 Years in London @ Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing - The Strand 

To 13 Dec:

Arthur Segal: Halen, La Ciotat (Harbour Scene), 1929 - oil

The Ben Uri Gallery has had a dozen homes over a hundred years, and built a significant collection of art by Jewish emigres. It’s now hoping to find a new home under the banner of art, identity and migration, and to expand its ethnic reach to represent London as a home for multiple ethnic communities.  This show, featuring 70 of the collection’s inventory of 1300, illustrates what that might look like for the Jewish century. It’s not a parade of masterpieces, though there are a couple, but it is full of fascinating work, much of it by little-known figures, and it is exceptionally well presented via text and free audio commentaries. Bomberg, Gertler and Auerbach show well, and I rather liked the sort-of cubist pointillism of Romainian-born Arthur Segal's harbour scene.

David Bomberg: Racehorses, 1913 - Black chalk and wash on  on paper


Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train 121-130

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #130: ‘Art in Warrington? I had no Ikea…’


Nick Kennedy: Timecasting

I was a little surprised to be invited to curate in what proved to be the third Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival (2-31 October), expanded this year under the guidance of Copperfield’s Will Lunn to incorporate ‘N()RTH’ – pavilions along the mode of the Venice Biennale, but representing cities rather than nations. Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle were dotted around Warrington, mostly in disused shops. Middlesbrough’s artist-run Platform A Gallery showed particularly well with Tony Charles’ viscerally industrial scraped metal abstractions and Nick Kennedy’s hypnotic floor installation ‘Timecasting’ – 64 electronic clock mechanisms, each fitted with differing loops of gold wire and left to run – with a murmorous collection of flicking sounds – so that 64 different circular drawings slowly built up on the paper beneath. 25 years ago the UK’s first IKEA opened in Warrington, and my own show at the reassuringly traditional Warrington Museum & Art Gallery takes that as a starting point for 13 artists to look at such issues as consumerism, the corruption of modernism and the difference between art and design.The central work is a twenty minute film, ‘Stealing Beauty’, in which Guy Ben Ner’s family carry on their everyday life and arguments in a succession of IKEA show homes. Ryan Gander’s ramshackle lamps, made for his wife as a way of stopping her going to IKEA, and Joe Scanlan’s coffin built from Billy bookcases, made the most headlines – there was even a mention on Radio 4. That ‘The Dream of Modern Living?’ was well received no doubt reinforced my sense that Warrington is becoming an interesting new arts destination.

ikea ner
Still from Guy Ben Ner: ‘Stealing Beauty’, 2007

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #129: ‘The Bad Pavilion Made Easy’

netherlands venice
The determinedly lower case herman de vries takes the plaudits for his display of different soil types at the Netherlands Pavilion
Visiting Venice last week, I wondered: what’s the best way to make a bad pavilion at the Biennale? Enough nations succeed to make me feel they probably don’t need my advice, but there are several reliable tactics available. First, try too hard to say something important. That’s often flagged in the title: I feared the worst for ‘The Violent Necessity for the Embodied Presence of Hope’, and I was right. Second, stretch limited artistic resources too thinly, for example through a group show requiring more good artists than a small nation is likely to have without repeating former entries: Guatamala and the UAAE were among the strong performers here. Third, present shocking content without making the necessity apparent. Why did the main work at the Estonian Pavilion, which was taking a stand against the persecution of homosexuals, consist almost entirely of one man urinating into another man’s mouth? Fourth, bungle the information: you might make the press release long and indigestible, omit it all together, or – as in one case – claim there are five works even though, by October, you’ve known for five months that one work was withdrawn at the last minute. In conclusion, there’s no need to make bad art to make a bad pavilion, though it does of course help, and many of the above used that as a back-up method. As for Australia, Cyprus, the Netherlands, India-Pakistan (jointly) and the Czech Republic – perhaps they did need my advice, as they were among those who avoided all those mistakes and made excellent presentations, two of which I’ve chosen to illustrate..
Fiona Hall exhibition Wrong Way Time in new Australia Pavilion
Fiona Hall in her exhibition Wrong Way Time for Australia
Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #128: ‘Card Givers’

bus cards 2 004 fad

Over the years a fair few artists have given me their card. The majority are pretty plain, with minimalist white designs particularly popular. That seems a bit of a missed opportunity, so here are a few which do more to assert an artistic identity. Jeremy Hutchinson’s (1) is minimalist and white… but with the neat twist of splitting his name between front and back. (2) is Yves Klein’s card in his alternate role – as a judo instructor. Bob Sparham (3) provides the similarly mysterious self-definition ‘shadow painter’ – because the theme of his paintings is ‘Shadows, particularly shadows cast on the figure’. Film maker John Smith not only has an unusually small card (4), he makes a performance out of handing it out by claiming ‘Card Giver’ as his profession. Imogen Welch’s way of drawing you in with a question (5) is consistent with her art, as is Sadie Hennessy’s cheeky play on a sexual parallel (6). There’s a case for putting your photo on the back to remind recipients whom they met, and that serves a double purpose if – like James M Barrett (7) – you are a portrait photographer. Things get more crowded if you paint group portraits, as does Carl Randall (10). Nicholas Dedics (8) and Emily Scott (9) use elements of their paintings as the design, the latter using that device to move some way towards seeking attention through colour. My own, in case you wonder, plays that card (11) rather shamelessly to the max.

bus cards 2 002 fad

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 127: ‘Better Than the Real Thing’


Charlotte Moth: ‘Inserts’ 2015, ten tailor-made structures fitted inside permanent wall mounted vitrines showing selected archival material about Hepworth (photo Sylvian Deleu)

Don’t miss the best Barbara Hepworth room at Tate Britain Why might you? Well, it isn’t in the ‘Barbara Hepworth’ exhibition. The retrospective (to 25 October) is an acceptable if somewhat plodding presentation of Hepworth’s career with most of the sculptures undermined by their presentation not just indoors (as was inevitable) and without natural light (avoidable) but enclosed in Perspex boxes, often with curiously prominent measurement devices to make sure the conditions are right. Step out and walk a few yards to the Tate’s Archive Gallery, however, and it’s a different story. The Paris-based British artist Charlotte’s Moth’s display ‘Choreography of the Image’ focuses on how Hepworth produced and herself chose to present her work. Ten elegant vitrines, each with a handy text, present photographs and ephemera in a suitably sculptural manner. They’re accompanied by a nicely pitched short film showing ‘the staging of the sculptural object before the camera as an extension of the eye’ in relevant locations, including the Cornish coast and Hepworth’s studio. In the vitrines we see, for example, Hepworth’s predilection for collaging her work against cloudscapes or photographing them with vegetation; the comprehensive planning which preceded filming the sculpture in 1961; her own photographs of works by Nuam Gabo on a windowsill; her proposals for public commissions and the ensuing correspondence; and an interesting diversion into the work of Simon Nicholson, one of Barbara’s triplets with Ben. Moth brings us closer to Hepworth than the main show and with not a Perspex box in sight.

moth 032

Charlotte Moth: still from ‘Filmic Sketches’, 2015

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #126: ‘Farming Cornell ’


Joseph Cornell: ‘Habitat Group for a Shooting Gallery’, 1943

You have a couple of weeks left to see far more of Joseph Cornell’s boxed creations of other worlds than you’ll find in London again (‘Wanderlust,’ at the Royal Academy to 27 Sept). The eighty works on show include Habitat Group for a Shooting Gallery, 1943, one of the most iconic, and one of the few to reference external current affairs directly. Birds in a museum cabinet case have been shot at, which could be a light-hearted fairground spoof, but according to the catalogue it registers both Cornell’s ‘disturbance at the loss of life and destruction of culture in Europe during the Second World War’ and his awareness of the emergence of ‘action painting’. Charlie Smith’s current group show (‘Das Unheimliche’, to 3 Oct) includes among its explorations of the uncanny a collection of butterflies which had been invaded by the tiny yet fearsome winged skeletal humanoids which Tessa Farmer makes from plant roots and insect wings. Evidently they have smashed their way into the case, part of Farmer’s imagined world in which malevolent fairies stand in for the violent fight for survival and supremacy that takes place at every scale in nature. It’s also, surely, an homage to Cornell, an artist with whom Farmer shares much, including the rather effective practice of homage…

fleck 006 farmer 

fleck 005

Tessa Farmer: ‘Infested Lepidoptera Collection’, 2015 – insects, plant roots, pins, glass shards

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #125: ‘The Upcurve Down in Kent’

loukas 1 Loukas Morley installation view

It’s easy to assume – after all, it’s pretty-much true – that London has the only significant commercial exhibitions of contemporary art in England. One exception, though, is the UpDown Gallery in Ramsgate, now three years old. And while I can’t honestly recommend Grayson Perry currently, a visit fits well with the Turner Contemporary in Margate. At the UpDown the Cambridge-based Loukas Morley (to 18 Oct, above a diverting show by Martin Grover in the two level space) presents a varied and imaginative retrospective, elegantly tied together. First, Morley has a great eye for finding objects in which to discover art: squashed supermarket baskets, samples of wood veneers, bent curtain rails… Second, that process of discovery carries over into his fully self-made works, in which multiple layers of paint and resin, applied on board by drip and swipe more than by brush, are differentially sanded away to reveal chance gestures or windows onto the base wood, or else left to form monochrome zones. Third, that process of rubbing plays back into the found objects: those curtain rails were polished into pristine distortions; used industrial sanding belts are revealed as found drawings; a sculpturally posed chalk duster looks ready to wipe the belt clear, as well as suggesting a teacher losing control. And, under cover of their being objects, there’s also a found painting of sorts: the lids, that is, of four cans of spray paint. This show, relocated, would be in my London top ten.

stratum-jounreys-pink-circle--720x724 loukas m

Loukas Morley: ‘Stratum Journey 7 (Pink Circle), 2014 – spirit based pigment, resin on board

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 124: ‘Getting into Gear’


William Gear: ‘Broken Yellow’, 1967

A century after his birth in Edinburgh, both the Redfern Gallery in London (to 5th Sept) and the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne (to 27th Sept) are celebrating the perhaps under-appreciated art of William Gear (1915-97).He showed with the radical CoBrA movement in 1950, when he was based in Paris; and was in 1961 one of the first abstract artists to be – controversially – selected for the Royal Academy summer show, though he didn’t become an Academician until 1995. Gear really shifted up when he found financial stability through being appointed curator at the Towner Gallery, where he spent 1958-64 in a post with accommodation and a studio thrown in (those were the days!). His distillations of landscape experience never quite represent anything directly – Gear said they were not of nature, but of his ‘thoughts of nature’ – but they often have the feeling of wind moving through trees in leaf-dappled light. In formal terms, Gear’s achievement was to combine hard-edged vertical elements with more horizontal and blurred patches to set up a collision between structure and intuition, sculptural and decorative, rhythmic and lyrical. He also tended to contrast black with intense colours, an inspiration he ascribed equally to Fernand Léger and a love of the mediaeval, though there are also wintery paintings in which greys predominate. It’s not obvious, then, why Gear shouldn’t be rated comparably to say Ivon Hitchens and Bryan Wynter.

gear vertical landscape 1960

William Gear: ‘Vertical Landscape’, 1960

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 123: ‘Agnes Martin’s Paths Not Taken’

Friendship agnes martin

Agnes Martin: ‘Friendship’, 1963 – 6 x 6 ft 

Among the many things of wonder in the Tate Modern’s quietly intense Agnes Martin retrospective (to 11 October) are her oracular thoughts (‘The conscious mind is awareness of the sublime’) her eccentric ways of living (‘I don’t get up in the morning until I know exactly what I’m going to do. Sometimes, I stay in bed until about three in the afternoon, without any breakfast’) and her own clarity about the subject – emotional states – of work which looks abstract to most. Her variety is less often remarked, but look at room 4, and you see three potential paths from the early 1960s which she did not really follow through. Friendship, 1963, sees her score marks in gold leaf to reveal underlying gesso, pairing narrow and wider incisions to set up a conversation, perhaps between friends. The Islands, 1963, uses a 96×96 grid to yield 9,000 units, a third of them occupied by two ovals each. That’s just by way of warm-up, though: A Grey Stone, 1963, is made up – I reckon – of some 75,000 tiny hand-made squares. Gold leaf appears again in Night Sea, 1963, which looks as if it might use the threads cut out of Friendship. She does return to islands regularly, notably in the show’s central room, in which The Islands, 1979 are twelve white canvases which constitute one of only four multi-canvas works which Martin painted. But, so far as I know, she never revisited obsessive squaring or the oval in her later years, and the only subsequent example of prominent scoring is the wonderful late work The Sea, 2003.

night-sea-1963 agnes martin

Agnes Martin: ‘Night Sea’, 1963 – 6 x 6 ft (not in the Tate show)

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 122: ‘Let’s Get Together’

billinham hoorses

Richard Billingham: ‘Horses’, 2011

Company mergers have long been routine in the private sector, and in the public sector scene I work in by day, collaboration is now very much the name of the game. Successive governments have made local authorities smaller, split off their functions, and then reduced their funding to the point at which they’re forced to work together to survive. Why shouldn’t some of the same logic apply during tough times in the art world? Just so, Anthony Reynolds’ has moved from having his own separate space to a strategy of sharing the space of other galleries. First up, his retrospective of Richard Billingham’s landscape photographs in the lower of Annely Juda’s two floors, which comes with the added advantage that the long, airy room suits them better than his own former space would have done. As for the work, one could complain that these quiet vistas (‘Panorama’, to 28th Aug) would never have made Billingham famous the way the documentation of his parents did when ‘Ray’s a Laugh’ emerged in 1996 – or one could be pleased that his previous success has generated a wider audience for these subtle pictures in unusual elongated formats. Exploiting such contingencies as ageing film stock and wind moving the trees to atmospheric effect, they feel like photographs taken as studies for paintings, only for the artist to find that they already achieved the painterly effects planned.

billingham blur

Richard Billingham: ‘Untitled’, 2014

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 121: ‘Sylvia, Chantal, Ishbel & Felicity’

Two Pregnant Women 2004

       Ishbel Myerscough’s ‘Two Pregnant Women’, 2004 – of her with Chantal Joffe

Two of the most striking paintings on display in London now are by women firmly seizing the traditional male territory of the female nude. Sylvia Sleigh’s painting from 1972, is something of an anomaly in Sadie Coles’ summer survey of otherwise recent painting (to 15 Aug), but its hyper-intensification of Matisse’s pattern and flatten approach to the odalisque rather blows away the competition. The Welsh-born Sleigh (1916-2010) moved to New york in 1961. She’s better known for her male nudes – often in poses from famous paintings of female nudes – but has remained slightly below the radar compared with, say, Alice Neel. As a solo show at Tate Liverpool in 2013 indicated, her stock is rising, and that will surely continue. The NPG’s small exhibitions are often good, and rooms 41-41a currently combine the unflinching focus of Ishbel Myerscough’s precise delineations with the enlivening awkwardness of Chantal Joffe’s more casually-styled depictions of each other, themselves and their daughters – cue uninhibited nakedness (up to ten feet high) and heavy pregnancy (much smaller). They shared models, friends and a studio – though not painting speeds – as students in Glasgow, and these warm ‘Friendship Portraits’ track them across the following 25 years.

Sylvia Sleigh, Felicity Rainnie Reclining, 1972

Sylvia Sleigh, ‘Felicity Rainnie Reclining’, 1972

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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.