Sunday, 22 November 2009

TEN TOP CURRENT PICKS

Baldessari, Ruscha and Kapoor are still going strong, to which one could add the racy Wild Thing at the Royal Academy and the apparently surprising incursion of the Kienholzs’ Hoerengracht at the National Gallery – albeit the red lights of Amsterdam’s brothels give their replication ‘a sensuous, almost painterly feel’ according to the catalogue. And Hirst tries again with his critically-panned paintings across both White Cubes (or does he? Is the work actually the theatre of his switch to painting, rather than the paintings themselves?). Among the less well-publicised shows, those at Ancient & Modern, the Barbican and Swallow Street may not seem like art (discuss) but whether they are or not they are powerful in contrasting ways. And the first two make a neat little triangular walk along with Rokeby…


Wayne Thiebaud @ Faggionato Fine Art, 49 Albemarle St - Central

To 18 Dec: http://www.faggionato.com/

San Francisco’s master of painterly pop surely has a lower British profile than he should. This show may help rectify that with its good mix of still lives, signature cakes, landscapes and vertiginous cityscapes, but a large scale museum show would be welcome. Worth noting that Faggionato opens Mon-Fri only, and is fairly well-hidden on the first floor.

Tom Badley @ Rokeby, 5-9 Hatton Wall – Clerkenwell

To 18 Dec: http://www.rokebygallery.com/

It’s well worth seeking out the new Rokeby space near Farringdon rail/tube for young British artist Tom Badley’s first solo show, which combines what is becoming a very distinctive way of mediating between fragmentation and coherence (video using internet sourcing + repetition + speed variation + organization by sound + smashed monitors…) with a mesmerizing sculpture which gives magnetic permanence to the spin of a coin. Not that cash would ever crash…

Mustafa Hulusi: ‘The Worshippers’ @ Max Wigram, 99 New Bond St – Central

To 19 Dec: http://www.maxwigram.com/

A triple bill from the British-born Turkish Cypriot: characteristically hyper-real paintings (outsourced from Hulusi’s photographs) heighten our consciousness of oranges; black marble replicas of Roman statues from Salamis poke at the survivals of colonialism; and he combines with Mark Titchner to make ‘The Worshippers’, an animation which combines the Ayatollah Khomeini with psychedelia and the styling of corporate capitalism. And Hulusi has more work at Civic Rooms, the East End artists’ cooperative which he helps run…


William E Jones: ‘Tearoom’ @ Swallow Street, 3-5 Swallow St – Piccadilly

To 19 Dec: http://www.swallowstreet.com/

Never mind Hauser & Wirth’s main Piccadilly site – alright, I exaggerate, as ‘After Awkward Objects’ is a fine show, especially the Alina Szapocznikow – but while you’re there be sure to pop into their sponsored but independent project space just over the road. ‘Tearoom’ consists of police surveillance footage taken through a two-way mirror in a public toilet in Ohio in 1962. We see urination, washing, combing and sex, mostly half-hidden in the cubicles. This is poignant – the film was used to prosecute the men – and its flickering and grainy, refreshingly not-for-camera reality generates its own aesthetic resonance.

Stephen G Rhodes: ‘Reconstruction or Something’ @ Vilma Gold, 6 Minerva St – Cambridge Heath

To 20 Dec: http://www.vilmagold.com/

Rhodes is one of the most interesting inclusions in Saatchi’s current survey of new work from America, and this impressive sculptural installation with multi-screen video collage combines high visual impact with underlying complexity (ie best to ask for more explanation than the press release) in considering the USA’s relations with Iraq. And the simultaneous, as opposed to successive, collaging of film elements seems very much of the moment.

La peinture est presque abstraite @ Camberwell Space, 45-65 Peckham Rd - Peckham

To 23 Dec: www.camberwell.arts.ac.uk/camberwellspace

A very coherent group of paintings which use representational motifs to make abstraction, with four French and four British painters and curated by Claude Temin-Vergez, who though born in France counts as one of the Brits (he teaches at Camberwell). True, this is a far-flung off-tube space, but then again it’s right next to the South London Gallery and so can be combined with the videos of Omer Fast (to 6.12) or Susanne Burner (10-18.12).

Presque Rien III @ Laure Genillard, 2 Hanway Place – Tottenham Court

To 9 Jan: lauregenillard.com

What is this French title trend? The third (!) instalment of Laure’s group show of almost nothing amounts to quite something, largely through drawing you into objects which turn out to be something else: a kebab is a sculpture, books are wings, a ball of dust is a planet. Plus a chance to see David Batchelor's classic slide show of found white monochromes. Worth noting that the gallery doesn’t do mornings!

Robert Kusmirowski: Bunker @ The Curve, Barbican

To 10 Jan: www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery

Perhaps by being a deliberately rather than accidentally awkward space, The Curve often works better than the Barbican’s main gallery. Or maybe its just the quality of commissioning and installation: Richard Wilson and Peter Coffin have been particularly memorable there, as will be Kusmirowski and, I would bet, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, the French artist who is next up but as yet absurdly little-known in England. Kusmirowski is a Pole who became famous for his recreation of a 1940s railway carriage in a former Jewish girls school at the 2006 Berlin Biennale. Here, inspired by how the Barbican rose out of the blitz, he takes us deep inside the inter-connected rooms of a second world war bunker, on several levels and complete with a railway track which runs round the whole 70m semi-circle of the space. It comes ready-aged in rust and grey tones and generates a powerful combination of amazement and historical resonance.

Hans-Peter Feldmann @ Ancient & Modern, 201 Whitecross Street – Barbican

To 16 Jan: http://www.ancientandmodern.org/

How often do you see 174 paintings of nudes in a contemporary gallery? Especially one with Ancient & Modern’s particularly modest scale? Well, it turns out to be an exact fit for Hans-Peter Feldmann’s installation of stamps, each showing just that. It’s a well-worn topic for thematic stamp collectors, but the gallery context alters their reception, just as it has that of the multifarious other selections the wide-ranging German has presented in the past in addition to his photographs.

The Body in Women’s Art Now @ Rollo Contemporary Art, 51 Cleveland St (Fitzrovia)

To 20 Jan: http://www.rolloart.com/

The first part of a three-part survey of work created by women artists this century in which the body is central, ‘Embodied’ combines Regina José Galindo and Sigalit Landau’s recent video classics with less well known but also interesting work by Jessica Lagunas (who, like Galindo, grew up in Guatemala) and young British photographer Lydia Maria Julien. And there is an excellent catalogue.I recommend you start downstairs, where Lagunas piles on the beauty to edgily comic excess by applying lipstick and mascara for an hour, and then drop back between the shorter works to see how she’s getting on…


http://www.newexhibitions.com/ gives full address and opening time details of most shows

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:

Drawing Form @ Green Cardamom 20.11 – 22.1

Benoit Maire @ Hollybush Gardens 20.11 – 24.1

Kendell Geers @ Stephen Friedman 27.11 – 16.1

Nathan Danilowicz @ Crisp 25.11 – 9.1

Tatsuo Miyajima @ Lisson Gallery 25.11 – 16.1

Alexis Harding @ Mummery & Schnelle 27.11 – 19.12

Andre Butzer @ Alison Jacques 27.11 – 9.1

Klaus Weber @ Herald Street 28.11 – 17.1

Neo-Concrete Experience @ Gallery 32 (the Brazilian Embassy) 9.12 – 13.1

Peter Campus @ BFI 11.12 – 14.2

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

THE PAINTERLY POST-DIGITAL VERNACULAR: DALE LEWIS AND EMMA COUSIN


THE PAINTERLY POST-DIGITAL VERNACULAR: 
DALE LEWIS AND EMMA COUSIN




Dale Lewis: Devil's Juice, 2017 - Oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 200 x 400 cm

The story of painting has become, in large part, the story of its response to other media, especially photography. That used to lead to lead to questions about whether painting would survive, but we seem to have got beyond that. Now the obvious question is how it relates to the online world and the proliferation of social media. Facebook, for example, started in 2004 so children born this century will have been interacting online since childhood. No doubt that will affect the art their generation produces, but what of artists already at work? Some painters have responded directly, for example Richard Prince and Michael Williams. But indirect approaches are also possible.  Painters have emerged who play an awareness of the streaming prolixity of images and stories into painterly concerns which remain equally rooted in day to day life and art history. That yields an approach which is conscious of the online world but chooses not to foreground it in formal terms. The result is a fresh form of colloquially-driven narrative. There’s something of that spirit in Rose Wiley, Ansel Krut, Lisa Yuskavage, Magnus Plessen, Ryan Mosley, Jana Euler, Katherine Bernhardt, Dana Schutz and Jordan Kasey, for example.

Perhaps that positioning is most likely for artists in their thirties: a unique generation, quite probably, for whom the online world is natural without it having been the dominant part of childhood; and for whom painting was a straightforward rather than charged choice of medium at art college, as it wasn’t during the perpetual debates about its status in the preceding century. The way is open for a painterly post-digital vernacular to develop, and two of the most impressive in that mode are currently showing in London: Dale Lewis, who has risen to prominence and gained an international profile over the past year, at Edel Assanti (‘Fat, Sugar, Salt’ to 10 March) and Emma Cousin, with her first big solo show at Lewisham Arthouse (‘Leg Up’ to 18 Feb).


Emma Cousin: Running Scared, 2018 - oil on canvas, 190 x 225 cm

Though their careers are at slightly different stages, they have much in common. Neither can be slotted into the macho-male tradition of painterly assertion: Lewis is gay, which indeed seems to facilitate a particular abandon in his depiction of women, on whom Cousin concentrates with a comparable freedom. Both work at scale so their figures are often life sized, and Lewis in particular has found his distinctive voice over the last couple of years at a widescreen horizontal format of 2 x 4 metres. Neither use photographic sources. Both are open fans of the Renaissance, and you can see it pretty directly in their work. The underlying composition of Lewis’s works tends to come from the National Gallery, explaining how he combines structural clarity with spontaneity. Cousin cites how Pontormo, Tiepolo and Poussin feed into the shapes of her figures and her choices of colour. Both spent much of their twenties in the more measured end of the art business, contributing perhaps to the vertiginous sense in their work of having been freed from constraints: Lewis was assistant to Raqib Shaw, painting with exacting detail; Cousin worked for the secondary art dealer Robin Katz. Both concentrate on the figure, whether in groups or with a dominant individual - though Cousin also operates synechdotally, using a ‘language of legs’ to stand in for the whole person. Both make paintings packed with incident and content. There’s an immediate hit, for sure, but there’s also plenty available to decode. And there’s always a dash of colloquial wit, boosted by the matching informality of the painterly language. That often feeds into their titles: Cousin’s Running Scared repurposes a stock phrase to describe figures who, 'although propelled', as she puts it, 'remain motionless'; and whatever the juice may be in Lewis’  Devil’s Juice – drugs, Southern Comfort or paint? – it’s the cause of a pub brawl sufficiently gloried in to allow for an orgiastic reading. The ‘action painting’ in that fits how Lewis paints: at speed, straight from the tube while the paint can be moved around – sometimes completing a painting within one flat-out day - and preferring to keep a sense of urgency and semi-accidental discovery rather than ‘tidy up’.

The big difference lies in the source of their vernacular visions. Both use the personal to reach the universal, but from different directions. Lewis is primarily an observer: he generates his multi-figure tableaux, ordered by classical principles, from the quick-fire notations he makes around the streets. ‘In London’, he says, ‘you only have to take a walk, a bus or a tube journey and you’ve seen a whole host of people and scenarios that could make it into a painting’. Lewis adds in his own memories, often from childhood, of what affected him emotionally. Sometimes he’ll appear himself, in that remembered role, but I read him as outside looking in: onto the social and geographical scene around him, onto his own past. Cousin, in contrast, inhabits her characters. They’re not self-portraits as such, but they do present the inner experience of being a woman in society now – how it feels to be in a social female body - so that they take on a common relevance. 

So let’s look at a couple of paintings from each...    


         
Dale Lewis: Club Tropicana, 2017 - Oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 200 x 400 cm

Lewis’ most recent paintings originate in his daily walk through London’s East End, from his flat in Leyton to his studio in Bow. Here we’re in Morrison’s supermarket, posited as a scene of exotic ethnic and culinary diversity. Lewis has fun with the pineapple, creamy avocado, fried eggs and a goat’s head (a.k.a. ‘Hoxton Chicken’, from when Hoxton was a poor area).  He playfully imports an upside-down child from the playground, and a more disturbing figure who seems unaware of her exposure. It builds to an upbeat view of how to get on with life in the face of deprivations. 

Regent's Canal, 2017
Dale Lewis: Regent's Canal, 2017 - Oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 200 x 400 cm

Here Lewis starts from the media story of a murdered actress who starred in East Enders. Her body was found cut up in the canal, but Lewis’ riff on the gruesome result is clearly inspired by Henry Moore’s way of dividing a body.  Here again, there is comic detail to relish: the isolated fishermen who, says Lewis, never seem to catch anything, bits of other bodies floating past the shopping trolleys in the canal, the pigeons apparently stoned… 


Emma Cousin: Peeing at 80, 2018 - oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm

Set aside the subject and this is a formal winner as tilt meets stripes a la Daniel Buren meets a device whereby the car’s windows are delineated but we can see the whole interior. But it is an insistent subject, its head-on engagement with potential embarrassment arising, says Cousin, from personal experience when caught short in her favoured outdoor activities such as climbing and running. Then, despite the deft aiming of the extra yellow stripe, it would be much simpler to be a man. So ‘Peeing at 80’ can – as Luce Garrigues proposes to Cousin in the show’s catalogue –be read as a female existential statement: how can a woman perform the most natural task in a society led at full speed by men?



Emma Cousin: En Masse, 2018 - Oil on canvas, 190 x 190 cm

En Masse fits various types together: a washing-up-gloved mother, shrinking into a floor of restricted activity as she cradles her baby; a gymnast-come-doll; a booted submissive; a  new age meditator with trendy blue hair; an over-eater, who arches over the set-up even as she enacts her own version of ‘having it all’.  Behind a jauntily energetic surface, as society requires, lies a rum set of choices set up to compete as possible facets of a self.
TEN TOP CURRENT PICKS

Yes, Baldessari at the Tate, Ruscha at the Hayward, Kapoor at the RA are high impact shows. Then there’s Lucy Skaer and Roger Hiorns impressing in the Turner Prize and quirky group shows at Camden and 176… Here, though, are some less obvious selections of shows well worth seeing.

Boo Ritson: Back-Roads Journeys @ Alan Cristea (Part 1) & Poppy Sebire (Part 2)
To 21.11: 34 Cork St & 36 North Audley St - Mayfair

Ritson’s painting-sculpture-performance-photograph images of people literally painted gain extra narrative thrust in spreading across two galleries, with a new twist whereby the viewer has to fill in the gaps represented by white paint. And be sure to take the superbly produced diner ‘menu’.

Beat Zoderer: Sourceless Fields @ Bartha Contemporary
To 26.11:136b Lancaster Rd – Ladbroke Grove

A representative sample from the Swiss master of industrial, commercial and office materials, including works in the rarely-encountered Eternit, a highly versatile concrete based fibre-cement material, and some attractively impossible knots.

Bill Culbert: State of Light @ Peer
To 28.11: 99 Hoxton St - Hoxton

New Zealander Culbert has often worked with tubes of light to very different installational effects from Dan Flavin: here the gallery is turned half black, half white reflecting a display of window-come-picture frames which suggest a traditional RA hang.

Mariele Neudecker @ Room
To 29.11: 31 Waterson St - Hoxton

Business as usual for the Bristol-based German, in that she gives us atmospheric models of romantic landscapes, but fascinatingly undermined by such devices as a gritty urban foreground or being inverted and made to resemble eyeballs. Plus rather creepy sculptures of aeroplane black boxes.

Glenn Brown @ Gagosian
To 26.11: 2-24 Britannia St - King’s Cross

Brown continues to deconstruct the thick, expressionist painted surface by making it at one extreme flat and at the other a ‘sculpture of paint’ in distorted riffs on art history and pop culture. Also includes a new strand of shaped canvases.To quote Martin Herbert's rather brilliant summary of Brown's career in Art Forum: 'Man finds theme: painting's demise expressed through zombified remakes of works by Frank Auerbach, Salvador Dali and Karel Appel, and then through grandly geeky enlargements of sci-fi book covers. Man commences sideline in sculpture... Man shreds post-modernist primers; messes with Photoshop; discovers deep, hazy pictorial space that suggests the afterlife; evolves boggling vocabulary of melting forms, gaseous flesh and necromantic figures..'

David Raymond Conroy: It was part of it before. And now. @ Seventeen
To 28.11: 17 Kingsland Rd - Hoxton

Would be worth seeing merely for ‘Sometimes I wish I could just disappear’, a succession of photos from Ebay of mirrors for sale – in which the owners didn’t quite succeed in excluding their camera from the image… But beyond that, an impressively varied and witty set of reframings which go that now-necessary step beyond simple appropriation.

Wayne Thiebaud @ Faggionato
To 18.12: 49 Ablemarle St - Central

San Francisco’s master of painterly pop surely has a lower British profile than he should. This show may help rectify that with its good mix of still lives, signature cakes, landscapes and vertiginous cityscapes, but a large scale museum show would be welcome. Worth noting that Faggionato opens Mon-Fri only…

Time is a Sausage @ DomoBaal
To 19.12: 3 John St - Clerkenwell

Actually a ‘show of shows’ in that 60 works shown salon-style in the main gallery are combined with a succession of separate shows featuring one or two of the participants. For 12-21.11 the extras are sculptors who catch the urban landscape above and below ground in contrasting ways: Steve Johnson and Phyllida Barlow.

Stephen G Rhodes: Reconstruction or Something @ Vilma Gold
To 20.12: 6 Minerva St - Cambridge Heath

Rhodes is one of the most interesting inclusions in Saatchi’s current survey of new work from America, and this impressive sculptural installation with multi-screen video collage combines high visual impact with underlying complexity in considering the USA’s relations with Iraq .

Presque Rien III @ Laure Genillard
To 9.1.10: 2 Hanway Place - Tottenham Court

The third (!) instalment of Laure’s group show of almost nothing amounts to quite something, largely through drawing you into objects which turn out to be something else: a kebab is a sculpture, books are wings, a ball of dust is a planet. Worth noting that the gallery doesn’t do mornings!

www.newexhibitions.com gives full address and opening time details of most shows

TEN FOR THE FUTURE

I am looking forward to:



Mustafa Hulusi @ Civic Rooms (12.11 – 13.1) and with Mark Titchner @ Max Wigram (19.11 – 19.12)

Peter Davies @ The Approach 13.11 – 17.1

After Awkward Objects (Louise Bourgeois, Lynda Benglis & Alina Szapocznikow) @ Hauser & Wirth 17.11 – 19.12

Kendell Geers @ Stephen Friedman 17.11 – 16.1

La Peinture Est Presque Abstraite @ Camberwell Space 18.11 – 23.12

Tom Badley @ Rokeby 19.11 – 18.12

Drawing Form @ Green Cardamom 20.11 – 22.1

Benoit Maire @ Hollybush Gardens 20.11 – 24.1

Nathan Danilowicz @ Crisp 25.11 – 9.1

Tatsuo Miyajima @ Lisson Gallery 25.11 – 16.1


About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.

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