Sunday, 22 November 2009


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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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… gives full address and opening time details of most shows


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


Unseen Photo Fair 2017 

Amsterdam 22-25 Sept

Esther Teichmann: Untitled 1 from 'heavy the sea', 2017 - cyanotypes at Flowers Gallery, London

The animating principles of Amsterdam's Unseen fair are that all exhibits are related to still photography, that they were made recently enough (2015-17, though I noticed 2014 sneaking in) that you are unlikely to have seen them before; that galleries can show a maximum of four different artists –  and that at least 50% of those should be 'emerging talent'.

British artist Jo Dennis models a Photo Palace tattoo in front of Laura El-Tantawy's photographs at Seen Fifteen

Add a clean, easily navigated lay-out in a cool city and a lively subsidiary programme, and one arrives  at zesty and fresh experience which  attracted a young and  engaged crowd. Supplementing the 53 main galleries was a photo book market; submissions by the five young artists chosen for the Ing Unseen Talent Award 2017; a curated selection of  20 collectives working in photography; and a 'Photo Pleasure Palace' arranged by Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender. That featured such attractions as jumping from a good height onto Donald Trump's face, acquiring an impressive range of temporary photo tattoos, and hurling  wooden bricks at photographs mounted on a wall (if you hit one and smashed the glass, the vacuum packed damaged goods were your prize). The city joined in with late-night gallery openings on Saturday night and the Stedelijk Museum had a timely  survey of  Zanele Muholi.

Eight British galleries and a dozen British artists were a significant part of the line-up in which the Dutch continental Europe predominated, but with worthwhile representation from other continents, too. There was a lot of work, as in my  picks below, about our relationship with the natural world - landscape, flora, fauna, chemical processes. If there was a trend, that may have been it, with more directly political and meta-photographic approaches less evident. 


Stephen Gill: Untitled, 2017 from the series 'Night Procession' at Christophe Guye, Zurich

British artist Stephen Gill has been living in rural Sweden since 2014, enabling him to make the 'Night Procession' series of infra-red forest photographs, remotely triggered by animals' night movements. Gill adds to the environmental resonance by treating the print with liquids extracted from the vegetation surrounding the 'trap', then fixes the effects by photographing the result to make the final image.


WeiXin Chong: Beige Dreams, flesh skin surface. 4, 2017 - digital C-print on aluminium at A.I., London

At A.I., Singaporean WeiXin Chong cleverly linked the vanitas tradition of the floral still life with the beauty industry's contrary pretensions to counter the ageing process. The Beige Dreams series - referencing the ideal skin colour recalled from her girlhood memory of the crayon considered 'people-coloured' - applies make-up (in this case YSL Touche Eclat Shade 2.5) to flowers to yield a look similar to decay.

Susan Derges: Turn 1, 2 and 3, 2017 - inkjet prints on Kozo paper at Purdy Hicks, London

The most striking works at both of the most established English galleries at Unseen featured seaweed. Susan Derges' uses a  tank custom-built in her studio to allow her to photograph from under and over the water with full control of its contents and lighting and their subsequent combination. For the 'Turn' series, seaweed evokes rocky pools, but we don't know where we are, which way is up and which down, nor where we'll arrive as the world turns with the tide...

Esther Teichmann: Untitled from 'Mondschwimmen', 2015, gelatin fibre based print at Flowers Gallery, London

London based American-German  Esther Teichmann likes to bathe with seaweed in her tub, so it was unsurprising that she  showed a whole wall of seaweed cyanotypes alongside this sensual use of kelp to emphasise form. Its atmosphere is echoed in Teichmann's own short story 'heavy the sea', which tells of a stormy night swim from which a woman emerges 'motionless, half submerged, eyes closed, returning slowly. Rain pours down, washing the salt away. And still it clings to her, seaweed...'.

Theo Simpson: Vanden Plas, 2017 – Layered aluminium mounted chromogenic prints bonded to 18–gauge steel sheet (British Leyland Cashmere Gold body colour / laquer) in mild steel angle iron cases at Webber, London

Theo Simpson made a splash by winning the outset unseen exhibition fund award of a 2018 solo show at Foam, Amsterdam with a series which reflects on the decline of the British car industry in which his father worked. This image combines a landscape scanned from a 1970's Rover advertising campaign (which was full of futuristic optimism even as British Leyland struggled) with Simpson's own recent image from an area still affected by the closures. The steel mounting is sprayed in a body colour used on the upmarket SD1 3500 Vanden Plas.

Maya Rochat, shown by Seen Fifteen, in performance

Peckham's Seen Fifteen showed Egyptian Laura El-Tantawy and Swiss-German Maya Rochat, who blurs her content by  chemical experiments and by printing onto surfaces pre-splattered with paint. After the fair closed on Friday, she extended her approach into a performance, providing the backdrop to a crowded outdoor disco by squirting paint onto an overhead projector. The old fashioned means produced a mutating psychedelic backdrop evoking the OHP's prime era. 

Nathaniel Mellors: Venus of Truson, 2014 at Stigter van Doesburg, Amsterdam

Carrying on with the chemical aspect of natural transformation, Nathaniel Mellors, best known for the extravagant visual and narrative absurdity of his films, also has a long-running series of photograms. He sees them as cave paintings of sorts, the cave being the darkroom in which archetypal objects are captured, only for the physical result to be folded, burned and unfolded, so that unpredictable effects take over. In this case the primordial nude of a Venus of Willendorf is melted towards abstraction. 


Sybren Renema: stills from the video Discovery, 2017 at Dürst Britt & Mayhew,The Hague

The Hague's Dürst Britt & Mayhew showed a project by the Glasgow-based Dutch artist Sybren Renema which engaged with the seminal chapter in British history: video and photographic presentation documented the ascent and descent of a small fragment of Captain Scott's polar ship 'Discovery' (now in Dundee) as it rose 32 kilometres before falling to ground  in Carlisle. Is space the new south pole? Was this relic giving the finger to escapism?

I wasn't the only one to take a pirate photo of Juno Calypso's new Subterranean series at T.J. Boulting, London

Juno Calypso is only partway through the follow-up series to her well-received solo stint in a love hotel, The Honeymoon Suite, 2016. Indeed, no official images are available of the new project and I may be in trouble with gallery owner Hannah Watson for stealing this preview from her booth. Subterranean is set in an eccentrically palatial underground bunker, and again finds the photographer alone in a bizarre setting, with only her make-up, wig and reflections for company . 

Polly Tootal: #43389, 2014, from the 'Unknown Places' series at Galerie Intervalle, Paris

Polly Tootal must spend a lot of time looking for the uncanny aspects of what we might pass my without noticing, which she then captures unpeopled and pretty straight with a large format camera. Typically, her long-running 'Unknown Places' series combines two liminal zones: those between functional places meet that between night and day. The atmosphere emerges as faintly repressive, even as the rigorous compositions find beauty in the anonymous. In this London view, a simple change of bricks charges geometry with narrative possibilities.

Laurence Aëgerter: from the series Photographic Treatments, 2016 at Caroline O’Bree, Amsterdam

It seems only fair to include one all-foreign presentation. One of the most interesting - French artist, Dutch gallery - was the pairs of black and white portrait layout images - some her own, many from stock – developed by French photographer Laurence Aëgerter as a therapeutic device or dementia - art and ongoing interest in investigating how art use all society, brain stimulation that slowdown that process, and he believes that caring images designed to provoke recognition of similarities is a powerful stimulus to brain activity and provides the basis for discussions with also improved social interaction. So far as I know, my own dementia remains incipient, but I enjoyed the game, nonetheless.

What does that sample - 11 artists from 164 - tell us about photography now? They are probably fairly representative of the fair as a whole, which showed that artists continue to find fresh and imaginative ways to engage with established genres - landscape, portrait, still life, nude, everyday life, animals - as well as the less traditional abstraction and meta-photography. The most immediate novelty may be in how the image is made (Gill, Chong, Derges, Rochat, Mellors, Simpson, Renema) or in how the subject is treated (Teichmann, Calypso, Tootal, Aëgerter), but typically both factors are in play, and material means of production is central: perhaps the Internet will eventually swallow photography, but it isn't happening yet.


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! gives full address and opening time details of most shows


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

My photo
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.