Thursday, 21 October 2010


Following on from the ‘Frieze Week’ there are plenty of big shows to see: both Tates, the Whitechapel, the National Gallery (with Canaletto and Clive Head both proving popular, the Hayward, Cezanne’s card players at the Courtald, James Turrell’s immersion experience at Gagosian (now wholly booked-out, however) and excellent shows at Victoria Miro and Parasol Unit. Then the expansions of Hauser & Wirth, Sadie Coles and Modern Art have been well-publicised, as has as good a White Cube double as I can recall: Christian Marclay in the west (with some all-night screenings), Mark Bradford in the east. All well and good, but there’s also plenty more… so much so that I’ve allowed myself a bumper fourteen picks – beginning with lots of wood, as coincidence would have it, even though there’s none at the Carpenter’s Workshop…

Untitled (Hammers)

David Adamo @ Ibid Projects, 35 Hoxton Square - Hoxton

To 18 Nov:

Ibid Projects, much the best Anglo-Lithuanian gallery in London, have moved from Vyner Street to three floors of a former textile factory on Hoxton Square. It looks so dated and time-worn it’s hard to believe it was commercially active just three years ago. The Berlin-based American David Adamo has exploited the peculiarities of the space to the maximum with sculptures which imply a preceding narrative of performance and – often – violence. An axe, for example, has attacked the oak-panelled wall, but suffered its own consequences: like many of Adamo’s wooden pieces, which include canes, hammers and a bow, it has been whittled away, with the shavings left on the floor. These whittled objects make for highly original sculptural forms which speak of pared-down essences and returns to origins, as well as suggesting preceding actions. They don’t speak through a press release, though: Adamo requested that there be none, and so may not want me to say any of that…

NEW EMPIRE (How Crooked Are Your Branches)

Andrew Curtis: Wild England @ PayneShurvell, 16 Hewett Street – Shoreditch

To 6 Nov:
Joanne Shurvell and James Payne’s new gallery is handily-placed just off Curtain Street, even if it’s in the sort of side-of-a-sidestreet location of which gallerists say ‘it has the advantage that those who come are genuinely seeking us’. Andrew Curtis is a 2009 RCA graduate who points up the surrealism in what is already around us by attempting to erase alien elements with black paint. This is applied, for example, to the Monkey Puzzle and Torbay Palm trees in blown-up photos of Curtis’ nondescript home zone of South London. The pseudo-eliminated trees stand out as painterly and dark intrusions, reminding us that they were imports in a Victorian age in which the subconscious worked overtime. Consistent with that, Curtis quotes JG Ballard: ‘to maintain this fabric of absolute normality requires powerful repressive forces'.


Suzanne Moxhay: Feralis @ Bearspace, 152 Deptford High Street – Deptford

To 27 Nov:

Julia Alvarez’ enterprising Deptford space gives a first solo show to Suzanne Moxhay, whose work I’ve admired since her RA degree show in 2007. Moxhay uses a combination of found images and modelling to construct what are effectively her own small scale designs for film sets. She photographs and digitally manipulates these so that the miniature merges with the epic and it is hard to tell real from illusory space. The resulting environments, as she says, ‘exist in a space between various intersecting fields of representation while embodying a reality of their own’. Moxhay’s earlier work has had a somewhat Ballardian air of the post-apocalyptic: now she goes ‘feral and dangerous’.

Atlas @ CABIN/ET, park just east of Waterson Street on the Hackney Road - Shoreditch

To 28 Nov (Sat & Sun only):

In a little cared-for but potentially lovable park along the Hackney Road stands a recycled shipping container now moving only towards becoming a cabin: the inside is kitted out with panels, shelves and seats made of Douglas fir. Over the past year, Tom Wolsely has been using it as a cabinet of curiosities for installations exploring the overlap of physical and psychological landscapes. His current project – in conjunction with the nearby ROOM gallery – shows a hundred photographs of the orientation maps displayed around housing estates. They combine documentary interest, a peculiar aesthetic of their own and a tension between helpful locator and organising controller. They also bring to mind the paintings in which Keith Coventry demonstrates the Malevich in such maps – which now seem so often to represent modernism gone askew.


rAndom International: The Behaviour of Objects @ Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, 3 Albemarle St - Central

To 13 Nov:

The Carpenter’s Workshop operates at the boundary between art and design. But whichever side of that line you judge them to be, the London/Berlin based trio who work as rAndom International use cutting edge digital technology to interact with the viewer in impactful ways. You might have seen ‘Audience’, in which myriad mirrors turn to track your progress. Two more such works are shown here. Upstairs, ‘Swarm’ comprises three high-hung cubes of LEDs which react to sound and movement to mimic the effect – as the title suggests – of fireflies on the move. Downstairs, ‘Self-Portrait’ uses Ultraviolet technology to scroll through an artfully-blurred photographic image of one or two people standing before it, only for its purple to fade from view in the manner of a mirror of mortality.

Pubic Triangle

Keith Farquhar: More Nudes in Colour @ Studio Voltaire, 1a Nelsons Row – Clapham Common

To 4 Dec:

Studio Voltaire’s last show included Edward Kay’s bizarre though tender drawings of single breasts of glamour models. Now the gallery moves on to bums, though both shows are, of course, about issues of representation rather than titillation. Keith Farquhar’s installation of eighteen ‘flat pack sculptures’ is made from waist-to- knee photographs of models (all but one female, mostly rear views) to whom paint has been spontaneously applied, then the prints propped up as cardboard cut-outs on customised plinths. It’s sort of Yves Klein meets Canova meets Tom Wesselmann meets the spirit of Woodstock. And there are jokes: ‘Marble Arse’ imitates stone, the bottom in ‘Skin Condition’ looks to be covered in foundation, and ‘Pubic Triangle’ works as a negative: black paint covers everything except the conventionally hair-dark geometric zone… a curiously compelling multiple flip-flop between objectification and art, challenging us to work out which wins. Also on view: Dawn Mellors’ entertainingly astringent celebrity pastels taken from films.


GL Brierley: Matersatz @ Madder 139, 1 Vyner St – Cambridge Heath

To 28 Nov:

More sex I fear at Madder 139, but it emerges from blobby organic forms which can be read in various pareidoliac ways. So maybe it’s just me that thinks the biggest painting, ‘Covotelle’ shows a woman lifting up her skirt, ‘Baubola’ is distinctly phallic, and 'Milfalla' is a fleshy nude made of turds. Brierley herself links them interestingly to the theories of Julia Kristeva, who argues ‘that for a child to separate from the mother, he/she has to see her as abject, which in turn renders the maternal body a site of both repulsion and attraction’. The small paintings look as if they’re of jokey fetishes spot-lit in the dark – I was reminded of Philip Guston, Carroll Dunham and The Chapman Family Collection. And whatever they show, the build-up of ripples, drips, and cake decorator squirts of paint along with interference patterns, glazes and wooden inlays makes for a pungently realized mixture of the cute and the grotesque.

De Slag om de Twintigste Eeuw

René Daniëls @ Camden Arts Centre

To 28 Nov:

Would it be too macabre to point out that - following Angela de la Cruz - this is the second major show at Camden this year by an artist who has been drastically affected by a brain haemorrhage? That brought the first part of René Daniëls' career to an end in 1987, and the Dutch painter (born 1950) has not fully recovered, though he has recently begun to work again in a somewhat scratchy simulacrum of his previous style. The new drawings make up an interesting but subsidiary part of this retrospective, which confirms that Daniëls' paintings of the 1980's remain fresh, invigorating and influential. Dufy and Picabia come to mind, but many of them feel as if they are setting out future options for paintings rather than being the painting themselves. That sense of provisionality is reinforced by Daniëls' favourite motif: three sides of a room seen in perspective with paintings on the walls, such that when simplified it has the appearance of a bow tie. Another recurring image is a branching tree form which is annotated with eccentric phrases which could indicate options for investigation: 'Places where immaterials can be obtained' is one: a phrase which might stand in for much of the show.

Martin Gustavsson: In No Particular Order @ Maria Stenfors, unit 4, 21 Wren Street – Kings Cross

To 20 Nov:

Martin Gustavsson, a Swede long-resident in London, presents a grid of 3 up x 24 along = 72 canvasses hung at random, i.e. as gallerist Maria Stenfors happened to unpack them. That avoids the hierarchy and subjectivism of aesthetic choices – but what makes the body of work work as a body is how successfully the whole operates across multiple painting styles and art historical references. Most of the individual paintings look like fragments, including many which show limbs and also lots of apparent abstractions (though actually, Gustavsson told me, derived from figurative motifs). Links between colours, shapes, proportions and subject occur more often than one might expect, and where a painting looks to be in the least obvious place (egg dangling legs don’t hang down from the top row) it somehow soon seems right. Take your pick as to whether ‘In No Particular Order’ is one piece or 72, but you may well be drawn into spending the time you might expect on the latter.

Hugh Mendes: a poblacion

400 Women @ Hoxton Town Hall, City Road – Hoxton

12-28 Nov:

Not many shows can claim a cast of hundreds, but for Tasmyn Challenger's project no fewer than 200 artists will each contribute a 14” by 10” portrait (echoing the iconic retablo imagery of the Catholic Church) of one of the hundreds of women raped and murdered in or near the US border town of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico over the decade from 1993. The show forms part of widespread protests that the authorities have failed to investigate adequately, and the violence continues - the total drugs wars death toll was said to be 28,000 to date in reports on the recent massacre of 14 at a teenager's birthday party. The artists, based in England and Mexico, include Tracey Emin, Maggie Hambling, Gordon Cheung, Rachel Howard, Tereza Buskova and Hugh Mendes – who’s something of a shoe-in as he works with obituaries all the time. That said, whatever their individual merits, it’s likely to be mass effect of such a mournful gathering in the suitably subterranean gloom of Shoreditch Town Hall's basement which has the primary impact.


Robert Davies @ Hilary Crisp, 3 Newman Passage – Goodge Street

To 20 Nov:

Crisp London / Los Angeles has rebranded as the snappier – or, to be more hilarious, crisper – Hilary Crisp; and this is the last show across the distinctive three floors at Newman Passage before a move to Whitechapel. There are three ways of looking at Robert Davies’ work. First, as stunning lifesize graphite drawings of horses and domestic animals: they take up to four months each to draw, such is the level of detail, and I was particularly taken with Davies’ depiction of the original woolly coat. Second, as a series of portraits which attempt to extend the genre by imbuing the named animals with particular personalities. Third, as a disquisition on value: on the one hand the old fashioned sort produced by the artist’s labour, on the other the contrasting economic value of animals that are paid equal attention here. They range from Jessica, a partially blinded sheep deemed unfit for farm life, to Sea the Stars, such a successful racehorse he was retired to stud after one full season, and has a current fee of £75,000 per mare serviced.


Mat Collishaw: Creation Condemned @ Blain/Southern, 21 Dering Street – Central

To 17 Dec:

Mat Collishaw’s brand of Victorian-styled melodrama may not be to everyone’s taste, but he has shown as strongly as any of his YBA peers over the last eighteen months – at the Freud Museum, Foundling Museum, the BFI, and now in a more conventional gallery setting as the post-Haunch of Venison debut for its former directors Harry Blain and Graham Southern. In this two room show – creation up front, destruction behind, equal beauty ascribed to both – Collishaw, characteristically, combines provocative content with unusual materials and techniques. Along with his trademark projection of video behind a mirror, he back-lights translucent religious statuary using a photocopy scanner; mimics the crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves with slowed-down footage and sound from a pole-dancing competition; and makes a troublesomely-convincing digital job of burning butterflies as well as – in the most striking work here – a time-lapsed orchid.

Suling Wang: The Kingfisher’s Last Dive (detail)

The mountains where the whales once lived @ UNION Gallery, 94 Teesdale St – Cambridge Heath

To 14 Nov:

Jari Lager’s UNION gallery used to have a cavernous space near Tate Modern, but its recessionary footprint is just one modest room near Cambridge Heath railway station. There’s only space for four big paintings, but this all-female group exhibition makes a virtue of that. The artists are a Korean (Eemyun Kang) who invited a Ukranian (Alisa Margolis), and a Taiwanese (Suling Wang) who was invited by our own Dolly Thompsett. Their work has a lot in common: landscapes segueing into abstraction, a mytho-historical sense of time, creation of ambiguous space through layering, all-over composition, and a seductively unnatural use of colour… Given all of which it’s surprising how distinctive are the four worlds of hidden depth which emerge - and enter into compelling and necessarily intimate dialogue.

Jilia Mariscal: Untitled

Time Capsules @ The Gallery Soho, 125 Charing Cross Rd - Tottenham Court

4-14 Nov:

The handily-placed 1st and 2nd floor space to let next to Foyle’s bookshop is becoming one to watch: following Liane Lang’s excellent ‘Monumental Misconceptions’ a few weeks ago, smart Spanish curator Lorena Munoz-Alonso presents four installations by her London-based compatriots. The works are touted as containers for time rather than for ideas, and we are promised shamanic ritual (anak&monoperro), time warp technology (David Ferrando Giraut), psychoanalytical conundrums (Julia Mariscal) and a combination of children’s tales and quantum physics, no less (Pablo Cadilla Jargstorf). There should be plentiful scope for fascinación here…

Images coutesy of the relevant artists and galleries

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