Sunday, 29 May 2011


Gary Webb at the Zabludowicz Collection

The first sculpture-only show at the Saatchi Gallery’s Chelsea incarnation heads up a strong month for sculpture generally and wide-ranging surveys of the form in particular: there’s still time (to 12 June) to see the Zabludowicz Collection’s extensive presentation by a 22-strong mixture of emerging, mid career and veteran artists – all made in the last five years, which is much more logical connector than selecting by the age of the contributors; the Pangolin Gallery sees 15 often-witty ‘Women Make Sculpture’; and plenty of the hundred-odd works by 35 artists in ‘Young London’ at V22’s 50,000 foot ex-Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey are in 3D. My next half dozen choices add to the sculpture-fest, and that without bringing in the recent high profile openings of Ai Wei Wei, Tracey Emin, Fred Sandbach, John Chamberlain, Richard Long and Giuseppe Penone; nor Dan Colen at Carlson, Bouke de Vries at Vegas, Carl Plackman at Hales and Marie Lund at Laura Barlett, which I also like…

Folkert de Jong: The Dance

The Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture @ the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, Kings Rd – Sloan Square

To 16 Oct:

In this best use yet of the Saatchi’s Chelsea space, many of the 14 galleries contain just a few high impact sculptures by one artist. One recurring theme is how variously the human form can be re-imagined: provisional in Thomas Houseago, beyond cliché in Rebecca Warren, metamorphic in David Altmejd and, best of all perhaps, all the above in Dutch sculptor Folkert de Jong’s sardonic dance of seventeenth century trader types on the ghosts of the colonial. The low countries do well, in fact – there are as many artists working in Ghent as in London – in a geographically and conceptually wide-ranging show in which Dirk Skreber, Kris Martin, Sterling Ruby and Bjorn Dahlem are also shown to particular advantage. I wasn't too worried by the little irony of titling: that the work in 'The Shape of Things to Come' is typically rather older than that in the Zabludowicz's 'The Shape We're In'.

Upside Down Cloak from the Buhuu Suite

Nicole Wermers: Buhuu Suite @ Herald St, 2 Herald St – Bethnal Green

To 28 June:

HERALD ST PRESS RELEASES USE CAPITALS ONLY , which can be wearying, but then this is a capital show: while you might look for an artist you like to take one interesting new direction, London-based German Nicole Wermers adds two fresh modes to her elegant sculptural plays on the thresholds between spaces and between art and design. First, the room-filling set of designed and found objects linked - as if against theft as well as by thematic intent - by chains. Second, her first straight (rather than collaged) photographs, reflecting on Rodin’s house and its ghosts (‘Buhuu’ is German onomatopoeia for their sounds) in cunningly-shaped clip-frames which become part of the work.

Ground floor view

Jodie Carey: Somewhere, Nowhere @ The Pump House Gallery, Battersea Park

To 19 June:

It’s a good time of year to stroll through Battersea Park to the unique four floor gallery which has – happily – survived a recent well-publicised grant reduction. Here Jodie Carey (no relation though she shares my maiden name!) uses a pared-back aesthetic to tease a fragile beauty from base materials, affirming life at the same time as evoking its vulnerability and potential addictions. Cumulatively, her installations - wallpaper patterns of cigarette ash; a marbled and surprisingly sparkly carpet of ground blood and dust; cast plaster slabs which incorporate the chance effects of coffee and lace - also bring a bodily presence to the architecture.

Exhaust (24 hours of exhaled air within foil balloons)

David Rickard: Time + Trace @ Sumarria Lunn Gallery, 36 South Molton Lane – Central (nb: South Moulton Lane not the parallel trendy Street)

9 June - 1 July:

This is the second show at young gallerists Will Lunn and Vishall Sumarria’s first permanent space after various pop-up appearances. In it, London-based New Zealander David Rickard embraces the complementary roles of order and chance by setting up tightly structured processes within which events are allowed to unfold and create their own aesthetic. Rickard’s inventive combinations of imagination and rigour, experiment and pratfall include the mapping of pigeon poop, glass differentially broken by being dropped from varying heights, shelving units loaded to collapse, catching a whole day's breath and dice-driven sculptures made out of dice.

Installation view

Mauro Bonacina: London.England.12.05.2011.18:00 @ Maria Stenfors, Unit 4, 21 Wren St - King Cross

To 25 June:
The towering physical presence of Italian artist Mauro Bonacina dominates this beautifully interlinked show - whether or not you saw the opening night’s eponymous performance, in which he made the gallery his canvas by spraying an impressively high horizon line right round it. The artist’s voice greets you outside the gallery and his actions are also present in photos which make his star jumps look like implausible attempts at flight; a surprisingly neat and effective painting made from his large footprints; the implausibly complete filling of a supermarket trolley with geometrically-shaped goods (a reminder, apparently, of the time Bonacina won a supermarket dash only to find his planning sabotaged on the day by the shop closing off the drink and electrical zones!).

Fairy steering butterfly from 'The Taming' at Danielle Arnaud

Tessa Farmer: ‘Nymphidia’ @ Danielle Arnaud, 123 Kennington Rd – Lambeth North & ‘Control Over Nature’ (with Amon Tobin) @ The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church, Euston Rd – Euston

To 5 June (Crypt) / 26 June (Arnaud): /

Pangolin has work by Polly Morgan, one of the two increasingly well-regarded women who work with taxidermy. And Danielle Arnaud’s elegant house-as-gallery and the gothic underspace opposite Euston station both feature the bizarre insect-freezing, small-animal-stuffing sculptural tableaux of the other: Tessa Farmer. She sends her evil fairies – like fly-sized skeletons with wings – into battle with their enemies, the hornets, with hedgehog spines as spears, flying skullships as military transport and mosquito slaves as footsoldiers… The Crypt combines theatrical displays with Amon Tobin’s soundscape, and both venues also feature Farmer’s hybrid creatures in animated film action: the compellingly weird future of Victorian occult.

I Don't Fancy You, Lee

Lee Edwards: How to disappear completely @ DomoBaal, 3 John St – Clerkenwell

To 11 June:

Kid A in this case is young artist Lee Edwards, who’s just as effective as Farmer at drawing the viewer into the odd and diminutive in London’s other leading house-as-gallery. He uses the knots on found pieces of wood as a starting point for portraits of eleven women for whom he has longed. These succeed both as sensitively-painted versions of his photographic sources,enhanced by how they interact with the grain and rings; and as a narrative of nostalgia likely to echo the viewer’s own experiences, and triggered by such titles as ‘I Was Too Shy’, ‘My Aunt’s Friend’, ‘We Kissed in the Rain’ and the direct‘I Don’t Fancy You, Lee’, which is painted on a conker.

Standing Nude with Orange Stockings, 1914

Egon Schiele: Women @ Richard Nagy Ltd, 22 Old Bond St - Central

To 30 June:

It doesn’t sound the greatest premise: a private dealer opens a gallery, hidden away on the second floor, to show work he’s borrowed back from past clients. But Richard Nagy has handled much of the best of Egon Schiele (1890-1918), and this first part of a thematic series is no arbitrary accumulation: 45 works on paper cut to the quick of Schiele’s unsettlingly intense focus on women. Most are nervy and erotically driven; though his last phase, between the military service which interrupted his production and the flu which killed him, can take a serener path. And if you like Tracey, then you’ll love Egon.

The Back that Used to be the Front

George Shaw: The Sly And Unseen Day @ South London Gallery,65-67 Peckham Rd – Camberwell / Peckham Rye

To 1 July:

Living in Devon hasn’t yet deflected George Shaw from his fifteen year project of humbrol enamel paintings triggered by his childhood suburbscape, the Tile Hill Estate in Coventry. This 25-strong retrospective therefrom, already well-received at its bigger Baltic showing, now comes with the imprimatur of the Turner Prize shortlist. Evocatively obsessive or too static and repetititious? I go the first way, which this selection assists in that only a small minority show the views of houses and garages which probably constitute most people’s mental image of Shaw’s work. And it’s cunningly paired with Simon and Tom Bloor’s alternative take on the settings of childhood. Odd, though, to hear people hail Shaw's shortlisting as a return of painting, when that's so subsidary to his conceptual end.

Artist's Proof

Tala Madani: Manual Man @ Pilar Corrias, 54 Eastcastle St – Fitzrovia

To 18.6:

Even were I not already a follower of internationally-based Iranian painter Tala Madani’s energetic pastiches of stereotypes, it would be hard not to be curious about a show of paintings with titles such as ‘Chinballs with Flag’, ‘Strangulation by Stained Glass’, and ‘Cupid Piss with Goggles’. In Ancient Iran, claims the press release, to dream of urine is a sign that great wealth and power will follow... meanwhile, Madani’s zesty militaristic characters keep us guessing about what is real at some level, and what is entirely staged. 'Artist's Proof', though, is from a new stream which sees animated letters poke fun at various targets.

Picture credits: relevant artists + galleries + Stephen White (Zabludowicz), Matthew Booth (Pumphouse), Andy Keate (DomoBaal) + Manuel Vason (Sumarria Lunn)

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


It's no news that Amsterdam makes for an ideal long weekend, but what about its Art Fair? The recent Art Amsterdam (11-15 May), while not quite small with some 130 galleries, was of manageable size. It focused mainly on the Netherlands, with only 30% of the galleries being from elsewhere (just three of those were London-based - Vegas, Patrick Heide and White Space - but all had interesting main and project stands). In the absence of the usual big fair galleries, there was plenty of chance to find artists new to me:

Dieter Lutsch
: Yet to be Titled @ Jarmuschek + Partner, Berlin

Berlin-based Romanian-born installation artist Dieter Lutsch’s attention-grabbing chemistry set proved decidedly artful: not only did the foam oozing out of colourful liquids make for faecal sculptural shape-shifting, its apparent whiteness was betrayed by the way it came together in a suitably dirty brown in the lower container (sory, just out of shot!), leading one back to spot the separate elements of faint colour which closer inspection revealed were retained in the foam. Thus was the difference between light and substance in the matter of colour neatly skewered.

Douglas Henderson
: Wonder Woman @ Gallery Mario Mazzoli, Berlin

Berlin-based American sound artist and composer Douglas Henderson showed the latest of his active sculptures taking an off-kilter look at superheroes with a gallery which, uniquely I think, focuses on works which use sound. His version of Wonder Woman was dominated by gyrating breasts formed from reversed loudspeakers, emitting the surprisingly bell-like and appropriately pre-cinematic sounds of popcorn rat-tatting against the saucepan lid as it cooked. By happy coincidence, the Stedelik Museum’s new exploration of TV in art included Dara Birnbaum’s seminal video appropriating Wonder Woman’s transformative moments.

Simon Gush: In the Company Of @ West, The Hague

My favourite video at the Fair, which had few, was by the South African Simon Gush, who had organized and filmed a football match between teams of immigrants on a Belgian railway track. Cue references to the centrality of travel to the players, the contrast between the fluid movement of professional footballers in a global business and the obstacles faced by the mass of would-be-emigrants, and tracks doubling as pitch markings of a sort and a modernist grid. But mostly it was fascinating spectacle, both as a visual setting and for how deftly the players dealt with the constraints and random deflections of their improbable field of action.

Mitsy Goenendijk: Mr Punch @ Gallery Majke Hüsstege, Den Bosch

There was a double helping of primate at the Fair: Albert Watson’s well-known photographs of chimpanzees - trying on masks, one holding a gun - and one of Dutch sculptor Mitsy Goenendijk’s disquieting sculptures of clothed monkeys. I found it compelling in a way in which, to be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to be compelled. Is some backwards development, some de-evolution, being hinted at? 'Mr Punch' was almost as striking as running across Mitsy herself, helping out at the Torch Gallery's interesting Terry Rogers show, where she was working on another monkey stretched across the desk…

Aurelia Gratzer: Flatwerk @ Huchentoot, Berlin

Among the themes one could pick out at the Fair, there was plenty of interface between architecture and art, including in the attractively confused spaces of the young Austrian painter Aurelia Gratzer, which reminded me – by curious coincidence presumably – of Wyndham Lewis. Gratzer studied maths first and art second, and recently won the Central Europe’s Strabag Artaward. Her small canvases illogically combine layered perspectives taken from various photographic sources, and bring nostalgically earthy colouration to the apparently modern. Here, in the visual hurly-burly of competing visions, was a quiet corner which felt right.

Michael Wolf: Real Fake Art – Richter Candles @ Gallery Wouter van Leeuwen, Amsterdam

Michael Wolf, a German photographer who has spent much of his career in Asia, has developed several interesting projects, with subjects including toys made in China, Hong Kong high rise living and the press of the Tokyo subway system. The series ‘Real Fake Art’ focuses on the business that has developed in China for copying modern art works, mainly for export to the West. The Chinese copyists were shown with their creations, alongside the actual copy which Wolf had purchased from them, to yield a fresh take on the nature of originality together with the opportunity, rather neatly taken in the mops and candles scenario here, to mine formal similarities between object, surroundings and artist.

Peter Davis: Untitled (Red) @ Slewe, Amsterdam

British painter Peter Davis – not to be confused with the differently excellent Peter Davies - has shown his abstract process paintings in London intermittently since the early 1990s, but I hadn’t seen much of him for real. He’s made a lot of work on aluminium car panels, but his latest series uses gloss paint on glass over the top of a coloured board. Little of the effect, I fear, comes over in reproduction but the objects themselves generate an eerily seductive glow which we lured me in to work out the cause, and then to encounter a natural-seeming emotional charge escaping from the rules of their making.

There were strong shows elsewhere in the city – Ryan Gander, Navid Nuur, Maaike Schoorel, Michiel Cuellars, Ryan McGinley, Terry Rodgers… - plus an Aselm Keifer installation in the Rijksmuseum, new displays in the ‘temporary Stedelik’ – both major museums remain in the throws of redevelopment - and also more new artists to be found dotted around the canals. Here are three Dutch artists who appealed:

Dana Lixenberg: Fire Training Ground, Schiphol from ‘Set Amsterdam’ @ FOAM

One of the shows at the large and lively FOAM, a public photography institute which publishes the excellent journal of that name, was by the well-regarded New York resident Dana Lixenberg. In ‘Set Amsterdam’ she portrays her native city through landscapes and interiors emptied of people so as to resemble a film set, created by the lives soon due to retake centre stage. Possibly not the most original premise, but one which worked extremely well through the choice of elemental locations – from hostel to garbage incinerator to sex theatre – and the details on which she homed in.

Roderick Hietbrink: The Living Room @ Ron Mandos Gallery

The multimedia artist Roderick Hietbrink neatly combined photographs dealing with how the Chinese cover things in public spaces with a more local invasion of private space. His three channel video installation ‘The Living Room’ is set in the typically Dutch ‘doorzonwoning’ (literally ‘sun-through-house’), in which sunlight is maximised by means of a living room which stretches from the front of the house all the way to the back. The camera dwells a while on the furniture, potted plants, photos and personal possessions before a large oak tree invades in triple view, being dragged through the room to destructive effect.

Conny Kuilboer @ Actionfields Gallery, Belgium

The lively and centrally-placed Belgian cultural institute featured young artists from three galleries, including the Ghent-studying Dutch sculptor Conny Kuilboer, She most typically uses blankets, attracted by their warmth-giving yet constrictive character as well as the texture and available colours. The choice of such a constraining medium plays well with making unlikely connections, and here I liked the outlandish wit in the forcibly rough-cut link between animal and vegetable.

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.