Friday, 29 March 2013


Lora Hristova: Self-Portrait (Money Shot)
There seems to be a lot of assertive female sexuality around at the moment: see Dorothy Iannone and Celia Hampton below, plus there's still just time to catch Lora Hristova's deconstructions of pornographic texts at the Zabludowitz Collection (to 7 April - failing that, look at her splendidly organised research site at    ). She says of the above that she's 'referencing the pose at the climax of most pornographic films, in which the woman's face is presented to be ejaculated on. I like the theory that it's the visual representation of the invisible female orgasm, or rather a substitute for it, which offers undeniable evidence of enjoyment'.. and yet 'the facial expression is much more aggressive and confrontational than most porn, which undermines any alluring aspects'. But let's begin with what may be the ultimate blast of colour, followed by people as letters...


Peter Halley: Paintings 2012-2013 at Waddington Custot, 11 Cork St - Central

11 Apr — 3 May (talk 11 May):

Bang Goes the Theory

25 years ago New York artist Peter Halley (rhymes with ‘valley’) decided  ‘that space we live in is defined by compartments connected by predetermined pathways’. He hit on a way to represent that: a combination of cool geometry and hot paint which politicised the minimalist square by making it stand for the prison cell to produce what Halley again thinks of ‘as a conversation between being connected and not being connected’. Those meanings remain relevant, but I suspect they’ve been in play so long that people judge the paintings mainly as abstracts which burn off the wall with Day-Glo light and Roll-a-Tex surfaces. These new ones, titled from TV show phrases which are differently infected by the paintings, look strong either way. All in two separate peice, incidentally... but why?


Karina Bisch: La Moderne @ Hilary Crisp, 33 White Church Lane – Whitechapel

To 13 April:    

French artist Karina Bisch, who conjoins fashion, dance and 20th century art history, condenses plenty into this small show. Centre stage is a 3 x Bisch-sized dress made up of canvases riffing on such as Matisse and Delaunay. On the wall, with matching illogicality, is a silk scarf which would suit a much bigger giant. On it, dancers make up the letters of ‘La Moderne’ through their poses, set against batik-like swirls of dropped ink. The spirit is caught in a collaborative interview with fashion artist Julie Verhoeven, in which Bisch’s answers have been spliced to make some kind of poetry: to balance exuberance, warmth and mayonnaise, I put it on my hair…


Double Dutch: Bas Jan Ader, Stanley Brouwn and Ger van Elk @ Richard Saltoun, 111 Great Titchfield Street - Fitzrovia

To 10 May:

Ger van Elk: detail from The Co-Founder of the Word O.K. - Hollywood, 1971

Richard Saltoun has taken over the ground floor of the former David Roberts space, and this agreeably contradictorily-titled show provides a chance to sample the sly wit of three renowned Dutch conceptualists' 60's - 80's work. It's all worth a look, but here van Elk poses with a framed letter in Hollywood to indicate that he - or maybe his work – is okay (odd how that's good for a person, but faint praise for an artwork). Apparently 'one source for the word OK comes from the nickname of US President Martin van Buren, known as Old Kinderhook. Van Buren, like Van Elk, a Dutchman living in the USA, adopted the political slogan Vote for O.K. for the 1840 presidential election. He lost the election'. 


Barocci: Brilliance and Grace @ The National Gallery

To 19 May:  

Head study for St John the Evangelist
Critics have been raving about just how good is the little-known 16th century Urbino painter Federico Barocci (say 'Barotchi') and they're right: he's a draughtsman of genius, a dynamic and innovative iconographer of the Christian set pieces and a brilliant colourist (particularly  in blending facial highlights with such combinations as cream, pink and grey glazes). He left 1,500 preparatory works, enabling this show to present how drawings and oil sketches feed into the final painting in the most persuasive manner I've ever seen. Just go!


Dorothy Iannone: Innocent and Aware & Serena Korda: Aping the Beast @ Camden Arts Centre - Finchley Rd
Dorothy Iannone: The Next Great Moment in History is Ours, 1970
This neat match-up between Teuto-American DoROTHy Iannone’s hippyish 60s-originating assertive search for love and London newcomer Serena Korda’s edge-of-spoof animal interactions might be taken to show that if art was the new religion, film is the new paganism. Iannone’s urgently desirous video installations and  acrylic drawings of couples with disembodied genitals pop up often enough, but this is her first British solo show. Over forty years she's proselytised, too endearingly to shock, for us all to search out the sort of erotic intensity she found with her muse, Dieter Roth… whose diaries, incidentally, will be shown at Camden in May.


Celia Hempton: Cur @ Southard Reid, 7 Royalty Mews - Soho

To 27 April:  

Celia Hempton applies landscape principles to the male (for a change) as well as female nude at Southard Reid's pleasant new Soho Mews space - using wall painting and freestanding geometrical components to extend a practice dynamised by the performative context of close relationships with her models, and by how the manner threatens to contradict the content. This could be seen as part of Peakes in the ascendant just now: there's a Mervyn Peake show at Eltham Collage; his daughter-in-law, Phyllida Barlow, has a display at the Contemporary Art Society; her daughter, Florence Peake, is at Tintype; her son, Eddie Peake, is at White Cube Bermondsey... and Celia, who features him in some paintings, is Eddie's partner.


Stefana McClure: science is FICTION @ Bartha Contemporary, 25 Margaret Street –  Fitzrovia

To 11 May:

Hinotori 1-9: dialogue to manga by Osamu Tezuka

Stefana McClure, a New York based artist who's lived in Japan, has a way of processing time into intimately poised minimalism which just suits Bartha Contemporary's new Fitzrovia venue. She's best known for wax paper works in which she overlays drawings of the complete subtitles of a film to form a concentrated and evocative blur. Here she applies that approach to 23 of Jean Painlevé's explorations of natural science, and extends it to Japanese manga comics, building up the text elements from Osuma Tezuka's 9 volume science fiction odyssey to produce a more all-over form of concentrated dialogue. It's as if we might be able to read not just the ghost of a narrative but also some Chomskian structure behind the accumulation of characters .


Nathaniel Rackowe: Reflections on Space @ Bischoff/Weiss, 14a Hay Hill – Mayfair

To 4 May:    

Fresh from major public installations and a piece for New York Fashion week which used £30,000 of materials and was in place for an hour, Nathaniel Rackowe – who has consistently worked with light – takes a more intimate turn here.  His Neon Line Pieces highlight the less strident side of neon in its raw red state as it fades to glass, while phosphor-coloured elements pulse sequentially in white. His Glass Pieces look somewhat like bathroom cabinets, and rather neatly play coloured wires off against tremblingly-painted lines in a context of mirror, wood and light.  Feels like too much emotion to shave in with comfort, but then Rackowe does sport a beard… 

Jeremy Cooper et al: Postcard Narratives @ ROOM, 30 Manchester Street - near Baker St


In this unusual exhibition, Jeremy Cooper - insider track author of a book on YBA's at 50 - presents a cornucopia relating to his other recent book on artists' postcards. Here, for example, is his presentation of 169 'leavers' from Harrow School where his father taught. They are photographs given to friends or to those who taught the boy: these are given to Cooper himself or his father. That's just one corner of the show which also incorporates several artists, including Frances Richardson, Tracey Emin, Georgie Hopton and Julie Cockburn, invited to make artistic use of Cooper's huge collection. Possibly Daniel Eatock's pseudo-LeWittian deconstruction of the lines on a plain postcard is the highlight...


David Nash at Kew Gardens 

To 14 April: 

Black Butt
Last chance to catch results of the Blaenau Ffestiniog sculptor inhabiting the 14,000 tree landscape at Kew. He has "quarried" (such is the intensity of the process) one large oak in situ and has extensive shows is in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of botanical art and the temperate house as well as scattered around the grounds. Most, of course, is in wood, Nash's signature material, but he has been casting in bronze over the past decade - to illusory effect -  in order to improve durability and that's the case with this massive 18-section cast from a scorched elm. It does cost £16 to get in, but if you're going to visit Kew, now's the time...

Murmur (video still)
I would have featured Kirk Palmer's triptych of landscape meditations on the nuclear bombing of Japan (Murmur, 2006; Hiroshima, 2007; War's End: An Island of Remembrance, 2012 - to 13 April) at Paradise Row, but have nothing to add to the following in the excellent Photomonitor:

Images courtesy the relevant galleries and artists and Christoph Seibt Collection Contemporary Art (McClure)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


(as written for and currently published in STATE magazine -

London's art calendar may seem crowded, but since the demise of Zoo, which used to run simultaneously with Frieze, the latter has been London's only substantially-sized, pluralistic, internationally-focused fair. That's actually quite a contrast to the multiple satellites around the main fair is in Basel, New York or Miami. 

Looking up the Grand Hall's roof over Zhu Jinshi's paper boat and a flash of El Anatsui's wall hanging

Either way, the first edition of Art13 (1-3 March, sponsored by Citibank) had a positive vibe, especially on the opening night when 6,000 attended. Olympia's iron-framed, high-roofed Victorian Grand Hall provided an airy context with attractive natural lighting – indeed, several people suggested to me it was the finest artwork on view. The layout was spacious, with judicious use of 22 mostly sculptural and mostly excellent special projects to punctuate the Gallery Booths. Some spirited performances took place against Bedryr Williams' backdrop: an historic scene which showed a crowd ready to witness a hanging, complete with a woman hawking ghoulish souvenirs. Any coincidence with the art fair business was as cheekily deliberate as the Welshman tends to be.

Alice Anderson leads her troop of wire-wrappers in front of Bedryr Williams' Tyburn backdrop

There were talks on international trends, and an impressive London-wide program for collectors. Things ran smoothly, consistent with the organisers having already had a hit with last year’s art Hong Kong.   The 128 galleries from 29 countries were refreshingly different, with no galleries in common with the last London edition of Frieze. That's another way of saying that the critical and commercial heavy hitters were absent. Perhaps that was always likely, but the timing - close to the big New York fairs - made it inevitable, and the USA was comparatively under-represented. There were several galleries in common with January’s London Art Fair. That, however, is primarily domestic whereas the key here was that around half of the artists showing were non-Western, making it much more globally representative than Frieze itself. 

The booth of Torch (Amsterdam) showing Terry Rodgers
That was a deliberate mission, which translated into numerically strong representation from Asia in particular, and played neatly into the programmes of London galleries specialising in the Far East (Hua, Rossi & Rossi, Selma Feriani) or Africa (Jack Bell, October) as well as visiting galleries. There was also a broad spread across different market sectors: alternative spaces, mainstream contemporary, second market galleries, editions, a smattering of street art. There were separate sections of young galleries (less than six years old) and galleries showing in London for the first time; and prices covered a wider range than at the established major fairs. The only absence, by and large, was video.

View with Roelof Louw's take-an-orange pyramid and Peter Wüthrich's installtion of 99 colourfully-covered books
But, to cut to the chase, was the art any good? The quality was variable, to be sure, but for every booth which encouraged me to move on quickly, there was another which drew me in. Some patchiness is probably inevitable if such a novel mix is to be achieved, but there were, for example, good displays from some of London's more adventurous smaller galleries (such as IMT, Maria Stenfors, Riflemaker, DOMOBAAL,  Man & Eve, Ceri Hand, Salon Vert, Hidde van Seggelen and FOLD). 

View with Godlike, by leading Indonesian artist Nyoman Masriadi
Was it a commercial success? Most galleries I spoke to said that sales had exceeded expectations, and all said that the organisers had made a good job of bringing collectors to the fair. Overall, then, Art13 is hardly a competitor to Frieze, but it does complement it, and it seems to be off to a successful enough start to look to next year with some confidence. 

It wasn’t difficult to generate examples of interesting work by nine artists who have shown little if at all in London before – plus more familiar imposters from Newcastle via Scotland who I’ve allowed as my pick of the multiples.

Yin Xiuzhen:  Portable Cities: Madrid, 2012 at Alexander Ochs Galleries (Berlin/Beijing)

No doubt the travel associated with an international art career can be a distraction,  but China’s Yin Xiuzhen has made the most of it with a series of cities in a suitcase: she asks the relevant show’s curators to iv her some of their clothes, and turns them into her next destination’s architecture. Here, Madrid.  

Žilvinas KempinasFountain, 2011 - Art Project presented by Gallery Vartai (Vilnius)

Lithuanian Žilvinas Kempinas’ signature material is unwound magnetic tape, which he has previously caused to dance unsupported save by the pressure of air currents Here a fan makes the tape ripple and rustle in mesmerising mimicry of both the sound and the look of running water. 

Pierre-Alain Münger275 / face 3, 2012 at Ivo Kamm (Zurich)

Swiss artist Pierre-Alain Münger  explores destructive forces. This, described as 'car on metal', may be the ultimate action painting: it provides a surprisingly clear impression of what happened when face 3 (ie the front) of a white Jaguar impacted at over 100 kph into a sheet of green metal set up at the end of a crash test track.

Szilárd Cseke: Change of the System, 2013 at the Ani Molnár Gallery (Budapest)

Szilárd Cseke maps the post-socialist situation in Hungary, here by altering the British Job Centre signage to comment on the emigration-driven lifestyle of many of his fellow East Europeans, and by setting up plastic bags to fill, empty and rotate as air is blown in or sucked out of them to represent the ramshackle volatility of the Hungarian political systems.


Michael ConradsTropic of Cancer, 2012  at ph – projects (Berlin)

Every fair I attend contains a persuasive German painter I didn’t know, and here it was the unteutonic-sounding Michael Conrads. Geometry is overtaken by Mexican landscape elements in the multiple paths, perspectives and references of this absorbingly complex  three metre canvas.

Jane and Louise WilsonFalse Positive, False Negative , 2012 at Dundee Contemporary Arts

This screen print on mirrored acrylic uses CCTV footage of the assassination of a Hamas operative in a Dubai hotel room, over which the artists appear with dazzle camouflage designed to scramble the technology used by police for digital face recognition: troubling, primitive, haunting, mysterious.

Ravinder ReddyUntitled Bass Relief, 2011 at Gallery Minsky (Paris)

Indian artist Ravinder Reddy’s work tends to be described as ‘Pop goes Hindu’ for its melding of the archaic with a modern, wide-eyed directness and sensuality. Here that came in three uplifting permutations of the same four colours in what turned out to be polychrome bronze rather than his more usual fibreglass. 

Jae Yong RheeMemories of the Gaze, 1993-2012 at Gallery EM (Seoul)  

The Fair’s high quotient of Koreans included this impressively patient means of arriving at Idris Khan’s multi-photo look: Jae Yong Rhee photographed the same site over two decades in which rickety slums were replaced by high rises, then layered the times over each other.  

Fabian MarcaccioThis Just In Paintant, 2009 , at Jerome Zodo (Milan)

Philosophically trained New York based Argentinian Fabian Marcaccio says he’s trying to show that the code of painting ‘itself is in metastasis’.  That translates to luridly painted environments for the internet age which push the use of silicone and acrylic on canvas to such an extreme that they form a self-standing structure.  His Italian gallery  dramatically matched an apparent suicide in process (not the death of painting again?) to  a wall piece referencing the stock market.

Su XiaobaiWagong No. 26, 2011 at Pearl Lam Galleries (Shanghai / Hong Kong)

 Su Xiaobai (born Wuhan, 1949) studied with Richter and has lived in Germany since 1992 – but has a particular fondness for the traditional furniture finish of Chinese lacquer, which he applies to modernist effect on supports with a convexity which make their physicality manifest – the title means ‘plastering’ – and cast a shadow at one with their spiritual undertone.

Images courtesy the relevant galleries and artists

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.