Sunday, 29 November 2015

ART STUFF on a train 131-140

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #140: ‘Foregrounding the Background’

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Jim Shaw: ‘The Third Angel’, 2015 – acrylic on muslin, 183 x 114cm

How much explanation can art reasonably require? Some purists hold that all works should speak entirely for themselves, but that not only rules out many approaches but would reduce the latter-day impact of older works which need some context. On the other hand, you don’t want to feel that the work is subsidiary to its explanation, however fascinating that might be. Jim Shaw’s latest paintings (at Simon Lee to 9 Jan) take a halfway position: they work in themselves as wacky compositions which meld together mysterious elements using the striking backcloth of 1940’s theatrical backdrops to introduce the sense of another time. The titles suggest there may be a coherence rather than a mere stream of consciousness at work, but I suspect most would need Shaw at their shoulder to work out what’s going on. Luckily the galery staff can tell you what he’s said. ‘The Third Angel’ is one of the simpler paintings: this version of the Jolly Green Giant of sweet corn fame is based on the description of an angel that appears in the Book of Revelations, pouring his bowl of woe onto the earth. Here a spill of Huntz tomato sauce, also from 1960’s adverts, coalesces towards figures representing toxic GMO chemicals poisoning the crops below, and so critiques the commercial drivers illustrated. My second example incorporates Arshille Gorky, an Ad Reinhardt cartoon, Edward Snowden as Prometheus wrestling Zeus, various NSA intelligence-gathering elements, Buzz Buzzard as a predator drone and more… Best to go see and ask for more!

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Jim Shaw: Prometheus: Liver is the Cock’s Comb, 2015 – acrylic on muslin, 143 x 193cm

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #139: ‘Maastricht Beyond TEFAF’

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Part of Levi van Veluw’s ‘The Relativity of Matter’

Maastricht, known as the venue of The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), has quite a bit of additional art interest, especially for a town of 100,000. The Van Eyck institute has a good reputation, and Taus Makhacheva (Russia / Dagestan) currently holds a post-graduate residency there. We were able to meet at the University-supported Marres, where the Dutch artist Levi van Veluw has filled two large floors with a darkened maze of installations – mostly in wood – which took a year to build. A strict timed booking system keeps the experience of ‘The Relativity of Matter’ intense. It recreates van Veluw’s childhood obsessions – one corridor contains shelves with more than 3,000 identical geometric sculptures – then blows them apart in the most compulsively controlled presentation of chaos you could hope to see. Taus and I then strolled to the agreeably eccentric Museum aan het Vrijthof, which presents all manner of things made in Maastricht, and over the River Meuse to the Bonnefanten Museum. In addition to its permanent collection, that currently has 250 ceramics forming a history of how modern and contemporary artists have used the medium. Rodin, Picasso, Fontana, Schütte and Ai Wei Wei showed strongly as expected, but there were plenty of surprises among the 100 artists chosen – Taus was bowled over by the Japanese; my favourites were some of the 60 miniature ‘apartment gardens’ that Raoul Dufy created in the late 20’s with two Catalans: master ceramicist José Lloréns Artigas and architect and landscaper Nicolás Rubió y Tudurí.

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Raoul Dufy: ‘The Music or Opera Garden’, 1927 – ceramic

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #138: ‘When to Visit Tate Modern?’

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The Empty Lot as at 28 November

What’s the best time to go to Tate Modern? Yes, when it’s open, but two of the main current attractions suggest waiting a while. By February, I suspect, Abraham Cruzvillegas’s Turbine Hall commission Empty Lot will be an impressive sight. The Mexican artist’ has filled a spectacular structure of triangular flowerbeds with soil sourced from London’s parks, A few weeks on from the opening, the beds are starting to show green life: give them a couple of months and the space should be verdant. I also hold out hopes that the Alexander Calder show will improve: not that the judicious selection of works ought to be different, nor that the forlornly static early mechanical works will be set in motion as some surely should be periodically, but that the air flows will be freshened up to animate those driven by air. The advance publicity suggested that this was being planned for scrupulously, but only two had significant movement when I visited. Tate quotes Calder himself saying of a display of his non-moving ‘Constellations’ that it was ‘a very weird sensation I experienced of looking at a show of mine where nothing moved’, and that is pretty much what we get here. The Tate must be embarrassed, given that the show is subtitled ‘Performing Sculpture’. Surely adjustments will be made, such as the odd discrete fan, by the New Year? That will be when to visit Tate Modern.
Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?
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Calder’s ‘Red Gongs’, 1950, waiting to move


Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #137: ‘Certain Perversities’



Rudolf Stingel: ‘Untitled’, 2015 – oil on canvas, 244 x 244cm

There’s a certain perversity to the first show at the new Sadie Coles space in Davies Street: it features four paintings by Rudolf Stingel in a show which continues with a further four paintings in her spacious gallery on Kingly Street (to 18 Dec). That could have accommodated all eight in comfort, suggesting that the elegant new premises were unnecessary. As for the show, there’s a comparable perversity to the effort in making huge photorealist versions of what are just illustrations from vintage German calendars. Yet the animals so shown take on a lively current presence, even as they play neatly with chronologies: photography as a record of the past, linked here to a calendar month and its subsequent reworking; and the time spent in painting, made explicit by patterned impasto brushstrokes which come into abstracted focus when you get close. In the gallery’s words ‘the original image is disclosed and withheld in the same instant’, making for a metaphor for memory. By way of bonus perversity, Sadie’s husband, Juergen Teller, recently provided his usual plenty in an extensive exhibition in the Phillips auction space directly opposite his wife’s new outpost (10-20 Nov). That included all 72 images from the new series ‘Kanye, Juergen & Kim, Château d’Ambleville’. The reality couple are pursued through the French countryside by the trouserless fiftysomething photographer in anorak and rainbow coloured footwear, in what seems to be a case of ‘you bring the looks, I’ll bring the socks’.

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Juergen Teller: from ‘Kanye, Juergen & Kim, Château d’Ambleville’

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #136: ‘Soaring and Diving’

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Peter Lanyon in a glider


Peter Lanyon: ‘Soaring Flight’, 1960

Finding a new way in to your subject can make all the difference. After the war, Peter Lanyon (1918-64) emerged from constructivist roots to an engagement with Cornwall which sought to use abstract painting as a method to capture his bodily experience of the landscape – in his words, ‘I paint placeness’. His 1950’s work is often alluring, but that agenda really took off only when he discovered gliding. He was able to find equivalents for air streams, flight paths and weather conditions which operate lyrically as abstractions but can also be read back to what they represent. Now the sky could be all around, and Lanyon could imply movement and change. He could use the contrasts of assisted ascent, stalling, falling; turbulence and calm to stand in for sexual abandon. existential states or social concerns.. By the time Lanyon died following a bad landing, his four years of unpowered flight had a powerful sequence, now celebrated in paintings (Courtauld Gallery 17 January) and a complementary exhibition of his drawings (Gimpel Fils to 30 Jan). Not only that, but his fellow founder member of St Ives’ Crypt Group, Bryan Wynter (1915-75) has a centenary show (Jonathan Clark 5-27 Nov). He was closer to ‘psychonaut’ than astronaut, using first mescaline and later diving as his means of achieving a fresh take on landscape-originated semi-abstraction in the 1950’s. The 28 work show concentrates on that best-known style, but also includes a fine 1962 painting inspired by aqualung diving.


Bryan Wynter: ‘Blue Deep’, 1962

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                            Bryan Wynter: ‘High Country’, 1956

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 135: ‘The Monumental Intimate’

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Jonas Wood installation view

The question of size arises powerfully in the first British show of Jonas Wood’s paintings (at Gagosian Britannia Street to Dec 19). His interiors are semi-graphic riffs which update tradition attractively, but without great impact. Hasn’t Dexter Dalwood, for example, already done this just as well? But there’s also a room with five really big paintings – 10 feet high – of pots. The images somehow become more interesting for being on pots, even though they’re very flatly rendered, and the size gives the pots a grandeur which does something new. When you look at the paintings in reproduction they’re diminished, obviously, but radically so. Artists often distinguish the factual matter of size from the more metaphorical matter of whether a work has found its scale. It seems that Wood’s pots need colossal size to achieve their appropriate scale even though, paradoxically, that’s way above the life size of the pots made by his ceramist wife – which feed this part of Wood’s practice and so give it a personal infection. That adds to the combination of intimate and monumental which may be why the size – maybe 25 x likely actual – is so effective. I was still musing on this when I saw Luke Jerram’s glass sculptures of deadly viruses such as Ebola (at the Elena Shchukina Gallery to 8 Jan): they are about a million times life size, and show us something with its own intimate aspect but which we can’t normally see…

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Wood with wife Shio Kusaka in the family’s LA house

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Luke Jerram: ‘Malaria’, 2011: Glass, 50 x 18 cm

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #134: ‘Solo, Group or Bugged?’

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Oona Grimes: Flann's architectural digest #6 spray paint on paper mounted on di- bond56 x 111cm : 2015

Oona Grimes: 'Skinner's pigeons', 2015 - clay

Solo or group show?  Maybe, to escape the norms, artists could appear in sequence, or collaborate, or respond to each other’s work across shows? Tintype’s current season of three exhibitions 'Stop Bugging Me' escapes the binary norm more innovatively: it started with an Adam Gillam solo show. Halfway through the run, though, Gillam was ‘bugged’ by Oona Grimes. That segued into the current Grimes show, which is now haunted by Jo Addison (to 7 Nov). Her show (11 Nov- 5 Dec) will then be invaded by Gillam to complete the loop. Nice idea, then, and nor is it wasted. Grimes delivers a complex mixture of serious and playful: stencil and spray painted objects float against blackness which could be a film set or deep space or the disordered mind of an Alzheimer’s sufferer – such as the artist’s mother, the heavy end being taken up by a moving film of her. The lighter side yields joke spectacles made of clay in the form of drinking glasses, complete with eyeholes; clothes hangers brilliantly recategorised as pigeons; and a pile of clay potatoes. Their lumpiness is picked up in the curious video object, somewhat like a blackberry which can’t decide if it’s a satellite or a molecule, with which Addison has joined in; and by a herd of baked-spud-like forms which scuttle round the gallery on bugs’ legs. Seeing such a range made me glad Grimes is 1/11th of my next curation* – of course, I love the other 10/11th’s, too…

*  ‘The Shapes We’re In’ at Bread & Jam, 52 Whitbread Rd, Brockley 13 – 22 Nov:

Installation view with Jo Addison's 'A Possible Object' in front of two elements from Oona Grimes' multi-part 'Flann's architectural digest'

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 133:

 ‘Performance to the Exponential Max’

Millie Brown: Rainbow Body Performance
The ongoing pro-performance trend in the art world has come to something of a peak in London exhibitions. To complement the Gazelli Arthouse’s show of Californian light work (to 14th Nov), Millie Brown hung with crystals attached for 4 hours on 4 days – so a not unimpressive 16 hours in all. Ilona Sagar had two actors inhabit her interviews with clinical neurologists and psychiatrists as part of ‘Haptic Skins of a Glass Eye’, her complex consideration of the relationship between body and technology at Tenderpixel: 8 x 3 hour performances x 2 actors = 24 hours. At the Lisson Gallery, Broomberg & Chanarin’s very varied photography-based practice includes not just a film of military drill counterpointed with the clowning of a ‘bouffon’, but an adjoining live performance in which a double shift of drummers play a drum roll for the entire six week run of the show (to 31 Oct): 6 x 46 = 276 hours x 2 drummers = 552 hours. That’s quite a commitment for a commercial gallery to make, but the public sector goes further in the Barbican’s Curve Gallery, the unusual layout of which encourages artists to stretch their capabilities. The whole three-month run of Eddie Peake’s ‘The Forever Loop’ features two dancers and a skater. The naked dancers interact very effectively with synchronised video footage drawing on Peake’s previous work. The skater, clad in a diaphanous costume, glides around the full length of Peake’s sculptural installation. That’s 65 hours per week x 13 weeks x 3 performers = 2,535 hours!
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Ilona Sagar: ‘Haptic Skins of a Glass Eye’ performance
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Broomberg & Chanarin: Rudiments performance
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Eddie Peake: The Forever Loop performance
Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 132: ‘Fair Ground for Snakes’

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Kathleen Ryan: ‘More Is More Snake Ring’, 2014 – François Ghebaly Gallery for Frieze Sculpture Park 
There were several snakes at Frieze this year. I refer, of course, not to any underhand dealers, but to works of art. Tunga, the veteran Brazilian with a desire to undercover the mystical undercurrents of modernity, was prominent: his pair of twins roamed Frieze Live with conjoined hair, and there were related works which turned extended tresses into serpentine sculptural form, plus his seminal photograph of a 1985 performance for which he sedated vipers then wove them together. The Sculpture Park features – for three months – another entwinement, for which young American Katie Ryan used polished concrete to effect. Phallic symbolism is never too far off when snakes appear, and that was entertainingly explicit in Yayoi Kusama’s impressive accumulation of phalli (you could argue that she fills a parallel role to Tunga’s, but for Japanese art). Alison Jacques’s stand included a sample from her current gallery show by Brazilian sculptor Erika Verzutti, a bronze in which a cobra stood in for pubic hair in a rather alarming surreal substitution. Ukranian Boris Mikhailov is best known for his photographic narratives of urban poverty and mental illness, but accidentally leaving one slide on top of another led to the series ‘Yesterday’s Sandwich’, in which communist era drudgery is juxtaposed with sex and beauty, surprise and potential escape. Two snakes appeared in the sequence of 176 images, which – to Mikhailov’s own choice of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ – made for a Frieze Masters highlight at Sprovieri.

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Tunga: ‘Viperine Avant-Garde’, 1985 / 97 at Luhring Augustine and Galleria Franco Noero

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Yayoi Kusama: ‘A Snake’, 1974

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Erika Verzutti@ ‘Cobra Goodnight’, 2015 at Alsion Jacques

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Boris Mikhailov from the slide show ‘Yesterday’s Sandwich’ 1966-1968 at Sprovieri

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #131: ‘Noi Amiamo l’Italia’

Fontana at Tornabuoni

Is there no limit to London’s appetite for Italian art centred on the 1960’s? It’s all over the auctions and fairs, and you can also now see:

* Lucio Fontana at the impressive new Tornabuoni Art – 50 top examples, including two of only four hexagonal paintings he made.

* Luxembourg & Dayan’s presentation of yet another worthwhile Boetti show – indeed the quality and quantity is close to the Tate’s retrospective of 2013 (and Boetti is the key generative figure in White Cube’s tapestry survey at Mason’s Yard).

* the slightly less well-known Alberto Burri at Mazzoleni: he should be up there with Fontana and Boetti and this thiese exemplary selections from each of his phases show why..

* Two substantial presentations of artists in the kinetically-inclined Gruppo T: Robilant + Voena have two floor of founding member Gianni Colombo, including a walk-in environment; Cortesi Gallery show the elegant geometries of Grazia Varisco, its movement more often implied than literal. 

* Paola Ugolini’s fascinating choice (at Richard Saltoun) of Italian women linked to performance – the very intense Gina Pane and several more.

Given the quality, it’s hard to complain, but add the recent prominence of Manzoni, Pistoletto, Dadamaino, Calzolari, Vedova, Carol Rama (who died recently at 97) and all the Arte Povera group, and you may wonder whether there’s a key figure who hasn’t had a London solo show. Enrico Castellani comes to mind, but you only have to wait till February for Dominique Lévy’s account of him… Maybe Carla Accardi should also be lined up?

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Boetti at Luxembourg & Dayan

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Sunday, 15 November 2015




52 Whitbread Road, Brockley, London SE4 2BE

Private View: Fri 13th Nov, 6-9 pm
Open brunches: Sat 14th/Sun 15th

Curator / artist talks: Wed 18th 6pm

Open by appointment until 22nd November 2015

The Bread and Jam series gives artists the run of a near-empty, refurb-ready house in Brockley. In the third show, eleven artists explore the territory between order and disorder, potential and realisation, unformed and defined. Each has chosen a shape to insinuate or impose – to varying degrees – in advance of the fuller reshaping to come. There’s no suggestion that conventional family living will follow on, though: none of the artists define themselves simply as a man, although Brian Dawn Chalkley does gain the rare distinction of featuring in all-male (Chercher le garcon at Mac/Val, Paris) and no-male exhibitions in the same year. Ten men are, however, busy doing the washing in Claire Macdonald’s Launderette, and Frances Richardson is in control of moulding the phallus. What can it all mean for the shapes we’re in? Jennet Thomas’ film threatens to provide an answer, but it keeps slipping away… 

There are, then, two frameworks through which the works chosen can be viewed – but the main point is that the artists bring their own set of concerns well beyond that, which is what I touch on in the following notes. Another linkage emerges: Austin, Thomas and Macdonald provide us with a powerful ritual on each floor, which then highlights that aspect in other work, too.

 Alicja Dobrucka – mushroom  shape  | Oona Grimes - toast | Brian Dawn Chalkley - leaf| Frances Richardson  phallus | Emma Cousin – heart | Rana Begum – irregular polyhedron| Selma Parlour -  trapezium | Natasha Kahn – rectangle  | Claire Macdonald - circle | Miriam Austin - nonagon  |  Jennet Thomas – amorphous shapes

Miriam Austin - nonagon

Miriam Austin: Prosthetics for Hostile Contexts (detail), 2015

In her ritual actions, originating in the pleasingly quixotic project of founding a new religion,  it’s been unclear whether Miriam Austin inhabits nature or allows it to inhabit her: blossom grows on her throat, her breast becomes a beak, and she lies inside a fish. That spirit carries over into organic sculptural forms: she’s been slathering poisonous flowers in prosthetic silicone to monstrously gorgeous effect, picking at the connection between beauty and threat. Here dried brugmansia (which is also hallucogenic), foxgloves and carnivorous plants take their places among nine objects. They reference the use of the nonagon in the relatively recent Bahai faith, and are designed to be worn in rituals* which make up the imagined corners of perhaps the simplest shape which the eye can’t identify without counting. Maybe there’s a spell in that…

* as they will be at the ICA (December) and Bosse & Baum (Feb)

Rana Begum – irregular polygon 


Rana Begum installation shot with No. 622 Drawing, 2015 - Paint and powder-coated mild steel

Anglo-Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum became known for fetish-finished wall-based works in what one might term two and a half dimensions, that indeterminate space in between two dimensional painting and three dimensional sculpture. They’re legible from front-on but dynamised by the viewer so that physical movement activates colour movement, evoking such street features as railings, billboards, bridges and traffic. Begum has branched out substantially in the last few years (as we’ll see, no doubt, in her April 2016 solo show at the Parasol Unit), but here she boils down the essence of that original inspiration: inside the house, on a characterful wall, brightness shadows shapes with enough substance to make us wonder what is primary; while outside, the perspectives expand.

Brian Dawn Chalkley – leaf shape 


Brian Dawn Chalkley: 

I had no idea who those people were.

I thought it was a scam.

I’ve always had a very unhealthy relationship with heels.

I think that beauty comes out of being unique in every way.

Especially when I am laying on the beach.

Watercolour on paper, 2015

Leading the MA at Chelsea College as Brian and going out as Dawn by night, Chalkley is an abstract painter who turned to performance, film and – latterly – slightly washed-out and apparently naive paintings of women. Having sourced a photographic starting point with the right air of anxiety, Chalkley designs clothes – cue leaf shapes and ongoing references to abstract art - to suit how he sees his ostensible subjects’ personalities. Then follows a parallel process to decide on a background. A disjointed allure results, pointed up by the lengthy titles, which incorporate quotes from fashion magazines. They gesture towards fleshing out the character but leave us wondering if it’s all a pretence – which it might very well be, for these paintings also represent Chalkley’s own dreams of how he’d like to be, of the act he’d like to pull off.

Emma Cousin – heart


Emma Cousin: The Heart of the Party, 2015

Emma Cousin runs Bread and Jam (together with Emily Austin and Rebecca Glover) and it takes place in her house... so I’ve put her at the heart of it with a set of paintings investigating that very organ as a throbbing, dancing, padlocked grenade to be worn on the sleeve. Cousin’s work typically merges abstract qualities with colloquial narratives to generate a witty to and fro, often with a lively awareness of the contingencies of the body. Literature feeds her practice, too, and here she muses in paint and words on the heart as a ‘bad dancer’, juicy as steak but vulnerable as it pumps itself to death juggling its many roles. ‘It’s murder on the dance floor’. If that sounds savage, the cocktail sticks which make for colourful skewers suggest that the party of life isn’t such a bad way to go…

Alicja Dobrucka – mushroom shape

Alicja Dobrucka: from – Concrete Mushrooms, Albania, 2011

Albania is littered with mushroom-shaped bunkers: some 750,000 were built between 1967 and 1986, during which time Enver Hoxha encouraged a paranoid fear of attack from all sides of his isolated Maoist dictatorship. As perhaps the most anti-Platonic inclusion among the shapes we’re in, they’re now obsolete for defence. Anglo-Polish artist Alicja Dobrucka set out to document them - whether the bunkers have been turned to other uses, given radical makeovers or reduced to rubble. In this first British appearance, two in contrasting condition seem to have landed in the sea, and the stairwell location plays to their rhizomatic implications.

Oona Grimes – bread shape 


Oona Grimes: toes n toast (detail), 2014 - ceramic, 120cm x 20cm

Oona Grimes’ complex practice is rooted in drawing but proceeds through all available means. She often plays with flatness, and that’s the case in the installation 'where's my breakfast'. The naturally volumetric medium of clay is used to make flatly absurd slices of cheese (jerry’s lunch) and bread (the toes n toast with which Grimes also supplies the Paul Weller flavour of Jam). The naturally flat form of spray paint through stencils is used to describe the three dimensionality of an alternative architectural space – one of Grimes’ series Flann’s architectural digest, in which the spirit of the comedic Irish writer Flann O’Brien is invoked to play with a recurring typology of forms: invented tartans, household items, diagrammatic and brick buildings struggling to go 3D. I can imagine the combination of ghostly sound piece - of an old woman asking for her breakfast from behind the wall -  and 'choir' of clay potatoes appealing to O’Brien, too.

Natasha Kahn – rectangle

Natasha Hahn: A Lementation (detail), 2015

Natasha Kahn, who co-runs the interesting Streatham project space DOLPH, trained as a painter. Using tape extensively to mask out areas and hem in flat planes of colour, she found it took on a separate life of its own in the accidental compositions which formed on the wall as she put the used tape to one side. That set up what Kahn regards as ‘a measured disorder’. Now shapes of tape morph into others as they are recycled between works and interact with the surrounding architecture and with related materials, such as the concrete which Kahn installs here. This emptying out of paintings towards entropy - perhaps lamenting the loss of paint along the way - finds an echo in her sparse intervention  and in the curiously diverting and painterly subject of her rubbishy slideshow: colourful trade refuse bins.

Claire Macdonald – circle

Claire Macdonald: still from Launderette, 2015 – film, 21.41 minutes

Claire Macdonald made Launderette for her Golsdmiths degree show. It’s simple - ten men talk for a couple of minutes each as their washing is done – but artful. The edits between watching, clothes-handling, machines and talking heads generate an appropriate rhythm. The setting is old-fashioned and the customers – in a less than traditional male role – have more regrets than wealth. But they speak with straightforward dignity, and cover many bases: birth, childhood, love, money, class, race, disability, mental illness, war. And, although what the men say is pretty much clichés, the cumulative effect is to remind us why such statements became clichés in the first place – their repeated relevance to human concerns. Something of life’s essential cycles enters the commonplace circles of the spin cycle.

Selma Parlour – trapezium

Selma Parlour: Menu, 2015 - oil on linen 36cm x 51cm

If you’re looking to add to the history of geometry in abstract painting, then the trapezium - that’s a quadrilateral with just one pair of parallel sides – seems good as a little-used choice. But it would be fairer to call these paintings of paintings of trapeziums - meta-paintings, if you will. Maybe they depict the shapes of windows: both in their site-specific conversation with the attic architecture and in the suggestion of openings on a computer screen: that’s consistent with the semi-translucent layering of colour over a white ground, which provides a hint of backlighting. Or could the presence of horizon lines – echoing the Chalkleys with which they share a room – suggest those paintings of trapeziums are objects in a landscape? Perhaps, if you’re looking at what else is on show in London at the moment, Parlour’s game is closer to Escher’s mind-bending regressions than Hoyland’s colourfield assertions.


Frances Richardson - phallus

Frances Richardson: still from Phallus, 2015

Adam made Eve out of clay, leaving it to Frances Richardson to take revenge of sorts in a film which may surprise those who’ve seen only the various streams of drawing and sculpture which make up the best-known aspects of her practice. Richardson fashions a phallus in a performance which lasts 11 minutes when screened at 6 x the original speed, so turning the sound into an absurdist slap and squeak. This makes for a witty foregrounding of ‘the artist’s hand’. Is the piece feminist? Perhaps, but there’s a productive ambiguity to Phallus, as such a shaping might be welcomed as the ultimate hand job as much as resisted for its elemental seizing of control.


Jennet Thomas – amorphous shapes

Jennet Thomas: still from Return of the Black Tower, 2007 - film, 15 minutes

I’m allowing a little personal continuity here, as John Smith’s The Black Tower, 2007, featured in my spring 2015 show ‘The Presence of Absence’. In it, a complicated dance between what is and isn’t real starts from the simple device of filming a water tower from a number of angles to suggest differing locations. Jennet Thomas takes Smith in her own weirdly compelling low-fi direction. Visually distinctive people struggle with the subjectivity of their attempts to engage with something just beyond their comprehension, the shifting shape of which they can no more pin down than they can work out what one of them calls ‘the meaning embedded in the relation of things’. Is it epistemology or religion they’re grappling with? Or art?


Paul Carey-Kent, Curator

November, 2015


It started with a brunch to choose rooms:


Rebecca, Claire and Emily
Jennet tucks in

Brian Dawn with Oona

Oona brought in the Jam

Then the installation:

Miriam installing

Emma hanging a heart
Oona positioning jerry's lunch

And the opening:

Selma with her work

Rana in her room
Miriam with her foxglove works

Oona with ceramic potato

Natasha in her room

Rana's outside work No. 625 I. Drawing by night

Me with Selma and Emma

Oona and family

Miriam explains to Poppy Whatmore

 Brunches followed over the weekend

That's Emma's most understanding husband, Fox, next to her

Rana's outside work by day

Contact: Emma Cousin 07841832501

Press enquiries: Emily Austin 07733321395

Address: 52 Whitbread Road, Brockley, London SE4 2BE

Generously sponsored by Cooper’s Bakehouse

Transport: Brockley (Overground & southern), Crofton park (Thames Link)

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.