Tuesday, 20 December 2016

ALICE ANDERSON: POST-DIGITAL - 11 NOV 2016 - 18 FEB 2017



 ALICE ANDERSON: POST-DIGITAL
 
Curated by Paul Carey-Kent

Catalogue available

Preview: 11 November 2016, 6.30pm - 8.30pm

12 November - 18 February 2017

Union Gallery 94 Teesdale Street London E2 6PU -
near Cambridge Heath station

Opening Hours Wed - Sat 12 - 6

 
 
 
 
 
The essence of Anglo-French artist Alice Anderson’s practice is the performative exploration of the semi-conscious outcomes of particular states of mind. Those actions typically combine primitive and modern, strong and vulnerable, one-off chance and ritual repetition. Consequently, what may appear autobiographical or reductive [1] is actually mythic and complex. We can see those patterns played out in the various strands of Anderson’s recent work. POST-DIGITAL features two of those: the capsules objects and the mesh sculptures. I’ll set those in the context of three other streams of her practice: memorised objects, architectures data, and performative drawings.


MEMORISED OBJECTS

Housebound, 2011

Anderson has long been interested in memory, which she explored through short films prior to 2010. She then found herself focusing on the objects in the films, a direction confirmed by the epiphany of dismantling an alarm clock with a bobbin of conductive copper wire inside it. She liked its ‘shiny, hypnotic’ reflections, which triggered the thought that copper could represent the connectivity of a digital world and provide a means of recording items. She developed a weaving technique with copper-coloured thread, the first public application of which was to wind around the Freud Museum in 2011, for which she and her performers had to clamber in and out of the building’s windows.
 
Speakers, 2014

Anderson was drawn to extend these actions to objects, as in her words, “I always worry to break or lose an object, therefore I have established rules: When one of the objects around me is likely to become obsolete or is lost in stream of our lives, I ‘memorise’ it with thread before it happens.” She  has since made an extensive investigation of memory through copper motion, leading to the major ‘Memory Movement Memory Objects’ at the Wellcome Collection, London in 2015. There she ’memorised’ all manner of things from the complete ‘weaving’ of what was in her studio to everyday items (sometimes brought to her by the public) to ladders to a car.  That practice remains essentially performative: winding wire around objects takes Anderson into a meditative and rhythmic space of repetition, with movements akin to dance. It turns out you have to be fully in the present in order to create the reference points which will preserve it. 
 
Ladders, 2014

 Anderson connects with the objects in two ways. First, as substitutes for human interaction: she says that in her childhood, she had “a very hard time connecting with people, and most of the time, my emotions weren't tied up with the person I had in front me, but rather with the objects associated with the moment of my relation with them”. Second, this is a way of recording and charging objects by printing them with the signature of her movements. It is, in that sense, practical, not nostalgic. Anderson contrasts that with the ‘outsourcing’ of memory by digital processes. That’s particularly clear when the reflex taking of a photograph substitutes for the attempt to remember – or indeed, originally experience – an event for itself. The thread also gains resonance from myth: Ariadne’s path from the Minotaur, Penelope’s defensive performance of weaving.
 

ARCHITECTURES DATA
 

The Freud Museum building prompted Anderson to explore her first architecture and to measure - rather than sanctify - its space.  Her 2015 Paris exhibition, ’Data Space’, followed this through by occupying a circular run of rooms on the 5th floor of Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton.  Anderson wove around the data formed from copies of the building’s features – floorboards, cables, skylights, skirting boards, cables and its lift - and installed them as sculpture. Not only were the features transformed by displacement and their seductive coppery sheen, but they were reshaped either by the process (e.g. the ceiling panels distorted under the pressure of binding) or by the way they were configured (the floorboards were shown in circular formations, the lift cables looped intestinally). It was as if the space was inhabited by a version of itself. 
 
181 kilometres, 2015

Perhaps the most challenging to make among Anderson’s copper wire works is the Saatchi Collection’s pair ‘Bound’, 2011 and ‘181 kilometres’, 2015. The Freud Museum project included the former, for which Anderson wound thread around a giant wooden bobbin, making what she saw as a totem to the undersea cables linking the whole planet. In the Museum context, though, one commentator saw it as reprising a game Freud played with his young grandson in order to calm what he saw as the anxiety of the mothers’ absence. Now it looms large, like the inescapable childhood influences underpinning Freud’s view of our psychological development.  Anderson had to walk the eponymous 181 kilometres to ’spin’ an entire 2m wide sphere, a sculptural marathon of free choreography which pushed her meditational intensity to new limits, and emphasised the near-prosthetic role of the thread as an extension to her bodily movements. 
 

Columns, 2016

 
With comparable intensity of focus, Anderson has just completed a permanent ensemble of sculptures at the Eiffel historical building in Paris. It is based on the 3D ‘physical’ printing with thread of 5 architectural elements of the atrium (5 columns 5 metres high) and 15 data cables suspended in the 2nd atrium as a 375 metre long  ‘cloud’ of connections. The project’s curator, Marie-Laure Bernadac, speaks of ‘virtual reality becoming ritual reality’ through the physical memorisation of the architecture here, and of how Anderson points to how ‘we are only at the Stone Age of this technological evolution which has already changed all models - economic, social and ideological. This is not to resist the digital world, but simply to anticipate and make tangible our physiological responses its algorithmic and artificial memory’.
 
CAPSULES OBJECTS
 
The Capsules Objects enact the preservative aspect of the Memorised Objects in a more specific and mournful context. As Anderson puts it, “if an object breaks” – as opposed to the mere threat of loss which is countered by recording an object with thread – “Something has gone. I encapsulate the object in steel, I leave it outside for few weeks until it rusts, then I perform a ritual and when the dance is over, everything is repaired. The broken relation is healed”. The full series of ‘Insouciance’ consists of 13 capsules , each containing a real object: bistro table, bistro chair, bistro stool, menu rack, neon box, parasol, hard disk, Ethernet cables, pair of trainers, broom, TV, DVD, coffee cup, ashtray. Such items represent the experiences of many in the outdoor cafes which are an intrinsic part of Parisian culture, but here Anderson presents them as ‘broken’ – their associations altered by the terrorist events of 13 November 2015.  
 
Insouciance, 2016

If the weavings can be read as mummification, these are closer to time capsules, and whereas the copper which Anderson uses is treated to prevent it rusting, the steel is left to rust in its characteristic manner until time seems to personalise the memory. The rust, usually an agent of corrosion and decay, acts as a protective barrier that the artist uses all over her body during the ritual performances. The result is conceptual minimalism:  totem-like forms which take their shape from what we cannot see. The obvious predecessor for that move is Manzoni, who claimed to have filled cans with his shit. Perhaps he did, but if not then that too can become part of his sardonic critique of value: Anderson’s time capsules, though, really must contain what we cannot prove is there – indeed, if you move the capsule you can hear the object inside.
 
 

The accompanying film documentation shows Anderson along with three friends who are, respectively, a dancer, a photographer and a writer, and captures how they respond to the capsules objects once they reach the point of unawareness generated by constant repetition. Anderson explains that she is “very sensitive to light and sounds, and feel many vibrations and waves in various materials. When the rust from the steel capsules touches my skin, it ‘outlines’ my body by creating ‘boundaries’ and I instantly feel more ‘concretely’ in relation to the world. It is truly stimulating”. 
 

PERFORMATIVE DRAWINGS


Nocturnal Drawing, 2012
 Anderson’s drawings, like her sculptures, are the result of ritual performances. The Nocturnal Drawings ‘mark’ her gestures with wire as she dances around a sheet of paper, unspooling a bobbin of thread which she has placed in a ceramic jar. It’s very much a whole body performance. The results are delicately geometric traces of movements performed in the silence of night, when the tinkling musicality of the thread’s unspooling can be heard as rhythm becomes shape.  Anderson stops “as soon as dizziness takes place. I immediately cut the thread. The drawings are influenced by where they are made, as well as how: switching for example to a different size of paper changes the span of Anderson’s movements with radical consequences for the outcomes.  One might think of the semi-conscious patterns of Henri Michaux’s mescaline drawings, but Anderson seems to have undrugged access to the trance states required.

Fridge - Object ID from Barcode, 2016
          
If the Nocturnal Drawings encode a performance ‘for itself’, the Barcode Drawings go beyond the digital to provide an alternative means of encoding objects. In her studio, Anderson has a shelf of the barcodes she has cut from the packaging of all manner of everyday items: a bottle of water, a globe, pizza, a fridge, a letter from the bank, many an Amazon parcel. She has used these to work on objects’ virtual presence by drawing their digital identities by using a knife to cut into a pastel ground. The process requires an obsessive replication of lines and spaces, made consistent in scale and colour (red, rather than the original black, tying in with her fascination for that colour). These small canvasses represent, as Anderson sees it, “the soul of the object”.
 
Fridge - Essentia, 2016
 
As she made them, Anderson found she was wiping off excess pastel, and was drawn to the resulting ‘accidental drawings’ formed by the repetitive gestures of displacing the pastel from the knife onto a cloth. You could see these are recording the performance of recording the objects. Extreme deliberation has its complementary in chance – though for how long, before the wiping off becomes first deliberate and then automatic, as if cycling back to chance in a new manner? 

MINIMAL GESTURES
 
Cut Out Pieces 3, copper mesh, 2014
 

Where the memory works are partly about preservation, Anderson’s mesh works look as if they will themselves need considerable protection: their delicate squares tremble as you walk past them, poised on the boundary between form and formlessness, and held together by nothing more than static attraction. Anderson makes them by cutting up a whole sheet of copper mesh. When combined by the assumed performance of her intuitive placement, these automatically reconnect themselves as if feeling the need to get back together. The meshes, like the time capsules, originate in public trauma:  seeing the type of fence used in migrant camps, Anderson imagined the freeing action of cutting through them. It’s appropriate, then, that the wire is rather sharp-edged, and needs considerable care in handling. The meshes’ mutability suggests memories yet to take shape and how people, too, can re-form. There’s also a built-in potential for separation and an apparent fragility – though the sculptures are actually much more stable and robust than one might suppose. 

 
 
Anderson, then, has created some compelling groups of work. Looking across them, several common concerns are apparent. Abstract forms emerge from her repetitive and minimal gestures in something of a contrast with Frank Stella’s famous dictum ‘what you see is what you see’. What you see is the trace of what Anderson has done, and her reasons for doing so. Those actions relate to personal and communal histories. Both are potentially germane to the viewer, who is – like the work – caught between an individual’s relation to the concrete things of the world, and the communal context for those interactions, what Wittgenstein called the ‘forms of life’ which make sense of a person’s encounter with the world. The aesthetic that emerges has a minimalist sophistication, but its generation is primitive, even irrational. 

And while there’s a strength to the materials Anderson utilises there’s a concurrent vulnerability within the processes and in the artefacts produced. We can see why protection is needed. Consistent with the underlying minimalism, monochrome and repetition are used with rigour, though the effect is not so much to pursue uniformity as to allow different resonances to build up from the obsessive action. We’re more in the territory of Ragnar Kjartansson singing the same song all day than of Charlotte Posenenske collapsing the boundaries between art and industrial production. 

We might call the result POST-DIGITAL. Certainly it is informed – indeed, troubled – by knowledge of the digital alternative, and goes beyond it to seek new haptic relationships between people and the physical world. Anderson’s post-digital rituals give us a directness of engagement which a photo in a file cannot. Yet her practice might also be seen, taken as a whole, to be mourning the loss of the pre-digital world, to yearn for the times when rituals were charged with maximum power and objects were restricted to their original selves.

From the opening on 11 November:
 
 
 



 

 

 

 






[1] I’ve noticed that people tend to form their view of Anderson’s work by linking how she looks (a redhead) with what she produces (such as objects memorised in wire which happens to be the colour of her hair). Self and object are certainly present, but it is more meaningful to concentrate on what she does and why.

Monday, 21 November 2016

BOOK REVIEW: TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE

 


 
 
JANE ENGLAND: TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE
 
 
Black Dog, Nov 2016 - £29.95




Berlin and Jimmy, West Kensington, January 1977


Resisting obvious puns on her name, Jane England’s Turn and face the strange takes its title from the lyric of David Bowie's song Changes. It’s a time capsule of the 1970's into the 80's, when the Australian, more recently known as a gallerist, worked in editorial and fashion photography. 130 handsomely presented black and white photographs, drawn from her parallel personal practice, document the various countercultural characters from her bohemian lifestyle. Adrian Dannatt's introductory essay makes much of the differences between 1975 and now: London’s transition from poverty to comparative wealth; low rent to high rent; empty plots to oppressive density; characterful to sanitised; rebellious Londoners moving from rupturing conventions to expecting their discontinuity. Underlying all that is the difference between pre- and post Thatcher…
 
 

 
Drag Ball, Porchester Hall, November 1976

             
There’s something in all of that, but I was more struck by how England conveys the way a ‘scene’ comes together as people run into each other, a few big personalities, locations and events (the Notting Hill Carnival, the Drag Balls at Porchester Hall) form a focal point, and the resulting loose community takes on an internally focused importance out of all proportion to how transitory it’s bound to be. The difference from now, in that case, lies more in a point not emphasised by Dannatt – the move from pre- to post-Internet has revolutionised the dynamics of how such groupings form. If you go to the wonderful show of Picasso’s portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, you get a sharp flavour of how artistic communities developed in Barcelona and Paris at the turn of the last century, and it feels pretty comparable with 1970’s London. Is it different now? I suspect so, in which case the change in how commonality is established, and any consequent change in its nature, may be the most profound shift from what is captured by Turn and face the strange.



Eileen Agar, Holland Park, 1987

England’s photograph’s are informal but predominantly posed: we see how people put themselves forward, rather than glimpsing them unguarded. Both the photographic style and the performative self-presentation of this demi-monde's personalities tend towards the cinematic, and Film Noir in particular. That, no doubt, partly reflects the contemporary interests and subsequent image selection policy of the one character we don’t see in the photographs: England herself. Consistent with that modesty, her photographs generally  give the subjects, rather than their interpreter,  centre stage. Most of the people we see are little-known now, though there are some famous artists (Eileen Agar, Conroy Maddox, Gilbert and George...) - most of whom are comparatively old, so that the role of inter-generational influence is made clear.


Agnes, Chiswick, September 1977



 
England herself provides well-judged anecdotal commentaries on the individual photographs, revealing either an exceptional memory or thorough note-taking at the time. We learn, for example, that the tall model Agnes Toro was of royal African blood, and that when Idi Amin concocted a story about Princess Elizabeth of Toro and invented the sex euphemism ‘discussing Ugandan affairs’, she responded by wearing – sadly not in the book - a T-shirt emblazoned with the words 'Amin de Mood'.
 

Jordan Outside SEX, February 1976




England has also updated the life stories of many of the subjects: Paul Beecham, shown in customised skin tight tiger-skin trousers, went on to become prop master for the English National Opera; and 'Jordan' (Pamela Rooke), photographed as the iconically punk shop assistant, muse and model at the McLaren/Westwood shop SEX in the Kings Road, is now a vet in Seaford. For all that several died young of AIDS, we’re reminded that for many this was just a phase from which they - like society as a whole - have moved on. Again, England captures the cyclic as much as the specific. That makes this evocative and diverting slice of time travel worth thinking about beyond the routine ponderment of how we lived then.

 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

PAUL'S ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 181-190

‘Plurality Please!’ Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #190

 

 Juliette Mahieux Bartoli : installation with ’Erato Silver’ and 'Eurydice Purple', both 2016 
 


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Juliette Mahieux Bartoli with ‘Ananke Calliope Coral’, 2016

 
Perhaps things will change post-Brexit, but there’s a healthy internationalism in the London art scene at present. Franco-Italian Juliette Mahieux Bartoli says her paintings (‘Pax Romana’, shown by Norwegian gallerist Kristin Hjellegjerde in Wandsworth to 21 Dec) reflect the impossibility of cultural singularity in our hybridised world. She should know, having grown up in Washington DC, Paris, Geneva and Rome before studying in London. She arrives at fragmentation of the classical by applying Photoshop to images of herself in performance, which inspire pellucid oils which bring eras together. Mahieux Bartoli also has a rather cunning means of generating titles which – consistent with her internationalism – vary according to the country of display, but the main thing is they look stunning in the (grey) flesh. Evy Jokhova is a notably wide-ranging multi-media artist who also fits the mixed nation model: born in Switzerland to Russian parents, she splits her time between London, Vienna and Tallinn. Jokhova has just taken over the gothic revival Chapel in the distinctive House of St Barnabas in Soho with an installation of three sculptures constructed largely from materials made for their acoustic properties, and drawings of the building’s plans which form the scores to generate music (with James Metcalfe) so that the space can be said to create its own sound (‘Staccato’, presented by Marcelle Joseph Projects, to 4 Jan by appt). I say we want to keep these internationals welcome in London!


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                          Installation shot – Evy Jokhova, ‘Staccato’, 2016 (photo Jan Krejci)


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                   Evy Jokhova in ‘Staccato’ (photo Malcolm Mackenzie)


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?
 

‘International Smooth’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #189

 

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‘Krishna and his Kin dallying with their Wives and Courtesans by the Sea Shore at Pindaraka’, c. 1810-20


It shows the richness of London’s gallery scene that you can – as always, it seems – see easy as you like an impressive selection of late 20th century Italian art (at Cortesi, Thomas Dane, Luxembourg & Dayan, Mazzoleni, M&L, Partners & Mucciaccia, Robilant + Voena and Tornabuoni) and also, during this ‘Asian Art Week’, a wide-ranging survey of a different market sector. The exquisite selection of Indian miniatures at Francesca Galloway (to 11 Nov) includes ‘Krishna and his Kin dallying with their Wives and Courtesans by the Sea Shore at Pindaraka’ – which I definitely love for its intricately energetic organisation of shape and colour; lively sense of movement, including the underwater figures; and possibly also I suppose out of some fellow feeling for the life of the princes shown, who seem to have things pretty easy. The abstract-looking cloud paintings of Jiang Dahai at the Mayor Gallery (‘Diffusion’ to 17 Dec) aren’t such a contrast as might appear, as there are many colours (in up to 15 layers) applied by a spray-fine brush-speckling technique you can see at www.chinadaily.com.cn/culture/2014-11/19/content_18943545.htm. He’s one of many Chinese artists who’ve settled in France after going there to train traditionally, only to turn their knowledge to other ends. Wang Keping is another, but I was unable to see his distinctive wood carvings at the Aktis Gallery as advertised due to a three hour closure to prepare what must have been a rather elaborate event. Ah well, we wouldn’t want it too easy…

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Jiang Dahai: ‘Harmony’, 2016

One Work: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #188


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Robert Therrien: No title (pitcher with yellow spout)’, 1990


Enough of exhibition reviews, I’ll look at just the one work this week *. LA artist Robert Therrien is best known for playing with fabricated scale so that, for example, saucepans tower above us, recharging our inner child’s sense of everyday wonder (and daftness: are the cooking utensils ‘awe-dinnery’!?). Parasol unit, though, concentrates (‘Robert Therrien: Works 1975-1995’, to 11 Dec) on earlier handmade works, which seek related effects by different means. Take this deep and shaped wall-mounted construction of enamel and wood. Is it a sculpture, or (punningly) a picture of a pitcher? Or even of a bird with a yellow beak, simplified a la Brancusi? Therrien likes to give solid form to the unstable or impermanent (snowmen, for example, or clouds, including one which is fitted with taps). That triggers our awareness of the pitcher’s function as predicated on instability, for it stands ready to be tipped, to pour like a cloud. All of which makes it sound somewhat comical, when actually my first impression was of a combination of triangles driven by abstract concerns, balancing large white against small yellow, playing off area and intensity. And later I fixed on it as an archetypal jug with some of Morandi’s reverence for such items, inscribed in how carefully approximate it is in the making. From gnomic to comic to platonic, a simple form proves hauntingly complex.

* hats off to the Afterall series of whole books which focus on one work

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Robert Therrien: installation view showing ‘No Title (cloud with faucets)’, 1991


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?

‘No Need to be Trendy’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #187

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Juliette Losq: ‘Lethe’, 2016 – Watercolour & ink on paper, 100 x 174 cm

Not every interesting show is at a ‘hot’ gallery. The current shows at Waterhouse & Dodd, better known for their secondary market activity, and Long & Ryle, who have a somewhat conservative roster, are cases in point. The former has Juliette Losq’s technically impressive watercolours (‘Terra Infirma’ to 12 Nov). Losq finds a modern space for the picturesque in London’s zones of marginal nature, somewhere between the romantic sublime and its modern corruption. The latter is often represented by graffiti made painterly, though in the most radical piece it’s the patterns of pylons which appear on the side of a cabinet rendered function-free by plywood paintings cascading like tongued vegetation from the drawers. 
At Long & Ryle David Wightman’s apparent subject (‘Empire’ to 11 Nov) is imagined mountains by lakes, which he collages out of shapes cut from textured wallpaper. The textures, which Wightman paints over in acrylic, can be read as geological strata or rippling waves. Are the paintings bland substitutes for the wallpaper they incorporate? Wightman sets up the possibility in order to refute it: his colours are intrusively improbable as decorative schemes and more suggestive of pollution than of nature. Celestine iv sets an ice cream mountain against a sulphurous pool and an ink-dense sky. Joseph Albers and Michael Craig Martin come to mind as we see how the same landscape template can be varied by changing both colour and textured pattern. It turns out that the paintings are, primarily, abstractly-motivated experiments with a language.

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David Wightman: ‘Celestine iv’, 2016 – acrylic and collaged wallpaper on canvas, 70 x 105 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?


‘Where Are They Now?’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #186


rimg1653-brownWhy must people get in the way when I’m photographing paintings? Ah, I see it is Alice Browne herself, I guess that’s OK

You have to stay alert to find the galleries at this time of year: several reopened in new premises ahead of Frieze. Limoncello is onto its fourth permanent space – the biggest yet, and though the address – Unit 5, Huntingdon Industrial Estate – sounds forbiddingly off-track, the gallery’s is the first door you come to if you walk north from Shoreditch High Street Station. It has reopened with Alice Browne’s big Dante-inspired paintings (‘Forecast’ to 5 Nov – see also http://fadmagazine.com/2016/10/05/225376/), which features abstract-looking views of the never-finished chaos of hell alongside paintings of futurologists whose heads are turned back to front so that, in Dante’s account of their tortures, ‘tears coming from the eyes / Roll down into the crack of the buttocks’.
Dalla Rosa, formerly in Clerkenwell, is now in Chalk Farm, where Jessie Brennan’s socially engaged account of a community garden in Peterborough, told through testimony and cyanotypes (including a rather touching dead robin), also makes for a strong opening (‘If This Were To Be Lost’, 3 Leighton Place to 29 Oct).
Skarstedt (8 Bennet St) is only 200 yards from its former location, but has more room for one of the best shows in London, pairing David Salle and Cindy Sherman as if that were always meant to be.
Cabinet, after what seems (and probably is) years of building, have migrated from Clerkenwell to Vauxhall; Andor from Hackney to London Fields; Purdy Hicks from Bankside to Kensington; and Project Native Informant from Mayfair to Holborn Viaduct. And I dare say there are others…

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Jessie Brennan installation at dalla Rosa

‘Super-late-ive’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #185


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Dorothea Tanning: ‘Victrola floribunda’, 1997

Proof, perhaps, that that being an artist isn’t a proper job is that you don’t normally get to retire. There’s plenty of evidence in London now. Georgia O’Keeffe (Tate Modern to 30 Oct) lived to 98, and lots of her best work was late. The show opposes the interpretation that her flower paintings are sexual – a line started by her husband Alfred Stieglitz, but denied by her. Fair enough, but it seemed to me that – whether O’Keefe meant it or not – the whole show had a sexual aspect,, what with fleshy mountains, views through pelvises, folds and openings everywhere… Flowers were the least of it… But in the case of Dorothea Tanning’s production from her late eighties (which was recently at Alison Jacques) flowers are all you get: big, lush, not unsexy, imaginary. They’re superlative, and enhanced by Tanning asking poets to name her invented blossoms and write a matching verse*. Come to that 76 year old Araki (Hamiltons to 27 Nov) is quite clear about his flower photos standing in for genitalia. But all those florists are trumped by the late-blooming Japanese-Brazilian Tomie Ohtake at White Rainbow (to 12 Nov): most of the show was made in her last year, ie after turning 100!

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Nobuyoshi Araki: ‘Flowers’, 2007

* For example Victrola floribunda by John Ashbery

I am always shaking deliquescent bonbons
out of my hat. Is that a hat-trick?
I have never known what “hat-trick” means,
though I am sure there are many who do
and many more who do not.

‘250 heads are better than 1’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #184


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Paloma Varga Weiz: ‘Dreigesichtfrau’, 2005

Frieze week is busy enough – see my choices at paulsartworld.blogspot.co.uk – to make me wonder whether a fulltime job is such a good idea. Maybe the answer would be the multiple self – think how many Rachel Macleans there are in her films, that would be handy. Certainly one head seems unduly restrictive, and as it happens Shezad Dawood’s show at Timothy Taylor (to 22 Oct) includes a double-sided head among its impressive virtual reality effects. Not so far away, though, in the Phillips auction exhibition, I came across a three-faced woman in glazed plaster by Paloma Varga Weiz (estimate £8-12,000 if you have your bidding head on). Then came five-heads at MDC. The highest impact figures in Matthew Monahan’s alluringly sinister 2 and 3D de- and re-constructions of the classical (‘Shut-ins and Shootouts’ to 12 Nov) are faces shot through from the back and sculptures half-hidden in dark mesh boxes. But I also liked the mysteriously titled drawing ‘Tera Flop Club’. Now, I thought, we’re getting somewhere. The Lisson Gallery felt like arrival. Tony Cragg’s extensive new show (to 5 Nov upstairs and down in both the Bell Street spaces, and outside!) includes the rather atypical ‘We’. This bronze cone incorporates, in whole or in part, around 250 cragg-heads. Ideal: that’s pretty much one self for each exhibition which can be visited in London this week.

Matthew Monahan: 'Tara Flop Club', 2016

Matthew Monahan: ‘Tara Flop Club’, 2016


Tony Cragg, Installation view at Lisson Gallery (27 Bell Street), London, 1 October – 5 November 2016
Tony Cragg, Installation view at Lisson Gallery (27 Bell Street), London, 1 October – 5 November 2016

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?


‘After the Binge’: Paul’s Art Stuff on a Train #183


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I was surprised to hear from Professor Anita Taylor, Director of the Jerwood Drawing Prize, how the three strong panel of judges* chose the 61 drawings included in the 22nd prize exhibition (Jerwood Space London to 23 Oct**, then touring to Bath, Leigh and Poole). All 2,537 entries were gathered for physical inspection of the original in a two day binge, no pre-sifting, no jpegs. Then, not only were the judges not told the names of the artists, they weren’t given titles, nor any statements about the work – so the focus was very purely on the drawing. They did well, then, to light on quite a few interesting processes and subjects which I’m not sure I’d have worked out without the helpful summaries written subsequently for the catalogue. Would I have deduced that my favourite work here – Nathan Antony’s video ‘Black Friday’ – was made by applying a hair dryer to the thermally sensitive surface of a till receipt, then letting it unroll naturally? That Julia Hutton’s subtle lines were made by burning as the sun streamed through her studio window? Would I have guessed that the figures-come totems in Michael Hancock’s ‘Allotment 3’ are decayed Brussels sprout roots? The £8,000 first prize was awarded to another filmed process, Solveig Settemsdal’s ‘Singularity’, nine minutes following white ink suspended in cubes of gelatine.

* Artist Glenn Brown and museum directors Paul Hobson and Stephanie Buck

** The London venue has the bonus of Jasmine Johnson’s installation bringing African wildlife into the cafĂ© courtesy of the world’s largest collection of game shot by one man, which turns out to be at the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent.

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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?

‘Near-Death Experience’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #182


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Gretchen Faust: Installation view of ‘Aint Wet Paint’

Corvi-Mora and Greengrassi are unusual – possibly even unique – in sharing a building and swapping, from show to show. between its large lower and smaller upper spaces. The current pairing works well. Upstairs is Gretchen Faust (Greengrassi to 8 Oct), possibly the only German-sounding American artist who teaches yoga in Devon. An introductory joke – unopened puzzles posited as art unless the purchaser unseals them, when they revert to puzzle status – leads in to a wall of 5,000 hyper-delicate doilies. Cut from gold-sprayed tissue paper, they flutter under breath. It was meditatively therapeutic work, said Faust. They’re all different but ‘if anyone mentions snowflakes’ she went on devilishly, just after I’d mentioned snowflakes, ‘I have to kill them’. Diverting Fuast by asking where her text’s words come from – St Francis of Assisi – I lived to tell the tale. Downstairs is Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s set of paintings ‘Sorrow for a Cipher’, an array of eight men, seven lolling on large linen grounds, and just the smallest standing more assertively on canvas. Yiadom-Boakye’s explained that although she’s known for completing pantings on a single fresh day, that applies only to work on canvas. Linen’s more absorptive properties suit the process spreading out longer. So she seems to be moving in a slower direction here, except that the quickness of a canary perched on a hand on linen was the highlight. Greengrassi / Corvi-Mora supply rather good soup at their openings: add the stimulating art, and my visit was more sustaining than fatal in the end.

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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye installation view

‘Beauty Beyond the Name’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #181


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Yun Hyong-keun: ‘Burnt Umber & Ultramarine Blue’, 1992

Are you a namist? I only ask because I’m pretty sure I can be. Dash Snow, Zipora Fried, Jack Strange – I immediately want to know what lies behind such names. David Smith, Sarah Jones, Ralph Brown – the urge, quite unfairly, diminishes. And for Anglophones the problem increases with foreign names. Koreans, for example, can all sound confusingly similar to the western ear. Cho Yong-ik, Chung Chang-Sup, Chung Sang-Hwa, Kwon Young-woo, Lee Dong Youb and Yun Hyong-keun are luminaries of the Korean school of Dansaekhwa, but if you’d asked me to name Korean abstractionists a month ago I might only have come up with Lee Ufan and Park Seobo. That partly because Ufan (who’s represented by Pace and Lisson and better known for his connections to the Japanese Mono-ha group) and Seobo (recently featured at White Cube) have shown the most widely. Whether or not that reflects the comparative merits of their works, I suspect their relatively memorable names play a role too. Anyway, even if slowed by namism, Dansaekhwa (literally, ‘monochrome painting’) has been picking up interest lately, and Yun Hyong-keun now has his first London solo show at Simon Lee. His mature style is narrow but intense: water and dirt are invoked through washes of ultramarine blue and burnt umber which combine to form a glowering near-black and bleed out at the edge of geometric forms, generating a trembling beauty due to the differential absorption of the various layers of thinned paint.

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Yun Hyong-keun installation view at Simon Lee

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, The Art Newspaper and Border Crossings. I have curated five shows in London during 2013-15 with more on the way.Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.

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