Saturday, 15 April 2017


‘Advantageous Positions’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 210

Allen Jones: ‘High Wire’, 2006

Sculpture parks are a most agreeable way to combine the countryside’s freshening merits with the potential for positioning art advantageously. My Easter visit to the New Art Centre at Roche Court, illustrated that. Set, to the seasonal soundtrack of a rookery, in sweeping hills near Salisbury, Roche Court has some excellent indoor exhibition spaces – but its essence is the 85 or so sculptures in the grounds. Among the most effective locations at present are Allen Jones’ acrobat ‘High Wire’, which spins in the wind as it hangs from a tree, making the most of the changing distortions of a flexible figure as it rotates. Paul Morrison also takes on trees with flatness: his botanical illustration style ‘Hyazinthe’ is 13 feet high, enabling it to act arboreally. Michael Craig-Martin’s wheelbarrow is another sculptural drawing, and one which looks rather at home in the garden – though if you prefer unnatural incursions, Craig-Martin also has a huge pink light bulb nearby. David Annesley’s ‘Untitled (Circle)’ seems decidedly three dimensional in that company, and works particularly well with a setting of daffodils. Next up at Roche Court, to supplement the core of the changing mix, is show of Anthony Caro – who taught the under-publicised Annesley. 

Michael Craig-Martin: ‘Wheelbarrow (red)’, 2013 

Paul Morrison: ‘Hyazinthe’, 2014

David Annesley: ‘Untitled (Circle)’, 1966

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?


'How to Go': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 209

William Daniels: ‘Untitled’, 2013 – as shown at Vilma Gold
The well-respected Ibid, Limoncello and Vilma Gold galleries have closed their London spaces, in what may be a watershed moment for the art business. I suspect more mid-market primary galleries will follow. Minor aspect as it must seem to the gallerists, it is worth thinking about ‘how to close’. Max Wigram (2015) can stand for how not to: no communication – no email to the galleries’ lists, not even an indication on the websites, leaving the conclusion to be drawn over time as no new shows were scheduled. Limencello and Ibid did manage on site notice of their closures, and Vilma Gold did better still, sending a message to their email subscribers. Ibid is somewhat different, as it continues in LA, and also has an off-site show in London*, only not ibid (‘in the same place’). I suspect the general lack of communication is down to embarrassment at having ‘failed’. Yet really there’s no need: everyone appreciates that the business is a fickle one, and things change and move on. Better to celebrate what has been, and maybe even hold a farewell event. Ceri Hand was an example of how to close in upbeat mode, as was Poppy Sebire – in the same space, as it happens – before her. But they are exceptions. Rebecca May-Marston and Rachel Williams might also have celebrated, as they have exhibition records to be proud of, for all that the toxic combination of a difficult economy, soaring London rents, and the threats posed by Brexit and, perhaps, online alternatives, make it increasingly tough to make things work. 

* One of their best artists, too: David Adamo at 15 Finsbury Circus, presented in conjunction with HS Projects.

David Adamo at 15 Finsbury Circus, London, EC2M 7EB. Curated by HS Projects and co-organised by Ibid Gallery, London. Wooden & Bronze sculptures displayed in the reception area of an office building.

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?

‘Sex with Someone You Love’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 208

Tom Worsfold: ‘DIY’, 2017, 160 x 240 cm – acrylic on canvas

Onanism isn’t the easiest art subject. ‘The Great Masturbator’, 1929, is some way from Dali’s best, even though the practice was close to his heart: it is said that he was an addict who, afflicted by various fears and hang-ups, practiced no other sexual activity. Nor does much of Sarah Lucas’ reputation ride on the ‘wanking arm’ stream of her work, or Sterling Ruby’s on his film ‘The Masturbators’. All the more credit, then, to Tom Worsfold for an appropriately seductive and humorous treatment of the theme in his recent show at Carlos / Ishikawa*. The diptych ‘DIY’ seems to show in the left hand panel the rather alarming use of a vacuum cleaner for purposes of self-relief, and in the comparatively empty right hand panel, deadpan instructions for turn-on and insertion. It all has the hit and miss air of the other sort of DIY, at least when I attempt it. Perhaps there’s a play, too, on the self-absorbed act of painting itself. Worsfold depicts a range of modern scenarios in parallel manner: waiting around, commuting, relaxing at an airport terminal: all sneak rather beautifully washy acrylic-as-watercolour patterned tactility into the environs of often partial glimpses of a Robert Crumb-ish type whom I take to be a self-portrait of sorts. Don’t overdo the suction, Tom, we’d like you to live to make more paintings!

Tom Worsfold: ‘Terminal’, 2017, 160 x 150 cm – acrylic on canvas


 'Something for Nothing’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #207

Samuel Zealey: 'Concord', 2017

An artwork for nothing? That’s a good trade, plain as the Concorde on your face. But wait… The star of Samuel Zealey’s new show is probably what he calls – being a fan of the American master - his ‘Serra in Reverse’. Where Serra uses the force of gravity pressing them together to keep precarious-looking giant steel plates from falling on us, Zealey sets the plates of ‘Life Line’ against each other so they push apart. No welding, just a stretched rope, prevents them falling down. It’s a little worrying, the more so when so much of the world seems about to collapse. The other big works at the Cob Gallery in Camden (‘Planes’ to 8 April) are the show-titling Folded Steel Plane Series’, several person-sized heavy metal versions of some of the 36 ways Zealey’s researches have tracked down for folding a paper plane. The fact that they’re also geometrical planes is emphasised by this move, and there’s a critical edge – typical of Zealey;s environmental focus - in the contrast in noxious emissions between model and reality. And the freebie? What was more natural than to ask Zealey to demonstrate his prowess by folding the show’s press release into a paper plane, and signing it as an edition. As if planned, the fold threw up planes on the wings, and it didn’t fly badly, either...
My Zealey edition contemplates a garden launch
Installation view with 'Life Line', 2017
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?


'Secondary First’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #206

Linder: Superautumatisme Grande Jete XV, 2015

There’s something natural in expecting new art in commercial spaces and older work in institutions. Yet many of Mayfair’s commercial galleries present secondarily sourced work, and there are several outstanding shows up now.
Mazzoleni’s 30th anniversary exhibition of 30 modern Italian artists (to 5 May) scores with the high quality and often somewhat unusual choices and the strong case it makes for Salvo, Dorazio and Turcato – all little known here. My take-home would be an exemplary Burro. His language originated in dressing war wounds, which may be why I found myself seeing Giulio Turcato’s lunar scene painted onto rubber as ulcerous. Robilant + Voena reinforce my suspicion that if Tate wanted to show a South American surrealist they should have chosen Roberto Matta rather than the duller Wilfredo Lam (to April 20). Skarstedt’s survey of appropriative photography (‘Double Take’ to April 22) balances lots of now-classic Robert Heinecken and Richard Prince with more recent work in the same spirit. That links neatly to Luxembourg & Dayan’s ‘The Ends of Collage’, indeed that (to 13 May) also has Prince, with what could be described in boundary-pushing mode as ‘one image collages’. Add various others including plenty of John Stezaker, some unusual Linder and the too-rare chance to see Nusch Éluard as an artist, rather than as muse, and this – and the impressively organised book which accompanies it – is excellent. As is Pilar Ordovas’ display of just half a dozen white sculptures: Giacometti, Hepworth, Chillida…(‘Monochrome’ to 22 April). And, ending in Italy as we began, the highlights of M&L’s choices of Fontana in 3D are giant plates and a ceramic burst of fighting men from 1947. Guilio Turcato: Lunar Surface, 1964Lucio Fontana: ‘La Battaglia’, Polychrome glazed ceramic?, 1947

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?

‘Drawn to Room’ Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #206

Heather Phillipson: ‘It would be weirder not to be having nightmares right now’, 2017 – digital drawing with ink and marker pen



250 works in A4 size! Purchasable in an online auction starting at £250! Drawing Biennial 2017 is Drawing Room’s best yet. The work-by-work standard is high, and if it’s hard to grasp as a whole, there are plenty of categories you might apply. There are, for example, six Turner Prize winners here (Deacon, Gormley, Kapoor, Perry, Prouvost, Wallinger) and some impressive international names you might not have expected (Jean-Luc Molène, William Kentridge, Anthony McCall…) There is some evidence of the equation ‘greatest fame, least effort’ – certainly Marcus Cope’s cunningly motif-linked inside-outside slab of lovingly detailed domesticity fits the other half of that tendency. I was, of course, more diverted by the contributions of artists who’ve been in my own shows (Alice Anderson, Rana Begum, Oona Grimes, Danny Rolph, John Smith, Troika, Julie Verhoeven). More thematically, some memorable text work phrases come up, from ‘Not All Friends Are Friends’ (Eddie Peake) to ‘Death of the Internet’ (Suzanne Triester) to the Trump-tinged worries of Heather Phillipson. ‘It would be weirder not to be having nightmares right now’ sets the weird bar pretty high, and may refer through its circle jerk of peanuts to the President including the size of his penis in his campaign content… Plenty more classifications – from category mistakes to footwear to thaumaturgy (‘a fancy name for magic’) – are provided by Tom Morton’s sparkling catalogue notes.. And Tannery Arts, which adjoins Drawing Room, has a show on ‘Shaping the Void’ which is also well worth seeing…



Marcus Cope: ‘Building Blocks’, 2017 – watercolour on paper


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?

‘Not his Best Period?’ Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #205

Francis Picabia: ‘Trees in Flower at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne’, 1906 oil on canvas 74 x 92cm

Looking around auctions recently, two works at Bonhams emphasised how prices vary across artists’ careers. In the long term, this often this rights itself – either it is all embraced by the market as with Picasso or Warhol, or the whole oeuvre falls out of favour. 50 years ago Francis Picabia (1878-1953) was pretty much defined by his Dada output of the 1920s. The many eclectic phases of his subsequent work are now highly valued, but his pre-Dada Impressionism (or pastiche Impressionism?) Is still relatively cheap. He painted 300 such canvasses during 1903 – 09, studio productions from secondary sources, so – as would become typical – undermining the character of a genre even as he embraced it. All the same, ‘Les arbres en fleurs à Villeneuve-sur-Yonne’ conveys the air of spring rather attractively. This typical example was estimated at £130-180,000* but went for £605,000 at Bonham’s, suggesting that a correction is occurring (a comparable Pissarro was £1.2-£1.8m at Christies). In contrast, while early de Chirico is very much top end, he dismissed modernism in 1919 and his later work was dismissed in turn for many years, although somewhat more attention is now paid to it. One proclivity of de Chirico (1888-1978) was to make backdated copies of his classic works, a ‘self-fakery’ sometimes seen as a pre-post-modernist move. These early 60’s horses, though, are from his tributes to the masters of the Baroque which, in Picabian mode, are interesting precisely insofar as they fail to ring quite true. Estimated at £50-70,000*, this sold for £65,000, so no shift there.

* compares with the £5m which might be expected for a top period work
** compares with the £2m which might be expected for a top period work

Giorgio de Chirico: ‘Frightened Horses’, 1960-65 – oil on canvas 52 x 63cm

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?

‘Art and Drink’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #204

Jemima Brown: ‘Untitled Wife’, 2016

London is an increasingly problematic location for galleries, given rent levels. Perhaps there will be more shows in cafés, pubs, restaurants and such. At any rate, I was able to catch three such last Thursday. Charlie Smith, above The Reliance in Hoxton, has two shows to on ‘street semiotics’ to 25 March: in the main gallery (chosen by gallerist Xavier Ellis) and in he back room (selected by David Hancock of Manchester gallery Paper) – which is where you’ll discover Jemima Brown’s ‘Untitled Wife’, which makes great use of a pan scourer as a trendy top and pampas grass as big hair. The Approach gallery sits, rather naturally, above The Approach Tavern. Currently it’s as liquid above as below, at least in terms of art: German painter Helene Appel, who paints post-modernist Trompe-l’œil, often with lots of near-paradoxical raw canvas on show, has enormous tidescapes – waves expiring on beaches as if the paint just washed over them; middle format sinks; and tiny depictions of pasta (to 26 March). All life sized, I suppose. The gallery space was literally dry though: The Approach makes the most of its location by not serving drinks at openings. A newer, less established space is The Workers’ Café at 404 Kingsland Road. There you’ll find an attractive selection of works on paper by 25 contributors chosen by artist Carolina Ambida, and presented along with a nice little catalogue, which is something neither pub can boast (‘The Drawing Show’ to 10 March).

Helene Appel: ‘Sink 2’, 2016

Works by Alex Michon, Cathy Lomax and Tom Mason in 
‘The Drawing Show’

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?

‘Use It Up’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #203

Tai-Shan Schierenberg: ‘Loki’, 2014 Oil paint and polestyrene, 28 x 26 cm

Paint is expensive stuff, best make the most of it. For the first time Tai-Shan Schierenberg is showing his sculptures (Flowers Gallery to 25 March). They’re heads made of paint on polystyrene, rather in the manner of Glenn Brown’s neat reversals of his flat Auerbach-style paintings, but unlike Brown (so far as I know) Schierenberg uses the paint scraped daily from his palette, making them something of a diary of his practice. That’s a known way of generating a chance-heavy yet grounded colour result. Gerhard Richter is the famous practitioner: most days he scrapes his palette off across a photograph, thus imposing a personalised diaristic mark which echoes his two famous moves: of blurring an image, or of employing stick-scraped paint as the basis for abstraction. Jonathan Meese, somewhat mockingly I suspect, has imposed similar markings onto images of his rather more chaotic life. At a slight angle to those, some of Bernard Frize’s earliest abstract works were made peeled off the coloured skins from pots of paint left open in the studio, and applying them over the surface of the canvas. And Jonathan Horowitz made his Leftover Paint Abstractions (2014) by flinging whatever half-used cans of paint were in his studio against a canvas. “I see them as a repository’, he says, ‘for something that would have gone in a landfill’. Not just economical, but responsible…

Gerhard Richter: ‘ Fextal, Piz Chapütschin 1992’ 10 cm x 15 cm Oil on colour photograph

Jonathan Horowitz

‘Reasons to Sallivate – or Not’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #202

David Salle: ‘Mingus in Mexico’, 1990
American painter David Salle (say ‘Sally’) has been prominent recently: following Skarstedt’s memorable showing of his ‘tapestry paintings’ late last year, and there’s more of his richly multi-sourced 1990’s work in the Saatchi Gallery’s uneven survey of ten ‘painter’s painters’ (does that make Charles a secret painter? Either way, to 28 Feb). And Salle has just published ‘How to See’, a collection of his writings on art, more in the territory of accumulating observations than of setting out grand theories, though he has emphasised that he’s ‘against literal-mindedness’, believing that in art ‘the how of its making is just as important as what it represents’. Salle is an erudite and entertaining companion, refreshingly open about reviewing his friends, and has plenty of interesting things to say about what makes good art, especially painting *. So, what to muse on when looking at Salle’s own conflations of art forms and time zones? ‘How?’, as well as ‘what?’ and ‘why?’, must be a good question by his anti-literalist lights. And three tests he cites and ought to pass are: ‘take a work’s temperature, look at its surface energy’, ‘gestures should be harnessed to the painting’s internal architecture, not just surface decoration’ and ‘the aesthetic rationale for using appropriation… is to insert a tiny wedge between the name and the named, to search out a crack in the wall built of habit and certainty, and work into that small fissure a measure of existential rebellion’.

David Salle: ‘Old Bottles’, 1995
* That said, quibbles are possible. The book kicks off with a discussion of Alex Katz’s use of colour (‘what counts most is the intervals between colours, precisely chosen’) illustrated by a pretty poor black-and-white reproduction – indeed, the only colour illustration is of the author! It’s probably in the nature of such a production, unless proactively edited, that some repetition occurs, and Salle lets plenty stand. And there’s no attempt at balance: perhaps naturally – as they’re often his friends – Salle concentrates on old white men who paint, mostly American-based, with just a couple of non-painters, a couple of women, and a couple of non-Caucasians (Oscar Murillo cops it for making ‘painting for people who don’t have much interest in looking, who prefer the back story to what’s in front of their eyes’).

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?


‘Still on Fire’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #201

Clyfford Still: PH-150, 1958

I’ve just seen the Royal Academy’s show Abstract Expressionism on its transfer to Bilbao. The highlight remains the craggy abstractions of mid westerner Clyfford Still (1904-80). Still has had little prior visibility in Europe, mainly due to a famously difficult character, but he’s worth the hassle. Even at 21, he enrolled at the Art Students League in New York, but left within an hour, concluding that he had already rejected most of what was being taught. He spent only the 1950’s in New York, long enough to fall out with his gallerist and all the other abstract expressionists except Pollock. He rarely allowed his work to be shown, didn’t want it written about (all critics being ‘imbecilic’) and wasn’t too interested in selling. Instead, he gave 60 paintings to museums in San Francisco and Buffalo, then left his estate Turner-style to any city prepared to dedicate a museum to it: the Clyfford Still Museum opened in Denver in 2011 with 825 paintings, 1,575 works on paper, and no café or bookshop allowed. Still was the first of the group to go big, most typically 9 x 13 feet. The verticality of figures and the grandeur of frontier landscapes are equally evoked by his abstract sublimity, in which he uses a pallet knife to achieve contrasts of matt and gloss. There’s a quality of Gothic ascension which has been seen as symbolising a dialogue between Earth and Heaven, but it might equally be self and nature. ‘You can turn the lights out’, he told one venue, ‘the paintings carry their own fire’.

Installation shot, Bilbao

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?


Sarah Roberts: Torremolinos-Tableaux-Tongue-Twister (After Sun) & Mark Jackson: Face Is The Closest @ Block 336, 336 Brixton Rd – Brixton

To 6 May: 
Sarah Roberts installation view

Block 336 has room for two substantial shows, but this impressive pair feels like a whole: Sarah Roberts collects surfaces, here from the capital of crass tourism, Torremolinos, and repurposes them into a cult city unified by redness of object and light in the post-beach sunset in which ‘dark closed in on the pinks… amidst the dried renders crumbling’ *. Mark Jackson’s paintings of barely-present faces evade readability through a marble-smooth screen-like effect built from layers of translucent glazes with a hint of psychedelia. They might be just the right insubstantial inhabitants for Roberts’ paradoxically three dimensional world of surfaces.

Mark Jackson: Surfacing, 2016

* from Roberts’ text


Anne Collier, Positive (California), 2016 in 'You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred'

Spring is bursting forth with photography shows, perhaps on the basis that the Photo London (18-21 May at Somerset House) will see the full blossoming. Wolfgang Tillmans at the Tate, 'You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred' at the Zabludowicz Collection, the Deutsche Börse prize show at the Photographers Gallery (which has 4/4 worthy winners), 'Double Take' at Skarstedt  and Christopher Williams at David Zwirner are prominent and impressive manifestations, Saatch's selfie show prominent but (though there are good bits) a mess. Roger Ballen at Hamiltons is also worth mentioning, and here are a couple of other less obvious choices from the bouquet:

Scarlett Hooft Graafland: Discovery  @ Flowers Gallery, 21 Cork St - Central

To 29 April:

Still Life with Camel, 2016 - 120 x 150cm

Flowers is blooming just now, as the gallery has its best painter at Kingsland Road (David Hepher) and an interesting new-to-Britain photographer at Cork Street. Much-travelled Scarlett Hooft Graafland is one of several photographers to have impressed me in the Netherlands*, and her panoramic landscape images of exotic countries with performative sculpture added  cleverly conjoin beauty, humour, a surrealist streak, art references and cultural import.  Take Still Life with Camel, made in the United Emirates: an absurd take on Christo which subsumes what could have been a biblical scene of camel and riders into a joyous mass of pink.  Or Salt Steps: the Incredible Hulk meets Koonsian inflatables as a Bolivian man’s would-be-power is lampooned by his inability to see where he’s going.

Salt Steps, 2004

* You could make a Dutch school to rival the Finish (currently on view at Purdy Hicks) with women dominant: Marleen Sleeuwits, Awoiska van der Molen, Amie Dicke, Sara Bjarland, Melanie Bonajo, Annegret Kellner, Fleur van Dodewaard and Dana Lixenberg would be my other choices...


Elger Esser: Morgenland  @ Parasol unit, Wharf Rd - Hoxton 

Salwa Bahry I (detail), Egypt, 2011. C-print, Diasec, 97 x 124 cm

The key to German Elger Esser’s photographs of conflicted territories which appear ‘too quiet’, in the classic Wayne-spoken formulation of the American Western, is his perfect pitch. That brings just the right degree of implication to modest-sounding proposals: ‘fake an archive of views from Israel / Palestine in 1948’;  ‘make big modern photos of Lebanon and the Nile look like fading postcards’; ‘ask another artist to complement your travelogue with paintings of local orchids’ and, best of all, 'show either side of a border view printed on either side of a sculpturally propped sheet of copper’. 

Installation view with 'One Sky' series centre: Photography by Ben Westoby, Courtesy of Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art

Talking of 1948…


Ella Littwitz: No Vestige of a Beginning, No Prospect of an End @ Copperfield Gallery, 6 Copperfield Street - Southwark

Installation view

Ella Littwitz provides an object lesson in how to generate a political and emotional charge from simple-looking means - all relating to the expansion of Israel into Palestine territory. A filigree bronze cast of Dittrichia Viscosa represents the first plant to colonise disrupted territory, its allopathic qualities enriching the metaphor. Traces of the non-native pine refer to its mass introduction as a sign of support for Zionism: every Israeli receives a tree on birth, and you can have a plaque in the forest named for you if you buy enough extra trees - the imperialist narrative is strong enough for Hezbollah to have attacked trees!  A sort of cellular growth of connected unpicked footballs evokes the story of how UN officials collected and returned balls which children in a school close the border had kicked into a minefield in 1948.

"More poetry than instruction", "More instruction than poetry", chalk on Blackboard, 70 x 70 x 2 cm each

Nathalie Djurberg& amp; Hans Berg @ Lisson Gallery, 27 Bell Street – Edgeware Rd

Still from Worship, 2016

Nathalie Djerberg and her musical mood-darkening collaborator Hans Berg have tended to prefer experiment to formula in recent years, with patchy results. But here they return to what they’re known for, with three short and transgressive claymation films. If you want a goat suckling a tiger, an aubergine car and frankfurter motorbike, turds growing up lively, a moon which moons (buttocks added for the purpose), a doughnut drinking tea, love made to a banana and a well-hung matador applying his best estocada to sponge cake, then these short films are for you.  It’s hard not be jealous of such a playfully perverse subconscious.
Still from Delights of an Undirected Mind, 2016


Maria Lassnig: A Painting Survey 1950-2007 @ Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row - Central

To 29 April:

Self-portrait with speech bubble, 2006 - Oil on canvas,  200 x 150 cm 

Following her shows at the Serpentine (2008) and Tate Liverpool (2016), it’s not exactly a secret that Maria Lassnig (1919-2014) was one of the best painters of the last 50 years, but this estate-driven show reinforces the point with examples not previously seen in Britain. It clarifies her geographically-driven phases rather well: from early Viennese experiments in hard-edged abstraction to more expressionist abstracts leading up to her move to Paris in 1961, where she developed her ‘body-aware’ style of figuration. Relatively realistic works followed as she found herself a painter reacting against the prevalent conceptual use of media in New York (1968-80). She returned to Vienna in 1980 to become, at 60, the nation’s first female professor of art. Self-portrait with Speech Bubble is typical of Lassnig's late, great flowering, showing her concern with the directly sensing parts of the body – no need, it seems here, for a brain.

Girl with Wine Glass, 1971 - oil on canvas, 178 x 127cm


Richard Mosse: Incoming @ Curve Gallery, The Barbican 

Still from Incoming, 2016

Richard Mosse made a big splash at the 2013 Venice Biennale with his film of the ongoing war in the Congo. He shot it with discontinued reconnaissance infrared film which turned much of the battle scenery pink, so infecting the scenes with a surprising look which also carried political resonance. Can he replicate that kind of impact? It seems so: The Curve features film footage centering on refugees movements and still images of the associated camp infrastructure. Both are taken with a thermal camera which can distinguish people at a distance of 30 km and, as such, is classified as a weapon for export purposes. Again, the aesthetic is beautiful and distinct. Seeing thermally removes racial differences but emphasises mortality. Even though Mosse doesn’t really exploit the unusual dimensions of the Curve, his name can be added to the list of artists who – out of 27 high quality commissions - have excelled there over the last decade: Richard Wilson, Clemens von Wedermeyer, Robert Kusmirowski, Celeste Boursier-Mougenout, Song Dong and Random International.

Hellinikon Olympic Arena, 2016, digital c-print on metallic paper


 Architecture as Metaphor @ Griffin Gallery, 21 Evesham St - Latimer Rd

Evy Jokhova: Installation view of Puddle, 2011 - film with mirror

There are several good reasons to visit the Griffin Gallery. Free coffee; the sculpture, paintings and drawings exploring ‘architecture as metaphor’ have been chosen astutely; Phyllida Barlow, just ahead of her Venice appearance, links a typical sculptural pile to a spot-on stream of consciousness about getting lost in The Barbican (we’ve all been there if we’ve been there); Peter Newell Price pulls off the improbable project of making a rose window out of graphite. Yet the main reason for attendance could well be the film works by Gary Stevens, Evy Jokhova, Jemima Burrill and Lucy Gunning.

Jemima Burrill: stills from Cleaner, 2004


Love Peace and Happiness: Kiera Bennett, George Little, Phil Root, Anthony Banks, Nicholas Johnson, Gwennan Thomas, Nick Jensen, Fiona Curran and Jackson Sprague
@ Menier Gallery, 51 Southwark Street - London Bridge

To 22 April: /
Fiona Curran relaxes in her installation Pale Horizon, 2013
The cavernous Menier gallery -  a good charitable cause ('Paintings in Hospitals') but also a space for hire with dodgy shows likely to result - has shifted its model by inviting Kristian Day to bring together a nap hand of nine painters who all bring a savvy joi de vivre to a dialogue between decorative embellishment and serious intent. Among many pleasures is a cheeky hang which gets away with installing groups of separate works on top of each other. Fiona Curran, who shows a new stream of single works made with combined canvases, emerges as the widest ranging: she also wrote the press release, and her enticing installation is the main sculptural work. That contains ostrich feathers, encouraging us to notice that what we read as clouds in her paintings are actually the bodies of ostriches, in a neat reversal of our established tendency to see animals in clouds.
Fiona Curran: Body of an Ostrich, 2017 (diptych, 91 x 93cm



Aleksander Hardashnakov: You Turn On Me @ Union Pacific. 17 Goulston Street – Aldgate

Installation view with 'Find Your Own!', 'Pregnant Barbie', Stalker' and 'Painting for Liliana'

Toronto artist Aleksander Hardashnakov is an arch avoider of the signature style, but there’s a dark humour to quite a few of the 21 canvases which ring Union Pacific’s space cheek by jowl. He says ‘everything is inspiring’, and they channel all sorts of templates from Georgia O’Keefe to Kasimir Malevich. Hands meace, Barbie is pregnant, keychains cause stress… The circle of works is reflected in a charity collection style sculptural contraption in which coins run around hypnotically before disappearing down its black hole… to land on the floor. So much for the show’s economics, you can retrieve your money. Hardashnakov would like to make this as a public sculpture open to vortex-addicted skateboarders. I’d like to see that: the next 4th plinth vacancy is in 2022…

Black hole, tip jar, wishing well (proposal for public sculpture), 2017


Rhys Coren: Whistle Bump Super Strut, 270-276 Kingsland Rd - Haggerston

A slow (intro), 2017 - spray paint, acrylic and pencil on board

‘Two painting shows in a row!?’, I teased Dave Hoyland, ‘Are you selling out?’ ‘Luckily’, he says, ‘yes’ – which must be welcome after Seventeen’s ill-fated New York venture. And it’s easy to see why Rhys Coren’s funky abstractions, originally scheduled for the US, are popular. But there’s quite a lot to them, too: they’re not straight paintings but combinations of laser-cut wood like intricate puzzles; the colours are muted yet lively in combination; they’re replete with complicating effects like blurred areas, drop shadows and surfaces treated to resemble patio paving; each has a snappy title and these are joined up to turn the press release into a poem... Dance the dance, dancing feet / Red-faced with embarrassment / Cheeky, cheeky. Naughty, sneaky / Shame on you (if you can’t dance, too)...

All My Beautiful Evil is Melting, 2017 - spray paint, acrylic and pencil on board


Gordon Cheung: Unknown Knowns @ Edel Assanti, 74a Newman Street - Fitzrovia

Turkey Carpet (after Francesco Fieravino,1650-1680 ), 2017, giclée on canvas, 128 x 136cm
Gordon Cheung is known for apocalyptically coloured paintings which play against the collaged backdrop of stock listings as a charged way of exploring capitalism and its cyclic discontents. These, have become increasingly baroque, as in the tulips in which pre-sculpted paint forms fully modelled petals. Now two new series play off that practice. Grand panoramas use sand to irritate the surface as they subvert Chinese painting traditions by showing 21st century realities. And digital prints on canvas run with the computerisation of stock listings and the distortions of the market, by allowing a programme glitch to disrupt the data files of their image sources to bewitching effect. These, even when you know they’re the only flat works in the show, often look remarkably textured.

A Thousand Plateaus, 2016 -  financial newspaper, inkjet, acrylic and sand on linen, 200 x 450cm triptych
Saad Qureshi: time | memory | landscape @ Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover St - Central

To 16 April:

Beyond Mental Boundaries, 2016-17 - brick dust, charcoal, ink, 160 x 210cm
As the show title spells out, perhaps a little too didactically,  Saad Qureshi’s two new streams of work combine time, memory and landscape. The results might be called mindscapes: big vistas made with charcoal applied to the sumptuous surface of brick dust create memories of nature in the classic material of the manmade; and smaller views burnt into paper with a soldering iron suggest how places may be seared into the memory. Both those resonant uses of material took effort: it wasn’t a simple matter for Qureshi to find a supplier willing to crush their bricks to powder for him; and the six works on paper are the survivors from 37, most of which caught a little too much fire!

Scorched lines - S1, 2016 - burnt paper, 57 x 70cm

Kazuo Shiraga @ Lévy Gorvy, 22 Old Bond St - Central

Chikisei Sesuisho,  1960  -  Oil on canvas, 130 x 193 cm

I take little notice of the market, but it’s hard not to be aware that the price of a good Shiraga has increased tenfold in the ten years since the leading Gutaï member (1924-2008) last showed solo in London. And these are good examples, especially the three from the ‘Margin series’, named for outlaw characters in the Chinese saga of bandits revelling against the emperor – just as Shiraga rebelled against convention by sliding across and swirling around the paint (actually applied by his wife) into place with his feet as he swung across the canvas. What started as a provocative action in 1954 generated a stream of supra-residual results combining violence, dance and meditation. Shiraga went on producing them until his death, undeflected by being a Buddhist priest from 1971.

Mid-fifties action....

Sebastian Stöhrer @ Carl Freedman Gallery, 29 Charlotte Road - Shoreditch

To 11 March:

Frankfurt-based Sebastian Stöhrer sets up a striking array of anthropomorphic ceramics which yet retain some vestigial potential for functionality. Maybe it’s a forest of forms, as Stöhrer includes wooden legs and even a collar of fungus on one of his folkloric figures. Up close, the alchemical glaze colours and witty inventions of form make this an engaging contribution to the recent resurgence of clay in art.Here's a would-be-jug with tongue and balls:


Rebecca Meanley: ‘The inexplicable moments of painting’ @ Cadogan Contemporary, 87 Old Brompton Rd – South Kensington

To 4 March:

Untitled (ochre-magenta), 2016 - oil on canvas, 145cm x 145cm

It’s an old twist: ‘actually that’s not an abstract painting’, you say, ‘but a highly realistic  representation of an abstract painting’. Just so, in a way, Rebecca Meanley’s 16-strong 2016 set of 1.45m square canvasses all start by depicting the rag she used to wipe away paint from the last one in the cycle, and then diverge into the wet-into-wet realm of intuitive colour and gesture. ‘Oh but they are beautiful!’ you will say, which is hard to deny, but it’s the intensity of exploration which gives them the backbone without which beauty can be mush.

The artist in and largely with Caribbean Blue, I reckon


Mark Woods: ‘A Return to Old Certainties’ and Lee Maelzer: ‘Losing Up For Made Time’ @ Lubomirov / Angus-Hughes, 26 Lower Clapton Rd – Hackney

A glimpse into Mark Woods' installation

Here’s a fine contrasting double show. Upstairs Mark Woods makes a spectacular presentation of a decade’s production of glamorously kitted out sculpture-jewel-toys serried in the drawers of superbly carpentered cabinets and reflected in the spinning mirrors of an impressive peephole kaleidoscope installation. Woods’ objects transcend function, but would fit in with sex being sold as a religion: the old certainties of commerce, desire and god are artificialised, and in the middle sits a gleaming black heart. The hemmed-in basement space, dark at the building’s heart, also holds many works, but these are a tributary of Lee Maelzer’s practice: intensely atmospheric small photographs and collages, often with painted interventions, which feed into her paintings – which are often of dimly lit interiors. 

Lee Maelzer: Birthday Cake, 2013, altered photograph,
19 x 15 cm

Luiz Zerbini @ Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington St – Central

Cabec? a d'Agua, 2016, Acrylic on linen, 240 x 240cm

It’s a measure of how tough it is for artists that few from Max Wigram's roster have been picked up by other London galleries  – as Luiz Zerbiini  has - since Max Wigram’s precipitate closure in 2015.  The Brazilian  works across abstraction and representation separately but simultaneously, and it’s obvious how the streams of painting influence each other: the patterns of Rio’s  reality are exaggerated, the abstracts suggested perceptual hazing of the world. A similar to and fro operates in his unusual and historically resonant collages of found slides. Plus, in a new development, Zerbini has started to apply obsessive pencil workings to some canvases, and the low key  pseudo-metallic look of that has also started to spread into his whole practice.

Quadrado Novo, 2016, Acrylic on canvas, 220 x 160cm

Adam Hennessey: Smile @ New Art Projects, 6D Sheep Lane - Cambridge Heath

Sheep Murder, 2016 - 155 x 110cm

Young painter Adam Hennessey describes his work as ‘squishing large things into small spaces’. That’s true of many of the wittily ebullient acrylics on show here – several smiley faces jostle to be sunniest, and birds struggle to fit in their framing. But there’s no squishing required to get these 25 canvases into Fred Mann's expansive new space. Indeed, there’s enough capacity to hold a room back for small works on paper to be painted ready for a closing event on 4 March. Hennessey has a particular affinity with fingers and sheep: the former appear directly several times , though the ‘Finger Alphabet’ merely points to an anagram caused by alphabetical order; a characterfully distinguished herd of the latter seem to have been shot – if only, perhaps, with paint –  before they can enjoy the lushest grass you ever didn’t really see, it was just a picture in Sheep Lane.

Alphabet Finger, 2016 x 110cm


 Three shows curated by me...  Ears for the Eyes (to 4 March at Transition Gallery) / Show Us Your Process / The Other Side (both to July at House of St Barnabas - contact to visit)

Emma Cousin: Falling on Deaf Ears

Separate entries might be a little excessive, but naturally I believe that 23 of the best artists currently on show in London are in three shows I’ve curated: ten plus accompanying magazine in the eccentric Ears for the Eyes at Transition see; thirteen across two shows at House of St Barnabas: abstract painters showing how various distinctive processes enable them to play off chance and control to aesthetically transcendent effect( ; and my four favourite young figurative painters, creating a room full of character and presence ( 



Adam Dix: The Collectors

Installation detail: Sarah Pichkostner

Florian Roithmayr: ir re par sur @ Bloomberg Space, 50 Finsbury Square - Moorgate (to 18 March:

Sarah Pichkostner: Kay calls me all the time in other words fly me to the moon @ Josh Lilley, 44 – 46 Riding House Street - Fitzrovia (
Good sculpture often emerges from letting the material have its way, giving the – somewhat misleading – impression that the artist didn’t have to do much. London-based German Florian Roithmayr plays airily located, elongated U-shaped hangings (cast in plaster from card originals) against more bodily forms. Roithmayr spread clay on paper on the Bloomberg floor, waited six weeks for it to dry and, as the shrinking caused by the 30% which is water evaporated, curl up. Then he raised up his appealingly casual population of forms... Austrian sculptor Sarah Pichkostner’s first London solo show is a subtle grower. The title comes from an audio piece smuggled into a foam sculpture which whispers urgently yet tantalisingy close to inaudibly. A little like Roithmayr, she lets silver nitrate act from inside to ensilver glass tubes, and also coaxes coloured light into doing its stuff variously: in the sculptures, shone on the sculptures, glowing from behind a wall – and is used to yellow a narrow back-of-wall space at Josh Lilley, which she uses better than anyone since Analia Saban in 2009. Is this, perhaps, what sculpture would be like on the moon?

Installation detail: Florian Roithmayr 


Irina Korina: Destined to be Happy @ GRAD, 3-4a Little Portland Street – Fitzrovia

To 28 Feb:

Russian artist Irina Korina, who trained as a set designer, is known for her theatrical installations made out of commonplace materials. Here she presents whimsical soft sculptures of black and white emoticon characters - a human meteorite, a fire-person, a teardrop smoking a cigarette. They’re set in a hostile forest environment which didn’t prove so easy to source as one might expect. When the show was put up in early December, dead Christmas trees were so rare that she had to have twenty healthy specimens torched. Now, it fits the calendar: too much drunk over the festive season, you come round and it's Trump.  So if blasted joy is your thing, you’ll like the heavily ironic ‘Destined to be Happy’ - the more so as each of the six sculptural stations comes with its own atmospheric soundtrack generated out of aural bric-a-brac by Sergey Kasich.


Mudhook @ Tintype - 107 Essex Road - Islington plus three shows curated by me at Union and the House of St Barnabas...

To 18 Feb (Tintype and Union) / 5 July (House of St Barnabas)

Emma Cousin: Inpatient, 2016 - 120 x 100cm
 Separate entries might be a little excessive, but naturally I believe that 14 of the best artists currently on show in London are in three shows I’ve curated:  a wider view of Alice Anderson than her well-known copper wire bindings (see   for details); nine abstract painters showing how various distinctive processes enable them to play off chance and control to aesthetically transcendent effect( ; and my four favourite young figurative painters, creating a room full of character and presence (  What’s more, Emma Cousin, one of the four, also features in a lively two-hander at Tintype. She’s paired with Milly Peck, whose scribble-like sculptural versions of everyday forms enter into a lively to-and-from with Cousin’s leg play.
Alice Anderson: Cut Out Pieces from Repetitive Gestures,2016

 _                                                                                           ____________________________________

 Room and Condo (Bridget Donahue) @ Sadie Coles, 62 Kingly St - Oxford Circus

To 18 February -

    Heidi Bucher: Herrenzimmer (1977-79)

The admirable ‘Condo’ initiative, in its second year, sees 36 foreign galleries guesting in 15 London spaces, to generally lively effect. Some mix things up between host and guests, but my two favourites - Sadie Coles and Rodeo – are among those which juxtapose a separate host show with a guest solo. AT the former, Bridget Donahue presents Martine Syms, which is interesting, but the prime draw remains the outstanding group show Room, which brings together a wonderful combination of female artists reimagining domestic space. For example photographic work by Francesca Woodman, Nan Goldin, Joanna Piotrowska and Penny Slinger, and several room reconstructions in the gallery, including a smoking shed by Sarah Lucas; Heidi Bucher’s latex imprints of the walls of her father’s study; and a black room full of Klara Lidén’s teenage angst, the door into which is made harder to open by a hanging axe.

Penny Slinger: 
No Return (An Exorcism), 1977 Collage 33 x 48cm

Marcus Harvey:   Gimme Shelter @ Vigo,  21 Dering Street - Bond Street

To 18 Feb:

The English Cemetery, 2016 and Untitled (Big Galleon), 2016

Marcus Harvey, though he identifies as a painter and is a leading light in the Turps Banana school (Adam Hennessey is one recent student) mixes it up with lots of sculpture, and his paintings are often predominantly photographic or have sculptures appended. This potted version of his recent retrospective at the Jerwood in Hastings – where his nautical themes met the sea – feels timely: his jarring combinations satirise Britain as stuck in ramshackle post-colonial mode, which is one view of our withdrawal from the EU.  By jingo, we used to rule the waves! Hence, perhaps, the cast assemblage which makes up a naked Maggie of the Falklands, the white cliffs of Dover looming with the immersive scale of a Clyfford Still, and the use of cast tropical fruits to form a parody of female fructitude…

Big Girl, 2015, Gimme Shelter, 2016 and War Head, 2016

I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper @ the Griffin Gallery, 21 Evesham St – Latimer Road *

To 24 Feb:

Stephane Graff: Untitled (Courbet / Fontana), 2015

Catherine Loewe’s exhibition is easy to enjoy: she picks nine artists who have appropriated the art of the past, and lets us explore their different methods and aims.  Diptychs by Stephane Graff wittily line up iconic works with mismatched texts from what seem to be auction catalogues, pricking the bubble of artistic identity which Gavin Turk undermines by taking on that of others, here through his British styling of Warhol as the silkscreener of white transit van crashes (there’s more of that at the Newport Street Gallery) ; Marielle Neudecker and Gordon Cheung both deconstruct the Vanitas still life in painterly non-paintings, the former as plastic, the latter as digital glitches; and Glenn Brown seems to reveal the atomic under-life of old masters in his re-imaginings on the cusp of painting and drawing. 

* worth being away also interesting shows in the Griffin's rear windows and at nearby Unit 1 Gallery

Glenn Brown: Hinckley Point, 2016 - Indian ink and acrylic on panel, diptych - Each 60 x 50 cm


Thinking Tantra @ Drawing Room, 8 Rich Estate, 46 Willow Walk – Bermondsey

Installation view with Jean-Luc Moulène (front), Nicola Durvasula, Alexander Gorlizki and Shezad Dawood (back left to right)

This fascinating show starts from anonymous drawings created not as art, but as a technique for expanding knowledge. It moves on to ‘neo-tantric' works which go somewhere else from the tradition, then on to non-tantric artists who admire and are influenced by the tantric works when making abstractions without the same purpose.. Highlights include Alexander Gorlizki’s collaborative work with Indian miniaturists; Tom Chamberlain’s nearly-disappeared / not-quite-here-yet shapes; a painting on vintage textile by Shezad Dawood; Prem Sahib's sexualising of the putative genre; and Richard Tuttle’s perfect match to the spirit of the show. All this exudes inner calm, speaking of which…

Richard Tuttle: Separation (Group 3, Numbers 2, 3 and 4), 2015


Minjung Kim: Phasing @ Patrick Heide, 11 Church Street - Marylebone

Red Mountain (14-059), 2014 - Watercolor on mulberry Hanji paper, 12.5 x 28 cm

If it's 'always the quiet ones', then Korean Minjung Kim is a the least noisy of pyromaniacs. She's best known for her beautiful collages of red or black ink-washed rice paper which she delicately singes to make irregular edges, then overlays to form mountains. These are complemented at Patrick Heide by new streams of work, most strikingly the musical parallels of her 'Phase' series, in which a front sheet in which holes are burned through is set on top of an inked back sheet to form near-repeated forms, and the rhythm of the whole is a function of the extent of repetition and the subtlety of the variations. You have to look very closely to understand - or believe - how these are made. Korean abstraction is very much in fashion*, and though Minjung isn't 'Dansaekhwa', she should be part of the efflorescence. 
Phasing (16-069), 2016 -  Mixed media on mulberry Hanji paper, 74.5 x 65 cm

* See eg Park Seo-bo at White Cube now, or recent London solos of Yun Hyong-keun (Simon Lee), Lee Ufan (Pace) and Cho Yong-Ik (Oliver Malingue)


Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva: An Intimate Gaze @ Danielle Arnaud, 123 Kennington Rd – Kennington

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva  Gill’s Slits  2011 - skate bones, metal, perspex box  45 x 45 x 50 cm


Paul Nash: Flight of the Magnolia, 1944 (from Tate Britain show to 5 March)

It’s an old gambit to generate beauty from abject or repulsive material. All the same, Anglo-Macedonian artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva’s use of animal materials is striking: she’s best known for immersively delicate installations using waste products from the meat industry. Here, a domestic environment suits a transcendental drawing made from a cow’s guts, bovine intestines blown up to form vulnerable sculptures,  and four sheep testicles configured as rather attractive purses. The most radical form, though, is probably Gill’s Slits, made by simply alligator-clipping together the wing-like skeletons of several skates. This inside-to-outside move yields flyaway fish with a floral feel. I was somewhat reminded of Paul Nash’s 'Flight of the Magnolia' 1944, which you can see in the excellent survey at Tate Britain.
Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva Lady's Purse,  2011 - sheep testicle purse lined with silk, antique frame and chain, mounted in perspex box


Franziska Lantz: expanding arid zones & Haris Epaminonda: Vol. XX @ RODEO, 123 Charing Cross Road – Tottenham Court Road 

Franziska Lantz: detail of  expanding arid zones 

Rodeo’s Condo share presents two installations representing found elements to transformative effect. Downstairs we can move on from the injustice of Michael Dean not winning the Turner Prize to admire an installation by his Swiss-German wife Franziska Lantz. Both are represented in Berlin by Supportico Lopez: here Lantz has trawled the Thames for detritus which she cleans with contemplative obsession, then hangs to form a shamanistic whole room installation featuring a surprisingly high proportion of camouflage wear. It’s complemented by her soundtrack – cluing us in to a wider practice which includes a regular broadcasts for Resonance FM. Upstairs are what might be termed ‘overlages’, by Berlin-based Cypriot Haris Epaminonda – collages in which the top layer (black and white images of ikebana flower arrangements) almost completely covers the lower layer (would-be-colour of Egyptian art). It’s mainly the captions, referring to pharaohs, which remain to complicate our interpretation of the bouquets. 


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.