Saturday, 9 September 2017

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 221-240


‘Anti-Heteronormativity in Berkshire’: Paul’s ART ON A TRAIN 231

Victoria Sin

Curator, collector and writer Marcelle Joseph’s ‘You see me like a UFO’ (9 Sept – 7 Oct*) is well worth a trip to her home in leafy Ascot. It showcases 85 works by 70 playfully categorised artists. The opening featured a performance by the hyper-made-up female drag artist Victoria Sin, who along with Jesse Darling is one of two artists in the show who go by the pronoun ‘they’. As such, both are allowed to be on open display with their female, LGBTQI or non-Caucasian peers, whereas the minority of 14 heterosexual white male artists get corralled into spaces behind specially commissioned curtains by Marie Jacotey and Evan Ifekova. Despite my minority status, I was allowed full access – and by and large I liked the uncurtained zones more, partly I admit for including four artists who’ve been in my own shows (Alice Anderson, Jane Hayes Greenwood, Liane Lang and Suzanne Moxhay); but also for Samara Scott, Tereza Vickova, Florence Peake and Noemie Goudal in particular; and for two artists new to me… Hyojin Park provides fun in the guest bedroom with a bright pink stainless steel sculpture, described by Marcelle as a phallus of boobs, which could equally be a multi-eyed creature from unsurveyed sea depths; while Argentine Ad Minoliti’s ‘Queer Deco’ series is true to the jocular spirit of the show’s classifications, subverting the South American tradition of geometric abstraction as she lays into the heteronormativity of the typical American home. 

• Open days Fridays or by arrangement: see

Hyojin Park: ‘My Eyes Behold the Glory’, 2012 – stainless steel and oil spray paint, 120 x 45 x 45cm

Ad Minoliti: ‘Geo Queer Deco (Green)’, 2014 – acrylic on canvas, 65 x 55cm


'Flagging Alexander James': Paul's ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 230

Alexander James: ‘Death of the Dream of Democracy’, 2017

It’s not easy to make an original work which uses the stars and stripes successfully, there being so much to compete with, most obviously Jasper Johns (whose major show is due at the Royal Academy Set 23 – Dec 10), though Childe Hassam, Cady Noland, Robert Longo and David Hammons would also feature in the list of successful users. Now Alexander James joins the tradition with his photographs of flags formed by flowers shot underwater (for Dellasposa Fine Art, in residence at Alice Herrick’s gallery at 93 Piccadilly to 17 Sept). They derive from the vanitas tradition: so death is on the way. There’s an admixture of gold – for greed, I suspect, not for inherent value. One flag is disrespectfully upside-down. We pick up a view on Trump even without the title ‘Death of the Dream of Democracy’. They’re very like paintings, an effect emphasised by the way they are varnished – so that the surface crazes into the craquelure of an old painting. That suggests both fragility and inflexibility. That’s upstairs: below is an atmospheric presentation of James’ underwater butterflies, including the superposition of parent and offspring – who, such are butterfly families – can meet in no other way…

David Hammons: ‘African-American Flag’, 1990

'Art of the Postcard': Paul's ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 230

Lada and Saso Sedlacek: the back of this card reads: ‘Hi, Am at the store, pl txt me list of things to buy’

Jeremy Cooper, closely involved with the emergence of the YBAs back in the day, is better known now for his collection of postcards made by artists, which features in his 2011 book ‘Artists' Postcards: A Compendium’ and has been accepted by the British Museum. ‘Art of the Postcard’ (Handel Street Projects to 8 Oct) combines his new choices of this affordable art form with other original artworks designed to be posted, as selected by home gallerist Fedja Klikovac. His choices tend towards the conceptual and the East European. The unusual result is 111 fascinatingly varied small-scale exhibits. Among the best are a miniature painting by Lothar Götz, over-paintings by David Batchelor, David Ward and Amelia Critchlow, an intricate collage by Nicolas Feldmeyer and a pseudo-narrative postcard book by Susan Hiller. Materials include aluminium, wood and slate. Martin Creed contributes an impressive turd and Tracey Emin a typical nude. Donald Trump makes two appearances, sort of: Peter Kennard and Cat Phillips give him nuclear submarine headwear, while Ruth Ewan displays a blank card which turns out to be an erased image of the President - £500 to achieve that seems a bargain. Of course, postcards have a whiff of the past, wittily exploited by Slovenians Lada and Saso Sedlacek, whose series of 16 shows them in the act of posting text messages to each other over the several days it takes to clarify what shopping is required.

Lothar Götz: ‘Composition with Silver’, 2017 – postcard

'Famously Unkown': Paul's ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 229


 Grignani’s mark for pure wool


Franco Grignani: Combinatoria di Strutture Ondulate Interferenti, 1956

Prior to recent shows at M & L Fine Art (June-July) and now at the Estorick Collection (to 10 Sept), Franco Grignani probably belonged in the category of artists you’ve never heard of yet whose work you turn out to have seen. The Italian (1908-99) explored the optical effect of structured black and white repetitions in the late fifties in a manner which can be related to Bridget Riley’s subsequent work. When you see his paintings alongside the famous Woolmark introduced in 1964, it is no surprise that Grignani was responsible for that – having made an awkward ethical decision, as a judge for the competition. Concluding that the entries were not up to standard, he entered himself under a pseudonym! In fact, Grignani worked consistently across art and design, and his book cover for late sixties sci-fi books from Penguin are also striking – and a rare indulgence in colour, which he considered for the most part too subjective for art, though I found that the perspectival effect of some black and white works can introduce an illusion of chromatic gradation . And if it’s a test of art that other things remind you of it, then at nearby Highbury & Islington underground station on the way back from the Estorick, the setting of one of Mark Wallinger’s 270 mazes from his Labyrinth project (2013) seemed set to echo Grignani… 

A typical Grignani cover

Wallinger placed a la Grignani?

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?

'Summer Sillies': Paul's ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 228

Undeflected by the fact that there’s an unusually high number of good shows on this August (see this month is traditionally the one in which to report on silly things. 


Omer Tiroche (to 1 Sept) do their bit with an over the top installation-come-work by the gallery’s own staff. It supplements works by such as Calder, Ernst and Matta in tribute to Prière de Toucher, the first post-war surrealist show, with a sculptural homage to Duchamp’s famous rubber breast cover it. To put it more directly, there’s a giant silicon boob on the gallery wall, which viewers are invited to fondle. It’s risible, yes, but not so alien to the spirit of surrealism. 

Harland Miller: ‘Armageddon is it Too Much to Ask?’ 2017, Oil on canvas 284 × 195 cm

Speaking of which, White Cube’s glorious show of female surrealists in Bermondsey has 170 works. There seems to be room for everything, yet the White Cube Mason’s Yard show by Harland Miller (to 9 Sept) doesn’t even contain the painting about which its press release waxes most lyrically: the typical book-cover-meets-abstraction ‘Armageddon – Is It Too Much To Ask?’. Yet that, too, may have a humorous logic: yes, it is too much to ask. But I’m giving you a digital chance…


Perry on the bike, which is on show at the Serpentine

Yet silliness central is at the Serpentine Gallery, where Grayson Perry holds sway. Of course, that is deliberate, as flagged by its titling as ‘The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!’. All the same, it’s hard to be even unseriously enamoured of a motorbike customised for Perry’s teddy bear; or a skateboard with an image of Kate Moss on it simply in order to call it a ‘Kateboard’. But the loos are fun: the gents now has Grayson’s photo on the door, the ladies has him dressed as Clare.


The Other Giacomettis:


Tate Modern’s Giacometti retrospective (to Sept 10) is the best chance to see the sculptor as more than an existentialist. Yes, there are plenty of etiolated figures and murkily tentative portraits in his mature post-war style, all great in their way. Giacometti’s lively and also-famous surrealist phase – from 1931 to his ior to his excusion rom the group in 1935 – is well-represented, too, But you might in addition consider:

Giacometti the Fauve: actually Tate misses a trick by including none of Alberto’s very early landscapes, clearly inspired by the similar work of his father Giovanni, an established painter in that style.This scene from Borgonvolo is from 1920.

Giacometti the Cubist: among various works with a cubist influence, filtered through a life-long reverence for Cezanne, is his paradoxically twelve-sided ‘Cube’, which may refer to throwing two dice. 

Giacometti the Obsessive: ‘Disagreeable Object’ has primitivist, surrealist and fetishistic qualities – and has been seen as a metaphor for frustrated desire, given Giacometti’s somewhat troubled sexuality: he’s said to have been pretty much impotent other than with prostitutes. Man Ray’s photograph shows Lili complicating that narrative by holding the sculpture as if it were a baby.


Giacometti the Egyptologist: Giacometti considered Egyptian art an unequalled pinnacle, and one highlight is his copy of the book ‘History of the Ancient Egyptian Civilisation’, on which he copied across various illustrations in exploratory-come-tribute mode.

Giacometti the Minimalist: There are five ‘gazing heads’ at the Tate, flattened forms in which indentations suggest that features have been removed, giving them a hauntingly elegant presence.

Alma-Tadema’s Death by Petals:



Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema: ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus’, 1888 – oil on canvas,133 x 214 cm

Leighton House is a sympathetic environment for the significant Alma-Tadema retrospective (to 29 October) which has arrived in London from his native Friesland, for Lord Leighton’s residence is as close as we’ll get in spirit to the houses which the Dutch émigré (1836 –1912) commissioned.
Those homes fed into the classical and archaeological settings he depicted, often including the objects with which he surrounded himself. The best idea of what those settings looked like ‘straight’ is probably provided by the jewel-like watercolours which his daughter, Anna (1867–1943) painted of Townshend House in 1885. On the other hand, the setting does the paintings few favours: many of those in the first half of the show are poorly lit or hung too high, with the result that Alma-Tadema’s lightening and brightening pallet after 1880 is exaggerated by the better conditions the later paintings enjoy in the studio area. One of those well-illumed later works, a highlight which has travelled from Mexico, is ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus’. Despite containing such characteristic tropes as beautiful women, marble, flowers, classical statuary and Roman dress, its attention grabber is the remarkably perverse and possibly apocryphal tale of how the Emperor (who ruled 218-222) ordered a false ceiling be removed so as to suffocate his victims in petals. Given that Heliogabalus – who came to power at 14 – declared himself a god, insisted on marrying a vestal virgin and liked to force the senate to watch his dance performances, the flower downing has some consistency. The effect is aesthetically dramatic, though I submit that that a far greater volume would be needed than Alma-Tadema shows if the air pockets were to be fatally eliminated.


Anna Alma-Tadema: ‘Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s Study, Townshend House, London’, 1885

'While the Hayward’s refit inches forward..'


Karl Blossfeldt: Common globe thistle Echinops sphaerocephalus, part of a flower head –
photogravure approx. 8 x 10 inches

The Hayward’s interminable refit inches forward, I presume (it’s meant to reopen on 25 Jan with Andreas Gursky after a 28 month closure), but South Bank shows still tour the country. The highest profile currently is Elizabeth Price’s curation ‘In a Dream You Saw a Way to Survive and You Were Full of Joy’, at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea (to 28 Aug), but six more modest shows are also available for the very reasonable-sounding fee of £750*. ‘Art Forms in Nature’ presents 40 prints from the 6,000 negatives which Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) made in 35 years of somewhat obsessive documentation of plant forms using a homemade camera and lens that could magnify a subject by 30 times. He originally meant them as reference tools for botanical research, but the 1928 publication Urformen der Kunst showcased their microcosmic aesthetic: Blossfeldt was deemed an artist. The surrealists were particular fans, and George Bataille included Blossfeldt’s images in the periodical Documents in 1929… All of which is, I suppose, well known, but the variably magnified and cropped black and white precision still makes the photographs unexpectedly varied and characterful ‘in person’. Some plants, moreover, appear quite other than you’d expect (as in the close-up of a thistle’s flower), or repeat hypnotically within an image. So – having seen the Southampton leg – I’d recommend looking in if you’re in Letchworth (23 June – 10 Sept) or, en route to the Turner Prize perhaps, in Beverley** (23 Sept – 9 Dec).

Karl Blossfeldt: Slough grass Beckmannia cruciformis,fruiting spikelets – photogravure approx. 8 x 10 inches

* See

** Beverley is only a few miles from Hull, city of culture and Turner Prize venue 2017 – and home of cult band Throbbing Gristle…

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?

'Peles Empire's Empire':



Peles Empire in Hanover: ‘Grid’, 2017

Peles Empire in Munster: ‘Sculpture’, 2017 


Peles Empire in Kassel:’Remnant’, 2017 

Passing through Munster, Kassel and Hanover last week, I saw work by the collaborative project Peles Empire (Barbara Wolff and Katharina Stoever) at all three. What’s more, there a sense in which all their work is part of one: since 2005, both their own shows, and the space in which they exhibit other artists (they currently run one in Berlin, following on from London and Cluj) collide their actual architecture with photo-copy-derived features from the Neo-Renaissance Peles Castle in Romania, a grand palace which imitates other architectural styles to an absurd extent. Peles Empire copy and dislocate the Castle, applying printed images of its rooms to walls, sculptures, and other surfaces to complicated effect. It can get hard to tell 2D images on a 3D surfaces from 3D versions of a 2D images: their room in Hanover, part of an admirable quinquenial survey of art being made in Germany, features plenty of such play, including detritus in the floor which proves surprisingly easy to walk across. As part of the decennial sculpture festival at already much-reconstructed Munster, they have built a castle-derived meeting place in a car park; and though in Kassel they’re not part of Documenta 14, they have a bigger presence than most artists through a solo show at the Kunstverein. So they are making a good fist of ruling, all confusing levels of reality and time – making the point perhaps that contemporary cultural production inevitably acts similarly, even when that isn’t acknowledged.


The show ‘Da Da Da’ in Peles Empire’s London space, 2014

                        Barbara Wolff and Katharina Stoever


The 170-room Peles Castle in the Carpathians, built 1873-94 

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?

Sculptural Weight in the City:  



Martin Creed: ‘Work No. 2814’, 2017

The seventh version of the annual ‘Sculpture in the City’ places 18 artists’ work in the stimulating context of the square mile. This year, for example, sculptures by Karen Tang and Nathaniel Rackowe, both exhibited previously in London, gains fresh impact: Tang suggests that the sci-fi energies of her ‘Synapsid’ echo the hidden activity in the surrounding offices, and enjoys how their workers spill out to eat their sandwiches while sitting on it; Rackowe delights in the contrast between the ‘anti-architecture’ of his upturned shed structure ‘Black Shed Expanded’ with the surrounding big statement buildings. Another diversion in the stroll around is to consider the different sculptural weights involved. On the heavy end, I was surprised to find that Peter Randall Page’s ‘Envelope of Pulsation’ is at 6.5 tons, twice as heavy as Damien Hirst’s colossal painted bronze ‘Temple’, which at 21 feet high is the most spectacular work, and well sited. Seven tons, according to co-director Stella Ioannou, is the limit after which even the strongest pavement locations are too likely to collapse. At the other end of the scale, Martin Creed’s materials are mere plastic bags, but the way he places them on a tree has considerable impact. And Mhairi Vari uses TV aerials and poly-tunnel repair tape to attach delicate lung-come-clouds to several buildings. 

  Damien Hirst: ‘Temple’, 2008

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?

56 x Bloomsbury at ‘Masterpiece’



From Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant ‘The Famous Women Dinner Service’, 1932-1934

The 8th edition of Masterpiece fair (29 June – 5 July at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea) features 150 exhibitors with all manner and periods of fine and applied art. It’s easy to range from to a late Paul Klee to a mummified ibis to an erotic feather painting by George Taylor to a 19th century Indian ebony and bone-inlaid rosewood turban stand to Ivan Navarro’s political yet abstract installation of lightworks to a set of six coco de mers, and so on… Artists more ‘on trend’ than in previous years are John Hoyland, Alexander Calder and John William Godward (1861 –1922). The last was a protégé of Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912) with a commonality of subject – women disporting themselves in classical architectural settings – but more availability and lower prices, though ‘A Happy Awakening’ is £0.6m, so hardly a snip. Alma-Tadema himself has a major show shortly at Leighton House, so this is a teaser of sorts. All that all caught my attention, and you should look out for it, but what surprised me most was to find two dealers showing remarkably large and well preserved collaborations by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. In 1920 those two seminal figures of the Bloomsbury Group were commissioned by a third – John Maynard Keynes – to make murals for his rooms at King’s College, Cambridge. Philip Mould has a wall of eight studies they made in preparation. The second Bell-Grant collaboration was produced in 1932-34 for another distinguished commissioner: Sir Kenneth Clark. Piano Nobile have the complete set of 48 plates on which they painted agreeably camp portraits of Famous Women – 12 Queens, 12 great beauties, 12 writers and 12 artists (including Bell, and Grant as an honorary woman). Clark’s diners had the option of eating off, for example, Great Garbo, Charlotte Bronte or the Queen of Sheba. 

Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant ‘The Famous Women Dinner Service’, 1932-1934 


Studies for The Muses of Arts and Sciences, 1920, by Duncan Grant & Vanessa Bell

John William Godward: ‘A Happy Awakening’, 1903



Channing Hansen: ‘Software’, 2017, Hand spun, hand dyed wool and tulip wood, 218 x 244 cm

Typical! You wait years for a solo show of knitted paintings to come along, then two open in the same week. Both use the material as a means of confusing the picture and its support. That aside, they are perfectly contrasted. Rosemary Trockel’s Strickbilder (at Skarstedt to 4 Aug) have been central to the famous German artist’s practice since 1984. They challenge the status attributed to traditionally female craft, both by presenting it as fine art, and by having the knitting done by others on computerised machines. The results shown here are rigorous, coldly analytical black and white representations of knitting patterns and political and commercial motifs. Channing Hansen is a new-to-London Californian man who shears, washes, dyes, blends and spins rare breeds of wool himself before using his own designs of stitches to make unwieldy multicoloured textiles full of holes, as if parodying the expected level of male knitting expertise. He then stretches them around his own wooden stretchers, which remain visible (at Stephen Friedman to 29 July). As if that’s not enough personal input, the patterns are derived from computer coding of his own DNA. And if that’s not enough knitting, the highlights of ‘Playing Mas’, a six artist show themed around carnival and masquerade (at Vigo to 21 July) are wool works: Zak Ové’s crocheted doilies and Caroline Achaintre’s hand-tufted wall rugs…

Rosemarie Trockel: ‘Untitled’, 1985 – knitted wool (black and white), 30.5 x 40 cm.

Caroline Achaintre: ‘Moustache Eagle’, 2008 – Hand tufted wool on fabric 240 x 154 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?

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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.