Friday, 17 November 2017

Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 221-240




 



'Methods of Evasion': RM Fischer and Clive Hodgson: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 238




 
Installation view, R.M. Fischer: SCULPTURE, Southard Reid, London, UK, 16 November – 20 December 2017. Courtesy The Artist and Southard Reid. Photo credit: Mark Blower


Two excellent current shows include contrasting approaches to the artist identifying self with work. At Southard Reid (to 20 Dec) R.M. Fischer has adopted an art name in a bid to distance his artist self from his personal self: he says the initials don’t stand for anything. RM is known for his 1980’s sculpture which makes lamps from kitchen appliances, referencing industrial and design tropes in a way which has translated well into public sculpture, His more private recent work creates an appropriately democratic cast of characters who emerge out of apparently abstract conjunctions of bits and pieces of hardware he’s had around for decades, with the soft additions of vinyl and fabric sewn together with a characterfully crude stitch. Each has just an RMF number as title, leaving us to decide which are playful, which troubled. At Arcade (to Dec 16) Clive Hodgson is up front: his abstract paintings foreground his name and the year of composition, slyly declaring the ongoing existence of the artist, On Kawara style, and providing the most prominent recurrent motif in his work. He says he can be ‘more modest’ – as in one example in which spray paint almost covers the ‘C.Hodgson’. Clive uses a lot of spray, which he attributes not to a misspent youth but to a reluctance to touch the picture – neatly undermining the very involvement of the artist’s hand which the signature is traditionally meant to assert. So maybe both artists are evading the personality cult in the process of developing a distinctive personal language.


              Clive Hodgson: ‘Untitled’, 2017


RM Fischer at his opening

 

'Visiting the Bethlem Gallery': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 237



 
Mr X’s vehicle in front of the gallery
To Beckenham, in London’s near-Kentish outskirts, to visit the Bethlem Gallery. It’s in a sparkling newly-adapted art deco building, along with the Bethlem Museum of the Mind, on the psychiatric hospital’s 270 acre site (it was founded in the City in 1247, and the Imperial War Museum now occupies its 1816-1930 incarnation). The gallery shows, primarily, work by artists who have had contact with its services: Richard Dadd (1817-86) is historically the most famous artist of those. That, as Director Beth Elliott explains, is a different matter from ‘outsider art’ or art therapy. Rather, the gallery and associated studios are a non-pathological resource for residents and the visiting public. Among those featured in the exhibition I saw – ‘It’s How Well You Bounce’, on the theme of resilience – were Matthew, who has an alluring scavenging and abstract painting practice and also gave me a highly informative tour of the grounds; Mr X, who drove up in one of several mobility vehicles which he has customised to spectacular and distinctive effect; and ‘The vacuum cleaner’, whose compelling performative text ‘Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable’ asks angry questions following Trump’s election. Other artists include the widely shown Sara Haq and Liz Atkin. All five would be interesting in any gallery, so Bethlem makes a worthwhile visit on historical, landscape, medical and artistic grounds. Next up is the Bethlem Art Fair, which runs 25 Nov – 22 Dec.


 
Painted engine by Matthew in the grounds


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?


 

'Critical Categories Under Glass': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 236



       

Clod Ensemble performance of ‘Under Glass’, photo Manuel Vason

What are the boundaries between art forms? The question came up at the Hackney Showroom, where I caught the fascinating Clod Ensemble production ‘Under Glass’. The staging has the audience moving around in darkness to look at characters (it could be theatre) move (or, more probably dance) inside glass containers (rather like a museum display, but also suggesting scientific specimens) to a composed soundtrack (a concert of sorts) with intermittent readings from Alice Oswald’s intensely conceived ‘Village’ (poetry). Any of the above then, plus the whole effect might be classified as an art performance or physical theatre. So, when galleries – Tate Tanks for example – increasingly programme what could have been shown in a theatre, does it matter what it’s called? For marketing purposes, perhaps, as it can be tricky for venues to know how best to categorise such genre-busting works to best develop their audiences. I also suspect that classification can affect critical appraisal. What may seem new as, for example, performance art may be old hat in the world of dance, and – given that no-one (apart, of course, from Hans Ulrich Obrist) can keep up fully with every art form, critical assessments are bound to be partial and influenced by which genre of critic is involved. From my own blinkered point of view – knowing art and poetry more than theatre and dance – ‘Under Glass’ tackles issues of environmental concern and social isolation in an innovative way which is both serious and entertaining. But I guess I’d need Hans Ulrich to report to get a fully balanced view… 



Clod Ensemble performance of ‘Under Glass’, photo Manuel Vason


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?





'The Studios Visit': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 235






 
Jeremy Hutchison with Chisenhale cleaner Maria Joyce and the creations she made together with fellow cleaner Grace
 
Blocks of artists’ studios increasingly hold open days, which make for entertaining and varied visits quite different from the single artist version. Some such events are well organised: the artists in the Chisenhale Gallery’s building have the advantage of an adjoining exhibition – Hannah Black’s mysterious but fascinating ‘Some Context’, which includes 20,000 copies of a book describing ‘The Situation’ – and added refreshments, a group show, performances, talks, special sales in aid of building works and more… Among the highlights: Matt Calderwood displayed the lamps he makes by hacking together IKEA products which happen to fit with each other without any fixings needed – here, food containers; the ever-imaginative Amikam Toren showed a new line of drawing-sculptures made simply by varnishing actively-positioned banana skins; Shakti Orion made an engaging striped equine in full make-up for her ‘Zebra Cross’ performance; painters Diana Taylor, Lee Maelzer and   Mark Fairnington (who had several of his vast flower paintings on view) showed strongly; and Jeremy Hutchison collaborated with the cleaners. They were more active than usual in preparation for the open studio days, encouraging Hutchison to question the comparative value of their marks and his by exhibiting the results of them hoovering on graphite. I’ve been to similar events in Bow, Hackney, Hackney Wick, Stoke Newington, Bermondsey, Deptford, Streatham, Wimbledon, Brockley and Camberwell, but they are threatened by the squeeze on studio space in the city as redevelopment continues to push artists out.



                Matt Calderwood: ‘Article 16.10.20.BYPG’

 

'The Ghosts of Saatchi and Fold': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 234

 

Mali Morris: ‘Third Ghost’, 2016 – acrylic on canvas, 168 x 192 cm 


It would be hard to conjure a bigger contrast than that between the Saatchi Gallery’s majestic four levels and FOLD’s modest basement space. Actually its director, Kim Savage, used to work for Saatchi, and there turn out to be echoes. Saatchi has lots on now, of wildly varying quality, but its ‘Salon’ (organised with Omer Tiroche, to 8 Dec) is one below ground space lit up by Alexander Calder’s vibrant gouaches. FOLD’s one and only room currently has a comparably radiant show by Mali Morris (to 25 Nov). Another Saatchi space holds Maurizio Anzeri’s drawings in thread on found photographs*, revealing a further affinity: both Anzeri and Morris derive much of their effect from the ‘ghosting’ through of what is largely buried. Morris’s big new paintings arise from an elaborate sequence of quartering the canvas into four colours, overlaying an oval of another colour, then adding a top layer of smaller rectangles. That’s done with plenty of masking tape to ensure sharp divisions, but also with very big brushes loaded with gel-thickened paint, so that directional strokes are a prominent feature. That enables Morris, some way from simple geometric abstraction, to effect a sort of double syncopation: a call and response between different colours is itself played off against the visible rhythms of the paint’s application. The oval is left as a ghost, not unlike the ovals of the faces under Anzeri’s embroidery. 

* part of Saatchi’s ‘Iconoclasts: Art Out of the Mainstream’ (to 7 Jan). No more iconoclastic nor any less mainstream than most of his shows, it’s weirdly uneven: aside from Anzeri six rooms, mostly of bad painting, precede one room of good painting (Dale Lewis) and a final room with three rather wonderful large sculptures (by Kate MccGwire, Douglas White and Alexi Williams Wynn).


Installation shot: Alexander Calder




Maurizio Anzeri: ‘Rita’, 2011 – Embroidery on photograph, 23.5 x 17.5 cm

'What Colour is the Sky?' : Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 234

 
Giorgio de Chirico: ‘Piazza d’Italia’, 1915


The amber sky which distracted London last week made me wonder: what’s the most unnatural sky colour among painters? Sunset and sunrise allows plenty of scope for yellow-orange-red, with no need to wait for Saharan sand. But painters have a free rein, which leads me towards green. Van Gogh’s ‘Wheat Field with a Reaper’ (1889) is typically vibrant, though as he saw it as ‘an image of death, in the sense that the wheat being reaped represents mankind’. The Fauves set out to use colour arbitrarily, so the green sky in Derain’s ‘Boats in the Harbour, Collioure’ should not surprise. Expressionism took from that, as shown in my choices my Kirchner and Nolde (the latter may be the painter laureate of the hyper-coloured sky). It’s more surprising in Giorgio de Chirico, but his frequently green skies are part of his elusive creation of atmosphere. Neo Rauch might be seen as de Chirico’s successor in terms of conjuring atmosphere through a historical and surrealist mix: he rarely resorts to the green sky, but I don’t say never…

 
Vincent van Gogh: ‘Wheat Field with a Reaper’, 1889 

 
Andre Derain: ‘Boats in the Harbour, Collioure’, 1905

 
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: ‘Berggipfel’, 1918

 
Emile Nolde: ‘Veiled Sun’, 1950

 
Neo Rauch: ‘Das Horn’, 2014


 

The sun in London, 16 October 2017 (photo Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire) 


'Marden, Lalic, Terre Verte': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 233


Brice Marden: from the Terre Verte series, 2017












Maria Lalic: ‘History Painting 17, Italian. Naples Yellow – Raw Sienna – Burnt Sienna – Terre Verte – Raw Umber – Burnt Umber – Ultramarine’, 1995

The Grosvenor Hill Gagosian has (to 15 Dec) a rigorous suite of paintings by Brice Marden, highly regarded in the US for 50 years but hardly seen in the UK this century. Marden made his name with lyrical monochromes in the 1960’s, to which he has returned using terre verte (green earth), an iron silicate/clay pigment widely adopted as a base for flesh tones during the Renaissance. Ten eight by six foot paintings employ ten different brands of terre verte oil paint, revealing the considerable variation stemming from different earth sources, and suggesting a mossy forest floor in changing degrees of shade. A ‘run-down’ area at the bottom hints at each painting’s enactment. The idea of making the paint used the subject as well as object of a painting is itsef becoming a small tradition. Indeed, Tate Modern is currently displaying six of the 53 ‘history paintings’ which Maria Lalic made from 1995-2004. She used smooth horizontal brushstrokes to apply thin glazes of all the colours in a Winsor & Newton catalogue which grouped paints into the eras in which they were available. ‘Naples Yellow’ is from the ‘Italian’ period covering the 16-17th centuries, of which it constitutes a chronology of pigments, terre verte included. Lalic has said she is ‘excited by recognising a time and place through colour’, Marden speaks of ‘harnessing and communicating some of the powers of the earth’. I imagine they’d be happy to own each other’s quotes.



 
Brice Marden: installation view



 
Maria Lalic: installation view



 
Brice Marden: studio view


 
Maria Lalic: studio view (with her ‘History Paintings’)

 

'Saws, Buns and Feathers': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 233


There’s always plenty of interesting stuff at Frieze London and Frieze Masters, whether or not you like it as art. Here are four unusual works which I did also rate highly as art.


Heinz Mack: 'Lamellar Sculpture with Eight Saw Blades', 1954 at Olivier Malingue (London) in Frieze Masters

This early Heinz Mack has a neatly circular logic, as it incorporates the saw blades that cut its wood. Moreover, Mack – who grew up 500 miles from the coast in the centre of Germany – made it after seeing the sea for the first time, at the age of 22. So you can interpret it as waves, as well as the overlapping plates of body armour implied by the title.

View of ‘Androgynous Egg’ from the Projects programme at Frieze London

Buns were the go-to hairstyle at Frieze London. The outstanding performance, Georgina Starr’s ‘Androgynous Egg’ – twenty minutes of sculpture, advanced singing, hyper-flexible choreography and witty ovum-themed text – also starred a triple-bunned soprano disembodied from the head down. And Ryan Mosley, a painter of comparable spirit known for his glorious treatment of beards, showed signs of developing the bun as the female beard… This is a modest example, but the bicycle more than makes up for that!


Ryan Mosley: 'Weekend Break' , 2017 at Eigen + Art (Berlin) in Frieze London

One of the Frieze ‘collections’ was of Aztec feather works which were not only aesthetically striking, but seemed to have retained their original colour for well over a thousand years. Was there a scientific secret to that? The gallery didn’t know of one, but it seems from net research that feathers get their colour from a unusual combination pigment groups and the tough keratin protein of which feathers are made, and that the angles through which their internal structures reflect light are particularly efficient, both factors which seem likely to help... .

Feather Textile from the Huari Culture, Southern Andes, c. 800AD at Paul Hughes Fine Art (London) in Frieze Masters

 

'The Frieze Masters Effect': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 232

 


Jean Dubuffet: ‘Les commentaires’, May 24, 1978 – acrylic on glued paper mounted on canvas (30 sections), 140 cm x 204 cm


In line with a longer term trend, a number of excellent London-originated galleries have closed in the past year few months: goodbye to Wilkinson, Breese Little, Laura Bartlett, Limoncello and Vilma Gold. They might be termed ‘middle market’. The shift has been towards the upper market, with galleries founded abroad playing a bigger role in London. That’s not so good for London-based artists, I suspect, but it does make for some spectacular shows, especially to coincide with Frieze. Or rather, perhaps, with Frieze Masters, for it is ‘classic contemporary’ work from the late 20th century on which dealers increasingly seem to focus: Lévy Gorvy, for example, need all their space, including the director’s office, to show the complete set of 23 wall-height works in Gilbert and George’s sequence ‘The General Jungle or Carry on Sculpting’ from 1971. They look like beautiful drawings, attractively pre-aged by the application of potash, but the catalogue* states that ‘it is crucial to their existence and meaning that these sculptures are emphatically not drawings, nor are they intended to have any aesthetic qualities’. Rather, ‘their fabrication as multi-sheet ‘descriptive works’ is dictated solely by the artists’ intention to communicate as forcefully and efficiently as possible… the emotional residue of events and feelings, left on places and objects by time…’. Pace’s presentation of the ‘Theatres of Memory’ which Dubuffet begun in his mid-seventies are equally impressive: vast collages made by combining many of his own paintings. Almine Rech and Gagosian have complementary Tom Wesselmann shows. Hauser & Wirth go with Marcel Broodthaers and Jack Whitten. Rewarding viewing, then, but limiting the opportunities for artists to show what they’re doing now…

* Based on the artists’ conversations with Michael Bracewell
Gilbert & George from ‘The General Jungle’ – IS NOT ART THE ONLY HOPE FOR THE MAKING WAY FOR THE MODERN WORLD TO ENJOY THE SOPHISTICATION OF DECADENT LIVING EXPRESSION

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?

  

'Comprehensive Whiteread': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 232


The doll’s house version of a house casting ‘Ghost, Ghost II’, 2009 – Polyurethane (fourteen parts)
What makes a top show? Most obviously, quality and presentation. Matthew Collings is good on the former; and knocking down walls to put all the work in one opened-up space works wonderfully. The curators explain this as enabling the connections between works to be seen, but I can’t think of an artist who needs that less. Rather, I like that presentational gambit because it enables the whole exhibition to act as a deconstructed dwelling, with windows, doors, cabinets etc circling round a central staircase. I thought of Damián Ortega’s disassembled and spaced out Volkswagen, ‘Cosmic Thing’, 2002. But anyway, where Rachel Whiteread at Tate scores the fullest marks is in a third factor: its comprehensiveness. All the extant sculptures you can think of are here, from Whiteread’s debut to new work straight from the studio, and in numbers – eg there are ten cast of inner water bottles as torsos. Plus there are drawings; vitrines of objects from the studio; photographic documentation of site specific works; a new external commission in the garden; and Whiteread’s own choice of her favourites from the Tate’s collection, which occupy the Duveen Galleries along with her own most luminously colourful work ‘Untitled (One Hundred Spaces)’, 1995. With most such surveys you can ask: ‘why haven’t they got that?’ or ‘why haven’t have done that?’ Here, I couldn’t really imagine anything extra.

Rachel Whiteread:  'Wall (Door)', 2017 -  Papier-mâché, 217 x 228 x 9 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? 

‘Anti-Heteronormativity in Berkshire’: Paul’s ART STUFF 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 www.marcellejoseph.com



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 http://paulsartworld.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/choices-up-now.html) 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:

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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:

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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..'

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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 https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/about/touring-programme/hayward-touring/current-available-exhibitions

** 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':

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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:  

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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’

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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

THE ART OF KNITTING PICTURES

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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, 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.

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