Writer and curator Paul Carey-Kent sets out a rolling ten recommended contemporary art shows in London now. He currently writes freelance including for Art Monthly, Frieze, Elephant, STATE, Photomonitor, Border Crossings and World of Interiors, and has a quirky weekly online column at FAD Art News - see www.fadmagazine.com.
London was sweltering in its hottest-ever June as
the 'cross-collecting' fair Masterpiece opened with 160 international exhibitors. Similar temperatures at Frieze New York in May overwhelmed
the air conditioning, leading to ongoing compensation claims from gallerists
who felt they suffered from the early departure of potential high spenders. The Royal Hospital Chelsea remained comfortably cool, but I found myself drawn towards several
works suggestive of the temperature outside...
Fred Eerdekens: Heat, 2018 at Samuel Vanhoegaerden Gallery,
Knokke - gilded copper, c 100cm wide
The Belgian Fred Eerdekens studied sculpture and graphics,
which are indeed balanced in how he provided the most direct heat at
Masterpiece. Nice how the word is slightly hazed. The form defines the words just as the words must have defined the
forms in a game of shadows with Platonic undertones. Letters are, after all, an
abstraction of sorts.
René Magritte: L’Echelle du Feu, 1934 at De Jonckheere,
Monoco / Geneva
In this image of its gradation, the typically Magritte
paradoxes are that fire engulfs paper, egg and keys equally – but not the
wooden table on which they sit – and that the objects remain unaffected. What
fuels the fire? A remark from 1946 suggests that Magritte may have had a
different kind of heat in mind: ‘The astonishing discovery of fire, because of
two bodies rubbing together, suggests the physical mechanism of sexual pleasure’.
Peter Halley: Regression, 2015 at Maruani Mercier Gallery,
Brussels - fluorescent acrylic and Roll-a-Tex on canvas, 183 x 218 cm
Peter Halley is well known for using Roll-a-Tex, a textured
paint normally employed for decoration, and florescent Day-Glo paints. Those
are usually partial elements in compositions suggesting ‘cells’ or ‘prisons’
which stand in for the operation of social networks and constraints. This is
different, being one of the all-Roll-a-Tex, all-Day-Glo, purer grids which
Halley introduced in 2015. Whether or not it avoids any symbolic meaning, it
blazes out hot and discomforting.
Gluck: Flora’s Coat, c. 1923 at The Fine Art Society, London - oil on board, 65 x 39cm
may be the only nude by
Hannah Gluckstein (1875-1978) – who cropped her hair short and
simplified her name – whereas flowers, along with portraits and
were primary territory for her. Moreover the painting was once owned by
Constance Spry, a society florist with whom Gluck had an affair.
they jokingly called it ‘Interflora’. The fair was a little late to celebrate the
ancient festival of Floralia (April 28 - May 3), but this is a lively account of the
goddess of flowers and spring – complete with sunny head-flare – by an
who has come back into favour in recent years.
RG Santosh: Untitled (Tantra), 1976 at DAG, New Delhi - oil on canvas, 127 x 1089 cm
While we’re on names, the Kasmiri painter Gulam Rasool Dar
(1929-97) took that of his wife, Santosh. His work took a spiritual turn in the
1950’s, seeking to articulate the interplay of Shiv and Shakti, as entwined in the
cosmic harmony of tantric philosophy. Accordingly, the refulgent flame in this
work ascends past a figure created from the tantric iconography of circles and
ovoids to fill the night , permeating space with the impulse towards life.
Jojo and Francesca Grima: Tanzanite Brooch-Pendant, 2018 at Grima Jewellery, London - yellow gold textured wire set with diamonds and a tanzanite
has an eclectic range of content – cars, clocks, and curiosities for
example – though as it has gown bigger the proportion of fine art has
increased. Andrew Grima, a major post-war jewellery designer, died in
2007, but his widow Jojo and daughter Francesca continue the tradition.
This striking brooch sets a tanzanite in a sunburst of textured wire.
That wire effect, requiring strand-by-strand hands-on skills which only a
few goldsmiths possess, is the signature technique of the family firm.
Do you love someone to the extent of £75,000?
Olivier Strebelle: Les Hommes au Soleil II, 1959 at Pangolin Contemporary, London - bronze
This reminded me of late 1950’s British sculpture, and most
specifically the work Kenneth Armitage’s People in the Wind, 1950. Here the weather effect is different as men raise
their arms and spread out to take in the sun. In fact, it shows parallel
approaches in Belgium by Olivier Strebelle (1927 – 2017), who has monumental bronzes in many countries but not the
UK. Sad to say, there was no natural light streaming into Pangolin’s booth…
Otto Peine: Yellow Diary 3, 1995/96 at Ludorff,
Dusseldorf – oil, fire, soot on canvas, 100 x 130 cm
Fire paintings are central to the oeuvre of Otto Piene
(1928-2014), who co-founded of the Group ZERO together with Heinz Mack in 1957.
Piene employs fire as an elemental means of painting with light and energy. He
lights a thin layer of solvent on the canvas, allowing the image to emerge from
flame and soot, then develops it further as necessary with paint. This is an unusually
light-toned example: the burned element, and the weave of smoke, are restrained
and the result resembles an exploding sunspot.
Alexander Calder: Sillons Noir, 1973 at Crane Kalman
Gallery, London - wool tapestry, 137 x 112 cm
This Calder looked good framed in the manner of a painting,
but the fair also had impressive tapestries more simply hung, notably at Boccara. Calder (along
with Haring, Boetti, Matisse and Fontana) was a widespread presence, and this
suggestion of ploughed lines around a planet-come-sun, evoking a turning of
the agricultural seasons, has plenty of zip.
John William Godward: A Happy Awakening, 1903 at Trinity House Paintings, London / Cotswolds / New York / San Francisco - oil on canvas 44 x 34 cm
after all that thinking about heat, it's time for a nap... After which comes 'A Happy
Awakening', which seems to be a regular presence at Masterpiece. It's one
of Godward's most opulent, if somewhat vacuous, renditions of his
signature template of beautiful girls with
marble, classical robes, flowers and sea. The formula was highly successful up to World War I, but not to the
extent implied when he committed suicide, leaving a note stating
that ‘the world is not big enough for myself and a Picasso’.
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.