Friday, 17 August 2018

EMMA COUSIN AT EDEL ASSANTI JULY 5 - AUG 24 (newly extended)







This is a version of my interview with Emma Cousin for the excellent ELEPHANT website (showing some of the images in the show - for a fuller range of studio shots, see Elephant).







Hot Ribena, 2018





When I visit Emma Cousin’s small studio in Peckham ahead of her exhibition at Edel Assanti in London (5 July–15 August), it’s crowded with big paintings of precariously grouped figures. The show is titled Mardy—a Yorkshire term for ‘moody’ that catches the assertive and rather irreverent nature of the work. There’s also an echo of the Mardi Gras, which suits Cousin’s carnival of colourful figures acting out what she calls “the comedy of how the body works”. Cousin loves words: typically her works emerge from a colloquial phrase or saying which she explores through multiple drawings until she finds the form for a painting. The last step is to seek out a title which might, she says, “change the temperature” in the same way as a palette or gesture can.

How did you get into art? 

I drew incessantly as a kid. Attending a law conference at Oxford University whilst assessing my options, I accidentally found myself in the Ruskin. The prospectus included so much drawing, theory and anatomy lessons, I was hooked. When I got home I told my mum I’d decided to be an artist not a lawyer!

So you went to Ruskin School of Art? 

I was there from 2004 until 2007. Then I spent a year across a painting residency in Rome, Hungary and a job in Venice before moving to London to work for John Adams Fine Art, followed by the Robin Katz Gallery.




That was eight years’ involvement in the secondary art market through to 2016. Did that help you?  

Yes, it immersed me in things—like lots of Bridget Riley, or Bomberg’s explosive flower paintings—that I might not have gravitated towards or been able to research in such depth. All that knowledge simmers somewhere in the back of my mind.

So you were painting through those years, but very much part-time? 

I was always painting, but it could feel a struggle. Eventually, I got shortlisted for some prizes and that helped. I went down to three days a week at work, found a “proper” studio, and met fellow “struggling” artists at different ages and stages with whom to share critical dialogues.





And you filled your house with art?  

We got the chance to buy a large but dilapidated house in Brockley. We were shopping for a bed to put in the spare room when it struck me that we could use the space more communally and usefully. That led to Bread and Jam—seven exhibitions with the brilliant Emily Austin and Rebecca Glover during 2015 and 2016, featuring one hundred artists, and taking over everywhere except our bedroom. Even the loo and the airing cupboard hosted installations. I found I loved collaborating, and that gave me the energy and confidence to focus on what I needed to make.

How do you start a painting? 

I draw all the time, and I also write poetry: my ideas often begin from words triggering drawings. I’m really interested in line and how to bring the life of the drawing into the painting, like combining two languages.






What’s behind Hot Ribena, for example? 

I thought about how a character might be turned on and off emotionally, physically and psychologically… and might malfunction in some way, like a washing machine which responds automatically for years then suddenly doesn’t. How much can we control our functions? Where would those buttons be? Between legs, but also the belly button, the boobs, the eyes as goggles… suddenly you have a body full of buttons. The title takes me back to sensations: warming up after freezing in the snow, being sick as a kid—as well as arguments over how strong to make the Ribena!

People and their bodies seem to be your subject? 

I use the body, or groups of bodies, to build a structure, to present “status changes”: like mobility, clothes and aging. The groups might fail—are they going to topple over or fall apart? There’s an implicit danger, a relationship between the figures which could go either way—to provide a support system, or to pull each other to pieces. I’m curious about our expectations of our bodies and judgements of other bodies. I’m testing their limits and interested in putting the bodies at risk. They exist in a liminal space which is a place of discomfort, an edge or a boundary. A space between us and not us.




Are they self-portraits of a sort? 

No, they may be the same person recurring, or different elements of a self, and they’re from my perspective—but they’re not me. I see these bodies as universal, starting from the idea of identity as unstable. That’s why the spaces have no props or information—the figures have no coordinates in the space, their only anchor is the structure of themselves or possibly an overstretched forefinger groping for the edge of the canvas.

Why do your figures tend to be naked? 

Skin is great to paint. It enables them to wear the “same uniform”. And I’m alert to the information it can hold—age, health, gender, genetics. It is also the source of much of the tension in the work, pulled, stretched or squashed to produce a feeling. These bodies are awkward, uncomfortable, stacked, stretched.




Bracken and Brown Adders, 2018, oil on canvas, 190 x 190 cm

But there are skirts in Bracken and Brown Adders—why? 

Clothes aren’t off limits! The original thought for this painting was the difficulty of wearing a skirt—sitting down, cycling, etc. Then whilst I was making it “upskirting” was in the news. I thought how young girls in a more innocent context will lift their skirt up to gain attention, or just show you their tummy. The irony is the skirts here are not concealing anything. The title refers to bristling undergrowth and the danger of adders (I walked a lot as a kid on the Moors and this was a clear and present danger to the naked arse!).  But you don’t need to know that—I’m more interested in how the words make the viewer feel.

Why the small hands of one figure? 

That felt right as a way to emphasize the pincer action. I’m not after realism, no one poses for the paintings. Though I sometimes make drawings from life to get it to read right. It’s more about how things feel from the inside than how they look from the outside.



Black Marigolds, 2018

What’s going on in Black Marigolds?  

That came from the phrase “the blind leading the blind”, the idea of trying to help someone I care deeply about when neither of us were sure how to or what to do. These figures are trying to assist each other but going nowhere—pulling against one another as they are stuck. But supporting each other too. The dark background suggests they can’t see. I was thinking of three blind mice, so it’s particularly pinkish flesh and their nipples become beady eyes.





What’s next for you?  

I’m spending nine weeks at an intensive residency programme in Skowhegan, Maine. It was established in 1946 and alumni include Alex Katz, Ellsworth Kelly and Peter Saul—a great opportunity even if I’ll miss my own opening at Edel Assanti! While away, I plan to work towards the Jerwood Survey Exhibition, which runs from 3 October until 16 December.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

LIMINALITY UNLIMITED IN BASEL





Liminality Unlimited - an aside from Art Basel 2018

Basel is booked solid during its annual art fair in June. To get a good deal, you need to arrange it a year in advance. I did, but the accommodation agent cancelled three weeks before Art Basel, due to ‘emergency building works’.  The only option I could find was five nights at an airport hotel which turned out to be not just a tram and bus away from the Fair, but then a 20 minute walk from the airport… Oddly, there was no transfer bus arrangement to the F1 hotel. My diurnal route criss-crossed the non-places of the commercial edgelands.  The 1.5 km route took in: one border crossing (Switzerland to France); one French administrative crossing (Mulhouse to St Louis); two escalators; three flights of steps; six car parks crossed or walked alongside; one passenger tunnel; two bridges; three minor road crossings and one motorway crossing. Along the way on those ten occasions I saw seven planes taking off or landing (actually, I would have expected more); twelve workers, mostly undertaking construction-related activities; and no fellow pedestrians following my route.

Yet all this liminality came close to being a novel sort of interesting. Indeed, many interests could have been satisfied by regular contact with area - day and night.  And photographers have a subject – rare in this age – which may not have been substantially pre-photographed.


Architectural appeal is evident from the get-go.

Various construction practices can be investigated in depth.
Horticulturalists will note some well-judged incursions of cultivated colour.

The ceremony in which cars kiss the kerb is one of several folk traditions still enacted regularly.





Students of semiotics will wish to spend time in the many car parks.
There are banks of wild flora, and of fauna, such as lizards, too fast to photograph.

Aviation enthusiasts will encounter the occasional movement, but this cannot be reckoned a primary attraction.


Car park design can never be prescriptive. Location, usage and growth must all be taken into account.
A feature bridge marks the midpoint of the walk.

Abandoned monoliths evidence civilisations past.

There is space for meditation.


Sculptural-kinetic interplay is powered by natural forces.


A tunnel has been set up, the better to conjure the drama of emergence.

The geometry of the area replays analysis: the relationship of fundamental shapes with organic forms is notably  nuanced.



Some attractions are too alluring to be left unprotected.



Sunsets are beautiful here.


SHOWS CLOSED / OLDER MAY-JULY 2018



August sees reduced action: Picasso at Tate Modern and Abts at the Serpentine are the obvious top shows, but there are some others... 


Sinta Tantra: Your Private Sky @ Kristin Hjellegjerde - Wandsworth

To 1 Sept

Do You Wanna Funk With Me? II (Sylvester) , 2018 - Tempera on linen, 150 x 150 cm

Sinta Tantra's work has often featured hot Balinese colours, but that's only true of half her new show, not that she hold back with the vibrant patterns spilling onto the floor. But she has also introduced more linear works in which she restricts herself to brushed brass, raw linen and the white of tempera in adopting an aspect of the blueprint in musing on Buckminster Fuller's 'Your Private Sky' - the 1948 manuscript in which Fuller outlined his visionary design for a glass geodesic structure. Add several sculptural elements, and this a notably varied presentation of inspirational geometries.


Your Sky May Be Surfaced Inside (Buckminster Fuller) , 2018 - Tempera on Linen,  120 x 100 cm



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Bomberg @ Ben Uri Gallery, 108a Boundary Rd - St John's Wood
To 16 Sept


Racehorses, 1913

The Ben Uri Gallery  is somewhat under-appreciated. Certainly the current survey of David Bomberg is excellent: a national touring show featuring plenty from the gallery’s own collection. That includes ‘Racehorses’, 1913, a black chalk masterpiece of Bomberg’s vorticist style in which I find it takes a while to ‘see’ how the race operates from left to right and make out the spectators talking to bookies in the foreground – but then it all clicks dynamically into place.The later Bomberg is appreciated most for self-portraits and foreign landscapes in which precisely simplified architecture meets light to reveal what he termed ‘the spirit in the mass’. ‘Cathedral, Toledo’ 1929 is typical.  ‘You must remember’, teased Bomberg,‘I was a poor boy from the East End and I’d never seen the sun before’.




Cathedral, Toledo, 1929

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Luiz Zerbini: Intuitive Ratio @ South London Gallery


To 19 Aug 2018



Detail from Concrete Jungle, 2011
Luiz Zerbini is essentially a painter who feeds off day-today observations of Rio de Janeiro, but his practice expands to cover membership of the performative collective Chelpa Ferro, and this ten year survey show includes a ‘3D painting’ / sculptural installation, monoprints made directly from plants, and films of Brazilian landscapes. A glitch in one of the films added coloured squares which Zerbini then adopted as a motif in his paintings, serendipitously linking that to tiling and architecture in his dense combination of natural and manmade. The whole makes for a rich account balanced between psycho-geography and aesthetics, as well as between intuitive and rational.

Still from Sertão, 2009 - colourful reflections in a river with added glitch colours.
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Yuko Mori: Voluta and Peter Fraser: Mathematics @ Camden Arts Centre 

To 16 Sept 

Seasonal light on two Untitled images from Mathematics - chairs and a thinker.

Camden’s latest pairing is of Peter Fraser’s saturated photographs with Yoko Mohri’s cutely contingent orchestration of objects. Is there a connection?  Maybe, if you see the Japanese artist’s way with fish, spoons, bells and percussive Venetian blinds as a model of our thoughts pinging round our brains. For Fraser’s untitled photographs form the project ‘Mathematics’, which show (i) scenes which remind him of how maths underlies reality and (ii) portraits of people asked to imagine that something they had long held to be true had just been proved false. So both can be related, but abstractly, to thought: for we can’t see what Fraser’s subjects are thinking, and pretty much any items might have illustrated the metaphysics of maths, given it’s attributed to everything.  Both shows prove to be metaphysically knowing in a wryly amusing way.

A spoon prepares to play a bell in Voluta

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Dialogues with a Collection @ Laure Genillard, 2 Hanway Place – Tottenham Court Rd


To 16 Sept


Lucy Heyward: Face Up Face Down, 1998

The premise for Laure Genillard’s new show sounds a tricky one to pull off: ask 11 artists to show their own work as complement to one of the works she has in her own collection. It turns out, though, that the original works, the new works, the pairings, and the precise explantory texts supplied come together beautifully. Highlights include Gerhard Lang’s ‘visus signatus’ (unsighted) drawing of clouds alongside their meteorological data in response to Frank Heath’s penetratingly funny project of inscribing computer back up in laser cut form; Sarah Staton’s updating of the language in Stephen Willats’ 1960’s rearrangable clothing with text (‘poor / rich / sick…’) with categories from 2018 (‘pangender / neurodivergent / aromantic…’) and Lucy Heyward's 'Face Up Face Down', which seems to derive some sort of merger of sex and forensic anthropology from the attractively tweaked logic of displaying a photogram of a plate-stand on that very plate-stand as if it were itself a plate.. Laure also has as a good a Tomma Abts as you’ll find at the Serpentine…
Tomma Abts: Zerka, 2015
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Caroline Jane Harris: A Bright Haunting @ ASC Gallery, Taplow House, Thurlow Street - Elephant & Castle (to 10 Aug) and Superimposition @ Partners & Mucciaccia, 45 Dover St - Mayfair (to 31 Aug)






Caroline Jane Harris: Shroud, 2018 - hand-cut archival pigment print, 130 x 100cm


I’d better start with a double bias-alert. I chose Caroline Jane Harris as winner of a solo show at ASC Gallery; and I helped write the text for the rather substantial catalogue of Catherine Loewe and Michael Stubbs' curation. All the same, here are two excellent shows which investigate the nature of image-making today. 



Caroline Jane Harris: Monolith II (detail) 2017–18 - white pencil rubbing on archival Kozo pigment print, 112 x 66cm

Harris uses all manner of technical processes to expose and work through the digital aspects of such quotidian views as clouds seen through a window, which becomes the screen of post-production. The intricately beautiful results emerge not as a critique of any truth attributed to  analogue indexicality, but (to quote Jon K. Shaw's catalogue essay) as ‘an affirmation of the visual mysteries of the everyday’. 



Paul Morrison: Pyxide, 2010 - gold leaf and acrylic on linen, 72 x 54 cm

The superimposition in 'Superimposition' can be seen various ways: Barry Reigate mixes modes over each other – carton, graffiti, abstraction. Mark Titchner imposes language on pattern to baroque effect. Michael Stubbs obscures graphic signs with abstract overlays. Paul Morrison ruptures space by combining different scales and sources within the same pictorial space – an implied planar superimposition. All of which suggests the digital overlaps of the screen without using its technologies directly, and makes for a highly stimulating conversation of contrasting yet related voices. 

 
Mark Titchner: Up, 2012 - carved wood and imitation gold leaf, 141 x 141 x 10cm     
                             
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Pablo Picasso: Woman on the Beach, 1932
Carol Bove @ David Zwirner, 24 Grafton St – Mayfair
To 3 Aug
May, 2018
 

Some of Carol Bove’s best known work uses peacock feathers, quite an apparent contrast with the big all-metal collages here, which she makes ‘in the air’ using a robust system of hoists, jacks and harnesses. Yet – perhaps due to that – there’s a lightness to Bove’s combinations which she says she ‘imagines fast’, as if working in clay. The results are compelling. Partly due to the interplay of rusty found steel, manipulated and then powder coated steel tubing, and highly polished steel discs. Partly due to the superbly orchestrated ‘abstract narrative’ (if I can be allowed the term) which unfolds over the two floors. 
View with Nike I and Nike II, 2018
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Aki Sasamoto: Clothes Line @ White Rainbow 47 Mortimer St - Fitzrovia

To 4 Aug (Tues-Fri 11-7)


Sasamoto making a performative drawing at the opening


I wasn’t surprised when New York based Japanese artist Aki Sasamoto told me she has experience as a stand-up comic. Her practice centres on wry dialogues delivered in a Japanese accent as delightful as Laure Prouvost’s French, all the while making drawings to illustrate her points. At White Rainbow You can see the drawn result of her London performance alongside films of her actions and resulting drawings from three further performance projects in America. To give you a flavour, one starting point is to contrast the detailed view of the dung beetle with the broad sweep of a bird. What kind of life do you want? One which includes this show would be a sensible start…

Sasamoto in dung beetle mode in the film Yield Point
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Rafal Zajko: Jaka praca dziś - takie nasze jutro and Jutro @ Castor Projects, Resolution Way, Deptford

To 4 Aug

Anna Perach: The Red House Lord, 2018 - hand and gun tufting, artificial hair and yarn, 140 x 115 cm



Now is the time to visit Deptford, as Andy Wicks is expanding from one of the enclaves at Resolution Way to take Castor into two - but for a while he has all three. The old space contains Rafal Zajko's solo show, which sees him move from a performance-based practice to an emphasis on sculptural forms derived from public art in his native Poland, but retaining a performative element: inserted ice melts, cracks and falls; visitors have the chance to add chewing gum. The new double unit holds a group show which elegantly plays wall-based sculptures off against each other, curated by Zajko together with Wicks and introducing some fresh Eastern European voices. 

The work of today – determines our tomorrow


Rafal Zajko: Technological Reliquary I (Current), 2018: Jesmonite, embroidery, steel, push button, ice 80 x 50 x 4.5 cm

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Richard Woods: The Ideal Home Exhibition @ Alan Cristea Gallery, 43 Pall Mall  - central


To 31 July


House with Solar Panels, 2018

At last year’s Folkestone triennial Richard Woods came across the illogical combination of houses being sold as second homes because the locals couldn’t afford to buy them as their only residence.  That – in the form of implausibly colourful model ‘holiday homes’ - is the starting point for a rich mix of ideas bringing the housing market to Woods’ characteristic modes. Fashionable cellar extensions and solar panels are mocked. Eight prints of ‘Dream Homes’ refer to the somewhat double-edged compliments of estate agents: does ‘mature garden’ mean it's overgrown, does ‘potential to convert’ indicate it's currently uninhabitable? Another set converts Woods’ famous wood effect prints – by rotation, cropping and minimal intervention – into ‘handheld landscapes’, ie views of plots of ground to be sold. 

Handheld Landscape (51 acres), 2018 - Acrylic on birch plywood, 27 x 20 cm


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Summer is traditionally the time for group shows, typically combining gallery artists with a sprinkling of guests and tied to a theme which suits a fairly light curatorial touch. That can become formulaic, but it’s not necessarily a bad formula. Timothy Taylor, Simon Lee have good examples and White Cube a grand version. 


                                     



Mask @ Kamel Mennour, 51 Brook Street – Mayfair

To 28 July

Installation view including François (left), Rondinone (centre) and Halilaj (right)
 
An obvious enough theme avoids the obvious: Nobuyoshi Araki shows half-face, half-flower collages of what were previously two separate streams of work to propose 'a still life which masks the psychosexual desire of the Japanese people'; Petrit Halilaj’s ‘Do you realise there is a rainbow even if it’s night’ is a moth; Michel François half-masks his then-wife Ann Veronica Janssens with a white liquid dip; Alberto García‑Alix photographs himself as partially self-masked - and so on, with 13 artists in all… True, Ugo Rondinone appropriates the look of an African tribal mask, but that winks at us, conspiratorially. 

Araki collage
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Mute @ Amanda Wilkinson, 18 Brewer St - Soho and Elizabeth Price: txtʃərz   at Morley College, 61 Westminster Bridge Rd - South Bank (to 14 July including Art Night)




Derek Jarman: Household God III (Wagner), 1989


‘Mute’ is, quite simply but originally, a series of works which keep themselves quiet in various ways. Angela Bulloch’s ‘On/Off Line Drawing Machine’, 1991, allows itself hardly any expressive capacity as it proceeds to build up a horizontal. Derek Jarman decapitated the busts of several composers, replacing their implied music with rocks or objects found near Dungeoness. France Alys provides a delicately hesistant drawn gesture. Jimmy Desana’s figures are gagged. Isa Genzken’s radio is concrete.

An offsite extension to Elizabeth Price’s new film at the Morley Gallery is very much on track: in her trademark ‘archive with disco’ style, she presents the 6 minute story of a strike-of-sorts through which the governing committees of universities and museums opt for wordlessness in – it would seem – the face of increasing corporatisation of those institutions. The only visuals are collaged video clips of magazine clippings showing long dresses as worn by models c. 1960-80: on the one hand summoning better days for academic freedom from commerce, on the other referencing hoe the dresses’ models had to pose for the purpose of display, rather like a lecturer ticking inspectorial boxes. 
Elizabeth Price: still from txtʃərz

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Family Values: Polish Photography Now @ Calvert 22 Foundation, 22 Calvert Avenue – Shoreditch

To 22 July


From Zofia Rydet's Sociological Record

At the core of this show, despite its subtitle, are two stunning long-term series from the last century.  Zofia Rydet made an amazing 20,000 images of Poles in their homes for her Sociological Record (1978-90) – detailed orchestrations at a rate of five per day from age 67 to her death! Film maker Józef Robakowski, banned from exhibiting his work, turned to the apolitically personal, albeit with the texture of surveillance, as a way of protesting obliquely at collectivist ideology. From My Window (1978-2000) is just that: the neighbourhood’s coming and goings to a commentary which stresses their personalities just as it transmits Rabakowski’s. There are also four recent projects in the show. Remarkably, they assert themselves successfully in the context of the older work, especially Aneta Grzeszykowska’s Negative Book and Aneta Bartos’ startling dual portraits of herself with her bodybuilder father. 

From Aneta Grzeszykowska’s Negative Book 
          

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Katharina Grosse: Prototypes of Imagination @ Gagosian, 6-24 Britannia Street to 27 July; Bernard Frize: Blackout in the Grid @ Simon Lee Gallery, 12 Berkeley St to 30 June;  Juan Uslé: Open Night @ Frith Street, Golden Square to 23 June; Cipriano Martinez: Displacement @ Maddox Arts, 52 Brook's Mews




Katharina Grosse: Untitled, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 265 × 175 cm

If you're attracted to harmless list-making, you might consider who are the dozen top abstract painters in the world: there's no right and wrong, of course, and I may have forgotten someone obvious, but a plausible group seems to me Gerhard Richter, Bernard Frize, Bridget Riley, Katharina Grosse, Mary Heilmann, Charline von Heyl, Juan Uslé, Robert Ryman, Beatriz Milhazes, Sean Scully, Tomma Abts and Ding Yi. In which case London is well served, as Milhazes (see below) Grosse, Frize and Uslé have wonderful shows on now, and Tomma Abts is next up at the Serpentine. Moreover, a ten year survey of Cipriano Martinez's  politcally charged deconstructions of architectural geometry in Caracas and London emphasises the variety of means he has brought to a tight thematic focus, and makes for a worthy 10th anniversary show at Maddox Arts.  Come to that, Richter has an impressive presence in Southampton, which isn't so far away. Grosse uses scale to thrilling effect, Frize does what only he can do to the grid, and Uslé brings us something of the night. 


 

Bernard Frize: Wir, 2018
Acrylic and resin on canvas 250 x 215 cm 



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Beatriz Milhazes: Rio Azul @ White Cube Bermondsey


To 2 July



Installation image Ollie Hammick



There’s everything in this exuberant show: big paintings, and even bigger tapestry, collage, hanging sculptural combinations of found objects, and stage set and opening performances by her sister's dance troupe (a little is here). One way of looking at the show would be as a rebooting of  the Manifesto Antropófago published in 1928 by  Oswald de Andrade, for that proposed that European influences should be 'cannibalised' - chewed up and digested to emerge in a South American form - and Milhazes definitely integrates a tropical and carnival aspect into European modernist tropes. This show is particularly heavy on circles, and there’s a contrast between the dazzling intricacy of their intersections in most of the work and the comparative simplification which emerges from the weaving process. 





As irmãs em azul celeste, 2015-2018 - Collage on paper
86.5 x 76 cm, Photo: Manuel guas 


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Lea Cetera: Expanding Brain @ Southard Reid - 7 Royalty Mews, Soho

To 30 June 2018

Installation view


Shows about identity politics can get heavy handed, so Lea Cetera’s light touch is welcome here. The central work is a 15 minute ‘artist interview’ in which we see an artist - identified by number, hooded like an assassin, voice disguised – answer questions about her practice and background. She complains when asked how race informs her work on the basis that a white artist wouldn’t have been asked that, yet the show is largely about that, as well as what the interviewee says her work is about: on the one hand, mockingly, ‘it’s about everything, it’s about nothing’, on the other hand it’s about ‘the psychological spaces we construct and operate within’. The rest of the show features hyper-real sculptures of quotidian items (coffee cups and suchi are favourites) with emails integrated to indicate how the artist’s everyday experience is informed by the nature of art and identity. This is all within the pretended parameters of a progression chart which the Filipino New Yorker found online, showing how to accept then go beyond the role of ‘artist of colour’ to make work about 'whatever the fuck you want'. 
Cup Construction, 2018 - plywood, formica, resin, porcelain, acrylic

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Brian Bress: Another Fine Mess @ Josh Lilley, 44-46 Riding House Street – Fitzrovia


To 27 June

Sunset Peacock (cutout), 2018 - 140 x 76cm
     

American artist Brian Bress puts the fine into what’s far from a mess with the most formally innovative show in London. On entering, you wonder ‘what is this?’ Several canvases curl down in curiously attractive tatters from being cut away with a knife.  Down in the main space you find that those paintings were the main part of stage sets to make films in which canvas and screen converge. Each start with an image which gets cut away from behind so that the reverse side hangs down. Bress does the cutting while wearing a suit with a third painting on it. Behind him is a fourth painting. The balance between the four levels shifts mesmerisingly over 15-30 minute loops. And that is just one strand of Bress’s video panel paintings shown here, relatable to Helena Almeida and Alex Hubbard, I suppose, but effectively a new cross-medium.




Still from Sunset Peacock, 2018 (29 minute video loop)
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New Relics @ Thames-Side Studios, Harrington Way, Woolwich
To 24 June
Michael Samuels: Logjam, 2016

Artist-curators Kate Terry and Tim Ellis fill the large spaces of Thames-Side Studios’ gallery with no fewer than 56 sculptures, providing an excellent cross-section of current practice well worth the trip to Woolwich. The conceit of ‘New Relics’ is broad enough to allow considerable variety, but many artists use their materials with a certain wit: take Vasilis Asakopoulos’s resinous puddle in a chair (Shell II, 2018); Simon Brinkman’s fetishistic Untitled Anonymous, 2018, a black rubber, silicone and steel ramp to nowhere; Michael Samuels’ oddly resonant boxing off of a ladder in Logjam, 2016; and Alan Magee’s Was, is, shall be, 2015, a mere sprinkle of silicon which has been cast in the holes of a colander – one of several small floor-dwelling works offsetting the general up-thrust of forms. Oh, and Hamish Pearch’s kinetic Bambi, 2018 massages itself…

Alan Magee: Was, is, shall be, 2015


Noémie Goudal: Telluris @ Edel Assanti, 74a Newman Street - Fitzrovia


To 23 June 








French photographer Noémie Goudal presents three immersively installed takes on how we trammel between image and reality and between manmade and natural. The upper space is filled with wooden cube frames, within which lies the Telluris series, depicting similar 25-cube constructions within the landscape, in the forms used by analogue era scientists to model the geology of mountain formation.  Also incorporated is the Soulevement series, in which rock formations turn out to be photographs of sets of mirrors installed in the landscape. Downstairs, rock reflections take a different tack through the stereoscopic installation Study in Perspective III, which causes us to see similar images as differently constructed. It’s a substantial investigation of illusory substance.





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Molly Soda: Me and My Gurls @ Annka Kultys Gallery, 472 Hackney Road – Cambridge Heath

To 16 June








Molly Soda’s teeming and multifarious practice is most naturally online. Here, then, she effectively transports her studio to the gallery by covering the walls with images and footage from her laptop, complete with a 15 foot printout of comments on one of her YouTube posts which takes over the space sculturally. That is a make-up tutorial which pokes an artist’s fun at the genre, yet evokes deadpan or mocking responses from people who take her to be playing it straight. Indeed, Soda entertainingly subverts various roles and genres. Instead of showing off her new clothes she adapts the format to present her favourite Gifs: she likes ‘the delayed Gif experience’, as when a flower keeps the viewer waiting before opening.




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Maeve Brennan: Listening in the Dark @ Jerwood Space *, 171 Union Street - Southwark

To 3 June 



London seems to be in something of a cave moment just now. If you want paintings of them, see Mimei Thompson’s dark places in a show about light at ArthouSE1; for a psychedelic encounter with the astro-cthonics of alien abduction, spectacularly installed, head for Megan Broadmeadow at CGP. But I like bats in my caves, and Maeve Brennan’s 43 minute film Listening in the Dark makes the most of them, bringing the unintended fatal consequences of wind turbines on bats (their lungs explode in the pressure drop  behind the blades) together with ultrasound detection, scientific research methods, geological history and the operation of whale calls to explore bats as a symbol of how convenient it can seem to be to ignore what we are doing to the environment. It’s effectively paired in the Jerwood's 'Unintended Consequences' with Imran Perretta’s film about refugees, something else with which many would prefer to ignore. 

* Jerwood's web coverage is unusually good
 

                                    
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Mequitta Ahuja: Notations @ Tiwani Contemporary, 16 Little Portland Street

To 2 June


Material Support, 2017 - 213 x 203cm


American painter Mequitta Ahuja - mentored by Kerry Marshall - takes a refreshingly unconventional view of the artist in the studio: both by staging herself reading the paper and doing a crossword as well as amongst various intersecting works; and by - in her words - 'positioning a woman-of-colour as primary picture-maker, in whose hands the figurative tradition is refashioned'. The personal and political aspects come together in Material Support, when we see her covering a canvas which refers to the 1865 promise of Forty acres and a mule for freed slaves - that it was never delivered is perhaps indicated by the letters being written backwards.  

Crossword, 2017 - 107 x 106 cm
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Hermann Nitsch: Das Orgien Mysterien Theater @ Massimo de Carlo, 55 South Audley St - Mayfair

To May 25




This three floor survey with extensive film documentation of Nitsch's Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries, plenty of paintings and rooms full of relics gives a powerful overview of what Hermann Nitsch has done these 60 years. Plenty of transgressive and blasphemous animal slaughter, ceremony, nudity and crucifixion of course, but what’s it all about? Nitsch is an existentialist who seeks to maximise intensity by embracing extremes as - in his words - ‘the artist who is into meat and blood'. He believes that natural human instincts have been repressed, and that the rituals will release their energy, purify and redeem us. Even if you're not convinced, the spectacle remains.  





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In The Future @ Collyer Bristow, 4 Bedford Row – Holborn

To 14 June


Installation view with Karen David

Law firm Collyer Bristow have, remarkably, now been using their offices to show art for 25 years*. And they’re big shows: 60-odd works by 20 artists appear in regulator curator Rosalind Davis’ latest, which uses a Talking Heads lyric even older than the gallery to set off thoughts about what the future might be like. Any danger of sci-fi similitude is countered by plenty of wit (eg Kitty Sterling, David Worthington, Sasha Bowles) and a good sprinkling of retro-futurism (Tim Ellis, John Greenwood and young German Arno Beck, who has the surprising idea in one of his age of using a typewriter to convert  digital images into deliciously delicate analogue equivalents). Four artists contribute especially large and coherent bodies of work: Dan Hays, Alison Turnbull, Ian Monroe and Karen David. You do need to know, I think, that the candies** are in David’s pictured installation because just that was used to lure E.T. from the woods.

* By appointment during office hours: and subject to meetings sometimes occupying rooms, so Friday afternoon is a good time to visit. Comes with a nice booklet.

** Odd what you can learn looking at art: Reese's Pieces are American packs of peanut butter candy spheres, manufactured by The Hershey Company in yellow, orange and brown. Sales tripled when, in one of the earliest such film product placements, they featured at a cost of $1m in ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’, 1982.
 
 
Arno Beck: Textmode (Mountain), 2017 - typewriter drawing on Japanese paper     


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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