Tuesday, 15 January 2019


Plenty of Most Things at the London Art Fair

There are no mega-galleries or old masters at the London Art Fair (16-20 Jan), but there is a lot of pretty much everything else. Modern British classics; surprising discoveries; adventurous new international work; over-tasteful middle of the road fare; and trite knock-offs. A curated photography show; a film programme; museum presences (Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery is centre stage); and special areas of focus – this year it’s South America and ceramics. Here are ten things which interested me…

John Piper: Fawley VI, 1989 at Kyance Fine Art, London
John Piper (1903-92) established a characterful early figurative style, turned to abstraction and then reverted to his mature representational approach, emphasising architecture. I was unaware of his very late, more abstract works: attractively free oil and sand paintings inspired by his garden at Fawley Bottom in Buckinghamshire, where he lived for six decades.
Trish MorriseyChloe Gwynne, May 30th, 2005  in Photo50
Tim Clark’s choices for Photo50 concentrated on the family. For her series ‘Front’ (2005-07), Trish Morrisey undermined its putative constancy rather directly by asking to take part as families photographed themselves in temporary encampments such as on the beach. Typically, she adopted the role and borrowed the clothes of the mother, who then operated the ready-set camera. That’s her in Chloe Gwynne’s black shorts and red top,  crossing physical and psychological boundaries.
Patricia Camet: Huacamets 1, 2016 at Lamb Arts, Sao Paulo
The Peruvian artist picks up plastic containers  from the street – sadly she has no problem sourcing them, making her point about disposable consumption – melds them into her own new forms(nicely titled by merging ‘Huacas’ - the funerary and sacred places in which pre-Colombian sculptures are used - with her name 'Camet'). She casts the packaging, varnishes and triple-fires them with traditional pre-Colombian techniques. Contrary to instinct, she may be making them less permanent…  

Florian HeinkeDas Ende des Regenbogens, 2018 at Charlie Smith, London
German artist Florian Heinke only ever use black paint – oil, in this case. So of course, the titular rainbow, top right in this persuasively illogical collage-driven composition, is colourless. Two hooves hang down bafflingly, but the image centres on the smoked face, the diffusion from which seems to infect the whole in a bravura handling of paint.

Elle Kaye: Scarlet Ibis, 2018 at GBS Fine Art, Somerset
When taxidermy – Polly Morgan and Tessa Farmer being prominent – has reached the art mainstream, it’s been with added conceptual or narrative content. But Elle Kaye explained to me that she was content to present her favoured birds ‘straight’, judging that they needed no help beyond nature. Is it art? Whether or not, her five works are striking and skilfully realised presences – though Elle said that after seven years she was only 70% through her training!
Augusto Villalba: Ophelia, Apocalyptic Sky, 2018 at Maddox Arts, London
Venezuelan artist Augusto Villalba describes his abstractions-from-observation as ‘marouflage’, a useful term for works attaching painted paper to canvas using an adhesive that hardens as it dries. Here he is with a floaty example which might be reckoned somewhat apocalyptic by colour and the connection to a doomed Shakespearian character.

Victor Vasarely: Relief,  1970 at Sylvia Powell, London
The new ‘Platform’ section gathers a group of galleries focused on – this year – ceramics, and also highlights its presence at other stands. Sylvia Powell, a specialist in the area, brought several pieces from the former Rosenthal Studio in Germany, which collaborated with many leading artists throughout the C20th. This Vasarely relief falls somewhere between paintbox and makeup tray.
Peter Lanyon: Vase, 1951 at Piano Nobile, London
Early Lanyon surprised me, rather as had late Piper: this, one of a few ceramics which the Cornish artist (1918-64) made in the early fifties, does however suggest a steep-cliffed landscape over which we swoop, and so it does seem to bear some relation to his  later paintings, famously inspired by glider flights.

Alba Hodsoll: Double Cream, 2018 at The Cob Gallery, London
Alba Hodsoll’s ‘Seed’ series don’t quite qualify for the ceramics tag: they push the sea coconut, already the most easily sexualised of natural materials, even further by casting them in materials – such as silicone and plaster – which often come into contact with the body for medical or cosmetic purposes. Pushing into the absurd, they are then titled after sex toys – reminding us that Coco de Mer is already the name of a group of high end sex shops.

Xiao-yang Li: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the BOMB at Narrative Projects, London
The young Chinese artist brings a slightly rickety urgency to this formal contrast between flesh and metal, pink and black, feminine grace and masculine use of the hydrogen bomb as a symbol of sexual potency. She cites the full title of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 cold war black comedy ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ – which ends with massed nuclear explosions by way of a satire on orgasmic release.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019


SHOWS TO SEE: Up Now in London 

see also my Instagram feed as paulcareykent

Robert Rauschenberg: ‘Spreads’ 1975-83 at Thaddaeus Ropac to 26 Jan

I took a dozen people – mostly artists – round a dozen West End shows. Everyone agreed the stand-out was Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Spreads’ 1975-83 - in which all manner of content from his classic combines and solvent transfers are spread onto the toast of the simpler, silken ‘Jammers’ (1975–76) without any of it looking muddled. ‘Rumor (Spread)’ 1980 also benefits from a title pun...

Meiro Koizumi: Battlelands at White Rainbow to 12 Jan

The key work in this first UK exhibition by Japanese artist and filmmaker Meiro Koizumi is a one hour film starting on the hour: his edit of a four year project in which five US veterans imagine themselves back into traumatic wartime experiences which they recount as they move, blindfolded, around their everyday spaces: a dramatic visualisation of how conflict imposes itself on ordinary life, and possibly the best follow-on I've seen to Martha Rosler's famous Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, 1967-72. 

Amie Siegel: Backstory to 16 Feb at Thomas Dane Gallery

The presence or absence of Bridget Bardot in 'Contempt' lies at the core of Amie Siegel's dizzying combination of text and film works playing off Goddard's 1963 film and Alberto Moravia's novel 'A Ghost at Noon', 1954, on which it is itself based. Quite possibly the cleverest show currently on view.

Pacific Breeze at White Conduit Projects, Islington to 13 Jan

For this unusual show, 70 artists have created contemporary versions of fans, which are beautifully displayed on shelves in a custom made stand design. There's plenty of beauty, and just as much humour; and a mix of the fan influencing the production (as in '130°' by Takumi Kato) and the fan as a novel place to paint. I'm a particular fan of the contributions by Ryan Gander, Glen Baxter,  Jane Bustin, Juan Bolivar, Marta Marce, Sally Kindberg, Sally Osborn, Susan Sluglett and William Mackrell… 

Martin Creed: Toast at Hauser & Wirth to 9 Feb

A thoroughly enjoyable parade of wit over two twenty minute cycles in a recommended viewing of painting, sculpture, performance and film: one in a darkened space with films, one in the light with performances. 'Work No. 2919 Tree of art' 2018 is the most visually minimal in a packed show of 'difficult thoughts' which prove disarmingly simple. It seemed a touching metaphor of creative growth until I started reading it as 'Fart'.

Through the Looking Glass at the Cob Gallery, Camden to 19 Jan

44 artists contribute small works to the highly entertaining show 'Through the Looking Glass': ideal holiday season fare, but with plenty of yuletide food for thought as well. James Capper, Polly Morgan, Gavin Turk and Paul Benney, with his boldly punning locket and clasp 'Story of the Eye' above, excel. As do two artists invert each other: Nancy Fouts' 'Happy Pills' 2018 are actually ladybirds trapped by a visual pun; whereas there really are pills inside Alice Anderson's worryingly totemic 'Sedatives' 2018.

Markéta Luskačová at Tate Britain to 12 March


Among the widespread moves to enhance the visibility of neglected female artists, Markéta Luskačová (born 1944) has a notably strong case, so it’s great to see that Tate Britain have dedicated a room to both her East European and – after she left Prague in 1975 - British photographs. This,  from the series ’Seaside, North East England' is typical: a grittily surreal monochrome which works in the detail as well as in the overall compositional, documentary and emotional aspects

Andy Harper: Plastic Fox at Patrick Heide to 12 Jan

The 'Plastic Fox' is not just a painting's title, but an item Andy tells me he's always wanted but never found. Now he has one!? 'Pocket of Straws' (above) demonstrates his new method - consistent with the natural-artificial mixture of a plastic fox - of puncturing the surface of his vegetational density with what could be computer swatches (but are actually shapes masked out with Frisket Film at the start of the process, then painted as the last step). Plus upstairs, an informal retrospective selection.

Jesse Darling: Art Now - The Ballad of Saint Jerome at Tate Britain to 24 Feb

‘Epistemologies (shamed cabinet)’ 2018 sees wounding and liberation – here from the constraints of institutional display – come together in the limping potential escape of a cabinet. What’s more, they’ve found a use for lever arch files, of which a huge pre-digital surplus remains. Darling makes an intriguing job of the ‘Art Now’ room, sparked by the story of St Jerome and the lion, more typically an art historical subject but here the starting point for an epistolary exchange between Darling and a priest who is also transgender, and which leads in to the room’s many and varied works on themes of healing, control and the subjugation of otherness.

Heather Phillipson: My Name is Lettie Eggsyrub at Gloucester Road underground station - throughout 2018.

Phillipson is a vegan who says that eggs are subject to torture - would you like to be cracked or boiled? - when we forget they are potential lives. So her whole-platform eggstravaganza questions consumption, bit it's more obviously a fun thing to go to work alongside, with farting eggs making especially wacky sense.

Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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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.