Friday, 28 May 2010


You may have noticed some of the 268 Indian elephants dotted around London as an event to raise funds for charitable assistance for their survival. Few are by artists, but this neatly street-themed street elephant by Rana Begum is in Berkeley Square, and is a nice complement to her exhibition just a few yards away at Bischoff Weiss. I didn't see any elephants in the 'Library of Babel' show at the Anita Zabludowicz Collection, but don't let that put you off attending my tour of it on 6 June @ 3 pm: see

Luis Tomasello: detail from Objet Plastique No. 925, 2009

Rana Begum: Installation shot

Luis Tomasello @ The Mayor Gallery, 22a Cork St - Central

To 11 June:

Rana Begum: Fractured Symmetry @ Bischoff Weiss, 14a Hay Hill - Central

To 3 July:

I link these two excellent shows because the veteran Argentine Luis Tomasello, whose first substantial British appearance this is, and young Anglo-Bangladeshi Rana Begum share common concerns. Both make geometric work which straddles the line between painting and sculpture, which alters in appearance as the spectator moves around it, which exploits the way in which reflections can provide a mysterious source of colour, and which consequently loses much of its point in reproduction. That may sound a lot of similarity, and shows how the same issues are revisited and reinterpreted across the generations, but the works are nonetheless very different. Tomasello, who is still active at 95, emerged as a kinetic artist in the 1950’s alongside Jesus Rafael Soto. He makes hidden colour bleed from under multiple repeated shapes, and also exploits how the same colour can appear different depending on its angle compared with the light source (those are all the same yellow above). Begum’s work comes from the energy of the streets, but gives that a transcendental twist: in these works, by making the frontal view all-white but with mysterious hint of some ‘unplugged’ light; and by the colours blooming and changing as the viewer-as-pedestrian passes by. The comparison between Tomasello and Begum is striking, and the galleries are only some 200 yards apart...

See Bischoff /Weiss site shortly for my interview with Rana.

Bryne & Lau: TEOTWAWKI @ FOLD, 32 Fortesque Avenue – London Fields

To 16 June: www.foldgallerycom

Kim Savage and Sharrine Scholtz are generously hosting a show which contemplates the obliteration of their gallery - for Jamie Lau and EA Byrne’s first collaboration, which goes under the acronymic title for ‘The end of the world as we know it’, centres around a model of FOLD as threatened by a huge boulder suspended above it. TEOTWAWKI’s tightly-related works explore not disaster itself, but the tension and dread which precedes it, and the cultural construction of that state: there’s also a collage of pre-apocalyptic scenes from Hollywood movies; adjusted versions of warning posters; and a sculptural explanation of the impact zones of a nuclear bomb. All of which may suggest a rather heavy visit, however appropriate to the zeitgeist of global warming, terrorism and volcano ash. But not at all: from that absurdly targeted comical rock onwards, Byrne & Lau balance our instinct to panic against our equal tendency to laugh such threats off. Best go soon, though, just in case the world goes first.

I am taking part in a panel discussion and catalogue launch for this show at Shoreditch House on Tues 8 June from 7 pm – email me on if you would like to attend.


Clay Ketter @ Bartha Contemporary, 136B Lancaster Rd – Ladbroke Grove

To 27 June:

This small but wide-ranging show, a hundred yards from Ladbroke Grove tube, will make you want to see more of the mid-career Swedish-based American’s work. Ketter constructs socially-charged photographs, paintings and sculpture at the intersection of art and architecture. He is perhaps best known for images of houses destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, photographed from such a high vantage point on a ladder that they are returned to their origin in architectural plans. There’s one of those here; plus the pre-construction elements of a doll’s house, flattened and blown up big; and a delightfully chaotic yet controlled installation wall. But the biggest works go higher than any ladder: two huge – and hugely enhanced – satellite images of contrasting American communities, both with an island-like independence and self-containment, rendered as lightjet C-Print diasecs ten feet wide. ‘The Garden Revisited’ brings a biblical feel to the baroque patterns of an affluent commuter town in Virginia in which the only small houses are for those who work in the supermarket at its centre. Opposite that, ‘Leviathan’ shows a less well-to-do settlement in the Mojave Desert in Colorado, where the residents work in the southern half, which consists of factories. A large team of software specialists have spent their nights altering all sorts of details under Ketter's direction, and it's fasciating to speculate on what's real and what isn't in front of the full scale works.

Still from Whispering Pines 9

Shana Moulton @ Gimpel Fils, 30 Davies St - Central

To 3 July:

Gimpel Fils presents episode 9 in New York based Shana Moulton’s ‘Whispering Pines’ series of short films, along with ‘Puzzle Saga’, a theatrically-presented three screen installation which fills most of the gallery and incorporates elements of episode 10. Moulton, who grew up on the Whispering Pines mobile home park in California, has been playing her alter-ego, Cynthia, for a decade now and says the series – which ought to be better-known in Britain - is likely to have just the finale to come. Cynthia is an anxious, unspeaking and isolated hypochondriac whose stories combine mundane activities with the comically surreal as she searches for fulfillment through consumerism, self-help, and new-age remedies. If I tell you that much of ‘Whispering Pines 9’ sees Cynthia wandering around with no apparent legs, wearing as a hat the virtual version of a footbath which she tries to pass off as a valuable Native American bowl, you’ll get some idea of the winningly kooky style with which she sends up how we search for purpose in our lives.

'Given' @ greengrassi

'Untitled' (detail) @ Faggionato

Lisa Yuskavage @ greengrassi,1a Kempsford Rd - Kennington

To 26 June:

You've Gone Too Far This Time @ Faggionato Fine Arts, 49 Albemarle St - Central

To 25 June (not weekends):

Lisa Yuskavage currently features in two shows well worth seeing. First, her own solo presentation at greengrassi, which might be described as ‘provocation as normal’: distorted women presented in candy colours with an aesthetic which exploits the sensuality of oil paint to mix registers wildly: the repulsive with the sickly sweet, the girlie mag with the classic nude. The effect is uncomfortably powerful, especially in 'Given', in which various balls lie around to parody the breasts and stomach of the pregnant main subject. You can also see Yuskavage in gentler, watercolour mode – albeit with the bizarre subject of rabbit suckling - as a part of Faggionato’s well-chosen stock show ‘You’ve Gone Too Far This Time’. That brings together eight artists’ representations of the body: Kiki Smith’s five elements of body tissue from tissue paper and George Condo’s typically oddball ‘Nude on Purple’ also stand out.

Poster Sculpture

Matias Faldbakken: Known to Few, Unknown to Fewer @ Simon Lee Gallery, 12 Berkeley St – Central

To 3 July:

This could be the bravest show in London now… The Norwegian artist (and cult novelist) Matias Faldbakken, who makes a fetish of negativity and destruction of meaning, presents not rubbish – that would be an old provocation – but twelve bin bags. They’re in their mint, grey, folded state; seriously framed to emphasise their supposed desirability and art status; and bear unobtrusive acronyms and graffiti-like marks which themselves only pretend to meaning. Did he know what he was doing? A scattering of bottles of liquor allows us to suppose not. But my favourite work here is of 3,000 male fashion posters bound tightly enough to stand as a sculpture, and so buckled by the pressure that the front image is little more legible than the other 2,999. So much, one presumes, for the power of the image in mass production – but the buckling makes for an attractive aesthetic, albeit one which Falbakken would probably reject along with everything else.

Tacita Dean: Craneway Event @ Frith Street Gallery, 17-18 Golden Square – Central

To 23 June: see for screening times

Tacita Dean’s new film portrait follows the late Merce Cunningham rehearsing his dancers, without music unless you count floorboard creaks and percussive feet, in a disused Ford assembly plant overlooking the San Francisco Bay. It’s a strikingly beautiful combination of light and movement, helped by wide windows, streaming sun and reflective floors. Outside, birds and passing ships punctuate and parallel the inner action. Although edited down considerably by Dean from 17 hours of footage, it remains a fairly testing 100 minutes long with less dance action and fewer choreographic insights than you might anticipate. There is logic to the length, which matches that of the eventual performance, gives us some feel for the dedication required of dancers, and makes for a meditative pace in which a sneeze seems startling. Nonetheless, although ‘Craneway Event’ is screened at set times, feature-film-style, I suspect many people will get what they’re going to get from half an hour.

Two Reclining Figures

Henry Moore and the Chelsea School of Art
@ Chelsea Space, 16 John Islip St – Millbank

One view of The Coral Reef in its previous installation

To 12 June:

Mike Nelson: The Coral Reef @ Tate Britain


There are two tales of problematic installation at Millbank currently. Tate Britain’s ongoing big show is of Henry Moore. Over the road at the University of the Arts’ Chelsea Space – in what is the 33rd exhibition arranged there by Donald Smith –you can find a diverting history of Moore’s ‘Two Reclining Figures’, 1959, as owned by the Chelsea School of Art. It ranges from the planning bureaucracy required to relocate it to the practical difficulties of shifting such heavy pieces as imagined in Dudley Sutton’s poem ‘Don’t Do Any More Henry Moore’. The sculpture itself is presented as if in transit. What now seems Mike Nelson’s increasingly seminal series of rooms 'The Coral Reef' was originally shown at Matt’s Gallery in 2000 and then at the Venice Biennale in 2001 (and Nelson will be in the British Pavilion in next year's edition). It's great to see it appear as a recent acquisition - even if, to Tate Britain’s embarrassment, it opened a couple of weeks later than the advertised 17 May due, I was told, to ‘health and safety issues'. Evidently, heavy weights are not the only problem to affect installations…

Blood and Spit

T.V. Santosh: Burning Flags @ Aicon Gallery, 8 Heddon St - Central

To 12 June:

Kerala-born, Mumbai-based T.V. Santosh brings a striking aesthetic to his commentary on media distortion by computer-manipulating source images from the news so that they appear in the negative and scarified by crosses; blowing them up big; and then painting them in a searing palette dominated by orange and green. He maximizes the intensity and reinforces the urgency of the underlying stories by working with just one layer of pure colour on a white ground. Here those characteristic oils are complemented by more intuitive monochrome watercolour treatments, and two white fiberglass sculptures which incorporate ominous messages scrolling past in neon. ‘The Last Command’ does so in a cell-like structure made from cast bones which Santosh says reference South Indian and Czech churches, in both of which bones are sometimes used to decorate the walls. If the medium is the message, he implies, then it may be time to panic.

Untitled (mg-10-5293)

Michelle Grabner: Flapjack @ Rocket, Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High St - Shoreditch

To 19 June:

You go years without a good show made up entirely of circular abstractions, then hot on the heels of FAS Contemporary’s ‘Tondo’, another one rolls along… Chicago-based painter Michelle Grabner has worked small, but here she goes big with some of the eight tondos shown being over six feet in diameter. All are black grounds marked with thousands of dots of varying strengths of white, which spiral out to form intricately vibrant patterns. They’re done by hand, with no pre-planning and certainly no computers. The surprisingly wide variations come from such factors as Grabner’s mood, the time of day, and the amount of paint on the brush. You might be reminded of saucers, constellations or aerial views of hats – but probably not of flapjack, until you learn that in America it is a type of pancake.

William Tillyer: Helmsley Sky Study 8A

Tour Feature: People often ask me what I would recommend as an afternoon’s tour of current exhibitions. Right now, the galleries near the Royal Academy have a strong hand: not just Bischoff/Weiss, Simon Lee, the Mayor Gallery and Faggionato as above, but also Richard Hamiton's shit and flowers at Alan Cristea, Nick Hornby at Alexia Goethe, Anton Henning at Haunch of Venison and the final part of the four show restrospective of William Tillyer at Bernard Jacobson. That last includes a brand new set of cloud paintings, made directly onto (in fact, squeezed through the back of, then worked additionally from the front) metal lattice screens. That is a way of substituting what Tillyer sees as the 'passive receiver' which is canvas with an active component, playing its part in what is then simultaneously painting, object, window and modernist grid.

Still showing from previous lists:

Erwin Olaf to 4 June, Leigh Ledare to 5 June, Jennet Thomas to 6 June, Alex Hudson to 6 June, The Library of Babel to 13 June, William Tillyer to 19 June, Michael Samuels to 19 June, Marc Quinn to 26 June, Anthony Caro to 6 July, Steve McQueen to 18 July. gives full address and opening time details of most shows


Emma Bennett @ CHARLIE SMITH London: 4.6 - 3.7

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom @ Squid & Tabernacle: 4.6 - 26.6

Michael Stubbs @ Laurent Delaye: 4.6 - 24.7

Oscar Tuazon @ ICA: 4.6 - 15.8

PINTA Latin American Art Fair @ Earls Court 4-6.6

Matt Calderwood @ Maria Stenfors 9.6 – 24.7

Merlin James @ Mummery & Schnelle: 9.6 - 31.7

AGGTELEK @ Crisp: 9.6 - 17.7

Miho Sato @ DomoBaal: 11.6 - 19.7

Analia Saban @ Josh Lilley: 11.6 - 17.7

Photo credits: 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.