Wednesday, 30 June 2010


By what criteria should art be judged? If by ability to cool you on a hot day - no mean consideration just now - then Anton Henning’s fan-rotated canvases at Haunch of Venison give you a better breeze than Mark Wallinger’s motor-spun self-portrait as Pope Innocent at Anthony Reynolds, but the clear prize-winner is the installation at Sprovieri. All have their serious merits too, even if one has to concede that Picasso (at Gagosian) remains the best artist in town by more orthodox criteria - and he also contributes towards a healthy current representation of ceramics. Clay, too, can be cool.

Chelpa Ferro
: Jungle Jam @ Sprovieri, 27 Heddon St – Central

To 8 Aug and then 24 Aug – 18 Sept:

Chelpa Ferro (meaning something like ‘Old Money’) is a Brazilian art group created in 1995 by sculptor Jorge Barrão, painter Luiz Zerbini and video editor Sergio Mekler. They have previously worked with sound and with giving consumer society’s cast-offs a fresh and typically anarchic spin. Consistent with that, ‘Jungle Jam’ is a low-tech-meet-high-tech installation of thirty food blenders with plastic bags attached. A fifteen minute computer cycle rotates the bags, set to various speeds, in alternating kinetic sequences. The stimulating outcome is at once a colourful dance; cooling rushes of air; and surprisingly loud syncopated sounds, which put me in mind of wing beats or trees in the wind – so bringing the jungle into what is otherwise a decidedly urban set-up. The whole could therefore speak of environmental concerns as well as economic and social chaos: bringing those together, it somehow reminded me of the prevalent South American practice of illegally tapping the electricity supply.

Alison Wilding: Pruneyes

Super Farmers’ Market @ Handel Street Projects, 19-21 Sicilian Avenue – Holbourn

To 17 July:

Super Farmers’ Market is the second in what so far is a biennial series of shows by the temporary space operators Handel Street Projects, which bring together the commodities of art and food. A impressive roster of 32 artists have been asked to ‘upcycle’ by using low or nil cost locally sourced items – cheap supermarket goods and discarded packaging – to make art of higher value. They provide an enjoyable demonstration of how to use improbable materials imaginatively: Saso Sedlacek’s Salami Condoms, Phyllida Barlow’s wall sculptures in porridge and wire, and Alison Wilding’s face of popcorn, toffee and prunes will give you the idea. Nicholas Pope’s totem-pile of jellies, which returns to the inside of its fridge plinth overnight, seems to be lasting out the hot weather surprisingly well. A more politically engaged side is also served up: for example by Rasa Todosijevic’s angles on the presentation and realities of Serbian food in the 1970’s; Agnes Varda’s film about those who live off the waste of others; and a Stuart Brisley performance video, which uses a clever double narrative technique.All in all, then, a balanced and satifying meal.

From SOS Starification Series 1974

Hannah Wilke: Elective Affinities @ Alison Jacques, 16-18 Berners St – Fitzrovia

To 14 Aug:

The New York artist Hannah Wilke (pronounced ‘Wilkee’) died of cancer in her early fifties in 1993 – indeed, two works in this selection from the estate held by her sister are made with the hair Wilke lost during chemotherapy. She investigated the sex, science and politics of the body, and her primary motif was the folded vagina / wound form, which she used as a charged counter to male dominance of the art world. Here it appears in the eraser (putty rubber) sculptures which she attached to herself in the well-known mid-seventies SOS Starification Series of photographs; otherwise minimalist white grids; fleshy ceramics; a latex wall sculpture; and the 77 multicolour elements of ‘Hannah Manna’. They are also stuck onto postcards on which they take over the phallic extension of Long Key, Florida and the patriotic urgings of the Lincoln Memorial. Add in some striking performance photos and watercolours, and this is a poignant and representative overview of an influential artist. And she founded the ceramics department at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, which leads me on to…


Richard Slee @ Hales Gallery, Tea Building, 7 Bethnal Green Rd - Shoreditch

To 17 July:

Here the leading contemporary ceramicist Richard Slee (less surprisingly pronounced to rhyme with glee and Wilke) delights in undermining the supposed function of objects. He does that, first, by his choice of subjects: a ceramic tennis racquet makes no kind of sense, but is presented as if it did, not as if it is a mere sculpture. Second, he applies excessive ornamentation: useless as a ceramic saw may be, it is rendered doubly so in that the blade is overwhelmed by a ludicrously impractical handle. Third, when things are plausible in ceramic – picture frames, for example – they are turned into something else: sections of frame become scorpions and mountains, would you believe. My favourite piece, though, is a blue table tennis table on which thirty balls are presented, as if to show their possible positions in a developing rally, by means of baroquely fluted ball-holders which also read as waves on the table’s sea. The absurdity of that conjunction was hard enough to pin down that I suspected it of making some sense. For more in the same spirit, go to Slee’s concurrent show at the V&A, ‘From Utility to Futility’.

Untitled, Mona Lisa (blue lagoon)

Gelitin: One is too much and a hundred are not enough @ Carlson, 6 Heddon St – Central

To 28 July:

A small space tucked away on the second floor does little to signal the ownership of Massimo de Carlo, perhaps Italy’s most powerful gallerist. De Carlo says he doesn’t want it to come across as an outpost from Milan, and that has been reflected in an admirably risk-taking if somewhat patchy programme to date. The four-strong Austrian collective Gelitin are most associated with confrontationally comic performances: dressing as chickens, hanging naked upsidedown to be spanked by leeks, using their anuses as candle holders and so on… But, perhaps seeking to escape that typecasting, they present only paintings here - albeit paintings without paint: they have made fourteen wacky Plasticene on wood variations on the Mona Lisa. In fact, the medium is characteristic and they have tackled the theme before, so there is something obsessive about their gleeful semi-sculptural reworkings of the world’s most famous smile – which suffers such fates as conversion to balls and the embedding of tossed salad as well as more predictably phallic makeovers. As a deconstruction of how the media distorts celebrity, this makes for fresh fun with perhaps the most widely appropriated image of them all.

Jamie Shovlin: Chat

Mulberry Tree Press @ SE8, 171 Deptford High Street – Deptford

To 11 July (Fri-Sun only):

SE8 is a lively non-commercial project space in Deptford with a leaning toward the conceptual. Indeed, the whole of the current show is a concept – that of the imaginary Mulberry Tree Press, which forms the platform for a rolling roster of work concerned with the translation between places and forms. There are discussion events, video (Gary Hill and Roderick Buchanan are coming up), shelves and a table of new and re-contextualised publications, a curated show in glass cabinets full of removals and refusals, and two pinboard presentations. For those last Jamie Shovlin updates work which riffs cleverly on the gaps between how messages are initiated and received. ‘The Ecstacy of Communication’ revisits a 2002 project in which Shovlin borrowed RCA library books and erased all the passages not highlighted by previous readers. He had Baudrillard’s eponymous volume reborrowed this year, and has superimposed new versions of those pages on which more emphasis has been added in the intervening years. ‘Chat’ consists of multiple requests for salacious or redemptive true life stories from the readers of the women’s weekly magazine ‘Chat’, printed onto flyer cards made from pulped toilet paper. There are hundreds of cards, but then who doesn’t have such a story?

Joby Williamson: What Have You Forgotten? An Installation of a Post-It Note Archive @ Tintype, 23-25 Redchurch St – Shoreditch

To 17 July:

Tintype, which is less peripatetic than formerly now that Pat Treasure and Teresa Grimes have taken a let on Redchurch Street, presents 'a Post-It note archive'. That may not sound too enticing, but it proves unusually entertaining. In fact, there are no Post-It notes present, but a five screen slide show which takes about fifteen minutes to present 400 selected from Williamson’s collection of some 1,000 discarded notes he has come across over the last decade. Each is blown up big, increasing the aesthetic impact of accidents of haste, and given about ten seconds on view. Williamson uses found material in all his art, and most days he comes across notes which hint in a half-voyeuristic, half-anthropological manner, at the secret lives of others. The slide presentation helps to plays them off against each other, from ‘Respect the Owl’ to ‘donkeys do not amuse me’; from ‘I remember you from the 1950’s’ to ‘I knew you would look beautiful’; from ‘what have you forgotten?’ to ‘nothing – again’. ‘Maybe it’s my diary’, muses Williamson in one of the show’s accompanying texts, ‘through other people’s thoughts’. Curiously hypnotic.

Toby Huddelstone: Actions in Galleries No.55: Being sick in Albert Oehlen

Toby Huddlestone / Reynir Hutber @ ROOM, 31 Waterson St – Shoreditch

To 18 July:

ROOM presents two young English artists who pick up themes from the 1970’s with an entertaining twist. Reynir Hutber (who has somehow wound up with an Icelandic Christian name and a German-sounding surname) has just won the Catlin Art Prize for the live video feedback installation ‘Stay Behind the Line’. In it he puts his virtual self, lying naked on the floor, on the screen in front of the viewer. You can then watch yourself experiment with prodding ‘him’, standing on ‘him’, covering ‘him’ with objects etc to diverting – yet also disturbing – effect. It might be seen as a technologically savvy update of Peter Campus’s pioneering work, with an ethical dimension traceable to Marina Abramovic. Toby Huddlestone brings a wittily deconstructive literalism to the notion of audience interaction by having himself filmed – often acting pretty oddly – in front of iconic works. Titles such as ‘Almost Drawing on Cy Twombly’s ‘Thrysis’ in Hamburger Bahnhof 09.02.06’ and ‘Scratching Arse Crack Three Times in front of Doris Salcedo’s ‘Shibboleth’ at Tate Modern 02.11.07’ will give you the idea. Apparently he has to work with a pickpocket-style distraction team to avoid censure by gallery guards….

Installation view

Matt Calderwood: Shatterproof @ Maria Stenfors, Unit 4, 21 Wren St – south of King’s Cross

To 24 July:

David Risley relocated his gallery to Copenhagen 18 months ago, but Maria Stenfors makes it at least three ex-Risley staff who now run excellent programmes (ie along with Adam Thomas, also showing Matt Calderwood currently in a group show at Supplement; and Poppy Sebire). In the second Stenfors show, Matt Calderwood sets up intriguing interactions between six works spread across three separated spaces. First, we get 48 hours of the view from his studio in three minutes, playing on the paradox of how speed can show us things missed at normal rates. Gravity rules in the second room as the only balancing agent for sculptures made of big (25kg), satisfyingly touchable – and shatterproof – modular units of rubber; but it is human power which stamps a wine glass onto photographic paper to make a surprisingly clear photogram as proof of the action – a shatter proof. The third room has a film of the sculptures’ liquid rubber being degassed ready for pouring, lit by nine audience-triggered fluorescent tubes from which light is allowed to escape only at the ends. So: power and agency meet conditions of production and reception - and given the prevalence of oily blackness, you could even read it as relating to BP’s current travails.

Acrylic in Canvas with Ruptures: Brushstrokes

Analia Saban: Information Leaks @ Josh Lilley Gallery,44-46 Riding House Street - Fitzrovia

To 17 July:

The young Argentinean painter Analia (say Anna-Lia) Saban has lived in Los Angeles for ten years, where she studied with John Baldessari at the University of California. She makes ingenious, metaphysical and yet humorous deconstructions of the elements of painting, adopting a different concept for each show. The one thing she hasn’t done is to apply paint directly with a brush onto the final canvas. That doesn’t change in the subterranean and transcendental subversions of her British debut, ‘Information Leaks’. Downstairs, riffing on the usual use of a cellar, the paint is stored in bags of canvas: some of it bleeds through laser-cut holes in the canvas to form rudimentary images, while most of it dries into sculptural forms. Upstairs, more transcendentally, the paint is pressed between canvas and a Plexiglas template of an image, which it attempts – with just a hint of comical vanity – to move beyond. It is, them, a show with plenty of theoretical background. That's fine, but the reason it works so well is that fascinating objects emerge from the theory.

You can read my interview with Analia at the Saatchi Online magazine

Merlin James: House in The Marshes

Tour Feature: People often ask me what I would recommend as an afternoon’s tour of current exhibitions. Fitrovia is good at the moment, as in addition to my listed shows at Josh Lilley and Alison Jacques, the Spanish collective Aggtelek at Crisp, the semi-transparent 'frame paintings' of Merlin James at Mummery & Schnelle and the group show of young abstract painters at Pilar Corrias are all well worth visiting, and then it isn't far to Gagosian at Britannia Street.

Still showing from previous lists:

Anthony Caro to 6 July, Nick Hornby to 9 July, Anton Henning to 10 July, The Ground Around to 11 July, New Symphony to 17 July, Steve McQueen to 18 July, Michael Stubbs to 24 July. gives full address and opening time details of most shows


There are lots of generally-based group shows opening for the summer: many may begood, but it's hard to predict so this is list concentrates elsewhere...

Pavel Pepperstein @ Regina: 30.6 - 2.9

Olga Chernysheva @ Calvert 22: 1.7 - 29.8

Systematic @ 176: 1.7 - 15.8

Liane Lang @ Squid & Tabernacle: 2.7 - 24.7

Jonathan Delafield Cook @ Pippy Houldsworth: 2.7 - 24.7

Clunie Read @ Studio Voltaire 2.7 - 7.8

Leah Gordon @ Riflemaker: 8.7 - 10.9

Lara Schnitger @ Modern Art: 8.7 – 7.8

Frank Bowling @ Rollo: 7.7 - 3.9

Ruairiadh O'Connell @ Bishchoff / Weiss: 15.7 - 7.8

Photo credits: relevant artists and galleries + Peter Kidd (SE8)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


I was in Switzerland for the 41st Art Basel(16-20 June 2010), its several subsidiary fairs and events, and the always-impressive parallel exhibitions at the city's galleries (Barney, Orozco, Trockel, Rodney Graham, Basquiat...). There's too much to see, let alone write about, as a whole but it is possible to track an eccentric route through...


Several interesting pieces had parent-child relations at their centre. This seemed appropriate not just because it was the weekend of Father's Day, but because the fair came in the wake of Louise Bourgeois's recent death: she was, accordingly perhaps, being widely shown - and difficult relations with her father were a famously driving force in her work.

The womb seems a good place to start: young British ceramicist Barnaby Barford works mainly by altering found ceramic pieces to create narrative implications. ‘Who’s the Daddy?’, his witty triple dance of the super-pregnant, was shown by David Gill Galleries at Design Miami/Basel, but was one of the least functional pieces there. I would think he is well placed to cross, in the manner of Grayson Perry, to the art side of what is not a very high fence these days.

Galerie Daniel Templon of Paris sold this eight foot wide Robert Longo charcoal drawing, ‘Untitled (Julie)’, 2009 from his ongoing series of cleavages. Longo, known for his virtuosic graphic style, has tended to concentrate on apocalyptic images, as in his sharks, explosions, guns and tsunami-like waves. Against that background, this baby’s comforter may be a metaphorical refuge for us all – but also gains an edge from the possibility that the appeal might be capable of less infantile (or should that be 'equally infantile'?) interpretation.

Ex-Turner Prize nominee Phil Collins’ ‘free fotolab’ (2007) at Victoria Miro is a nine minute slide show of found photographs. Collins obtained them in Belgrade by offering a free processing service for old rolls of film, in return for the right to use the images developed. Even allowing for his editing down, Collins obtained a surprisingly high proportion of intimate moments from this approach, not least between parent and child. But were we to be touched or troubled by such self-exposure?

Arch-conceptualist tail-twister Jonathan Monk was prominent in the fair, including a World Cup special which played on football shirt numbers by using one colour for ‘1’ up to eleven colours for ‘11’. For 'I Made My Sister Censor Heaven So I Could Show It To My Mother' (2010) at Copenhagen’s Nicholai Wallner Gallery, he apparently had said sister sew a shimmering circle of sequins to cover the genital zones of Jeff Koons and his then-future and now-ex Italian porn star wife in a copy of one of the notoriously explicit 'Heaven' series of photoworks.

Paris-based Americn artist Oscar Tuazon's big wild minimalism (to make up a term) has been very visible in London this year, with significant showings at the David Roberts Foundation and the ICA. His pine beam construction in Art Public, the show of big sculptures outside the fair, was called 'Dad' (2010). Quite why was a mystery, but child-parental relations always contain some unknowns...

The most striking videos I saw were the three by Icelander Ragar Kjartansson of 'Me and My Mother' (made every five years: in 2000, 2005 and 2010, shown by Reykjavik’s 12). They show his mother vigorously spitting on her wholly passive son. I was assured that, whatever the implication of guilt played out, relations between the two are excellent!

Louise Bourgeois herself (1911-2010) might best be represented by 'The Family', an archival dye edition on linen at New York’s Carolina Nitsch. It’s in the wavering watercolour style also seen in a spectacular set of flower paintings at Cheim & Read, and is direct and confrontational. Although from the 99th and last year of her life, it gives the impression that the childhood trauma of discovering that her English governess was her father’s mistress, which she said provided the impulse for much of her work, was with her still.

Antwerp-based Briton Becky Beasley has previously worked with shelving as a means of confusing art and its display, so it was no surprise that her ‘Shelves for Parents’ (at Office Baroque Antwerp in the Liste young art fair) were just that: two solid shelves of the right dimensions for her parents – who are in good health – to lie on and fit exactly. Or to be laid out on once they move from being living models to the most radical of still lives. Morbid or touchingly realist forward planning?

London's Rokeby had a subtle stand in Art Statements – which gives young galleries a chance in the main fair – as part of which German sculptor Bettina Buck built a booth within the booth, just a few inches smaller all round. In this piece from inside her reduced space, the hunting in her 'Hunting Scene (Dusk)'(2010) remained unseen: it was the image on a carpet which her dead father treasured, and which her mother recently gave to Buck - but which she has left rolled up, still poignantly sealed in its travel packaging.

Swiss multi-media jester Roman Signer shot a new gunpowder piece into the corner of his Viennese gallerist's booth. Martin Janda also showed an older piece, ‘Grosser Brockhaus’ (1992), in which - like Buck - Signer used a souvenir from his father's life: sixteen volumes of the Grosser Brockhaus encyclopedia which stood for parentally-approved authority as he grew up. Signer shot each book (the bullets are still lodged in them), slotted the white flag of surrender into the bullet holes in the manner of sails, and placed the flotilla on the floor for Freudian interpretation.

Cologne’s Kewenig Gallery showed a typical rigorous and obsessive drawing piece by the late German artist Hanne Darboven (1941-2009). ‘Hommage to my Father’ (1988) applies her method of marking time in literal and memorial senses to her father’s life, covering each day in it across a grid of 192 pages. The content includes application of her characteristic mathematical operation to every date in his life: for example, the date of her own birth, 29/4/41, would be ‘29 + 4 + 4 + 1 = 38’ (days and months are treated as a whole, but the year split into units). She thus takes visibly laborious time to consider time through the means – a calendar of sorts – of time’s measurement.


In the black light coincidence, several artists with diverse practices use black paint to cover up lights...

In Art Unlimited, Canadian painter Andrew Dadson had built a room with its back wall made up wholly of fluorescent lights - but had almost entirely covered the lights in black paint, so that the occasional escaping points of light conjured a night sky. A beautifully apocalyptic space for putting humanity in its place…

Swedish artist David Svennson (at Malmo’s Galeri Magnus Aklundh in the excellent yet too-little-visited Solo Project fair) showed ‘Black Tear (Lagrima Negra)’, which covers a Danilo de Rossi GLO glass ceiling lamp with black high gloss enamel auto paint. That somewhat mournfully turned a futuristic design’s illumination from within into a reflection out of, and maybe on the disappearance of, old world manufacturing industry.

Teheran-born, Berlin-based Dutch artist Navid Nuur, who transforms found materials in richly unexpected ways, had taken the tube out of the light fitting in Plan B’s booth at Liste, painted it black and leaned it against the wall as a kind of negative absence. Nearby was a tower made of boxes of washing powder with the fronts cut away to reveal their white and whiteness-promising powder. Not that he would call ‘Light Licker’ (2010) site specific, preferring to describe his work as ‘interimodules: a temporary in-between form between the outside space and myself’.

All of which reminded me of Glenn Ligon’s neons, which are painted black on the front to blacken language while allowing a halo of light to emerge around the words. I didn’t see any of those in Basel, so I'm cheating slightly by including an image of 'Warm Broad Glow' (2005), which incorporates a phrase from Gerturde Stein to complex historical and sociological effect.

It was left to the ubiquitous Ryan Gander (four galleries in Art Basel, a new film in Art Unlimited, lecturing in the citywide Art Parcours event, holding his baby at Liste, in which his wife’s Limoncello gallery was participating) to make the most radical anti-neon statement by personally smashing a neon text whihc said 'Flashes of Beautiful Thinking', and titling the resulting piece ‘The Danger of Visualising Your Own End’ (at Japan's Taro Nasu in the Volta fair).

Nor was that all: I flew back via Frankfurt, where MMK is showing a 900-part Hanne Darboven piece and the Kunstverien had an excellent survey of the work of conceptual photographer Sven Johne. His newest series, ‘Harbours’, uses a post-production version of the black light idea: it includes five photographs of a waterside city at night in which Johne has achieved an eerie effect by painting in black over all the light sources – such as windows and streetlamps – which had featured in the photograph.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


I kick off with three shows of abstract paintings, all of which feature combination of elements in one way or another, and follow that with representational cobinations: of times in Emma Bennett, of spaces in Shara Hughes, of other sculptures in Nick Hornby. Anton Henning, come to that, seems to several artists rolled into one... It's all very suited to the new coalition Government.

Virus Revamp

Michael Stubbs @ Laurent Delaye, First Floor, 11 Savile Row – Central
To 24 July:

Internationally-established abstract painter Michael Stubbs hadn’t exhibited much in Britain for a decade before recent London showings for his drawings and then his prints. Logically enough, we now see his main events. Stubbs uses graphic stencils, pours of household paint and tinted floor varnish to make multi-layered combinations of signs and veils. No brushes required! - though I did see what looked like a cheeky little bit of sponge-swirled paint in two recent works. The paintings are dynamised by two main strategies: first, exploiting the ambiguities between where the paint appears to be in pictorial logic, and where it is in the actual layering; and second, by teetering on the brink of getting too complicated. Obviously I think it does all gell successfully, including in one painting which throws in a mirrored surface for luck, or else I wouldn’t be recommending the show! Nice little catalogue, too, in which John Chilver writes of the 'heady collision of risk and style'.

Wall of Light Pale Yellow Pink

Sean Scully @ Timothy Taylor Gallery, 15 Carlos Place - Mayfair

To 3 July:

How much development is required to keep a practice fresh? My initial impression on walking into the latest continuation of Sean Scully’s long-running ‘Wall of Light’ series was: a little bit more than this. They’re still very beautiful, to be sure, but all eight grandly-sized oils still follow the established formula: translucent rectangular blocks of modest colours allow us to sense, and sometimes glimpse directly, a more vivid ground - which provides an inner, perhaps spiritual, glow. But only in the last couple of years has Scully painted on aluminium and alu-dibond (in which the metal is coated with a formica-like material). This gives the paintings an extra sheen and does more to emphasise small accidents, sub-shapes, and the individual strokes of what are often very large brushes. In ‘Wall of Light Pale Yellow Pink’ we also get a framing effect created by exposed aluminium. Enough, I think, for us to go on savouring Scully’s subtle structures and speculating on the emotional states underlying them without feeling we are mired in repetition.

Waiting for the Future

C Morey de Morand: Rewired @ Possin Gallery, Block K, 13 Bell Yard Mews (behind 175 Bermondsey Street) – London Bridge

To 26 June:

Collette Morey de Morand is exceptionally international: a Franco-Russian who studied in Canada and New Zealand before settling here in the 70’s - and painted some of these works during a residency in Berlin. She’ s one of several geometric abstractionists currently demonstrating that there’s a surprising amount of variety left in such an apparently narrow genre. Hans Hoffman, Bridget Riley and Patrick Caulfield are the most visible references in this extensive show, but Morey de Morand strikes a consciously anti-Mondrian stance – though he’s obviously in the mix – by choosing to work mainly with secondary colours. They’re fractured paintings of urban mood and personal history, teed up by titles which tend towards the mock-portentous (‘Truth is Permanent’, ‘Consolation for Our Mortality’), and which put together a wide mix of shapes and motifs both within and between paintings. I liked the rather neat use of carefully-delineated sections of bare canvas to suggest, perhaps, reluctant exposures of vulnerability; and found myself pleasurably drawn into the whole interplay of elements. The excellent catalogue helps, too.

For Want of Sleep

Emma Bennett: Death & Co. @ CHARLIE SMITH London, 336 Old St (above The Reliance) – Hoxton

To 3 July:

Emma Bennett’s new series of large paintings, show ships in dark waters, apparently sailing into the space of the canvas, their cargoes of fruit and flowers spilling overboard. Each provides a quadruple dose of visual seduction: a glowering lamp black void; realistic images sourced from Dutch golden age painting; an abstract expressionist intervention in furniture polish which also reads like a wave; and the striking effect of combining those three apparently disparate elements. That also brings together four different timescales in one image: the 17th century of the source paintings, the 20th century of the abstract gesture, the 21st century of their combination, the eternity of the void. Appropriately, then, the works are allusively titled from Hardy, Eliot, Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath, and Bennett sees the ships as representing individual journeys through life. All of which could be portentous, but ther is an easy humour, too, in the playing off of differing scales. All in all, these are probably the richest new paintings currently on view in London – but the beauty of them is that, although they may sound complicated, they are immediately and straightforwardly alluring.

See for my interview with Emma and essay on this show.

Choose Your Angle

Shara Hughes: Show Me, Because You Can’t See @ Museum 52, 52 Redchurch St – Shoreditch

To 30 June:

American painter Shara (say ‘sharer’) Hughes is an Atlantan who has suffered from labyrinthitis, which is a dizziness caused by inflamation of inner ear system responsible for balance. That makes one kind of sense of the hyperactive multiplicity of spaces, perspectives, textures, colours and references which come improbably together in her unreal interiors. It’s not a necessary explanation, though: Hughes says she started painting them 'because I needed my own space: the paintings are my home', and they work just fine as hurly-burly rooms brimming with content and an apparently naïve mania for pattern. Their motifs include oddly-placed patches of night sky; woodcut effects; fires; swimming pools; flying fragments; scissors; Pollock; Bacon; Bronzino; Matisse; and Shara’s splendidly-named dog, Chicken Nugget. The combinations are spontaneous and, hence perhaps, fresh. The book on the table in ‘Choose Your Angle’ is the wryly-titled ‘How To Control Almost Everything’: Hughes gets nowhere near that, but the work feels all the better for it.

'I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird'(Coco Chanel)

Nick Hornby: Atom vs. Super Subject @ Alexia Goethe Gallery, 7 Dover St - Central

To 9 July:

No, the author of ‘Fever Pitch’ and ‘About a Boy’ isn't a sculptor on the side. Rather, the other – younger – Nick Hornby has a solo debut in which he blends typically three sculptures (all in full and to scale) into one by virtualising a merger on computer, then turning the result into gleaming white marble resin. Hornby’s ‘trybrids’, to adopt the term in Ossian Ward’s catalogue essay, come in two strands which take advantage of Alexia Goethe’s contrasting spaces: relatively conservative combinations of portrait busts to make composite muses upstairs; and more radical mergers downstairs. For example, the headless body and legs from Rodin’s ‘Walking Man’, the full sweep of Brancusi's ‘Bird in Space’ (which one side-view ingeniously resembles) and the negative space from Hepworth's ‘Form III’ come together under a title which almost lists those components but is a quote from Coco Chanel: 'I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird'. Any number of associations can then be brought to the sculptural elements plus title quote. Is it that Rodin failed to value Camille Claudel as a sculptor rather than a mistress, Hepworth wasn’t given her deserved equal billing with Henry Moore in her lifetime, and Brancusi’s striving for the ideal form reminds us how art in practice falls short in such matters as equality - just as in everyday life, in which differential expectations about appearance and weight are flagged by Chanel’s quote? Perhaps, but Hornby – who chooses the components for their meaning as much as their form – says he is also interested in the origins of ideas, amateur genetics, the balance of the cooked and raw (he cites Levi-Strauss and the trickster tradition), the synthesis of genders, and more...

Anton Henning: MASTERdote AntiSINGER @ Haunch of Venison, 6 Burlington Gardens – Central

To 10 July:

If there’s an antidote to Wagnerian excess in Anton Henning’s group-like show, then it’s yet more excess as he takes Wagner’s notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, to extremes. There’s room after room of the German’s characteristic environments, chockfull of psuedo-Impressionist-Cubist-Constructivist-Expressionist paintings-come-parodies-of-paintings in every genre; sculptures (some made of paintings); videos; furniture (some pretend, some lit from within); collages; drawings; kinetic work; painted windows etc etc, all in what might be termed the ‘good bad painting’ style which combines the knowingly slapdash with absurd subject matter. I particularly liked the super-vanitas-cliché whereby a set of double-sided paintings on a central axis are spun round by the action of fans so that we see skull and face successively and by way of bonus cool the viewer in the current hot weather. Overwhelming fun, then, but to what end? The press release says that Henning is pursuing ‘an anitidote to the norm’, which is ‘dependent on his ability to act in opposition to himself’. He has his own abstract theme-shape, the curlicue he calls a ‘Hennling’, which may represent how the path of artistic progress has turned into a wild loops which revisit everything but get nowhere. So this is probably meant to be an overblown and self-contradictory show which is part of its own problem – but it’s still easy to be… a fan.

Sam Plagerson's 'Natural Beauty', 'Blonde' + 'Denim Shirt'

New Symphony @ Simon Oldfield Gallery, First Floor, 9 Henrietta St – Covent Garden

To 17 July:

Simon Oldfield’s handily-located new space opens with some fizz by bringing together four interesting young sculptors. Tim Ellis, who also fares well in Saatchi’s recently-opened ‘Newspeak’, makes slippery assisted readymades in which it is difficult to be sure just what he has changed. Douglas White’s new work uses cacti as a found material as effectively as he has previously used burst tyres and tree roots. Katie Cuddon makes clay-based sculptures which seem to catch the formal residue of the body as affected by psychological and emotional states. Sam Plagerson follows up his stand-out work in Bloomberg New Contemporaries to riff on the way everything is converted to image in contemporary culture: he turns generic magazine-sourced pictures, cropped to form the modern equivalent of the classical fragment, back into perverse objects which actualise the distortions of media presentation. Overall, it’s a stimulating mini-survey.

Bruno Pacheco: Three Orange Trees, a Box and some Gloves @ Hollybush Gardens, Unit 2, BI House, 10-14 Hollybush Gardens – Bethnal Green

To 4 July:

Lisa Panting and Malin Ståhl’s gallery isn’t the easiest for the first timer to track down, as you have to ring up to the first floor of an unpromising-looking building of factory units and wait to be collected. But Lisbon/London based Bruno Pacheco’s oddly resonant paintings are worth a little effort - which you’ll also have to make inside, as he presents them in deadpan manner as objects of no more note than the architecture. ‘Opposite the three industrial windows there is a painting…’, says the press release, leaving you to make sense of the same orange tree shown three times in different light, an empty cakebox with abstract modernist tendencies, and a ‘black rectangular table, holding a sketchbook that contains 18 works painted in acylic on paper, portraying yellow household gloves’. Is that a fortnight of the artist’s washing up, or are the gloves there to pick the 18 oranges from the tree and put them in a cakebox?

Dan Peterman: Rathole

The Ground Around: Idylls, Earthworks and Thunderbolts @ Vilma Gold, 6 Minerva St – Cambridge Heath

To 11 July:

This impressive group show, curated by Charles Asprey, is themed around the artist’s drive to look and delve down – whether at the ground, under the world or just beneath the studio floor. The clear match between Paul Nash and Carol Rhodes is one highlight; likewise, and more surprisingly, that between Prunella Clough and Wolfgang Tillmans. The most striking installation is of objects found by Manfred Pernice: a large metal ocean bouy washed up in the gallery and an even heavier plant box complete with vegatation. But my favourite works are from the studio. Isa Genzken’s ‘Basic Research’ (1989) is – uncharacteristically – an oil painting, made by spreading a canvas on her studio floor and pressing down paint so that it picked up an impression of the rough surface and materials. The result looks equally like a microscopic view or an ariel map, and is in keeping with Genzken’s primary interest in acting as a receiver of the world. And environmentally concerned Chicago artist Dan Peterman has made casts ‘in concrete with incidental debris’ of rat burrows from underneath his working space, suggesting a comfortable acceptance of whatever might naturally undermine his working practices.

Hannah Starkey: Untitled

Tour Feature: People often ask me what I would recommend as an afternoon’s tour of current exhibitions. A stroll along Redchurch Street and hop to Bethnal Green is currently rewarding. Walking east, that would include Richard Slee’s witty ceramics @ Hales, Joby Williamson’s Post-It Note show @ Tintype, Shara Hughes’ packed spaces @ Museum 52 and the diverting group show ‘This is England’ at the new Aubin Gallery (64-66 Redchurch St). Then catch a bus to Hollybush Gardens for Bruno Pacheco and finish at Herald Street, notably for Hannah Starkey’s coolly-composed takes on seeing at Maureen Paley.

Still showing from previous lists:

Tacita Dean to 23 June, Marc Quinn to 26 June, You've Gone Too Far This Time to 25 June, Lisa Yuskavage to 26 June, Clay Ketter to 27 June, Shana Moulton to 3 July, Rana Begum to 3 July, Matias Faldbakken to 3 July, Anthony Caro to 6 July, Steve McQueen to 18 July. gives full address and opening time details of most shows


Gelitin @ Carlson: 22.6 - 15.7

Zhong Biao @ Olyvia Oriental: 23.6 - 3.9

Jane Bustin, Keven Finklea, Matt McGee & Estelle Thompson
@ Eagle Gallery 24.6 - 24.4

Pierre Soulages @ Bernard Jacobson: 24.6 - 1.9

Nothing is Forever @ South London Gallery: 24.6 - 5.9

Pavel Pepperstein @ Regina: 30.6 - 2.9

Straw Dogs @ Spring Projects: 24.6 - 30.7

Olga Chernysheva @ Calvert 22: 1.7 - 29.8

Liane Lang @ Squid & Tabernacle: 2.7 - 24.7

Tanabata (Japanese show) @ Maddox: 7.7 - 7.9

Photo credits: relevant artists and galleries

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.