Thursday, 15 July 2010


From the varied shows running in a very bright summer, I seem to have fixed on some very restrained colour schemes, before moving into colour through three shows featuring textiles and fashion in one way or another at Carl Freedman, Modern Art and SHOWstudio and fully into the light with Frank Bowling...

Peinture 130 x 102 cm, 10 Janvier, 2010

Pierre Soulages - New Paintings @ Bernard Jacobson, 6 Cork St - Central

To 1 Sept:

Fresh on the heels of a very popular Pompidou survey, 90 year old Pierre Soulages has a rare British showing. It presents two kinds of black paintings. There are several works on paper made with the walnut stain used on furniture, which Soulages first exploited in the 1940’s for the way it bleeds out into subtly varied blacks and browns. And there is a good range of recent ‘beyond black’ acrylics, which are totally black but use near-sculptural variations in texture to find light in the would-be-monotonous surface. The outre noir paintings have been Soulages’ main stream for the past thirty years, and seem equally readable as denying meaning in order to concentrate on the painterly effects achievable even by austere methods; or as metaphysical wrestings of light or creation from primordial darkness. Maybe they work like that as a kind of self-analysis tool: Soulages thinks he makes paintings ‘so that those who look at them, myself like everybody else, can find themselves in front of them, alone with themselves’. Soulages is not my favourite French abstract painter – that’s Bernard Frize – but he seems to be France’s favourite and it’s well worth exploring why.

Małgorzata Szymankiewicz
: Recent Paintings@ lokal_30_warszawa_london, 29 Wadeson St – Cambridge Heath

To 1 Aug -

I’m not sure whether ‘Off-Vyner Street’ is yet a location in the manner of ‘Off- Broadway’ or 'Off-West End', but that’s where Warsaw’s lokal gallery set up temporarily last year, liked it and stayed. Loka makes a healthy addition to the London scene, and I like their current show of the young Polish painter Małgorzata Szymankiewicz. It sees her continue a recent move from strong colours to grey in order to concentrate without distraction on painting as a visual game producing 3D effects on a 2D surface (a comparison with Pierrre Soulages is enlightening). Some explore black holes, some have a post-constructivist bent, others feature cloud-like forms which have a deceptive appearance of depth produced by subtle tonality rather than linear perspective. But do the central forms come forward to meet the viewer, or retreat into the picture plane? That depends, due to how used we are to interpreting forms as lit from above, on which way up they are hung. Ask to have one flipped around if you don’t believe me…

Stocking detail from Six Play

Ruairiadh O’Connell: Six Play @ Bischoff/Weiss, 14a Hay Hill – Central

To 7 Aug:

Talking of tricky-to-spell names… Frankfurt-based Scottish artist Ruairiadh O'Connell’s first solo show was at Bischoff / Weiss’s former East End space in 2008. I enjoyed that pretty straightforwardly: a varied set of poetically witty conjunctions which explored what made sense in a relationship - the found minimalism of potential romance, you might say. Six Play is grander and narrower. O'Connell shows six big aluminium sheets, their shimmer interrupted only by pointedly visible screws and near-abstract silkscreen impression from found photographs of women's black silk stockings. This struck me as risky: was there more here than fetishisation of the stolen glimpse and the implication that women have sat on his paintings and spoiled their distanced pristinity? That’s there, I think, but playing off the more sexually-balanced joke that sixplay has to be even better than foreplay. Then I was drawn in to the equivalence between stockings and how the silkscreen process works, and between the pattern of stockings and the pixellisation of the blown-up bits of photos. And anyway, I like risks…

Dora Maar: Untitled (1934)

Phyllida Barlow: Swamp @ V22, 10-16 Ashwin Street - Dalston

To 22 Aug (Thurs-Sun):

Liane Lang: Shadows and Stowaways @ Squid & Tabernacle, container by garage at northern end of Hartwell St - Dalston

To 24 July (Thurs-Sun):

These two spaces are now handily juxtaposed just opposite the northern end of the East London line at Dalston Junction, and both have interesting shows on now. Regular readers won’t be surprised that I like the result of Phyllida Barlow’s residency at V22, for which their exhibition space become her studio for the installation ‘Swamp’, and also for her Serpentine and Studio Voltaire production. Waldemar Januszczak’s disapproval is often a good sign, and according to him ‘Barlow is a bore. Her work is…joyless, graceless, inelegant, awkward, messy and pretentious’. Rather, this show is wrong in the right ways: energetically ramshackle and colourfully uplifting. Presumably Hauser & Wirth – who’ve just signed Phyllida – agree. And the meaning? According to the accompanying essay by Fergal Stapleton, it's to warn of the folly of too deep an investment in absolutes.

50 yards away from V22 if you can fly (200 yards if you can’t) is the shipping container which forms Squid & Tabernacle’s mobile exhibition unit. Young artist Liane Lang, best known for sneaking wax limbs into classical or communist groups of statues, plays off the shipping connotations and the regenerating dereliction surrounding the container in an uncanny five minute film sequence which is projected against a sculptural screen resembling stacked containers. Roll up to see a wax woman in action, a toy boat tossed on a sea of hair, a stray hand inhabiting a shell as if it were a hermit crab - from Dora Maar's famous photograph which I like so much that's my illustration. Lang gives us a somewhat surreal sequence, readable I think as an account of the trials of immigration - which fits with Maar's being a Croatian raised in Argentina who became famous in France. You’ll want to watch twice.

Blockbuster @ Seventeen, 17 Kingsland Rd – Hoxton

To 31 July:

Seventeen have, as ever, two shows for the price – which is nothing – of one. Upstairs is an attractive group show, but Paul Pieroni’s 10th use of the basement project space is more innovative. Jack Goldstein’s now-classic 1975 short video loop ‘Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’ sets the scene by extracting the famous lion from the title credits to make him roar repeatedly as a feature in himself. Three other monitors take the cue to show – just the once – hundreds of film production logos of similar ilk, totaling 50 minutes of footage. You can play the nerd by spotting different versions of the same studio’s logo. You can tease yourself with the anti-climactic accumulation of so much heroic music getting nowhere - even Ruairiadh O'Connell could learn a bit more about foreplay here. Or you can get scholarly with the third component: texts selected for the exhibition, including ‘Everything You wanted to know abut American film company logos but were afraid to ask’ and ‘Branding Hollywood: studio logos and the aesthetics of hype and memory’. Even if you don’t have time to read them, knowing you could do so adds to the import: yes, this is fun but there’s serious analysis of corporate behaviour to be done.

Ian Monroe: LCD-1V

Surface Warp Factor @ The Aubin Gallery, 64-66 Redchurch St – Shoreditch

To 25 July:

The season of summer group shows is upon us: they are generally enjoyable, and the better galleries do far more than just mark time with an arbitrary selection from gallery artists: there’s extra-stable breadth and curatorial conviction at Wilkinson, Frith Street, Timothy Taylor and Simon Lee, for example. However, I’ve chosen the less well-known Aubin Gallery, a new space directed by artist Stuart Semple. And before you say that Stuart’s work isn’t your bag, the gallery is very wide-ranging and open to alternative voices: in this case Richard Ducker of the now-spaceless Fieldgate Gallery has made an excellent selection unobtrusively themed around science fiction and futuristic geometry. The sci-fi aspect takes the lead in the biggest Gordon Cheung painting I’ve seen, and Stewart Gough’s striking modern hooligan version of Henry Moore. The geometry is more prominent in Juan Bolivar’s modest grayscale visions; a big, gleaming Ian Monroe painting; and Sheena Macrae’s impressive video installation, which condenses ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ into seven minutes by showing 1/30th of each of 30 seven-minute sequences as simultaneous strips – and then multiplies the result into infinity with two side mirrors. That seems to fit the press release’s extract from William Gibson’s ‘Necromancer’: ‘The Moderns were mercenaries, practical jokers, nihilistic techno fetishists’.

Great Expectations 2

David Brian Smith: Great Expectations @ Carl Freedman Gallery, 44a Charlotte Rd – Hoxton

To 31 July:

This show is unusual in these days for its rural focus: Smith grew up on a Shropshire farm, and that is reflected in his subjects of shepherded sheep and country landscapes. The pictures are not straightforward, though, as they are are applied to a herringbone linen with a weave more associated with the traditional clothing his forbears would have worn. The herringbone pattern is emphasised by Smith picking it out in paint. That makes for a labour-intensive and intricately patterned counter-realist effect, equal parts geometric, pointillist and psychedelic. The results are somewhat spiritual and - helped by the unusual pastel and fluorescent colour combinations - intensify the sense of how removed farm life has become from most of our everyday experiences. I didn’t have great expectations, as Smith’s work was unknown to me, but it proves an absorbing surprise.

Lara Schnitger: damned women @ Modern Art, 23-5 Eastcastle Street – Fitzrovia

To 7 August:

On the face of it, LA-based Dutch artist Lara Schnitger’s new show of sculpture and collaged paintings makes up a grungy world of caricature which is some way from classic modernism. Yet they reminded me of Matisse’s peerless ability to integrate patterned fabrics into his compositions, albeit where Matisse always has a representational logic, Schnitger uses textiles to stand in for pretty-much anything, parodying her domestic and traditionally feminine materials to friskily sexy effect. I like how the installation encourages you to see see the paintings of powerful women and mythic animals through the semi-open screens of the ramshackle sculptures, themselves figures, abstractions and furniture all at once. You can also read the goings-on through the ‘damned women’ of Baudelaire’s poems, who are as addictively seductive as drugs and flirt with each other the better to incite male jealousy. All in all, then, it’s a heady mix.

Marilyn Minter: Still from ‘Green Pink Caviar’

Inside/Outside @ SHOWstudio SHOP, 1-9 Bruton Place – Mayfair

To 14 Aug:

The SHOWstudio occupies the space some might remember as the original site of Timothy Taylor’s gallery (1996-2003). The Shop merges fashion with art, which in the case of ‘Inside/Out’ is themed for the use of inner body materials and works which expose the body’s workings. Dan Colen and Terence Koh have interesting pieces here, but the most striking and thematic art is Marilyn Minter’s recent seven minute
video ‘Green Pink Caviar’. Riffing on her well-known fetishistically-detailed paintings of mouths and feet, she had a long-tongued, full-lipped model spit, suck and swirl colourful cake decorations onto glass. Filmed from beneath with no eyes shown, it’s disturbingly gorgeous. Minter says that ‘it’s about hunger and insatiability’, and grew out of a desire ‘to make enamel paintings along the idea of painting with my tongue’. Lady Gaga is the dominant fashion-end participant here: there’s a Duchampian urinal she’s pissed in; a video of her being vomited on in a mint-coloured stream by Puking Millie, who follows a strict diet ahead of her performances;and the resulting green-stained pleated white Marko Mitanovski dress.
There’s also an accompanying live studio programme. Recommended, then,for all your liquid needs…


Frank Bowling @ Rollo Contemporary, 51 Cleveland Street - Fitzrovia

To 3 Sept (Mon-Fri only):

Frank Bowling was born in Guyana in 1936 but moved to England in 1950 and has long maintained studios in London – where he became the first black British artist to be elected to the Royal Academy – and New York. His vibrant gell-textured acrylics typically bring a sense of tropical heat, light and water to a language which derives from Eurpean and North American traditions. Particular series tend to follow tactics which become informal rules: in works from this year lime and lemon background hues are combined with separate strips of differently-coloured canvasses, which provide a framing geometric architecture. The resulting paintings are abstracts which feel connected to the land, and incorporate diverse items such as the casing from Bowling’s medication for diabetes. They communicate a freewheeling and joyful exporation of painting, place and self.

Tour Feature: People often ask me what I would recommend as an afternoon’s tour of current exhibitions. The newly opened section of the London Overground, decked out in bright orange with air conditioning and no separation of carriages, is an underground-style service which happens to go overground. It's a very handy art link which joins Goldmiths, Whitechapel, Shoreditch, Hoxton and Dalston. Just now, for example, you could travel along it to visit my recommendations of (from the north) V22 and Squid & Tabernacle, both a few yards from Dalston Junction; Seventeen (and plenty else - Limoncello is closest of all), near Hoxton Station; the Aubin Galleries, just opposite the Shoreditch High Street stop; and the Whitechapel Gallery, though that is, paradoxically, closer to Aldgate East (it's Ritter/Zamet that's pretty-well opposite the Whitechapel stop).

Still showing from previous lists:

Michael Stubbs to 24 July, Matt Calderwood to 24 July, Gelitin to 28 July, Chelpa Ferro to 8 Aug then 24 Aug - 18 Sept, Hannah Wilke to 14 Aug. gives full address and opening time details of most shows


Pretty much everything has opened by now that will before Autumn, but here are ten shows I haven't yet been to which may well be good:

Doug Burton @ Schwartz: to 1.8

Young Gods: 2010 London Graduates @ CHARLIE SMITH London: to 7.8

Clunie Read @ Studio Voltaire: to 7.8

The Uneasy Landscape: Graduate Show @ FOLD: to 8.8

The Borrowed Loop @ Man & Eve: to 14.8

Boyd Webb / Suchan Kinoshita @ Bloomberg Space: to 14.8

Colour is the Keyboard @ Gimpel Fils: to 27.8

Urban Origami @ PM Gallery: to 29.8

Make Vanitas Your Own @ Alexia Goethe: to 10.9

Leah Gordon @ Riflemaker: to 10.9

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.