Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Steamship Captain, R.N., 1987

Colin Self: One Thousand Sketches @ James Hyman Gallery, 5 Savile Row - Central

To 18 Dec:

By such means as living in Norfolk, avoiding gallery representation, and not quite producing true pop, Colin Self has pretty-much avoided becoming fashionable. He’s said his drawings are ‘meant to be overloving to the point of being vulgar’, and there’s plenty to overlove here, with a thousand works on paper (and they’re all on-line, too) arranged by subject: a leopardskin nuclear hamburger, parrot on roller skates and sailor smoking a triple-funneled pipe and crumpets caught my eye along with a whole wall each for rabbits and his rather genital take on the hot dog. The intoxicating effect is a variety show akin to the RCA’s secret postcards but in which every style comes back to one self.

Location shot of a bride at Birling Gap, Sussex

Sarah Pager: Unbridled, Unveiled @ GALERIE8, 195-205 Richmond Road – London Fields

To 19 Dec:

By the spring, GALERIE8 will be a purpose-built space in a new housing block three quick bus-stops north of Vyner Street. For now, recent Chelsea graduate Sarah Pager has four large spaces amid the ongoing construction. She’s filled them with self-lit installations which are particularly atmospheric at dusk. All embody physical experience, and the biggest suspends seven baths as 'brides' in front of lightbox 'familiars' showing one beached before cliffs, as if an attempted flight has just ended – though Pager actually had to lug the bath down to the sea! A persuasive combination of place, content… and madness.

Installation view

Anna Barham: Panoraming @ 401 Contemporary, 13 Mason’s Yard – Central

To 31 Dec:

Berlin’s 401 Contemporary has a lively London presence just behind White Cube West, where young English artist Anna Barham has three tightly inter-related works which mine meaning from history, systems and chance. Anagrams of the phrase ‘Return to Leptis Magna’ draw you into their own pictured process and cloudy poetics, and also provide the letters to name 500 animals and plants projected almost illegibly at a rate of five per second. That content is separated from its apparently-intended form, as a big curved screen is just part of a structure from which to view the small video monitor, with no panoraming (longhand for ‘panning’) thereon. Philosophical, yes – but enchanting, too.

Morten Viskum: The Hand With The Golden Ring @ Vegas, 45 Vyner St – Cambridge Heath

To 19 Dec:

The very wide-ranging Norwegian artist Morten Viskum gives us an extreme version of the traditional coveting of ‘the artist’s hand’ in the work through a show of innocuous-looking all-over abstracts. They find their meaning in the performance of their making: Viskum painted them with a dead hand dipped in paint. You can examine the hand, preserved in a box, and see the drag of stiff fingers in what prove to be acrylic paintings with liberal admixtures of blood and glitter. Viskum has used several hands in this way over the past decade, each producing its own particular style…


Anna Bjerger: A Perfect Throw @ Paradise Row, 74 Newman St – Fitzrovia

To 23 Dec:

The second show at Paradise Row’s new space in Fitzrovia marks the welcome return of the Swedish painter Anna Bjerger – formerly shown here by David Risley before his move to Copenhagen – to representation in London. Not a few painters collect diverse photographic images which they re-present, but Bjerger’s luminous oils on aluminium transform her sources in a hauntingly winning way, flickering back and forth between the recorded moment and the painterly elevation of its significance through the artist’s (own!) hand and the dialogues set up. Here the dice she sounds as if she’s thrown have come down with a high proportion of images of image creation.

Boo Ritson: Mary – Lou

The New Chapter @ Poppy Sebire, All Hallows Hall, 6 Copperfield Street – Southwark

To 23 Dec:

Poppy Sebire, holding a second show in the same space for the first time, marks that permanence with her represented artists: James Aldridge (who is, handily for the trip from Sweden, Anna Bjerger’s husband), Georgie Hopton (Gary Hume’s wife, if we’re playing that game), Danny Rolph and Boo Ritson. All have interesting work here, but the most radical development is Ritson’s theatrical and sculptural move away from literally painting people to digitally painting a canvas which becomes a body mask she wears for a photo. She then hangs the mask (like the painted skin she couldn’t display that way before?) sparking dialogues between inner and outer, between two and three dimensions.

Marc Vaux: New Paintings: Triptychs and Ovals @ Bernard Jacobson Gallery, 6 Cork St – Central

To 23 Dec:

Lively veteran Marc Vaux – who gets a room at Tate Britain shortly - feels his latest paintings tackle all the issues he has previously addressed more separately. They combine the colour fields for which he became known in the sixties with the internal constructed-edges-round-white which characterise his more recent work. Those issues, I surmise, would include the to and fro between the rational (represented by geometry), the random (computerised number generation determines some aspects) and the intuitive (choice of colours) aw well as the sculptural play on the objecthood of the painting – added to which the move away from horizontally-aligned shapes gives the new work decidedly 'sharp elbows'.

'The Carnivore, The Spirit, The Monster, The Fish, The Juvenile, The Feline, The Dreamer' (single £10 note collage)

Jack Strange: The Same as Usual @ Limoncello, 15a Cremer Street - Hoxton

3 Dec - 15 Jan:

The young and increasingly internationally-known Jack does indeed make the everyday humorously Strange by giving it surprising new uses and relationships. I was very taken by his recent work with money: on one hand making a collage from the discs obtained by punching holes – small enough to allow re-circulation - in thousands of notes; on the other inventing characters made up from bits of a single note cut up and reconfigured. No doubt there will be fresh invention at Limoncello in a show slated to burrow into molehood, spiritual stones and videos of fizzy water shot by different cameras.

Noor Ali Chagani: Life Line

Noor Ali Chagani and Rehana Mangi - Mashq: An Endless Lust @ Green Cardamom, 5a Porchester Place – Marble Arch

To 15 Dec (not weekends):

Anita Dawood and Hammad Nasar’s Green Cardamom space has been organising interesting Asian-tinged projects for five years now. This show is one of a series cohering around the Persian word ‘mashq’, meaning practice or drill, and looking at how Muslim repetition can chime with western minimalism. Two young Pakistani artists achieve that with unusual materials. Rehana Mangi sews human hair into her work with such delicacy that it’s easily mistaken for fine drawing. Noor Ali Chagani uses handmade miniature bricks, most effectively by threading them into a cloak-like form which suggests a covered body and fallen building as well as a collapsed geometry.

Trojan Virus

Mauro Peruchetti: Modern Day Heroes @ the Halcyon Gallery, 24 Bruton St - Central

To 8 Jan:

The impressively-scaled Halcyon Gallery, soon to get yet bigger, tends to struggle for art world credibility with its formally conservative roster. Mauro Perucchetti, though, makes spectacular use of glitzy materials – specialty: pigmented resin - to lure the viewer into satirical takes on politics, commerce and the artworld itself. Hence his hyper-glamorous presentations of apples, shoes, jelly babies, skull-flowers, a crystal-covered handbag dog and plenty more are knowing – and risk-taking – kitsch. A set of self-censoring swords of the press and a group of horse riders named for a computer virus but also representing the Chinese ‘honey trap’ style of commercial spying seemed to me the most interesting excesses here.

Also recommended:

Dirty Kunst @ Seventeen to 23 Dec: Some startling stuff, and even the subtlest work features the gallerist’s urine…

Heavenly Creatures @ Aubin Gallery to 24 Dec: Uplifting animal-themed show with African-born George Lilanga and Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom the highlights.

Motif Motif @ FOLD Gallery to 19 Dec: Interesting show from Willem Weismann and Lutz Driessen, including joint work - and just 250 yards from GALERIE8 above

Anka Dabrowska: Welcome to Paradise @ Payne Shurvell to 18 Dec: Collage versions of Polish buildings make for fresh sculptures with a nod to Isa Genzken

Spirit Level 010 @ Go Modern Ltd: 3 Dec - 28 Jan: Novel location – a furniture store at 535 Kings Road - for curator Catherine Loewe’s pick of fresh talent

Caragh Thuring @ Thomas Dane to 8 Jan: excellent young painter has found a distinctive way to add figures to her repertoire of urban landscape elements

Ceal Floyer @ Lisson Gallery to 29 Jan: the concisely witty conceptualist on things that are not things…

Tamy Ben-Tor @ Brown Collective to 11 Dec: new film from the American Israeli inventor of pointedly off-kilter characters.

Francesca Woodman @ Victoria Miro to 22 Jan: thirty years after her suicide at only 22, Woodman’s apparent attempts to hide in her own self-portraits remain influential.

Tom Hunter: Unheralded Stories @ Purdy Hicks to 23 Dec: more myth-making in Hackney from the distinctive photographer.

Zoe Paul: Pass Quietly @ Cole Contemporary to 18 Dec: young scultor and printmaker who builds perceptions of history into her work very effectively.

Huma Bhabha @ Stephen Friedman Gallery to 15 Jan: first British solo for the rising American sculptor features some amazing use of cork.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


At the start of November I spent a day in each of four north-of-London cities which, while they seem too close to the capital to support a significant commercial art sector, did nonetheless have plenty of art on show.

The Liverpool Biennial has received very positive reviews, and one can see why: it is easy to walk between venues, several of which make a virtue of buildings being derelict; the choice of artists is excellent; and many have responded well to the chance to make new work for the occasion. Add such significant subsidiary shows as the John Moores painting prize at the Walker and Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the A Foundation, and there is such a feast that our only problem was that everything opens only 10-6. But maybe that’s just to free up time for the permanent public art, notably Richard Wilson’s ‘Turning the Place Over’ and the hundred Antony Gormley figures on Crosby beach.

Tehching Hsieh: One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece)

One of the most striking rooms at the Biennial contained work by Tehching Hsieh, who has made no art since 1986. That's when he concluded the fifth of his year-long performances which explore the passing of time with frightening tenacity. Hsieh is well-known in America, having emigrated there from Taiwan, but this was his first exhibition in England. It documents the second of his one year performances: after spending twelve months of 1978-79 in a cage, Hseih punched a time clock every hour, on the hour, day and night, during 1980-81. That is presented through various documentary proofs, including some 8,000 individual photographs and a six minute movie of his appearance at the time of punching (shown at one second per hour. The growth of his hair, uncut for the year, is the most obvious variation. Hsieh went on to spend 1981-82 entirely outside, 1983-84 tied to a woman with a rope, and 1985-86 wholly avoiding art as, as it were, art.

Rosa Barba: Free Post Mersey Tunnels

Many of the Biennial’s commissions sought to bring Liverpool into the work, none more successfully than Italian film and installation artist Rosa Barba’s sound-sculpture of pipes. ‘Free Post Mersey Tunnels’ combined a sinuous yet intestinal space-filling form (derived from the river’s ventilation tunnels) with the sound of the traffic and air movements which occurs in those spaces. The exposure of inner workings – the guts of the city, perhaps – chimes with the ingenious video-related work which Barba has running concurrently in the Tate Modern, which draws more attention to its mechanical means than to its apparent end products.

Pablo Wendel: Terracotta Warrior, 2006 in Bloomberg New Contemporaries – A Foundation

The funniest – if far from the newest - piece in Bloomberg New Contemporaries was a neat commentary on the nature of artistic truth and fakery. The young German artist Pablo Wendel, who was then studying in Hangzhou, disguised himself as one of the 2,000 terracotta warriors guarding the tomb of Qin Shihuang in North-West China. In the eight minute video which resulted, the guards find him hard to distinguish from the army, but once they do are startled to come across a warrior who seems alive. Cue incomprehending astonishment and increasingly panic-stricken attempts to decide what to do about a situation clearly not covered by the rule book.

Manchester was the venue for the 2nd edition of The Manchester Contemporary, a fair with a dozen well-chosen galleries (four from London, two from abroad, the rest from round Britain), together with partner and project presentations. There were no weak links in a relaxed mixture of solo, duo and multiple presentations of artists. Add to that the reliable City and Whitworth Galleries and the adventurous Cornerhouse and Castlefield spaces, and Manchester also provided a pretty full day.

Marcus Coates: The Confused Apamea furva (Cockayne, 1950), 2010 @ Workplace Gallery (Gateshead) in The Manchester Contemporary

It’s delightfully hard to be sure how seriously Marcus Coates takes the pseudo-shamanistic performances in which he purports to reach spirit worlds while dressed in the guise of one animal or another – though the scripts are alarmingly plausible. More plausible, surely, than attempting to disguise himself in turn as each of the 21 species of British moth simply by moulding shaving cream onto his face. And yet…

Richard Wilson: Earthquake Collage, 2007 @ Work/Projects (Bristol)in The Manchester Contemporary

Having just seen ‘Turning the Place Over’ in Liverpool, it was timely to come across Richard Wilson’s half-humorous, half-apocalyptic, decidedly cubist set of ten collage versions of the de la Warr pavilion under extreme duress. It's spirit is consistent with the space-tweaking subversions of his major installations, through which for example architecture gets pulled around (‘She Came in Through the Bathroom Window’), turned upsidedown (‘Set North for Japan’), moves (‘Turning the Place Over’) or rendered senseless (‘Squaring the Block', of which Work/Projects had a great maquette).

Evangelia Spiliopoulou @ Bureau (Manchester) in The Manchester Contemporary

Manchester’s own Bureau showed work by the locally-based Greek artist Evangelia Spiliopoulou, who had her first solo show in parallel at the gallery itself. She showed works which adopt a surprising and appealing internal logic by beginning and ending in Microsoft Word. Spiliopoulou generates philosophical-sounding sentences which she then uses as a starting point for similarly abstract drawings which attempt – rather winningly – to capture the concepts behind the words. She uses the Microsoft Word programme which – unbeknown to me after years of use – can actually generate quite a wide range of drawings. There are limitations to the programme, of course, but that’s part of the appeal: the rules of the computer programme stand in for the rules of the academic drawing in which Spiliopoulou trained.

Birmingham is much the trickiest of these cities to navigate: eg it’s a couple of miles from Ikon’s main space at Brindleyplace to its East Side satellite in Digbeth, but walking between them is faster than any of the convoluted public transport options. Nonetheless, the East Side has started to develop a lively scene in recent years…

AVPD: ‘Conceal’ and ‘Hitchcock Hallway’ at the Ikon Gallery

AVPD are Danish artists Aslak Vibæk and Peter Døssing, who have enjoyed undermining our perceptual expectations for some years, notably by setting up false windows to imitate the exact lighting through real windows in the same building in Double Exposure, 2007. They showed layerings of experience at both Ikon galleries. In the main space, they had added extra sheets of glass to a window, demonstrating one way in which the more means you add to facilitate looking into something, the less you can see. At Ikon Eastside, they filled the space with eleven consecutive and identical small white rooms. Each, on entry, was dominated by the door into the next room in the sequence. Is that what life has been reduced to, I wondered, a succession of indistinguishable experiences dominated by moving on to the next one, until at the twelth time of asking, you are by-now-unexpectedly ejected into the street?

Jamie Shovlin: Hiker Meat @ Grand Union, 19 Fazeley Industrial Estate, Birmingham East Side

The art public is probably too wary by now to be deceived by the persona through which Jamie Shovlin presents his work, but his interest was always more in how information is subject to the person using it. It’s pretty obvious, then, who lies behind the Italian film director Jesus Rinzoli, who has produced a sixty screen collage of over a thousand clips from 1970-80’s horror films. The viewer can follow them in a treble spiral around the room as they move from opening credits to scene-setting, rising tension, gorily violent, concluding and closing shots. And that’s just the inspiration for a 65 page script, soundtrack from the imaginary / real band Lustfaust, costume designs and posters: all show how the horror film which combines the best (worst?) of all horror films will come about. It felt like a satire on the very notions of recycling and progress.

hosts the first run of the British Art Show 7 in two sparkling new venues (Nottingham Contemporary and the New Art Exchange) plus a very old one (the Castle, the grounds full of boys charging round with wooden swords). The star work here has already been shown in London: Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’, which outdoes even Jamie Shovlin in terms of number of movie clips. I also enjoyed Sarah Lucas and Karla Black’s sculptures, and two challenges to the subsidiary role of sound in visual art: Luke Fowler’s film of natural sound effects ‘A Grammar for Listening’ and Haroon Mirza’s Joy Division-inspired sound-object collage ‘Regaining a Degree of Control’. Looking at this as the third recent survey of new British art, I see that three artists were in the 2009 Tate Triennial and Saatchi’s Newspeak survey as well as British Art Show 7: Spartacus Chetwynd, Matthew Darbyshire and Olivia Plender – not favourites of mine, true, but of plenty of others, evidently… Lots of work dealt with the dry-sounding matter of taxonomies, but I’ve chosen two of that drift which were full of life.

Elizabeth Price: User Group Disco in the British Art Show 7

The sleek quater hour video 'User Group Disco' sets corporate-sounding phrases such as ‘strategic apex’ against glimpses of ceramic objects revolving on a record turntable. They're presented as being in the Hall of Sculptures in a ‘New, Ruined Institute’, though it seems more like a factory. The film builds to a dance of sorts by the kitsch sculptures set to throbbing disco music and more mysterious phrases, now bringing critical art theory to mind. I took this to be a satirical take on our reliance on computers; the conventions of powerpoint presentations and all types of authoritarian language; retro-styling and the fetishisation of vinyl; and the consumer drive in the twentieth century as a whole. However, it was all presented in such a gleeful manner that the film seemed as glad of the opportunities provided as seriously worried by the consequences. Not an institutional critique, says Price, ‘but one of its descendants’.

Keith Wilson: Ziggurat in the British Art Show 7

'Ziggurat'is a stepped pyramidal tower with 26 of its 41 galvanised steel spaces filled with items which may – or may not – directly or indirectly constitute an alphabet. Is the boot there to represent ‘B’ or, or might it be a stylised ‘L’? Or is there no logic at all? It’s a puzzle of sorts, maybe of knowledge gone askew, or else from a different culture; a neat demonstration of the arbitrary nature of signification in language; and an interesting sculptural anthology. Is there a reference in all that to what can be another obscure, untranslatable language - that of art itself?

An enjoyable tour, then. I only just noticed that there are no paintings in my selected ten, whihc I suspect is unusual among my lists, but illustrates the variety of practice.

Picture credits: relevant artists and galleries + Alexander Newton (BAS 7)

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.