Thursday, 24 March 2011


The most literal kind of figurative is figures themselves: they haven’t always been fashionable but there are plenty around at the moment, ranging from Nancy Spero at the Serpentine to Bill Viola at Blain/Southern to the examples more to my taste with which I start, before moving on to works which evoke people less directly…

Byron Marmol: Paula Régil (a.b.a. con Paracelsus)

Between Two Worlds @ Edel Assanti, 276 Vauxhall Bridge Rd – Victoria

To 30 April:

Evening Standard photography critic Sue Stewart has curated a stimulating survey of nine Latin American photographers, splitting the work broadly between reality on the second floor and fantasy on the third. My favourite realities are Alessandra Sanguinetti’s visceral visions of Argentinian farm life, and Oscar Fernando Gomez Rodriguez’s Mexican streetscapes shot with rapid fire voyeurism through – and framed by – his taxi window. Fantasy scores in Byron Marmol’s documentation of Guetemalans dressing up as manga players, bringing a cultural fracture to their role play games and making for an interesting comparison with Cao Fei’s well-known Cos series.

Tut tut. A Coup

Carla Busuttil: Rug & Gut & Gun @ Josh Lilley Gallery, 44-46 Ridinghouse St – Fitzrovia

To 28 April:

I say Boosoot’l, you say Bassert’l… I’m not sure which is right, but Ms B’s birth-giving absence from her own opening prevented my asking the ultimate referee. Either way, the South African with Armenian origins has grown up with a background of conflict: even prior to apartheid, her forebears fled a hundred years ago from the same persecution as did Arshile Gorky’s family. That’s reflected in the violent looseness of her figures, which give off an aura of criminality. The bigger they are, I feel, the bigger the impact – and there are some pretty big paintings here…

Yonin No Kao

Kentaro Kobuke: Mokume @ Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, 13/14 Cornwall Terrace - Baker Street

To 6 May (not weekends):

This is a refreshing reminder that there’s more than bad news coming out of Japan. London-based Hiroshima-born Kentaro Kobuke’s makes elegantly obsessive, not-quite-childlike coloured pencil drawings for and against the grain of resonantly traditional cherry wood. Fantastical characters and narratives seem to emerge as naturally as knurls. He also makes more abstract-tending drawings on a worldwide range of airmail envelopes, which he outfolds in the manner of reverse origami to provide an intricately-shaped surface. And if you want your art indoors at 9.30 a.m., I know no other place.

Back in the Mirror

Stephan Balkenhol @ Stephen Friedman Gallery,25-28 Old Burlington Street - Central

To 16 April:

German sculptor Stephan Balkenhol has been rough-hewing people onto bases out of single trunks of fissure-friendly wood for decades now, setting up what strikes me as the sculptural equivalent of a figure-ground relationship. But he keeps chipping away differently at both the tradition of monumental figures and the minimalism which turned away from it. Here, a tondo, a double-facing face in which one face is abstract, and a full length figure in a kind of wooden mirror are variants new to me. But on from wood to Woodrow…

Car Door, Armchair and Incident, 1981

Bill Woodrow: Sculptures 1981–1988 @ Waddington Custot Galleries, 11 Cork Street - Central

To 16 April:

A successful signature style can be a problem: do you carry on repeating it and risk descending into routine, or move boldly on and invite unfavourable comparisons with the earlier work? In the early 80’s Bill Woodrow hit on the brilliantly witty yet conceptually dense approach of making sculpture by cutting elements out of metal consumer goods while leaving the rest of the original object to take part in the implied narrative. In the following quarter century, Woodrow has opted firmly for the second horn of that dilemma, which makes this chance to see nineteen of his violently transformative 'cut-out' works all the fresher: many of those here also gain from an anthropoligical aspect, and the way in which two things bocome both different versions of themselves and a third separate thing.

Two Rainbow American Flags for Jasper in the Style of the Artist’s Boyfriend

Jonathan Horowitz: Art, History @ Sadie Coles, 4 New Burlington Place – Central

To 30 April:

American artist Jonathan Horowitz is known for his ironic and camp blending of politics and humour. This is a typically punchy exhibition, albeit one which relies on some visitor awareness of the work of Joel Shapiro, Sol LeWitt Richard Serra and Ellsworth Kelly. For it’s their work for the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington which Horowitz parodies on the grounds that minimalist works are an inadequately engaged response to such horrors, e.g. a typical white Kelly shape is tipped towards the pink triangle which denoted Jewish homosexuals. Also in the mix is a biting lampoon of Mel Gibson, and a Jasper Johns flag in the style of Horowitz’s partner, fellow artist Rob Pruitt.

Two Dinners

Richard Artschwager curated by Rob Pruitt @ Carlson, 6 Heddon St

To 15 April (not weekends):

As it happens Rob Pruitt – who recently hit the headlines with his spoof ‘Art Oscars’ event - has curated a show 100 yards from his partner’s: a beautifully-judged selection of Richard Artschwager’s paintings. Pruitt supplies silver-foil-covered chairs for the purpose of contemplating them, so nodding to Artschwager’s own use of furniture. Mirrors are one of Artschwager’s favourite motifs, and the star work here uses them inside the picture’s frame to complete the sausages in ‘Two Dinners’. Pruitt was Artschwager’s assistant in New York at the time he painted this in 1988 and, in his suitably personal curatorial note, recalls eating off the table portrayed.

Installation view

Marcelo Cidade and André Komatsu: The Natural Order of Things

To 9 April:

This collaboratively-conceived show of individual works by the Brazilian artists Cidade and Komatsu is a locally re-bought and installed version of a project first shown in Brazil. In the course of critiquing, I think, the natural order of international capitalist things, it provides a most cathartic chance to boot wheel-mounted blocks of concrete from one side of a gallery to the other. You can do so without wearing Doc Martens, but there are three pairs in show – their differently-coloured laces proposing tribal loyalties - along with a range of market commodities (the coffee smells frustratingly good), a blank street sign and 'paintings' made from industrial felt and drywall. Hard to pin down, and yet convincing.

Hadi Tabatabai: Thread Painting 2011-3

Different Abstractions: Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Hadi Tabatabai and Hajra Waheed @ Green Cardamom, 5a Porchester Place – Marble Arch

To 15 April (not weekends):

All three artists in this exhibition use abstraction interestingly. Tunisian Nadia Kaabi-Linke destroys the function of a bench by covering it with bird spikes. Canadian Hajra Waheed plays Islamic patterning and building plans off against surveillance aircraft and flowers to elusive effect. US-based Iranian Hadi Tabatabai makes intensely poised grid-based abstractions. Only close examination reveals that their meticulous construction uses threads just off the surface, or grout just below it, to create a stilled zone in which to contemplate the ambiguity of figure and ground, the nature of truth, the meaning of life...

Principles of Surrender, 2010 (work in show to be finished on site)

Nika Neelova: Monuments @ CHARLIE SMITH London, 2nd floor, 336 Old St - Hoxton

8 - 30 April:

In what promises to be a fascinating merger of personal and public, past and present, the young winner of the 2010 Saatchi New Sensations will show three dark architectural installations including stairs to nowhere and flags of ash. In them Neelova attempts, by collaging elements from elsewhere, to recreate a sense of personally significant lost places from her own disparate pasts in Russia, France and the Netherlands – not as they were, but as she imagines they might be today: in effect, memories of now.


Giorgio Sadotti & John Summers: For every action... ...justifies the means @ Studio 1.1, 57a Redchurch St. – Shoreditch

8 April – 1 May:

The artist-run Studio 1.1 hosts a collaboration of two artists who play random factors off against control. Summers assembles noisily ramshackle yet somehow aesthetic sculptures out of found elements. The pranksterish Sadotti’s previous ranges from asking other people to be him to whipping the Tate’s Chistmas tree to collaging coincidence. He also likes secrets, having showed anonymously at Milton Keynes in 2010, and asked me to keep some aspects of this show under wraps... I'd better say no more, but I’m sure it'll be spontaneous with an edge.

Also recommended

Philip Taaffe: Paintings 2009 – 2011 @ Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, April 7 - May 14: Surprisingly, a first British solo show for Taaffe's syntheses of abstract and representational motifs from myriad cultures, times and artistic movements.

Dieter Roth: ‘Reykjavik Slides (31,035) Every View of a City’ @ Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row to 30 April: let the widely spread rhythms of fourteen slide projectors lure you into the grey world of all the houses in the Icelandic capital.

Drawing 2011 Biennial Fundraiser @ The Drawing Room 7 April – 18 May: always a fascinating barometer of trends as well as a show of potentially affordable goodies.

Axel Antas: ‘New to Nature’ @ Rokeby Gallery to 30 April: artificial clouds and a life-sized film of a tree from the Finnish meditator on man and nature.

Angela de la Cruz: ‘Transfer’ @ the Lisson Gallery, 30 March – 30 April: I’m expecting further evidence of why she should have won the Turner Prize

Jonathan Trayte: 'Under a Pine Tree' @ Simon Oldfield Gallery to 23 April: sculptures good enough to eat in this solo debut – they’re mostly of food, after all, though in painted bronze…

Andrew Grassie @ Maureen Paley to 10 April: ‘outtakes’ from the master of egg tempera photorealist reflection on the conditions of art.

Hamidou Maiga: 'Talking Timbuktu' @ Jack Bell Gallery to 30 April: Not Seydou Keita but the sharer of his Mali studio in the seventies, and of comparable – if less widely appreciated – merit.

'Royal Family' @ Hayward Gallery to 2 May: a must if you haven’t yet caught Lars Laumann’s ‘Morrissey Foretelling the Death of Diana’, and the only way I can commend of celebrating the nuptials.

Shaun McDowell @ Hannah Barry Gallery, Peckham to 20 April: big industrial space with a large cycle of abstractions derived from the artist interacting with his model.

Images courtesy the relevant artists and galleries + Stephen White (Stephen Friedman)

Saturday, 12 March 2011


From mothers to heights to dirt to soap to portraits to light to sexual leanings, here are some of the many connections to be made between current or recent works of interest...

Martin Creed: ‘Mothers’ @ Hauser & Wirth to March 5

I wasn’t knocked out by the whole of Martin Creed’s latest show, but ‘Mothers’ is a high impact piece, a word sculpture which swings around at an alarmingly accelerating pace If you’re more than 6’8” tall, it might literally knock you out. It’s more than spectacle, though: an (almost!) touching assertion of the importance of mothers and the most distinctive new example of Creed building his reluctance to make decisions into his work: here, he avoids having to choose which way the word should point. And cleverly / coincidentally, it follows Louise Bourgeois’ maternally-fixated spider into H&W’s big new space…

Gabriel Orozco: ‘Lintels’ in his retrospective at Tate Modern to April 25

Gabriel Orozco, vividly present though hardly ever visible in the action of his work, provides a sparky retrospective at Tate Modern. It includes another work set just above head height. ‘Lintels’ consists of the lint (formed from skin, hair and fabric) collected from the washing machines in a New York laundromat, hung up in the style of washing on a line. Orozco emphasises the aesthetic aspect by making nuanced prints from the material, though the timing of its first showing - November 2001 – naturally made more of its evocation of the fragility of human life.

Karla Black: ‘Brains Are Really Everything’ in The British Art Show 7 @ the Hayward Gallery to 17 April

Karla Black’s latest mode, cake-like structures made of soil, is consistent with her predeliction for loose and potentially unstable materials. She says she works with them ‘not because they easily change and decay but because I want the energy, life, and movement that they give.’ But if brains really are everything, is that in making or interpreting the piece? And, either way, is that meant straight, or in ironic recognition of the work’s instinctual nature? Or is the title just a red herring of a sentiment, arbitrarily attached?

Matt Golden: ‘Six Years in the Bath (re-enactment) V’ in ‘More Bit Parts in Little Theatres’ @ Bischoff / Weiss to 2 April

Where there’s dirt, should there not be washing? Actually there is soap on top of Karla lack's soil, but more conretely Matt Golden was – rather impressively – reading Lucy Lippard’s theoretical tome ‘Six Years – Dematerialization of the Art Object’ in the bath. Then he dropped it. Liking the accidental Rorschach blotting which resulted, he restaged the ‘performance’ five times with other copies (I’d have liked it if the sequence took six years, but Matt claims to bathe more often than that). The set is on show along with a dozen delightfully maverick chairs – sitting prohibited: they’re made out of picture frames.

Meekyoung Shin: ‘Ghost Series’ in her show ‘Translation’ at Haunch of Venison to April 2

Soap is the obsessive material of choice for Korean artist Meekyoung Shin, who uses it make less permanent versions of Chinese porcelain and Western classical sculpture. I’m not sure why soap – is she attempting to cleanse the past? Is contemporary art a mere soap opera? - but there’s no doubting the wow factor of the biggest room. It’s filled with more than 200 translucent vases, imitating glass, and grouped into colours which shine dramatically out of the gloom.

Sam Jackson : 'Night's Black Agents' in 'The Fearful Joy' @ CHARLIE SMITH London to 2 April

Sam Jackson offers a different kind of dirt: well - two kinds, and rather less amenable to soap. His intimately-scaled, historically grounded yet intensely unacademic painting practice seems to be ricocheting between pseudo-traditional portraits eked out of muddy browns; and pornographic close-ups of sex acts which seek to trump the blatant content by extending the traditional reach of the painterly. His new show moves back to portraits, though mostly imagined. He's also, by the way, one of the most-represented artists in the interesting private Kabin collection (which you can arrange to visit, else see online at

Jorma Puranen: Shadows, reflections and all that kind of thing 64 @ Purdy Hicks to 28 March

Finnish photographer Jorma Puranen provides another angle on the historical portrait by emphasising the reflections and shadows on paintings as much as their primary content, helped by the lack of recognition factor in little-known Scandinavian works. The results foreground the painted object - especially the use of wood panel - and the photographic process, while adding a mysterious aura to the faces. They complement the landscapes he has previously made (which he photographed indirectly through their reflections in panels of painted wood); and, like them, bring to mind Plato’s cave: apt, then, that the exhibition’s title 'Shadows, reflections and all that kind of thing' is from Plato.

Aidan McNeill: ‘Revolve VI’ in CAST @ Payne Shurvell to 2 April

Aidan McNeill also takes photographs which downplay the main event, in this case the west end musical for which - in her day job - she is a lighting technician. That’s given her the access to take what look at first glance like romantically sublime skyscapes, but prove to be close-ups of the stage effects which provide musicals with their backdrops. Add a video in which an orchestra’s view of the conductor is matched to the sound of the Deputy Stage Manager calling up the lights required according to the cues given by his movements, and you have a dismantling of theatrical illusion which generates a little replacement magic of its own.

Rita Nowak: ‘ex libris’ in ‘The Dandie’s Ball’ @ Ritter / Zamet to 26 Feb

This self-portrait came with a nice story of the role it played in the development of its exhibition. Gallerist Marcus Ritter says he was most taken by the Oscar Wilde tattoo on the arm of a fellow party-goer, and asked her to send him an image of it. She turned out to be Austrian photographer Rita Nowak, and Ritter was surprised to receive not a quick snapshot but this beautifully day-lit tribute to Wilde. That led him to make a fascinating exhibition to feature it, along with classical and modern works and books, picking up on his previous interest in the figure of the dandy.

Daniel Sinsel: ‘Untitled’ in his solo show at the Chisenhale Gallery to 13 March

London-based German Daniel Sinsel came to prominence with paintings which frame elements from gay porn with tight elegance. Now his work is abstract, but the sexual symbols are but lightly buried and flash good-naturedly between the fifteen works ringing the Chisenhale Gallery. Thus there is plenty of play with columns, sticks and a golden flute lodged in a cleft of linen; or again between terra cotta cymbals which drip into testicular forms and the secretion of hazelnut shells into bags attached to the canvas.

Balthasar Burkhard: 'L'escargot' in 'A Homage to Balthasar Burkhardat' @ Ladiray Gallery, 74 Wells St to 19 March

French gallerist Jerome Ladiray recently opened a lively gallery just off Eastcastle Street, with the aim of correcting the overly low London profile of artists working in France. Having said which, he's currently showing the Swiss photographer Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010), whose substantial continental reputation comes from how he zooms in with great deliberation on loaded symbols such as springs, birds' wings and snails - which seemed edibly sexual in the Gallic context...

Photo credits: courtesy of relevant galleries and artists

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.