Thursday, 28 July 2011


'Anthology' at CHARLIE SMITH London, 336 Old St, 5-20 Aug

I have to declare an interest in the juried prize show 'Anthology', which opens on the evening of Thursday 4 August (when the winner will be announced) and runs to 20 August: I’m one of the five judges behind the  choice of ten artists. There were 650 applicants, and the spread of good work was such that 43 entrants were in the top ten of at least one judge! To illustrate that depth, I’ve chosen to highlight:

• five artists who are in the exhibited ten (the others are Jake Clark, Emma Critchley, Harold de Bree, Enzo Marra and Michelle Sank); and

• five artists who didn’t make the show, but whose work I particularly liked.

That’s fifteen artists, and I could happily have included an alternative fifteen in the show, say Mara Bodis-Wollner,, Simona Brinkmann, Ros Hansen, Marguerite Horner, Hannah Hur, Rinaldo Hopf, Colin McMaster, Sarah Pager, Pascale Rousson, Alli Sharma, Kate Vrijmoet, Imogen Welch, Simon Willems, Miranda Whall and Willem Weisman.


 Andy Harper

Andy Harper is known for his hyper-detailed renderings of real and imagined plant life in an old-masterly oil palette with greens and browns dominant. If their somewhat claustrophobic spaces suggest analogies between the vegetable world and our own interior physical workings, then this recent series sees Harper move into more mental territory. The intricate tantrically-tinged patterns evoke the Marsh Chapel Experiment run under the supervision of Timothy Leary. That purported to show that psychedelic drugs increase our propensity to experience religious feelings - and these paintings do indeed take Harper’s practice to another level.

Beauty Is in the Eyes of the Collective
 Steve Morgana

There’s something to be said for a little interactive fun in a show, and up-and-coming Australian Steve Morgana, who has worked with a physicist, could provide that. For example ‘Co-operative Kaleidoscope (You’re a Star!)’ needs two viewers to stand at either end before either can see the star patterning produced, and his ‘Lamps’ react to the spectator’s movements to vary their ‘auroral chromatic’. They’re more than ingenious fun, too, with points to make about social collaboration, the subjectivity of perception and the impact we have on our surroundings.


Suncatcher II
Tom Ormond

The young British painter Tom Ormond makes paintings inspired by utopian architectural schemes, building up multiple abstract elements as if they might tell us how to construct a future. He has in the past based the overall shapes on nuclear explosions, but here he more optimistically declares his inspiration to be the light by means of which we see those structures, which he calls ‘a symbol for creative optimism and enthusiasm’.

Elevator II
Alex Hudson

The young British painter Alex Hudson  uses a naggingly nostalgic near-monochrome technique to conflate timescales and set up the potential to reach spaces beyond the scene depicted. In ‘Elevator II’, for example, we see a romantically-depicted landscape in which a geometric white form makes a modernist incursion. Their combination suggests such questions as: what means of escape are possible from received approaches?  What would the past have imagined of the future compared with what we know of it as the present? And what does that tell us about our own futures?

Suzanne Moxhay

Suzanne Moxhay’s photographs of elaborate three dimensional collages make apocalyptic, futuristic landscapes out of the everyday nostalgia of old magazines such as the National Geographic. The outcome is a manipulated reality in which the conjunction of real and illusory space is matched by the combination of real and imagined time. What lures the viewer in is the contrast, referencing its parallel in film sets, between the banality of the set-ups and the convincing deceptions to which they gives rise.


Garter Order
Christina Niederberger

London-based Swiss painter Christina Niederberger re-imagines and yet contradicts such modernist standbys such as grids, circles and Klein’s anthropometries by using lace, net curtains, doilies or soft toys as the stencil starting points for oil, acrylic and spray paint. Sometimes (as in the submitted ‘Trophy’) she combs fake fur stretched over the canvas to make it look like paint, so achieving an even more direct collision between high art and kitsch.  The results are intriguingly ambiguous. Are they realist depictions of the constituent elements, or abstractions? Are they tributes or critiques? Are they stupid enough to be  clever, or is it the other way round?

I Felt the Plastic Bag Begin to Give Way
Stuart Hartley

Stuart Hartley’s plywood sculptures have the appearance of paintings which have been interrupted by events. They call to mind both the molecular activity which underlies the surface stability of ordinary objects; and those random irruptions which flavour our everyday routines – as signalled by such witty titles as ‘One Foot the Bath and the Doorbell Rang ‘. The result is a lively sense of the works representing their own creation, just as they establish an attractive aesthetic based on setting off inner and outer elements and natural and artificial colours.

Dieter Mammel

Dieter Mammel’s characteristic medium is the unusual one of monochrome ink and watercolor on ungrounded canvas, which he deploys with a brilliant use of semi-accidental effects. In his ‘Under Deep Water’ cycle he builds that directly into his conceptual schema by showing people – and we’re 60% water, after all – submerged in the element from which they seem to be doubly made. Mammel, in his own words, ‘plunges into the flow of colour’ to emerge with these blueberry gestures towards a reality from which the bravura technique keeps us at one remove.

Vom Shit Dog 6
Jock Mooney

Planet Mooney is crazy in a good way: it’s hard not to smile at the relish with which  high and low are combined in vivid hand-sculpted tableaux of silly jokes, religious icons, bodily expulsions, floral beauty and schoolboy magic… There’s an acceptance of manifold human drives for their own sakes which achieves a rambunctious register peculiar to Mooney.  Maybe we’re all mad at some level, he seems to suggest, in which case why should we worry? 

Ossian Ward on Tracey Emin at White Cube, from the series Art Review Graphs
EA Byrne

If only, an artist might dream, art could pre-empt its own reception! That’s the neat trick EA Byrne implies in using the phrases from art reviews to form graph-like abstractions. In so doing she simultaneously pays tribute to the value created by critical evaluation while playfully undermining its claims to objectivity through the absurd pretence that the opinions cited are amenable to a scientific system of quantification. This quiet work seemed to me the most interesting exploration of the on-trend interface between art and language.

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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.