Saturday, 29 October 2011


The best shows in November are the obvious ones: Richter (Tate Modern), Sasnal (Whitechapel) and Sala (Serpentine - 50 minute cycle with live saxaphone). So the big institutions are on the up, and  – whatever the uncertainties of the economy may be – more galleries are opening than closing. That’s partly down to the trend for foreign galleries to operate a London hub (there are recent Russian, Italian and American examples), partly due to the move towards multiple spaces. So it is that I can include several new galleries below. Two of my chosen shows, incidentally, explore the monochrome: it’s worth mentioning, then, that Annely Juda’s impressively-conceived Morellet and Malevich exhibition includes perhaps the originating monochrome – one of Malevich’s black squares.

Emma Hart: To Do @ Matt’s Gallery, 42-44 Copperfield Rd – Mile End

To 20 Nov: http://www.mattsgalleryorg/

Feel-good show of the moment is Emma Hart’s chirpily hypnotic cacophony of 27 ‘assistants’ - which is to say tripod-based sculptures with avian features, each showing a short film on a pocket camera in which Hart herself makes jokes and calls out instructions. Hart explains that the bird-cameras sprung from their visual similarities as small things with beady eyes, and their shared ability to influence our behaviour, eg we try to spot both. And ‘somehow you can make birds with just one feather, or a pointy shape, and I got interested in stretching our ability to ‘pigeon-hole’ everything into a type’. Fun aside, this picks up on her ongoing concern for the camera as an active creator of events, and also sneaks in surveillance as a darker theme by way of twitching.


Wim Delvoye (& Morandi) @ Robilant + Voena, 38 Dover St

To 16 Dec (Morandi to 29 Nov):

Robilant + Voena’s first show with both first and second floors available is a must-see not just for 15 superb Morandi still life oils from the 40-60’s, but also a rare London outing for the provocative yet substantial Ghent-based Wim Delvoye. A big bronze twisting Jesus rather startlingly shares the Morandi room, while Delvoye’s own main space has four sculptures in the Gothic mode through which he adds history and religion to his more visceral concerns. They intricately combine contrasting elements – as in this bulldozer/cathedral – to metaphorical effect. And don’t miss the office, where a tattooed stuffed pig, three pigskin ‘paintings’ and preparatory drawings for the well-known Cloaca machines (which mimic the human digestive system) make the show a fair sample, x-rays aside, of Delvoye’s main strands.

Augenbilder  (Eye Picture) White
Thomas Grünfeld: Young Steerer @ Hidde van Seggelen Gallery, 2 Michael Road – Fulham Broadway

To 3 Dec:

Cologne-based Thomas Grünfeld is best known for his ongoing series of ‘Misfits’, which comment on human interference with nature by joining taxidermied animals together. But there’s just the one bulldog/goat here: rather, Hidde van Seggelen’s spacious new gallery just off the Kings Road shows Grünfeld’s resonant breadth from a surprising early trio of sparrows on cricket balls to two streams of ‘paintings’: several using various cuts of felt in punchy style, and the playfully macabre ‘Augenbilder’, which use a mixture of glass eyes as the speckles on egg shapes so that the paintings seem to look at the viewer.

Tistol in his studio with the Food series

Oleg Tistol: The Mythology of Happiness @ Salon Vert, 21 Park Square East - Regent's Park

3 Nov – 3 Dec:

This is a substantial first solo show in Britain for the Ukraine’s most-feted painter. Having emerged as part of the underground scene in the Communist era, Tistol set out to transform Soviet and Ukrainian national stereotypes into positive archetypes. In so doing, he works at themes which combine issues of nationhood with the development of his own identity: here through rooms concentrating on palm trees in Crimean seaside resorts; mountains taken from a cigarette packet; and his own meals respectively. Taken together, they make for an energetic exploration of post-pop painting and a satisfyingly complex take on the possibilities for happiness.

Night, The Great Bear

Rinat Voligamsi: The Conditions of Winter @ Erarta, 8 Berkeley Street – Central

To 19 Nov:

Despite the curious name (shurely shome mistake? No, it's actually a play on a new era of art, not erroneous errata) the new Erarta gallery looks set to present an interesting Russian programme. Here Rinat Voligamsi mocks the Red Army in which he served in the last year of the Soviet system. A wintry video, viewable from outside, introduces monochrome paintings which freeze and subtly subvert 1940’s-50’s photographs of soldiers in cold settings: some are reduced to marching legs; some parade upside-down, heads stuck in the snow. Other images look more realistic, but then you notice that soldiers are lit as if for an interrogation, or the pattern of their burning cigarettes makes up the constellation which signals the mother country.

Leonardo Drew: Number 14i
Leonardo Drew @ Vigo, 1st Floor, 22 Old Bond Street - Central & Memory @ Rosenfeld Porcini, 37 Rathbone St – Fitzrovia

To 13 Nov ( / 3 Dec (

Two new galleries, with directors who were formerly director and assistant at the Fine Art Society’s contemporary space, are showing the sculptor Leonardo Drew - whose last London show was indeed with FAS.  Drew, who's just won the annual Joyce Alexander Wein Prize for an African-American artist, grew up amongst the poverty of the Bridgeport projects in an apartment overlooking the municipal rubbish dump, and has internalized the emotional recycling of the discarded. Vigo has a solo show of relatively restrained wood pieces which resonate more deeply in the context of Drew’s work as a whole. Rosenfeld Porcini, who have an impressive two floor space, include him in a nine artist show of sculpture concerned with memory in which Kaarina Kaikkonen’s complex use of discarded clothing, Roberto Almagno’s forms out of forest branches and Mar Arza’s multiple sand clocks also make a strong impression.

Scott Lyall: nudes 3 @ Campoli Presti, 23 Cambridge Heath Rd – Bethnal Green

To 17 Dec:

Campoli Presti is Sutton Lane as was, rebranded on a much larger scale in what is now a very handy gallery block incorporating the relocated Hotel, as well as Between Bridges, Herald St and Maureen Paley. Scott Lyall teases with some photographic flesh in a flyer in the foyer, but his works are ‘nudes’ only in that his canvases wears nothing but a hint of pale skin colour, which comes not from paint but the combination of many inks and their erasure in multiple passes through a UV-based printer. You could call it the ultimate reduction of ‘painting’ to naked colour - no hand, no image, no design – were it not that little colour remains, either.

Jacob Kassay @ ICA , The Mall – Central

To 13 Nov:

Against the odds, you might have thought, comes another artist finding a novel way to reach the monochrome. Jacob Kassay has become decidedly trendy for his silver ones, which have sold at auction for £200,000. They’re made by applying paint then chemically silver-plating over it to generate a slightly unpredictable effect with definite presence: they're somewhere between a painting and a mirror, but also reference photographic processes. Here Kassay shows them downstairs on a sculptural wall construction, along shaped white abstracts which converse with the upstairs space much as the semi-reflective silver works converse with the viewer. Like them or not, this feels like what the ICA should be doing: giving the wider British public a first chance to pick up on what’s hot.

Stem II
Richard Galpin: Let Us Build Us a City and a Tower @ Hales Gallery, The Tea Building, 7 Bethnal Green Rd – Shoreditch

To 19 Nov:

Richard Galpin's tool of choice is the scalpel, which he uses to cut away large prints of his photographs of buildings to reveal an alternate set of architectural geometries. Here the original buildings are recent additions to the London skyline, emerging (due to the planning and building time taken) as if in defiance of the economic cycle. Timescales collapse as the scalpel reduces them to ruins of a sort, while at the same time incorporating the past utopian plans of Chernikov and Nieuwenhuy. Galpin's most radical applications of the method peel so much of the image away, the results look at first more like drawings than photographs.

Nabil Nahas @ Ben Brown Fine Arts, 12 Brook’s Mews - Central

To Dec 3:

The New York based Lebanese painter Nabil Nahas (born 1949: say ‘nerBIL nerHASS’) follows a museum retrospective in Beirut with his most substantial British showing: recent work from ongoing streams of abstracts which might be termed ‘organic geometry’. They make reference to natural and Islamic forms, some by the literal incorporation of starfish; others by mixing acrylic with pumice to build up intensely-coloured coral-like formations which project from the canvas. They’re certainly seductive, but also create a dialogue between nature and culture which puts me in mind of Philip Taaffe.

Images courtesy the relevant artists and galleries.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Need an art fix out of gallery hours? To celebrate the recent appearance of striking new works by James Hopkins and (for three months) Pipilotti Rist, I’ve added eight more recent public sculptures / paintings below to make a top ten of 21st century art available all day in London, several of them by artists who also have gallery shows at the moment. Come the Olympics, there’ll be even more...

James Hopkins: Angled Ball, 2011 near Wembley Stadium

Sport can make an awkward subject, but James Hopkins scores with a new four metre high ball at Wembley. Its hexagons and pentagons make up a convincing black and white football from some angles, but transmute into a prototypical modernist abstraction from other viewpoints. That’s consistent with Hopkins’ established interest in how points of view change what we see, and so suggest that there is no objective ‘true perception’ - as in his equally cunning sculptures of words reflected in mirrors such that, for example,'rear' becomes 'view'.

Pipilotti Rist: Hiplights or Enlighted Hips, 2011 – outside the Hayward Gallery, South Bank, to 8 Jan 2012

Just a few weeks ago the South Bank was decked in bunting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Festival of Britain. Now Pipilotti Rist has subverted the form by extending her immersive new exhibition beyond the gallery in the form of 300 pairs of underpants lit from within. Rist, mind you, has a genuine regard for pants as ‘the temple of our abdomen’ and what they cover as ‘the site of our entrance into the world, the centre of sexual pleasure’ and ‘the proof that our internal cleaning machine is miraculously working’.

Clem Crosby: 180 Monochrome Paintings, 2004-06 at the Young Vic, The Cut - Southwark

Were can you find 180 paintings on permanent outdoor display? You may have walked past and not noticed, but the panels which might seem to be merely cladding the Young Vic Theatre are indeed manifold individual yellow-tending abstracts by Clem Crosby, held in place and semi-hidden by a mesh screen. The paintings look best at night, when their variation and expressiveness emerges fully: add that the bar’s pretty good, and you don’t even need a play to justify a visit. I also recommend a trip to  Pippy Houldsworth's beautiful new space in Heddon Street to see more of Crosby's work (to 12 Nov).

Rebecca Warren: William, 2010 at Central St Giles, St Giles High Street

Central Saint Giles, the mixed use development near Tottenham Court tube which last year became the first project to be realised in Britain by Italian starchitect Renzo Piano, contains Rebecca Warren’s ‘William’. Its a small work scaled up to become a bronze public sculpture, and refers to the memorialising of powerful men whilst betraying its origins as a lumpy clay amalgam of body parts – not even all male – scaled up to that pretence. Can be paired with Warren’s new show at Maureen Paley (to 20 Nov).

John Frankland: Boulder, 2008 (Shoreditch Park) & Boulder (Mabley Green)- Hackney

Two Hackney green spaces each feature a 100 tonne chunk of solid granite, over four metres high. John Frankland is the sculptor and keen rock climber whose rugged modern monoliths Boulder (Shoreditch Park) and Boulder (Mabley Green) are not just readymades-come-land art-come- landmarks, but are also designed to be climbed. That’s helped by the holes remaining from the preparations for the explosions which blasted the rocks from their cliff face. Like Rebecca Warren's work, they deflate the monumental.

Shirazeh Houshiary: East Window,2007 in St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square

London-based Iranian Shirazeh Houshiary typically explores the interface between modernism and spirituality. That fitted ideally with a commission - together with her architect husband Pip Horne - for the East Window in Nash's classic interior. Houshiary warps the stained-glass-style leaded grid into an abstraction which makes the most of the light while elegantly picking up on both the cross and the bomb damage which destroyed the historic window. The full range of Houshiary’s work can currently be seen at the Lisson Gallery (to 12 Nov).

Ian Davenport: Poured Lines, 2006 at Southwark Street, Bankside

Ian Davenport – showing through October at both Waddington Custot (to 29 Oct) and Alan Cristea (to 12 Nov) in Cork Street - often uses a syringe to drip the paint down canvases or gallery walls: the resulting stripes are on the borders of control. The massive (10 feet x 100 feet 3 metres high x 28 metres long) version beneath a railway bridge near Tate Modern used a special syringe to apply 300 colours of fluid enamel on steel panels, which were fired at 825 °C in a factory near Dresden.

Richard Wilson: Square the Block, 2009 at LSE, Kingsway

Richard Wilson is the contemporary master of radical public artworks. For the LSE he provides a particularly effective ‘what on earth is that?’ on the corner of their Kingsway site. Where it looks as if the corner of the building has been sliced away to facilitate the movement of passers by, Wilson has added a new corner section made from vertical slices of the rest of the building, the lower section of which appears compressed and twisted as if shunted upwards to free up the pavement. That’s a new kind of pedestrian power!

Christiaan Nagel: giant mushrooms 2009-11 – various points in Hackney

Street art is not readily associated with sculpture, but since 2009 South African Christiaan Nagel has – illegally – placed over a hundred giant mushrooms on derelict rooftops around the East End. Being made from polyurethane, they’re not good to eat but are light enough for him carry as he climbs. Most are colourful enough to feel more psychedelic than atomic, and somehow seem friendlier than graffiti.

Michael Bleyenberg: Burlington Flare, 2006 @ Burlington Place - Central

The Crown Estate – as is only logical, given the name – owns all of Regent’s Street, and commissioned German public sculpture specialist Michael Bleyenberg to make this tower. It contains Holographic Optical Elements which, embedded between glass and mirrors, make for a prism-like colour play which catches the sun by day and is lit up at night. Bleyenberg trained as a painter before switching to lasers and computers, and describes his work as ‘light architecture’. An interesting piece, even though the nearby Sadie Coles Gallery tends to outpunch it.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011



I’ve just returned from a weekend in Venice, which is a good idea when it's not too hot or crowded. I don’t have time for detail – it’s Frieze week! – but for those planning a late sally, my top Biennale-related items still open in Oct-Nov are as follows:

Bice Curiger’s 83-artists ILLUMInations – obvious, but true.

The national pavilions of Switzerland (Thomas Hirschhorn’s gloriously and rigorously excessive ‘Crystal of Resistance’ ), the Czech / Slovak combination (an installation re-presenting the sculptures made by artist Domink Lang’s father), Austria (Markus Schinwald’s Freudian tweaks and leg obsessions) and Denmark (an un-nationalist group show starring Tala Madani and Hans Hoogerbrugge) - all in the Giardini.

Anish Kapoor’s apparitional ‘Ascension’ in Palladio’s church on the island of St Giorgio, the best thing he’s done in years (though be careful it’s not lunchtime).

Gigi Scaria’s virtual experience for India; and David Perez Karmadavis’ blind man carrying a legless guide in the excellent multi-nation Latin American Show, both in the far Arsenale.

The collateral event which is effectively national pavilion of Scotland (Karla Black), the best of those out and about in the city.

Hans Op de Beeck’s ‘Location 7’, a walk-in grey concrete room overlooking a fountain in the Alexander Ponomarev-curated project ‘One of a Thousand Ways to Defeat Entropy’ (a free boat transfer from the Arsenale - but go last: you can’t come back!)

The Pinault Collection at the Palazzo Grassi, rather than the Punta della Dogana.

Museo Fortuny’s dramatic excess (and ask the assistant to turn on the kinetic work ‘Magnetic Surfaces’ by Davide Boriani, which generates odd creatures and addictive transformations from iron filings).

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.