Saturday, 18 May 2013


Sinta Tantra: The Eccentricity of Zero
Assuming we're about to move on to a semblance of summer, there are worse places to enjoy it than Holland Park, the more so now that the Napoleon Garden is enhanced by Sinta Tantra’s  sun-welcoming glass sculpture 'The Eccentricity of Zero'which interacts colourfully with the surrounding floral displays and with anyone passing through it. It starts us off on an initially curvaceous and then flatter path around choices with an absence of the obvious big new shows and an  emphasis on abstraction.  


Chris Wainwright: A Catalogue of Errors @ the Daiwa Foundation, Japan House, 13/14 Cornwall Terrace – Baker St

To 10 July:

Error, Ishinomaki, 2012 

Most of this show by photographer of light Chris Wainwright shows the outmoded but technologically reliable semaphore signalling system by night (rather than with daytime's flags). Sometimes they make words, typically with the potential to refer to environmental threats (resulting from our errors), but more often – in Wainwright’s signature move – the signal is that used when a mis-communication has occurred: both hands raised and lowered together. One photograph features 15 people ranged a long a beach in a multiple error which, according to Wainwright, took some organising and ten takes from half a mile way to get right. Several are set along post-tsunami Japanese beaches, indicating how the relationship between land and sea has become problematical. Nice little catalogue, too, in which I spotted no mistakes.


Painting from the Zabludowicz Collection / Painting in the 2.5th Dimension @ the Zabludowicz Collection, 176, Prince of Wales Road - Chalk Farm

To 11 Aug:

Alex Hubbard: still from 'The Paranoid Phase of Nautical Twilight ,1–3'

This show co-opts a neat phrase from Tanya Auerbach to group six upcoming New York abstract painters so catchily I can imagine it having an afterlife to signal their interest in extending the painterly into the sculptural. They're set in the context of a full room of Albert Oehlen (masterful) and Josh Smith (influential, though masterly is not the word that comes to my mind). The stand-outs are Auerbach herself along with Rose Kayser, who injects narrative into two large paintings with a dramatic sense of transformation still in process; and Alex Hubbard, who fuses action painting with Minimalism and Matta-Clark in a video sequence in which he cuts through a drywall from behind to make geometric shapes.


Ruairiadh O'Connell @ Project Native Informant, 17 Brook's Mews – Mayfair

To 15 June:


Brook's Mews is emerging as a new go-to Street: New Yorker Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja has just opened its 4th gallery. His first show is typically warped take on the romance of air travel by Ruairiadh (don't worry, he answers to 'Ru') O'Connell: seven circular-tending plaster and silicone shapes are presented on metal stands. They’re cast from aeroplane windows, complete with the curvature one might expect, exaggerated by the pressures of use being applied to relatively pliable Perspex. O'Connell has found a way to apply textured Linoprint to them, using patterns from 1950s aircraft seats. Some of the outcomes look like plausible cloudy views out, others like a more literal squeaky bum time as it seems we don't know which way up we are and whether the plane is headed for disaster - or just us for paranoia...


A Séance for Geometry @ Maddox Arts, 52 Brook’s Mews – Mayfair

To 29 June:

Still from Roberto Evangelista: Mater Dolorosa - In Memoriam II 

(Of the Creation and Survival of Forms)

Five artists with Brazilian connections dance between rational and mystical to set the shapes of minimalism in fresh art contexts. The lead is set by Roberto Evangelista’s 1978 film of the Amazonian Tukano tribe, in which a shamanistic tale of how the universe originated not in formlessness but perfect geometry chimes with a striking sequence in which heads bob up among dozens of floating bowls. That feeds into the parallelogram ‘Multiple Tree’, economically spliced from one Sibipiruna branch by Daniel Steegman Mangrané; Ana Cvorovic & Rodrigo Matheus’ natural-meets-industrial installations, the largest of which seems to propose a manufactured counter to the Robert Smithson-like elements of sand, mirrors and spiral; and Gabriel Lima’s cute riffs on football and minimalism.


Cedric Christie: When Painting Collapses, You Have Beautiful Sculptures @ Flowers, Kingsland Road, 82 Kingsland Rd - Hoxton

To 29 June:

Cedric Christie’s multi-stream riot of a show takes on the dualities of hard and soft, curved and straight in a way which reminds me of Robert Morris. His signature scaffolding sculptures, with their economical references to constructing and dismantling minimalism, are joined by a full room installation of 22 pieces in a new curved format, albeit their interplay takes place against a red scaffold-cum-grid. Going curved, claimed Christie, left him totally fucked – and now it was going to be just as hard to go back straight. Upstairs is a contrasting group of felt works, and Christie even manages to sneak into the parallel group show with seven photos of vomit.

Jac Leirner:Hardware Silk @ White Cube, Mason's Yard - Central

To 6 July:

Skin (Juicy Jay's Cotton Candy King Size Slim) (detail)
Plenty of artists install combinations of found materials as a means of striking up new aesthetics and relationships. Jac Leirner (born Sao Paulo, 1961) has brought a particular elegance to the genre of the mundane made precious over the last two decades and this extensive exhibition takes it to another level - both literally, as many spirit levels feature, adding a controlled bubble-beauty to the references to the installation of work and the possibility of transcendence; and in effect, through the transformation of papers for rolled tobacco into trembling monochromes (860 units in the work above) which responds to the breath even as their normally-intended contents might challenge it.


B. Wurtz @ Kate MacGarry, 27 Old Nichol Street - Shoreditch

To 13 July:

Untitled, 2009
This is a first London solo show for the late-advancing American B. Wurtz (born 1948: ‘William’
became ‘Bill’ became the rapid-sign ‘B’). His wry use of throwaway and often abject found objects and remnants – mostly linked to shelter, food and warmth  – produces delicate assemblages which look as if they’ve just been knocked together. Typically, they seem to constitute some sort of record of his way through the world, suggesting a parallel between the living of an ordinary life and the lyrical potential of the most ordinary of things.  The oldest piece dates from 1970, but Wurz’s style remains consistent and makes an interesting contrast with Liener’s more ‘bought for purpose’ means of bringing materials together – though they do share a love of plastic bags.


system . painting . construction . archive @ the Lion and the Lamb, 46 Fanshawe St – Hoxton

To 15 June: (pub hours)


Brandon Taylor: Painting for CB

This one of those shows in which the curatorial grouping makes you see work in a different light: Andrew Bick presents documentation relating to the British Construction and Systems artists – Gillian Wise, Anthony Hill, Jeffrey Steele et al – who were best known in the 1970’s, and ranges nine current abstract painters around them. If the older work was dynamised by the personal and political infections of the inevitable imperfection of manually applied systematisation, then the recent paintings seems to have kept just the sense of departure from an underlying order which is no longer visible. Bick’s own ‘OGV (Grid GW)’ enacts that literally, its Perspex etched with a Gillian Wise drawing as the ghost in its mirror. Robert Holyhead, Clare Kenny and Brandon Taylor (better known as a writer) also show well.


Harmen Brethouwer: Old School @ Hidde van Seggelen Gallery, 2 Michael Road - Chelsea

To 28 June:

Campan by Chantal Hooyberghs

The Dutch artist Harmen Brethouwer practises an intricate form of appropriation which yields a slanted and spiritual anthropology of culture. He has work made in two basic forms – conical sculptures and square panels - and chooses themes which resonate with the histories of decoration and art, specifically Chinoiserie, Art Deco and Minimalism.This show consists mainly of paintings of artificial marble patterns, placing the work of the highly-trained specialists commissioned by Brethouwer in the context of abstract painting rather than of luxury décor. The cones include a large mosaic and a silver one which resonates more literally when struck with a satisfyingly heavy rubber beater.


A Kassen, Ian Argote & Abigail Reynolds:The Democracy of Objects @ Nettie Horn, 17a Riding House St - Fitzrovia

To 15 June:

When Danielle and Marie told me they’d hit on the cunning ruse of combining three artists I’m known to enjoy, they were in jest, no doubt - but who am I to argue? Abigail Reynolds’ plinth-top combinations wrap time round culture; the Danish collective A Kassen push equivalence to the limit, smearing crushed items beside the photos of how they used to look in a battle of realities, and framing a photograph of a building in the architectural materials shown in it, so placing transience directly before us; and Ivan Argote’s videos find him dance to Malevich, seek to return the nose of an Egyptian statue, and make George Washington smile and scowl simply by the angle at which a dollar bill is held. Curses, they were right, I do like it!


Wang Yuyang
: Objects of Fantasy + Forster & Heighes: Plant Science @ King’s Cultural Institute – Somerset House

To 12 June:

Forster & Heighes: one room of 'Plant Science'

Somerset House has become an arts centre somewhat on the quiet: the Courtauld is joined by half a dozen substantial exhibition spaces. The current highlight is the Inigo Rooms, where you can see an exploded painting and a breathing television in the imaginative first London show by conceptual artist Wang Yuyang, part of the Chinese Visual Festival; and also a tremendous installation by Ewan Forster and Christopher Heighes, who deconstructed a former School of Plant Science, and have now reassembled it in fresh formats ready for a concluding auction. Whether or not you fancy a seed spreader, a laboratory bench, a decontamination shower or just an impressive pair of ‘in/out boards’, they're laid out for you here in a sort of real-life version of a Mike Nelson installation.


Beastly Hall @ Hall Place & Gardens, Bourne Road, Bexley

To 1 Sept:

Carsten Holler: Red Walrus

I recommend a trip out to the 16-17th century Hall Place, set in gardens which feature topiary in the form of fantastical beasts. They’ve inspired an impressive gathering of beastly works by 26 contemporary artists which goes beyond the merely illustrative by engaging persuasively with themes of transformation. Highlights include Dorothy Cross’s economically disturbing ‘Finger Crab’; Carsten Holler’s psychotropic ‘Red Walrus’, complete with humanoid eyes and a moustache of giraffe hair; three of Thomas Grünfeld’s ‘misfits’; and Susie MacMurray room-filling sea of 4,000 peacock feathers, the eyes of which look back at you looking at them.. .

Dorothy Cross: Finger Crab

Images courtesy of the relevant artist and galleries + Paul Tucker (Christie) + Ben Westoby (Lierner)

Thursday, 9 May 2013


You could argue that the main point of going to a gallery is to see the installation, as a combination of art fairs and the Internet might give you a fair idea of the works in the show, but not of how it all fits together. It’s good to report, then, that plenty of thought and effort goes into how shows are presented.  Of course, my own argument is arguably undermined by my attempting to show the installations here, but let's consider some current tacticsWe start with the biggest non-institutional solo shows in London, both in venues I’m guessing that few have been to as yet, but all should be encouraged to visit!

Make a surprise impact: In the unexpectedly vast space (450 sq m) which used to house Coutts Banking’s computers, five artists with adjoining studios have taken on the somewhat heroic volunteer task of mounting shows - and achieved a triumph of bold, varied and atmospheric installation, building several environments for the darkly uplifting work of Robin Mason.  He feeds a childhood journey across Germany, Böcklin’s ‘Isle of the Dead’, and Grünewald’s ‘Isenheim Alterpiece’ into etchings, sculptures, display sheds, video and above all paintings (Carroll Dunham meets Magritte would be my style summary) of great intensity. The artist makes an annual pilgrimage to Colmar: you only have to make it to 336 Brixton Road by 7 June for The Deepest Darkness by Robin Mason at Block 336.

The art or not-art total environment shuffle: Collectors Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm have taken over a 150 sq m former dairy, starting with the biggest UK show by the multi-faceted Swiss veteran John Armleder. He delights in hybridising genres, and has space for plenty here: a bar with colourful stools; a dozen glitterballs; shelves piled with video, lava lights, soft toys and more; paintings both mechanically patterned and chance-driven; wallpaper-like installations; floral displays; mirrors with guitar; heaps of light tubes, art books, sand, coal... all is sucked into his anti-hierarchical, boundary-challenging interface of art, decor, design and the stuff of life - a sort of B movie version of the familiar in which everything seems to be in a set designed for something else. John M Armleder: Quicksand at the Dairy Art Centre to 1 Sept.

Use the architecture: Mhairi Vari hangs her 'LOL Memory' spectacularly down 40 feet of stairwell in Domo Baal's home-like gallery space. The combination of stuffed neckties and men’s socks looks rather sadly phallic, but in fact – like most of Vari’s work – it also carries a scientific sub-text, being a model of primitive computer circuitry which required such intricate internal wiring it was  best produced by the Little Old Ladies who give the technique its acronymic title - and pick up, perhaps, on that deflation of the male. In the three artist conversation Flood/Ní Bhriain/Vari at domobaal to 18 May.

Let the work infest the whole space: the tactic suits Richard Woods as his faux wood-grains  etc already relate closely to design. More is certainly more in the total room in which souped-up mock Tudor runs brilliant riot. The elements include witty 'radiator sculptures' (designed to cover the heating elements) and prints based on off-cuts and left-overs which could have come from the rest of the installation. Richard Woods: DIY to 1 June at Alan Cristea.

Hide the Work: easy enough to do if it's small and designed to go beneath the radar (Fernanda Gomes at Alison Jacques has some beautiful examples of that just now) - but Bettina Pousttchi's transnational works at Hauser & Wirth are much the biggest  pieces in the show, and yet could be missed. ‘Piccadilly Windows’ use photographs of structural elements from timber-frame houses in her native Germany, rework  them into a Middle East style then apply the  resulting motifs to the nine windows of the main gallery. They combine particularly well with Monir Farmanfarmaian’s combinations of traditional Islamic mirror mosaics and reverse glass painting in Trade Routes to 27 July at Hauser & Wirth, Piccadilly.

Echo the themes: as in a system of wooden cabins complete with temporary seating, such as you’d find if you attended the world's biggest ski jump, the atmosphere of which is caught by Melanie Manchot’s series of films which concentrate on such matters as artificial snow machines, the skiers' preparations  and  a view of the judges looking out of their cabin without seeing what they're judging - all without any direct action in a psychological exploration which can also act as a parallel for the act of artistic creation. Melanie Manchot: LEAP After The Great Ecstasy to 1 June at  Carslaw St Lukes.


Spend Big Bucks. I say that, but given what it must have cost to put Antony Gormley's huge structures into the Bermondsey White Cube recently,  it probably seemed cheap to commission David Adjaye to custom-design the environment to hold  Julie Mehretu's  overlays of precisely-inked architectural elements, charcoal smears and coloured acrylic geometrics. Adjaye's structures help the monumental paintings to tower above and around the spectator like skyscrapers.  Julie Mehretu: Liminal Squared to 7 July at White Cube Bermondsey. That said, the show of thre young US-based phtographers Lucas Blalock, Matthew Boooth and Erin Shirreff is as good a reason to visit.

Make the best of what you have. Charlie Dutton doesn’t have much space, but - together with participant painter and curator Kate Lyddon - fits one work effectively in a cupboard, plays a video in a back room, and spins a head as if to take in the clutch of cheerfully subversive paintings by Aly Helyer, and  Cecilia Bonilla’s hypnotic video. Her 'Horseriding' takes aural control with extreme simplicity:  a succession of pictures from women's magazines are made to shudder up and down as a soundtrack of clip clopping provides an explanation without  preventing a more sexual one coming to the fore. We sell pornography here to 25 May at Charlie Dutton. What's more.Lyddon is curatorially involved in the equally good show at the Fold Gallery, which is covered in straw... 

Work on site : then there you have it, the most natural of installations. I like Samara Scott’s florid-pastel world which wrests pleasure from entropy, but has she successfully carved out a zone beyond the echoes of Karla Black? I’m not yet wholly sure, but the dozen sculptures tenuously-constructed out of such diverse materials as latticed silicon glue, sponges, latex, plastic bottles and peanuts in a former timber merchant's feel as if they were made for the space. Which they were… Samara Scott: Poems at Almanac to 2 June (photo Gary Didsbury)

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.