Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Kehinde Wiley: China Samantha Nash, 2013

The Frieze effect - lots of interesting shows - lasts well into November, so here we have a system of 'bonus balls': each of my ten choices has another exhibition nominated as a connection. There also seems to be a lot of pattern around, at its most extreme in Kehinde Wiley's  Morris-on-acid backgrounds at Stephen Friedman, which leads me to more William Morris more pattern and more wallpaper...

William Morris: Pink and Rose, 1890
 Kate Owens: A Mangy Gherkin on a Horse-Dung Ground @ Limoncello, 340-44 Kingsland Rd - Haggerston

From the Department of Dead Ends (Pink & Rose), 2013 - 7-Colour Blockprint 

The press release for this show is a play, adapted from a 1954 story, in which children describe their painting activities. The results of their activity have been semi-successfully washed off one wall, leaving a smeared landscape of sorts. Meanwhile, the children’s efforts to wash their own hands afterwards seem to have left a row of soaps tending towards the soap fate of zero, but currently coloured by their efforts. Another removal occurs in paintings as internal décor: the sequence ‘From the Department of Dead Ends’ presents just the faint marks of border mis-registrations from hand-printed blocksof William Morris wallpapers – iconically recognisable from mere hints. They may have lined the houses of those mid-50’s parents…

Bonus ball: Kate Owens also has quietly prominent work in a lively group show at the vast and admirable artist-run Block 336 in Brixton. 

Lalla Essaydi: Beyond Beauty @  Kashya Hildebrand Gallery, 22 Eastcastle St – Fitzrovia

Harem #2, 2009
Lalla Essaydi’s retrospective exhibition is  Kashya Hildebrand’s third show since taking over the former Regina space. The Moroccan photographer’s large format works lay pattern upon pattern and transpose female on male domains: for example, the feminine medium of henna is used to apply traditionally masculine calligraphy to the odalisques’ skin. The effect is visual, but the writing actually covers the lives - as well as veiling the bodies - of Essaydi’s subjects. Sometimes the background pattern is more text, sometimes the charged architectural intricacies of the harem, and at others, thousands of repurposed bullets. Add the identity-shifts of her own move west and a critique of Orientalism, and Essaydi starts to build a pattern-matching complexity of themes.

Bonus Ball: the group show ‘Long ago, and not true anyway’, curated by Jaime Marie Davies and Pierre d’Alancaises at Waterside Contemporary, a quite different but also fascinating exploration of national origins and identity, has been extended to 16 Nov .

Artists Anonymous: System of a Dawn @ Berloni, 63 Margaret St – Fitzrovia
To 14 Dec:  www.berlonigallery.com

Sadie Coles’ ex-disco? Victoria Miro with its auto-sliding door? Yes, very impressive – but the most surprising high impact new space must be the Fitzrovian reinvention of the comparatively modest East End EB & Flow. The Berlin collective Artists Anonymous take gleeful advantage of the five rooms available – some of it temporarily, with just three weeks notice. In a sequence of immersive environments, outside comes in – there’s a grassy garden with a brook big enough to justify a bridge – the right angles are wrong, and positives turn to negatives – not just between paintings (each of which they pair with a photographic ‘after image’) but in whole wallpapered rooms. Or is it vice versa? You won’t know whether you’re coming or going, but Berloni has definitely arrived.

Bonus ball: There’s grass at Riflemaker, too, where Stuart Pearson Wright presents a very elemental sex, birth, death triptych set in a ‘blue room’ constructed with enough distortion to make its occupants look slightly out of true. 


Andy Holden: Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity, 1999-2003: Towards a Unified Theory of M!IMS @ the Zabludowicz Collection to 15 Dec

Andy Holden is known for his erudite yet knock-about lectures, and he extends the approach to occupy the whole of the Zabulowicz space with a total environment incorporating a full-length collage film distributed in bite-sized sequences, plus many found and made works. The topic – and his putative art movement – is ‘Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity’, an ironic use of irony whereby one moves beyond mocking the uncool to enjoy it in new terms:  cue mini golf, T-shirts as paintings, kissing on public sculptures, cheesy singing, saccharine images of childhood and cod Marxism. As ever with Holden, it’s purposeful, intellectual, and a hoot.

Bonus Ball: I feel a connection of spirit between Holden and the riotous Sarah Lucas retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery.

Rob Pruitt: The Suicide Paintings @ Massimo de Carlo, 55 South Audley St
Rob Pruitt, he of the panda paintings, and the traffic cone men at Frieze, has a new show. It’s empty and unoriginal. That’s not, perhaps, enough to drive you to kill yourself (though Pruitt thoughtfully provides a wall for you to jump off, just in case) but why should you enjoy it? Well, even though you’ll have seen the main ideas before – let’s bling up some old TVs to return some value to consumerist redundancy; let’s paint monochromes which vibrate with computer-style colour phasing – you won’t have encountered them executed with such scale and panache. What we have here, in short, is – pace Andy Holden – a perfect demonstration of Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity. 

Bonus Ball: Lutz Bacher's 'Black Beauty' at the ICA has something of the same urge to push to extremes: the floor covered in coal dust, the walls vibrating, a rotating horse...

 Annelies Štrba: Selected Work 2002 – 2012 at Gallery SO, 92 Brick Lane - Whitechapel

To 24 Nov:  www.galleryso.com
Niyima 434

Come this century the Swiss video artist and photographer Annelies Štrba (born 1947) had moved on from black and white family documentation to hyper-intense layerings of female figures in landscapes, rendered drug-bright in post-production. Nowadays, Štrba’s heady mix of psyche, Bathus, literature and Tichy often uses her grandchildren rather than her children as models. The underpublicized SO Gallery has 33 images, many large format. For this image from the Nyima – that’s Tibetan for ‘sun’ - series a girl sleeps in nature, dreaming perhaps of Štrba’s own ‘fairy tales of the unconscious’.

Bonus Ball: German artist Karen Stuke (at the Wapping Project) also blurs photographs, but to explore memory rather than dreams – specifically WG Sebald’s archaeology of a past in Austerlitz


Danh Vo @ PEER, 97/99 Hoxton St

4 Oct – 7 Dec: www.peeruk.org

This is the first British showing of what look like minimalist sculptures or ancient fragments, but are actually elements from Berlin-based Danish/Vietnamese conceptualist Danh Vo’s recasting of the Statue of Liberty. They're life size, and use copper sheets just as thin (only 2.5mm) as the original. It was the fragility of the icon of freedom which first drew Danh Vo to it. Now he’s spreading the Chinese-manufactured pieces around the world like the American version of democracy or imperialism: they’ve impressed me in New York and Paris, and 26 of the 200 pieces made to date are at Peer.

Bonus Ball: Hales Gallery has Frank Bowling's vast (close to 7 x 3 metres) map paintings, unseen since the early seventies - the best view you'll get of the world around which Dabh Vo's pieces are being spread.


Clare Kenny: Yesterday’s labour is the Future’s folly @ Vitrine Gallery, 183-5 Bermondsey St – Bermondsey

Basel-based Mancunian Clare Kenny is first to show in Vitrine’s new street level space, and she’s already plastered the pristine wall with faux bricks and added a column made of a giant rolled-up photograph. Kenny often makes photographs sculptural, here also folding them, punching holes in them, re-photographing and refolding them as in the city views above, hugging them into boulder-like forms. Other work extends the ways in which things are not what they seem and hints at her experience as a decorator: her spray paintings look like photographs; and iron trellises - from which she hangs neon and a degraded photograph -
are made to look like granite.

Bonus Ball: for another new space and more spray painting – both on a much bigger scale – go to Ryan Sullivan at Sadie Coles.


William Tillyer: The Watering Place @ Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Palmer IX, Clouds Dropping Fatness On The Earth
The Interface Falling Sky Series, 2012
William Tillyer's 75th birthday show sees him ramp up the scale of his paintings on wire mesh - which orginate in cross-hatching -  and make the mesh finer: it's hardly visible from a distance, and we begin to wonder when a grid becomes a weave. This lends a pixelated-come-pointillist effect to the pressing of paint through the grid from behind, as Tillyer engages with the  traditions of the landscape and of the set of variations in two groups of six paintings which take off spontaneously from Rubens' 'The Watering Place' and a great quote from Samuel Palmer's journal: 'Clouds Dropping Fatness on the Earth'. NB: go to http://abstractcritical.com/article/william-tillyer-interview for Francesca Simon's absorbing interview with Tillyer ahead of his major show in Middlesborough. 

Bonus Ball: a different grid drives the Boyle Family's world series: the map of the world from whihc they randonlt derived 1,000 sites to cast in 1968: they're still at it, and the Vigo Gallery has the original map as well as the latest results of the process. 


Agostino Bonalumi: all the shapes of space 1958-1976 @ Robilant + Voena, 38 Dover Street - central

To 15 November: www.robilantvoena.com

It's a bit of a mystery why Agostino Bonalumi (1935-2013) is less well-known here, not just than Fontana and Manzoni, but also than the relatively formulaic Castellani. This spectacular show may put that right, including as it does a wide range of the shaped canvases from his key period. They generate a surprising variety of mood and impact through colour, shape and material variations. Plus a fully sculptural piece, some beautiful development studies, and the first British showing of 1967’s walk-in installation Inhabitable Blue

Bonus Ball:  John Carter, similarly beneath the radar on the boundary of painting and sculpture, shows at both the RA (works on paper) The Redfern Gallery (40 new works).


Clay Ketter: See What I Mean @ Bartha Contemporary, 25 Margaret St - Fitzrovia

Angel, 2004, painted MDF, glass

What does the Swedish-based American Clay Ketter mean by his gleaming white in white show of  Kitchen Variants inspired by furniture catalogues, his stack of plasterboard, his application of the golden section to beautifully milky 60% transparent perspex cabinets with iron pipes through the back? I think he means to undermine minimalism by conflating it with furniture and the warehouse, whilst at the same time paying tribute to the root of its original emergence: that old manoeuvre, in other words, which I rather like here, of having your cake and eating it. 

Bonus Ball: Oliver Michaels' rather different subversion of minimalist forms at Cole sees him collaborate with a fashion designer and a cake decorator to cover the sleekness.

It’s About Time @ ASC Gallery, Erlang House, 128 Blackfriars Rd - Southwark

To 21 Dec: .www.ascstudios.co.uk

Susan Collins: London, 15th September 2013 at 10.45 am
Here no fewer than fourteen excellent artists are packed into a strong conceptual framework – the use of multiple time perspectives within a single work – and pepped up by a little wildness.  Susan Collins’ entrancingly alienating 24 hours-at-a-time videocasts across the London skyline, Nika Neelova’s repurposing of hand-worn bannisters and Tereza Buskova’s five films of Bohemian traditions rebooted are highlights, but I could have chosen any of the others. Is it about time to admit that Christina Niederberger and I curated this show?
Bonus ball: Laure Genillard has an impactful group show 'exploding utopiα'. Its exploration of explosive materials and effects is strong on film: below is a suitably firy performance by the Bow Gamelan Ensemble. 

Images courtesy the relevant artists + galleries + Peter White FXP Photograph (Vo)

Friday, 4 October 2013


What to choose in such a busy month? Most major spaces have a smaller gallery nearby. And so I start with a few small shows close to rather bigger venues with which they might well be combined. Only in passing, then, do I mention that the Tates, Hayward, Camden, Serpentine, Sadie Coles, Hauser & Wirth, Victoria Miro, David Zwirner etc have new shows well worth seeing. Let's start near - not to mention in, the Royal Academy...

Mark Tobey @ Thomas Williams Fine Art – near the Royal Academy

Untitled, 1970
Mark Tobey (1890-1976) may have roamed the world - living in Wisconsin, New York (where he converted to faith-unifying Bahá'í religion in 1918), Japan, Seattle and Basel – but he developed trend-preceding ‘white writing’ style of all-over abstraction in Devon in the mid-thirties. Yet he’s rarely shown  here, making this 30-strong presentation of his multi-layered, ethereal paintings and drawings a rare treat. Tobey aimed to use line to unify nature, science and art, with results akin to abstract expressionism with the brash heroics replaced by meditative intimacy. Moreover, this is not just near the RA’s Australian survey, but in the same building as George Grosz at Richard Nagy. What more could you want, a free catalogue? OK then…


Art of the Curious @ Colnaghi Old Masters, 15 Old Bond St – near the Royal Academy

To 25 Oct: www.colnaghi.co.uk

Steffen Dam:  Flower Block
It’s the current fashion to theme shows around the Wunderkammer: the last Documenta, the current Venice Biennale, Rosemary Trockel’s recent Serpentine show, the Arts Council  touring shows now at Margate and Bexhill…  Colnaghi’s take is two rooms as big cabinets with actual cabinets inside them. It’s a happy combination of ancient discoveries and current riffs on the: Jonathan Delafield Cook’s lifesize charcoal detailing of a narwhal tusk next to the real thing; Steffen Dam’s technically amazing specimens in jars, all out of glass, by vintage pickled animals; Natasha Daintry’s use of blue underglazing to make tattooed vases alongside their Ming and Delft inspirations. And pretty close to White Cube’s Ham Steimbach show, in which he presents objects, not on his usual shelves, but in cabinets… 


Li Songsong: We Have Betrayed the Revolution @ Pace, 6 Burlington Gardens – same building as Royal Academy

It’s not easy to achieve a wow factor in straight painting, but the vast, multi-panelled constructions of leading Chinese Li Songsong do just that in his first major London showing – and with a conceptual purpose. Appropriated images are divided up into units which Li Songsong tackles separately, painting them so thickly they tend towards abstraction. Recombined, the balance of fragmentation and unity suggests the complexities and ambiguities involved in China’s political history and rapidly changing society.


Ciara Phillips: Workshop (2010-ongoing) @ The Showroom, 63 Penfold St – near the Lisson Gallery

To 30 Nov: www.theshowroom.org

Ciara Phillips, a Glasgow-based printmaker who turns her skills to context-specific and collaborative ends, will be resident at The Showroom for two months, engaging in its programme’s characteristic community engagement. All that’s built on a very smart show already in situ: a twelve metre abstract swathe bearing months of printing acts as stage curtain, while multiple silkscreenings of letters and shapes are set against a wallpaper of wrists wearing sellotape as bangles: the artist dressed in her tools.  And all a handy couple of streets from Tatsuo Miyajima counting down life at the Lisson Gallery.


Sara MacKillop: 45 wpm  @ The Mews Project Space, 15 c Osborn Street, Aldgate East – back of the Whitechapel Gallery
Saturdays / by appointment to 26 Oct: www.the-mews.org

Calendar, 2010

Suppose you plan to go to Sarah Lucas’ retrospective at the Whitechapel. Good idea – but why not go on a Saturday, and pop round the back to a succinct retrospective from Sara MacKillop, retro-minimalist of office life? The main theme is the typewriter, ,manuals on for which get into sculptural modes, ribbons from which fall down the walls, books on which include one on Oldenburg’s soft version. But there’s also a chance to browse twenty of MacKillop’s own booklets, elegantly re-purposing envelopes, coloured pencils, faded paper, photocopied instructions and strips of lottery tickets as quietly insistent art.

Jo Addison: Not Trees and People @ Tintype, 107 Essex Rd, Islington – near the Estorick Collection

 To 26 Oct: www.tintypegallery.com

Cloud, 2013
Tintype opens its new space with Jo Addison’s gently satisfying sculptural tweaks in pursuit of the essence of things. A jesmonite cloud seems to carry the memory of being rained on by a rainbow; the conundrum of ‘Knotty’, in which thread life pokes  through cracks,  is enlivened by what sounds like the interesting new material ‘ply, wool’;  ‘Borl’ could be its homophone, but cut to pieces and mis-reconstructed as geometry. Look out, too, for Addison next up 5-6 Oct –see housemcdonaldwatson.wordpress.com ) in Alex McDonald and Anne-Marie Watson’s innovative weekend-long shows located in artists’ houses.  


Maria Marshall: Voluntarie Service @ 102 Gifford St, N1 - near Large Glass

8 - 31 Oct (call first 07462342174): www.mariamarshall.com

The Crucifixion, 2008
If you think there’s a God, how do you solve the problem of the evil He allows? You must, I think, believe in free will and the existence of a comparably powerful Devil. One virtue of Milton’s epic Paradise Lost is how powerfully it dramatises those necessities. I don’t believe in God, but Maria Marshall does, and it’s that sense of what underlies apparent innocence which gives her films, which often feature her children, their edge. Here Marshall follows a museum retrospective in Brussels with a concentrated selection of painting, film and photography in a temporary space at the end of the road where she lives. True, Charlotte Schepke's Large Glass is no behomoth, but it's very close and also interesting.

Rachel Reupke: Wine & Spirits @ Cell Project Space, 258 Cambridge Heath Road – near Wilkinson

The tricky subject of dull evenings down the pub is introduced by Rachel Reupke’s deadpan drawings of beer at Cell, which let on to a twenty minute film with long near-static shots of people drinking, and no sound – all dialogue is by captions after the speech acts. So why watch? The images are based on advertisements for alcohol, the speed is that of a bad date, and for all drink’s reputation for lifting inhibitions, body language and words indicate that communication is failing. It makes for a curiously hypnotic pairing of alcoholic consumption and romantic love as less than satisfactory products of ideologies. Maybe you should both go – it might give you something to talk about… And close to the excellent Phoebe Unwin show at Wilkinson.


Martin John Callanan: Departure of All @ noshowspace, 13 Gibralter Walk - Hoxton

To 26 Oct: www.noshowspace.com

At any one time some 400,000 people are flying: Martin John Callanan’s first solo show at noshow gives us the environmentally troubling details via a worldwide live departures board on which 20-50 planes per minute (depending on the time of day) trump memories of long waits for one particular flight to come up. The elegantly futile representation of data skimmed off the top of complex underlying systems or events is also seen in Callanan’s newspaper listing all the wars, conflicts, rebellions, insurgencies during his lifetime – as classified, in case you wonder at the differences, by the UN.

Michael Ajerman: Squash @ Transition, Unit 25a Regent Studios8 Andrews Road - Cambridge Heath 

To 27 October 2013: www.transitiongallery.co.uk


London-based New Yorker Michael Ajerman has said he aims at ‘aggressive surface control’ in his paintings, which are typically  psychologically dark with a twist of wit. Half this show consists of  half of the ten results to date of an annual ritual he has adopted: painting a pumpkin. A breathing space which acknowledges his home country, they’re fluid and variable. My favourite, titled for being rotten, had a power drill taken to its meaty slump. Ten notes from time’s passing in exile?

Images courtesy the relevant artists and galleries.

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.