Sunday, 29 December 2013


On with the New, starting with the old. And, as it's cold, moving on to a fire and then to Venezuela, where the temperature reaches 30C most days in January. And then back to the old, with a list of favourites from 2013...

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879): Visions of Paris @ Royal Academy
The Laundress on the Quai d'Anjou, c. 1860–61

This 130 work survey of Daumier has to be seen. Though best known for his satirical cartoons - which are indeed punchy - equal weight is given to Daumier's parallel expressions of empathy for the lot of the poor in his financially less successful outpouring of sketches and paintings (such as the laundress with bundle and her child with clothes beater, above). They're all made from memory out of his experiences walking the streets of Paris - hence, perhaps, the intensity of their focus - and build on a brilliantly nervy, Giacometti-like drawing technique, not only to reflect on the burdens of social inequality and also to analyse the pleasures and foibles of the art world.

Aaron Young: Limited Exposure @  Massimo De Carlo gallery, 55 South Audley St - Mayfair

To 1 Feb:

Installation view with two 'Blowtorch Paintings'
Aaron Young is best known for ‘painting’ via motorbike tracks, but here’s a different triple whammy: psychologically charged images are printed onto sheets of aluminium folded as if for a giants' coke session; car bumpers (or ‘Spoilers’ in Young's  American English) are tinted and buffed to Juddesque perfection; and seven canvases are burnt and watered so that Yves Klein’s fire meets Warhol’s piss painting to yield delicate effects. Their variety, said Young, is down to the control of a nozzle with seven settings. These are studio works, but given a dark local presence by being named for our 2011 riot locations and mounted in a room which Young comprehensively prepared with his blow torch.


Not So Original @  Maddox Arts, 52 Brook's Mews - Mayfair

To 11 Jan:

Carlos Cruz-Diez: Sitges 1-4, 2012
At 90, Carlos Cruz-Diez continues not only to make work, but to find new ways of pursuing his investigations into the effect of viewer placement on the perception of colour. There is no pink in Sitges 1-4 above, as is obvious when the viewer gets close, yet hard to believe when a few feet away. He’s one of four Venezuelans in an excellent seven-artist look at how print-related techniques feed iteratively into wider practices: Jesus Soto is the other classic, with Emelia Sunyer’s lithographic style of pressing paint onto canvas and Cipriano Martinez’s print-paint dialogue showcasing a younger generation’s explorations.

Ricardo Alcaide: From Destruction to Abstraction @ New Art Projects, 17 Riding House St - Fitzrovia

To 31 Jan:

Fred Mann has rejigged and rebranded so that – though he himself will have a hard time not being Fred – his gallery is now New Art Projects.  The first show under that name sees Venezuelan Ricardo Alcaide take on South America’s maldistribution of wealth through would-be-minimalist stylings which turn out to relate to the makeshift shelters of Caracas’ homeless.  Those are the coloured shapes painted over the city’s plushest homes, as featured in the local edition of Wallpaper magazine. Downstairs, atmospheric black and white photographs of street detritus – a milk crate, a stack of wood, a polystyrene packing insert – stand in for whole modernist buildings, a mirror imaging of the logic upstairs and chiming neatly with the gallery’s 50’s staircase.


Simon Dybbroe Møller: Swallow Swallow Spit @ Laura Bartlett, 4 Herald St - Bethnal Green

To 26 Jan:

Negative Plate (Shrimp Linguine), 2013 -  porcelain plate, polyurethane resin, polyurethane varnish, silicone

Much as I like to walk into a favourite artist’s new show and feel at home, it may be even better when their practice gives you no idea what will come next: here, apparently real left-overs from meals – actually constructions  – are ranged around the walls as if Daniel Spoerri has turned to painterly abstraction; in the centre, four expressionistically unnatural people, made of concrete and lolling on blankets, turn out to be slathered mannequins complete with real racquets, skis or paddles depending on sporting preference.  Why? Simon Dybbroe Møller’s own parodic text points to the passivity of our engagement with what used to be active, from food as social media spectacle to sport as immobiliser of viewers – which oughtn’t to extend to not visiting his show in person.


I'll Be Your Mirror @ Herald St, 2 Herald St - Bethnal Green

To 19 Jan (closed 21.12 - 8.1):

Bernard Piffaretti: Untitled, 2013

This interesting show, being Part 2,  mirrors Part 1, which ran in September with different works by the same six artists. As before, the highlights are Michael Wilkinson’s Lego abstract (a white column then, a black square now, of thousands of bricks) and the best British chance to date to see one of my favourite French painters. There are three of Bernard Piffaretti’s 30 year stream of paintings in which he starts with a  vertical line, then aims twice at the same experience of painting, right side first. The bewitching results close in on mirror and diptych alike, while asking us to ponder whether the near-repetition negates or reaffirms the original.  


Leo Fitzmaurice: Post Match 1999 - Onwards @ Gallery S O, 92 Brick Lane - Whitechapel

To 26 Jan:

Leo Fitzmaurice's punnily titled collection of the tops of 300-odd fag packets, picked off the street by the artist and flattened into approximations of football shirts, proves a surprisingly rich cod-anthropological museum display of variably battered graphic design. The scatter of apposite names (Chelsea, Sky, Lucky Strike, Goal and Derby are all cigarette brands) also carries a subversive edge, as the implied sponsorship of shirts by tobacco companies would be illegal. Moreover, the 22 different designs on each table top would lead to a radically confusing line-ups of 11 vs. 11...


 Glass Cat 2 @  Wimbledon Space, Wimbledon College of Arts, Merton Hall Road

 10 Jan - 14 Feb:
William Waterhouse: Bubble

A cat watches a wine glass rotate as it’s spooked by light in Helen Maurer’s Prowler, a work which felt endangered at the private view - though why shouldn’t found objects return to circulation? - Danielle Arnaud’s Kensington redoubt. Yet this show, on tour with two extra artists and a text by Peter Suchin, picks up on the alchemy rather than the cat or the glass, notably in William Waterhouse’s beautiful bubble-making machine and Sarah Woodfine’s table of drawn sculptures of the ingredients – bat, chrysalis, root, frog – of a witch’s brew intended to incite the sensation of flight when ingested. The cause, according to Woodfine, would have been the palpitational effects of contrasts, a sense of which we do pick up in the stimulating mixture here.


Peter Lanyon: The Mural Studies @ Gimpel Fils, 30 Davies St – Mayfair

To 18 Jan: www.gimpelfils.icom

Yellow Centre, 1962
Both levels are given over to large and impressive preparatory works for the murals Peter Lanyon (1918-64) made during 1959-63 for Liverpool and Birmingham Universities and a New Jersey collector. His way of abstracting from a landscape to convey its sense of place and how it feels to move through or over it – as in the glider in which he crashed fatally -  translates fully to this format.  Perhaps one can go further and quote Heidegger: does Lanyon get at how ‘place places man in such a way that it reveals the external bonds of his existence and at the same time the depths of his freedom and reality’?


A New Objectivity: The Düsseldorf School of Photography @ Sǀ2, 31 St George St - Mayfair

To 17 Jan:

Andreas Gursky: Cocoon 1,2007

Sotheby’s new space Sǀ2 is for private sales, but can also be described as a pretty big show space. Up now is a 26 work survey of the Düsseldorf school of photography: the Bechers, Gursky, Struth, Ruff, Hütte and Höfer are all present and focused with their varying strategies of rigour.  I’d single out (‘quadruple out’?) Hütte’s dank forestscapes, Struth’s ability to find his characteristic perspectives even in constricted Venetian calles, Ruff’s complicated all-male black and white classicisations of pornography, and the obvious star: Gursky’s Cocoon 1, over 10 square meters of exacting hedonism.  


Universal Fragments: Conversations with Trevor Shearer @ Large Glass, 392 Caledonian Rd – Caledonian Rd & Barnsbury

To 24 Jan 2014:

Installation view: Jean-Luc Moulène ‘Model for Diving’ (2007), TREVOR SHEARER ‘Mental Exercises’ (2002) Plaster casts, and ‘Yellow Painting’ (2011).
What’s this? We’re fairly used to the humble’s homages to the famous, but here such luminaries as Miroslaw Balka, Jean-Luc Moulène and Tonico Lemos Auad put forward their own works as tributes designed to resonate with those of an artist of whom you may know nothing: Trevor Shearer (1958-2013) was an influential teacher but chose to show his own work very little. Yet it fully justifies his company: whether casting a basin from graph paper filming the hop, skip and vanish of a water drop on a hot plate; or pulling off the sculptural trick of seeming to hide behind the wall, his work is subtle, grounded and precise.

Images courtesy the relevant artists + galleries + Todd White (Aaron Young) + Alex Delfanne (Shearer)


It seemed to be a good year for double shows. Looking in no particular order at the geographically-constrained selection of what I actually saw (London unless stated) my favourites were:

Paulina Olowska: Pavilionesque Kunsthalle, Basel 
Paulina Olowska at Kunsthalle, Basel and Stedelijk, Amsterdam

Roy Lichtenstein: Foundation Vedova, Venice and Tate Modern

Sanja Iveković at Calvert 22 and the South London Gallery

Jean-Luc Moulène at Modern Art Oxford and Thomas Dane Gallery

Gerard Byrne at Whitechapel and Lisson Galleries

Andy Holden at Stanley Picker Gallery and Zabludowicz Collection


There were single showings, too. I particularly liked:

Danh Vo: Go Mo Ni Ma Da, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Danh Vo at Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris 

Richard Serra at the Courtauld

Mark Manders in the Dutch Pavilion, Venice

Frederico Barocci at the National Gallery

Thomas Grünfeld at the Museum Morsbroic, Leverkusen

Rudolf Stingel at the Palazzo Grassi, Venice

Sarah Lucas at the Whitechapel

Agostino Bonalumi at Robilant & Voena

Li Songsong at Pace

Honoré Daumier at the Royal Academy

Martin Kippenberger at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Berlin 

Shaun Gladwell: Cycles of Radical Will at the de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

Shaun Gladwell at the de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill Shunga at the British Museum

Shana Moulton in performance at the Royal Collage of Art

Paul Klee and Mira Schendel at Tate Modern

Ciprian Muresan at Plan B, Berlin

Christopher Williams  at David Zwirner

Shunga at the British Museum

Shunga: from the unknown 17th century sequence in which a nun discovers a priest in a bag

I didn't think about it in compiling, but have only just noticed that Bedford's finest, Andy Holden, turns out to be the sole British artist on the list and only 5/20ish are women... I could have corrected some of that by including shows I curated (Maria Marshall: Voluntarie Service; and It's About Time) or wrote catalogues for (Young Gods, Alzbeta Jaresova, Alison Gill, Phil Illingworth, Daniel Lergon). 

Friday, 20 December 2013



Installation shots, poster with Pernille's call for clocks, and Vici Macdonald's widely admired catalogue design


The fourteen artists in this exhibition all make work which explores how different timescales can operate simultaneously in an artwork, leaving us to deduce their purposes.  They operate in four main ways:
  • building more than one timescale into an image; Bennett, Hornby, Hudson, Marin
  • the strategy of ‘recreating’ one time in another; Buskova, d’Arcimoles
  • building the representation of time into a work; Niederberger, Holm Mercer, Collins, Gill, Charalambous, Thompsett
  • making visible the time which passes in the making of the work  Smykla, Neelova
Overall, the show seemed popular. from our point of view as curators that was partly planned - the themes dealt with and how they interacted, Bela Emerson becoming the soundtrack - and partly accidental: most of the work was made for the show, and we hadn't realised just how many animals there would turn out to be (hundreds of birds, 66 rabbits, several bears, a pack of wolves, a horse, a hare, and leopard skin motifs) nor how much wood and images of trees. The result was an enchanted forest...  

All the artists are British-based, but the show has the international feel typical of London art, with the  Russian (Neelova), Czech (Buskova), German (Smykla), French (d'Arcimoles), Danish (Holm Mercer), Swiss (Niederberger) and Chilean (Marin) presences making up more than half the artists.

Emma Bennett’s classically-styled oils fan out from the present to bring several timeframes into a stilled coherence: motifs sourced from 18th century paintings, abstract expressionist spills (made by moving around furniture polish on the canvas, which she manipulates on the floor), and the black void – of the future, perhaps – through which a bizarre yet art-historically linked conjunction falls in in Thief of Time. The title is from Dylan Thomas ('Grief thief of time crawls off / The moon-drawn grave, with the seafaring years'...). She has recently added fire and cascading water to her repertoire of fruit, flowers, birds and boats: transformative elements which add to the ambiguous balance always present in her explorations of mortality and transience.

The video room presents a 50 minute show reel of the five short films to date in which the Czech artist Tereza Buskova has made the costumes and props, directed the actor-dancers, and combined traditional Bohemian rituals with artistic reinterpretations and inventions.  Sex, power, sisterhood, fertility and motherhood in Buskova’s home village are to the fore in Wedding Rituals (2007), Forgotten Marriage (2008), Spring Equinox (2009), Masopust (2010) and Baked Woman of Doubice (2012). The moving heraldic tableaux are wordless, the heady atmosphere heightened by haunting, cello-heavy soundtracks as they oscillate seamlessly between past and present. The most recent film's central action is  the baking of shaped breads which are placed on the naked, supine body of the striking Zoë Simon – a frequent collaborator of Buskova, who works in an inclusive manner to bring together the contributions of performers, composer and fellow-artists. A trip to is highly recommended.

Andy Charalambous, originally trained as a physicist and engineer, and worked at CERN for some years, brings that background to bear in his installation.  Tic-Toc puts human time and its implied subjectivity into direct interaction with scientific time and its supposed objectivity.  He has made a kinetic piece, consisting of a plinth, on which there is a horizontal slice of a tree trunk.  Sitting on the centre of this trunk is an hourglass filled with the artist’s blood (he persuaded the hospital at which he gives blood regularly to take a little extra by convincing them that, if they didn't, he would adopt amateur methods).  The hourglass, heart-height and driven by a visible motor, rotates every two minutes – often enough, he says, that you’ll see it, rarely enough that you’ll still be surprised. 

Susan Collins has set up a camera on the 9th floor of Erlang House, which is due to overlook the city skyline for a year as the Cheese Grater and Walkie-Talkie are finished, joining The Shard and the more established elements of an ever-changing skyline. The broadcast image operates one pixel at a time from the top left, so that we see the history of each day captured in one image – it’s a 23 hour scene.  The view is, then, deconstructed and reconstructed into something which represents more than a straightforward photograph, even while their accumulation will capture a year of the parallel deconstruction and reconstruction of the city. You may have caught her related pixelscape project which filmed the sea, and brought together the various views at the de la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. 
Clarisse d’Arcimoles: Naddy Photomaton (My grandmother)
We’re all used to how photography memorialises, but can it be used to actively connect with the past? That’s what Clarisse d’Arcimoles attempts through her project Un-possible Retour. She reconstructs the past into the present by re-photographing family photographs, placing herself and others in the same settings years later. The effect is at once comic, mournful and touching; and contrasts the spontaneous with the staged. Of course, the project won’t turn back time – but for all its poignancy, that need undermine the attempt no more than  the certainty of ultimate failure stops us trying to stay young. Here she shows Religieuse (Self-portrait),  Naddy Photomaton (My grandmother),  Camille (My sister), Contact Sheet (My mother), Carnaval (My brother), Dad and  In the bath (Mother and sister) 

A lapine multiplicity threatens to take over the gallery in Alison Gill’s Fibonacci Rabbit Generator (WildTime version), 2001/13. This is the wild version in that the rabbits are scattered around the space, whereas previously they were set out in regimented rows according to the Fibonacci Sequence. Each of the identical cast modules represent a pair of mating bunnies, arranged in sets and in total to correspond to a Fibonacci number [e.g. 1 white, 2 orange, 3, 5, 8, 13 purple, 21, 34], providing a glimpse into  infinity through a hypothetical – though unrealistic - model of nature. The model makes sense because Fibonacci sequences have indeed been shown to underlie many patterns of natural growth. The unreality comes from the failure in this case to build in such counter-conditions as disease or competition for food. None of which takes away from the feral, colourful and rather cheeky abandon of the creatures going at it like, well, rabbits.


Nick Hornby:  'The mingled measure / Beware of Greeks bearing gifts / All roads lead to Rome / walls and towers were girded round / An elephant never forgets / Never fight an inanimate object / It is always better to be slightly underdressed' - rapid prototyping in laser-sintered white nylon, 2011
Nick Hornby has previously combined sculptures from different artists and times to create hybrids which are at once teasing puzzles and provocative bases for comparison. Here he takes a similarly crosscutting and unrestrained approach to the history of architecture, presenting both models of unrealised sculptural proposals and a rotating 360-degree carousel of images constructed out of their amalgamation. The video morphs between coherent form and fragmentation as it overlaps the artist’s own designs with those of the existing buildings. Hornby sees this as referencing folly and failure as it draws together Postmodernism and ruin.His titles are also collages, eg the 16 minute film is called

An arch never sleeps 
That phantom-world so fair
A thousand circlets spread, 
And each mis-shape the other  
Don't spend time beating on a wall, 
hoping to transform it into a door

‘An arch never sleeps’ is an Indian proverb. Lines 2-5 are from Shelley, the last two from Coco Coco Chanel.

Alex Hudson: Blue Pool, 2013

Alex Hudson has previously used a naggingly nostalgic near-monochrome technique to conflate timescales and set up the potential to reach spaces beyond the scene depicted by introducing modernist incursions - such as a geometric white form - into a classical landscape. His new stream of work, represented by Blue Pool and Another Country Back Water broadens the colour, albeit with the hues of 1950s films, and makes the incursions more narratively rich – and apocalyptic?  We seem to hesitate on the edge of the modern world. Are we taking the plunge or not? And is there really an option?

Livia Marin’s shows two works from the series Solihull and three from Soft Toys. Both reference an antique technique of ceramic restoration that used gold. The broken tales on more value than the whole? For Solihull, Marin uses gold thread to stitch over a photograph of a fragmented object, its completion drawing together loss and care, beauty and ruin in the context of seventeen years of oppressive dictatorship in her home country of Chile – she was born on the day of Pinochet’s take-over in 1973.  In the Soft Toys series, second-hand ‘cuddly toys’ are covered in successive layers of plaster and gesso and the final layer is gilded. Are we to read this, though, as a protection for the nostalgia of childhood or as covering up some darker memories?  

Anyone who’s ever felt stranded on their own out-of-synch island of time will connect with Pernille Holm Mercer’s presentation of clusters of alarm clocks – Retro Race -  hovering just above the floor and set up to race each other. Thus, underlying differences in their accuracy will come to the fore over the period of the show, illustrating thereby one aspect of time’s subjectivity. The 24 islands - half mousemat, half tropical jungle, fully aware of their tackiness -  each contain a threat of sorts, though it’s not clear whether that’s by reference to bomb-making devices or simply the danger of being woken up BIG time…

Russian-born Nika Neelova has moved countries every five years of her 25. That feels germane to her creation of sculptures which derive from selected past and hypothetical future narratives, referencing the disillusionment of a future in which this present shifts into a state of disrepair. Architecture, as she says, ‘outlives its creators and those who have inhabited it, so a sense of commemoration is built into it’. Her sculpture The Principles of Infinity uses the banisters from a flight of stairs from demolished houses, polished by the many hands of former inhabitants.  Neelova says she’s aiming to show Bergson’s concept of time as physical duration (as opposed to clock measurement) – time which unfolds in the subconscious, relies on the rhythms of individual perception, and so is unmeasurable.

Christina Niederberger’s extraordinary painting The Time is Now (cuckoo clock version) comprises 12 canvases, each almost 3 metres long. Each represents one hour in an exhaustive schema of 60 clock faces which cover every possible arrangement of the clock’s hands. If that sounds like heavy serialist minimalism, though, not so – the clocks are rather baroque, and Niederberger has painted onto them not just the sequence of hands, but a cheerful burst of cuckoo on the hours. However you want to think about it – through Heraclitus, Newton, Kant, Bergson, Einstein, Heidegger or Michael Dummett, the most prominent philosopher to espouse the possibility of causation running backwards – all time is here.  



Time isn’t easily caught, but Harald Smykla  makes impressive attempts through his ‘Movie Protocols’,  in which  the pictographic shorthand notation of a film, created in real time while watching it, makes for what he has called ‘a kind of reverse story-board’. In Smykla’s extremely active approach to the potentially passive act of movie watching, he attempts to make a graphic record of every single shot; and as Buskova’s Baked Woman of Doubice is only nine minutes long, Smykla was able to record it six times over on the opening evening, setting up a visual demonstration of how we never watch quite the same film twice. 

Movie Protocol – Baked Woman of Doubice - detail

Dolly Thompsett: The Dead Wolf, 2013

Dolly Thompsett has her own way of layering histories. Her hallucinatory scenes play off and reuse a ground of patterned textiles to ambiguate the spaces of an aesthetic which hovers between Victoriana and Hollywood, throwing any number of times and places into the mix in passing. Layers of resin, with paint under and over them, enable the form to enact a parallel process. If, as she has suggested, they reflect her own mental state, then it’s complicated in there! The Dead Wolf is something of a departure, enfolding a lupine life cycle rather than historical eras, and so linking to Alison Gill’s generational theme.
Curators Christina Niederberger and Paul Carey-Kent
Pernile Holm Mercer at the opening 
Tereza Buskova and her lead actress Zoe Simon talk to Alison Gill

Nika Neelova with her sculpture

Clarisse d'Arcimoles' gallerists Jospehine Breese and Henry Little with her work
Steph Carey-Kent, Bella Easton and dog...

Chistina Niederberger and Susan Collins inspect the publication

Dolly Thompsett
Curator's Tour, 29 November
Particular thanks to the artists, Darren O'Brien and all at ASC, Vici Macdonald for the wonderful catalogue design and Marguerite Horner for several of the photos above...

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.