Sunday, 13 April 2014


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 50: ‘Volcano in the Garden’

Vulkan im Garten 2013 130x110cm Kasein auf Leinwand Rosa Loy Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 50: ‘Volcano in the Garden’
Rosa Loy: ‘Volcano in the Garden’, 2013

One door closes another door opens… Although a number of meritorious small galleries have closed recently, there’s a new trend towards auction houses putting on curated exhibitions of selling art as if, in effect, they’re commercial galleries who don’t represent artists. Primary sites for this activity are Christies Mayfair, its former Haunch of Venison premises on New Bond Street, and the nearby S|2, opposite Sotheby’s auction rooms. S|2 has featured the Düsseldorf School of photography, and currently (to 23 May) presents ‘This Side of Paradise’, a survey of 16 European painters which focuses on slightly less famous artists from Leipzig (not Rauch but Baumgärtel, Eitel, Weischer…) and Cluj (not Ghenie but Bercea, Savu, Suciu…) as the current centres of a style said to be ‘simultaneously desiring to be in the thick of things’ and yet ‘criticise those who sustain them’. The highlight is at the German end: two new visions from Rosa Loy’s oneirically allegorical all-female world, including the masterly (mistressly?) Vulcano in the Garden. I love the fan and was unfazed by Sotheby’s spelling the title wrongly, and so calling Vulcan, god of fire, directly to mind. Christies has recently featured a huge, if ramshackle, collection of pop art, and has just pulled the plugs on ‘Turn Me On’, a very enjoyable survey of 50s-70’s kinetic art. That included Günther Uecker’s dancer – characteristically covered with nails, but with the fresh spin that they blur out of sharpness when the cheerful ballroom fetish starts to whirl around. Next up in May: Polke ft. Richter.

uecker new york dancer Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 50: ‘Volcano in the Garden’ Günther Uecker: ‘New York Dancer’ (1966)

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in Surrey. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

ART STUFF on a train # 49: ‘Before and After the Internet’

Carolyn Thompson: My Funny Valentine 2013
 ‘Post-internet Art’ – a current buzz-term meaning work informed by the web, rather than anticipating its demise – is well represented in London now in shows by Camille Henrot (Chisenhale), Hito Steyerl (ICA) and Trisha Baga (Anita Zabludowicz). Yet there’s still a perverse pleasure to be taken in the art of altering and deconstructing the old-fashioned book, and Carolyn Thompson is among the most imaginative such practitioners. Her recent show at the Eagle Gallery (Feb-March) focussed on Penguin’s Great Loves group of publications. Full stops are joined by lines to form the tangled analogue web of a seduction from Kierkegaard’s ‘Seducer’s Diary’; in ‘Gasping for Breath’ we see pages from Anaïs Nin in which the female character has an orgasm, but with only the punctuation left to hint at what hardly suits words; and, most strikingly, Freud’s Deviant Love grows hair on every page, laboriously glued in place to emphasise the terms which he regards as expressing aberrations: neurotic exhibitionist voyeur etc. Thompson’s title, My Funny Valentine’, suggests an overture proposing the fulfilment of impressively varied desires. Thompson also channels the scopophiliac aspect of art appreciation, and picks up on one of Freud’s examples in his account of ‘fetishism’ as when ‘what is substituted for the sexual object is some part of the body (such as the foot or hair) which is in general very inappropriate for sexual purposes, or some inanimate object which bears an assignable relation to the person whom it replaces’. The Internet has, of course, proved ideal for such interests…

CAROLYN THOMPSON My Funny Valentine front ART STUFF on a train # 49: ‘Before and After the Internet’

                                   Carolyn Thompson: My Funny Valentine 2013

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 48: ‘Positively Completed’

ww milroy comp Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 48: ‘Positively Completed’
My choice of Lisa Milroy at WW Gallery 
  During 2008-12 London saw a recession and an apparently counter-cyclical increase in the number of contemporary galleries. Now, as we’re said to be emerging from our economic woes, galleries are closing. More bullish landlords putting up rents are one factor, plus perhaps the failure of the improving economy to boost sales as hoped. That’s included some of the best small spaces run by female gallerists. The harbinger, in retrospect, may have been the closure of Poppy Sebire (2009- Jan 13), followed by Danielle Horn and Marie Favier’s Nettie Horn (2007- July 13); Lucy Newman Cleeve’s Man & Eve (2006- Dec 13); Chiara Williams and Debra Wilson’s WW (2008-14 - still running occasional projects but not its former gallery space); Raphaëlle Bischoff and Paola Weiss’s Bischoff / Weiss (2005-14); and, completing this particular circle, Ceri Hand, who started her eponymous gallery (2008-14) in Liverpool and was the successor tenant to Poppy in Southwark. We could look at that negatively, but I’d sooner celebrate them all as successfully completed projects – the essences of which may well re-emerge in other forms, along with their energetic visionaries. Indeed, I could have added Megan Piper: her innovative Piper Gallery ran only for 2012-13, but she’s moved on swiftly to campaign for the London Sculpture Line. Certainly there was nothing mournful about the last shows at WW, which included 65 dress paintings by Lisa Milroy which could be taken from the rails and hung to taste by the visitor; nor at Bischoff / Weiss, where Rana Begum’s fold brought a forward-looking back-glow to even the darkest of frontages…
FOld 447 2013 raan Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 48: ‘Positively Completed’ 
Rana Begum: Fold 447, 2013 at Bischoff / Weiss

ART STUFF on a train # 47: ‘Material Realities’

boua untitled 2014 ART STUFF on a train # 49: ‘Material Realities’  
Armand Boua: Untitled, 2014

The use of surprising materials – from tyres to tadpoles to tampons – has long been a central feature of contemporary art, yet the novelties keep on coming. Two Africans currently showing in London are good examples. Young Ethiopian Ephrem Solomon (‘Untitled Life’ at Tiwani Contemporary to 29 March) makes woodcuts, but doesn’t print from them. Rather, he applies collages to the surface – cut-up texts which suggest his subjects’ lives may be hard to comprehend, as well as referencing the use of newspaper to cover the walls in poor dwellings – and also paints over both the wood and the newsprint. Solomon’s father was killed in the Civil War, and a mournful air spreads from the motifs of empty chairs to less obviously infected portraits. Ivorian Armand Boua (‘Enfants de la Rue’ at Jack Bell Gallery to 17 April) paints with tar as well as acrylic, but his choice of ground is the more unusual aspect: Boua portrays Abidjan’s streetkids on the battered cardboard boxes they use as makeshift shelters. A national trauma also lies behind these repeatedly scraped surfaces: many children were displaced in the turmoil which followed the disputed election of 2010. Moreover, both these artists’ particular personal materials serve to reinforce their depictions of lived realities. Ah yes: tyres as in Douglas White’s Icarus Palm, 2005; frog sprogs swim in Ed Kienholz’s The Tadpole Pool with Woman Affixed Also, 1971; and tampons form Joana Vasconcelos’ chandelier The Bride, 2010.

EPHREM 1 ART STUFF on a train # 49: ‘Material Realities’

Ephrem Solomon: Untitled, 2013


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 46: ‘The Red Room’

Felix Vallotton 4 fad Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 46: ‘The Red Room’ Felix Vallotton: The Red Room, 1898

Matisse’s 1908 red room The Dessert: Harmony in Red, one of his masterpieces, was famously a harmony in blue until the last moment, when he overpainted the dominant wallpaper in flat, decorative red. That came to mind recently when I came across three other examples. Felix Vallotton’s La Chambre Rouge, 1898, strikingly precedes Matisse, who was a couple of years off emerging from academic browns into the Fauvist light. Vallotton – along with Bonnard and Vuillard – was a member of Les Nabis (from the Hebrew for ‘prophet’), who painted intimate interiors full of repressed emotions. Here the blocks of different reds are an effective setting for the sexual tension around what might come next. Matisse’s Dutch-born fellow Fauve Kees Van Dongen, on the other hand, may well have been influenced by the 1908 painting when producing his Interior, Miss Miroir, Miss Collier and Miss Sopha, 1914. Still, it’s among the most ambitious pictures by an artist best-known for his flatteringly stylish society portraits. Next, I saw a full red room environment: Siberian artist Uliana Apatina’s illumination of the Herrick gallery. The red room, then, has evident appeal. But why? Perhaps because the red provides a strong enough colour, both optically and psychologically, to transport the viewer beyond the architectural space of the room and into the space of the mind.

van dongen Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 46: ‘The Red Room’
Kees Van Dongen: Interior, Miss Miroir, Miss Collier and Miss Sopha, 1914

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in Surrey. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

PAUL’S ART STUFF on a train # 45: ‘What To Wear in Town and Country’

hepher 2 PAUL’S ART STUFF on a train # 45: ‘What To Wear in Town and Country’
David Hepher: Untitled MFC, 2013

According to their traditional image, artists invest minimal time in deciding what to wear, and change their ‘look’ rather less often than Lady Gaga… All the same, I was impressed when David Hepher told me he’d been wearing the three piece suit he sported at his opening at Flowers Gallery for sixty years! Painter Virginia Verran, who was there too, mentioned that she’d once sought to date a Bruce Bernard photograph of Frank Auerbach by phone, helpfully explaining that ‘you’re wearing a brown corduroy jacket’. That, he said, narrowed it down to the preceding four decades. As for the show (‘Town and Country’ to 29 March), it’s a knock-out in scale and ambition and proves Hepher to be the oldest graffitist in town – or country – and one who uses it to celebratory effect rather than to invoke social dysfunction. ‘Town’ is represented by his familiar concrete-infused paintings of brutalist tower blocks, spiced with painterly markings which include a slightly Braquian bird: that’s a recent discovery (Hepher photographs graffiti as he travels to build his repertoire) which invokes nature rather neatly. ‘Country’ sees simple landscapes from South-West France which incorporate the local soil and – in a new move – are daubed with appropriate graffiti finds of flowers and the sun. So, not only do town and country have their own inner logic, the distance between them is collapsed by the shared language of the street.

hepher 1 PAUL’S ART STUFF on a train # 45: ‘What To Wear in Town and Country’
David Hepher: Le Champ Grand with Sun and Sunflowers, 2012

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in Surrey. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 44: ‘Sculpture and Self-Forgery’

Giorgio de Chirico: The Great Metaphysician

The very international Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) was born in Greece and raised in Germany, found his artistic voice in Paris, married two Russians and died in Rome. Think of him, and you probably think of the classic paintings from 1911-19, those in which he achieved a transformation of the ordinary by framing it in the unexpected ways which would come to be called ‘metaphysical’. That’s to ignore quite a lot: the weird pastiches of the classics to which he turned after the war; the late 20’s pictures of gladiators heaped up and deflated; and the late repetitions and versions of his own early work, diversely judged as stale, fraudulent (can an artist fake his own work?), provocative, or post-modern avant la lettre. The added spice is that de Chirico spent his last 50 years proclaiming that modern art was worthless and this new style was to be preferred: John Currin, perhaps, but without the irony… All of which is fairly well-trodden ground. Yet a new exhibition in the very pleasant environs of the Estorick Collection features not just late paintings, such as these affecting horses, but also a large sample of De Chirico’s rarely-shown sculpture. Most of it looks like variously-patinated figures from his classic paintings, and at a similar scale. By contrast, The Great Metaphysician towers over the gallery, achieving an impact beyond its fairly similar painted equivalent from 1917. Like most late de Chirico, I reckon, the sculpture has its merits as well as its failings.

32 Cavalli in riva al marem chirico Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 44: ‘Sculpture and Self Forgery’

Giorgio de Chirico: Horses by the Sea, 1963

PAUL’S ART STUFF on a train # 43: ‘Plagiarism Rehearst’

bart van fad PAUL’S ART STUFF on a train # 43: ‘Plagiarism Rehearst’

Bart van der Leck: The Drinker, 1919
Or should that be ‘re Hirst’? There’s a certain ritual quality to how often Damien is accused of plagiarism: do his medicine cabinets copy Joseph Cornell’s Pharmacy, his gem-encrusted skull Stephen Gregory, his spin paintings Walter Robinson, his spots Thomas Downing, his use of razors Lene Bladbjerg, his collaging of butterflies Jean Dubuffet and his arrangement of them into stained glass window styles Lori Precious? There’s also the more general case of John LeKay, who knew Hirst in New York in the early nineties, gave him a scientific catalogue on which several of his works are based, and claims Hirst’s crucified animals and more were lifted from his own work. Still, these might have been more a matter of surfing the same zeitgeist. Now, when few think Hirst is on the crest of the wave, there’s an interesting comparison to be made between his latest ‘new direction’ and a 1919 painting I saw last week in Amsterdam. Hirst’s jocular Mickey, in which a famous mouse can be spotted, riffs on a classic pop subject and just raised a meritorious £900,000 for Kids Company at a charity auction. Bart van der Leck’s comparable face may seem a little light-hearted for a man who co-founded De Stijl with Mondrian and van Doesburg in 1917, but he soon fell out with the rigorous theosophist and started to use his vocabulary of geometric forms to representational ends.

mickey 2 hirst fad1 PAUL’S ART STUFF on a train # 43: ‘Plagiarism Rehearst’
                                   Damien Hirst: Mickey, 2014


ART STUFF on a train # 42: ‘Love in the City’

February 15, 2014 

Paula MacArthur: Now and Forever Until The End Of Time
 Time and place were right last week for Paula MacArthur’s paintings of diamonds (Infinitely Precious Things at VJB Arts / 60 Threadneedle Street to 2 May). The time: just ahead of Valentine’s Day, with an opening freebie package including a heart-shaped balloon and packet of love hearts – designed, in MacArthur’s words, ‘to save you a last minute trip to the cornershop’. The place: the archetypal impress-the-client foyer of a City office block, for which art consultant Vanessa Brady has organised shows since it opened in 2009. What better than the flashy and often morally dubious stones (think blood diamonds) to smuggle a critique into the capitalist heartland under the cover of romance. And to suggest that art can belong in the same category as the biggest and most vulgar of jewels? For these are certainly big: MacArthur’s smallest diamonds are four feet wide. The three with the most impact, partly due fluorescent paint, more than double that. ‘Are they painted from life?’ I asked jestingly, observing the comparative modesty of her own ring. MacArthur’s main source is her own photographs of geological displays in museums. As for style, for all their initial glamour, up close they’re mainly excuses for abstract mark-making. Add that cut diamonds are ideal vehicles for the exploration of light and cubist surfaces, and they prove a rich and multi-faceted subject.

Paula MacArthur: Who’s To Say That I’m Unhappy


ART STUFF on a train # 41: ‘The Framed Ceramic Clothing Coincidence’

electric layland jjh ART STUFF on a train # 41: ‘The Framed Ceramic Clothing Coincidence’ Jessica Jackson Hutchins: Electric Ladyland, 2013

Two fine shows by 70’s-born sculptors opened on 30 January. They feel very different yet share a surprising amount. Manchester-based Samantha Donnelly and Portland, Oregon’s Jessica Jackson Hutchins both use ceramics, unusual framing and clothing with personal connections; and both combine sculpture with their less familiar wall-based works. Hutchins is known for ceramic/plaster sculptures/vessels which take the place of figures on found sofas. There are five at Timothy Taylor (to 8 March), one incorporating a shirt of her husband’s (I know the feeling: not every old favourite of mine makes it through spousal quality control). Hutchins’ recent canvasses are stained with furniture polishes, which she uses like paint, and foreground their support structures to make frames of sorts. Polke and Tapies are summoned as well as Frankenthaler and furniture. In my favourite, it’s as if the outer rim of stained canvas is framing the frame. Donnelly (at Ceri Hand to 1 March) brings a poised haphazardness to figure-sized combinations of appropriated items, built around a ceramic sculptural heart. The artist’s leather trousers are in the mix: Donnelly explained they were a ‘difficult’ item to wear in practice, however, seductive the prospect. Here, too, I liked the wall-based work: Donnelly blew up adverts from aspirational lifestyle magazines then photographed, scanned and reprinted them, picking up distortions along the way, before re-photographing and developing the results. Their darkroom black and white seeks, perhaps, to return the impersonal fecundity of the post-digital image to the more closely attended world of analogue history…

Shades detail sd ART STUFF on a train # 41: ‘The Framed Ceramic Clothing Coincidence’ Samantha Donnelly: Shades (detail), 2014

About Me

My photo
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.