Tuesday, 24 June 2014


There’s more than enough to see at Art Basel and its satellite events, but travelling via Munich and Zurich made for an entertaining excess.


Matthew Barney: Shaduf, 2012-13 - that being an ancient Egyptian irrigation tool elaborated into a throne room, as inspired by the pharaoh fertilising crops with his own faeces - from 'River of Fundament'

Munich’s institutions give any city a run for its money, from ancient to classical to modern to contemporary. They have a transatlantic flavour at the moment, with Ellen Gallagher’s retrospective and Matthew Barney’s massive new installation ‘River of Fundament’ at the Haus der Kunst (12 rooms tied into a seven hour film); then Cy Twombly and Dark Pop at the Museum Bandhorst, which has an exceptional Warhol collection. That trend carried through to the smaller galleries, where I saw shows by Peter Halley, David Smith, Nicolas Ceccaldi (more Canadian than he sounds), Michael Venezia (from Brooklyn, not Venice) and Jeremy Thomas. 

 Jeremy Thomas: Kinta Blue, 2014 at Galerie Renata Bender

The only Briton with a substantial presence was David Shrigley, though I thought ‘Jeremy Thomas’ a rather English name for an American. He has developed a novel sculptural process in New Mexico, welding together two similar geometrical plates of steel, then blowing them up to make somewhat unpredictable shapes which retain the opening through which the pressurised air was forced. One side is then lacquered to a vivid finish, the other patinated.  Result: a somewhat sexualised hybrid of burst seedpod and wrecked farm machinery.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Nude on Truckle Bed, verso of  Circus, 1910 at Pinakthek der Moderne

The Pinakthek der Moderne had the best German show, billed as exploring Kirchner as a colourist – which, I guess, is good PR, though it actually dug equally into his themes, psychology and working methods. Some 13 % of the manically productive Ernst Ludwig’s 1,045 paintings have another painting on the back, and the several of these were shown, some set up to be visible from both sides, some on the basis they’d be flipped mid-run.


Bernard Aubertin: Untitled, 2012 

‘Interesting space’ may be the polite way to respond to uninteresting art, but what about good art badly presented?  In some ways I was impressed by a retrospective of ZERO-linked French artist Bernard Aubertin’s classic 1960s-70s fire and nail-based paintings together with a range of more red paint-only experiments at Galerie Maulberger. I particularly like this small 2012 canvas in which the paint is teased away as a means of substitute for nails’ spatial irruptions, and also suggests the flames for which his oeuvre tends towards this red.  Except… the gallerist was busy packing something or other, and clearly irritated by my visit just before he closed. My request for titles of the work was received grudgingly. Various paintings unconnected with the show were stacked around - on the floor, on a table, against the walls, some butting up against the Aubertins. One Aubertin was hidden behind a door which had been wedged open. Maybe that’s why I was snappily told not to take photographs before I had the chance…

Richard Schur: Venus, 2012 at Stefan Vogdt
My favourite Munich-based painter – though currently in New York - is Richard Schur (say ‘Shoo-er’), and sure enough several recent paintings stood out in Stefan Vogdt’s vast and very mixed space.  I probably can’t do better than quote the booklet in the gallery: 'Schur has painted his way around the world in a series of residencies: one touch on the tiller of art history, one nod to the grid-based code of his personal sea, and an ever-mutating sequence of abstracts sails free. Schur discovers newly surprising harmonies in the interplay of colours – from natural to chemical, from subtle to raw – in what prove up close to be creamily painterly surfaces, complete with the playful contingencies of drip and bleed. Thus are his passengers transported to actively serene visual spaces suffused with the light of those various places'. Ah, I see I wrote that myself… no wonder I can’t do better.


Ann-Christiane Woehrl: from In / Visible a the Staatlichen Museum für Völkerkunde

Munich also provided, at the Ethnographic Museum, an unusually harrowing exhibition: Ann-Christiane Woehrl’s photographed survivors of fire and acid attacks in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Uganda.  ‘In / Visible’ depicts 48 such women against a neutral black background for them to pose as they see fit, and shows scenes from the everyday life of one from each country - those six also being interviewed about their experiences.It's a tough subject to balance between empathy and exploitation, but the  disfigured women emerge with beauty refreshed through the inner dignity which follows the horror. 


A relaxing, if early, four hours on the train brought me past Swiss lakes to Zurich.

Jérôme Leuba: BATTLEFIELD #101, BIKES, 2014 in Public Art in Zurich

Zurich’s gallery scene is outstanding, and was at its best on the Sunday before Art Basel, with extended opening and 17 sculpture projects dotted through the city. Of those, the easiest to walk past unsuspectingly was probably Berlin-based Genevan Jérôme Leuba’s mischievous installation of inoperative bikes and bike remains, chained to the railings of a stylish square with cafes.  That might go wholly unnoticed in London, but the subversive point is that Zurich authorities are very prompt to remove such bikes   - indeed, according to the sponsoring gallery, annex 14, several had to be replaced in the first week despite the instructions issued! So, whether Leuba successfully challenges the City’s power remains to be seen.

Saadane Afif: L'André , 2009/10 - edition of 35 at Raebervon Stenglin

Oddly, as I traipsed around on ponderous foot, that proved the first of several uses of bicycles and scooters as assisted readymades. The second, which I concede is an art insider’s joke, turned on the repainting of part of a bicycle’s frame to make it match the round wooden bars which Polish-Romanian-French artist André Cadare used to carry round as sculptural objects (rational enough in themselves) which not only escaped the gallery but invaded other artists’ spaces, most famously at private views. So perhaps Saadane Afif is effecting a more radical, as well as more efficient, displacement, and suggesting we should all have a go.

Valentin Carron: Ciaos, 2014, at Galerie Eva Presenhuber

Eva Presenhuber has three large spaces in Zurich, one with an impressive and varied show by Valentin Carron, Switzerland’s last Venice Biennale rep.  In contrast to Leuba, he has lovingly restored several of the Ciao mopeds (made in Italy 1967-2006). Why so? Carron says moped displays neither power nor speed and is ‘actually the vehicle of two forms of marginality: the marginality of youth in its quest for evasion and emancipation as well as the marginality of drop-out adults who populate the European countryside and villages’.

Thomas Bayrle: Motoren, 2014 (detail) - motors and speakers at Galerie Francesca Pia

Just how little power there is in a similar moped’s engine was demonstrated by Thomas Bayrle - who has often used motors as kinetic sculptures -  in his show 'Vespini': two Vespa engines are stripped of their casing and presented as acoustic sculptures. Their modest roar is collaged with an aria sung by Maria Callas to suggest some commonality between mechanical and human rhythms.

Teresa Margolles La Búsqueda at the Migros Museum

To finish somewhat as we did in Munich, the Mexican artist Teresa Margolles has made many works centred on the extreme violence of the million-strong border city of Ciudad Juarez, which has seen thousands of drug-related deaths but also a catalogue of brutal ‘femicides’ running at some 50 each year. For La búsqueda (The Search), Margolles transposed eight large glass windows from public spaces in Cuidad Jaurez, dirty, graffiti-ridden, and covered with posters pleading for information on missing women. They were installed in semi-darkness, to the sound of the trains which rattle round the city, and which made the windows tremble. This eerie memorial to those assumed dead recharged the readymade, but its presence in Zurich also pointed to western connivance with the economics behind the problems.


What does the Art Basel week offer? Over 300 galleries showing 4,000 artists, with several extensive special sections; half a dozen subsidiary fairs; 20-odd major institutional shows; a smattering of awards; plus various programmes integrated into the city. The surfeit teeters on the overwhelming, but here are a few points of interest. 


Charles Ray: Shoe Tie, 2012 at the Kunstmuseum

Four venues can be relied on for optimal presentation of important artists, and so it was for Gerhardt Richter, with series works at the Foundation Beyeler; the – admittedly uneven – Paul Chan at Schaulager.; and Charles Ray across both the Kunstmuseum and its modern branch, the Gegenwartskunst, in a joint presentation which gave fifteen of his more recent sculptures their own space. It’s probably not what you want to read, but they have a physical presence which is lost in reproduction – which is how I’d mostly seen them previously: the judicious mixture of hyper-realistic detail and more stylised editing with meticulously-engineered surfaces in surprising materials generates psychological ambiguity. 

Ariel Schlesinger: Untitled (Inside Out Skull), 2014 at Kunsthaus Baselland

The other outstanding institutional show was at the Kunsthaus Baselland, where Berlin-based Israeli Ariel Schlesinger fizzed with witty ideas, several of which playfully ‘reverse engineered’ a new function out of a broken or apparently maladjusted object. His most recent works involved smashing and then recombining the pieces of a skull and then recombining them ‘inside out’ – a brilliant transformation of what has become a somewhat clichéd inclusion in much art, and with the extra-sculptural punch of providing an analogy for how Schlesinger thinks – while teasing us with the absurdity of believing we might somehow get at what’s within our heads by such means.


Marina Abramovic: Luminosity, 1997 in '14 Rooms'

Painting and sculpture dominates the stands at Art Basel, but a shift towards performance is also evident. Indeed, found myself smiling, clapping and shouting in accordance with headphone instructions at PSM gallery along with two other participants. Only when they seemed ready to go on indefinitely did I realise they were paid (by Christian Falsnaes) to be there… A spectacular extension to the halls provided mirror-doored Herzog & de Meuron rooms in which the visitor encountered at least one person who is not the artist but is an artwork, from a Tino Sehgal conversation to a Bruce Nauman re-enactment to the radiant presence of a wall-mounted nude by Marina Abramovic - sitting, of course, on a bicycle seat. Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist’s ’14 Rooms’ was the biggest hit of the Fair.  

Laura Lima: To Hold (2014) at A Gentil Carioca (Rio de Janeiro) - Art Basel

14 Rooms included a piece by the Brazilian Laura Lima, known for creating performative situations in the tradition of Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica. Back in the main fair, her home gallery showed her partially-clothed canvasses together with the human presentation of a wrapped painting . If you bought this (for $20,000), you were probably a museum, and what you got was the idea and the arm rests – to be combined with any of your own paintings, plus your hired labour to utilise the holes in your own walls.

Alexandra Bircken: Diana, 2014 at BQ (Berlin) - Art Basel

Back on the bike-track Cologne-based Alexandra Bircken - who studies fashion at St Martins in the 90's - is best-known for incorporating knitting with found items as she re-purposes them. However, her dramatic presentation of a motorbike removed from the world of speed did the business straight. With nods, perhaps, to Damien Hirst's divided cow and use of butterflies and to Arman's slicing of model cars, Bircken humanises the machine through the heart-like presence of the seat among what then seem intestinal innards, and - judged by the model's name - she makes it a woman, possibly the Queen of Hearts herself.

Antonis Pittas: We Will do as we have decided, 2013 at Annet Gelink Gallery (Amsterdam) - Art Basel

When this marble floor scatter caught my attention, there was the Amsterdam-based Greek artist to explain that not only did it suggest fallen classical ruins and the arrangements of Malevich’s Suprematist compositions, but that he had taken the shapes from empty tear gas canisters together with the bottles, stone and bits of wood typically left on the street after a demonstration.  The words incorporated were taken from online accounts of an anti-government demonstration: they read as likely protesters’ slogans… but were actually quoting the Turkish prime minister.

Matthew Mercier: Untitled (work in progress), 2013 at Medhi Chouakri (Berlin) - Art Basel
Why have these objects been attractively grouped in a cabinet?  Are their colour linked? It took a while to spot that they are all one thing pretending to be another: that wine bottle is a pepper grinder, the salami a knife, the corn cob a sex toy, the orange a stress ball etc. Or is it all really just an art work? Then what is art, really? Everything spirals. And this fits in with Mercier’s wider practice, as he often assigns new functions to already existing items, such as turning basketball net rings into lamp holders. So how come it’s still ‘in progress’? Because, apparently, if Mercier finds another object suited to a vitrine, he will supply it to the relevant purchaser…

Daniel Turner: Marjorie in Art Unlimited and at team (gallery, inc), New York – Art Basel 

In among Art Unlimited’s biggest-versions-you’ve-ever-seen of familiar work types (a Carl Andre walk-on, a Penone tree, a Zhan Wang silvered rock…), I was seduced by young American Daniel Turner’s somewhat creepy combination of purity and corruption:  yellow desktops polished to a Judd-like finish held coffin-sized stainless steel basins which had been filled with salt water to ensure rapid corrosion. His work derives from his immediate environment – team (gallery inc) also showed an abstract painting made with the roofing tar used professionally by his father – and this form was derived from the work surface in his studio. 


Robert Gober: Untitled, 2013-14 at Matthew Marks (New York) - Art Basel

Like Daniel Turner, Robert Gober often uses familiar materials from his studio and home, together with memories of childhood, but to much creepier effect.  This typically bizarre example hovers between sculpture and painting, using beeswax and human hair along with putty, polymer and paint  to depict what looks like three sections of spindly limbs woven into driftwood, complete with barnacles, some of which have migrated from wood to flesh. A title such as ‘Shrine to Malfeasance’ would not have surprised me, had I not known that Gober’s work is almost always untitled. 

Anna Bella GeigerO pão nosso de cada dia  (Our Daily Bread) 1978 at Galerie Murilo Castro (Belo Horizonte) - The Solo Project

There wasn’t much politically-inspired, let alone traumatic, work in Basel’s fairs. So much so, perhaps, that the only work to achieve an impact comparable to Woehrl and Margolles’ was from the 1970’s. At the Solo Project – an alternative fair with a refreshing mode of presentation – the Brazilian gallery Murilo Castro showed a survey of work by Anna Bella Geiger, active since the fifties including through the 20 years of dictatorship which followed the military coup d’etat in 1964. Here  she simply bit the shape of Brazil out of a slice of bread, suggesting that the state had grabbed the lion’s share and left the people with nothing but crust.


Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa: Feather Piece at Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City - Liste

The Guatemalan gallery’s engaging mix of Latin American experimentalism included Peruvian Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa’s nine minute recording of a performance in which he pierced his arms with feathers. On the one hand, his physique did not encourage the already-absurd aspiration that a human might fly by such means; on the other that need not exclude dreaming, or seeking to commune with other species. In which case the evident limitations might be read as a critique of modern man’s general failure to engage with the natural world with sufficient empathy not to destroy it.

Pablo Rasgado: 'Frank Stella - Meknes (small version) Fluorescent alkyd on canvas, 1965 - present whereabouts unkown - one of 16 paintings in Afterlife at Arratia Beer (Berlin) - Art Statements, Art Basel

In his project Afterlife the Mexican artist Pablo Rasgado attempts, up to a point, to resurrect ‘lost paintings’ from art history by repainting them at original size but from their photographic records in catalogue raisonnés – which means in black and white, mostly. Their spectral and historic aura is enhanced by leaving them in dusty conditions near Paris’ national archives, so attracting a different aspect of pastness. Ragado chooses to remove only some of this, so creating a new aesthetic through exhumation. The paintings range from 14th-20th centuries, and there was a particular appeal to finding a Frank Stella described as using fluorescent colour reduced to dusty black and white.  

Sunday, 22 June 2014


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 60: 'No Pencils in Ramsgate'

cedric 1 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 60: ’No Pencils in Ramsgate

Cedric Christie: ‘Promises No. 2′, 2014

 An art trip to Thanet has plenty to commend it just now. First, a riot of thoughtful reflections on colour and light at Turner Contemporary, courtesy of Spencer Finch, Edmund de Waal, Sol Lewitt and an exemplary selection of early Mondrian which shows, in his words, how he moved towards ‘plastic expression of relationships, not forms’. Second, there’s an excellent double show at Ramsgate’s UpDown Gallery (to July 6). The first floor Up is new work by Cedric Christie, including the latest in his long-running series of scaffold pieces, which might be described as line drawings achieved by sculptural means. ‘When Dreams Become Promises’ uses three sections of pipe in each work: two heavily rusted, being I suppose the practical realities of the world, outnumbering yet encouragingly outshone by the eidetic prospects one might read into the third, smoothly powder-coated, element. The ground floor Down is Christie’s choice of work by 20 other artists which are also drawings in which the lines are made by any means except the conventional. Highlights include Pascal Rousson’s new strand of knotted rope webs; Simon Liddiment’s way of chipping paint off wood to ambiguate object, image and geometry; and Loukas Morley’s hanging presentation of a found squashed supermarket basket which makes a distorted grid drawing. He told me that anti-Tesco campaigners had shown an interest in using it, which figures; and that he’d tried deliberately running over many another basket to far less satisfying effect.

                     loukas 1 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 60: ’No Pencils in Ramsgate                      Loukas Morley: ‘Basket’, 2011

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 # 59: 'Fifty Years After Fashion'

Flag Dream No. 1 1957 Davie Pauls ART STUFF on a train # 59: ’Fifty Years After Fashion’
Alan Davie: ‘Flag Dream No. 1′, 1957 at the Portland Gallery

It’s been hard recently to avoid two artists who were internationally famous in the 1950’s – 60′s, fell out of critical favour, and are now being repositioned as significant enough for comparison with Moore, Hepworth and Bacon – which would lead to an upturn in prices. Alan Davie (Falkirk 1920 – Hertfordshire 2014) died just before his shows opened at Tate Britain, the Portland Gallery, Gimpel Fils (his long-time representatives) and Alan Wheatley. He was arguably the first European – unless we count de Kooning as Dutch – to adopt the heroic action painting mode with success, and the Portland Gallery’s strong selection from his unquestionably hot 1957-62 period was decidedly de Kooningesque. You can find Lynn Chadwick (London 1914 – Gloucestershire 2003, so 100 years on) in the Royal Academy courtyard, Blain Southern and Osbourne Samuel. So: is the hype justified? You can argue that (1) they were overrated in the 1950’s; (2) they undermined their early reputations by getting stuck in set formulae (Chadwick’s shape-heads) or by moving too far from their strengths (Davie’s switch from jazzy spontaneity to clearer-cut symbolism); or (3) you might claim – as the galleries obviously do – that they simply passed from fashion, the whims of which disguised their true worth. For me, it’s a mixture of all three, but especially (2), for both… but it’s nice to have the shows to facilitate forming a view.

chadwick comp Pauls ART STUFF on a train # 59: ’Fifty Years After Fashion’
Lynn Chadwick: ‘Walking Woman’, 1984 at the Economist Plaza (Osborne Samuel)

ART STUFF on a train # 58: ‘Dolls Are Us’

Liane Lang at the House of St Barnabas in front of ‘Casa Guidi Windows’

When male artists use dolls we seem to get into creepy territory pretty fast – Hans Bellmer, Morton Bartlett, Helmut Newton. Actually Cindy Sherman and Sturtevant may be a bit male in that respect, albeit deliberately. But I was going to that say that female use tends to be more about Jung and less about Freud, more about memory and identity, less about sex and the surreal. That’s fair of two artists currently viewable in London. Laurie Simmons has photographed dolls as a vehicle for her concerns, notably a critique of all forms of female confinement, since the 1977. She has work with a Japanese inflection both in the V&A’s Prix Pictet shortlist (to 14 June) and at Wilkinson (to 29 June). The former are of posed, life size ‘love dolls’, the latter are of followers of the Japanese cult of ‘kigurumi’, in which people dress in doll costumes with full latex body suit and mask. Liane Lang’s evocation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Italy is also some way from a straightforward doll. For ‘An Idle Brain Is Satan’s Shoppe’ (viewable by appointment at the House of St Barnabas via info@marcellejoseph.com to 17 June) Lang photographed the Casa Guidi villa which the 40 year old eloper shared with Robert Browning: appropriately for the poet’s invalidity, Lang has used life cast wax to represent her ghostly visitation. Both artists use dolls and their hinterland to create atmosphere, but I dare say as a bonus that dolls are easier to deal with than people…

          simmons 2 ART STUFF on a train # 58: Dolls Are Us           
Laurie Simmons: ‘The Love Doll / Day 22 (20 Pounds of Jewelry)’, 2009-11

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 # 57: ‘Internal Cyclic Self-portrayal’

                tom dale train Pauls ART STUFF on a train # 57: Internal Cyclic Self portrayal’  
                Tom Dale: ‘The City at Night’, 2000

Two striking works on current show seem to come via the same logic, what you might call ‘internal cyclic self-portrayal’, to the relationship between paper and trees… but from opposite ways round. First, the pages in a tree. The Copperfield gallery is Will Lunn’s welcome extension of the exhibition history of the characterful former church hall in Southwark, previously occupied by Poppy Sebire and Ceri Hand. Its interesting debut show ( ‘Obsessive Compulsive Order’, to 15 June) includes Tom Dale making the leaves of a ficus office plant resemble the leaves of a book by cutting them into rectangles. Over the run of the show, however, the plant will shed the grid imposed on it and regrow natural leaves: nature is not so easily controlled. Second, the tree in pages. Maddox Arts, in an echoic contrast, has Colombian Miler Lagos’ The Rings of Time (in ‘About Time’ to 31 May). Lagos constructed his own agreeably Heath Robinson machine in order to recycle a whole year, two kilometre run of The Times back into a log of similar size to the roll that blank paper comes in for the press. So the production process is reversed and the timeline of the news is drawn into the annual rings of a tree.

              miler lagos 1 Pauls ART STUFF on a train # 57: Internal Cyclic Self portrayal’
                  Miler Lagos: ‘The Rings of Time’, 2014 

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 # 56: ’Skull Surprise’

SpringPoppyFields 32 2014 zang huan ART STUFF on a train # 55: ’Skull Surprise’ Zang Huan: ‘Spring Poppy Fields 32′, 2014

The skull has a long tradition as the vanitas in still life meditations on mortality, but in Hirstian times I’ve tended to feel there are a few too many around. Almost as well-worn, though still enjoyable, is the trope whereby a work looks like one thing from a distance but another when you close in. Two recent shows feature initial views – of ants and flowers – which prove on getting nearer to be composed of skulls. Doubly predictable? Oddly, no – they’re among the most arresting gallery moments currently on offer. Pace’s Burlington Gardens space has the latest from Chinese Buddhist artist Zhang Huan, well-known for using of temple ash to make paintings and sculptures. From twenty feet ‘Spring Poppy Fields’ look like psychedelic vistas of bloom in line with the title’s heroin overtones. From two feet they come out as Ensor-like carnivalesque skulls – hinting perhaps at one possible end of drug addiction. The Saatchi Gallery (to 31 Aug) features 440 giant ants swarming over the walls. Each, it turns out, is made by Rafael Gómezbarros out of two cast human skulls: branches act as legs, and the whole is held together by dirty bandaging. The ants, which have been shown on the colonial facades of public buildings in Colombia, represent the displacement of peasants due to war and strife, but it’s the creepy Kafkaesque weirdness which hits home.

                  ants ART STUFF on a train # 55: ’Skull Surprise’                                   Rafael Gómezbarros:’Casa Tomada’ (Seized House)


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 55: ‘Tale of the Tape’

          Vibac XVII Gordon Pauls ART STUFF on a train # 55: ‘Tale of the Tape’  
           Alastair Gordon: ‘Vibac XVII’, 2014

Young painter Alastair Gordon, at Bearspace in Deptford to 24 May, is a worthy addition to the canon of artists who’ve painted the illusion that pieces of tape are stuck on the canvas. This derives, of course, from the 18th century tradition of deceptive trompe l’oeil – such as Cornelius Gisberts’ paintings of documents stored in pouches on the, wall which tempt the viewer to try to take them down. That form of illusionism is known as quodlibet, or ‘what you will’ – which is Gordon’s exhibition title. Also on the current list are David Musgrave, Kees Goudzwaard, Tod Norsten, Tammi Campbell, Francisco de Corcuera, Sylvain Azam, Joachim Grommek, Tammi Campbell, Sheau-Ming Song, Tod Norsten, Kaz Oshiro and Jochen Mulenbrink. That group varies more than you’d think and all have their merits. To pick two, Oshiro is unusual in making humdrum objects, such as kitchen cabinets and stereo speakers, which prove, when you go round the back, to be canvases adorned with real fixtures – and, very often, apparent bits of tape. Goudzwaard blends illusion with abstraction and catches some of the temporality of the vanitas tradition by building paper models in which the tape literally and compositionally holds everything together. He then paints the results, in his words, ‘rather exactly’ at 1:1. Back with Gordon, he plays with the possibility that these are oddments from the artist’s studio, and double bluffs with his wooden backgrounds: fake woodgrain’s another trompe l’oeil standby, but they turn out to be real…

         kees templet 2011 Pauls ART STUFF on a train # 55: ‘Tale of the Tape’  
         Kees Goudzwaard: ‘Templet’, 2011
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 and plane # 54: ‘Those Gallery Weekends Compared’

Scringo 2007  Paul’s ART STUFF on a train and plane # 54: ‘Those Gallery Weekends Compared’

Giuseppe Penone: ‘Scringo’, 2007
Happening to be in London and Berlin on successive weekends, I was able to compare the second edition of the annual EC1-WC1 ‘London Gallery Day’ (25-26 April, galleries open late both nights) with the tenth Berlin Gallery Weekend. They are of a different nature, the former designed to highlight 24 mostly small galleries which aren’t easily defined as west end or east end, but somewhere in between. That means they’re not covered by the East End’s first Thursday or Fitzrovia’s last Thursday or, indeed, South London’s last Friday monthly events. Berlin’s event (1-3 May) featured the coordinated opening of sixty shows citywide by fifty leading galleries on Friday night, followed by full day openings on Saturday and Sunday. Berlin doesn’t have a conventional art fair, so this became in effect its ‘Frieze Week without Frieze’, with private collections, public institutions and the many other galleries upping their game in parallel. There would certainly be a case for expanding London’s version into a parallel version. But, either way, both events had plenty to enjoy. It certainly helped that Gagosian joined in with the London day, for which Giuseppe Penone provided the stand-out show, including the biggest leather-as-bark wall work I’ve seen. Berlin has no Gagosian and had no Penone show, but there was something of the same spirit at the Buchmann Gallery, where Wolfgang Laib had built one of his Wax Rooms: a concealed space lined with 5 cm thick slabs of fragrant yellow beeswax to sensuously enveloping effect.

berlin 052 wax  Paul’s ART STUFF on a train and plane # 54: ‘Those Gallery Weekends Compared’

Wolfgang Laib: ‘Wax Room’, 2014


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 53: ‘The Name Game’

                       London Gallery Day 027 Baselitz Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 53: ‘The Name Game’

                    Georg Baselitz: ‘Five Stripes – The Herdsman’, 1966-67

The British Museum’s exemplary six-artist show (Germany Divided to 31 Aug) of works on paper stemming from Germany’s split state in 1945-89 includes some fascinating early Richter, such as preparatory tracings, but centres on Georg Baselitz. His mockingly-entitled ‘New Heroes’, mid-sixties ‘fracture’ pictures (in which the image is divided up, as in ‘The Herdsman’) and the inversions which emerged as his signature move all read as politically charged in this context. What’s not often mentioned is that Baselitz was born Hans-Georg Kern in 1938, but adopted his birthplace – Deutschbaselitz, in Saxony – as the basis for his name. In so doing, he followed a tradition which is historically common – e.g. Heronimus Anthonis-zoon van Aken was from s’Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands and Paolo Caliari from Verona – hence Bosch and Veronese – and more recently Emil Hansen changed his name to that of his of his birthplace, Nolde in Germany, in 1902. Returning to the British Museum’s show, both Ralph Winkler and Peter Heisterkamp adopted the names of others as their art personae. Winkler wanted to keep a low profile in East Berlin when selling his work to the west, and flagged a stylistic interest by calling himself after the geologist and Ice Age specialist A R Penck. Heisterkamp was nicknamed Blinky Palermo by fellow students in Joseph Beuys’s class at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf. That stemmed from a physical resemblance to the notorious boxing promoter and gangster, but the switch also suited the change in his style of work towards geometric abstraction.

                        richter1 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 53: ‘The Name Game’
                         Gerhard Richter: ‘Untitled’, 1967


ART STUFF on a train # 51: ‘Trapezohedral’

gussin ART STUFF on a train # 51: Trapezohedral
Graham Gussin: In Bloom, 2014

Albrecht Dürer has had a high London profile recently: his own exhibition at the Courtauld; a prominent place in the current National Gallery offering on the Northern Renaissance; and two shows featuring wooden constructions of the form in his famously mysterious engraving Melancholia I (1514). That shape is most often seen as a truncated triangular trapezohedron: I mean, of course, one with its rhombi cut off top and bottom to yield bounding triangular faces, the vertices of which lie on the circumsphere of the azimuthal cube vertices. The shape refers to mathematics and rationality in the print’s schema, which is commonly taken to show Dürer’s personal frustration at how artistic inspiration must fall short of divine inspiration. There’s also a faint skull or ghost on the trapezohedron: that feels relevant at the Freud Museum (to 25 May) where the shape sits in a room emptied of Freud’s accoutrements and filled instead with plain wooden boxes. They, referencing how three of Freud’s sisters perished in the death camps, are of the right scale to hold the contents of an SS Officer’s list – which we’re given – of materials to be requisitioned for Treblinka. Graham Gussin (in a fascinatingly varied show at Marlborough Contemporary, to 12 April, one strand of which linked science fiction to minimalism) re-imagined such shapes as seed pods big enough to hold a human, or else some sort of space craft. Both Balka and Gussin play off how Dürer’s enigmatic form may stand-in for civilised values.

balka 2 ART STUFF on a train # 51: Trapezohedral
Miroslav Balka: We still need, 2014


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 51: ‘The Quick Fix’

leah web Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 52: ‘The Quick Fix’ Leah Capaldi: ‘Hung’, 2014

The rising popularity of art may owe something to the speed with which it can generally be seen, and the control which the viewer has over the length of time taken – both well-suited to an age of instant gratification. The more durational type of performance art is a harder sell: what if you’re stuck in the middle of an hour of madness or rigour? Maybe it’s easier, then, if the duration required is restricted to the performer. The Serpentine Gallery enhances its exhibitions through complementary live events on some Saturdays, and I caught a good example on 12 April. Leah Capaldi’s contribution was viewable in the Sackler Centre at the back of Haim Steinbach’s retrospective in the old gallery, which itself links very effectively to Martino Gamper’s display in the new gallery: shelving and display feature in both shows, and those themes were picked up in Capaldi’s Hung. Two models took turns of an hour each to lie flat with one leg dangled on a bench / beam / shelf / barrier, playing with subject as body as object as art. Spectators were left to decide whether to step – transgressively? – over the obstruction. Another context, the Imperial War Museum for example, might have triggered the more traumatic aspects of a body on the ground. As it was, the roles of viewer, participant and actor entered a quieter feedback loop with Steinbach’s presentation – and one you could see in seconds and think about later…

basics 1986 steimbach Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 52: ‘The Quick Fix’ Haim Steinbach: ‘Basics’, 1986

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 # 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)

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.