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 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)

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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.