Wednesday, 5 November 2014


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 80: ‘On Dashes’

n dash 2a Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 80: ‘On Dashes’
N.Dash: Installation with Untitled, 2014

Leaving hyphens to self-suffice, the dash is a longer mark, whether an em dash (—) or an en dash (–), as named for the length of a typeface’s upper-case M and lower-case n respectively. The latter can be distinguished in turn from N.Dash, the American artist with a mysterious first name – any rate, I don’t know it. It’s a neat tag, though, in the tradition (HD, JK Rowling, EL Brierley) of underplaying femaleness. Moreover, her practice is as quirky as her name and the punctuation it echoes. N is best known for her ‘pocket sculptures’ of manipulated and distressed scars of cloth and ‘commuter drawings’ in which she folds and strokes sheets of paper as she walks or rides trains, prior to covering them with graphite. That brings the intimacy of everyday life to her practice – and her reasoning is striking: ‘I love to draw, but I have a problematic relationship with the pencil, which I feel creates a distance between the hand and the piece itself… Making drawings through touch allows me to have direct contact with the paper’. At Pace (in an interesting show with John Giorno and Alfred Jensen to 15 Nov) Dash shows her paintings, also tactile, which use surface and support interchangeably and explore such materials as adobe, string and jute to yield a rather warm and grounded form of minimalism.

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N. Dash: Commuter March I, 2012

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

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 79: ‘Battle of the Behemoths’

Black Flakes Schwarze Flocken kiefer Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 79: ‘Battle of the Behemoths

Anselm Kiefer: ‘Winter Landscape’, 1970

London currently features something of a battle of the German behemoths. Anselm Kiefer is immense at the Royal Academy. He’s known, of course, for vast canvases dredging through history, having faced up to the past even in the early 60’s, when his fellow German artists tended to ignore it. The incorporation of soil, sunflowers, even submarines into the paintings, is as expected. And the huge sculptures, including Kiefer’s first ever externally located vitrine pieces, are less surprising than the watercolours which pair nudes with views of cathedrals from the France in which Kiefer has long lived. Here the monumental is restricted to the architecture, and the parallel between religious and sexual ecstacy. Marian Goodman has just opened her London outpost with several of Richter’s many streams of painting practice. Sigmar Polke takes centre stage at Tate Modern. Neo Rauch has half a dozen big paintings in the fascinating Brueghel-themed private selling exhibition ‘The Bad Shepherd’ at Christies Mayfair. Those four, along with Kippenberger and Baselitz are the big beasts. Jonas Burgert (born 1969) belongs to the next generation, but his carnivalesque apocalyptic scenes of mass confusion and strange beauty at Blain Southern hark back further: Bosch with the modern twist of fluorescent paint. ‘stück hirn blind’ spans a Kieferesque eight metres. When he works more simply, the disturbance remains: faces merge with animal headdresses, sculptures are bandanged, trees strapped to men, hands separated from their bodies.

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Jonas Bugert: installation view

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 78: ‘The Big Experience’

secret tucker Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 78: ‘The Big Experience

William Tucker: Secret
The biggest work at Frieze – a 10 metre high blow-up of a cartoon figure by Kaws – was one of the worst, given that Paul McCarthy has already done better than what it aimed to do. It isn’t always bad to play with scale, but it does need an original impetus. Frieze had other trite examples, but what must be the heaviest show in London – Richard Serra at Gagosian – is one of the best. I also like William Tucker at Pangolin (to 29th Nov), who pushes monumental sculpture to the brink of lumpy abstraction. His bronzes are full of surface interest, and often at a scale which further slows recognition: it takes a while to see that the six foot long Secret is a hand – in fact it derives from a photograph of Tucker clutching the evidently inspirational Venus of Willendorf. Damien Hirst tends to get a bad press these days, and I go along with most of that. In Schizophrenogenesis (Paul Stolper Gallery to 15th Nov) though, he makes a simple idea work punchily by vastly enlarging his science vs death pharmaceutical pills ‘n’ packaging stream: that box could be a coffin, that syringe could harpoon a whale, those pills are more than meals in themselves. With the implication of greater impact from the medicine and buzzier highs, perhaps, from drugs, there’s a logic at work which takes this beyond the formulaic move of blowing the small up big.

03 Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery © Damien Hirst and Other Criteria All rights reserved DACS 2014 518x344 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 78: ‘The Big Experience

Damien Hirst in ‘Schizophrenogenesis’

Paul’s ART STUFF on a plane # 77: ‘After the Gallery?’

aidan 341 Paul’s ART STUFF on a plane # 77: ‘After the Gallery?’
Aidan McNiell’s ‘Core Crop No.341′, 2014, manipulates the London-based Canadian artist’s own large-format photograph of an English rose
As Frieze focuses attention on art as business, could there be a new model for the art market, one which places less emphasis on putting on exhibitions, relying rather on the Internet and Art Fairs to sell work? Maybe so, though we’re not there yet: for the most part the online market operates in a different commercial zone, and it’s a physical programme which secures entry to fairs. Yet there is a growing tendency for galleries not to simply close if that considerable commitment stops suiting them, but to embark on a different existence. Payne Shurvell, for example, having run a programme from Hewitt Street for 3.5 years from 2010, have subsequently used pop up spaces – as with Aidan McNiell’s show (to 29 November) at the Canadian High Commission. WW have sub-let most of their Hatton Garden space, but retained an office there from which to run such initiatives as their Solo Award leading to a show at the London Art Fair. And Bristol’s WORKS|PROJECTS, one of the leading – indeed, one of the few – commercial galleries outside of London, recently took an upbeat view of ‘moving forward to explore a more dynamic model than its past gallery-based programme, combining a series of strategic development initiatives with a peripatetic programme of exhibitions’. Those approaches have all evolved on the back of the credibility earned from running a more conventional space, but it will be interesting to see both whether they work, and – if they do – whether art businesses might be founded, rather than rebooted, on such models.

CLEO CONTRA AUGUSTE Paul’s ART STUFF on a plane # 77: ‘After the Gallery?’

Amba Sayal-Bennett won this year’s WW Solo Award: here’s ‘Cleo Contra-Auguste’, 2014: Drawing Projection, Tape, Paper, Celotex

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 76: ‘Turnering Away from London’

Campbell Turner Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 76: ‘Turnering Away from London’
Still from Duncan Campbell: ‘It for Others’, 2013

The vast majority of artists in Britain are based in, and show mostly in, London. Yet not only have most recent Turner Prize winners been from Glasgow, none of the 2014 contenders are based in London and only one of them is shortlisted for a show there – or, indeed, in Britain. The work is also homogenous this year: all four are concerned with reuse of material in rather original and transformational ways – and their exhibits are closer than in most years to the shows for which they were noominated. Tris Vonna-Michell (lives in Stockholm and Southend, nominated for a show in Brussels) has been recycling the same photographs and a text about his mother for ten years, exploring the capacity to make things fresh through presentational variation. James Richards (lives Berlin, showed in Venice) makes what you might call an abstract film by collaging representational images in a sensuous way which foreground the peripheral. The most surprising in terms of current artistic language, and the only one to show in the light, is Ciara Phillips (Glasgow, London): she is I think the first of the 130 artists shortlisted for the Turner Prize to date to specialise in printmaking. Her immersive installation plays language as sign, an acceptance of chance, and community involvement into 400 prints which feature many slight variations on a few base images. Duncan Campbell (Glasgow, Venice) ponders for an hour on the history of how objects become commodities. ‘It for Others’ ranges intricately from the western co-option of tribal art to Marx’s labour theory of value – shown via ballet – to a tabletop dance of consumer products. Ah, I see I have the shortlist in some sort of order…

ciara Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 76: ‘Turnering Away from London’
Ciara Phillips: ‘Things Shared’, 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 plane # 75: ‘Three Styles’

Or ' Red and Black and Women Part II...
de stael red and black 1950 Paul’s ART STUFF on a plane # 75: ‘Three Styles’

Nicolas de Staël: ‘Red and Black’, 1950

Philip Guston, Kazimir Malevich and John Piper occur to me as painters who started figuratively, switched to abstraction, then returned to a new mode of figuration. Theirs is a rare club (if not quite so rare as the abstract - figurative - abstract move of Ricahrd Diebenkorn and ...?), but one to which the Russian-born French artist Nicolas de Staël (say ‘Nicola der Stile’) might seek membership, judging by a revelatory show of his late nudes. Staël (1914-55) is famous for his early 50’s paintings, and for his dramatic plunge from the 11th floor of his apartment building in Antibes at only 41. The best-known example of Staël’s early figurative style is a portrait of his first wife, Jeannine Guillou, herself a talented painter. She died in 1946, and the widower married Françoise Chapouton. By then he was on the way to his most characteristic approach of building up slabs of impasto to interchangeable landscape and abstract effect. In 1952 he fell for Jeanne Mathieu, who ‘came with such strong harmonic qualities’ that she robbed him ‘of all the calm I need to complete my projects’. She was the model for most of the nudes in ‘La figure à nu’ at the Picasso Museum, Antibes. They range from the clotted to the lyrically direct as his last paintings became more fluid and figurative. There are also collages, charcoals and elegantly simple line drawings. But the artist’s depression was exacerbated by Jeanne’s refusal to leave her husband for him once he’d left his wife for her. The breaks aren’t so sharp as Malevich, Guston and Piper’s, but one could still say: three women, three Staëls…

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Nicolas de Staël: ‘Nu Couchee’, 1954

Paul’s ART STUFF on a plane # 74: ‘Thinking Inside the Box’

sosno 4 Paul’s ART STUFF on a plane # 75: ‘Thinking Inside the Box’

Sacha Sosno: ‘Thinking Inside the Box’

Spending a week in Juan les Pins wasn’t meant as an art trip, but there’s plenty in the area between Cannes and Nice, including museums dedicated to Matisse, Picasso, Leger and Chagall. A less expected Riviera sighting is this 30 metre high square head, which houses the offices of the main public library in Nice and can lay claim – at least, by day – to being the world’s first inhabited sculpture. ‘Thinking Inside the Box’ was designed by Sacha Sosno (born 1937) a Marseille-born Latvian who got to know Matisse and Klein in the 50’s and has since specialised in public projects. It opened in 2002, and looks particularly good at night, when internal illumination allows a view through the covering of perforated aluminium. The public can’t get inside the several floors in the neck and head, but the extensive ground floor displays Sosno’s maquette (‘The Little Big Head’?) and a related work, in which an open volume stands in for a life-sized figure’s face – a literal version of ‘having your head buried in a book’ or maybe even ‘thinking inside the book’. The Bibliothèque Louis Nucéra is part of the same complex as the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC), which has more Sosno and – in a complementary exhibition of sorts – an extensive retrospective of the Portuguese artist Julião Sarmento. His signature subject in explorations of memory and desire is a woman in a black dress: she recurs in fragmented forms, typically without a head, square or otherwise…

sosno 2 Paul’s ART STUFF on a plane # 75: ‘Thinking Inside the Box’
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 # 73: ’Red and Black and Women’

kelly 2 ART STUFF on a train # 74: ’Red and Black and Women’

Mary Kelly: ‘7 Days, March, 1972′, 2014 – compressed lint, framed, 76 x 58 cm

It would be hard to call it a face-off, but both Gilbert & George (‘Scapegoating Pictures for London’ at White Cube Bermondsey to 30th Sept) and Mary Kelly (‘On the Passage of a Few People through a Rather Brief Passage of Time’ at Pippy Houldsworth, to 4th Oct) tackle political subject matter through a graphic photo-based style in red, black and white.
The self-proclaimed living sculptures are in feisty form, play the role of realist visionaries to guide us through the religiously-infected hostility they see in society. Bomb-like ‘hippy crack’ canisters, collected from East End streets on which nitrous oxide provides a popular ‘high’, carry a menace consistent with how often the Gilbert & George are digitally masked, fragmented and skeletonised. That said, 60 images – mostly 8 feet high – become a wearying grab of almost all of White Cube’s Bermondsey flagship, and that’s without the other half of the series, which is in Paris. Kelly’s much more modest show also bears witness: its images are derived from her own magazine archive of such collectively formative events as an anti-abortion rally in 1972 and the Vietnam War. Women’s domestic labour underpins what we see, as image and text is made up from units of lint, which Kelly casts in the filter screen of a tumble dryer over hundreds of cycles. So far as I can recall, figures largely hidden by burkas are – together with the Queen – Gilbert and George’s first portrayals of women… but I’d go to the female behind the scenes first.

20140808163256 BODY POPPERS   Gilbert  George   2013   910391 ART STUFF on a train # 74: ’Red and Black and Women’  
Gilbert & George: ‘Body Poppers’, 2013 – 226 x 317 cm


Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 72: ‘Five Generations’

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Ludovic-Rodo Pissarro: ‘Cinq Sacs à Mains’(‘Five Handbags’), c. 1907

There are a lot of galleries in London… And so it was that I found myself in Stern Pissarro for the first time last week, in what is its 50th anniversary year – this though it’s been hidden in plain sight at 66 St. James’s Street since 2009. You can see various secondary market works upstairs (Leger, Kees Van Dongen, Arman and AR Penck are current highlights) and a stock of paintings by the descendants of Pissarro downstairs – for, following David Stern’s marriage to Lélia Pissarro in 1988, a 19th century generalist dealership morphed into a business run largely by the family to show the family. Jacob Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) had five sons: and taught them, but not his two daughters, to paint. The gallery represents ten of the family, happily including three women from later generations, one of them Camille’s great granddaughter Lélia. The most striking work by his sons, judged by the current display, is that of his 4th: Ludovic-Rodolphe – or ‘Rodo’ – Pissarro (1879-1952) took inspiration from the night life in Montmartre in the decades leading to World War I, the effect being a more impressionist take on Toulouse-Lautrec. Like his father (who was here in 1870-1890) he spent time in London (1914-24). He did nothing to secure the workforce of what became the family business – none of Camille’s 16 grandchildren were Rodo’s – but he did labour for many years to produce the definitive catalogue of his father’s paintings, such as this view set a dozen miles outside Paris.

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Camille Pissarro: ‘Le Ru de Montbuisson, Louveciennes’, 1869

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 # 71: ‘Hurry along!’

olafur58 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 71: ‘Hurry along!’
Olafur Eliasson: ‘Colour experiment no. 58′, 2014

It’s easy to find one doesn’t see much of our national institution’s permanent collections (they’re always there, what’s the rush?) and that can extend to the changing displays within them, even though they’re temporary. One might propose a paradoxical law: ‘the longer a show runs, the less likely you are to see it’ – because you don’t hurry and then it’s too late… Anyway, the Tates are good at such room-sized presentations. Sticking with the less fashionable Tate Britain, the big reason to visit is still the slapstick monumentalism of Phyllida Barlow’s dock (to 10 Oct), but I would also highlight three rooms from the many. The 15 paintings and 29 drawings which make up Lucien Freud’s collection of fellow Berlin-born Briton Frank Auerbach are a compelling sampler ahead of the latter’s coming Tate retrospective (from 9 Oct). Freud’s holdings contrast some spectacularly accreted 1960’s portraits of Estella Olive West (‘E.O.W’), with several luminously uncongealed later landscapes. The Clore Galleries contain Olafur Eliasson’s Turner colour experiments (to 25 Jan 2015), which isolate and record Turner’s use of light and colour in seven circular paintings. That will soon complement the major show of Late Turner (from 10 Sept). Downstairs back in the main building is Reception, Rupture and Return: The Model and the Life Room (to 19 April). That takes the model’s point of view in a survey of life drawing practice, including a focus on what they went on to do: Eileen Mayo (1904-94), for example, is the star of iconic paintings by the better-known women Laura Knight and Dod Procter, but also emerges as an interesting artist in her own right, with the perhaps unique distinction of emigrating to Australia (1952-62) and New Zealand (1962-94) and designing stamps for both countries. Hurry along! You’ve only got seven months!

                      PlatypusOneShillingStampByEileen Mayo Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 71: ‘Hurry along!’

                     Eileen Mayo: Australian stamp, 1959

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?

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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.