Sunday, 10 May 2015


ART STUFF on a train # 110: ‘The Other End of the Journey’

                        Malcolm Crocker: 'Never Forever 1', 50 x 70 cm

I live in Southampton, even if I’m in London most daylight hours. Recently, though, it’s been well worth attending to my home scene. The City Art Gallery, which has been going since 1939, has one of the best permanent collections, though also the shortest opening hours, of our regional museums. A welcome survey of Dan Holdsworth’s photographs has just opened, and the Gallery is also showing the accomplished young local artist Greg Gilbert as has the recently re-provisioned showcase of Southampton’s ‘other university’ – Solent. Gilbert is one of five artists who considered Southampton as muse, even if the catalogue self-deprecatingly quotes Laurie Lee’s 1934 complaint that he didn’t see the sea as promised, just ‘a few rusty cranes’ and ‘a muddy river which they said was Southampton Water’. Meanwhile the old university’s well-respected John Hansard Gallery, on the Highfield campus a couple of miles out, is due to close early next year and reopen more centrally in late 2016 as part of an ambitious arts complex which has been in prospect for over a decade. Moreover, the experimental scene also has two spaces in former shops in the run down St Mary’s area: enterprising recent art graduates  have formed the HA HA and Orb galleries. The latter currently has Malcolm Crocker's impressive retro-futurist landscapes. So there’s plenty to be said for a day in Southampton. I would say ‘come and see me’ but I doubt if I’d be there…

* Liv Fontaine, a performance artist who co-runs the space, features in my current London show ‘Weight for the Showing’ (at Maddox Arts, to 13 June, since you ask).

liv performance from tash young ART STUFF on a train # 108: ‘The Other End of the Journey’

Liv Fontaine in ‘Plinth Piece’ – performance at Maddox Arts, 23 April 2015, to be repeated 8 pm on 22 May

109: ‘Uncrushed Dreams’

Brian Chalkley My dreams get crushed... Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 109:  ‘Uncrushed Dreams’

Brian Dawn Chalkly: ‘My dreams get crushed on a regular basis. I guess that’s down to the life I’m living’, 2012 – Watercolour on paper – 42 x 59

Who’s the best transvestite artist in the country? Grayson Perry is, of course, much the most famous, not just as an artist, but as a media figure, especially when dressed as Claire. But to my taste the better artist is Brian Dawn Chalkley, similar enough in inclinations to have accompanied Perry to the Torture Garden back in the day. Leading the MA at Chelsea College as Brian and going out as Dawn by night, he’s an abstract painter who turned to performance, film and – latterly – figurative watercolours. His slightly washed-out paintings of women look a little naïve at first, but there’s lots going on: having sourced a photographic starting point with the right air of anxiety, Chalkley then designs clothes to suit how he sees his ostensible subjects’ personalities – often still referencing abstract art – and then follows a parallel process to decide on a background. A disjointed allure results, pointed up by the lengthy titles quoting from fashion magazines. They gesture towards fleshing out the character but leave us wondering if it’s all a pretence – which it might very well be, for these paintings also represent Chalkley’s own dreams of how he’d like to be, of the act he’d like to pull off. You can see six of Chalkley’s paintings in a three person show (with Jacqueline Utley and Charles Williams at Studio 1.1 to 31 May) which is themed around the construction of narratives.

brain chalkley Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 109:  ‘Uncrushed Dreams’

                        Brian as Dawn

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 108: ‘Apple Barnacle Orgasm’

Shimabaku Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 108: ‘Apple Barnacle Orgasm’

Shimabaku sharpening his Apple

It’s wonderful what obscure byways you can be drawn into if you visit a few shows. Just sticking to natural history:

How do you cut an apple with an apple? Shimabaku makes it look easy at Wilkinson (to 17 May, with the bonus of a brilliant set of paintings by Marcin Maciejowski). He sharpens the side of his Macbook Air to a guillotine finish before wielding it on the fruit. So if you crave thematically murderous revenge on a computer addict…

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Salvatore Arancio: ‘Holes’ 2015, calcite, epoxy resin, pigment, epoxy modeling compound, pain

What’s going on in the world of barnacles? London hasn’t has a good barnacle show since Paul Delafield Cook at Purdy Hicks in 2013, which makes Salvatore Arancio’s ceramics at the Contemporary Art Society (to 28 Aug) a particular pleasure. That counters the recent news that the teeth the mobile limpet uses to cling to a rock contain the strongest naturally occurring substance yet discovered, which had threatened to rather overshadow the fixed spot barnacle.

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Moussa Sar: still from ‘L’Orgasme du Singe’, 2007

Do female monkeys have orgasms? The verdict is out in wild practice, but all female mammals have a clitoris, and all primates can be artificially stimulated to such behaviours – hyperventilation, spasms, clutching, eversion of the lips, panting vocalization – as are demonstrated by the French African video artist Moussa Sar in the racially charged ‘L’Orgasme du Singe’ at Cecilia Brunson Projects (to 8 May), one of a group of punchy little plays to camera which also include an insect impersonation which comfortably outdoes Isabella Rossellini on ‘The Sex Life of Insects’.

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 107: ‘Grids Gone Dotty’

genzk69302 na genzk69302 A0T59J Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 107: ‘Grids Gone Dotty’
Isa Genzken: ‘Geldbild VVIII’, 2014

These two paintings are both made up of circular elements similarly distributed – 50 and 100 respectively. Neither involves the application of paint by the artist, but that aside the production processes are quite different. Isa Genzken (at Hauser & Wirth to 10 May) has made money paintings (‘Geldbilder’) most of which combine banknotes with coins, photographs of the artist and other material from the studio – a novel security issue, as a €50 note might well be worth detaching in an unobserved moment. One room – which I prefer – employs coins only to generate a more pared back and original abstract aesthetic. Their potential regularity is disrupted by somewhat haphazard application, the range of coins, the paint or tarnish on some, substitution of washers , and the odd coin being represented only by the mark of where it used to be. Meanwhile, one of the consistently sized 304.8cm square paintings – 10 feet in old money – in Jonathan Horowitz’s show (Sadie Coles to 30 May) was made by sending out a small canvas to 100 different people were asked to make an unmeasured free hand approximation of an 8 inch black disc. The variety of sizes so produced makes for a subjective riff on a early Bridget Riley or – more pertinently, given that versions of his mirrors are also in the show, Roy Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dots. Both counter the expectation that money is paid for skilful product of the painter’s hand: Genzken by making cash the subject and substance as well as one of the objects of the work; Horowitz by outsourcing the painting in the more radical way than does, say, Jeff Koons – it’s not that the substitution of others’ efforts is a practical matter to achieve production on the scale desired, nor that higher levels of skill can be bought in , but that the very effects the artist seeks would be lost were he to make the work himself.

              horowitz dots Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 107: ‘Grids Gone Dotty’

              Jonathan Horowitz: ‘One Hundred Dots’, 2015

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 106: ‘Batchelor of Books’

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David Batchelor: from ‘The October Colouring-In Book’

The Whitechapel’s fascinating 100 artist ‘Adventures of the Black Square’ included a framed display of David Batchelor’s version of the first ever issue of October magazine, now published as ‘The October Colouring-In Book’. The magazine announced itself to be plain of aspect and devoid of colour, as befitting a heavyweight theoretical journal – so Batchelor* cocks a snook by colouring in one side of every page, adopting a range of circular, triangular and rectangular motifs to achieve a varied rhythm. That makes for 58 sheets of geometric rainbow interventions. It’s unashamedly attractive in just the way October would have dismissed, and also undermines its template’s textual intent by reducing readability to the margins. Batchelor’s tactics here fit in with his widely-cited ‘Chromophobia’ (2000), a polemic in favour of colour as a serious matter too often dismissed as frippery. And Batchelor’s ‘Monochrome Archive, 1997-2015’ remains at the Whitechapel to 3 May. His 2010 book ‘Found Monochromes’ collected 250 photographs of white rectangles. Batchelor now has 500, and has expanded his range to include black. They are superbly displayed as large slow slide shows in horizontal and vertical formats; small rapid fire screens; and the original slides backlit on a display table. They point to the origins of geometric abstraction in the city, represent a contemplative pause amidst its noise, and also call attention the peripheral surrounding views we might easily have ignored.

* See ‘Chromophobia’ (Reaktion Books, 2000 – £12.95), ‘Found Monochromes, Vol.1, 1–250’ (Ridinghouse, 2010 – £28) and ‘The October Colouring-In Book’ (Ridinghouse, 2015 – £12)

david batchelor no 57 stoke newington london 20 09 02 2003 photograph c2a9 david batchelor1 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 107: ‘Batchelor of Books’

David Batchelor: ‘Found Monochrome No. 57 – Stoke Newington, London 20-09-02′

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 # 105: ‘Game of the Name’

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‘Patron: Experiments in Colour #2′ 2015 – Collaborative work in which Sinta Tantra paints Nick Hornby’s sculptural form.

Given that artists are brands of a sort, it would be no surprise if having the right name can impact on the chances of success. Ideally, I reckon, a name should be memorable, distinctive (so Internet searches lead to the artist rather than an ersatz name sharer); and easy to spell and pronounce – though a little bit of mystery does no harm, enabling initiates to feel they’re in the know (‘actually it’s Rew-shay’ / ‘Zee’ / ‘Yoost’, collectors of Ed Rusha, Sarah Sze or Jesper Just can point out). That said, Pierre Huyghe (say ‘Hweeg’) may have taken that a little too far, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (‘a-pih-CHAT-pong Weer-uh-suh-THA-cull) has surely found success in spite of his name. ‘John Smith’, in contrast, fails the distinctiveness test comprehensively enough, perhaps, to be memorable: the filmmaker told me he knew he was gaining traction when someone referred to him as ‘THE John Smith’! Something which Nick Hornby (not the novelist, but the artist) must suffer in reverse. Ai Wei-Wei has cracked it, but Chinese artists are confusing for Westerners – I struggle to separate my Liu Xiaodong from Chen Xiaoyun, my Xu Bing from Lu Ding. It makes you wonder why more artists don’t change their names, as did, say, Marcus Rothkowitz, Vostanik Adoian and Alfred Schulze*. So what is the ideal name? Damien Hirst has a good one** – simple yet unusual with thematic hints of devilry and death (is a car-driven coffin ‘hearsed’?). And Blue Curry, Rae Hicks and Sinta Tantra, for example, are young British artists who won’t be able to blame their names if they don’t become famous.

* Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Wols

** Luke Gottelier suggested on seeing that that Man Ray has the simplest and most memorable art name. He may be right...

sinta 21 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 105: ‘Game of the Name’

‘Patron: Experiments in Colour #2′ 2015 – angle 2

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 104: ‘Not Quite Shangri-La’

dawood Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 104: ‘Not Quite Shangri La’

Shezad Dawood: ‘Three Arrangements for Annabel & Cello’, 2015 – digital video, 9:30, ed of 7
Image courtesy Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London. Copyright the artist.

You might have thought that Shezad Dawood had had his London moment with last spring’s comprehensive solo at the Parasol Unit… But no, you could recently see the Indian-Pakistani-Irish-English artist in three places with varied work not included in that show. He has a three-floor-spanning textile commission at Sadler’s Wells (to 26 April). Pippy Houldsworth’s subsidiary one work exhibition in the innovative series ‘The Box’ is Dawood’s new film ‘Three Arrangements for Annabel and Cello’, a seductive conjunction of shadowplay, music, dance and cultural undertones, which hides and reveals performer and model Annabel Hornsby in three scenarios over nine minutes (to 11 April). And Dawood has just featured in fig-2, the ICA’s rapid-turn programme of 50 projects over 50 weeks. His contribution centred on the animation ‘The Room’, a deadpan and somewhat wacky satire of utopian aspiration through the banter of two monk-like figures, Brother P and Brother S. They laugh off the sexual excess and sadistic violence of their respective pasts before discussing the true nature of Shangri-La. It’s virtual, they concur, though not for the obvious reason that it’s a 1930’s fiction, but as a way of showing their own superior understanding. Yet they still get tied up in knots as they try to decide whether and how the mythical valley gets bigger to accommodate increasing numbers of adepts. Perhaps in Shangri-La all artists would get an equal number of shows, but for now Brother S seems inequitably blessed.

dawood ica Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 104: ‘Not Quite Shangri La’

Shezad Dawood, 2015. Installation image of fig-2 exhibition, week 13/50. Courtesy of the artist.
Photography by Sylvain Deleu. 

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 # 103: ‘Foolish at the Tate?’

fool 3 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 103: ‘Foolish at the Tate?’

Dan Flavin: ‘Untitled (to Alan Shepard in honour of the upward and downward journey)’, 1984

I’ve mentioned before that it’s worth keeping an eye on the changing presentation of the Tate’s permanent collections. Here are two recent acquisitions which play off everyday materials to question what constitutes an artwork – just the sort of purchase which used to derided as foolish, but is now accepted as an interesting part of the conceptual story. Dan Flavin’s 1960’s and 70’s light works have been widely shown here, but ‘hooded’ lights have never been seen in Britain before – so it’s real coup to have acquired the significant installation Untitled (to Alan Shepard in honour of the upward and downward journey), 1984, for just £1.6m. The title, as well its dedication to the Apollo 14 astronaut, eschatologically reinforces the anticipation of death which critics have generally read into the dark wood coverings which obscure the upper surfaces of Flavin’s characteristic standard neon tubes in this late series. Thomas Hirschhorn’s Interior Facement, 1999, by way of contrast, is an early work. For some years now the intensely theoretical Swiss artist has rendered objects more equal by covering them in brown duct tape – a material chosen for the political point made by its lack of inherent value. This security camera from 1999, however, is wrapped in black insulation tape, indicative of how Hirschhorn had not yet settled on duct tape, and was also more willing to isolate a single charged object from its surrounding network of philosophical implications. So, if you’re in the Tate this morning*, look out for more than Marlene Dumas.

* Published 1 April, 2015

fool 1 Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 103: ‘Foolish at the Tate?’

Thomas Hirschhorn: ‘Interior Facement’, 1999

Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 102: ‘The Use of Painting’

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Luke Gottelier in his best painting kit with themed bookselves

Really, what’s the use of painting? Successful works just take up wall space which could have been used for shelving – possibly the fun-shelves, suited to their books, which Luke Gottelier has put up at DOLPH project space in Streatham: Manzoni monographs on a white shelf, Kippenberger on a scrappy construction, Warhol on a mix of silver and transparency etc. Failed paintings must be even further down the value chain. Yet Gottelier (also at FOLD’s new space in Fitzrovia, to 18 April) gives his rejected works a practical role: as ashtray, toy vehicle, electric guitar… Or does he? The first problem is that the process generates a ramshackle purposefulness which is in danger of falling back into art value. The second is that he’s just as likely to torture the earmarked set of 39 failed works from 2004-05, suffocating one in toxic gold paint, lighting another up with fireworks – and planning to conclude his time at DOLPH (where he’s at home with his books to 28 March) by covering a painting with catnip and letting a performing hoard of tabbies do their worst.That’s typical of how Gottelier works: he’s fired by decidedly wacky ideas – what if he sticks neckties onto paintings / aims at the ugliest possible portrait / makes a hairy painting / attacks his old work? – which then drive him into the search for the formal and practical solutions. And that’s what maintains his – and our – interest. Maybe that’s the use of painting, after all.

luke gottelier firework display Pauls ART STUFF on a train # 102: ‘The Use of Painting’

Luke Gottelier: ‘Firework Display’, 2005-2015 – Fireworks, wood, oil paint, painting

Paul’s ART STUFF on a Train # 101: ‘I Fink it’s a Face’

gallery21 Paul’s ART STUFF on a Train # 101: I Fink its a Face

Graham Fink (at Riflemaker to 21 March) is a pareidolian: he sees faces all over the place. That’s picked up in witty photographs which land somewhere between gestalt and abstraction by discovering visages in peeling walls, clouds and rock formations etc. True, I’ve seen that done before, but the surprising variety and specificity which Fink discovers gives his images an extra dimension. He displays a selection of these on monumentalising slabs of marble. Fink finds it natural to draw faces, and has taken to doing so using only his eyes, into which an infrared light is shone in a development of marketing researchers’ well-established eye tracking technology, as used to find out what attracts the viewer of an advert. To date he’s ‘drawn’ those faces mainly from his imagination, but I caught him essaying a portrait using the technique, which makes more sense to me: the act of looking is translated directly into a representation made with no ‘middle man’ in the form of hands. Impressive as Fink’s abilities are given the method, the drawings look hesitant and scratchy, even when they, too, are given marble import. There’s something alluring about the directness achieved, though, which makes one wonder whether some sort of essence is being revealed. In his spare time, incidentally, Fink is Chief Creative Officer for China at the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather – and his most famous advert sees hundreds of people form… a face.

eye drawing 31 Paul’s ART STUFF on a Train # 101: I Fink its a Face

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?

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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.