Sunday, 9 August 2015


William Kentridge Hon RA:   UNTITLED (THE PERIPHERY)

I’ve never seen the Royal Academy summer show look better: introduced by Jim Lambie’s  striped stairs, the rooms colour-coded by Michael Craig-Martin, two set aside for solo exhibitions putting William Kentridge and Tom Phillips in the best light. Modernisation has occurred: photos are now allowed and everything is well displayed online. Of course, the hang is tough on those who have a problem with visual noise, and there’s plenty to dislike - but those factors are best accepted as part of the tradition rather than worried about. Anyway, here are 10 other things which caught my attention.


67  Wolfgang Tillmans RA: ARMS AND LEGS 

Inkjet print and clips, 208 x 138 cm - £50,000

The grandest Gallery sets colourful work against Craig Martin’s favourite magenta pink. One wall had this large sexual – or was it just muddled? -  photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans alongside Ed Ruscha, and under some of Michael Landy’s neon bubbles rising towards the gilded angels perched on the cornice. As is typical of Tillman’s, the exceptionally casual somehow combines intimacy with a skewed monumentalism. This is essentially an abstract colour study with hairs on the skin.



753  Rebecca Salter RA: - UNTITLED AH4   

Ink and woodblock on Japanese paper - £5,000

The newest Royal Academician, Rebecca Salter, excelled in several rooms with her restrained, contemplative wash and block drawings which seem to emanate light.  She graduated from Bristol Polytechnic, but her subtle, often grid-based, abstraction suggesting natural forces owes much to her having spent 1979-86 in Kyoto. She is based in London now,  but recent work tends to be waterily informed by spending time in the Lake District.


727 Lisa Milroy RA:  BLACK DRESS  

Oil on canvas, 152 x 103cm - £12,000

Lisa Milroy’s current practice is diverse: it includes her presentations of a dress as art, abstract patterns which weave together separate strands to make a whole painting, and the animated placement of still life elements against a crisply defining background - the style which made her name. Indeed, this little black dress brings together aspects of all three. And of course, everyone loves a little black dress – how come I haven’t seen one painted on its own before?


1098  Bada Song: YEONJI-BONGSUNWHA  

Nail varnish and lipstick on cardboard,  10 x 128 x 34 cm - £4,500

Seoul-raised sculptor Bada Song moved here in 1997. She combines Korean cultural references with contemporary art’s aesthetics. Here a minimalist-come-industrial pair of pipes has a simple visual allure but carries complex references. One pipe is covered with Yeonji, the red-dot make-up traditionally worn by Korean brides, the other with nail varnish made from the Bongsunwha flower, which also refers to a hopeful song that was banned while Korea was under occupation by the Japanese in World War 11. Moreover, Song dedicates the work  to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, a Korean artist and writer who was murdered – in a tragic clash of cultures - by a New York serial killer in 1982. 



Oil on board,  46 x 60 cm -  £6,500 

Jock McFadyen curated a landscape-oriented room, with several of his own paintings, including a radical nightscape dominated by the moon. This small oil in a battered old frame was in a different room, though: first I noticed that cunnilingus was taking place, then I wondered about the title - which Scottish programme featured this scene? -  then I noticed that the couple are oblivious of a small blank screen. In the category  of witty titles I also liked Amikam Toren’s  The User’s Guide to Married Life No. 2 (three symbols lifted from packing boxes) and Christine Stark's complicated abstraction When D’You Last Think You Saw It?


950 Kim Rugg - LONDON, THE STREETS    

Ink on paper, 146 x 173 cm - £9,000

London-based Canadian Kim Rugg is known for dismantling and reassembling newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes and stamps so that their purpose is subverted and new perspectives revealed. She’s recently applied something of that approach to maps by removing boundaries to metaphorical effect. Here it’s just the delineation of streets which has gone, leaving their names to form the geography of a painstaking vision of London in which my street is your street, even if we call them by different names. 

Here's Kim Rugg's detail for Brockley, including Whitbread Road: I recommend you go there for the group show 'Bread and Jam' at No. 52...



588  Cornelia Parker RA: STOLEN THUNDER III

Digital print,  91.9 x 90.7 cm, Edition of 100 - £850

Amongst all the tradition, Cornelia Parker shows how to set up a new one: having shown an abstraction made from the red dots used to indicate a sale, she showed a photograph of that with the red dots actually achieved beneath it, then photographed that...   Give it a decade, and this series is going to expand to a rather complicated point of regression.


Cathie Pilkington with Tall Boy
1077 Cathie Pilkington RA  TALL BOY 

Wood, plaster, clay, paint, steel, fabric, bronze and synthetic hair, 270 x 240 x 80 cm - £60,000

Cathie Pilkington models, carves, paints and casts from disparate objects and domestic materials, then assembles the results into bracingly weird tableaux. Here a  multiplicity of levels is achieved by her use of a tallboy (a double chest of drawers with a wardrobe on top) to display her homages to other artists, mysteries of connection, and psychological plays on the dollhouse. We find, for example,  a Chapmanesque head on a tree, a tree growing out of a head, a doll's extremities on a modernist sculptural body, a mythic multi-breasted bronze and three graces with only one face between them. 



736 Gerard Hemsworth: SCREEN 

Acrylic on canvas,  200 x 175 cm - £28,300

Craig Martin invited several non-academicians to show, one being Gerard Hemsworth, who retired to Hastings from his post as professor of fine art at Goldsmiths in 2011. He integrates the contradictory elements of modernism, signage and cartoons to leave us wondering quite what we are looking at and why. Catci have recently emerged as the lead characters – prickly types, perhaps -  in his playfully delineated world. Not quite what you expect of fine art? Hemsworth can explain: ‘If it is not to become complicit within its own culture, contemporary art has to remain outside the expected rules of engagement’.


87 Rae Hicks - MANOEUVRES II

Oil on canvas, 135 x 152 cm - £2,900

Rae Hicks studied at Goldsmiths during Hemsworth’s time there, and his creamily painted geometries also pick up a little anthropomorphism as they come into surreal, stilled conjunctions. The natural and the faked seem to be lying around ready to be arranged in an landscape-come-stage set with echoes of De Chirico, Yves Tanguy and Paul Nash – and just a hint of the sinister triggered by the militaristic title..


Michael Craig-Martin on the Lambie steps, photo David Parry

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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.