Sunday, 22 May 2016



20-22 May saw a face-off between two youngish art fair pretenders: the 2nd Photo London at Somerset House vs. 4th-in-sequence Art16 at Olympia. Both venues have advantages and disadvantages, so average quality might be the decisive factor in judging between them, and there's no denying that the former - which balances historic and contemporary  - had much the best supplementary material and higher average quality. Sure, there was plenty of vacuity and not a little predictability, but probably 30% of what the 80 galleries showed was worth looking at if you had the time, compared with maybe 5% at Art16. Much of that 5% was Japanese: they were unquestionably the most impressive presence at the 'global fair'. And of course, with 110 galleries that's 5% of a lot, and there were some excellent editions, and interesting originals from artists well known to me, eg Rauschenberg, Kiefer, Atsuko Tanaka, Yayoi Kusama, El Anatsui, Rashid Araeen, Peter Zimmermann,  Ampara Sard, Shara Hughes, Juliette Losq, Juan Fontanive, Tony Charles and Simon Mullan... 

I was also able to track down five impressive new artists / developments at ART16...

Kojo Shiraya: Trinary, 2015 at Cojhu Contemporary, Kyoto. 

Ceramic artist Shiraya mixes Silica (SiO2), Alumina (Al2O3) and Lime (CaO) in different proprotions and fires them so that the chemical reactions - and hence the form resulting - vary according to the mix of the earth's crust's three main components.


 John McLean: Gioia, 2009 at Maddox Arts, London

I hadn't been aware that veteran abstract Anglo-Scottish painter John McLean (born 1939) had moved into sculptural equivalents, as in this 80 cm high acrylic on aluminium example, which translates - and signals in Italian - his typical geometric joy (gioia) in paint into three dimensions.

Takahiro Yamaoto: Palace, 2015 at Gallery Kogure (Tokyo) 
I've seen plenty of hyper-realistic drawings which look like photos, but even so the Japanese artist astonishes with his elision of past and present in 'Palace': a grid of 27 antique postcards (detail above) reproduced as drawn reflections to make a grid of 54, complete with signs of ageing. Yamamoto's virtuosity is emphasised by including an indistinguishable 'drawn original' among the postcards. 

Kostas Synodis at Julian Page & Joanna Bryant (London).  

There was room for a full-sized version of the young Greek-born Rotherhithe artist's cupboard-like studio opposite a set of new sculptures which looked like corten steel doing  unlikely things. That seemed even more implausible given his studio space, and they were actually resin-light but covered with iron powder. 

Zhao Zhao: Mouse Droppings, 2013  at HDM (Beijing) 

Zhao Zhao is a ex-assistant of Ai Wei Wei, so if his marble safe looked a little like some of  his former employer's works, well I guess he made those too. The 1.5m high 'Mouse Droppings' (in full and detail above) is an impressive not-quite-abstraction from studio life...


It’s indicative of the difference in quality that it would have been possible to pick various  themes to follow through in five works from Photo London. Such as the body multiplied and combined...

Rudolf Koppitz: Movement Study, 1925 at Galerie Johannes Faber, Vienna

Some of the iconic images on view were over-familiar, but though I’ve seen this a few times, I struggled to recall it was by Austrian secessionist Rudolf Koppitz (1884–1936). His slice of symbolist sensuality has the modern air of a replicated individual, even though it’s just uniform coiffure and drapery. 


Ayana V. Jackson: "Drop your right hand / Why can't I turn around", 2012 at Gallery Badiou, Paris

This really is the American photographer herself three times, as she deconstructs the photographic conventions of rooted colonialist constructions of the primitive, titling her atmospherically tinted version of the three graces with an interactive dialogue as well as making the implied choice logically impossible. 

 Hans Breder: Untitled, 1971 at Danziger Gallery, New York

Multi-disiciplinary artist Hans Breder set up the Intermedia Program at the University of Iowa, where Ana Mendieta was his student, lover and model in the most iconic of his mirrored semi-abstractions of the nude which end up somewhere between Hans Bellmer and Robert Smithson. This is another from his 'Body/Sculptures' photographic series from 1969-73. 

Juliana Cerqueira Leite: Concentric #7, 2015 at TJ Boulting, London

Possibly the best stand was one of the smallest, combining multiple self-images by Juno Calypso and Juliana Cerqueira Leite. The Brooklyn based Brazilian brings dance – Martha Graham was an inspiration – as well as her primary medium of sculpture to bear in  satisfyingly rhythmic and mysterious collage compilations of poses.

Photographer Hal: #07_Rem&Marina from 'Flesh Love', 2010 at Ibasho, Antwerp

The melding gets more literal in curiously named Japanese Star Trek fan Photographer Hal’s series of couples encased in duvet bags from which the air is then vacuumed out in pursuit of a union with the perfect closeness of mythical times. Gimmicky, true, but compelling.

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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.