Sunday, 29 December 2019


Brian BressRabbi Larry (on pastel macaroni), 2018

25 minute video in wall-mounted monitor

American artist Brian Bress makes films in which canvas and screen innovatively converge to make the production process directly visible. Sometimes, we see the artist cutting through a painting so that the reverse side hangs down. Sometimes - as here - Bress becomes a 'character' who makes realtime drawings, so we can guess what they'll turn out to be. Six drawings are made and erased over a 25-minute loop in front of a pastel abstraction of pasta shapes. The rather ridiculous teacher moves from trampoline to snail-eyed surreal head to underwater world and concludes with a self-portrait over the top of himself. Is that what he was searching for? Do the other drawings portray other aspects of himself?  We move from guessing 'what?' to wondering 'why?'  

Young painter Adam Hennessey describes his work as ‘squishing large things into small spaces’. That’s true of many of the wittily ebullient acrylics on show here – several smiley faces jostle to be sunniest, and birds struggle to fit in their framing. But there’s no squishing required to get these 25 canvases into Fred Mann's expansive new space. Indeed, there’s enough capacity to hold a room back for small works on paper to be painted ready for a closing event on 4 March. Hennessey has a particular affinity with fingers and sheep: the former appear directly several times , though the ‘Finger Alphabet’ merely points to an anagram caused by alphabetical order; a characterfully distinguished herd of the latter seem to have been shot – if only, perhaps, with paint –  before they can enjoy the lushest grass you ever didn’t really see, it was just a picture in Sheep Lane. Adam Hennessy’s lively paintings feature a jauntily mysterious personal vocabulary of pigeons, fingers, sheep and - above shed, squashed ant and cabbages. They took over his gallerist, judging by Fred Mann's shirt  above. The booth also provides a chance to browse Hennessey's cringe-makingly funny ‘zine about getting crabs.

I have an idea for a new performance sculpture that i would like to try. It would run for 2 hours or so, (see attached image).  A performer lays under a cast silicone rubber sheet in the gallery space, their leg pokes through a hole in the surface of the sheet. The performer is static, An action film is projected onto the sheet.With this new peice I want to explore the interface between body/object/moving image, this take time

Leah Capaldi: 'Peplos', 2010 in ‘Young Gods’ @ CHARLIE SMITH London, 336 Old Street - Hoxton

To 7 Aug:

This is definitely a performance sculpture. Leah Capaldi plays off the frequent use of life-like mannequins in recent art to present a woman – who turns out to be real – crouched beneath two fur coats with just the very vulnerable-looking nape of her neck exposed: a sort of trompe l’oeil in reverse. Homelessness, execution and primitive ritual come to mind in this power-play, as well as the classical reference of the title: the peplos was a sleeveless garment worn in ancient Greece. The work comes from Capaldi’s RCA degree show, which also featured more visceral versions of the person as sculpture. Here it’s the highlight of an interesting survey of new graduates’ work – though following the opening you will have to bring your imagination to just the coats on the floor, ready for 'action'.
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…

Ryan Mosley: To compete is to finish, 2015

Oil on canvas 230 x 185cm 

A curious carnivalesque past merges with art history in Ryan Mosley's distinctively odd world. A staircase scene echoes Oskar Schlemmer. Its hyper-bearded characters are seemingly dressed in paintings, mostly abstract but one with a pink-shoed leg on his back. Perhaps that belongs to the pink-hatted man on the canvas propped upfront. The men look in turn at abstract paintings, unexpected presences in what look to be Victorian times with souped-up colours. One of them may actually be painting the yellow monochrome with his brushy black beard. What of the notion that 'to compete' - rather than complete, in the definition we might have expected - 'is to finish'? Is a beard-painting contest under way as a picture-finishing mechanism? I like the thought that the word 'complete' is itself unfinished, is missing the letter 'l'.

Oona Grimes: still from u.e u. , 2018 -  9.28 min. iPhone film.Oona Grimes is a lover of film who has typically absorbed that into other media – the clown drawings are an example. That changed recently in the series of shorts which she shows on iPads. In the six films of ‘Hail the New Etruscan’, Oona  re-enacts reinvents classic scenes from Italian Neorealist cinema in their original Roman settings. She makes a virtue of her lack of training: ‘I wasn’t acting,’ she says, ‘I was physically drawing the moment’. ‘u.e.u.’, for example, refers to Pier Paolo Pasolini's Uccellacci e Uccellini (1966) – ‘big and small birds’. That turned on Franciscan monks communing with avian life. Grimes mimics their imitation of a sparrow’s hopping, and lets the birds do her talking. It’s endearingly daft, but with a dark hawk-on-sparrow conclusion, and also carries messages about communication and empathy which are pertinent to how people place themselves in the natural world. 

Liv Fontaine: The darker days of me and him from The Chronicle of Chronic Sickness 2019

Glasgow-based Liv Fontaine imposes her sharply feminist perspective on audiences through anger-driven performances: expect a manic vocal style, cutting sarcasm and confrontational bodily exposure. Her uncomfortably hilarious material, though filtered through various personae, is evidently personal as well as political — and recently she has confronted a challenge rather different from patriarchy: illnessYet in a typically positive manner, being bedridden facilitated a new expansion into drawings that carry her character-led diatribes into a blitz of images, slogans and challenges. 'The darker days of me and him' sees her appear, defying a nasty skin condition, as a lizard prostitute.  The men still pursue her. 'They see me' says a linked short story 'as the ultimate trophy - my ugliness now so curious it's confused with sexiness'. And now Liv's better and back performing, too - come along on 31 January for xxxxx. 

Jemima Burrill: still from 'The New Model', 2013 - film, 7.51 mins

'The New Model' might be described as a feminist parody via the car industry - combining the stereotypical male fixation on having the latest marque, with the hopes of a woman seeking to escape a conventional role. Burrill herself emerges from a car boot with scarlet lipstick, pinafore and rubber gloves, ready to be given a thorough cleansing-come-makeover in a car wash. Cue the slapstick of her being vacuumed, hosed and dried until she emerges clean and natural, smiling in the sunshine of a fresh start without the lipstick, pinafore and gloves. It doesn't last. The carwash attendant reapplies the lipstick and replaces the pinafore and gloves: the 'new model' is ready to return to the boot. That might also, says Jemima, be read as questioning the worth of  
the torture that woman put themselves though to feel younger. Her performance on 31 January will also home in on inappropriate norms: as Megaphone Woman she'll tackle how women get to speak less and get interrupted more than men. 

Mauro Bonacina, Brian Bress, Jemima Burrill, Leah Capaldi,  Paul Cole, Emma Cousin, Liv Fontaine, Rosie Gibbens, Oona Grimes, Adam Hennessey, Andy Holden, Rand Jarallah, Karen Knorr, Ansel Krut, Dale Lewis, Ryan Mosley, Anna Perach, Katarina Rankovic

Rand Jaralla performs Compartmentalise

Rand Jarallah’s performance at the opening explores what can be defined as ‘putting your feelings on a shelf in the back of your mind to be forgotten’ and ‘a subconscious psychological defence mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance’. She will seek to generate both observation and an act of internal performance by the audience – so they unconsciously compartmentalise their thoughts about they see happen. Rand will pull the fabric of thoughts from her head and put them in a black box. Ridiculously enough, her lips will appear to have migrated to her forehead, emphasising the internality of the thoughts and emotions she is performing. The point is to reflect on the problems which compartmentalisation can cause to our mental health: the danger that we become so skilled at the process, we alienate ourselves from the basic elements of what it means to be a human being. How stupid would that be?

Ansel Krut: Bearded Anemones, 2011.

Oil on canvas, 150 x 110 cm

Ansel Krut’s firm black outlines, crisp colour zones and zesty suggestion of movement flirt with the language of cartoons. And his subjects can have a pretty direct comedy – take ‘Arse Flowers in Bloom’ 2010 or a ‘portrait’ of Napoleon formed from three toilet rolls and a turd. That last is a typical move, finding comic figures in surreal conjunctions of still-life elements. ‘Bearded Anemones’ works somewhat differently, through an anthropomorphism which takes me back some decades via some sort of rockpool confusion to the schoolboy snigger-term ‘bearded clam’ as slang for the vagina. These don’t look like any anemones I’ve seen. But are those purple shoulders at the front? Yes, these could also be heads with all-around beards.  

Paul Carey-Kent on a Ridiculously Good Show at Elephant West 

Ridiculous! presents - in exhibition, film and performance - my choice of 18 artists who are not afraid to look stupid. ‘The True Artist’, runs the statement famously caught in neon by Bruce Nauman in 1967, ‘Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths’. In the same spirit, the true artist is prepared to present the ridiculous, to work in an apparently ridiculous way, or to appear ridiculous themselves. They will run the risk that we’ll be laughing at them as much as with them, in order to get at surprising perspectives. Better to fall flat on your face than to play it safe. I was tempted to include all eighteen artists below, but that would have made for a ridiculously long article. The following seven will give you the idea, but I'm equally pleased to be featuring Brian Bress, Jemima Burrill, Leah Capaldi, Liv Fontaine, Oona Grimes, Adam Hennessey,  Rand Jarallah, Ansel Krut, Dale Lewis, Ryan Mosley and Anna Perach. Questions their works might help you to answer include: 'Why was I so ridiculously embarrassed as a teenager?' , 'How can I turn my boyfriend into a washing machine?' and 'Who opposes Brexit on the grounds that freedom of movement is fundamental for a good fuck?' In case that sounds frivolous, underneath the show's witticisms you will find serious consideration of such matters as identity formation, epistemology, sexual attraction, class conflict and mental health.

Paul Cole: In my Shoes VII, 2019

Oil on cotton bedsheets, wood, cement, plaster bandage, Denim, socks and sandals

There can be something inherently ridiculous about failure, the more so if you keep at your task in the spirit of Beckett's injunction to 'fail better'. How do you know if it's time to give up? But Paul Cole makes the most of it through his series of sculptures made from his own rejected wall-based paintings, propped up on legs shod in his old paint-splattered shoes. The paintings are already a literal exposure of Cole's dirty linen: abstract-tending self-portraits using his family’s old bedsheets as low value grounds that encourage guilt-free spontaneity and enable paint to be applied on both sides.  The absurd shortcomings of the artist and his product are turned into entertaining work which feels a lot like a success. 

Karen KnorrPeers of the Realm, 2015

'What amazing control of animals!' might be your first ridiculous thought, but ludicrous lifestyles are more to the point.  Karen Knorr's 1980's satirical documentary series of upper-class mores has often been shown recently. Those were disrupted by parallel texts, whereas her current wonderfully fastidious digital insertions of wildlife into architecture allow the animals to disrupt scenes of luxury - even as they rather strikingly complement them. This is from a series depicting 'The Lanesborough' in Belgravia,   one of the most expensive hotels in the world. What species of people can afford to live in such a fantasy palace, we might ask? And should they really be better protected than the fauna faced with extinction? 

Mauro Bonacina: images from @MAUROBONACINA, 2014-20

Instagram can be bad for art, encouraging the immediate, flat and colourful over the subtle, textured and intimate. But can it be used as its material? Mauro Bonacina revisits the surrealist love of the found conjunction through the exhibition presentation of six years of his daily photostream at one second per image. You can only just keep up with the connections made between the 1,800 pointedly ridiculous images, sourced from the net using a sophisticated battery of search mechanisms. The title suggests that ‘@MAUROBONACINA’ acts as a self-portrait of sorts. If so, that's quite a mind we're looking into, one which takes the limited attention span to a limit which challenges us in turn.

Rosie Gibbens: still from SeDUCKtion, 2019

For 'Side Eye' Rosie Gibbens will be performing at the opening (8 Jan) with photographs of body parts printed onto fabric to create absurd collages on her body. She's also showing 'SeDUCKtion', which documents her pondside attempt to attract some ducks using a speculum with lipstick as a beak, washing-up gloves as webbed feet, and repetitive dance. In the voice-over, a child reads online discussions comparing the sexiness of Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse.  Of course, it is an utterly ridiculous act - and an over-the-top pun. And yet it is paradoxically seductive viewing!

Emma CousinDouble Garage, 2019

Oil on linen, 200 x 190 cm

Ansel Krut, Dale Lewis, Ryan Mosley and Emma Cousin fill the central space with figurative paintings as big as they are ridiculous. Krut says he likes it if viewers drift back and forth between the absurdity of the image and the colour and paintwork and internal rhythms,  flicking on and off between the contradictions. That could apply to all four.  Cousin's people act out what she calls 'the comedy of how the body works' through groupings which might fail. The implicit danger is evident in Double Garage, in which the figures try to use one another as a ladder to climb out of the canvas. 'It is funny and sad', she says, 'that even if the figures manage it some will be left behind with no one to climb on to reach the top'. Moreover, the canvas has been turned to crank up the absurdity. All of which could stand for the aggressive way in which the ambitious may seek to use others as they climb to the top of the corporate ladder.

Still from Andy Holden: Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape, 2011-17

Andy Holden's hour-long animation is the centrepiece of the film evening on 14 Jan. Holden himself is the avatar who takes us through over 400 illustrative clips, drawing persuasive and witty analogies from a dizzying range of references – from cave painting to Futurism to Slavoj Žižek to quantum mechanics – to show how the apparently ridiculous rules followed in the golden age of cartoons can apply to us now. By way of a flavour, Law I states that ‘any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation’. That leads Holden to observe that ‘capitalism as a whole operates with nothing below it’ – and, as the 2009 collapse of the banking system showed, was ‘oblivious till it looked down’. 


Katarina Rankovic: still from the film/performance The Widow, 2015/20

Katarina Rankovic will be performing in a role she originally improvised in a coat she bought at TK Maxx and promptly returned after the recording. Her approach is to lure herself into 'becoming someone else' to the extent that she starts to have thoughts or come upon turns of phrase that wouldn't occur to her own 'personality'. The results are ludicrous, yet wittily smuggle in sub-texts about the construction of the self and the making of art.  In this case 'the widow' describes with something touching on relish how her husband was not just cut in two but infinitely divided, eventually reaching a state she terms 'hyper-existence'. Might it be that if you go far enough away from being you come out where you began?

42 Age 41 Environment 40 Self-care 39 Food 38 Masculinity 37 Birth 36 Luxury

Who Wants to be Young?

As everyone knows, life expectancy is rising: the UK average was 42 in 1850, 52 in 1900, 69 in 1950, and is now over 80. There are some 15,000 centenarians - an increase of 85% this century - and by 2030 there are expected to be 21,000 (ONS statistics). That is often presented as a problem, given the costs of pensions and care, and old people are not accorded the respect in Britain that some other cultures give them. But surely the trend should be seen as triumph, compared with the alternative for us as individuals. In line with that, here are some positive aspects of age in art, whether that be in production, aesthetic, self-valuation or activity.

Ryan MosleyLost Mountaineer, 2019

Oil on linen on board, 50 x 40 cm

courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin

Various distinctive worlds - such as the fairground, the Edwardian, the cyclist's and the history of art - come together to make Ryan Mosley's own distinctive world of literally and figuratively colourful characters. It's no surprise, then, that the full beard typically indicative of advanced years is re-purposed as a chance to revisit how the face can contribute to the formal design of a painting. How not to relish the bushiness of this mountaineer, who seems to have dipped his beard into the sky - maybe that's how far off track he's got...

Fiona TanRise and Fall, 2009. Still.

Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London.

David Hume famously remarked that he could detect no continuous self, only a bundle of perceptions. Fiona Tan leaves room for doubt, but her imposing two-screen installation, Rise and Fall, moves between simultaneous views of an older and younger woman – implying that they may be the same person – and images of moving bodies of water. That seems to suggest how the flows of time and memory can act as unifying means of living reflectively in the present.

Aleah Chapin: Our Voices are Still Singing on the Margins, 2019

Oil on canvas, 203 x 254 cm © Aleah Chapin, courtesy of Flowers Gallery

The American painter Aleah Chapin celebrates bodily diversity - and age variations in particular - in her unified depictions of the human body and the natural environment. She sees her recent work as describing a world concerned with ‘in-betweenness and edges’ - from the juxtaposition of soft human flesh and landscape, to the symbolic representation of emotional edges and extremes. At any rate, and in spite of the lowering sky, it looks like fun on the margins. 

Georg Baselitz: There are Two Figures in the Old Style, 2019

Oil and painter’s gold varnish on canvas, 300 x 212 cm

Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. © Georg Baselitz 2019. Photo: Jochen Littkemann, Berlin

Baselitz's recent portraits of himself with his wife, Elke,  invert the subject in the renowned octogenarian's long-running means of - as he has said - 'emptying the content out of what he paints' to emphasise abstract qualities. Yet the couple emerge as ghostly yet monumental presences. The series began darkly, but this recent 3m high example puts the 'old style' in 'old' by suggesting traditional gilding by the use of painter’s gold varnish to bring warmth to a double celebration of the value of age.

Regina HügliPortraits of Herbert G., Drifting Identity, 2016

Courtesy the artist

Increasing life spans and improving medical technologies mean that the number of people living with dementia is expected to triple from 50m now to150m by 2050. These portraits are from 'Drifting Identity', a series exploring how identity is affected by Alzheimer’s disease. In her notably empathetic portrayal of expressions of delight, confusion, bemusement and vacancy, Vienna-based photographer Regina Hügli connects us to them as ongoing - if altered - human presences.


Anthony Eyton: Rocking Chair, 2017

Oil on canvas, 43 x 48 inches

© Anthony Eyton, Courtesy Browse & Darby

Royal Academician Anthony Eyton may be able, at 96, to lay claim to being the oldest artist currently showing regularly. Eyton's case makes a piquant contrast with his mother, who was herself a talented painter but died in a riding accident aged 29. His own work remains vigorous and chromatically adventurous, even when he takes on subjects - such as this rocking chair - compatible with advanced years, and contrasting with the many earlier works which drew directly on international travel, particularly to India.


Samuel Zealey with Inverter Wing, 2017

Courtesy of the artist 

This is from a series for which the starting point is a folded piece of A4 paper turned to steel, as if Samuel Zealey has manipulated a flat plane of metal with his super-sculptor powers. Here the jet, an unusual model with forward-swept wings, is blown up to impressive - if not quite life-sized - scale. The chemical rusting of  the surface suggests that  this is how aeroplanes need to end up: as monuments to what could not be sustained - as an ageing which is a positive for the environment. 

Stats   Imagine if we were born with thousands of wrinkles which we lost with age

demonstrates how artists have succeeded in differently perceiving the possibilities and limitations of age while transcending exaltation and pessimism. In the presented works, artists illustrate how age in all of its facets can be thoughtfully integrated into our lives. In addition to numerous works from the Belvedere collection, the exhibition presents high-profile loans from national and international museums.

This Mess We're In

What's the role of the artist in dealing with what we're doing to the environment? They might evoke the consequences subtly, like Hannah Maybank, or call direct attention to the issues - as have John Akomfrah with memorable scope over six channels of video, and Simon Faithfull in an appropriately futuristic setting. In doing so, they might use recycled materials, as in Evan Holloway's re-purposing of spent batteries, or reduce their own carbon footprint: Peter Matthews make a good start on that by dispensing with the energy impacts of a studio in favour of living in the open with his work. As for possible solutions, Anna Reivilä and Laure Prouvost's pseudo-proposals call attention to their inadequacies to date rather than coming up with practical answers. That last might be too big an ask, but it's fair to say that any answer is bound to require an interface between the technical and the natural: something which Bettina von Armin has been exploring for many years. That heading, by the way, is from PJ Harvey: 'And I have seen / The sunrise / Over the river / The freeway / Reminding / Of this mess we're in'.


Hannah Maybank: Sarah - 13th November, 2018, 76 x 52cm Watercolour on Stained paper. Courtesy of the artist.

British painter Hannah Maybank captures the dangerous beauty in blight through a floral  image which could stand in for the attraction we find in lifestyles which corrupt nature. These flowers, though, carry a personal story as well as metaphorical potential. Sarah Bernhardt peonies are a staple of the cut flower industry, accounting for almost half the 50m annual Dutch peony sales, but these particular blooms originate from a clump which has been in the Maybank family since the 1920s. That makes them, says Hannah, 'a living heirloom'. She adds that the peonies start off in small, tight buds before opening out more and more - and then falling apart in a particularly dramatic slow-motion destruction. 

John Akomfrah: still from Purple, 2017, 6 channel HD colour video installation with 15.1 surround sound, Dimensions variable © Smoking Dogs Films, Courtesy Lisson Gallery.

John Akomfrah's immersive six screen installation 'Purple' explores the nature of the Anthropocene in overwhelming fashion through his typical combination of archival footage and newly shot film. Above is Scotland, but we see ten countries across an epic timespan from the industrial revolution to the digital age: the past always haunts the present in Akomfrah's bricolage. A lone figure appears from time to time to bear witness, standing in for both the viewer and the artist to ask the climate change question he formulates as: 'what is philosophically, ethically and morally at stake here if we continue on this course?' 


Simon Faithfull: still from re-enactment for a future scenario no.2: cape romano, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Polaris - realized with the support of ArtSail & ArtCentre, Miami

English multi-media artist Simon Faithfull’s projects typically see him roam the world to performatively test and report back on its extremes - often collaborating with scientists, often engaging with environmental issues. His newest films 're-enact' possible future scenarios by extrapolating from recent trends. Here he probes how our boundaries will shift, exploring the ruins of a futuristic beach house off the coast of Florida. The Cape Romano domes were built on dry land in 1972 before hurricanes and erosion left them stranded in open water. The sea, ominously, ruled most of 'Fathom', Faithfull's recent retrospective in Penzance.


Evan Holloway: Figure Form with Batteries, 2014
Coutesy of the artist and Xavier Hufkens

Evan Holloway has been working with spent batteries for several years. Initially, he says, piles accumulated round his house in LA, recycling being a mystery to him. He found his own way of recycling them as the ultimate useless item, and one speaking to environmental concerns. Here they animate the surface of a half-classical, half-robotic figure, giving it a slightly outsiderish vernacular typical of Holloway's deliberately anti-hierarchical aesthetic . The form also combines the traditional art material of plaster with industrial steel and the global pollution problem of the batteries - which have passed their functional lifespan and so introduce time and death into the mix... 

Peter MatthewsEk`- Balam, 2018

150 x 140. Oil, acrylic, enamel, pencil, oil stick, pen, earth, clay, found objects and thread on canvases from the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico and the Atlantic coast of Cornwall, England. Private Collection - Mexico. Courtesy the artist.

Peter Matthews takes plein air painting to extremes as he works alongside oceans, seeking to capture his experiences of the sublime. He lives with his large spreads of unprimed canvas, carrying them on his back - they double up as sun screen, roof or hammock. He lets the sea wash over them, attaches objects found on the shore, and is as likely to use sticks and stones as brushes to apply the paint. No wonder Matthews covers a lot of territory: 'Ek' Balam' was made partly on the Pacific coast of México and partly on the Cornish Atlantic coast - hence the two sections sewn together - and is is named after an archaeological site  where the Mayan way of using glyphs and signs inspired him.

Laure ProuvostWe Will Feed You Cooling Fountain (For Global Warming), 2018. Painted metal, pump, blown glass, plastic tubes, water and framed watercolour on paper, 183 x 75.8 x 75.8 cm, 72 x 29 7/8 x 29 7/8 in © Laure Prouvost, Courtesy Lisson Gallery

'Ideally' as one of the 2013 Turner Prize winner's characteristic notices might say 'this work would save the world' . Laure Prouvost's bunch of balloons turn out to be individually blown glass, as well as squirting breasts. They provide a quirkily absurd means of mothering the world through global cooling, though the immediate beneficiaries in this case are the goldfish swimming happily around a reef of two sunken smartphones. Come the time when there's more plastic than coral in the sea, the world will need millions of Prouvost's systems to be installed... Good maternal intentions, we might conclude, won't be enough to deal - but what else have we got, so far?

Anna ReiviläBond 29, 2017, Photo print on fine Art paper
100 x 72 cm / Edition of 5, 42 x 301 cm / Edition of 5
Courtesy the Artist and Purdy Hicks Gallery London 

Young ‘Helsinki School’ photographer Anna Reivilä ‘draws’ on remote Finish landscapes, using rope which she knots around trees, rocks and ice. That proves a beautifully ambiguous way to muse on our relationship with nature. The nets of rope, intuitively rather than systematically formed with sailor’s knots, hover between protection and strangulation. In the case of the ice used here, of course, rope is a particularly hopeless stay against melting, triggering the thought of how little chance we seem to have of protecting it in the larger scheme of global warming. Are current efforts no better than Reivilä's rope?

Bettina von Arnim: Sunny With Cloudy Intervals, 2017. Oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm. Courtesy of Bettina von Arnim and PPC Philipp Pflug Contemporary, Frankfurt.

In the 1960's the veteran Paris-based artist Bettina von Arnim was already exploring the technological permeation of the human body by depicting cyborg-styled man-machine interfaces. It’s not surprising, then, that her recent, knowingly dramatic, landscapes feature various artificial insertions, suggesting a conflict between technical and natural. Here the foreground sits on a colour spectrum which hints at how the electric colours may have been exaggerated. It's enough to remind you of how the classic European landscape is already  a construction, even before the more malign aspects of human activity come to bear on it fully. 

Who’ll Care if You Don’t?
There’s no shortage of advice on the keys to good self-care. My choices touch on the following, which a surfing session showed to be popular online: stay balanced (Shana Moulton); get a good night’s sleep (Paul Maria Schneggenburger); spend time outdoors (Juergen Teller); eat well for your body and the planet (Chloe Wise); consider the benefits of having a pet (Martin Eder)  and, in all that, understand yourself (Nell Sully). Art itself might be a helpful component of self-care. But is it a mental activity and source of stimulation which improves life balance and reduces the chances of dementia, or an obsessive activity which tortures its creators with a fear of failure? I’m not sure we can expect the artists themselves to answer that question, but Clare Price has found a way for her practice to assist. 

Shana Moulton: Every Angle is an Angel, 2016

Still from high-definition digital video, 6:19 min.
Edition of 3+2AP

Courtesy the artist, Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich & Galerie Crèvecoeur, Paris

Shana Moulton admits that there is much of herself in her videos’ surreal character of Cynthia, an anxious, isolated  hypochondriac keen to try any therapeutic product which combines self-medication with new age spirituality. ‘It’s me as if I’m a bit more naïve’, says Moulton, seen here as Cynthia with various devices in a still from a recent instalment of her comical search for healthy self-fulfilment. She’s forever knocked back by mundane reality, and Moulton’s deliberately kooky use of editing technology seems to be in on the act. Self-care is good, yes, but don’t get obsessed… 

Paul Maria Schneggenburger: The Sleep of the Beloved No. 63, 2010

Archival pigment print, 65 x 80 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Johannes Faber, Vienna
How much sleep should you have? That’s a topic of much advice. But is the quality of sleep – as well as the potential for other healthy intimacies - better if you share your bed? The go-to artist for that question might be the Austrian photographer Paul Maria Schneggenburger. He has a bed in his studio, where he has made 120 photographs to date of lovers and families overnight, capturing the dance of their mutual rest with a single six hour exposure lit only by candlelight. The series is ongoing - indeed, you can take part by contacting him at

Juergen Teller: Kanye, Juergen & Kim, No.33, Chateau d’Ambleville 2015
© Juergen Teller, All rights Reserved, Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery

Much of the Kardashian brand is about self-care of one sort or another, and marketing its ramifications for make-up, diet and lifestyle. The benefits of fresh air in the countryside are not what springs to mind among her endorsements, but that’s what Juergen Teller captured in his typically madcap shots taken in France, achieving the impressive feat of showing the mega-photographed couple afresh. Here Kim demonstrates how to let plenty of fresh air reach the body while ensuring that long socks protect against prickles and stings...

Chloe Wise: Gluten Freedom, 2017
Oil on Canvas, 183 x 152 cm | 72 x 60 inches. 
Courtesy the Artist and Almine Rech. Photo: Rebecca Fanuele

Diet is at the heart of self-care, and there seems to be an ever-expanding range of factors to take into account. Young New York based Canadian Chloe Wise catches something of that in paintings in which women display food and drink against an idealised Alpine background. The question here might be: are the non-dairy alternatives to milk (which feature throughout the series) actually better – for us and the planet – than the traditional products to which the background alludes, or is that just an advertising line? Less methane from cows farting, in the case of soya milk for example, but more deforestation to grow the crops. Aside from that, Wise gets to show off her ability to paint both varied still life textures and up-to-the-minute character studies.

Martin Eder: The Inescapable Unity of Love, 2010/18
Oil on canvas, 285 cm x 380 cm

Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin
Photo: Uwe Walter

Pets are widely seen as beneficial for mental health and - in the case of dogs – physical health, too, as they encourage exercise. Likewise, practical interests like playing an instrument. Here German painter Martin Eder takes the former to excess and adds the latter as a bonus. Indeed, one might wonder whether it’s the ridiculous and walk-problematising scale of the pooch which triggers the need for a diversionary tune. Typically with Eder, a ludicrous subject triggers luridly bravura painting as he satirises through exaggeration such trends as the fashionable lapdog.
Nell Sully: Self preservation instinct shape no 2, 2019
Ink drawing:   21 x  21 cm
Courtesy the artist
A pre-requisite of optimal self-care is self-understanding. Nell Sully has made a series of drawings which focus on the three main instincts identified in the Enneagram, a widely-used framework for distinguishing personality types. Sully believes, in accordance with the associated teachings, that ‘to become ‘well’ we need to understand our instinctual energy drive, how we hold it and how to shift it’. Moreover, she is convinced that there is geometric form to these emotional energies. Hence this drawing, which imagines a structural shape which might, in her words, ‘twist / avoid / shake off anything that threatens’. A lively abstract drawing becomes the potential starting point for a theoretically grounded discussion of self-care.
Clare Price: Untitled (#ithinkthatmaybethesephotoshavehelpedmetohealfromalotofstuff), 2019.

Photograph with oil on canvas painting, courtesy the artist.

It is important to ‘say yes’ to your own self-care, recognising it as a priority. Perhaps art can contribute. Clare Price makes rapid gestural paintings scaled to her body, and often adds to their performative aspect by photographing herself remotely as she strikes dance-like poses in front of the works. That suggests an autobiographical angle, confirmed by the photographs’ original publication on a private Instagram account alongside hashtags indicating emotional states: '#needs', for example, '#fragile'. As suggested in the title above, Price sees the process - which has become part of her publicly exhibited practice – as having had ‘a healing quality from experiences of trauma and oppression, a reclaiming of the self in safe spaces, both physical and online’.


It's natural to see food is a healthy pleasure. It's fun to eat and it keeps you alive. But the modern condition increasingly asks: well yes, but how well, for how long, at what cost to the world? So there are plenty of questions which artists can ask. How sweet is too sweet? Is there poison in the system? Insofar as food made me, did it do a good job?  Could meat be healthier if it were different? That's all rather conflicted. Others depict food as ritual, or concentrate on its formal qualities. It's not exactly fun, but maybe that is the more nourishing path...

Roxana Halls: Carvery, 2013

If 'you are what you eat' then it will be your childhood consumption which defines you. Roxana Halls’ self-portrait, from a wider practice which questions how gender and class norms circumscribe our choices, calls attention to the food from her youth. Halls says she’s very rarely seen such fare in paintings ‘as though, in contrast to its nostalgic importance to me, it were not considered of sufficient value for examination'. Here, then, she attempts to carve a life from a laden table - it isn’t easy, as the awkwardness of her action testifies. 

Carvery, 2013  Oil on Linen  120 x 130cm   Copyright Roxana Halls

Will Cotton: Cupcake Katy, 2010

American painter Will Cotton satirises indulgence in his world of ill-chosen food, with landscapes made of candy and models parading their sweetness. That fitted singer Katy Perry’s aesthetic, and she asked him to collaborate on the video for her single ‘California Gurls'. Not only did he do that, making some kind of reality of his fantasy world, he then used the video as a source to make paintings of how his own paintings came to life. That circularity stands in nicely for how hard it can be to escape the cycle of our unhealthy desires...


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Mai-Thu Perret: Abnormally vivid, 2019

Food isn’t necessarily good for you. Nutritionally, apples aren’t the obvious example, but consider the poisonous one offered to Snow White by the wicked witch - a story which carries a trace of the originating bad apple which got us expelled from Paradise. Moreover, Mai-Thu Perret’s basket of slightly rotten, half-eaten pomes, being baked in glazed ceramic, look a little like toffee apples. They’re not healthy on any level.

Abnormally vivid, 2019 - glazed ceramic, copper wire and plastic

Broughton & Birnie: Meat Garden, 2015

London-based Kevin Broughton and Fiona Birnie collaborate in a wide-ranging practice. Their garden of processed meat, part of a series which dreams up an alternative America, wittily emphasises how unnatural the suburban can be. It also blurs the line between animal and plant life. If sausages grew like this, I guess everyone would be vegetarian. Let's hope they'd contain less saturated fat than the orthodox version.

101 x 101cm, Oil on linen 2015, copyright Broughton & Birnie


Masculinity isn't what it used to be: a valued assertion of physical power and a fixed role as provider for and protector of wife and children. In many ways, of course, it never was. But the loss of apparent certainties, together with the reducing economic importance of manual labour roles traditionally filled by men, has arguably led to such well-reported effects as girls doing better academically than boys and an increase in male suicide. Artists haven't been slow to reflect the new uncertainties and the positive changes which go with a more flexible approach to gender roles and, indeed, gender itself. Here Paul Pfeiffer, Tala Madani, Hayv Kahraman and Jean-Baptiste Ganne call attention to the nature of  stereotypes and the need to undermine them; while Brian Dawn Chalkley, Hassan Hajjij and Erez Israeli assert the new freedoms.

15.Jean Baptiste Ganne Détumescences c Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 114: ’A Hundred Women Wanted’

          Jean-Baptiste-Ganne:_’Détumescences’, 2012

Taking sport as a traditional arena for the assertion of masculine values, maximum bragging rights come with the lifting of a trophy. But the phallic triumphalism of that act is undermined by the French multi-media artist Jean-Baptiste Ganne’s ‘Détumescences’,  in which the winners' cups have been tellingly melted. Maybe there's something in there about the rise of women's sport as well as the wilting of male pride.

Hassan Hajjaj
Mr M. Toliver, 2013
Metallic Lambda print on Dibond with wood and found objects
34.5 x 25 in
Courtesy of the artist and GUSFORD | los angeles 

Pink specs to play Mozart? The masculine as dandy - a man paying particular attention to his style -  isn't unusual in the long sweep of historical styles, but has become rarer in the west since the word's Victorian coinage. Hassan Hajjaj - Moroccan-born, but long-time London-based - glories in the use of extreme dress to assert black presence in portraits which fuse the languages of  fashion, pop and the African tradition of studio photography.  He maximises the effect by framing his images in found objects such as the  chewing gum packs seen here.

Born in Larache, Morocco, in 1961, Hassan Hajjaj left Morocco for London at an early age. Heavily influence by the club, hip-hop, and reggae scenes of London as well as by his North African heritage, Hajjaj is a self-taught and thoroughly versatile artist whose work includes portraiture, installation, performance, fashion, and interior design, including furniture made from recycled utilitarian objects from North Africa, such as upturned Coca-Cola crates as stools and aluminum cans turned into lamps.

Turning to photography in the late 80s, Hajjaj is a master portraitist, taking studio portraits of friends, musicians, and artists, as well as strangers from the streets of Marrakech, often wearing clothes designed by the artist. These colorful and engaging portraits combine the visual vocabulary of contemporary fashion photography and pop art, as well as the studio photography of African artist Malick Sidibe, in an intelligent commentary on the influences of tradition in the interpretations of high and low branding and the effects of global capitalism.

The term dandy – referring to a man who pays particular attention to his style and appearance – was first coined in the Victorian era, and has been used to describe the tweed suits, frilled blouses and crafted moustaches of Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde and Salvador Dalí.
This exhibition explores its specific iteration among the African diaspora, for whom dandyism is problematic – the willed flamboyance is in total contrast to conventional constructions of black masculinity. Here it is seen as a form of personal politics; more than sharp dressing it defies the notion that there is one monolithic definition of black manhood.

“For me, clothes have always been political,” says Ekow Eshun, curator and former director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. We’re speaking over the phone, discussing “Made You Look,” the new exhibition he’s curated at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, which was unveiled to the public on Friday. The exhibition explores black dandyism through photographs by nine artists from the U.K., U.S., Mali, Morocco, Cameroon, and South Africa.
The social and political uses of style as a way to subvert conventional notions of blackness and maleness is something that has preoccupied Eshun throughout his career: He spent more than a decade working as an editor at cult British fashion magazines The Face and Arena, and has written and spoken about the subject extensively. Growing up in a Ghanaian family in London, Eshun quickly became aware of the paradox of being a black man—being invisible and hypervisible at the same time. “I understood from an early age that as a black man, you have to think about the way you dress,” he says. “I realized that I had to dress in a certain way, in order to be looked at in the way I wanted to be seen. You’re looked at much more, and you have identities vested upon you. Style is much more than clothes alone.”

Erez Israeli:  Madonna of the Flowers (2018)

Young Israeli artist Erez Israeli takes on all forms of oppression, exclusion and occlusions of memory. His blooming self-portrait cheekily cites Jean Genet's identification with those excluded from mainstream society in his book 'Madonna of the Flowers'. Israeli's head as still life might be seen as act of self-marginalisation by embracing flowers beyond the masculine norm, beyond even Frida Kahlo's assertive use of the floral fascinator in her self-portraits.


Tala Madani

The Ascendant, 2018

Tala Madani
The Ascendant
Oil on linen
20 x 17 inches (50.8 x 43.2 cm)

Image must be credited: © Tala Madani, courtesy 303 Gallery New York.

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Iranian-American artist Tala Madani came to attention for darkly comic paintings and animations in which the trope of the male gaze was reversed through her examination of hairy but bald-headed figures who caricature hyper-masculinity: revolting,  infantile, often humiliated yet seemingly content. Are men stupid? In recent years she has expanded her range considerably, but this new work is on that continuum: the positivity of progress towards the sun is undermined by its being a black one, and spewing out the world's shit. Yet the aspiring man - shown in sequence - seems unfazed.

Tala Madani continues her enduring exploration of humanity’s intertwined capacities for wonder and brutality. Adults and infants alternately take center stage in her series of new paintings (including two large corner canvases) and hand-painted, animated videos. Each work reminds viewers that even the most hallowed social norms cannot perfectly constrain our primal urges, regardless of whether those urges are innocent or malevolent. Location: 303 Gallery, 555 West 21st Street

 engaging painters of her generation. Madani’s work is characterised by loose expressive brushwork rendered in a bold, distinctive palette. Rich in narrative and heavy in irony Madani’s paintings depict darkly comic mise-en-scénes. Whilst her more abstract large-scale works usually contain a mass, group or collective, Madani’s more descriptive and intimately scaled paintings, and painterly video animations, depict uncomfortable scenes in which bald, middle-aged men engage in absurd scenarios that fuse playfulness with violence and perversity.
Whilst the figures imagined are stereotypical and loaded with associations, the activities in which they are engaged are strange and absurd. Through her distinctive painting technique, Madani imbues recurring symbols and imagery with a complexity that cannot be reduced to any single reading. Products of curiosity, fantasy, and desire, Madani’s paintings provoke a cacophony of interpretation that exceeds mere commentary. As such they exist as ‘vignettes for experimentation’, as powerful meditations on the tension between the stereotypical and the iconic.

Corner Projections

November 1 – December 15, 2018

303 Gallery is pleased to announce our first exhibition of new work by Tala Madani.

Madani's work posits a world where primal desires are unrestrained by convenient norms. Her works are subsumed by light that points both outward and inward, at human instinct and upended social ritual. Paintings can be grotesque, violent, tender, obscene, and hilarious.

For this exhibition, Madani presents new paintings and animation works. In two large corner paintings, men point handheld projectors at the wall, screens flashing in the distance. Behind the wall, short films combine live imagery with painted animations. In one of them, a group of men struggle to prevent themselves from being crushed by a giant pink penis that has fallen from the sky. In another, a man is trapped in a loop of stairs and escalators in a faceless atrium, eventually caught and dismembered by a crowd. This is one step removed, cinematic, there is an audience looking on; there's something natural in it all.

In a group of paintings, infants are portrayed innocently discovering their imagination. One child crawls toward a light source with his hand outstretched, projecting a mammoth shadow of himself. Another canvas shows a billboard of a child carving glowing lacunae into a body, multiplying the sun. These base instincts hold a puerile allure, where a lack of inhibition is infantile and callow, but also human and liberating. You find these humans crawling into glowing gas ovens to stick their heads inside, returning to a fetal posture of sincere and relatable ignorance. Exploring from beginning to end.

 Brian Dawn Chalkley


Watercolour on paper, 2015

My whole life I’ve wanted to feel comfortable in my skin. It’s the most liberating thing in the world' Watercolour on paper, 42 x 59 cm

Before his recent retirement, Chalkley used to lead the MA at Chelsea College as Brian and go out as Dawn by night. He also painted carefully fashioned portraits of Dawn as she wanted to be. The recent series 'Missing', at the Lungley Gallery, featured 454 characters much more loosely washed in with thin and dirtied colours. Many of the androgenous, figures, which could all be aspects of Brian Dawn, were accompanied by imagined monologues. They read as swings in mood and self-perception, building up to suggest an identity in flux:  'I am longing for attention from the right person' / 'I said fuck you baby' / 'grappling with my self-image is a daily task'...


A wall of faces greets you in the opening room. 100’s of watercolour stare back at us, androgynous, anonymous, and imperfect, but ultimately alive. The exhibition titled Missing is an ongoing series started in December 2017 

Deals in the paradoxes and ambiguities of both painting and life. Who knows, when they begin a painting, how things will end up?

As well as the dead, there are the crazy, the guilty, the lascivious, the doomed, the misguided, the famous and the unknown. 

Made from thinned-down paint – their colour and pallor from the palette or the dirty turps she washed her brushes in – they have a presence that is entirely different from a photograph.

Looking at Chalkley’s paintings, I am often struck by how little there seems to be on the canvas. The images coalesce out of almost nothing. He somehow cajoles his medium into forming a face, a body, an expression – a sense of being. Wiping paint off as often as painting positive emphatic marks, he gives us cheekbones or a forehead, a pout using hardly anything. Going from extreme vagueness to almost crude and snaggly brushstrokes to make an ear or to describe hair, Chalkley runs the gamut of painterly effects. The frankness with which he paints draws us in.

 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.
M: In your watercolour paintings you said they were of ‘all the people I want to be’. Does Dawn inhabit the worlds of these women? Is the feeling of becoming something that you are thinking about when you are painting?

BC: I think we should ask Dawn about that because she’s got some views on that, so Dawn, what do you think?

DC: Well, oh my god, all the people I wanna be. I wanna be everybody I really do. I mean those glamorous girls out there and all the ones that you paint, I want to be them, I want to be her in every way. I want her hair her eyes her nose and I wanna just be fabulous all the time.

 M: In your watercolour paintings you said they were of ‘all the people I want to be’. Does Dawn inhabit the worlds of these women? Is the feeling of becoming something that you are thinking about when you are painting?

BC: I think we should ask Dawn about that because she’s got some views on that, so Dawn, what do you think?

DC: Well, oh my god, all the people I wanna be. I wanna be everybody I really do. I mean those glamorous girls out there and all the ones that you paint, I want to be them, I want to be her in every way. I want her hair her eyes her nose and I wanna just be fabulous all the time.

I remember clinging to my mother in the basement of my uncle’s house in Suleymania in northern Iraq. I remember my relatives curled around candles, waiting for the loud noises outside to stop. Despite my fear, a sense of solidarity prevailed: I was surrounded by my family, and somehow I felt protected as we all sang and played games in the dark. 
When the noises stopped, I went out to play with my friends in the hopes of collecting the most bullet shells or the biggest bullet shell to impress my peers. Somewhat golden in color and quite beautiful, I remember thinking. Then suddenly the loud sirens went off. I learned years later that it was the Thunderbolt 7000, to be precise. It was so loud you had to cover your ears and run.
These howling sounds shook me to the very core, yet they were part of my childhood. Now they serve as a memory that both jolts me to the ground and reminds me of my vulnerable past. A past that I cherish, because I lost it. -Hayv Kahraman, 2015[1]
We all have seen how war inscribes itself on the body. Mediatized images of limbs truncated by explosions, of faces and torsos disfigured by shrapnel, and of rigid corpses whose souls have long departed regularly force us to confront the extreme fragility of flesh and the terrible intensity of wartime violence. We are surrounded by such images; we drown in them.
Less obvious and harder to represent are the invisible wounds that sonic violence inflicts. In wartime, sound is the most expansive vector through which violence is administered: often, a single round is fired, one person falls, but hundreds flinch at its explosive report. Bodies that confront the sonic residue of armed combat are flushed with cortisol and adrenalin, the heart-quickening chemicals of “fight or flight.” Military practices that aim for sensory overload, such as the doctrine of Rapid Dominance (colloquially called “Shock and Awe”) that informed the US-led coalition’s 2003 bombing campaign in Iraq, are based on the knowledge that loud sound, when combined with the spectacle of explosive force, can be used as a weapon to “dominate an adversary’s will both physically and psychologically,” rendering him “impotent and vulnerable.”[2] These sounds are more than sounds: fused with the violent acts that produce them, they become manifestations of violence itself.[3] Daily exposure to the sounds of gunfire, explosions, air-raid sirens, military vehicles, and vocal reactions to violent acts can exhaust, demoralize, and traumatize those who are within earshot. Perversely, in the precarious environment of wartime, even silence can be rendered sinister, causing experienced bystanders to tense up in dreadful anticipation of an explosion that may or may not occur a second from now.
Moreover, the traumatic memory of wartime—an involuntary memory that is one of the most insidious manifestations of wartime violence—can revisit survivors years after the original experience occurred. Such memories cut their way into consciousness, leaving subtle wounds that unexpectedly reopen when sounds (or sights, or smells, or other memories) call them to presence. Decades of armed violence in Iraq have placed these small psychic cuts on generations of Iraqis.
It would seem that the visual arts are uniquely unsuited to dealing with these invisible “sound wounds” and the haunting memories that accompany them. How can the mute genre of painting teach us anything new about sound? In “Audible Inaudible,” Hayv Kahraman somehow accomplishes exactly this. By focusing her incisive artistic practice on the twinned phenomena of sonic and symbolic violence, this exhibition opens up an expansive field upon which to grapple with the complex and cacophonous energies of war and the fragile but tenacious people that withstand them. Remarkably, these mute paintings make us think of sound and violence anew.
The feminine Figure that appears throughout Kahraman’s oeuvre is again present here. Combining the “soft, diaphanous white skin” of the Renaissance nude with the black hair and composed facial expressions of Baghdadi miniatures, the semi-translucent Figure fuses these two aesthetic systems into a hybrid beauty, one that draws strength from both and is marginalized by neither. We know that Kahraman, who paints each image after photographing herself in its pose, identifies with and empathizes with the Figure. (When I visited her in her Los Angeles studio, she told me that she paints the Figures in order to be in dialogue with them. As she paints them, they gaze back at her, teaching her, reflecting her experiences back at her. You and I are, in some sense, only voyeurs on this intimate process.) With her paintings, Kahraman is “obsessively trying to give them agency.” The multiplication of the Figure across the works creates “a collective of women, an army of women” who survive the trials and indignities that beset them, maintaining self-awareness and grace as they do.[4]
But what are these trials? In “Audible Inaudible,” they center around sound. Memory is always a latent theme in Kahraman’s work, and here, the childhood memory of terror in the face of the Baghdad air-raid siren attacks her canvases with surgical precision. The cloverlike field of x-shaped lacerations that marks many of the paintings evokes the outline of the Long-Range Acoustic Device or LRAD, a weaponized speaker system that was used in the recent Iraq War to direct an extremely loud beam of sound at belligerent crowds. This device’s siren-like “deterrent tone” was designed to cause disorientation, nausea, and acute pain, forcing crowds to run for cover. The same device, along with more conventional speakers, was used in psychological operations (PSYOPS) to bombard enemy strongholds with offensive music and taunting utterances, goading fighters into leaving their hiding places and fighting in the open. Of course, like all weapons systems, the LRAD and other sound devices caused collateral damage, leaking into the spaces and assaulting the ears of innocents.
In Kahraman’s painting, the LRAD-shaped cuts render visible the battlefield sounds that assault the wartime body, leaving small but lasting scars. As such, they invite the image of penetration or scarification, with sound presented as the knife that violates the body. At the same time, these cuts cannot be reduced to the simple equation sound = violence. Why? Because the delicately crosshatched fields are also beautiful. They open up the paintings, letting air flow through them, allowing them to breathe, and to unfold in three dimensions. Their patterning mirrors that of the elegant fabrics that cover the Figure’s form. In some of these paintings, the women are clothed only in sound, and their tranquil visages are proof that they have the agency and strength to transform that which assaults them into a garment, a protective screen, into armor.
If the traumatic memory of wartime sound provides the exhibition with its implicit theme, a small laminated military cheat-sheet gives the figures their choreography. As she was conducting preliminary research for these paintings—a meticulous and time-consuming stage of her artistic practice, by the way—she came across a number of visual aids that were distributed to US military service members during Operation Iraqi Freedom. One, the Iraq Visual Language Translator, is a foldable sheet with twelve rectangular panels per side. The front face provides a map of Iraq, drawings of Iraqi rank insignia, and a number of utterances (“STOP!”, “SURRENDER!” “LIE ON YOUR STOMACH”, “CALM DOWN”) in English and transliterated Arabic, Kurdish, and Farsi. On the obverse face, each panel is devoted to a situation (“IDENTIFICATION”, “TRAVEL”, “IED CONCEALMENT”), with cartoonish illustrations depicting physical attributes, bodily positions, technologies, and actions, presumably so that service members could point to them when dealing with non-English-speaking Iraqis. (The creased linen figures on the gallery floor distill some of the iconography from these cards.) Several of Kahraman’s paintings can be read as translations of these crude illustrations. The queerly hirsute figures of Identification Facial Hair mirror a line of male heads on the “Identification” panel; the arrows and floating bills of Turn In Bombmaker are abstractions of an illustration of how to trade information for money.
While wartime violence is a constant, cryptic presence in these paintings, Kahraman’s work is far richer than the political charge that they hold. The didactic quality of the paintings is complicated, and often defused, by the gracefulness of these images, by the high level of craft with which they are rendered, and by the symbolic ambivalence that circles and eddies unpredictably around them. The overtly political withdraws from these paintings: guns are invisible, blood is scrubbed from bodies, gestures and bodily dispositions are stylized. This stylization allows the works to both partake in and float above the fog of war memories that haunt them.
Take for example Search it is important to know that this painting is, in part, a transduction of the smart card image depicting a soldier subduing a suspect by pushing him onto the ground. At the same time, what the viewer sees is a woman laying hands on another woman, and doing so gently, tenderly. How do tenderness and coercion coexist in this painting? The same way they do in life: complicatedly, palimpsestically, the one oscillating through the other and vice versa.
 In another work, Identification Hair Color, the LRAD pattern is focused on the throat. A close examination of one set of these cuts will reveal the subtle protrusion of a dark material from behind the linen surface. This material is anechoic foam, the sound-absorbing stuff used to line recording studios. Here, the symbolism begins to circle back upon itself: do the cuts point to the mechanized sounds of the LRAD or to the human voice that emanates from that throat? Do they embody sound, or silencing? Is the painting a document of sonic violence or the physical instrument for absorbing and neutralizing that violence? Do these paintings scream their siren song at us, or gently place their hands upon our ears? As the questions proliferate, the work is enriched.
In the end this exhibition is about survival, about the power to persevere. Like the foam that hides within their throats, these women are capable of absorbing the violence that is directed at them. Like the air flowing through the cuts in the canvas, they have learned to breathe through their wounds. With their translucent limbs, some of the figures appear to be on the verge of vanishing: we catch them midway through the process of escaping the frame of the artworks themselves. Perhaps this is the small life-affirming message that emanates from these delicate, scarred bodies: in the midst of the violent audibility of war, and despite the stifling inaudibility of the war’s victims, one can still create a space of quietude, if only in the imagination.

Having fled Iraq with her family during the Gulf War aged 11,  US-based Hayv Kahraman combines the modern experience of living between Western and Middle Eastern cultures with the historic aesthetics of the Renaissance, Persian miniatures and Japanese prints. All that feeds into the graceful,  female figures who recur as her painted proxy. They float like spirits over the plan of a traditional Baghdadi house in the series 'Let the Guest be the Master', centred on the courtyard as the place where men meet  while women must remain inside. There is consolation in the domestic domain, but also a critique of the male assumption of power. 

 but excluded from power in favour of the male guest. . In a complex structure of dependent human relations, women are in Kahraman’s art, the house.

They can observe, without being observed, the courtyard from behind the Mashrabiya, the screen that divides two rooms in Kahraman’s installation.

The house is my domain. When you enter you will resign and obey. At least that’s what I have to believe if I were to survive. Indeed you can have the rest but these rooms, these kitchens, these balconies, these toilettes are mine. They are an extension of myself. And within the confines of these walls I will do what I please. I will watch you from above. Through the screens I can see everything you do and you won’t even know that I’m watching. I will laugh when you stumble and I will hear your conversations with others.

An exhibition combining paintings, drawings and new sculptural works.
Hayv Kahraman’s solo exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion will be the artist’s first in a UK public gallery. Her work explores her experience : having fled Iraq with her family aged 11 during the first Gulf War as part of the Kurdish mass exodus, the artist migrated to Europe and now lives in the USA. A female figure recurs in her work, representing shared histories between women – particularly women of colour – and building on personal histories of migration.
‘My figures are extensions of my own body blended with the aesthetics of the . “She” actually emerged when I was in Florence, Italy. I went to every single museum, did copies of old master paintings and was engulfed by the technique of that era. “Her” emergence, her white diaphanous flesh, her contrapposto, was an embodiment of someone who was colonised; someone who was taught to believe that European art history was the ultimate ideal. She became an expression of whom I had become as an assimilated woman. I’m now working to give her agency and a voice and as I obsessively repaint her again and again, she becomes part of a collective. I am concerned with the multitude not the self. This is not only my story. It can be the story of more than 5 million people within the Iraqi diaspora or any diaspora.’ – Hayv Kahraman, Glass Magazine, 2016
To depict this figure, Kahraman ‘steals’ techniques from across art history, including European Renaissance painting, Persian miniatures and Japanese woodblock prints. Blurring aesthetics of Western and Middle Eastern cultures, her paintings reveal the complex lived experience of migrants.
The exhibition will combine paintings, drawings and new sculptural works in order to show the breadth of Kahraman’s practice. On the occasion of the exhibition’s opening, Gendering Memories of Iraq will be presented: a performance of a script written by Kahraman that is both personal and part of a collective memory.
Kahraman was shortlisted for the 2018 and 2011 Jameel Prizes at the V&A Museum, and received the ‘Excellence in Cultural Creativity’ award at the Global Thinkers Forum, 2014. Recent solo exhibitions include Silence is Gold, Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles (2018); Acts of Reparation, Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis (2017); Re-Weaving Migrant Inscriptions, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2017); Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha (2016). Recent group exhibitions include Jameel Prize 5, V&A Museum, London (2018); The Fabric of Felicity, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2018); Dreamers Awake, White Cube, London (2017); No Man’s Land: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015); June: A Painting Show, Sadie Coles HQ, London (2015).
Kahraman’s solo exhibition will take place alongside the major group show Still I Rise, Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 2 in the Ground Floor Gallery. Her work is currently included in Act 1 of Still I Rise, on view at Nottingham Contemporary until 20 January 2019.

Paul Pfeiffer

Paul Pfeiffer
Caryatid (Margarito), 2015
Digital video loop, chromed 12” color television
0:31 minutes duration
9 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

If the essence if the old-fashioned ideal of masculinity is seen as power and conquest, then the most primeval sporting arena in which to demonstrate that is in boxing, a subject to which Paul Pfeiffer's  video manipulations have returned regularly. In the ongoing series Caryatids, started in 2003, he selects sequences in which a fighter receives unrelenting heavy blows from his opponent, but with the dominating boxer erased. We are left with the suffering of the body crumpling and recoiling under the blows and the question of what sort of victory it is when the victor is erased from the scene. A hollow way of being? 

For over two deecades, South African artist Steven Cohen, ahaed of the curve in positing sexual identity as unfixed, has performed in exaggerated drag. He often chooses non-art contexts the better to shock and provoke the audience into recognising their prejudiced viess of what a man should be - most famously at a Rugby Cup Final in Pretoria in 1998. Exposing his penis asserts his gender clearly and incongrously, though it got him arrested when - having moved to France for a while  - he danced
Wearing platform shoes and an outlandish costume including feathers on his fingers and a headdress in an outlandish costume with his  cock attached to a cockerel, punning on the national symbol in front of its most phallic source of pride, the Eiffel Tower.  

When Are You Born?
There's a bit more to it than the date which will feature in your obituary. Other points might be considered, as illustrated here. An act of conception (Emma Talbot), leads to pregnancy (Oskar Diwicki) and expulsion (Gauri Gill). Then comes the official matter of the birth certificate (McArthur Binion) followed by the birthdays which punctuate growing up (Wayne Thiebaud provides the cake) before the emergence as an artist giving birth to creations (Elina Brotherus). And if that doesn't work out, there may be a need for rebirth (Luke Gottelier) - otherwise it's downhill all the way to unbirthing (or death, as it's sometimes called) which is beyond our scope. 

Emma Talbot:  Love is Fluid, 2018 - watercolour on Indian paper, 30 x 42 cm  

Emma Talbot has said she aims to show 'what it's like to be me, alive today' along with 'the kinds of thoughts that are in my head', though the facial blankness of her characters makes it easy for the viewer to project themselves into her world. Talbot often builds up multiple images, patterns and texts, with remembered experiences alongside a ragbag of references from popular and literary culture. Unsurprisingly, love scenarios - as in this simpler watercolour - often surface, with the potential for conception to operate through a natural harmony of method and subject.  

Oskar Dawicki: Armatura Polonica Utilitate Graviditatis, 2017 - steel, 60 x 45 x 45 cm. Courtesy of Raster gallery, Warsaw. 

Given that pregnant women ensure the continuity of the species, shouldn't they be the natural model of the super-hero? That seems to be the thinking of Oskar Dawicki, a Polish artist best known as a practitioner of what he terms 'total performance'. He built a whole exhibition in Warsaw around a vision of such a pregnant woman, for whom he had this refreshingly unorthodox ‘Polish utility armour for pregnancy’ forged by a metalsmith. On to the battles for better child care, workplace equality and beyond... 

Gauri Gill: from the Birth Series, 2005 

The Indian photographer Gauri Gill has been documenting marginalized communities in rural Rajastan since 1999. In the eight-image Birth Series, made in a remote village in Ghafan in 2005, the great dai Kasumbi delivers the baby of a veiled mother-to-be. A close relative presses her feet against the soles of the expectant mother's feet, and grasps her hands to create resistance. Gill told me she was asked to help by boiling water and so on - engaging her fully in being there, as well as in presenting the dramas of life with the same matter-of-factness as applies in the region's daily existence.

McArthur Binion: DNA:Sepia:V, 2016, - Oil paint stick, ink and paper on board, 121.9 × 101.6 cm  - Photo: Robert Chase Heishman
Courtesy  Massimo De Carlo, Milan, London, Hong Kong

In his DNA series, ongoing since 2013, the veteran American McArthur Binion (born 1946) presents variations on the modernist grid which disguise - until you get close - his use of such private documents as his birth certificate. His personal archives are subsumed into the authority of canonical art, so reflecting on his own identity as a black artist in the white-dominated history of abstract expressionism - a narrow account now being broadened to include him along with such as Jack Whitten, Frank Bowling and Sam Gilliam. 

Wayne Thiebaud: a recent cake painting  (Elephant sourcing)

Wayne Thiebaud is still painting at 97 – including the cakes for which he is best known. Fired by his memories of bakeries, diners and plenty of birthdays, they are exercises in the formal possibilities of geometry, colour, sharp shadows and thickly creamy textures through which the paint takes on some of the appetising quality of its subject. They also tap in to a collective American nostalgia: Thiebaud says he saw the same meringue pies ‘in every restaurant from Sacramento to New York. So it began to make a lot of sense to paint them.’

Elina Brotherus: Portrait Series (Yellow Music with Sunflowers) 2016, 70 x 96 cm / 80 x 110 cm – Courtesy of the artist and camara oscura galeria de arte, Madrid.

For an artist, the birth of creation is critical. What if you have no inspiration? The Finnish photographer Elina Brotherus plays on that in a series based on a list of 'art ideas' John Baldessari gave to his indecisive students at CalArts in 1970s. Brotherus so enjoyed teaching with them, she decided to do them herself. Here she responds to Baldessari proposing that the face be hidden in portraits, ‘trying to allow other information to surface and define the person'.  Brotherus chooses a setting which might also remind us of Van Gogh as the archetype of the inspired artist.  

Luke Gottelier: Hamster Studio, 2016

The past is bound to feed into any artist's present, but few make that as explicit as Luke Gottelier, who returns to old, potentially discarded paintings to oversee their rebirth in new forms. There's often some cathartic abuse involved: he's set fireworks off on one old painting and turned another into an ashtray. Perhaps the most extreme reuse to date has been to use the painting as a base for a hamster cage which duplicates an artist's studio in miniature. But surely rebirth is one thing one cannot delegate?  


Jeff Koons: Diamond (Green)  - mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating

Llala Essaydi: ‘Harem Revisited’ series, 2012, No 33:

Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi - now based in the USA - gives voice to women in the loaded contexts  of  the harem, the historically male art of calligraphy, and the Orientalist vision of the odalisque. The use of lavish 17-19th century ceremonial textiles further positions women as decorative objects, but the female tradition of henna is used to signal defiance through Essaydi's signature technique of covering her models with writing. The scripts, mysterious in their unreadability, are a poetic stream of consciousness on the artist’s and models’ experiences as women.

 Nicole Wermers, Infrastruktur, installation view, 2015

Nicole Wermers has often worked with how goods are displayed. For Infrastruktur, 2015, vintage fur coats, relined to match the seat colours, are sewn onto classic Marcel Breur chairs. Is this a high-end version of towels reserving sun loungers, or a break in some convention of the glamorous rich?  The contrast of sculptural materials is striking, and the exclusivity implied by the reservation of space is magnified by the value of the possessions employed. Moreover, the wall holds ceramic versions of those tear-off flyers through which to obtain the phone number of a potential flatshare. Luxury is contrasted with crude utility, but both represent systems of social organisation and an infrastructure of sorts.


Juno Calypso: 'Rosemary's Room', 2018 from ‘What to do with a million years’ 2018

In 2015, Juno Calpyso created something of a sensation with her staged self-portraits taken in the would-be-luxurious and odd-for-one location of the American ‘love hotel’. Her new series does likewise in an even more surreal - and genuinely luxurious - setting. ‘What To Do With A Million Years’ is finds Calypso's alter ego in an underground house built in the 1960’s by Avon cosmetics founder Jerry Henderson. Hyper-pink bedroom, gold and crystal taps, swimming pool and waterfall are present, correct - and untouched for decades. The lighting imitates natural cycles, and murals at the windows give the impression of outdoor scenes. The current owners, Calpyso discovered, are cryonics enthusiasts – rather creepy seekers of immortality, the one luxury you cannot buy.

Josh Kline: Alternative Facts, 2017 - cheap cellphone, luxury cellphone, hardware, duct tape, and unique customized wooden display
Josh Kline makes upbeat films of possible ideal societies, featuring, for example, racial harmony and a universal basic income. But he conjoins them with installations anatomising the dystopian consequences of increasing inequality, automation putting millions out of work, and an imagined new civil war in the US. 'Alternative Facts' is from a series which crudely tape together 'cheap' and 'luxury' versions of everyday objects like fridges, blenders and laptops with titles such as 'Resentment' and 'Denial' emphasising how they give sculptural form to social divisions. 

Michael Craig-Martin: Credit card from Objects of our time, 2014

 What can’t be yours if you wave the right plastic? Michael Craig-Martin has an uninfected yet distinctive way of finding beauty in quotidian objects through colours brought to their maximum intensity. This credit card is an extreme example of how, as he puts it, “there’s very little information in these works, the information is in the viewer” - for we can fill in the cultural and social connotations. Craig-Martin’s 2015 Serpentine retrospective ‘Transience’ positioned him as an archaeologist of items now in the past, like VHS tapes and traditional light bulbs. Perhaps, though, his is the future of credit cards: coolly reduced to abstraction, all data invisibly encrypted.

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Adham Faramawy  

Still from ‘Vichy Shower’ 2013

Adham Faramawy’s pair of films Vichy Shower and Hydra, 2014, show naked men and women, sumptuously coated in soap suds and mud masks, drinking endless bottles of mineral water. Consistent with how that's marketed, water is presented as a luxurious product – indeed, it is fetished as it runs over skin in maximum definition, and the showering figures can't get enough. Yet, of course, water isn’t a luxury at all, but a necessity - and one with severe concerns over the long-term adequacy of supply: the future likelihood of ‘water wars’ is widely accepted. That’s one half of an equation, the films might suggest, in which we increasingly treat luxuries and necessities the wrong way around.


Harmen Brethouwer: Exquisite Corpse, 2015-2016 3D printed, pigmented sandstone
Collection Museum Boymans van Beuningen Rotterdam

Image: Courtesy Hidde van Seggelen, Hamburg

Decoration is by definition functionally redundant, and so luxurious. For 30 years the Dutch artist Harmen Brethouwer has been channeling the history of decoration and the skills which made it into repetitive forms, one being the cone. He commissions experts in such dying crafts as filigree and fake marbling to apply their skills. The recent Exquisite Corpse project tweaks this by using as its source The Grammar of Ornament (Owen Jones, 1856)  which presents patterns of many cultures and materials in a common format. That suggests the potential for interchange which Brethouwer then applies by combining traditions on the layered sections of each cone: here colours and characteristics of four materials - Gold, Cardboard, Strawberry and Jellyfish - were combined with the patters of four styles: Indian, Moresque, Chinese and Egyptian.  . 

NOTE: can choose between 'imagine install' in collaboration with NY architect Michael Young, or close-up as above. I have high res of close-up, can probably get of imagined install if preferred.

Simultaneously when you wrote your first email I received a message from Michael Young, the architect from NY (Young & Ayata) with whom Harmen collaborates on the Exquisit Corpse project. Young came with good news: they have almost completed the designs for the remaining 4 cones. As this is very recent news we are waiting for the first images. Please find attached a brief text Michael wrote on the project. He is good writer and also teaches in NY and at at Yale.  I have also attached some mock up images by Young. They ate good fun to look at.

As mentioned the first work (Exquisite Corpse, 2015 - 2016) has been bought by the museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam last year.  You have permission to use this image.

In short: This work is one from a series of 5 unique cones for which Harmen has asked Michael Young to employ all styles from the book The Grammar of Ornament (first published in 1856)  by Owen Jones. The cone consists of 4 different layered styles sections. In his book Owen Jones illustrates twenty ornamental style variations in total, such as Greek, Roman, Indian Persian, Renaissance.  Needless to say that Jones was very influential in the 19th century he he still is.

Los Carpinteros 

Still / stills (nice to have two to show contrast) from Comodato (2018) – Kow, Berlin. I have reminded Kow, no response so far.

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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.