Wednesday, 29 March 2017


Up Now in London

Aleksander Hardashnakov: You Turn On Me @ Union Pacific. 17 Goulston Street – Aldgate

Installation view with 'Find Your Own!', 'Pregnant Barbie', Stalker' and 'Painting for Liliana'

Toronto artist Aleksander Hardashnakov is an arch avoider of the signature style, but there’s a dark humour to quite a few of the 21 canvases which ring Union Pacific’s space cheek by jowl. He says ‘everything is inspiring’, and they channel all sorts of templates from Georgia O’Keefe to Kasimir Malevich. Hands meace, Barbie is pregnant, keychains cause stress… The circle of works is reflected in a charity collection style sculptural contraption in which coins run around hypnotically before disappearing down its black hole… to land on the floor. So much for the show’s economics, you can retrieve your money. Hardashnakov would like to make this as a public sculpture open to vortex-addicted skateboarders. I’d like to see that: the next 4th plinth vacancy is in 2022…

Black hole, tip jar, wishing well (proposal for public sculpture), 2017
Rhys Coren: Whistle Bump Super Strut, 270-276 Kingsland Rd - Haggerston

A slow (intro), 2017 - spray paint, acrylic and pencil on board

‘Two painting shows in a row!?’, I teased Dave Hoyland, ‘Are you selling out?’ ‘Luckily’, he says, ‘yes’ – which must be welcome after Seventeen’s ill-fated New York venture. And it’s easy to see why Rhys Coren’s funky abstractions, originally scheduled for the US, are popular. But there’s quite a lot to them, too: they’re not straight paintings but combinations of laser-cut wood like intricate puzzles; the colours are muted yet lively in combination; they’re replete with complicating effects like blurred areas, drop shadows and surfaces treated to resemble patio paving; each has a snappy title and these are joined up to turn the press release into a poem... Dance the dance, dancing feet / Red-faced with embarrassment / Cheeky, cheeky. Naughty, sneaky / Shame on you (if you can’t dance, too)...

All My Beautiful Evil is Melting, 2017 - spray paint, acrylic and pencil on board


Gordon Cheung: Unknown Knowns @ Edel Assanti, 74a Newman Street - Fitzrovia

Turkey Carpet (after Francesco Fieravino,1650-1680 ), 2017, giclée on canvas, 128 x 136cm
Gordon Cheung is known for apocalyptically coloured paintings which play against the collaged backdrop of stock listings as a charged way of exploring capitalism and its cyclic discontents. These, have become increasingly baroque, as in the tulips in which pre-sculpted paint forms fully modelled petals. Now two new series play off that practice. Grand panoramas use sand to irritate the surface as they subvert Chinese painting traditions by showing 21st century realities. And digital prints on canvas run with the computerisation of stock listings and the distortions of the market, by allowing a programme glitch to disrupt the data files of their image sources to bewitching effect. These, even when you know they’re the only flat works in the show, often look remarkably textured.
A Thousand Plateaus, 2016 -  financial newspaper, inkjet, acrylic and sand on linen, 200 x 450cm triptych

Maria Lassnig: A Painting Survey 1950-2007 @ Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row - Central

To 29 April:

Self-portrait with speech bubble, 2006 - Oil on canvas,  200 x 150 cm 

Following her shows at the Serpentine (2008) and Tate Liverpool (2016), it’s not exactly a secret that Maria Lassnig (1919-2014) was one of the best painters of the last 50 years, but this estate-driven show reinforces the point with examples not previously seen in Britain. It clarifies her geographically-driven phases rather well: from early Viennese experiments in hard-edged abstraction to more expressionist abstracts leading up to her move to Paris in 1961, where she developed her ‘body-aware’ style of figuration. Relatively realistic works followed as she found herself a painter reacting against the prevalent conceptual use of media in New York (1968-80). She returned to Vienna in 1980 to become, at 60, the nation’s first female professor of art. Self-portrait with Speech Bubble is typical of Lassnig's late, great flowering, showing her concern with the directly sensing parts of the body – no need, it seems here, for a brain.

Girl with Wine Glass, 1971 - oil on canvas, 178 x 127cm

Ella Littwitz: No Vestige of a Beginning, No Prospect of an End @ Copperfield Gallery, 6 Copperfield Street - Southwark

To 29 April:
Installation view

Ella Littwitz provides an object lesson in how to generate a political and emotional charge from simple-looking means - all relating to the expansion of Israel into Palestine territory. A filigree bronze cast of Dittrichia Viscosa represents the first plant to colonise disrupted territory, its allopathic qualities enriching the metaphor. Traces of the non-native pine refer to its mass introduction as a sign of support for Zionism: every Israeli receives a tree on birth, and you can have a plaque in the forest named for you if you buy enough extra trees - the imperialist narrative is strong enough for Hezbollah to have attacked trees!  A sort of cellular growth of connected unpicked footballs evokes the story of how UN officials collected and returned balls which children in a school close the border had kicked into a minefield in 1948.

"More poetry than instruction", "More instruction than poetry", chalk on Blackboard, 70 x 70 x 2 cm each


Architecture as Metaphor @ Griffin Gallery, 21 Evesham St - Latimer Rd

Evy Jokhova: Installation view of Puddle, 2011 - film with mirror

There are several good reasons to visit the Griffin Gallery. Free coffee; the sculpture, paintings and drawings exploring ‘architecture as metaphor’ have been chosen astutely; Phyllida Barlow, just ahead of her Venice appearance, links a typical sculptural pile to a spot-on stream of consciousness about getting lost in The Barbican (we’ve all been there if we’ve been there); Peter Newell Price pulls off the improbable project of making a rose window out of graphite. Yet the main reason for attendance could well be the film works by Gary Stevens, Evy Jokhova, Jemima Burrill and Lucy Gunning.

Jemima Burrill: stills from Cleaner, 2004


Richard Mosse: Incoming @ Curve Gallery, The Barbican 

Still from Incoming, 2016
Richard Mosse made a big splash at the 2013 Venice Biennale with his film of the ongoing war in the Congo. He shot it with discontinued reconnaissance infrared film which turned much of the battle scenery pink, so infecting the scenes with a surprising look which also carried political resonance. Can he replicate that kind of impact? It seems so: The Curve features film footage centering on refugees movements and still images of the associated camp infrastructure. Both are taken with a thermal camera which can distinguish people at a distance of 30 km and, as such, is classified as a weapon for export purposes. Again, the aesthetic is beautiful and distinct. Seeing thermally removes racial differences but emphasises mortality. Even though Mosse doesn’t really exploit the unusual dimensions of the Curve, his name can be added to the list of artists who – out of 27 high quality commissions - have excelled there over the last decade: Richard Wilson, Clemens von Wedermeyer, Robert Kusmirowski, Celeste Boursier-Mougenout, Song Dong and Random International.

Hellinikon Olympic Arena, 2016, digital c-print on metallic paper


Saad Qureshi: time | memory | landscape @ Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover St - Central

To 16 April:

Beyond Mental Boundaries, 2016-17 - brick dust, charcoal, ink, 160 x 210cm
As the show title spells out, perhaps a little too didactically,  Saad Qureshi’s two new streams of work combine time, memory and landscape. The results might be called mindscapes: big vistas made with charcoal applied to the sumptuous surface of brick dust create memories of nature in the classic material of the manmade; and smaller views burnt into paper with a soldering iron suggest how places may be seared into the memory. Both those resonant uses of material took effort: it wasn’t a simple matter for Qureshi to find a supplier willing to crush their bricks to powder for him; and the six works on paper are the survivors from 37, most of which caught a little too much fire!

Scorched lines - S1, 2016 - burnt paper, 57 x 70cm




Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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Tuesday, 28 March 2017


On 24 March a the House of St Barnabas, seven of the artists in ‘Show Us Your Process’ and ‘The Other Side’ spoke for five minutes each on a variety of topics related to the work in the shows Here’s a summary of their contributions on what proved a fascinating evening. See
for full details of the artists' works.
Tony Charles - Industrial Steel Benches
Tony recalled how – as soon as he went into the steel industry in Middlesbrough, where he now runs Platform A gallery – he realised he had sooner he’d gone to art college. He worked in the industry for 13 years, and was always fascinated by the marks which were the contingent result of the industrial processes which were carried out on steel benches, such as clamping steel sheets in place with a dog, and dressing them with angle grinder. In his early years, he would take whatever opportunities he could to look down on these benches from above in order to get an overview of the pattern of marks, despite his supervisors suggesting that there was work to be done! Now, those same processes feed directly into how he makes his art.
Tom Hackney - Duchamp's Chess Career

Marcel Duchamp: Pocket Chess Set, 1943

Tom has to date made 96 paintings which plot the action of the moves in recorded games by Marcel Duchamp. He was a serious player when he prioritised chess over art: among the top 25 amateurs in the US, representing France in four Olympiads. His play was solid, at times brilliant, but showed a tendency for endgame errors. Tom drew attention to the way in which chess strategy had evolved in the 1920’s with ‘hypermodern’ play, which eschewed the classical approach of occupying the central squares, instead pressurising them from peripheral positions. A parallel strategy operates in Duchamp’s art, which itself often featured chess in line with his interest in the game: as in the family scene The Chess Game, 1910, and Portrait of Chess Players, 1911, the cubistic precursor to the conceptual motion of Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912.

Marcel Duchamp: Portrait of Chess Players, 1912
Neil Zakiewicz - How Much Control Is Too Much?
Neil pondered the question ‘how much control is too much?’ in the context of his practice, in which he has often delegated the image production to a car spray paint workshop. In fact, he said, he is keen to maintain as much control as possible, and in that case his instructions were very precise even though he liked the thought that the car workshop staff were disinterested in the aesthetic outcome. Moreover, in his most recent series, which involves graduated spraying, he found it too difficult to give the precision of instruction he felt necessary, and has done the spray painting himself. All the same, he finds and happily accepts that it is the boundaries of the process still beyond his control which are often most fruitful: at the House of St Barnabas, the effects of the wall colour, the cord hanging system, and the shadows.
Emma Cousin - Standing Your Ground
Since starting to explore legs in her paintings, said Emma, she’s revelled in the puns of our physical agency and the formal concerns of making a painting. Thus ‘we stand on the ground, are grounded in history, and paint on a ground’. She imagined all the things that might happen in the Silk Room: dancing, meeting, talking, eating… and made paintings which reflect the room’s elements, using the patterned textures of the walls as a stand-in for the skin that's missing in her cartoonishly painted legs – legs which become a meal in Dinner Table; fit like a puzzle round the mirrored floor patterns of Cutting a Rug; or get painted from the viewpoint of the table at the middle of Bees Knees. That empty centre is the white primer of the painting’s ground. It things not said, not painted. But also the pond of potential paintings, of possible next moves. The ground of absence proves pivotal to how Emma and her work stand their ground.
Michael Stubbs - My Favourite Painters
Paolo Veronese: The Family of Darius before Alexander, 1565-7
Michael talked about the inspiration he has gained from Paolo Veronese (as exemplified by the National Gallery’s The Family of Darius before Alexander, 1565-7, and from the tondi of the contemporary Swiss painter Olivier Mosset (born 1944). The former is his favourite painter from the period during which perspective with a central vanishing point became the accepted language. The latter is a monochrome abstractionist who makes his work in ironic response to Clement Greenberg’s requirement that paintings should emphasise their nature as paint on a flat surface. Such a contrast in perspectives ties into Michael’s aim of setting up collisions of different traditions which arrive at a third place: colour field abstraction (Morris Louis in particular) meets graphic pop (aspects of Warhol) in his own work, but there is also a combination of layered depth with a non-perspectival lack of it. That suggests advertising and screens – and also brings together the not-so-obviously compatible Veronese and Mosset.

Olivier Mosset :  O2, 2015  

Shane Bradford - Painting and Geology

In what could have been a motto for the ‘Show Us Your Process’ room, Shane said that he saw painting as a matter of embodiment, not representation. His work in the show embodies decidedly geological processes. First, because he repeatedly dips his canvases in tanks of paint, building up layers of colour and stalactite formations along their edges. Second, because in the series from which Blueschist is taken, he also dips old clothes from friends and family into paint and presses them against the surface, so adding the strata of the personal histories of the clothing as worn – here pants, vest, T-shirt and bra. Third, because the resulting black and white patterning looks somewhat like marble. Life, he concluded with the flourish of removing his hat to reveal a freshly-shaved head – is, like geology, essentially about change, as illustrated to those in the audience who remembered his hair!
Martine Poppe - The Politics in My Work
Martine talked quite emotionally about how she had been unable to represent the issues she felt strongly about post-Brexit, and was driven into abstraction. Travelling widely in America just prior to Trump’s election, she had then been struck by the extent of the difficulties suffered by the underclass in the US, by the segregation of populations by colour still being the norm in the south, and by the police assumption that as a young white woman she needed protection in black-populated areas - in which she’d actually encountered nothing but friendliness. None of that had felt paintable to her either, but when she talked to and photographed young voters ahead of the poll, she saw a way to represent events– leading to her use of an image silkscreened in printer’s ink. Blue and Brown are half printed, half painted; half representational, half abstract.












Curated by Paul Carey-Kent

Bazalgette Room, the House of St Barnabas, 1 Greek St, Soho Square, London

By appointment via  5 Jan - 5 July 2017 -
all work for sale

Launch evening 20 January, 6-9 pm, RSVP required

Show Us Your Process features abstract paintings which employ unusual means of making to explore material processes with the potential for broader metaphorical meaning.

What qualities do all paintings have in common? They don’t have to use paint, for example, or be applied on a ground. Perhaps the necessities are only that they use a production process and present abstract qualities - which even a hyper-realist painting will have. Here are nine painters who foreground those two aspects: they use a visible process to make abstract paintings, as if seeking not pure abstraction, but a painting which represents its own making. Moreover, they don't use conventional painting methods, and - consistent with that - they don't pretend to be fully in control. They set the matter running, but chance intervenes, and indeed is welcomed. My selection is of well-established European artists, and you could add Simon Hantaï, Imi Knoebel and Bernard Frize as prominent practitioners. Young American painters have recently gained considerable market favour through work of this sort. Some of them are indeed interesting, but should there be more attention paid to Europeans who were using comparable processes well before them?

The emphasis on process may sound an inward-looking game, but there is considerable pleasure in deducing the method used and seeing how its logic leads to the result. Yet the world does enter in various ways, and that provides an additional subject. Tony Charles and DJ Simpson set up a clash between the forces of art and industry, and both use mechanical tools to subtract material as their primary means of intervention. Alexis Harding encourages gravity to do its stuff, while Daniel Lergon provides chemical analogues for the formation of the cosmos, and Shane Bradford combines a geologically styled process with a personalised one. The deconstruction of painterly tradition is particularly clear in Jonathan Parsons' reversal of normal figure / ground relations, Tom Hackney letting Duchamp’s non-art production determine the form of his modernist grids, and Neil Zakiewicz entrusting a third party with his chance element so that – reversing the norm – he makes the surface but doesn't paint it. Michael Stubbs may not use a brush, but does employ classic pop and abstract expressionist moves – yet in an ironic and confusingly layered manner.

All of which could result in clever but inert paintings: the key is that it doesn't – the nine processes have led to nine distinctive and dynamic abstract aesthetics.  

Alexis Harding

Clockwise Stoppage (pusher),  2012

Oil and gloss on MDF - 44cm diameter

Alexis Harding’s entropic abstracts start rapidly as he pours household gloss onto a ground of incompatible oil paint. Then they develop over months as chemical interaction, gravity and rotation collide contingency and control to arrive at a point of suspended movement suggesting, perhaps, the skin of a body in time as well - in this tondo format - as a clock.

Daniel Lergon

Untitled, 2013

Water on pulverised iron on canvas - 60 x 40cm

Berlin based Daniel Lergon uses a wide range of non-paint materials to blend of science and art, investigating the fundamentals of both painting and the universe. Here pulverised iron is ‘painted’ with water, so that forms emerge out of the resulting oxidisation as rust. Colour created by such direct chemistry connects to Lergon’s wider investigations of cosmic history.

DJ Simpson

Simple Paths, 2016

Colorcore on Birch plywood - 51.5 x 51.5 cm

DJ Simpson arrives at a distinctive language by combining the found object with expressive gesture, so riffing on both conceptual and painterly traditions. He uses an electrical router to cut into and expose a layered support, ‘drawing’ or ‘painting’ by an industrial means which sculpturally removes the surface instead of marking it.

Jonathan Parsons

You Are Good for Me, 2003

Oil on linen - 66 x 56 cm
Here Jonathan Parsons transcribes a photograph of a found gestural form onto canvas, masks the shape with tape, and then applies what appears to be the 'background' colour so that a ‘reverse painting’ results: made in the opposite way to the spontaneous original and flipping the relationship between 'figure' and 'ground'.

Michael Stubbs

Ef Ex Head #1, 2012

Household paint and tinted floor varnish on mirrored aluminium on mdf  - 50x40cms

Michael Stubbs makes his paintings on the floor either by pouring household paint and tinted varnishes or by painting stencilled motifs onto coated boards (in this case mirrored aluminium) or placing stencils in the pour to be removed after drying. The resulting simultaneous optical effects suggest the layered screens of computing.  


Neil Zakiewicz

Slim Chance, 2016  (shown as installed)

Polyurethane paint on MDF - 61 x 80cm

Neil Zakiewicz often outsources the spray painting of his MDF constructions to a car workshop. He provides just a rough 2D sketch as the plan, and so cedes control of how the raised elements in his carpentry will generate irregularities. ‘Slim Chance’ is cut to suggest movement through two squares that are separating or merging. 

Shane Bradford

Blueschist, 2014

Household gloss paint, metallic emulsion on canvas on board - 45 x 41.5cm

Shane Bradford has long used dipping as a method of painting, evidenced in ‘Bluechist’ by the small stalactites at its edge. This is combined with a more recent method of printing from used clothing soaked in emulsion: so geological time meets personal time in a series named by types of rock. 

Tom Hackney

Chess Painting No. 93 (Duchamp vs. Renaud, Strasbourg, 1924), 2016

Gesso on linen, oak frame - 34 x 34 cm
Tom Hackney depicts the chess games of Marcel Duchamp – who famously claimed to have given up art for the game – by translating each move into a layer of black or white gesso. If no piece passed, a square remain unpainted; if many did, a sculptural relief is formed on the grid.

Tony Charles

Uncovered, 2016

Gloss paint and resin on aluminium - 60x40cm

Charles (who also runs the Platform-A gallery in Middlesbrough) utilises his experience in the steel construction industry to scrape back painted aluminium, erasing the image so far as possible within a set time limit. The grind marks emerge - paradoxically - as the most painterly aspect, as highlighted by the final step of painting over a layer of semi-reflective resin.        

Installation Views

At the launch event 20 Jan:




About Me

My photo
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, The Art Newspaper and Border Crossings. I have curated five shows in London during 2013-15 with more on the way.Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.