Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Up Now in London

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Andrew Curtis: Garage Door Paintings @ PayneShurvell, 71 Blandford St - Baker St

To 26 Oct (by appointment):

Installation view

Andrew Curtis has tended to configure modernism as an alien presence in suburbia: now the two merge in one-to-one scaled silver paintings of six garage doors propped against the walls rather like their models, all of which were metal garage doors which Curtis found abandoned  in the urban landscape. Frank Stella comes to mind in the pleasingly various parallel lined compositions, actually achieved with tremulous patience by painting several layers of aluminium around the still-exposed cotton duck.

Preparatory photo


Thilo Heinzmann: To Be And To Be @ Carl Freedman Gallery, 29 Charlotte Rd – Shoreditch

Untitled, 2016 (detail)

Violence and beauty often combine to effect in abstract painting. There’s a double dose now: not just Gunther Uecker’s fine show at Dominique Levy, but also Thilo Heinzman’s new work. The Berlin artist takes an axe to the back of a sheet of white aluminium to make variably oriented incisions in the wake of Fontana, then invokes Miro and Sam Francis in the delicacy with which he pools on colours which respond to the placement of the cuts without ever feeling determined by them. The effect is celestial and floral, and Heinzmann’s own mix of pure pigments with liquid resin has the added attraction that they still look deceptively wet.

Untitled, 2016 (full: 150 x 130 cm)

Marta Marcè: Passages @ Riflemaker, 79 Beak St - Soho

Now & Ever 76, 2016

Berlin-based Spaniard Marta Marcè's native language is Catalan, but fortunately, having lived in London for several years, she speaks English to me. Her paintings share that fluency across languages: she used to derive abstraction directly from game, now geometric structures hint at meaning – are they portals, or magical symbols? – but the play goes on beneath: casual taping as generator of bleeding line; explorative layering and mixing of colours; the subversion of her shapes’ apparent striving for purity.   In that context, showing against Riflemaker’s rough boarding makes sense, though I’d like to see how Marcè would look at, say, David Zwirner.


Kelvin Okafor: Interludes @ Albemarle Gallery, 49 Albemarle St – Central

To 1 Oct:

Jas's Interlude, 2016

The Albemarle Gallery's shows rarely appeal to me, but I was struck by 30 year old Londoner Kelvin Okafor’s graphite and charcoal portraits. You have to be tremendously good to achieve relevance in such a well-trodden field, and it’s no surprise to hear that Okafor has been drawing people obsessively since he was eight.  The closed eyes of the 14 rather good-looking friends whose 'interlude' he documents in this project adds a mysterious charge, and he varies the scale very effectively - from half life-size to getting on for double: Okafor told me that he senses different people at different scales. Has he tried colour? Yes, he said, but 'it didn’t suit my personality’. 

It's not so often you want your photo's subject with eyes closed...

David Korty @ Sadie Coles, 1 Davies St – Mayfair

To 1 Oct:

I wasn’t fully convinced by David Korty’s last series of paintings, which lined up objects on shelves, white against a blue backdrop. But this development out of them is a winner:, the objects are replaced with shapes of fragmented text, sometimes reversed or reflected, and most of the white with a Tiepelesque range of pinks offsetting the night-deep blue. They’re actually layered collages, and shaped to hint at figures or faces, the more so as small images of masks also appear. There’s plenty of play with what’s the background and what the foreground, and frames are also collaged-on.  In sum, despite the flatness, a persuasive post-modern recycling of cubist tropes.

Word Painting (Margate), 2016

John Wood and Paul Harrison: Some Things Were Recorded 1993-1998 @ Carroll / Fletcher, 56-57 Eastcastle Street - Fitzrovia

Still from 3-Legged, 1996

It's pretty-much the non-surprise of the autumn season to report that this extensive collection of Wood and Harrison's video work from the 90's, supplemented by their working drawings, is a delightful  reprise of the many ways they found to position themselves somewhere between Buster Keaton and Sol LeWitt: tied three-legged while dodging tennis balls, choreographing an 8 x 4 ft board, using portable steps or, more disturbingly, making the best of being trapped in a cube half-full of  under water... There are eight screens downstairs at Carroll  / Fletcher, but it's quickfire stuff so that the total running time for scores of actions is only 35 minutes or so. 

Still from Harry Houdini (there's no escape that I can see), 1994


Giuseppe Penone: Fui, Sarò, Non Sono (I was, I will be, I am not) @ Marian Goodman,  5-8 Lower John St – Central

Even half of Marian Goodman's joint London-Paris survey of the last three years of Giuseppe Penone's practice makes a strong case for best show in town - and he also has a superbly placed nine metre tree work near The Gherkin as part of 'Sculpture in the City'. Penone is particularly good with touch, which he considers more immediate than sight* and on human interaction with nature. Those are the connecting themes here across fingerprints, terracotta portraits of his daughter, a massive acacia thorn work, and bronze trees with an inner essence of marble.  

    Idee di pietra (ideas of stone), 2010

* Penone states that ‘the vision of an abject is a moment past’, whereas ‘tactile perception brings us closer to the present’.  That operates poetically in the work, but actually there’s scope to disagree here: light takes pretty-much no time to travel (say) a metre or two  from object to eye at 300 million m/sec, much less time than for a hand’s touch to transmit to the brain through the nerves at a comparatively sluggish 100 m/sec. 


Three in Peckham:

Dinh Q. Lê: The Colony @ 133 Rye Lane to 9 Oct

Derek Jarman garden, Floor 10, 95A Rye Lane in Bold Tendencies to 1 Oct

Colin Booth: If Not Winter @ MOCA Project Space, 113 Bellenden Rd to Sept 23

Still from Dinh Q. Lê: The Colony
There’s plenty coming up in Mayfair, of course, but still Peckham is worth a visit. Artangel’s latest project is a spectacular three screen cinematic investigation of the boom and bust of the guano industry in the  bird-blizzarded islands off Peru. Why is Vietmanese artist Dinh Q. Lê so interested? He has no need to state explicitly that he posits guano as a 19th century equivalent of oil today. The top-of-car-park annual Bold Tendencies is always worthwhile, and while there’s less new work than usual this year, it struck me that the urban take on Derek Jarman’s Dungeoness garden (planted in 2013)  has now reached a suitably windswept maturity. The other end of the scale, Colin Booth shows marble meditations from Sappho and complement’s MOCA’s library with 75 blankly quiet cedar versions from his own book collection…

Derk Jarman garden, Peckham

Colin Booth: Go, litel bok (detail)
Jeff Koons: Now @ Newport Street Gallery, Newport Street –  Vauxhall


'Play Doh', 1994-2014
Damien Hirst, in his more than impressive new space, provides a punchily presented and much less predictable overview of Koons than I’d expected: hoovers and basketballs present and welcome, but also early inflatables to tee up the later stainless steel blown-up big ‘can’t-believe-it’s-not-vinyl’ ones; a bigger balloon ‘celebration’ than has been shown in London before; giant eggs as well as Jeff’s own sperm on Illona’s face; the 27 aluminium casts which make up the monstrous child’s play of ‘Play Doh’… 

Three Ball 50/50 Tank (Spalding Dr JK Silver series), 1995



Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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Sunday, 25 September 2016


Alex Gene Morrison at Charlie Smith

Manchester Contemporary (22-25 Sept styles itself as the leading fair outside London for ‘critically engaged art’.  But how does it compare with the smaller London fairs? The Old Granada Studios prove an excellent location, though you do have to run the gauntlet of some pretty dire preliminaries – in the form of the Buy Art Fair – before reaching the 34 booths of  The Manchester Contemporary itself. Several galleries with a  London presence made the trip – The Ryder, Castor Projects, Charlie Smith, Copperfield, Division of Labour, IMT, Transition, Vitrine – and their quality was no surprise, But what of the other galleries? Here, too, there was plenty of merit, making it easy to choose half a dozen interesting examples of ‘life beyond London'. Average quality here is a good deal better than at START, for example, and the prices are modest.

Jamie Fitzpatrick at Vitrine (photo Harry Meadley)

Tom Ireland: still from  The Heavens, 2016 at OBJECT | A (Manchester)

Tom Ireland says he’s interested in space and the things which fill it, and his film's double-aspect filled four minutes very nicely. On the one hand, its mirroring of the universe in a silver rabbit is a surreal reductio ad absurdum of the problem of space junk orbiting round the earth; on the other hand, it's a cunning art play at two removes, acknowledging both Jeff Koons’ fetish finish reflective sculpture and Mark Leckey’s previous repurposing of Koons' rabbit through what it reflects.


Broomberg & Chanarin: Z is For Zoom from 'Humans and Other Animals' (2016). at Field Editions (Liverpool)

Among many attractive photo editions here were the Anglo-South African collaborators’ playful sign-language A-Z, for which they hand-draw bright vectors indicating the movements to be made onto black and white images from the Getty Archive, leaving us to wonder when a picture becomes a symbol and when a symbol becomes a text. These then feed into a children’s book made for Tate.


Phil Illingworth: Mr Soft, 2016 at Platform A (Middlesbrough)

Phil Illingworth makes what look like wall-mounted sculptures, but are better seen as expanded paintings which toy with the conventions while using characteristic materials. Just so, Mr Soft combines acrylic on canvas with a wooden frame, even if neither are shaped as you’d expect. The eccentric wit of the title is also typical: is it a simple contradiction of the visible angle of erection, or a more nuanced put-down of the possibility that some Tarzan-styled hardman might wear the funfur loincloth it sports?



Marielle Hehir: Fireworks, 2016 at LLE (Cardiff)

New artist-run space LLE (both Welsh for place and a play on the initials of its founders) featured several lively painters. Like Illingworth, recent Slade graduate Marielle Hehir moves away from flat painting, but with a less traditional ground: this spatial eruption of flares is painted onto latex. It yields what the title suggests might be seen as a landscape-come-skyscape in which the artificiality of the colours are paralleled by the artificiality of the material to suggest the paradoxical beauty of the 'toxic sublime'.



Mollie Milton and Holly Hendry at Collar (Manchester)

Collar’s excellent booth set off two young sculptors to advantage:  six of Mollie Milton’s incredibly delicate bronze castings of somewhat bedraggled teasels (That Which Is Living Can Only Die, 2016) and four of Holly Hendry’s enjoyably indelicate Band-Aids-as-tongues, blown up in suitably bendable silicone (Plastered, 2015). Hendry’s on her way, forthcoming with Limoncello, and Milton deserves a wider showing, too.


Maurice Carlin: Temporary Custodians of Islington Mill 2018-28 at Islington Mill (Manchester)

Maurice Carlin had some alluring abstract prints on show, but to see the full extent of his 'performance publishing' project a visit to nearby Islington Mill was recommended. There you can see lined up on their sources a hundred monotypes Carlin has made from of the stone flags of the 5th floor. Rendered with CMYK colours in differing orders, and influenced by both his actions and the undulations of the surface, they are remarkably varied and painterly.  Moreover, all are for sale (at £1000 each) in order to fund the building’s own renovation.

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, 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.