Tuesday, 30 June 2015


The latest in my rolling top ten, together with previous choices which 
you can still see...

Tomoko Yoneda:  Beyond Memory @ Grimaldi Gavin, 27 Albemarle Street - Mayfair
 To 7 August: www.grimaldigavin.com

Lone Deer, Sanderbands, Bangldesh, 2008
The London-based Japanese Tomoko Yaneda shows images from 2003 onwards to deal with the not infrequent trope of apparently innocuous photographs which turn out to be of sites freighted with historical and emotional resonance: a means, if you will, of magnifying the innate memorialising tendency of photography* . Among Yoneda's subjects are homes built in the capital of Taiwan during a period of Japanese occupation (1895 to 1945); the most frequently flooded Delta in Bangladesh; and Stalin City in Hungary. Apart from being somewhat ahead of that curve, what distinguishes her treatment is the  sheer poised allure of her pictures, which quietly raises the impact of the contradictions involved, and her ability to fix on some what TS Eliot might have called an objective correlative for the emotions felt, from a lone deer to peeling walls to a semi-submerged couple. 

* Zarina Bhimji does something related in film, and I'd also commend her newest, Jangbar, at Nottingham New Art Exchange, 16 July - 27 Sept 

Lovers, Dunaújváros, Hungary , 2004


Isa Genzken: Basic Research Paintings & fig-2 26/50: Anne Hardy @ the ICA

To 6 Sept (Genzken) / 5 July (Hardy)

Isa Genzken, Basic Research, 1989, oil on canvas, 90 x 75 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne
For just this week the ICA offers a striking pairing of artists presenting the studio in the gallery as a means of moving from one medium to another. The main space has Isa Genzken’s seminal late 60’s Basic Research paintings, which are frottages made by applying paint to canvas laid on the studio floor -  appropriate for someone seen mainly as a sculptor. The textures picked up oscillate between aerial landscape, dusty close-up and plain abstraction.  In the crazy turnover of fig-2, this week is Anne Hardy’s turn: having made her reputation with photographs of meticulously constructed studio scenarios, Hardy expanded into showing the set-ups themselves, and has  now ditched the putative link to photography to make a sculptural environment linked to a 15 minute soundtrack of its own making in the studio, and its installation across various other locations. The sound of tape being peeled away proves particularly evocative. 

Anne Hardy at fig-2

The Shape of Things @ The Dot Project, 94 Fulham Rd - Chelsea

To 31 July:  thedotproject.com

                Selma Parlour: Curtain (2013) oil on linen, 60 x 50 cm

You might think, a hundred years on from Malevich, that all the possibilities for geometric abstraction would have been played out. Sure, you can batter it, stick on odd surfaces, play it off against sculpture; complicate the space with mirroring, emphasise the sides of the surface; use surprising shapes of canvas, explore sequences, subtly undermine apparent regularity; or adopt a meta-painting strategy as if you’re depicting geometric paintings, not geometry straight. But those are all moves I’ve seen before. And yet, I haven’t seen them made in the same ways as by this well-chosen quartet of Tim Ellis, Jane , Kritina and Selma Parlour. Turns out you might as well say you’ve seen paintings of people before. True, the hang could be more sympathetic to the subtlety of the work, especially Parlour’s, but it’s good to see this second adventurous show from a new gallery off the usual track.

Time Ellis installation shot

Justin Hibbs: Alias_Re_Covered @  Carroll / Fletcher, 56 - 57 Eastcastle St - Fitzrovia

To 12 Sep: www.carrollfletcher.com
Alias_Re_Covered, 2015
Vinyl adhesive on dibond
202 x 265 cm
Known_Alias, 2015
Vinyl adhesive on dibond
202 x 265 cm

Installation view
Justin Hibbs’ first solo show at Carroll / Fletcher is something of a multi-dimensional juggling act. It’s simplest to start with his version of Joseph Albers’ album cover  for Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition'. That connects with music and design, and is made with a pin-striping machine on linen, causing glitches which link to the humanising acceptance of errors in even the most computerised of future imaginings. The music cues the show’s ambient soundpiece, and the glitches anticipate the crashed computer screen as a generator of sleek abstractions which set off a dance of two and three dimensions as paintings fold out into sculptures. It’s too complex to describe quickly, but preliminary ideas form a sort of brain in the central room, and some domestically coloured walls offset the industrial aspect of what proves a seamlessly holistic show.  Given that Hibbs embraces the fault, I’m tempted to complain,  does his show itself have enough?
Void, 2015 - Enamel, acrylic and oil on linen, 200 x 150 cm
Alias Re_Versioned, 2015

Emma Bennett: Several Small Fires @ Charlie Smith, 336 Old Street, 2nd Floor - Shoreditch

To 25 July: charliesmithlondon.com

Haunts, 2015 - oil on oak, 25 x 20 cm

It was interesting, at Emma Bennett’s private, view, to hear the wide range of preferred favourites among eleven superficially similar paintings on small oak panels, all showing themes extracted from 18th century paintings on a void-like black ground. Was it all about the painting, especially in the lead motif of fires? Were they meditations on mortality, pushing the vanitas in a contemporary direction flagged by the show’s title (which comes from the late Stuart Croft’s adaptation of Ed Ruscha’s phrase)? Were past and present being played off? Was there a religious dimension? Or was the essence in sex – burning passion, ripe fruit, ruffled bed linen? Just the sort of ambiguity you want.

Painter Marguerite Horner (left), who's on a campaign to be photographed with artists, looks pleased to have added Emma Bennett to her recent co-starring appearances with Tuymans, Hockney,  and Borremans
Sterling Ruby & Mike Kelley: Spray, Memory @ Inigo Philbrick, 22 Davies St and 
Richard Prince: New Portraits @ Gagosian Gallery, 17-19 Davies St - near Bond Street

To 31 July (Philbrick)  /  1 Aug (Gagosian) 

Mike Kelley: Memory Ware Flat No. 15, 2001 - Plastic and metal buttons and marbles, assorted other plastic and metal objects, sea shells and epoxy resin on wooden panel in wooden artist's frame 180 x 256 cm

Arguably the two most influential American artists of the  'baby boomer' generation have shows either side of Davies Street. Inigo Philbrick’s new space aptly pairs Sterling Ruby’s rethinking of abstract traditions as spray from the streets with  ‘memory ware flats’ by Mike Kelley (1954-2012) – encrusted archeological accumulations of everyday objects which act give our collective pasts a decidedly Freudian twist in the context of Kelley's work as a whole.  Opposite, Gagosian shows ‘New Portraits’ by Richard Prince (born 1949): screen captures on canvas lifted from Instagram. They generate something of the bracingly radical ‘can that be art?’ impact of his first rephotographs 40 years ago, and Prince’s account of their genesis is fascinating – make sure ask to see that or pre-read on the gallery site.

Richard Prince: Untitled (portrait), 2015 - Inkjet on canvas, 167 × 124 cm

Emma Hart & Jonathan Baldock: ‘Suckerz’ @ l’étrangère, 44a Charlotte Rd – Shoreditch

To 1 Aug:  wwwletrangere.net

Emma Hart: Hair ceramics, 2015

Joanna Mackiewicz-Gemes is doing a good job of maintaining the standards of a space formerly occupied by Carl Freedman and Andrew Mummery, here with an unusual collaboration in which Emma Hart and Jonathan Baldock produce separate work which they combine into a joint installation, at the centre of which is a riotously sensual dinner table replete with tongue napkins, breast plates, drunkenly wonky ceramic wineglasses and cutlery with fingernails.   Hart’s spaghetti turned into hair by strategic use of the scrunchy, and Baldock’s animated way with holes in paintings are equally lively. The artists reveal enough empathy of form and approach – both use clay to provide a social context for bodily anxieties - to leave you unsure who’s done what.   Like it? Then you’ll want to see Hart II at the Austrian Cultural Forum…

Installation shot

Michaël Borremans: Black Mould @ David Zwirner, 24 Grafton St - Mayfair

To 14 Aug: www.davidzwirner.com

Black Mould / Juggling with Fiery Limbs II, 2015 - oil on wood, 34 x 28 cm

Just when you thought the dead good of Guston (Timothy Taylor to 11 June) would overshadow any living painter, up steps Michaël Borremans with a tour de force of dark and sepulchrally presented ritual. Goya, Abu Ghraib, and Japanese theatre meet dance to the implied sound of Black Mold, a chunk of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's alternative rock. Downstairs Pogo is one fifteen part work isolating black-robed figures as a prelude to their full-scale interaction above, where robes are lifted, a severed hand used as a tool and the mood ambiguated by the introduction of a badger, whose song we can only imagine as his score is a blank sheet of paper. Surely it's not from 'The Wind in the Willows'?

Black Mould / The Badger's Song, 2015 - oil on wood, 22 x 31 cm

Günther Förg: ‘To London! A Selection of Paintings’ at Almine Rech, 12 Savile Row; and ‘Lead Paintings’ at White Cube, Mason’s Yard – Central

To 11 July (White Cube) / 25 July (Rech)

Untitled, 1996 - acrylic on lead laid down on panel 90 x 50 x 3.2 cm

By curious coincidence, given the rarity of his appearances in London, these shows each provide a good introduction to one of the several long-running streams of work produced by the German artist Günther Förg   (1952 -2013). Both contain echoes of the architecture – especially windows – which Förg also photographed. White Cube has acrylic paintings on lead sheets wrapped around wooden panels (Förg’s favoured surface in 1984-92). These attain a severe resonance through the scratches, scrapes, and occlusions of their heavy base both in exposed patches and in how glimpses show through and the grounds mutes the colour of the painted sections. Almine Rech presents freely drawn grids, a series which ran from 1992 onwards. In this set from 20o6, the colours are energised by the luminously white grounds, and Förg made a small pendant watercolour version of each afterwards, as if memorialising – by deliberating on – his instinctual actions.  

Installation at Almine Rech


St Ives Connections and Dolly Thompsett: The Secret Life & Other Stories @ Art First, 32 Eastcastle St - Fitzrovia

To 14 Aug: www.artfirst.co.uk

Bryan Wynter: Meander III, 1971-4 - oil on canvas, 111.7 x 141.1 cm
Art First quite often conjures an interesting mix of classic British modernism above more current work in the project space below, and so it is here. A selection by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and her circle includes  large and darkly glowing geometry from her own Outside Inside – Meditation Series, some lively Roger Hilton and a lyrical, indeed summery Bryan Wynter from the very winter of his life (1915-75). Downstairs you’ll find Dolly Thompsett’s latest layerings – material and art historical – of nature charged with desire, often disguising secrets in amongst the intricacy. The surprises for me were small works which allow her characteristic ground of patterned fabric to take over much of the painting; the new still life motif of the pictorially decorated oval serving tray; and her having found a dress so appealingly in tune with her paintings...

Dolly Thompsett with Huddle, 2014 - oil and mixed media on printed fabric and canvas  131.5 x 95.5cm

Ann Craven: Untitled (Palettes: Naked, Tagged), 2013-14 @ Southard Reid,
7 Royalty Mews - Soho

Installation view with the tagged palette Untitled (Palette, Cushing, Meadowlark Singing, 10.1.14), 2014
The spirit of On Kawara lives on in Ann Craven’s paintings: she repeats stock images as much to  record time passing as to assert her love of oil paint, wet on wet; and documents the process not just through the painting but by saving her palettes – themselves on canvas – as a means of enabling her to recapture her colours choices. Sometimes she leaves those palettes as is (‘naked’), sometimes she sketches the subject into the paint to‘tag’ them.  This show is the first to show only the palettes, itself a naked exposure of her process without the support of the conventional end product.  The 50 examples, though, are a riotous triumph of colour and variety. It strikes me that the Serpentine could do worse, now it has two galleries, than to dedicate one each to Craven and her husband, Peter Halley.

Untitled (Palette, NYC, Moon Halo, Last Night, 11-04-13), 2013 incorporates both knife and plastic applied to keep the paint from drying

Kaari Upson: HOLE @   Massimo De Carlo, 55 South Audley St - Mayfair

To 18 July:  www.massimodecarlo.com

Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue, 2014 - Urethane, pigment and aluminium, 217 x 198 x 78 cm

Kaari Upson has made her name through the long-running psychological intensity of attempting to inhabit another in 'The Larry Project' (2007-14). Facing the challenge of moving on, she’s conjured sculptures which operate very independently yet retain a psychological charge. Upson's own cut-and-paste thesaurus-style list of 'hole' terms sets the mood. On the ground floor, sofas are cast repeatedly, and hard, onto the walls. They’re like interior organs, and also fleshy lips – a resemblance reinforced when you descend to find Angelina Jolie's mouth as paintings and wallpaper, and urethane forms partially cast from wood which stand at Jolie's height. Each has three holes one takes to be hers, and somehow merges body, tree and mattress.

Lower Floor Room III Installation view

 Ben Woodeson: obstacle @ BERLONI, 63 Margaret St - Fitzrovia

To 1 Aug:  www.berlonigallery.com

Point Taken, 2015 - found table and sheet glass

Here Ben Woodeson kicks rather refreshingly through health and safety concerns: panes of glass are left to bend where you can walk into them; rat traps look set to snap shut and shatter an intricate network of neon; 99 billiard balls are held up just by a glass rod which could easily be kicked away; and shiny floor plates in tribute to Carl Andre prove 'hot' in that they are electrified - you can and should generate a satisfying crackle by spreading your fingers across two plates. Nor is this mere shock art: Woodeson's explorations of how to make materials behave dangerously also carry an aesthetic charge.

I love you, I want you, I need you... (Hot for Carl), 2015: sheet brass, glass and electric fence power supply


Et Mon Droit @ Copperfield Gallery, 6 Copperfield Street - Borough / Southwark

to 11 July:  www.copperfieldgallery.com

David Birkin, Cyclura Nubila (2014), Comissioned Sketches by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, 19x25" legal paper

I guess you won’t be surprised to learn that a show about art and the law is full of paradox: Marco Godoy reminds us that we cannot own currency, we merely borrow it, hence  his effacement of coins is illegal; on the other hand, Jason File photocopies a Dan Flavin certificate then remakes it by hand to yield a fake of a fake which – unlike Flavin’s original certificate – he designates as art; and David Birkin hires a court artist to put Guantánamo Bay's iguanas in the dock, so pointing up their seeming to have more rights than people. Add the more familiar conceptual twists of Etienne Chambaud, Jill Magid and Carey Young (whose Obsidian Contract may be best viewed while naked) and you have an exhibition which – if there’s any justice – should be a success. 

Marco Godoy, Who Makes Europe (2013), altered coins and armature 


Herbert Golser: A Quivering Solidity @ rosenfeld porcini, 37 Rathbone Street - Fitzrovia

Untitled, 2014 / 15 - pear wood

Ignore that over-insistent show title: Austrian sculptor Herbert Golser has a remarkable repertoire of cuts, changing the form of wood through the virtuosic use of a various saws. Choosing mostly pear, which allies an attractive golden tinge to a twisting upthrust, he works iteratively to interpret the tree’s inner energy rather than impose himself on it. Golser's interventions take months to stabilise, and often leave the wood looking fragile - but you can still sense the strength of the trees, and I love how some forms seem to echo the natural arboreal processes of forming rings, or hosting fungi or hives.


Ravilious @ Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Rd - Dulwich

The Greenhouse, cyclamen and tomatoes, 1935
It isn't hard to work out why Ravilious's paintings appeal: his quirky eye for the objects and landscapes of the decade to his death in 1942 plays in to nostalgia tinged by the war to come or in progress; his apparently straightforward depictions are seeded with an almost vertiginous sense of underlying strangeness; he has a remarkable sense of how to build up a persuasive whole from detailed patterning of grass, sea, wallpaper or repeated flower pots, largely achieved by importing experience of making woodcuts into his watercolour production; and he has the most amazing watercolour technique, lighting clarity from within through  the blazing white of the paper. Art history has taken little notice, but these 80-odd paintings are your best-ever chance to enjoy a ravishing achievement.

Tiger Moth, 1942
Henry Wessel: Incidents @ Tate Modern

Tate has a recent penchant for arguably underappreciated American photographers: I can't say I wasn't bowled over by Harry Callahan but Henry Wessel is more impressive. He moved from New Jersey to California in 1971 to chase the year round light, and his pictorially acute affirmations of interest in the world feed into the 27 photographs selected and ordered to make his summary work 'Incidents'. These work persuasively individual images of strangers, replete with shadow play, unexpected tilting and internal rhymes such as between grass and hair, crutch and railing, thoughts and branches; and as a group they emphasise vantage points as they move between youth and age, men and women, singles and couples to build a putative narrative.

Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 

Monday, 22 June 2015



Pavel Büchler: Work (All the cigarette breaks), 2007-14 (detail)

Smoking may seem to be on the way out (in the UK 54% of adults in 1948 compared with 19% now) and yet…  Maybe it was the more liberal view of smoking still evident in Switzerland and Germany; maybe it was the politics of smoking promotion in the third world, where sales are still rising; maybe it'spart of the general fascination for things retro whihc leads some artists to typewriters or analogue film; maybe it was the lingering influence of Pavel Büchler’s 1,156 photographs of Work (All the cigarette breaks), 2007-14, which currently fills a wall of the Ikon in Birmingham, so making a work out of not working… Whatever the reason, I spotted ten interesting works in which cigarettes were central, though I didn’t see any using e-cigarettes.

Neïl Beloufa: Untitled, 2015 at Balice Hertling, Paris

The skylights in Beloufa’s current show in Paris are covered by translucent resin panels into which Beloufa tossed the cigarettes he smoked during the making, so recording the time of production in the most direct parallel to Buchler’s record of downtime. Given the political tenor of the Frenchman’s work as a whole, we can reasonably read some defiance of expectations and empathy for the downtrodden, lifted above by a gesture which was transferred to the wall here, as one of the panels became a painting of sorts. 

David Hammons: Untitled (cigarette chandelier), 1994 at  Salon 94, New York in Art Basel

Maverick American David Hammons refuses conventional gallery representation, in line with his preference for street rather than art audiences, but his re-purposing of detritus has achieved iconic status nonetheless: Salon 94’s stand including his elephant dung sculptures was a big hit, and over $1m was being asked for this wall piece of half-smoked Lucky Strikes held on wires in front of a 17th century Buddhist monk’s robe. That makes it a chandelier, though I guess the smoke might offset the modest illumination. Some cigarettes were lit in advance of the (no smoking) fair in order to generate the ash which Hammons likes to appear below this mixture of street and spirit.


Marlie Mul: Cigarette Hedgehog, 2015 at Croy Nielsen, Berlin in Liste

Aluminium bucket, polyurethane foam, acrylic paint, varnish, cellophane, cigarettes 
30 x 25 cm

‘Cigarette will be gone soon’, said the Berlin-based Dutch artist Marlie Mul in her 2012 show ‘No Oduur (Your Smoke Draws Me In)’ – ‘Cigarette is guilty, has apologised a thousand times’. Mul is interested in communication systems and in how contingently-produced items can reflect the society which brought them about. Hence her sculptures of air vents – or, as here, a snowed-up bucket – pressed into unintended use as ashtrays. They reflect the shifting social relations attached to smoking now that the huddle has been driven out of the building. Perhaps smokers have a right to feel prickly…

Jesús 'Bubu' Negrón: Colillón de mala muerte, 2015 at Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City in Liste

Found cigarette butts and glue, 51 × 32 × 18 cm

Puerto Rican Jesús ‘Bubu’ Negrón collects fag ends via street cleaners, from which he has constructed an ornate carpet, but here made a giant cigarette stub, containing I would think 5,000 individual stubs in what Thomas Bayrle would call a ‘superform’,. The title could I think be fairly rendered as ‘pants caught between the buttocks on the seedy side of town’

Pae White: Smoke tapestry #1 (working title), 2015 at Neugerriemschneider, Berlin in Art Basel 
Cotton, polyester and trevira, 290 x 290 cm
Pia White’s tapestry is big and heavy enough, and the process of transferring from digital photographic plan to woven outcome substantial enough to give a weighty presence to the emphemerality of cigarette smoke, tying its illusive qualities firmly into the quotidian. This series follows on from previous tapestries the digital production and heroic scale of which were in the service of throwaway  consumer items.

 Dan Colen: Wild Irish Rose at Massimo de Carlo in Art Basel

At Massimo Carlo. There seemed to be party remnants in a space enclosed by large paintings by Jacob Kassay (as glipmsed above) and Gunther Forg (the latter, who died in 2013, was prominent on many stands). In fact, the scatter of bottles and cigarette ends were Murano glass castings and plastic-based sculptures by Dan Colen, also known for his series of paintings featuring burning candles from which the smoke emanating forms  disarming messages. Wild Irish Rose is something of a wake both for his friend Dash Snow and the party nights which changed following his death in 2009. The collection sold for a non-too-shoddy £70,000.


Sarah Lucas: Vlady Trotsky, 2012 at kurimanzutto, Mexico City in Art Basel

Cigarettes and wire on kraft paper

If any artist can be said to ‘own’ the cigarette as material, it’s probably Lucas who uses them as both a short cut to a laddish vibe (see their orificial placement in Venice) and to suggest, by drawing with them, that smoking and drawing are comparably inward and obsessive activities. Her Mexican gallery had this appropriately mural-sized head resulting from a trip to Diego Rivera’s studio. They are, therefore, Mexican cigarettes which make up her version of a portrait of Trotsky as drawn by Vlady during the exile in Mexico which may have included an affair with Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo, and definitely concluded with an icepick.

Raymond Hains: Mlle Z, 2004 at  Max Hetzler, Berlin in Art Basel 

Wood, resin, sandpaper, photographic print, 120 x 45 x 20 cm

Raymond Hains, one of the nine signatories of the declaration for New Realism in 1960, is best known for his torn poster works. Actually his practice was varied, and included pop-style enlargements of boxes of matches. These read as pregenitors for the spark of artistic inspiration, but were also a tribute to his gallerist Iris Clert, who was known as the ‘incendiary brunette’ and persuaded firefighters to guard Hains’ first matchbox show. The boxes feature Hains’ own designs, though sometimes under pseudonym chosen according to the supposed country of origin of the matches: here, it’s a semi-abstracted portrait.  

Thomas Demand: Daily #2, 2008 at Schaulager

Dye transfer print, 80 x 77 cm
The institutions joined in, too: the Schaulager was showing a cigarette partly-painted by Joseph Beuys as well as Thomas Demand’s less political, more everyday series of photographs, based not on news stories but on casual camera phone shots of his own posing as 'daily rushes' from filming. Having elaborated these into paper sculptures to photograph and then destroy in his usual way, Demand commissioned the images to be printed with the contrastingly permanent but increasingly rare dye transfer process.
Gavin Turk: Totem, 2013 at Larm Gallery, Copenhagen in Volta

c-type print, 172x120 cm,

Gavin Turk makes something more Freudian out of a source similar to Pae White’s, titling the large photograph of billowing smoke to suggest we might read something into it, given the chance we don’t normally have to take a fixed view in great detail rather than getting lost in its continual drift. Maybe you could read fixed smoke in the manner of tea leaves? The frozen smoke has a definite beauty, but is that just cover for its destructive undercurrent, whether following an explosion or with reference to our lungs?

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.