Wednesday, 20 July 2016



Gallery Elena Shchukina, 10 Lees Place, Mayfair (access from Shepherd's Place)

25 Aug - 16 Sept:

Caterpillar: The question you need is Who Are You?

Aly: Tell him he can see perfectly well who you are

Alice: You can see perfectly well who I am.

Caterpillar: But that’s not true, is it? These outer shells are only versions of ourselves...[i]

Bella Easton develops, replicates and reflects on apparently straightforward scenes from everyday life to generate a complex account of the multiple relationships between inside and outside, natural and artificial, open and enclosed, chaos and order. In so doing, she takes her source material through a dizzying range of transformations to suggest the various selves which might be in play when we formulate our own identities.
Identical Twins

 Identical Twins, 2013 is an immersive landscape that has been fragmented into 48 smaller elements. That arises from Easton’s characteristic hybrid technique of painting and printmaking. Here she has etched copper plates, printing each onto a single piece of paper, the inky marks from which are then offset onto a second piece of paper by running it through the press again – so producing its mirror counterpart. She has repeated this many times incorporating watercolour and graphite powder.  The Rorschach-like result is a coming-together that may look like one complete object or view, but is actually a doubling of two halves. Those halves are often noticeably different, due to glitches and variations in depth of tone, completeness of impression, or sharpness of registration. Easton accepts and even encourages those chance effects by using the same source repeatedly – ‘murdering the copper plates’, as she puts it, ‘till you can’t get any more from them’. Her method, she says, ‘is a kind of controlled spontaneity which generates abstract effects on the figurative ground. Each section has its own personality, so that when the family of panels are spliced together, harmonies and dissonances arise’. Identical Twins, a one-off by the very nature of how it’s made, acted as the source image for the ‘Chiral’ (meaning ‘hand’ in Greek) series of etchings, drawings and paintings. 

From the Chiral etching series

Each of the Chiral etching series, 2014, selects a detailed sector for further development, notably by adding watercolour layers to give greater depth and illusion of light, and by cutting in some elements and swapping them over. Hence what look like double moons, which cannot be mapped when superimposed over each other - like opposite hands, they have ‘chiral symmetry’. ‘Creating’, says Easton, ‘is a journey of complementary opposites. I employ actions that are contradicted or opposed until equilibrium is reached’.

Chiral I

These etchings initiated larger works in which selected motifs are reconfigured into immersively-scaled fabrications using a geometric framework: Chiral I, 2014, and Chiral II, 2015, onto 128 and 50 oil painted linen panels; Chiral VI, 2015, in graphite and coloured pencil on 50 paper panels. The process, as shown in the filmed documentation of the progress of Chiral I, scales up and mirrors the minutiae to an almost perverse extent. Each section is individually rendered by applying thin layers of oil paint over a long period of time. These paintings don’t use etching, but relate directly to the etched works as weight, pressure and touch are similarly employed to offset the oil painted and hand drawn marks from one panel to its counterpart, so creating a mirror image. 
Chiral VI

Chiral II adds an extra layer of illusion and depth of light by including a synthesized lens flare as if from off kilter photographic documentation.

Chiral II

A further step then sees Easton come inside: not to the studio - in line with the expected artistic tradition - but into her house, which has a distinctive mixture of Edwardian original features, silkscreened wallpaper by the artist, and Japanese decorative papers used to cover furnishings and fittings. At first it seems that Easton has transported the house, as an autobiographical account of her decorative taste, into the gallery. The Myriorama Room Series - Fireplace, Armchair and Lamp (all 2016, each made from 88 copper plate etchings) give context to what now seem to be windows letting onto landscapes. Yet closer examination reveals that those objects are not so straightforward: each are chiral versions of the same 44 parts twice – so, for example, we see two sets of bellows in the fireplace – or rather, the same pair of bellows twice.


 And while the individual units which make up the chiral forms are mosaic-like squares, the totality of the images combine in a different way. Look at how the skirting boards and picture rail line up: a continuity and interchangeability is implied. We could move the depicted furniture around the room and maintain that. This, consistent with the era of the house’s contents, is a version of the parlour game Myriorama, in which imaginary landscapes could be made by reordering cards designed to ensure matching continuity of the horizontal markers of form.

Is that all? No, the dialectic of inside-outside acquires another shift when we notice that there’s a mirror above the fireplace, and what we see in the mirror is Chiral VI. That hangs on the wall in Armchair, and Fireplace shows its reflection in a mirror – or, rather, half of that reflected image, doubled. Could the domestic intimacy get more fragmented, and the outside come in more complexly?

Through all these transformations, Easton’s work picks up an aesthetic of its own, one which destroys colour and completeness of form to arrive at a washed out process-contingent amalgam of parts. The established romantic appeal of ruins is in the background as the chiral play, near-repetition and range of imperfections is displaced at first glance by a frisson of beauty. That’s only the surface, of course - we shouldn’t need the caterpillar or the artist to remind us of that - but we also know how disturbingly easy it is to slip into equating shell with content, beauty with virtue, appearance with underlying reality.

The construction of the self is also a matter of balancing the interplay of inside and outside. Using the suburban view out to stand in for society, one might draw a comparison with the ‘dialogical self’ propounded by Hubert Hermans. According to him, the self isn’t something internal in the mind, but combines internal and external dialogues so that a ‘society of the mind’ results. That is populated by a multiplicity of ‘self-positions’ that themselves inter-relate – with scope for internal conflict and development.  What Easton gives us is more a ‘society of the chiral’.  Can we ever truly know the inside of another person, whether dialogical or not? It’s an old philosophical conundrum. You can’t expect a painting to answer it, but Easton can be read as posing the question in a way which is true to its peculiar complexities.

Curated by Paul Carey-Kent 

Works in show:

Identical Twins, 2013 - 48 copper plate etchings printed onto watercolour and graphite on 400 gsm velin arches paper, 168 x 121cm

Chiral etching series I - VI, 2014 - hand coloured copper plate etchings on velin arches paper, 59 x 36cm, Edition 5

Chiral I, 2014 - Oil on 128 pieces of linen, 294 x 134cm

Chiral II, 2016 Oil on 50 pieces of linen, 200 x 80cm

Chiral VI, 2015 Graphite and coloured pencil on 50 pieces of paper, 150 x 72cm

Fireplace, Armchair and Lamp, 2016  each
88 copper plate etchings on 400 gsm velin arches paper, 97 x 110cm, Edition 10

[i] Moira Buffini in ‘Advice from a Caterpillar’ in ‘Alice in’, a version of Lewis Carroll’s classic tweaked for the digital age.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


Rana Begum – The Space Between

Parasol unit, London 30 June – 18 Sept    

Rana Begum in No. 670 L Mesh Installation, 2016

Anglo-Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum became known a dozen years ago for fetish-finished wall-based works in what one might term two and a half dimensions, that indeterminate space between two dimensional painting and three dimensional sculpture.  They’re legible from front-on but dynamised by the viewer so that physical movement activates colour movement, evoking such street features as railings, billboards, bridges and traffic while still bearing the mark of her childhood in Bangladesh. The patterns of Islamic architecture and the repetition of daily prayer feed in, as she has explained: ‘I remember reading the Quran at a local mosque, in a tiny room dappled with morning light. The light, the sound of the water fountain and the repetition of recitation, all familiar elements, suddenly came together in a feeling of calm and exhilaration’.

No. 531, 2014. Paint on powder-coated aluminium, 200 x 295 x 5cm (30 sections)/ 78¾ x 116¼ x 2 in. Courtesy of the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary. Photography by Philip White

Begum’s substantial retrospective across the whole of the Parasol unit includes two fine examples of these parallel arrangements of powder-coated aluminium rods. You might say they combine effects made famous by South Americans, and filter them through Donald Judd: the changes in colour as you walk past due to differing colours on either side of the rods recall Carlos Cruz-Diez’s ‘Physicromies’; the efflorescence of an unseen colour reflecting onto a white surface was favoured by Luis Tomasello. The conjunction generates a separately distinctive phenomenology, and in No. 531, 2014, the pink between rods transcends the geometry with an illusion which has everyone checking to see that she really hasn’t painted the wall. No. 480, 2013, plays darkness and glitter into the equation to quite different ends.

What’s impressive in ‘The Space Between’ is how Begum has kicked on from that signature approach to produce new, yet linked, streams of work. All play differently with the ability of geometry, colour and light to generate change, somewhat paradoxically, through repetition. The key to that is the movement of the viewer in completing the work, which builds on how, as Begum says, ‘in life we are in constant motion, seeing things shift and change around us. I feel the need to reflect these transitions and changes within my work, and consequently the viewer must play their part’. Begum’s newer works tend to emphasise one of two aspects which are present in less emphatic form in No. 480, 2013 and No. 531, 2014: first, the objecthood of the would-be-painting; second, the softening of the expected rigidities of geometry. 

 No. 161, 2008. Paint on powder-coated aluminium. Each of 16 pieces: 250 cm (98½ in) high. Photography by Philip White

The rods take centre stage as objects in No. 161, 2008, in which sixteen are propped casually against the wall; and in No. 449, 2013, which joins them end-to-end form a zig-zag. No. 563 uses veneer to hint at furniture, but an other-worldly glow of colour gives the game away. No. 207, 2010, emphasises objecthood through contrasting lightness: in a predominantly metallic practice, substance is stripped back to plastic drinking straws glowing in the dark by means of UV lighting, some swaying in the air conditioning. No. 563, W Fold, 2014 uses shapes which emerge from folding processes, and that’s Begum’s primary new form. Aluminium sheets are flattened against and creased away from the wall so that the varying areas and shapes of the edges are folded out towards the viewer at assorted angles. 
No. 394, L Fold, 2013 - Paint on mild steel

The selection here, from 2013-2015, has black or white centres with coloured wings. We seem to have moved indoors from the street, with a resemblance to origami. These take the colour and light effects from the parallel rods in quieter directions. The colour seems hidden from some angles, fluorescent from others.  There can be marked variations in the glow made by the same colour, depending on its positioning relative to the light sources and the angle of the fold on which the colour sits. And there’s a meditative aspect to the folds which encourages a different type of reflection. Deleuze posited the fold as the primary constituent of a seamless reality. Thus ‘the outside is not a fixed limit but a moving matter animated by peristaltic movements, folds and foldings that together make up an inside: they are not something other than the outside, but precisely the inside of the outside’. Without buying into a whole ontology, Begum’s folds could be demonstrations of how the ‘inside’ space is topologically in contact with the ‘outside’ space; and, given the streetlife origins of her rectilinear work, it’s logical to read this as folding together the private and the public.

No. 624, M Drawing, 2015 - vinyl, powder-coated mild steel

Two new streams of work speak a language of softening and provisionality even though they use steel.   Three large pieces on the canal-side terrace outside Parasol unit (No. 626, L Drawing, 2015, No. 674, L Drawing, 2016, No. 675, L Drawing, 2016) and a related group of smaller wall and floor based works all combine a monochrome coloured shape with a wire frame. That jumps out like a cartoon animation of a shadow thrown by a well-angled sun. Outside, the drawn frame is big enough to tremble marginally in wind; indoors the smaller works are more rigid, but a sense of movement is still generated, as different vantage points alter the relationship between originating form and possible shadow. Begum has said that these, together with the originating No. 207, 2010, come out of ‘the need to draw’, then nake the drawings ‘more present in the space’. Rather like the folds, they are open forms which seem to welcome the viewer in to their effects.
 No. 647 L Mesh, 2015. Paint on stainless steel. 213 x 136 x 2 cm/83 x 53½ x ¾. Courtesy of the artist. Photography by Jack Hems

Begum’s newest tack, and her most radical softening of geometry, is the use of steel mesh designed for fencing. While Begum –  like Albers and Judd - never mixes her colours physically, colour mixing does occur here by layering. This simple effect generates a meditative presence in the three overlapping diamonds of No. 647 L Mesh, 2015, yet when a whole room is taken over by the multiple mesh colours of No. 670 L Mesh Installation, 2016, the effect is far busier as we glimpse people disappearing in networks of colour.  This turn to the environment makes explicit the potential of repetition to stand in for what might have proved an infinite process. These mesh works are geometric, but with a softening which suggests contingency and perhaps human uncertainty, even as it adopts the eternally unchangeable nature of geometric shapes. In fact, all of Begum’s work has an additional contingency, in that the decisions behind it are intuitive where they could – as one might at first assume – be the result of applying a mathematical approach. That gentling of form, then, sits well with an unconstrained method, and the  mutability of colours in shifting light - and put me in mind of James Turrell’s ungraspably immersive installations.
No. 670, L Mesh Installation, 2016. Powder-coated galvanised steel. Dimensions vary. Courtesy of the artist. Photography by Philip White 

‘The Space Between’ has proved very well visited. In part, that’s down to the ‘Kusama effect’ of people dropping in from the selfie-inspired queues for the Japanese’s artist’s mirror rooms at neighbouring Victoria Miro. I’d be surprised if a high proportion of those somewhat accidental visitors aren’t lured into Begum’s exhilaratingly poised world.

This review was written for SATURATION POINT at

Monday, 18 July 2016


Up Now in London

Page down to end of current choices to sign up to my mailing list  



Metatextile: Ruptured Narratives Exchanged Values @ Edel Assanti, 74a Newman St – Fitzrovia

Nevet Yitzhak: War Rug #3, 2014 - 8 min video loop

Textiles have been on the way up as an art material in recent years, but you want a show of them to do more than illustrate that  - as ‘Metatextile' does by drawing a parallel  between form and content: just as  textiles challenge the hegemony of oil on canvas, so 15 large examples challenge social hierarchies and perceived value systems. We’re led off by the historic examples of Liubov Popova’s hammer and sickle design (1923-24: she found great satisfaction in a peasant woman buying her material for a dress) and an Alighiero Boetti Afghanistan-made Mappa from 1983. And the most interesting strands stay east; both Adrian Esparza and Nazgol Ansarina unpick and differently restore existing piece of cloth; there are two of Pio Abad’s series of silk scarves in which he preserves with almost perverse colour crispness the personal possessions of Ferdinand and Imedla Marcos;  and a digital version of one of the many ‘war rugs’ being made in Afghanistan , but with animated explosions turning it into a literal battlefield.

Pio Abad: Every Tool is a Weapon if You Hold it Right XXXVI and XXXVII, 2014 - acid dye print on silk twill

Secret European Studio @ ARTHOUSE1, 45 Grange Rd - Bermondsey

To 30 July:

Installation view with Simona Brinkmann and Willem Weismann
In the wake of the unfortunate Brexit vote, I – admitting some bias here – have brought together six European artists working in London, whose work illustrates some of what London gains from the current ease of movement. Carlos Noronha Feio (Portugal) makes paintings which seek abstract equivalents for power structures, and also sets the show’s soundscape as he reflects on what ‘Universism’ might be; Alzbeta Jaresova (Czech Republic) puts her figures into tense psychological relationships with transparent yet unfathomable versions of London’s infrastructure; Simona Brinkmann (Italy) uses metal and foam-padded leather to form half-fetishistic, half-architectural objects which suggest shifting boundaries between private and public; Willem Weismann (Netherlands) seems to mock both dystopia in general and the putative death of painting in particular in his colourful cartoon-tinged tableaux; Franco-German collective Troika bring sublimity to trauma as they draw intricate webs of lightning, and run a smoke bomb through a labyrinthine maze; and Nadege Meriau (France) lets snails and mushrooms impose their own dark logics on her photographic underworld. The works emerging from these Secret European Studios cohere in a darkly intelligent overview of where we are now, with border issues recurrent and a tendency to yoke beauty to violence.

Nadege Mariu's lightboxes 'Petite Morts'


Wolfgang Tillmans @ Maureen Paley, 21 Herald Street* – Bethnal Green

To  31 July:

The State We’re In, A -  unframed inkjet print, 2015 - 273 x 410 cm - exhibition view, ground floor gallery

Here’s another show with a different atmosphere post-Brexit: Wolfgang Tillmans’ pro-EU posters take on a mournful air outside the main rooms, in which he orchestrates three clusters of works cleverly tied in to ‘the visible and invisible borders that define and sometimes control us’. The stand-out photographs are a huge print of the open water of the Atlantic Ocean where international time lines intersect, and an image of blood flowing through plastic tubes, outside of the body during surgery. Tillmans runs through his range of distinctive installation methods, including the table grouping used for his truth study center series (2005 – ongoing), here giving minimalism an imaginative twist by presenting various national sizes of blank office paper, which come across as more unified than you might expect.  

I refuse to be your enemy, 2, 2016 -  wood, paper - exhibition view, first floor gallery

*  This is the outstanding show in an increasingly rich art block centred on Tillmans’ gallery and his former studio. With recent arrivals Division of Labour and Breese Little, there are now seven spaces well worth visiting.  Actually Tillmans, Francis Alys, Mona Hatoum (Tate), Rana Begum (Parasol Unit), Bas Jan Ader (Simon Lee), Mary Heilmann (Whitechapel) and the cornucopias at Camden Arts Centre and the Foundling Museum are probably the outstanding shows in London just now, but I’ve written  about most of those elsewhere…


Charlotte Colbert: Ordinary Madness @ Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover St – Mayfair

Untitled Psychosis 2, 2016 - digital bromide

Charlotte Colbert shows 20-odd atmospheric photographs and a sharp 15 minute film. The former, looking like an update of Francesca Woodman’s aesthetic, see naked friends act out to camera wearing emoji masks in derelict settings. Strategic use of double exposure and blurring confuses the action and hints at the possibility of a dimension beyond.  The film, The Silent Man, is a sex-reversed take on the true story of Oskar Kokoschka, who ordered a life-sized replica of his muse Alma Mahler when she left him in 1918. Here a woman takes delivery of her potentially ideal, as maximally compliant, mannequin mate - but of course it does not end happily ever after. 

Still from The Silent Man (dummy on right)


Katherine Murphy: Decay @ Patrick Heide, 11 Church St – Edgeware Road

 To 17 Sept

Labour + Repetition = Decay (no.9), 2015

Katherine Murphy gives obsession a political inflexion, as her labour stands in for the under-acknowledged toil of the many carrying out repetitive tasks in the broader economy. That's explicit in her timesheet-based prints, but equally present in two new streams of work (and I mean work) in this, her first full solo show. The series Labour + Repetition = Decay requires the folding and unfolding of paper over several weeks to reach an aesthetic of ditressed geometry. For Decay by 100,000 pinholes Murphy has pricked as many as that into a large piece of paper, using a decreasing number of random numbers to decide where to pierce, so that ‘blank’ patches increase towards the right. That was six months of labour for – even if the piece is sold – no more than pin money.

Katherine Murphy in front of thousands of holes, not easily spotted in a photograph


Overlay @ White Rainbow, 47 Mortimer St – Fitzrovia

To 17 Sept:
Installation view with Zoë Paul's Moths and Lizards, 2016, in front of Nancy Holt's Trail Markers, 1969

In the inspiring presence of Nancy Holt’s Trail Markers, four young artists pick up on its aspects of journeys, materiality and sexual roles with an underlying contrast of natural and artificial. Cathy Haynes constructs an alphabet out of plastic imitation wood, each letter framed in real wood faked to look like oak; Claire Potter films herself in male action mode but taking mockingly little action; Zoë Paul plays with ritual through volcanic rock faces, marble staging, and mist machines; Hannah Lees explores wine as paint, incense as a sculptural element, and the detritus of river walks as content immured in plaster. The whole creates a subtle but immersive interplay: kudos to curator Jeremy Millar as well as to the artists.


Francis Alÿs: Ciudad Juárez projects  @ David Zwirner, 24 Grafton St – Mayfair
Paradox of Praxis 5: Sometimes we dream as we live & sometimes we live as we dream Ciudad Juárez, México, 2013 - Video, 7:49 minutes
The Mexico-based Belgian Francis Alÿs has a rare ability to cut through complex plenitudes to memorable metaphor. Here we have the latest in two long-running series: his engagement with children’s games shows us tag with shards of mirror in the notorious ‘murder capital’ of Ciudad Juárez; and the fifth of his ‘paradoxes of praxis’ takes on the aphorism ‘Sometimes we dream as we live & sometimes we live as we dream’ by kicking a flaming football through the streets of by night – a violent yet beautiful way to fleetingly illuminate the city’s problems while suggesting that the failure to grapple with them fully may be represented by ‘kicking the can down the road’.

Children's Game #15, Video still, in collaboration with Julien Devaux, Felix Blume
and Alejandro Morales, Ciudad Juárez, 2013. Photo:Francis Alys

Self @ Massimo De Carlo, 55 South Audley St – Mayfair

Kaari Upson Kiss (Woven), 2009-2015

There are plenty of self-portraits around at the moment *. The most imaginative are here: Kaari Upson's 'Kiss' diptychs in which she presses her self-portrait onto that of an unknown man to yield a disturbing merger; the four-strong Austrian collective Gelitin presenting themselves as mirrors so that they combine with the viewer; Paweł Althamer as the Polish cartoon character Matołek the Billy-Goat with a startlingly-lit heart - against the background of Dan Colen's after party scatter of the hand-made sculptures of fag-ends and empty wine bottles; Andra Ursuta scattering the promise of her readiness to please as an artist in the form of hundreds of cards advertising an 'ethnic bimbo' offering ‘all services’… and a dozen more.
* See for example the exhibitions culled from the Ruth Borchard collection at the Jerwood in Hastings and at King’s Place in London
Installation view with Paweł Althamer and Dan Colen (Todd-White Art Photography) 

Niki de Saint Phalle: je Suis une Vache Suisse @ Omer Tiroche Contemporary Art, 21 Conduit St - Mayfair

To 10 Sept:
Je Suis Une Vache Suisse, 1991 - oil, pencil and mirror on wood, 99 x 96 x 20 cm

There are some superb historical shows on at the moment: Louise Nevelson at Pace, Jean Dubuffet at Timothy Taylor, Gego at Dominique Lévy...  Less obvious, perhaps,. is this co-selection with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park of  Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 - 2002). It's seeded with darkness, All Over being one of the collages of everyday items (somewhat akin to Mike Kelley's later 'Memory Ware' series) which she stated making while in a mental institution following depression and prior to her famous shooting paintings. Omitting those, the show fast forwards to her brighter and more animalistic side, including the eponymous Swiss cow with cheesy holes; her usual fun with birds and snakes; and the plaster work showing her friend Clarice Rivers (Larry's wife) pregnant - which was to swell into the Nana series.

All Over, 1959-60 - objects i plaster on wood panel


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


This is a Voice @ the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road – Euston

Marcus Coates: stills from 'Dawn Chorus'
 After a rather successful venture into monographic presentations, the Wellcome Collection has returned to its primary mix of art and artifacts linked to body and mind in medical science. ‘This is a Voice’ is the best such show yet: it teems with fascinating and obscure byways from voice disguisers to hunter-gatherer music to an ammoniaphone, though simply the chance to see and hear Becket’s ‘Not I’, Marcus Coates’ ‘Dawn Chorus’ multi-screen presentation of birdsong impressions, Laurie Anderson’s ‘Oh Superman’, and Ted Kotcheff’s film-length phone call ‘The Human Voice’ would be plenty of reason to visit. Moreover, the rotating element in the less impressive second show ‘States of Mind’ is (to 24 July) Kerry Tribe’s affecting 20 minute film study of ‘H.M.’, a man whose memories were blank from 1953 until 20 seconds before the present when he was filmed 50 years later.

Kerry Tribe: still from 'M.B.', which plays on two screens with a twenty second gap


Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




    Email Format







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.