Tuesday, 22 May 2018


Up Now in London

Katharina Grosse: Prototypes of Imagination @ Gagosian, 6-24 Britannia Street to 27 July; Bernard Frize: Blackout in the Grid @ Simon Lee Gallery, 12 Berkeley St to 30 June;  Juan Uslé: Open Night @ Frith Street, Golden Square to 23 June

Katharina Grosse: Untitled, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 265 × 175 cm

If you're attracted to harmless list-making activity, you might consider who are the dozen top abstract painters in the world: there's no right and wrong, of course, and I may have forgotten someone obvious, but a plausible group seems to me Gerhard Richter, Bernard Frize, Bridget Riley, Katharina Grosse, Mary Heilmann, Charline von Heyl, Juan Uslé, Robert Ryman, Beatriz Milhazes, Sean Scully, Tomma Abts and Ding Yi. In which case London is well served, as Milhazes (see below) Grosse, Frize and Uslé have wonderful shows on now, and Tomma Abts is next up at the Serpentine. Come to that, Richter has an impressive presence in Southampton, which isn't so far away. Grosse uses scale to thrilling effect, Frize does what only he can do to the grid, and Uslé brings us something of the night. 


Bernard Frize: Wir, 2018
Acrylic and resin on canvas 250 x 215 cm 


Beatriz Milhazes: Rio Azul @ White Cube Bermondsey

To 2 July

Installation image Ollie Hammick

There’s everything in this exuberant show: big paintings, and even bigger tapestry, collage, hanging sculptural combinations of found objects, and stage set and opening performances by her sister's dance troupe (a little is here). One way of looking at the show would be as a rebooting of  the Manifesto Antropófago published in 1928 by  Oswald de Andrade, for that proposed that European influences should be 'cannibalised' - chewed up and digested to emerge in a South American form - and Milhazes definitely integrates a tropical and carnival aspect into European modernist tropes. This show is particularly heavy on circles, and there’s a contrast between the dazzling intricacy of their intersections in most of the work and the comparative simplification which emerges from the weaving process. 

As irmãs em azul celeste, 2015-2018 - Collage on paper
86.5 x 76 cm, Photo: Manuel guas 


Mequitta Ahuja: Notations @ Tiwani Contemporary, 16 Little Portland Street

To 2 June

Material Support, 2017 - 213 x 203cm

American painter Mequitta Ahuja - mentored by Kerry Marshall - takes a refreshingly unconventional view of the artist in the studio: both by staging herself reading the paper and doing a crossword as well as amongst various intersecting works; and by - in her words - 'positioning a woman-of-colour as primary picture-maker, in whose hands the figurative tradition is refashioned'. The personal and political aspects come together in Material Support, when we see her covering a canvas which refers to the 1865 promise of Forty acres and a mule for freed slaves - that it was never delivered is perhaps indicated by the letters being written backwards.  

Crossword, 2017 - 107 x 106 cm


Lola Frost: Towards Deep and Radiant Time@ The Arcade at Bush House, Strand 

To 27 July

Towards Deep and Radiant Time, 2018

South African academic Lola Frost  - Visiting Research Fellow in War Studies, King’s College London  - is showing her paintings as part of the College's increasingly lively arts programme. They're interesting as a combination of human and geological time which also acts as a critique of the male art historical tradition of equating a rolling landscape with a reclining female nude. Instead, her apparent abstractions (derived from preparatory collages of remote spots in New Zealand, South Africa and Patagonia) suggest internal and assertively sexually assertive forms:  intestines, brains, vaginas.  The newest paintings here complicate the matter through  doubling - which turns out to be  short of exact reflection - and disorientation, by rotating the landscape source through 90 degrees. 

On the Edge, 2018


Noémie Goudal: Telluris @ Edel Assanti, 74a Newman Street - Fitzrovia

To 23 June 

French photographer Noémie Goudal presents three immersively installed takes on how we trammel between image and reality and between manmade and natural. The upper space is filled with wooden cube frames, within which lies the Telluris series, depicting similar 25-cube constructions within the landscape, in the forms used by analogue era scientists to model the geology of mountain formation.  Also incorporated is the Soulevement series, in which rock formations turn out to be photographs of sets of mirrors installed in the landscape. Downstairs, rock reflections take a different tack through the stereoscopic installation Study in Perspective III, which causes us to see similar images as differently constructed. It’s a substantial investigation of illusory substance.


Molly Soda: Me and My Gurls @ Annka Kultys Gallery, 472 Hackney Road – Cambridge Heath

To 16 June

Molly Soda’s teeming and multifarious practice is most naturally online. Here, then, she effectively transports her studio to the gallery by covering the walls with images and footage from her laptop, complete with a 15 foot printout of comments on one of her YouTube posts which takes over the space sculturally. That is a make-up tutorial which pokes an artist’s fun at the genre, yet evokes deadpan or mocking responses from people who take her to be playing it straight. Indeed, Soda entertainingly subverts various roles and genres. Instead of showing off her new clothes she adapts the format to present her favourite Gifs: she likes ‘the delayed Gif experience’, as when a flower keeps the viewer waiting before opening.


Hermann Nitsch: Das Orgien Mysterien Theater @ Massimo de Carlo, 55 South Audley St - Mayfair

To May 25

This three floor survey with extensive film documentation of Nitsch's Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries, plenty of paintings and rooms full of relics gives a powerful overview of what Hermann Nitsch has done these 60 years. Plenty of transgressive and blasphemous animal slaughter, ceremony, nudity and crucifixion of course, but what’s it all about? Nitsch is an existentialist who seeks to maximise intensity by embracing extremes as - in his words - ‘the artist who is into meat and blood'. He believes that natural human instincts have been repressed, and that the rituals will release their energy, purify and redeem us. Even if you're not convinced, the spectacle remains.  


Maeve Brennan: Listening in the Dark @ Jerwood Space *, 171 Union Street - Southwark

To 3 June 

London seems to be in something of a cave moment just now. If you want paintings of them, see Mimei Thompson’s dark places in a show about light at ArthouSE1; for a psychedelic encounter with the astro-cthonics of alien abduction, spectacularly installed, head for Megan Broadmeadow at CGP. But I like bats in my caves, and Maeve Brennan’s 43 minute film Listening in the Dark makes the most of them, bringing the unintended fatal consequences of wind turbines on bats (their lungs explode in the pressure drop  behind the blades) together with ultrasound detection, scientific research methods, geological history and the operation of whale calls to explore bats as a symbol of how convenient it can seem to be to ignore what we are doing to the environment. It’s effectively paired in the Jerwood's 'Unintended Consequences' with Imran Perretta’s film about refugees, something else with which many would prefer to ignore. 

* Jerwood's web coverage is unusually good


In The Future @ Collyer Bristow, 4 Bedford Row – Holborn

To 14 June

Installation view with Karen David

Law firm Collyer Bristow have, remarkably, now been using their offices to show art for 25 years*. And they’re big shows: 60-odd works by 20 artists appear in regulator curator Rosalind Davis’ latest, which uses a Talking Heads lyric even older than the gallery to set off thoughts about what the future might be like. Any danger of sci-fi similitude is countered by plenty of wit (eg Kitty Sterling, David Worthington, Sasha Bowles) and a good sprinkling of retro-futurism (Tim Ellis, John Greenwood and young German Arno Beck, who has the surprising idea in one of his age of using a typewriter to convert  digital images into deliciously delicate analogue equivalents). Four artists contribute especially large and coherent bodies of work: Dan Hays, Alison Turnbull, Ian Monroe and Karen David. You do need to know, I think, that the candies** are in David’s pictured installation because just that was used to lure E.T. from the woods.

* By appointment during office hours: and subject to meetings sometimes occupying rooms, so Friday afternoon is a good time to visit. Comes with a nice booklet.

** Odd what you can learn looking at art: Reese's Pieces are American packs of peanut butter candy spheres, manufactured by The Hershey Company in yellow, orange and brown. Sales tripled when, in one of the earliest such film product placements, they featured at a cost of $1m in ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’, 1982.
Arno Beck: Textmode (Mountain), 2017 - typewriter drawing on Japanese paper     


Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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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.