Thursday, 20 July 2017


Index of Exhibitions Curated (all with associated texts)

I thought this might be handy, now there are a few shows with entries... 


at Arthouse1, 45 Grange Road, Bermondsey

Curated by Rebecca Fairman and  Paul Carey-Kent

 7 -30 July

At Laure Genillard Gallery, London:

Susan Collis, Tom Lovelace, Sara Haq, Julie Verhoeven, Sarah Roberts, Kate MccGwir, Bronwen Buckeridge

5 May - 24 June


Alexis Harding, Daniel Lergon, DJ Simpson, Jonathan Parsons, Michael Stubbs,  Neil Zakiewicz, Shane Bradford, Tom Hackney and Tony Charles.

At House of St Barnabas, Soho Sqaure, London

20 Jan - 5 June, 2017


Aglae Bassens,  Emma Cousin, Jane Hayes Greenwood and Martine Poppe

At House of St Barnabas, Soho Square, London

20 Jan - 5 June, 2017


Online exhibition from 1 April, 2017


Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough:

10th March - 21st April, 2017


Alli Sharma, Clare Price, Jonny Briggs, EJ Major, Kate Lyddon, Cathy Lomax, Adam Dix, Emma Cousin, John Banting and Kelvin Okafor

At Transition Gallery, Hackney
11 Feb – 5 March


 At Union Gallery, 94 Teesdale Street, Hackney



Gallery Elena Shchukina, Mayfair 

25 Aug - 16 Sept 2016


Alzbeta Jaresova, Nadege Meriau, Willem Weismann, Troika,  Simona Brinkmann,
Carlos Noronha Feio

At ARTHOUSE1, Bermondsey

7-30 July 2016


Alicja Dobrucka, Oona Grimes, Brian Dawn Chalkley, Frances Richardson,
Emma Cousin, Rana Begum, Selma Parlour, Natasha Kahn, Claire Macdonald,
Miriam Austin, Jennet Thomas  

At Bread and Jam, 52 Whitbread Rd, Brockley 13 - 22 Nov 2015

9. THE DREAM OF MODERN LIVING? Contemporary Artists Explore IKEA 

Guy Ben-Ner, Ryan Gander, Clay Ketter, Marie Karlberg, Joe Scanlan, Artists Anonymous, Michael Samuels, Sara McKillop, Frédéric Pradeau, David Rickard, Mary Griffiths, Stuart Hartley, Dominic Beattie

At Warrington Museum and Art Gallery   2 Oct - 14 Nov 2015 (NORTH Festival of Contemporary Art - Warrington is the site of the UK's first IKEA store)


Marta Marce, Mark Titchner, Gordon Cheung, Artists Anonymous, Sinta Werner, Simon Mullan,  Luke Gottelier, Claudia Carr, Thoralf Knobloch, Bella Easton


At Union Gallery, London  11 Sept - 28 Nov 2015


Richard Serra, Phyllida Barlow, Christian Jankowski, Nicolas Feldmeyer, Cipriano Martinez, Levi van Veluw, David Rickard, Livia Marin, Richard Schur, Liv Fontaine, Knopp Ferro.

At Maddox Arts, London: 24 April – 13 June, 2015


John Smith, Liane Lang,   Giorgio Sadotti, Stefana McClure,  Bronwen Buckeridge, Nika Neelova, Blue Curry, Alan Magee,   Anni Leppala, Jason Oddy,   Martine Poppe,  Ian Bruce

At BERLONI,  London: 30 Jan - 14 March 2015


 Susan Collis, Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Suzanne Moxhay, Wil Murray, Sarah Anne Johnson and Catherine Herbert

At Studio 1.1,  London:  4-27 July 2014


Colin Crumplin, Günther Herbst, Danny Rolph

At LUBOMIROV-EASTON, London: 26 April - 21 June, 2014

2, IT'S ABOUT TIME (with Christina Niederberger)

Emma Bennett, Nick Hornby, Alex Hudson, Livia Marin, Tereza Buskova,  Clarisse d’Arcimoles, Christina Niederberger, Pernile Holm Mercer, Susan Collins, Alison Gill, Andy Charalambous, Dolly Thompsett, Harald  Smykla, Nika Neelova

At ASC Gallery, London: 2 Nov - 20 Dec 2013


At 102 Gifford St, Kings Cross, London: 8 - 31 Oct 2013

Index of Paul’s ART STUFF on a train  - weekly column from May 2013

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in Surrey. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

200: 'Coherence@ - DJ Roberts, Heather Phillipson

199: 'Homage to the Homages’ - Josef Albers

198: 'The Case for Swindon'

197: ‘Padding Up’ - Francis Bacon Dan Rees’ Carla Basuttil’s

196: 'Mind the Gap' - Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, Mimi Shodeinde

195: ‘Art for Health?’ - Barts Health NHS Trust

194: ‘One Evening in London’ - William Coldstream Euan Uglow, Martin Wilner, Mat Chivers’

193: ‘All You Want for Christmas’: Studio Voltaire, Peggy Franck
192: ‘Not What But Whose’ -  David Bowie, Elton John,  Jos Knaepen
191: ‘Shore Thing‘ - Turner Prize,  Michael Dean
190: 'Plurality Please!’ - Juliette Mahieux Bartoli, Evy Jokhova
189: ‘International Smooth’ - Asian Art Week’

188: ‘One Work’ - Robert Therrien

187 ‘No Need to be Trendy’ - Juliette Losq, David Wightman

186: ‘Where Are They Now?’ - Galleries on the Move

185: ‘Super-late-ive’ - Georgia O’Keeffe, Dorothea Tanning, Araki, Tomie Ohtake

184: ‘250 heads are better than 1’

183: ‘After the Binge’ - Jerwood Drawing Prize

182: ‘Near-Death Experience’ - Gretchen Faust, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

181: ‘Beauty Beyond the Name’ - Dansaekhwa
180: 'What's Radical?' - Kelly-Anne Davitt
179: 'How to be Neuter' - Claude Cahun

178: 'The Ethics of Dust' - Jorge Otero-Pailos

177: 'Sexy Abstracts' - Daniel Sinsel

176: 'Open to the Mix' - David Remfry

175: ‘Could Your Child Have Done That?’ - Jeff Koons, Mindy Lee

174: 'Naked in Numbers' - The Neo-Naturists, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Spencer Tunick

173: 'When Your Name’s Not Vital' - Not Vital

172: 'Masterpieces and Otherwise' - Luis Tomasello, ,Sadaharu Horio, SH Raza
171: 'Horse Associations'- Tania Bruguera

170: 'The Enjoyment of Death' - Dutch still life

169: 'The Art of Surprise' - Luke Gottelier, Marco Gody, Georgie Nettell

168: 'Nifty after the Dream' - John Hoyland, Howard Hodgkin

167: 'Will You Like Marmite?' - The Marmite Prize

 166: 'Embassy Art Trips' - Adriano Costa, Emily Carr

165: 'Unglittering Prizes' - Dale Lewis, Francesca Blomfield, Archie Franks

164: 'Memories of Conflict' - Martin Honert, Eugene Delacroix

 163: 'Not Quite All Night' - Des Hughes, Clare Woods

 162: 'Fantasies of Prince Crumb' - Richard Prince, Robert Crumb

161: 'From Post-nationalism to Brexit' - Guan Xiao
160: 'Another Fine Mesh' - Alice Catteneo, François Morellet,Helena Pritchard

159: ‘Posing Trumps Sliding’ - Channa Horwitz
158: 'Breasts or Eyes?' - Das Institut, Julian Simmons
157: 'Lives of the Artists' - Betty Woodman, Francesca Woodman, Knop Ferro

156: 'Education Continues' - DIS, Steven Claydon
155: 'Poetry, Art and the Sucking of Cocks' - Ariana Reines, Heather Phillipson, Oscar Tuazon
154: 'The Assistants' - Susan Collis and assistants

153: 'Accidentally Omitted'

152: 'The Point of Obsession' - Gareth Nyandoro, Lee Edwards, Maria Taniguchi

151: 'The Back of Italians' - Enrico Castellani

150: 'Corbyn's Borough' - Estorick Collection, Handel Street Projects, Tintype, White Conduit Projects
149: 'Intersect' - Park McArthur
148:Condo Beyond the Minimum’: Mathis Altmann, Nicholas Cheveldave
147: ‘Questions Not Related to Nigella’ - Saatchi Gallery
146: The London Art Fair for Beginners
145: 'City of Faces' - Alberto Giacometti, Goya
144: ‘Spirit Power In Focus – and Out’:Alec Soth, Julia Margaret Cameron,,Richard Learoyd
143:‘What Is and Is Not Present’ - Nudes at Sothebys

142: ‘Computers at Christmas’A.R. Penck, Micahel Werner, Michael Craig-Martin
141: ‘Material Advantages’ Merete Rasmussen, Roberto Almagno 

140: ‘Foregrounding the Background’ - Jim Shaw

139: Maastricht Beyond TEFAF - Levi Van Veluw

138: ‘When to Visit Tate Modern?’Abraham Cruzvillegas

137: ‘Certain Perversities’ - Jurgen Teller
136: ‘Soaring and Diving’ - Bryan Wynter
135: ‘The Monumental Intimate’ - Jonas Wood, Luke Jerram
134: ‘Solo, Group or Bugged?’ - Jo Addison, Oona Grimes
133: ‘Performance to the Exponential Max’ - Eddie Peake, Broomberg & Chanarin, Millie Brown
132 ‘Fair Ground for Snakes’ - Frieze Art Fair 2015 
131 ‘Noi Amiamo l’Italia’ - Italian art in London
130 ‘Art in Warrington? I had no Ikea…’
129 The Bad Pavilion Made Easy’ - 56th Venice Biennale
128: ‘Card Givers’
127: 'Better than the Real Thing': Barbara Hepworth, Charlotte Moth
126: ‘Farming Cornell ’ - Joseph Cornell

125: ‘The Upcurve Down in Kent’ - Lukas Morley

124: ‘Card Givers’ – artists’ cards

 123: ‘Agnes Martin’s Paths Not Taken’ - Agnes Martin

122: ‘Let’s Get Together’ - Richard Billingham

121: ‘Sylvia, Chantal, Ishbel & Felicity’ - Sylvia Sleigh / Ishbel Myerscough / Chantal Joffe

120: ‘Queen Alice’ – Alice Anderson

119: ‘The Victorian Tendency’ – Juliette Losq

118: ‘Ruby Ruby Ruby’ – Sterling Ruby

117: ‘Mirrored in Brown’s’- Michelangelo Pistoletto 116: ' These Feet Are Made for Painting' - Kazuo Shiraga / Michael Flatley

115: ‘The Famous Fives’ – paintings of five women

114: 'A Hundred Women Wanted' – Mac/Val

113: ‘Transformation’ – Francesco Clemente

112: ‘The World Museum’ – British Museum

111: ‘Book the Show vs. Show the Book’ – Marlene Dumas

110: ‘The Other End of the Journey’ – Art in Southampton

109: ‘Uncrushed Dreams’ - Brian Dawn Chalkley

108: ‘Apple Barnacle Orgasm’ - Shimabaku, Salvatore Arancio & Moussa Sar

107: ‘Grids Gone Dotty’ - Isa Genzken & Jonathan Horowitz

106: ‘Batchelor of Books’ - David Batchelor

105: ‘Game of the Name’

104: ‘Not Quite Shangri-La’ - Shezad Dawood

103: ‘Foolish at the Tate?’ - April 1

102: ‘The Use of Painting’ - Luke Gottelier

101: ‘I Fink it’s a Face’ - Graham Fink

100: ‘Sexual Services’ – Group Show at Transition

99: ‘Rugged’ - Anna Betbeze & Caroline Achaintre

98: ‘Abstraction and Tragedy’ - Doug Ashford

97: ‘Tits and Cocks and Wallpaper’- Sarah Lucas & Luc Tuymans

94: ‘Video To Go To’ - Hans Op De Beeck

93: ‘Smash ‘n’ Burn’ – Allora and Calzadilla & Jesse Hlebo

92: ‘Popova and Over’ - Yelena Popova

91: ‘The Colour in Bermondsey’ – Galleries in Bermondsey

90: ‘The Colour in Rembrandt’ - Rembrandt

89: ‘The Curators’ Egg’ – Saatchi Gallery

88: ‘100 years x 3’ – Manchester City Gallery

87: ‘Encore, Silver Paint’ - Bertrand Lavier

86: ‘Welcome to the Machine’ - Mark Selby & William Bradley.

83: ‘One Form of Being Uncontent’ - Allen Jones

84: ‘The Minimal and the Excessive’ - Richard Tuttle & Rie Nakajima

83: ‘Paris Photo without the People’ - Penelope Umbrico & Putput

82: ‘S p a c e d Out Crowded’ - Robert Longo & Richard Avedon

81: ‘Art and Almost’ - Arkady Bronnikov

80: ‘On Dashes’ - N.Dash

79: ‘Battle of the Behemoths’ - Anselm Kiefer / Gerhard Richter / Sigmar Polke / Jonas Burgert

78: ‘The Big Experience’ - William Tucker / Damien Hirst

77: ‘After the Gallery?’ Aidan McNiell

76: ‘Turnering Away from London’ – Turner Prize 2013

75: ‘Three Styles’ - Nicolas de Staël

74: ‘Thinking Inside the Box’ - Sacha Sosno / Julião Sarmento.

73 ’Red and Black and Women’ - Gilbert & George and Mary Kelly

72: ‘Five Generations’ - the Pissarro family

71: ‘Hurry along!’ - Frank Auerbach, Olafur Eliasson & Eileen Mayo

70: ‘17 = 276’ - Seventeen Gallery

69: ‘Spirit of a City’ – Liverpool Biennial inc Amelie von Wulffen

68: ‘Please Release Me’ - BANK

67: ‘The Process of Fashion’ - Alexis Harding / Morten Skrøder Lund

66: ‘Late Arrival’ - Clive Hodgson

65: '28 Years and 1.1’ - Sarah Anne Johnson

64: ‘Only Connect’ - Paul Chan / Jim Lambie

63: ‘Monitor as Star’ - The Block / Charlotte Prodger

62: ‘Constable at the Double’ - John Constable / Victor Pasmore

61: ‘Ellipso and Downpoint’ - Marc Vaux / McArthur Binyon

60: 'No Pencils in Ramsgate' - Cedric Christie / Loukas Morley

59: 'Fifty Years After Fashion' - Alan Davie / Lynn Chadwick

58: ‘Dolls Are Us’ - Laurie Simmons / Liane Lang

57: ‘Internal Cyclic Self-portrayal’ - Tom Dale / Miler Lagos

56: ’Skull Surprise’ - Zhang Huan / Rafael Gómezbarros

55: ‘Tale of the Tape’ - Alastair Gordon / Kees Goudzwaard

54: ‘Those Gallery Weekends Compared’ - Berlin vs London inc Giuseppe Penone / Wlofgang Laib

53: ‘The Name Game’ - Psuedoyms inc Georg Baselitz

52: ‘Trapezohedral’ - Albrecht Dürer / Graham Gussin / Miroslav Balka

51: ‘The Quick Fix’ - Leah Capaldi / Haim Steinbach

50: ‘Volcano in the Garden’ - Rosa Loy / Günther Uecker

49: ‘Before and After the Internet’ - Carolyn Thompson

48: ‘Positively Completed’ - Poppy Sebire / Nettie Horn / Man & Eve / WW / Bischoff Weiss / Ceri Hand

47: ‘Material Realities’ - Ephrem Solomon / Armand Boua

46: ‘The Red Room’ - Felix Vallotton / Kees Van Dongen / Uliana Apatina

45: ‘What To Wear in Town and Country’ - David Hepher

44: ‘Sculpture and Self-Forgery’ - Giorgio de Chirico

43: ‘Plagiarism Rehearst’ - Damien Hirst / Bart van der Leck

42: ‘Love in the City’ - Paula MacArthur

41: ‘The Framed Ceramic Clothing Coincidence’ - Samantha Donnelly / Jessica Jackson Hutchins

40: ‘Beattieful London’ – Dominic & Basil Beattie

39: 'LAF': Nash & Barnes-Graham

38: 'That’s New!' - Tomma Abts

37: ‘Drawn Together’ – Mary & Kenneth Martin

36: ‘Have I gone too far?’ – Honore Daumier

35: Collisions in Space – Alison Gill

34: ‘The Christmas Kiss’ - Nezaket Ekici

33: ‘Stoned’ – Bill Woodrow

32. ‘The Surprising Nude’ – Ivon Hitchens

31. ‘Good as Old?’ - Tatlin etc reconstructed

30. ‘Late Light in Venice’ – Bill Culbert / Pedro Cabrita Reis 29. ‘The Lights Staying Off’ – Martin Creed

28. ‘Obsessive, Me?’ – Peter Dreher

27: ‘Look, No Canvas’ – Jonathan Gabb

26: ‘Sex & Excess’ - Frieze / Allen Jones

25: ‘When Photos are Paintings and Paintings are Photos’ - James White-

24: ‘Gum That Stays Chewed’ - Alex Hoda

23: ‘One Thing on Top of Another’ - Hannah Maybank / Jacob Felländer

22: ‘The Big Three in Amsterdam’ – Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh

21: ‘Pierdom ‘ - Simon Roberts

20: ‘One Leg Good’ – Hans Hartung

19: ‘Where’s the Picasso Museum?’ – Pablo Picasso

18: ‘How Much To Say?’ – Information in galleries

17: ‘How to Get into a Gallery’ – Henry Moore

16: ‘Marooned With Caulfield’ – Patrick Caulfield

15: ‘Tongue Talk’ – Emma Hart / Michael Dean

14: ‘Feathers’ Light’ - Kate MccGwire

13: ‘Minimum Values’ – Martin John Callanan /Moyra Davey

12: ‘What About The Ceiling?’ - Robert Morris 
11: ‘What Isn’t There’ – Merlin James / LS Lowry 

10: ‘Weaving And The Web’ - Gerhard Richter 

 9: ‘Same Work, Different Place’ - Nina Katchadourian 

 8: ‘Basel’s Tichý Show Within The Show’ - Miroslav Tichý

7: ‘Bananas In Basel’ - Jeppe Hein / Seven Allan

6: ‘How Unique Is That?’ - Allan McCollum / Michael Landy

5: ‘Regarding the Medium’ - Rodney Graham

4: ‘Mind the Lack Of Gap’ - Sarah Adams

3: ‘The Opening Laid Bare’ – Konrad Wyrebek

2: ‘The Size of It’ - Jonathan Delafield Cooke

1: ‘Blind Stuff’ - Robert Morris - May 2013

Tuesday, 18 July 2017


at Transition Gallery, Unit 25a Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road,  London E8 4QN

10 Feb - 4 March 2017

ARTY magazine launch and evening viewing 
Friday 24 Feb 6-9 pm 

Art from Alli Sharma, Clare Price, Jonny Briggs, EJ Major, Kate Lyddon, Cathy Lomax, Adam Dix, Emma Cousin, John Banting and Kelvin Okafor

Writing by Matthew Francis, Joan McGavin, Stephanie Carey-Kent, Claire Crowther,  Tamar Yoseloff, Julian Stannard, Saradha Soobrayen, Paul Carey-Kent, Emma Cousin, Cathy Lomax, Alli Sharma and EJ Major.

Curated / edited by Paul Carey-Kent

Arty stockists are listed here

And the magazine can be bought from Transition's website here


Installation images

We think naturally of sound when considering the ear, so there's a certain wilful perversity in making it the subject of a show of paintings, drawings and photographs with no sound directly featured. It does mean, though, that the walls have ears. And that provides an opportunity for different perspectives, looking at the ear as a design, signifier, analogy, symbol etc, and always with the sense that there is something beyond what we see...

The show is accompanied by poets' and artists' writings in a special edition of ARTY magazine, which also includes a suitably quirky roll-call of the ear's appearances in art.


Cathy Lomax: Audrey's Ear, 2017

Oil on linen, 40 x 40 cm

Cathy Lomax is fascinated by the romance of cinema, and her paintings – which she often shows in groups - link iconic scenes to form visual narratives in which we suspect she’d like to take part.  Here Audrey Hepburn’s gamine beauty updates Vermeer’s pearl earring, while taking us back to a time of glamour in which the excesses of celebrity culture seem no more than incipient. Is there a snake in the idyllic grass, though – or, rather, smuggled into her famous hair?  


Clare Price: t.h.10, 2016

oil and acrylic on canvas,  31x36cm

If pareidolia most often stands for our tendency to see faces in the natural world, perhaps it’s aureidolia which leads me to see ear shapes in Clare Price’s abstractions, titled by a personal code and evoked a certain hesitant vulnerability. Or are those sound waves? Or are we inside the ear? Poised lyrically between trembling borders and invasive mist, they both seem to be listening to the other’s muted echo of geometric abstraction, so posing the question: what made the original sound?


EJ Major: Matiére Signalétique, 2017

Selected film stills

E.J. Major’s selected film stills set up visual parallels between Haneke’s La Pianiste and two other films, analysing the scene, as Deleuze proposes, not by traditional genres, but by what is intrinsic to the images themselves (their material as signals). A long take of Erika, the film’s central protagonist (a woman whose contrasting worlds are classical music and voyeuristic sex) recalls a moment of contemplation in Ozu’s Late Spring. Like the music interrupted in Haneke’s scene, says Major 'the suggestive function of the association is open'. Similarly as Erika enters a lift with her mother and bars access to a young man who has entered the apartment block behind them, is there something in the scene that we are not seeing? There's a visual echo of Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, but, says Major 'as one sheet of past is recognized, another, the sound, underwhelms the connection'. If in our mind’s ear we can hear the desperation in Schneider‘s voice as Brando chases up the stairs after her in the scene before the film’s tragic denouement, that suggests a darker side to Haneke’s filmic pun. Can we, Major asks, ‘see’ that? In looking, what do we hear?


John Banting: Dead Gossip, 1931

Gouache on card - 48 x 63.5 cm (courtesy Austin Desmond Fine Art)

It’s no surprise, seeing this alluringly creepy painting, to learn that John Banting (1902-72) was associated with the British surrealist movement in the 1930’s. An animal’s skull seems to have retained not just some well-formed teeth, but a reptilian eye, the sensing tip of a porcine nose, a fleshy and implausibly human ear, and some vestigial system of circulation.  Is that all that’s needed to talk ill of the dead from their own perspective?



Alli Sharma: from the Bats series, 2017,

each oil on board, 20 x 15 cm

Alli Sharma makes lush and openly sentimental paintings of objects or animals to which we might imagine ourselves relating: keepsakes and jewellery, for example, or cats and birds. Her series of bats tweak that somewhat, as few people see them in the same sweet light.  Nor, I suspect, do they differentiate one bat from another too much, but what comes across in Sharma’s set is the attractive personality of different animals.


Adam Dix: The Collectors2013.

Ink and oil on paper - 72 x 52 cm

Adam Dix generates a haunting atmosphere with his 'oil as if it were watercolour' technique by presenting figures redolent of the past in would-be sci-fi landscapes. Here the peculiar ritualistic uniforms – was this Laura Ashley’s design for the Ku Klux Klan? – reveal no ears. Perhaps hearing has been outsourced in this ambiguous timescape, hence the prominence of a communications tower to which obeisance must, it would seem, be paid. The mystery is increased by the obvious question: what are they collecting?


Kelvin Okafor: Katherine's Interlude, 2016

Graphite, charcoal & black coloured pencil on archival paper 79 x 67 cm 
It makes sense to hear, given the technical assurance of his graphite and charcoal portraits, that 30 year old Londoner Kelvin Okafor has been drawing people obsessively since he was eight. His ‘Interlude’ series captures fourteen of his rather good-looking friends - but departs from the usual convention of engaging through the eyes as portals to the soul. Instead, we are led to wonder what Katherine might be thinking – or hearing. 


Kate Lyddon: The Shell-Like Loop​, 2017

Oil on canvas - 30x40cm

A central orifice acts as mouth to a red head, ear to a blue head, and general entry and exit point for what Kate Lyddon calls 'a medley of fleshy dripping drinking body parts'. It's  tasty enough to eat, judged by the knife and fork wielded as he tries to eat her while she drinks him in a disturbing interaction of fluids. If that feels like a collage of myth, medievalism and body trauma to arrive at an alluring grotesquerie, then it's typical of her work.



Jonny Briggs: Forward Slashes Series # 1, 2013

Altered family photograph, 15 x 18cm

Much of Jonny Briggs’ practice creates new versions of his lost childhood through re-enactments involving his parents. The results are typically both more real than expected (as they look Photoshopped but are not) and psychologically charged. Here an old photo of the family pet is subject to an edit which proposes a disjuncture of the senses. The eyes now rhyme with the long ears as if the dog were seeing through them in the absence of eyes from their usual place.


Emma Cousin: Falling on Deaf Ears, 2017

Oil on canvas, 70 x 50cm

Emma Cousin’s paintings have an engagingly up front personality, bordering on the comic but balanced by a good deal of painterly acumen. The colloquial and the art-historical play off each other here, as an absurdly literal interpretation of an everyday phrase is delivered with a hint of Tiepolo. How fool is Cousin being, though? There may be a barb in the title, should anyone be visually tin-eared enough not to appreciate what she’s doing.


Clare Price: t.h.9, 2016

acrylic on canvas,  31x36cm



I love the time of dangle-down -

my flesh in her flesh, my movements
her movements, my panorama hers -

the days when his whispers are mine.

I hate the time of jumbled up.

Unjewelled by the dark, I sweat:

why should she take me off by night?

What rumours are these about studs?

Paul Carey-Kent


Her Peculiar Oblations


sorted it weeks ago
so I don't have to pour oil
down my ears. I do anyway.

'Twice a day, twenty minutes'
said Nurse Florid in April
and then quite dreamily

as if considering the eye of the needle
'April is the cruellest month.'
Then she heaved herself

around the Treatment Room
in a miasma of giggles
'Oh, I do love ears!'

shooting her syringe
towards the ceiling
like the cowgirl in a B-movie

who gives it hard
and takes it hard
and who, by the end, is just one of the boys.

When I walked out
of Nurse Florid's Treatment Room
in dazzling April

my ears were so clean
I thought of banging out
an Alleluia with the Baptists.

I miss Nurse Florid
and her peculiar oblations.
I do it for her mostly.

Julian Stannard


Charm for Earwigs

Witchy-beetle, forkin-robin,
no one heard you as you clambered
up the nursery slopes of pillow,

felt your way in heaving darkness
where a dreamer breathed siroccos,
scaled the north face of an earlobe,

stumbled on the antihelix
where the cartilage was ruckled
into an upended mizmaze,

teetered round its corrugations,
to the vortex where the tragus
overhung a bloodwarm grotto.

There was curl-room in the concha
but the scent of earwax drew you
through a straight and oozy burrow,

thrumming with a distant heartbeat.
First the walls were soft, then bony,
then antennae scratched a membrane.

Arrywiggle, horny-gollach,
you awoke me from my stupor,
rasping with a chitin stylus

on my mind’s long-playing vinyl,
ratcheting my taut tympanum
with your cacophonic tarsi,

set my ossicles percussing
with the clangour of rough music,
dustbins, copper saucepans, kettles.

Now I smear a linen poultice
with the pulp of roasted apple,
press it, wincing, on my pinna.

Malic steam pervades my chambers
to entice you with a perfume
sweeter than November compost.

Clipshears, codgybell, twitch-ballock,
lift your bristles from my eardrum,
let the sea of cochlea settle,

turn back from the labyrinth.

Matthew Francis

witchy-beetle, forkin-robin, arrywiggle,

horny-gollach, clipshears, codgybell,

twitch-ballock = dialect words for earwig - MF


and speaking of Van Gogh’s ear…

Most of the ear, or the lobe alone?
The latest thought is that most of the ear
was cut off by Van Gogh just before Christmas.

Cut by himself or by Gauguin’s sword?

The consensus seems that he did it himself
at the Yellow House, having threatened the friend
who was threatening to leave, whom he saw
as a traitor, a kind of a murderer.

Given to a whore or a young woman he knew?

Not a whore, but poor Gaby, whom a rabid dog bit.
The wound had been cauterized, scarring her arm;
her life saved by injections in a Paris hospital
that her job in the brothel helped to pay for.

And what became of the ear?

It made Gaby faint when she opened the paper,
saw what it contained. She dropped the gift.
It went to the hospital, I read, but couldn’t
be sewn back on. Since then, I don’t know.


I suppose it’s nowhere now
though, like Shelley’s heart, or Cromwell’s skull,
or Thomas More’s head, someone may have kept it,
decided they must garder cet object
as a keepsake, a touchstone, an almost holy relic,
to be perfumed or bound in special linen
or buried by night in a secret place
away from prying eyes, researchers
and perhaps unbalanced future fans.

Joan McGavin

Note: Van Gogh was living with Gauguin in Arles when the famous incident occurred on December 23, 1888.  Gauguin was a keen fencer, lending some credence to the suggestion that he might have sliced the ear off in a fight which was followed by a pact of silence. A diagram drawn by Van Gogh’s physician, Dr. Felix Rey, has recently been found, indicating that the whole ear was cut off. And the identity of the young woman to whom he gave the ear - saying the words quoted in French -  has been established.  JM


Marcus and Me

Marcus and me like to wear
three jumpers to school.
The teacher tells me to say
the word warm at least
seven times a day. But Marcus
says that warm is too small
a word, it moves away
too quickly like a mouse.

Marcus says that Anaemia
are little creatures, like lice.
He thinks he’s caught them
by sucking the daisy foam
off my wallpaper.
Mum might have it too,
her pale face and kisses
taste of copper coins.

She doesn’t mind Dad’s
barking. Will it kill her?
Like her too tight shoes or
an Asthma Attack? Marcus
sometimes hides outside
my parents’ room. His ear
to the wall, his finger scraping
the paint off the radiator.

When Marcus and me have
an earache we go to my mum
and kneel like a donkey, my head
sideways on her lap, catching
the splashes one drop,
two drops. Mum rounds up
the wild hair from my ear but
her thumb can’t shut out the thunder.

Saradha Soobrayen

Hearing aids

When she first got them she wore
them every day like a new
dress, twirling in the racket
and tumble of words like rain.
Now she delays putting them
in for as long as possible.
She likes the cool deep silence
of unravelling iced velvet.
Frank jerks his head and whispers
"Tell gran not to drink her ears”,
nodding conspiratorially
at the plastic snails coiled in a tumbler.
Far away as a pigeon up a tree she shouts
“I haven’t put my ears in."
We know she’ll drink her tea
then loop them up and over
between dry cartilage and
stiff grey perm into deaf ears,
pretending to switch them on.

Emma Cousin



I am reading a poem about silence
where Beethoven appears in the last line,
straining to hear his own symphony.
The waiting room is full of muffled coughs,
whispered conversations, the soft tread
of the intern’s surgery slippers on the tiled floor.

The doctor looks deep inside, probes a thin needle
into the inner chamber, applies suction,
I can hear a long roar, then pop. The room is full
of creeks and songs, a sonic hum
I've never heard before, the low tone of dog whistles.
I am Super Ear. The doctor’s voice resonates
inside my body. I carry his clear vowels home

and on the way I try to remember everything
I didn't hear, the thousand daily sounds
that just washed over, or disappeared,
in case I have lost something important,
a phrase that might have changed my life,
the music of a new language.

Tamar Yoseloff




Ears for the Eyes

We’re out riding, me and you in the New Forest, along a sandy track.

You stop: I see from your ears you have spotted a bird (or two) in the bush way, 
way ahead, beyond me. Your ears pricking forward, stalky and strained, say it all.

We wait – one of us patient, one of us tense. My legs pressure your sides, asking you
to walk us on. Lowering your head, you acquiesce.

You like to scan the land, seeking threats, as when your wide-scoping eye finds 
the loping dog behind: no sounds find my ears, but yours, flat back, shout high alertso that I tense to your spring forward, your dismissing of the dog-foe, the kick across its bows.

And on we trot.

Yes, you are good at dogs. But not so snakes, masked under cover of heather edging 
our track. Snakes who, if there, quicken to trit-trotting hooves.

You start, you snort, you spook to the side. Your ears let me down, too quick for me,
and sharp down I go, striking the track, vibrating your snakes away.

You wait, regarding me, as if to say it’s safe, it’s safe for you back on my back.

So on we trot.

Stephanie Carey-Kent


Hear in the Art

Jump red tick
Drum my rib

Jump red tick
Ear in the heart

Jump red tick
Sound me out

Jump red tick
Herd this us

Jump red tick
Bug lug vamp 

Claire Crowther

'I saw a red tick and I have a friend with Lyme disease, which has kind of ruined his life except he’s anything but a ruined person, and the tick jumped and looked to me like a heart - shape, colour, jump-jumpiness.' - CC


Her Earrings 

Cautiously - is that the door? -
I quantify her habit:
three boxes with thirty four

pairs (admittedly five from me),
two lonely extras (one mine -
a parrot whose mate flew free

in high winds at Devil’s Dyke)
plus the six she always wears.
Eighty-odd, of which I like

especially the bamboo
drops which, looking so heavy,
yet fall light; the dangle-zoo

with lizards and swinging apes;
the yellow shells - with the surge
of the sea on tap, perhaps –

and the abstracts which make her
a miniature gallery.
But enactments talk louder

than taste; and more than suggest
that of all her adornments
I love this repertoire best –

for what do I tend to buy
as proof? And what does she wear
that I never even try

to take off? In ears we share
a mild imbalance - with which
we’re happy, being a pair.

Paul Carey-Kent


Or, rather, don't: here are a few things which aren't in the show, but which came to mind in putting it together. Let's start with what I would guess are the three most famous paintings on the theme.

Hieronymus Bosch: Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1490-1510

Two enormous ears, pierced by an arrow and cut by a knife, are prominent in the bizarre goings-on in Bosch's Hell. Interpretations of his symbols are speculative, but this       contraption has been said to symbolise man's deafness to the New Testament exhortation: 'If any man have ears to listen, let him hear.' Sadly, Bosch's great triptych never leaves Madrid.

Johannes Vermeer: Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665

Not many paintings have inspired a best-selling novel... I suspect it's the way the pearl earring echoes the eyes which makes this the most subtly erotic painting, a well as the most famous, to draw attention to the auricular zone.


Vincent van GoghSelf-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889

The outcome of the most notorious ear incident isn't far way - the Courtauld owns  this painting - but arranging a loan might have been awkward...   The latest research confirms that Vincent cut off the whole ear, so giving an automatic art reference to the various more recent sculptural treatments of an ear.

Kelvin Okafor: Identity Series - Ear, 2014

Kelvin Okafor is known for his stunningly achieved graphite and charcoal portrait drawings of his friends, such as the exhibition's  Katherine's Interlude. Here though is a self-portrait which, paradoxically, shows only his ear, posing the question: how many people could you recognise from such a view?


Vincent van Gogh: Ears of Wheat, 1890

There are actually two strands to van Gogh's ear works, as he painted wheat fields consistently during 1885-90: drawn to biblical parables, his empathy with manual labourers and colour in nature: 'Are we not ourselves very much like wheat... to be reaped when we are ripe?', he asked.  This, from his late Auvers-sur-Oise months, is one of his most  'all-over' compositions.

Emmanuel Sougez: Three Ears of Wheat, 1929/30

While we're on cereal, Emmanuel Sougez (1899-1972) was a French photographer known for an intense metaphysical focus on still life objects, as in this monumental, almost architectural, gelatin print of three partial ears of wheat.       


Meret Oppenheim: Giacometti's Ear, 1935

Oppenheim befriended Giacometti when she arrived in Paris in 1932, and may be referring to his use of cast body parts in the elegant construction of this ear from other elements.  Comparison with photographs of Giacometti suggests, however, that is a far from accurate portrait in terms of his earshape, rather normalising the sculptor's own elongated form.

Guillaume Leblon: Portrait, 2016

I can't vouch for the accuracy of French artist Guillaume Leblon's portrait of his young son through the synecdoche of his ear, but I'd be surprised is such a tender portrayal were not accurate in its opaline rose glass. It gives rise to the thought: how many other parts could one use similarly without it looking rather more disturbing than affecting?

David Shepherd: Wise Old Elephant - unlimited print  from his 1962 painting

This was the world's best-selling print in the 1960's, launching  David Shepherd's career as a wildlife artist and conservationist. His commercial success was built on two failures: when, on leaving school, he travelled to Kenya hoping  to become a game warden; and when he was rejected by the Slade on his return to England. Critical acclaim has eluded him, too, but few paintings have such a high proportion of ear. 

Joyce Pensato: On the Way, 2008

Mickey Mouse probably has the most famous ears in popular culture, and many artists have used him. Joyce Pensato deconstructs pop art's cartoon icons by crossing them rather brutally with  Abstract Expressionism. The battered energy of her charcoal and pastel here leads to a typical balance of humour and grotesquery.

Rachel Maclean: still from Germs (2013)

The ears are often striking parts of Rachel Maclean's many ways of dressing herself up to appear as the only actor in her super-saturated worlds. As a germ, appearing in parody adverts for killing them, does she have five hands, three of them oddly placed - or three hand-like ears, only one curiously  located? 

Euan Uglow: Marigold, 1969 

Typically, this night painting  reaches what Lawrence Gowing termed Uglow's ‘subversive traditionalism’ by forcing  close examination through the process of measurement. Unlike any other Uglow work, though, Marigold features a black model - and centres on her ear.

Suzanne Dworsky:  Sea Breeze, 1978

This is from the American photographer's a set of close-cropped images of Cape Cod. What's nice here is  the intimacy of focus, enhanced by the rainbow heart, and the implications teed up by the title: of action - through the blown hair - and sound: breeze, breath, waves.


Clive Hodgson: Untitled, 2014

Only in the context of the other works is this abstraction likely to appear auricular. Hodgson certainly had no such intention, but its typically prominent signature (calling knowing attention to its making) might then make it a self-portrait of sorts, so I relate it to van Gogh, whereas the following has more of a Vermeer connection...


Jonathan MonkPierced Portraits (#22) (Woman with gold earring), 2004

In typically mischievous style, Monk has simply pushed a red drawing pin  into a series of found vintage drawings of women, a violent subversion referencing Fontana, playing with the differing realities of image and object, and suggesting some sort of rebellious intent to this mid-20th century subject's earwear. Or is it just that the drawing is sold?

John Deakin: Francis Bacon, 1960

Bacon commissioned his drinking partner Deakin to take photographs he then used as source material, including many of George Dyer - the three of them even holidayed together. He was drawn to the double exposures Deakin sometimes made, and fed some of those effects into paintings. 

Georgia O'Keeffe: Red Hill And White Shell, 1938     

Not so much a word in your shell-like as a suggestion that the landscape might be listening to us, just as we should listen to it. That aside, one of O'Keeffe's best meldings of geometry and colour in the guise of representations in which the body never seems far away.

Colin Crumplin: Ear (Evander Holyfield), 2000

At 286x238cm this was just too big for the space, but it references perhaps the second most famous ear wound  in history - Mike Tyson taking a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997. It also illustrates Crumplin's unique process of matching a semi-randomly generated abstraction with a found image which he then paints in realistic manner - it often takes him years to find a match, so this was pretty quick.

Bruce Nauman: Westermann's Ear, 1968

Bruce Nauman cast the ear of the artist HC Westermann, then surrounded the greenish plaster with a rope which both echoes the loops of the ear and can be read as the completion of a head to make a portrait which might well characterise his friend as a good listener.


Tony Cragg: We, 2016

This is a somewhat atypical Tony Cragg, given he's known for suggesting the face only on careful examination of his 'Rational Beings' series. It's very much the royal we of self-portraits, with 250-odd cragg-heads built into a giant conehead. It may well have more ears than any other sculpture. So much listening power put me in mind of...

Nedko Solakov: Ears, 2016

Nedko Solakov tells stories which may or may not be literally true, though he has said that he didn't invent his youthful involvement with the Bulgarian Secret Service. That inspired his Top Secret installation made just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which gained attention at Documenta 12 in 2007, and lies behind this combination of aluminium casts and text as we approach Documenta 14.

Femmy Otten: The discomfort of rationality, 2016 

Upcoming Dutch artist Femmy Otten mixes mythologies and eras liberally, and there's something of Gaugin's sculpture in this oil on burl wood face-of-sorts. The theme of ear inversion recurs: has the mind gone beyond normal physiognomy as well as its awkward rationality to reach a  transcendental space of dream colour?  


Eva Kotátková: image from Anatomical Orchestra, 2014
Back at East European listening, the Czech Eva Kotátková explores how conditions constrain the individual. She says the installation and performances of Anatomical Orchestra explore 'an ill or disabled body, one whose senses are not functioning, as a result of which the body becomes a partially empty shell not able to fully use its potential, or one missing sense becomes replaced by another that’s far more sensitive and developed' - as when a blind man develops enhanced hearing. 

Peter Liversidge: Proposal for Kate McGarry, 2017
Peter Liversidge works from written proposals which set out his intentions for a show: for Kate McGarry he opted to make work inspired by pareidolia - our tendency to read images into abstraction. One wall of many photographs parodies that somewhat, as mouth and eyes are blatantly imposed rather than found - indeed, one pair of eyes reads as ears.. .

John Baldesarri: Beethoven's Trumpet (With Ear) Opus # 133,  2007   

This stick-your-head-in sculpture was inspired by Beethoven's own collection of ear trumpets, and is silent until the viewer speaks into it - then a random section from a late Beethoven quartet is heard. It's as if a communicative link has been made, yet if this is the composer's deaf ear, then the surreal absurdity extends from how it looks to what it does...

Nicolás Guagnini: Hard of Hearing, 2013

Deleuze – see EJ Major for more on him – developed the concept of the body without organs to represent depth over surface. Argentinian Nicolás Guagnini prefers organs without bodies: heaps of ceramic penises, noses and ears. This installation of ‘Heads’ and ‘Hard of Hearing’ at the Lars Freidrich Gallery in Berlin gives the impression that all might have been stolen from ancient statues, consistent with Guagnini’s general appetite for cultural plunder.

Penelope Slinger, I Hear What You Say, 1973 - photographic collage on card, 24 x 19 cm

Penelope Slinger’s anarcho-feminist collages from the 1970’s fell out of view in Britain for 40 years after she emigrated to the US in 1979, but – championed by Riflemaker - have recently featured in several shows.  This striking self-portrait is from the series ‘Eat My Words’ (1971-77), which also features eye in mouth and mouth in mouth combinations but not, I think, any attempt on ‘eye in ear’.

 Jana Euler: "        " , 2016

German painter Jana Euler has a way with compellingly experiential body images. Here, in one of a coruscating series of paintings on the theme of the absent centre (and with an absent centre of a title for each in the set) , she collapses a body around a void which pivots on the ears.


Aly Helyer: The Forbidden Ear, 2017

Aly Helyer's distorted and oddly coloured apparent portraits draw us in to doubts about whether we can pin down a unified self - and in this case an ear seems to arrive from some other place, illegitimately judged by the title, to complement the Picassoesque line-up of the eyes.

Prunella Clough: Ears, c. 1990  

Prunella Clough was good at converting apparent abstraction into simplified figuration by means of a title. Could this shapely scenario, here with more subtly blue-tinged lobes than Helyer gave us, alternatively have been titled 'tree'?  As it is, my question is: one person or an ear each from two?

Jonathan Baldock: Candle from 'There's No Place Like Home', 2017

Jonathan Baldock's installation at CGP's Dilston Grove project space tweaked the formative psychodramas of childhood. It included a  version of the candles his grandmother used to make, big enough that you almost lose the delicately waxed ears, which are at full human size (indeed Baldock told me he sought out especially large and prominent ears to cast).


Richard Deacon: Tall Tree in the Ear, 1984

This two part sculpture isn't so much tree and ear as, according to Deacon, a title which fits the work as 'the shiny metal could be aerial and the blue could be sky or water, and the shape could be an ear or whatever, and the height is the height of the tree'. But it was 'the difference between the inside and the outside as the material gathers on the inside' that he thought was the interesting bit - which does suggest how what we hear isn't simply what arrives. 

Pieter Hugo Escort Kama, Enugu, Nigeria, 2008

This is from South African photographer Pieter Hugo's 'Nollywood' series, for which he asked a  prolific director to help him work  with actors from the world's third largest film industry - Nigeria makes 1,000 films a year. The scenes are staged melodramatically as myths in which everything is exaggerated - here including the ears - yet that could be just the documentation of a highly theatrical movie.

Roger Ballen: Dersie and Casie Twins , Western Transvaal,1993

Yet perhaps that wasn't such an exaggeration... It's hard not to focus on the ears in the most famous of Roger Ballen's images of rural white South African communities in the apartheid years, which focused on the failure of the regime to treat equitably even the whites who didn't fit the agenda of the privileged class. One was working inside, one outside when Ballen came across them, hence the contrast in shirts.


David Lynch: still from Blue Velvet, 1986

Cathy Lomax, who invited me to put together 'Ears for the Eyes', combines the worlds of film and painting, so it seems only fair to conclude with the most famous cinematic organ of hearing: Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) discovers a severed ear in Blue Velvet's opening scene, and it triggers a journey into the seedy underbelly behind suburban appearances. You never know where an ear will lead...

Ways of Seeing: Echolocation

Of all the mammals, bats are probably still considered the most unpopular. Nevertheless, they are also one of the most extraordinary and we are fortunate to have 18 species in the UK.

Using a high frequency system called echolocation, bats are able to see in the dark by using their ears. Echolocation works in a similar way to sonar. Bats make calls as they fly and listen to the returning echoes that bounce off objects or prey to build up a sonic map of their surroundings. They emit sounds through an open mouth, at a frequency too high for adult humans to hear, and use their ears as receivers. A bat can tell how far away something is by how long it takes the sounds to return. Individual bat species echolocate within specific frequency ranges that suit their environment and prey types so we can distinguish different types of bat using bat detectors. Most bats, including the well-known pipistrelle and long-eared species, operate in the range 40-50 kHz, but British bats are spread from as low as 20 kHz for the Noctule Nyctalus noctula to 110 kHz for the Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros.
Alli Sharma: Brown Long-Eared Bat, 2017
The volume of calls also varies. The Brown Long-Eared bat Plecotus auritus is our most distinctive species, medium-sized with very long ears. The ears are nearly as long as the body but when at rest they curl their ears back or tuck them away completely under their wings, leaving only the pointed inner lobe of the ear (the tragus) visible. Sometimes called ‘whispering bats’, they have developed a very quiet echolocation system, which is inaudible to moths and other prey, but not to them, thanks to the evolution of their own enormous ears.

Alli Sharma


Images of Sound

Where is the ear?

One thing, it is rarely singular. Humans, like most animals, tend to have a pair. A set, in the case of humans, of strange appendages protruding more or less obviously from the head connected to inner canals which facilitate the transmission of vibration and sound signals to the brain, the organ of exchange.

When I hear what you hear do we imagine the same? If I shut my eyes and listen to the voice of John Pilger, I see Clive James. You? What separates what I hear from what I see? For Gilles Deleuze what is more interesting is their interrelationship and to impose a separation is to falsify experience. For a hearing person you might say. To some extent yes, but the deaf community also talk of an awareness of condensed inner speech. A voice that can be heard in the mind may not sound the same to all.

Gilles Deleuze calls sound signals, like visual signals, or any other stimuli for that matter, images. A more accurate description would be images of sound as it suggests both matter and its memory in a constant state of becoming. This becoming-nature of things is the continuum of being. Deleuzes conception stems from Bergson whose materialist philosophy collapses the typical dualities of Western thought, subject and object, body and brain, reality and the virtual, image and its perception. In place is a coexistence of tenses within an unfolding present, never static, never given and received in equal measure but giving and receiving together, all at once and at the same time.

 As I write I have one of Beethovens Piano Trios playing. Ladah deedo dee doodley do, deedodeedo ladade doode doode doode doode do. Hear it? For the most part I dont. My focus is here. However, playing music with lyrics when I write interrupts my thoughts. Hardly unique but I may not be the same as you in this regard. Relations, says Deleuze, are what matter but they are constantly in flux. Relations operate both normatively and subjectively. The visual or sound image suggested to one mind is particular even when it is similar. This is Deleuzes difference and repetition, wherein repetition as sameness extends into difference. They co-exist.

Deleuze saw in cinema a means through which to envisage thought. Despite perhaps the dark theatre, movement and time do not stop whilst a film plays, though it may feel like they do. Cinema, far from being a closed set, simultaneously implicates what lies outside. This movement implicit in the Whole breaks down the separation between spectator/actor, real/imaginary, sound/vision, fact/fiction. The brain is the organ of exchange with which we receive, interpret and create simultaneously. The Whole becomes the Open where nothing rests. Cinema, Deleuze suggested, is an externalization of the narrativization of life that we do with our eyes, ears and minds all the time.

Im still wondering, where is the ear?

EJ Major

Beautiful Ears

The peculiar looking openings on the sides of our head are not obviously attractive and exactly what constitutes a beautiful ear is not as easy to define as an eye, mouth or nose. The main aesthetic ear worry is that they are too large, oddly shaped or protruding, and surgery (referred to as otoplasty or pinnaplasty) to ‘correct’ the position of ears is one of the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures. The tradition, it seems, is for ears to be discreet. Sometimes as Madge Garland in her book The Changing Face of Beauty points out, women’s ears vanish for a century at a time, hidden by curtains of hair in the Victorian era or under coifs and hoods during the Tudor era.

When ears are on show their primary beauty function is as a receptacle for jewellery, which is usually attached by piercing the ear, one of the oldest known forms of body modification. Faces are our identity and an earring, as the piece of jewellery that sits closest to our face, can be seen as a kind of frame. In the grand tradition of nonsensical beauty advice, theories about which earrings you should wear abound. The website states that

      Long earrings optically elongate the face and neck. They are suitable for women with round faces and short necks.

      Earrings with geometric shapes sharpen the features. If your features are angular, you can soften them by wearing round or oval earrings.

      If your face is long, small round earrings are the ones for you, while ladies with the square face type should go for long, dangling earrings.

      Large earrings are great for faces with small features. Massive ones should be worn without a necklace.

      Brunettes can bravely wear earrings with brightly coloured gems, while blondes should stick to the light-coloured ones.

      Young girls can wear earrings of any material, while mature ladies should only wear jewels fashioned out of precious metals and stones.

Luckily most people take no notice of such unscientific rules, a position exemplified by Elizabeth Taylor, who had what could justifiably be called a jewellery addiction. Taylor’s earrings, which came in all shapes and sizes and were often made from the most precious materials, really do seem to accentuate her classical looks and beautifully coloured eyes. ‘I’ve always loved dangling earrings’, she recounts in the book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewellery, ‘I wanted a pair of what I call chandelier earrings… I tried on these long earrings and the more I swished my head back and forth, the more they twinkled… I was smitten…. And these were paste – not even real diamonds.’ A couple of months later back in New York, Liz looked for her earrings. She eventually found them but, she told her then husband Mike Todd, they felt different. ‘He chuckled and told me he had taken the paste ones and had them made up with real diamonds.’ Thus the Mike Todd diamond ear pendants were born.

Image of Liz with earrings

In the endless search for newness, where everything has been done to eyes, cheeks and lips, the humble ear has taken on a new role in the world of high fashion. At the 2014 Paris Fashion Week ear makeup became a micro trend. ‘Designer Anthony Vaccarello sent his models down the runway with graphic, inky lobes... Makeup artist Tom Pecheux was going for a quasi jewellery look. Kind of like a second-skin ear cuff’, wrote Lauren Valenti at Pecheux’s black lobes were influenced by Douglas Gordon’s photograph series Three Inches Black, which shows a finger tattooed entirely in black as though it has been dipped in ink. To create his graphic black ear look Pecheux coloured in the bottom half of the models' earlobes with a liquid liner pen. Then reported Sophia Panych at, ‘to make it look more luxurious and less aggressive, he covered the liner in a chunky, iridescent black glitter.’ Pecheux’s ground breaking lobes made the ear a legitimate site for makeup and in Spring 2016 superstar makeup artist Pat McGrath created a silver statement ear for Louis Vuitton, while at Opening Ceremony Yadim applied full glitter ears to her models.
Image of Black ear makeup
So far so ornate but away from the exaggerated other-worldly looks of the high fashion catwalk the ear has also featured in the ridiculous world of reality star self-obsession where the make-up ideal is less Leigh Bowery and more perfect CGI mask. In early 2016 it was reported that Kylie liked to apply makeup to her ears. Contouring, for the uninitiated, is a makeup technique that has become something of a Kardashian trademark. It is akin to painting and involves applying different coloured products to the face to emphasise shadows and highlights. Kylie later revealed that she didn’t actually contour her ears, rather her makeup artist applied foundation to them so they matched her face rather than the red carpet.
Image of Kylie Jenner’s ear
This is where makeup application drifts from artistry to pointless self-obsession.  In February 2016 the Daily Mail reported on two models experimenting with contouring each other’s ears. Charlie Lankston described the results: ‘I just went with trying to emphasise the existing shadows, in the same way that I would do when contouring my face. However, while the results were visible - upon very close inspection - both Lindsey and I surmised that the entire process of actually applying the make-up to the ear took a lot more effort than either of us would care to take on a normal everyday basis.’

Cathy Lomax

Emma Cousin reading at the opening

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.