Sunday, 17 September 2017


Up Now in London

Robert Longo: Let the Frame of Things Disjoint at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Ely House, 37 Dover Street - Central

To 11 Nov:

Study of Eagle, 2017 - 92 x 107 cm

This, Robert Longo's  most substantial show yet in Britain, features 30 works, many of them enormous charcoals in  his signature, darkly radiant, technique.    True, Longo makes images because he loves them, but he looks for subjects which resonate both personally and publicly and come together to form an engaged account of the world with seduction and power at its centre. Here the overview, under a title taken from the doomed Macbeth, incorporates Ely House's former life as the home of the Abelmarle Club, terrorism, resonances from art history, and a unsurprisingly jaundiced view of America now. The backstory and interconnections ratchet up the power of individual works, which include a friend in a Burka, X-rays of famous paintings, a redacted Guernica, bullet holes in glass, a ravaged stars and stripes, and the 'paths of the mind' which merges tree and brain images in the wake of his stroke in 2013.

Untitled (Copenhagen, February 14, 2015), 2017 - 260 x 3015 cm


Andy Holden & Peter Holden: Natural Selection @ former Newington Library, 155 Walworth Road - Elephant & Castle 

Andy Holden is one of our best artists, and Art Angel have an unrivalled track record the commissioning ambitious new work in unusual places... So it's hardly a surprise that you should visit a disused Victorian library  which was previously father and son-run Cuming Museum. There you will see Holden's collaboration with his ornithologist father through two films with accompanying material and objects. First, 30 minutes on birds’ nests: how are they made and why do they take the form they do? How are the skills inherited? Might they possibly be art? What if Holden himself makes the nests? The other is a social history of collecting bird's eggs - the latter stages of which are either a rogue's gallery or sad case studies of obsessives born out of time (alongside one of the most notorious illegal collections is displayed). This is fascinating and also leads us to reflect on what we take from our parents, to what extent we can escape it, the difference between instinct and art, and what is real here, and what (like the collection of eggs) is not.


Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama (Hail, the Dark Lioness) @ Autograph ABP, Rivington Place - Shoreditch

To 28 Oct: 

Bester V, 2015

Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases portraits (from 2006 ongoing) asserting the presence of the black LGBTQI community in South Africa have been widely shown, but here we have only 70-odd self-portraits from 2014-17. Is there room for more such work in the post-Sherman, post-selfie age? This tremendous double exhibition - of her ‘Dark Lioness’ series, and newly commissioned images of Muholi in a kimono in Kyoto and a former prison in Johannesburg - proves there is. Race, class and personal history are more prominent than sexual identity as Muholi intensifies her blackness by increasing the contrast in black and white photographs and uses potentially absurd yet aesthetically potent props to clue us in to back-narratives. The scouring pad hat of Bester V. Mayotte, for example, both dignifies and critiques her mother’s lifetime of domestic labour; while Basizeni XI uses tyres to haunt the memorialising of her late sister with colonial rubber production and execution by ‘necklacing’.

Basizeni XI, Cassilhaus, North Carolina, 2016


Bernard Piffaretti: Calligram @ Kate MacGarry, 27 Old Nichol St - Shoreditch

To 21 Oct

Untitled, 2017 - acrylic on canvas, 160 x 40 cm
'Is he still doing the same old double thing?' asked one painter when I mentioned Bernard Piffareti. And it's true, the French artist's first London solo plays several new canvases against several older ones, all using the method he's followed since 1986: choose a size and shape of canvas, choose an acrylic colour (he never mixes them), use it to paint a vertical spine down the centre, and then proceed to paint either side similarly. It turns out there's plenty to play off in that set-up, one being the back and forth caused by the slight differences between halves, another the unanswerable puzzle which has temporal or hierarchical primacy. Examples here include wall-like, road-like and floral modes, as well as the small, circular 'Tableaux en negative', which suggest a snapshot of part only of a larger painting, the two halves diverging notably from symmetry by capturing different aspects. There's also a text painting, which rearranges the show's title - 'Calligram' - to form a decorative pattern. It's a whole world, and maybe all the paintings - says Piffaretti, are just one large painting. 'And you', I asked back, 'are you still doing the same old single thing?'

Tableaux en negative I, 2010 - acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60cm

Stano Filko: Reality of Cosmos @ The Mayor Gallery, 21 Cork St

Map of the World (Rockets), 1967 - monotype on map, 95 x 180cm
Lucia Gregorova Stach, of Slovakia’s national gallery, has curated this show of 1960’s work by the second most famous Slovakian conceptualist after Julius Koller. She pitches him as somewhere between Beuys (Filko has a foundation myth of becoming an artist following a near-death experience in a munitions factory) and Kabakov (he’s an oblique satirist of the communist state). Thus Filko (1937-2015) displays proposals for buildings, cobbled together anti-monumentally from found metal, so that they dominate an image of the Bratislava skyline’s socialist utopia. He pitches red blood against blue cosmos, male rockets against cavorting women in a pop-style assertion of erotic over political against the collage background of a world map – which his work, unlike his small country but consistent with what was apparently a big personality, threatens to usurp. 

Models of Observation Towers, 1966-67 - mixed media installation, 12 x 300 x 85cm

Henri Fantin-Latour: Gladioli and Roses, 1880

Nature Morte @ Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard - city of London

To 2 April 2018, £8:

Caroline McCarthy: Vanitas, 2007

The large but little known Guildhall Art Gallery has a significant collection of Victorian paintings, currently complemented by and integrated with over 100 contemporary still lives. They provide new spins on flora, vanitas, food and domestic objects in a show – organised by Peckham's MOCA – which toured the world three years before arriving in London. You'll find, Andro Semeiko's 1.5m square  "Very big chocolate cake", a tribute to potential excess, more healthily topped by a 2 m high painting of cherries by Martin Gustavsson; and library of woodland books by Conrad Bakker; a Fright Wig made from household dust by Paul Hazelton; Caroline McCarthy's image of a skull made from Ben-Day dots punched out of a binbag hung next to it, waste to waste; and two classic Fantin-Latour florals – while both Philip Pirolo and Michael Petry (also the lead curator) make striking works which equate flower and anus.

Michael Petry: Red Roses, 2009 - one of three blown glass and cut flower arrangements in which the rim of the vase is taken from online submission  of anus shapes, and  each flower choice  represents a man's sexual preferences via the 1970's gay hanky colour code. 


Sargent: The Watercolours at Dulwich Picture Gallery

To 8 Oct:

The Fountain, Bologna, c. 1906

80 works show John Singer Sargent relaxing into watercolour during 1900-18, largely for his own pleasure and often linked to travel tied into his more lucrative work, with Venice, Southern Europe and the Middle East prominent. The best (which is to say, most) have unexpected subjects or viewpoints allied to a tight structure with contrastingly loose and often surprising application of colour. And there’s magic in, for example, the way he can transmit a sense of hot or cool temperature; depict rocks under water with convincing economy of means; suggest his own movement as he paints from a gondola; or blend figures into the pattern of a landscape. 

Turkish Woman by a Stream, c 1907


Claire Partington: A Cautionary Tale @ James Freeman Gallery, 354 Upper Street – Angel, Islington 

Tatiana's Dream, 2017 - earthenware, glaze, enamel, lustre and mixed media, height 66cm

 It’s good to see that James Freeman is up and running again after severe flooding last December, and with a striking display of Claire Partington’s ceramics. They combine the skill you would expect from an ex-V&A technician with a slightly sardonic - and assertively female - take on fairy tales and classical art. Transformation stories are presented via works with swappable heads, ancient figures are infected with modern vices, and a gathering of 30-odd lovers’ eyes from various masterpieces make for an attractive yet disturbing presentation.

From Lovers' Eyes, 2017


Lucas Arruda @ David Zwirner, 21 Grafton Street - central

Sem título da série Deserto-Modelo, 2017 Oil on canvas - 24 x 30 cm
Young São Paulo-based painter Lucas Arruda has made quite an impact with his small and systematic oil paintings  which conjure atmospheric – indeed, romantic and panoramic - landscapes from the very verge of abstraction. Turner meets Albers, perhaps, close to monochrome, but with impressive micro-painterly effects, including a lyrical line in scratching. His first London show also includes a room in which very much smaller paintings, made on 81 acetate slides, are projected on a scale far longer than the works on canvas in a 13.30 minute loop. The scale is reversed  yet the effect is comparable.

Slide from Sem título da série Deserto-Modelo, 2017
Projection, paint on 81 acetate slides


Ruairiadh O'Connell: Profiles in Custody @ Josh Lilley, 44 – 46 Riding House Street - Fitzrovia

Profiles in Custody: Bio-foam I, 2017, Foam impression box, rubber, steel, 147 × 37 × 37 cm
 Flash back to 2013 and star American footballer Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder on the evidence of the unique wear on the chevrons of his Air Jordan shoes. Ru O’Connell has form with investigating the influence of patterning on life (airplane seat covers, m’ lord, casino carpets and firefighters' uniforms): his actions, too, have accrued a recognisable profile over time. Here he shows foam impressions of his own trainers, putting himself in the frame as the maker of plaster reliefs cast from their chevron patterns and shaped linen wallworks  printed over with same to constitute a rather soleful self-portrait as a moralist of decoration.   

Profiles in Custody: White Marble, 2017, Hessian, plaster, carbon fibre shards, 76 × 48 cm

Profiles in Custody: Lime, Black and Berry, 2017, Hessian, silicone mould rubber, plaster, carbon fibre, ink


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, 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.