Saturday, 20 January 2018


Up Now in London

Some Islands @ Coleman Projects, 94 Webster Rd – Bermondsey

To 11 Feb

Jyll Bradley: from Notes, 2016 - 89 x 69cm

Handily next door to Matt’s new space and close to Bermondsey tube station, Andrew Bick and Clare Goodwin have put together an elegant show – including their own work - which drives back from the geometric paintings which characterise most of the participants’ practices towards the wider life which informs them. The cue comes from a small etching by Dieter Roth, whose career writ that move large. It looks like a show of drawings, but the neat twist is that hardly any conventional drawing is involved: eg Daniel Robert Huzniker makes somewhat architectural reliefs out of card; Emma Talbot, whose main practice has particular affinities with that of Roth's long-term partner Dorothy Iannone, contributes writing-as-drawing; Jyll Bradley folds and unfolds the rare medium of white carbon paper, applying graphite front and back, then using tape to remove both types of carbon to achieve layered modulations.

Emma Talbot

Petrit Halilaj: “Do you realise there is a rainbow even if it’s night!?” @ kamel mennour, 51 Brook Street - Mayfair

To 26 Jan

Installation view with Do you realise there is a rainbow even if it’s night!? (gold green), 2017 - Kilim carpet from Kosovo, flokati, polyester, chenille wire, steel, brass; installation with flickering and unflickering light bulbs - and various of the Moth drawings

French gallery kamel mennour,  a welcome addition to Mayfair for 18 months now, presents the Berlin-based Kosovan Petri Halilaj. Born in 1986, Halilaj is known for the sensitive way in which his art reflects a traumatic upbringing in the Yugoslav wars of 1991-99.  He made an impact at the Venice Biennale in both 2013 and 2017, and this show is a version of the latter. The antennae in his delicate ink drawings of moths expand to suggest the textile patterning of the Kilim rugs against which they are shown. A giant moth sculpted from carpet and a flickering light, to which moths are especially attracted – complete an atmospheric installation. Not sure I've encountered a deliberately flickering light before...  

Detail of Moth #7, 2017 - Wooden frame made by the artist, killim carpet from Kosovo, black ink on paper and metal pins
85 x 62 x 15 cm
Various Rooms at Tate Modern / National Gallery / Whitechapel 


Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lake Keitele, 1904 (a slightly earlier version than the National Gallery's own, with more of the abstracting 'wake of a Kalevala boat' effect in the foreground)

It’s natural to think in terms of galleries and exhibitions, but what about individual rooms in large institutions?  Thomas Ruth is the main reason to visit the Whitechapel just now, but 'The Upset Bucket' is a wonderful selection from the ISelf Collection of 28 artists looking at how we project our identity through consumer choices: cue gold and caviar, bins and trash. Several whole room installations are of course core to the Tate Modern’s top current show – the Kabakovs – but two rooms of white works would also justify a trip: 'Painting with White', curated by Tanya Barson, and a display of Maria Bartuszová's under-known work. Not to mention the full version of Tehching Hsieh's One Year Performance 1980-1981 with all 8,760 of the photos taken hourly. And the various loans make up a Gallen-Kallela overview in Room 1 of the National Gallery, including all four versions of the seminal Finn's 1904-05 views of Lake Keitele.

Michael Buthe: White Painting, 1969 at Tate Modern


Secular Icons in an Age of Moral Uncertainty @ Parafin, 18 Woodstock St - Bond Street

To 2 Feb

Installation view with Indrė Šerpytytė and Mimosa Echard

Quite apart from the matter of what's an icon nowadays, Coline Milliard’s five artist selection for Parafin lures you into apparent abstraction with attractive composition and colour, only for closer examination to reveal a backdrop of violence. Simon Fujiwara achieves more varied effects than I’ve seen previously from his patent process of shaving the fur off coats and reconfiguring them to show the construction behind what was, after all, a murder.  Indrė Šerpytytė’s elegant and seemingly cool double-sided towers of light derive their colours from internet searches for images of decapitation. Mimosa Echard works on top of horror movie stills to make the series Braindead. You get the picture… well, not the picture, actually, but you see where the non-pictures tend.

Simon Fujiwara, Fabulous Beasts (Bluewashed Mink), 2017. Shaved fur coat on wooden stretcher frame, 175 × 100 cm.


Rose Wylie & Wade Guyton @ Serpentine Galleries - Kensington

To 8 Feb (Guyton) / 11 Feb (Wylie)  


      Rose Wylie: Choco Leibniz, 2006 - 366 x 305 cm

Both Serpentine Galleries feature artists who've found a highly distinctive visual language. Rose Wiley's cheerfully dispenses with convention in her thrillingly free and  spontaneous-looking accumulations of floating memories and sensations, featuring her wartime experiences alongside films, animals, football, tennis, skating... The installation aces the Sackler's spaces, with the multi-panel works particularly at home. Here she is, in the show's simplest and least colourful painting, eating that most philosophical of biscuits, the Choco Liebniz. Back at the old Serpentine, Wade Guyton - much lower key -  continues to develop the range of his his modern style of diptychs - doubled computer print-outs that push the capabilities of the equipment to a limit which becomes painterly. 

Wade Guyton: installation view

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Quotations @ Sprovieri, 23 Heddon St (also at Tate Modern)

To 27 Jan

Ilya Kabakov: Quotations #1, 2012

The Tate's Kabakovs' retrospective (to 28 Jan) is a must-see, though it has been criticised for having too many recent paintings when installations are preferred. I disagree, but it is true that the choice of paintings (which are Ilya's work alone) is a bit unbalanced: lots of the image and history layering of the  'Two Times'  and 'Collage' series, but only one each from the superb 'Under the Snow' and 'Colourful Noise' series, and nothing from the 'Quotations'. So it is a worthwhile pendant to see two of that last set. In these, realistic elements are not part-covered by snow or lost in TV-like static, but lie behind a luminescent supremacist-style 'fence'. Sprovieri also shows the collaborative 'unfinished installation', the text for which explains, alluding perhaps to the plans for a new nation, that 'looking at a building under construction is much more interesting than looking at a finished one'.

Ilya & Emelia Kabakov: Unfinished Installation, 1995-2017


Combining Materials @ Rosenfeld Porcini, 37 Rathbone Street - Fitzrovia 

To 10 Feb

Keita Miyazaki:Collision of Species, 2017 - car parts, felt, paper, stainless steel, speaker system 155x110x78cm

This show puts forward a neat theme – the surprising combination of materials – and makes a stimulating choice of artists who use that approach for their own interesting reasons. Keita Miyazaki provides the ideal start by reconciling discarded car engines with paper folded origami-style. Continuing with tough meets fragile, Brazilian Túlio Pinto balances rock against glass with elegant drama. Felicity Hammond melds metal and concrete with photography. Alice Cattaneo’s glass and wood wall sculptures function a little like paintings, whereas Jane Bustin’s paintings edge towards sculpture with limewood, chiffon, crystal and copper included in Fluorite, 2017. And Leonardo Drew, the most established artist here, fixes large chunks of wood and mis-shapes of aluminium onto heavy paper.

Túlio Pinto:Complicity # 14, 2017 -steel beams and blown glass

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. 


Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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Wednesday, 17 January 2018


The 30th edition of the London Art Fair is business as usual: more bad than good, but plenty of both.  Here are ten things I liked:

Sylvan Lionni: Totem, 2017 at Taubert Contemporary, Berlin

English born, American-based, German-represented Sylvan Lionni's recent practice includes the elevation of cake boxes to the status of totems. He collects them seriously, then  reproduces their various flattened forms in steel, exploiting how they can be presented as paintings but with the implication of their unfolding into sculptures. Sweet!   

Frances Richardson: In Times of Brutal Instability at Chiara Williams, London
Frances Richardson’s whole stand conception featured a piled rug which was actually made of quick-drying cement, an ill-fitting carpet which piqued the  repair instincts of the LAF installers, but which was actually an addition place by the artist, and giant post-it note paintings in beautifully curved wood: the cute self-missives which used to be on the notes in the studio were displayed alongside: What do we share? / Dry Porn / The fragility of hope...

Gwyther Irwin: Quintet, 1962 at Jenna Burlingham Fine Art, Kingsclere, Hampshire
Where the continental affichistes such as Jacques Villeglé tore paper away from layered posters, one workstream of the underrated Welsh artist Gwyther Irwin (1931-2008) saw him utilise the pieces torn away from posters as the basis for collages. This (121 x 154 cm) is unusually large and by current standards not £45,000 seemed a fair price. 

Angela Tiatia: video still from ‘Walking the Wall’, 2014 at Alaska Projects, Sydney
Maori performance artist and former model Angela Tiatia had the traditional tattoos also sported by her grandmother applied to her legs by pre-electric and rather painful means, and the markings take centre stage in wall-climbing of a sort in which western body commodification is trumped by her assertive stare and native style.

Boyle Family: Study of Old Bricks, Red Wall Series, 1979-80 at Vigo, London
Boyle Family’s most famous is work is the ongoing World Series project, stemming from the random identification - by guest throwing darts at a world map in 1968 - of 1000  sites across the world to be replicated.   This, from a related project, is an uncannily accurate painted fibreglass section of a section of wall (since demolished to make way for Wetfield Shoppping Centre) and a similar illustration of how anywhere in the world can hold our interest if presented the right way.

Adam Hennessy: paintings at New Art Projects, London
Adam Hennessy’s lively paintings feature a jauntily mysterious personal vocabulary of pigeons, fingers, sheep and - above shed, squashed ant and cabbages. They took over his gallerist, judging by Fred Mann's shirt  above. The booth also provides a chance to browse Hennessey's cringe-makingly funny ‘zine about getting crabs.

  Sidney Herbert Sime: Waves at Art UK

Five contemporary artists chose five paintings each from the Art UK collection to fascinating effect. Haroon Mirza  - consistent with his technologically-infected practice - used arbitrary Google searches to make his choice, but that didn't stop this seascape by Sidney Herbert Sime (1864-1941) with its curious overlay of stepped black lines being one of the most striking paintings. Sime has his own museum near Guildford...


DJ Roberts: Beyond the bright cartoons, 2017 at Canal, London

The best curated stand was probably CANAL/Monika Bobinska's combination of space, poetry and luminous abstraction with Claudio Del Sole, James Brooks, Patrick White (a realtime video animation of the night sky) and DJ Roberts' neon version of a line from  'Far Out' as written in Philip Larkin's notebook - in any art fair, as the poem says, 'Much less is known than not' - but that's a positive. 


Fiona Pardington: Nabokov’s Blues: The Charmed Circle at Starkwhite, Aukland

Sticking with great writers,  Maori-Scottish New Zealand photographer Fiona Pardington loves to reanimate museum collections, and has turned her attention to Nabokov as a scientific and serious butterfly collector through massive close-up photographs of his specimens  and related notes - stacking hundreds of photographs into single images which bring us close to Nabokov's obsessions, the butterfly's thorax, says Pardington 'crushed by the fingers that held the pen'. 
Yoshishige Furukawa: ‘D-21’, 1975 at Maus Contemporary, Birmingham, Alabama

The American gallery combined fascinating conceptual painting by Spaniard Irene Grau with works from the 1970s by the Japanese artist Yoshishige Furukawa (1921-2008), who moved to New York in 1963 and experimented with industrial materials, such as the rubber used here, to make 'paintings without paint'.

Saturday, 13 January 2018


Brussels has a rich mixture of commercial galleries, institutions, projects spaces and private foundations... Here are a few things which gained my attention on 11-12 January.

Richard Jackson: Yellow Bad Dog, 20017 at Riva Projects

The most famous artwork in Brussels must be the 17th century bronze of a urinating boy known as the Manneken Pis, in tribute to which my Eurostar reading was Jean-Claude Lebensztejn’s Pissing Figures 1280-2014. I didn’t expect the current exhibitions to echo it, but one of the Charles Riva collection’s two impressive spaces in the city featured an entertaining selection of works contemplating our relations with the animal world – one being Richard Jackson’s canine action painter.

René Magritte: One Fine Late Afternoon, 1964 at the Magritte Museum

There’s even more Magritte than usual in Brussels at the moment, an overhang from last year being the 50th since his death: two dedicated museums, a consideration of his and Broodthaers’ influence on contemporary art, and even a chance – which I didn’t take – to walk into giant recreations of famous paintings at the Atomium. One of his less-known strands are the death and laughter combinations in which he recasts groupings of figures from art history in the sarcastic form of articulated coffins.

René Magritte: untitled drawing at the Magritte House Museum

The modest ground floor apartment, 135 Rue Esseghem, in which Magritte lived with Georgette 1930-54 has been preserved, with an equally intimate museum in the separate flats above. Just 5,000 visit annually, and the volunteer staff would welcome only 50% more. You can, for example, see Magritte the designer of advertising posters in lean years, track his friendships and feuds – fellow Belgian surrealist Marcel Mariën distributed fake cut price special offer leaflets for Magritte works he thought overvalued) – and the occasional glimpse of the directly erotic. This didn't look at all related to Magritte's usual trickery until I asked myself: is she holding a penis or a dildo?

Evan Holloway at Xavier Hufkens

Established artists to show well included Mark Hagen, Frank Stella, Betty Tompkins and Evan Holloway. The last of those has long played with giving trees unexpected shapes and colours. Here the LA artist reduced them for the first time to single line of bronze, diminishing to indicate the paradoxical passage from single truck to single twig, and cast in angular chromatic progressions. Perhaps that suggests a critique of the arrogance of human interventions in nature. Which may, of course, receive its comeuppance…

Amélie Bouvier: White Light Flare, 2017at Harlan Levey Projects

There again, three artists new to me impressed. First, Brussels-based French artist Amélie Bouvier’s show The Sun Conspiracy generates dangerous beauty from something I was unaware of but had hardly missed: another way in which the world faces disaster. This large ink drawing derives from the solar storm of 1859, which was on a scale which occurs unpredictably, but every 200 years on average. If it happened today, every nuclear facility in the world would be exploded, Bouvier warned me, by the magnetic forces unleashed.

Nikolaas Demoen: Gold not Gold at Marie-Claude Flesich

Belgian artist Nikolaas Demoen’s intensely thought-through practice varies – even within a group show at MLF – from sculptural jokes to paintings of philosophers as birds to the installation ‘Gold not Gold’, which is drawn with a pencil marketed as ‘gold’, but which is unconvincing until an intense light is - intermittently - shone onto it. There’s a concise lesson here for advertisers and managers as well as anyone with a personal relationship…

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98

What sort of 'ing name is the Ing Art Centre? Whatever, its impressive retrospective of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s urban projects includes some room-sized models as well as drawings, collages, maps and photo documentation of the realised work. Their most organic and so perhaps least typical wrap was of trees, as here, which proved a hard idea to locate but eventually bore fruit in Switzerland.

Alice Anderson: 'Spiritual Machines' at Valerie Bach

I don’t pretend to neutrality, having curated her in London, but Alice Anderson is one of the most profound and radical artists working today, and she is the current highlight of Brussels’ commercial scene. Fresh applications of established practices are presented alongside a new type of performance and painting-like copper wire works which hang with a hint of Rothko in the cathedral vastness of the Patinoire Royale into which the Valerie Bach gallery extends.

Gedi Sibony: Pitcher with More Purple and Green, 2017 at Gladstone Gallery

How come, I wondered, intimately scaled still lives paintings by Gedi Sibony, whom I associate with such moves as appropriating the backs of lorries? In fact, they are conventional found canvases, over which the American adds his own oil painting as he seeks to discover and emphasise their hidden qualities. The results put me in mind of late Winifred Nicholson – and luckily I like Winifred Nicholson…

Elina Brotherus: still from Orange Event, 2017 at Contretype.

Film and photography had but modest presences, the highlights being how both Mario Garcia Torres at Jan Mot and Elina Brotherus at Contretype combined them. It’s hard to pin down quite why the Finnish artist’s evocations of herself in landscapes and re-enactments of flux propositions as games are so affecting, but tone, modesty and lighting must be in there. Here she is inverting the Duchampian with a friend following Bengt af Kinberg’s mid-sixties instruction to ‘regard two or three oranges for a long time’ (well, less than three minutes).

'Politics of Discontent' at Irène Laub

This 11-strong show curated by Jonathan Sullam, focusing on works which on the one hand denounce a system but at the same time incorporate it, was built around three walls: the artist-curator's own room-dividing neon version of a military fence; Rui Calçada Bastos' photographic wallpaper of a surveillance camera trained on the visitors; and the start of one to be built with Keen Souhlal's individually-crafted porcelain bricks, the intricate oriental architectural patterns on which allow for voyeuristic views through in the manner of a mashrabiya.

Georges Seurat: The Seine and la Grande Jatte, Springtime,1888

The central six Royal Museum site is organised to make things awkward (for example security is more intrusive than airports', combined tickets don’t cover everything, the automatic ticket-checking machines malfunction, different-sized bags are allowed in different places, and there is no café). But it’s hard to carp when the collections are so good… This must be one of the best of Seurat’s more intimately-sized paintings.

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.