The Regent’s Canal, 21st July

The Regent’s Canal is the main route for this week’s gallery run. It provides a passage across the north of London skirting the upper curve of Regent’s Park before continuing east and then heading down to the Thames near Canary Wharf. A canal is not just a waterway, it can become a companion. Because on it are many lives, all in their recognisable barges and boats. One week they may be moored by Victoria Park, the next by St Pancras station. To push the analogy further, a canal even has similar interests to myself, namely warehouses. As part of the canal network the warehouses formed the hub of a bustling transport industry and now, for me, a few of their number have been converted into galleries. Other galleries are slightly offset from the waterway, still having benefitted from the cheaper land of the area, but now in normal city streets. The customary bump in the roads crossing over the canal creates a sort of metaphorical graft between this urban space and the waterway beneath.

The Regent’s Canal is actually part of a complete circuit. Looking north across London, like to the far side of a running track, we see the Regent’s Canal. The left bend is made up of the three royal parks radiating from Buckingham Palace. These are connected to the back straight by a cute little junction called the Paddington Basin. The near straight is, of course, the River Thames whilst the right bend is either the long curve of the canal itself up northwards from Canary Wharf or else a less picturesque, though culturally more interesting, thoroughfare up Brick Lane and upwards through Hackney. Today I am running this track in a clockwise direction, which no doubt will make the analogy harder to sustain. At the top of the Royal Parks, Hyde Park has fed me into the Paddington Basin after a rude excursion into a few of London’s busy streets in between. Lisson Gallery lies close by and from here the canal can be picked up again and it’s back on to the blue and green running track for me. Gagosian Gallery follows at St Pancras and then Victoria Miro comes into range down a short watery offshoot, which one has to leave but is united with again at the back of the gallery itself. The warehouse and its companion canal are still very much alive in this space.

Nearly all the galleries I visit are within ten minutes of a park or waterway. Their selection was made by me because of them having showed in Frieze 2015 art fair, so their close proximity to the blue and green running circuit is down to good fortune rather than any selection bias on my part. In short, gallery running is about avoiding as many roads as possible. One of the galleries that requires a brief concession to London traffic is Stuart Shave Modern Art, but it is well worth the visit. A little way on from Victoria Miro, and across a busy road, this space is by a quaint church that also hosts the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as the lorry which transports the orchestra attests to when parked outside. The gallery itself is in a modern, well lit space a few metres away.

The word modern is very apt here. Phillip Lai’s sculptures are made of washing up bowls in brightly coloured plastic, encrusted with plaster and spaced apart with sheets of black rubber. The black of the rubber frames the coloured objects in between. Other detail is provided by rice, whose mobility has leant itself to recording, as permanent gestures, the deft flicks of the artist. A blue washing up bowl is screwed to the wall and the rice appears on the bottom curve as though giving a cartoon-like smile. On another wall a large board of the recognisable 8×4 size has been modified with sketchy green paint and the insertion of some lightbulbs into holders screwed onto its surface. Like many artworks, the pleasure of this is in being unable to trace back, through its causation, any known original purpose. Was it part of an old fairground? Was it composed on the throw of a dice or as a result of some distant memory witnessed by the artist? These are questions that the Regent’s Canal can share with me as I rejoin its course down to Limehouse Basin and head back home along the Thames.

On display too, are images below from this year’s Goldsmiths MFA fine art degree show.

Spitfire Works on Penfold Street close to the Regents Canal. This Art Deco classic was home to a manufacturer of tyres for WW2 aircraft including the eponymous Spitfire. Palmer Tyre Company.

Gallery Runner entered into the spirit of this Stuart Cumberland piece at The Approach Gallery. Excellent show.

Looking out from Ben Pimlott Building of Goldsmiths College designed by Alsop and Partners. Will Alsop had previously produced a set of squiggle drawings inspired by the same location of New Cross.

Used the Regents Canal to access all the galleries today, first Lisson Gallery, then Stuart Shave Modern Art and finally The Approach Gallery before exiting at Limehouse Basin and heading back to Peckham.

Dan Graham’s pavilion at Lisson Gallery with some classic video pieces including CCTV of a fox locked in the national gallery (London) at night.

Great landscape piece by Roel van Putten at Goldsmiths MFA Fine Art.

This piece at Goldsmiths MFA Fine Art by Gui Ponde really is very good. Some strange detached head juxtaposed with government identification papers as if that might make the taxonomic process any easier!

Gallery Runner spotted this mini gallery in the goldsmiths MA Fine Art degree show. As a past student I am familiar with the conversion of the swimming pool into art studios whilst the old poolside changing rooms are now used for storage. It appears one of these has become a shrine to BANK of MOT International. Artists of this collective included Simon Bedwell, John Russell and Milly Thompson. Here can be seen altered (improved) gallery press releases dating back to their seminal late 90’s period.

Phillip Lai at Stuart Shave Modern Art using his customary rubber materials and juxtaposed bright colours.

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