Gallery run 22nd November

The Saatchi Gallery has been closed for the last two weeks and today’s run offers an eagerly awaited opportunity to check out the group show there. Makiko Kudo, who was previously on the books of Wilkinson Gallery before its recent closure, is showing paintings in one of the rooms. Her subject matter includes figures and trees and a multitude of interactions between them. The figures actually appear to have been gathered up by the arboreal companions and then raised to a viewpoint where they can look down upon the world as though from a lookout post or treehouse replete with those memories of childhood. Also of note in the group show is Dale Lewis. His paintings of street kids and workmen in visibility tops are striking. The figures are all engaged in energetic mannerisms around tables or standing in groups and their movement is conveyed effortlessly, with the figures’ flailing limbs sometimes occupying several positions at once.

Meanwhile, though not quite literally, my own flailing limbs have taken me to South Audley Street where Massimo De Carlo gallery is showing Yan Pei Ming. This artist has depicted the famous scene first rendered by the painter David, in which Napoleon has taken his crown from the then Pope and is lowering it onto his head, his first act as emperor. For an event of such historical importance the painting has to be good and the artist doesn’t disappoint. He has rendered the image not just once, but five times over in a series of tinted, coloured monochrome paintings. Two of these striking images are actually placed beneath the gallery’s own elegant chandelier, and whether by accident or design, the painted crowns seem to sparkle and refract in a way that is prompted by the illuminated glass immediately above them.

At Southard Reid, the gallery assistant is on the phone. But she helpfully gestures to the press releases presented in a neat pile at the foot of a small staircase. The artist R M Fischer is from New York and undergoing something of a renaissance, we are told. He has made a particularly impressive work using plumbing fixtures, such as taps and pipes, to create a sort of bas relief against a background that is itself reminiscent of a section of bathroom wall. On this surface, almost like a graffiti artist, he has rendered fat lines with marker pens and possibly oil sticks, to create the rough forms of cartoon faces. These in turn have commandeered an occasional washer or random mark to act as make-shift eye or expressive feature.

From here it is eastwards. Having slightly overdone the Thames and Regent’s Canal routes in the past, today will use the busy streets, populated by cars and people, to play host to the remainder of the run. Hollybush Gardens is accessed by a staircase that connects the main road to a small network of streets below and it is in this hidden enclave that Claudette Johnson is on display. She has made beautifully economic paintings of figures that dominate the space in which they are portrayed and her sitters, who are all from ethnic backgrounds, appear empowered to leave the confines of the picture plane at any time of their choosing. Finally, at Stuart Shave Modern Art, Karla Black has produced delicate artworks of abstract marks on glass, paper and polythene. Light is the companion to these swirling compositions. It plays across their various surfaces and many of the artworks, despite their simple materials, resonate and glow like the insides of giant shells. Responsible in part for this is toothpaste which the artist has requisitioned from her toiletry bag, along with nail varnish, and then added to her artworks. Through these cameo appearances of objects that populate the artist’s own daily routines, she has not only created interesting visual effects, but also instilled herself in the artworks as an additional presence.

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AES+F at Saatchi Gallery with photoshopped minarets in traditional settings but the minarets are actually rockets.

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Makiko Kudo at Saatchi Gallery.

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Dale Lewis at Saatchi Gallery.

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Yan Pei Ming of Massimo De Carlo with reworking of a famous image in which Napoleon was crowned emperor.

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Bruce McLean with a public sculpture just off Regent Steet called Handbag Heads.

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R M Fischer at Southard Reid with a sculpture incorporating plumbing parts and some drawing.

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Claudette Johnson at Hollybush Gardens with dominating portraits.

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Karla Black at Stuart Shave Modern Art with delicately coloured materials using a range of pigments and extenders including toothpaste and nail varnish alongside traditional watercolour pigments.

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Nick Flatt and Paul Punk showing in a drawing show at Beers London.

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Gallery run 15th November

With a lap round The Serpentine in Hyde Park taking the time up to ten o’clock, the first gallery of today’s run should now be open. But alas, my check of opening times on the internet last night was not done accurately enough and it turns out the gallery is in fact closed today for refurbishments. Fortunately one of their artists, Sanford Biggers, is showing just a few hundred metres away at Phillips auction house. The good fortune of spotting the gallery artist in this alternative venue is further enhanced by the quality of the work. It comprises a delicately stitched, embroidered quilt cover with a back story that it was donated to the artist along with many others from families whose ancestors were effected by slavery. This has become part of the rich historical narrative of the artwork itself.

A few blocks along in Victoria Miro, Stan Douglas is displaying photographic-based work. Although primarily the show focuses on high-resolution photographic reconstructions of the London riots of 2011, there are also two abstract works. These additional abstract works are fascinating because they are actually based on simple jpeg images of geometric shapes but where the information of the original digital files has been altered in a systematic way. The resulting rhythmic patterns, we are told, reveal the wave patterns that make up the structure of all jpeg files.

Nearby in the hub of galleries close to the Royal Academy, Pace Gallery is showing some of the American Abstract Expressionists. The dominant figure in this group, at least from an historic perspective, is Kenneth Noland, and the show builds on this popularity by also including works from other important artists from that movement including Frank Bowling and Sam Gilliam. The former has poured paint down the canvas and despite the absence of a brush, has created an elegant and ordered painted surface, evidenced by the clean boarders on either side of a main channel that comprises a complex multi-layered surface of paint. Meanwhile, the latter artist has removed his canvases from their stretchers altogether. They have been bunched up into a few hanging points and suspended from the gallery walls.

The London art scene is buzzing right now with the Basquiet show at the Barbican. Today’s run actually takes in a concurrent show in the building’s second gallery, known as The Curve. John Akomfrah has collected a multitude of chemical containers with their coloured residues still visible in white plastic grooves. He has then suspended them from the ceiling where they mingle with the lighting to create a stunning spectacle of glowing white plastic. The artwork actually references the anthropocene, an emerging name for Earth’s most recent age, and one that is characterised by human influence rather than geological change. On this account, the artwork draws more attention, in fact, to the pollution of these chemical containers than to their sublime beauty. Perhaps also on this solemn note, it is where today’s blog comes to a close, though the run itself would take in David Blandy at Seventeen, Omar Ba at Hales Gallery, Alan Belcher at Greengrassi and Abel Auer at Corvi Mora, all offering great exhibitions over the rest of the day.

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Sanford Biggers of Massimo De Carlo on show, and for auction, at Phillips.

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Stan Douglas at Victoria Miro with a manipulation of a jpeg file. These familiar digital files, used for storing images, use clever techniques to compress them and the artist has intervened in some way to produce an image that reveals this underlying technique as an image of its own.

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Frank Bowling often represented in London by Hales Gallery on show here at Pace Gallery.

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Sam Gilliam at Pace Gallery with a detached canvas.

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John Akomfrah represented by Lisson Gallery showing at Barbican. These are chemical containers that the artist has used to represent, with some beauty, the Anthropocene, our current geological time period by some accounts.

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David Blandy of Seventeen Gallery with a digital reconstruction of the solar system.

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Omar Ba of Hales Gallery draws on the experiences of his native Senegal to develop his rich symbolic language in paintings.

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Alan Belcher at Greengrassi with paintings of geometric objects that accompany, in his show, paintings of ducks, fish and shellfish each having a surreal quality.

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Abel Auer of Corvi Mora.

Gallery run 9th November

After a run through St James’ park and spotting a black swan, which in 1738 was used as an example by philosopher David Hume of an inconceivable event of such rarity that it might as well be compared to the Earth no longer orbiting the sun, today’s run continues northwards to the first gallery of the day. The galleries themselves are subject to similar laws of induction that aroused the attention of Hume, whereby oft repeated events start to seem almost necessary in the future, and in this vein, today’s planning takes into account that it would be almost inconceivable that White Cube gallery and Marian Goodman should not open at 10am, Sadie Coles HQ and Thomas Dane galleries would not open at 11am and Mother’s Tank Station would not open at 12 noon, though in the case of the latter there is slightly less inductive certainly of this owing to the status of the gallery as a relative newcomer.

With an itinerary set out, then, for the arrival at each gallery shortly after their respective opening times, the run is under way. First stop is White Cube. Haim Steinbeck has made elaborate shelves that look almost like triangular plinths. He has then arranged objects on them and in many cases even embedded the objects into smaller triangular plinths that nestle into the larger ones, fitting snuggly due to their precision of craftsmanship. The press release claims that these resting and embedded objects evoke nebulous associations reminiscent of how words function in a sentence. As a witty addition to this worthy aim, the current show uses surfboard fins in a variety of different coloured plastics. They have been flipped over whence they resemble the fins of sharks, the bane of any surfer, and function as a cipher for the commodified terror that has permeated our popular culture with films like Jaws. Elsewhere and with the clock confidently past 10am Marian Goodman gallery is hosting Hiroshi Sugimoto. This artist has photographed movie theatres and music halls incorporating a white projector screen as both focal point and also sole light source. Appearing as brightly lit, white rectangles these screens have in fact acquired the illusion of being white through the conjunction of the flickering forms of an actual movie and the long exposure of the artist’s photograph.

As the clock strikes 12 noon, Mother’s Tank station seems to be strangely elusive. The SatNav dot is directly above my location and then a glance upwards reveals the viaduct that straddles Farringdon road and which defines the upper level of the City’s geography at this point upon which Mother’s Tankstation is also situated. Yuri Pattison has excavated into the fixtures and fittings of the gallery’s temporary space and created small cavities. A square ceiling panel is casually pushed to one side whilst on the floor, tiny traces of carpet adhesive accompany the occasional excavations downwards. Circuit boards and computer screens populate this strange part-hidden world and on these circuit boards, which are fully functioning, software creates migrating crowds of tiny figures which interact with each other and even, as the gallery assistant tells us, commit a few murders.

Finally, at Whitechapel Gallery a small show of previously stored artworks is enjoying a rare exposure to the public. Michael Borreman’s hoodie portrait is stunning whilst Jim Lambie’s red and and silver bags is equally impressive . It is assembled, one assumes, into some sort of soul, since the secondary theme of this show is portraiture. Lambie’s piece actually evokes the feeling that it has been seen before which either means that this is the case or, more impressively perhaps, that it hasn’t been seen before, since this after all is the remit of the show, and that instead it has acquired its sense of familiarity by actually tapping into some sort of fundamental truth which simply makes it seem familiar.

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Black swan and white swan in St. James’ Park.

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Haim Steinbach of White Cube with wall mounted arrangements of objects that create associations like sentences.

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Hiroshi Sugimoto at Marian Goodman Gallery with photos of old cinemas. The artist has used long exposures whilst a film plays in the cinema he is photographing, causing the cinema screen to appear white.

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Thomas Schutte of Frith Street Gallery with glass busts blown in the Murano workshops of Venice.

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Catherine Opie of Thomas Dane Gallery with intimate photographic portraits.

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Yuri Pattison of Mother’s Tank Station with computer screen imbedded in the gallery ceiling which is showing crowds of small figures. These are generated by a computer programme and can be observed acting in certain ways and with certain objectives.

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Ad Minoliti at Project Native Informant with an installation of painted wall and two inkjet reproduced images.

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Jim Lambie of Sadie Coles HQ at Whitechapel Gallery.

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Michael Borremans of David Zwirner with a typical hidden face painting, at Whitechapel Gallery.

Gallery run 3rd November

Bright sunshine is taking the chill out of the air this morning. The sun is behind me making the jog out west along the River Thames towards Wandsworth particularly radiant. Several bridges intersect this stretch of river before one arrives at the Wandsworth recycling centre, a first base on this run and site of an excellent bacon sandwich van. The owner has been trading since before dawn, she says, despite the hour gained from changing clocks. The recycling centre itself seemingly provides much of the business as visibility tops file down the narrow pavement before placing their breakfast orders. With bacon sandwich in hand the first photo opportunity of the day presents itself, a beautifully packed wall of recycled plastic, with the sun’s rays making the different colours sparkle like jewels.

Across the river, the Serpentine Galleries are showing an upcoming American artist called Wade Guyton. He specialises in digital imaging and printing processes but adds a painterly twist by incorporating drips and dislocations into their forms with a joyful array of “mistakes”. These are either accidental or intentionally orchestrated, but either way are very effective in upsetting the order of the original image. In the other gallery Torbjorn Rodland has produced uncanny photographs that incorporate familiar objects such as shoes, food and figures. All of these compositions have been disturbed in some way. A man appears to have thrust his legs in front of his head, with the consensus being that he has performed some extreme yoga pose. But then there is the realisation that what seemed like legs are actually arms, since the performer has had shoes placed on his hands, and his head merely nestles slightly uncomfortably behind one of his arms.

The short run through Hyde Park then leads to Upper Brook Street where Michael Werner is showing Enrico David, a sculptor who was at St Martin’s College at the same time as myself. On this account there is added interest for me. The white sculpted figures with their strange and ornate metal attachments, provide a powerful spectacle to the viewer but also remind me of the artist’s distinctive style clearly evident as a student at college. At Timothy Taylor gallery, a few streets away in Carlos Place, Alex Katz is showing paintings of woodland alongside sculpted portraits and drawings. The woodland paintings, in particular, reveal the artist’s vitality as paint streaks across the canvas in broad strokes. Whole tree trunks are rendered in single swipes while additional twigs are depicted with the same economy as the trunks and appear to twitch like the whiskers of a living animal.

As the sun comes round to the south in the early afternoon there are just three remaining stops to complete, but surprises will await at each of these. At Sadie Coles HQ there is a group show of Eastern, non-European artists. Of this interesting selection, Xu Qu, who is normally represented by Almine Rech gallery, has produced a striking garland of video cameras, which are all threaded onto a thick steel cable. Then round the corner at Pilar Corrias, Rirkrit Tiravanija has filmed the making of a feast cooked in ritual fashion on a giant, cast iron stove. Though traditional in its design, the welding and cast iron of the stove reveal that this object was in fact specially made for the occasion and furthermore that the utilitarian knobs and handles are all scaled up from a smaller original design. They are now barely practical in their new setting and as such take on the mantle of art object. Lastly, and as our finale for the day, Alison Jacques gallery is showing Sheila Hicks’ fantastic, woven, wool pieces. Some of these intricate structures have been mounted on a canvas support, further challenging the viewer’s preconceptions that a difference exists between craft object and artwork.

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Wandsworth Recycling Centre.

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Wade Guyton at Serpentine Gallery with ink jet accidents and images that have a painting quality to them including this illusory effect of depth.

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Torbjorn Rodland at Serpentine Gallery. The shoes create the illusion of a strange contorting posture at first.

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Enrico David of Michael Werner.

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Alex Katz of Timothy Taylor with intense images applied in thin washes of paint.

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Xu Qu at Sadie Coles HQ with a giant video camera garland on metal cable.

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Rirkrit Tiravanija of Pilar Corrias with a cast over-sized stove and enlarged saucepans which were used to prepare a feast.

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Sheila Hicks of Alison Jacques Gallery with fabric structures attached to a standard canvas.

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Katharina Grosse at South London Gallery with spray paint that looks like draped fabrics.