Gallery run 25th January

At Blain Southern, Rachel Howard has produced a series of black and white paintings including an interesting one with a wallpaper motif. She appears to have then developed this image extensively in red and on a larger scale with four examples shown in the adjacent gallery. For the artist, wallpaper is a powerful motif because it represents the liminal space between a safe domestic environment and uncontrollable external events such as war. In some areas the wallpaper appears to reveal this external space through a semi-transparency, whilst the red of the pattern itself becomes a vehicle for introducing a more free-flowing use of red paint symbolic, of course, of blood and strife.

Meanwhile in the downstairs gallery, Brian Griffiths has created a puppet-like character which he has presented against simple cardboard and wooden off-cut stage sets on the gallery walls. The artist’s characteristic use of visual metaphor is clearly apparent in these simple backdrops commandeering, for example, a second hand spindle to function as a high-tech sun lamp. The introduction of figurative elements is by no means new to the artist’s oeuvre but the combination of low-tech figure in low-tech background is an interesting development.

It would then be a long loop up to Notting Hill via the Regent’s Canal followed by a return through Hyde Park, which lands me back amongst the Mayfair galleries and the shiny black door of Michael Werner bejewelled with brass trimmings. Peter Doig has produced a set of images based on a powerful looking figure standing astride a sandy beach. The paraphernalia of a red and white flotation device lends an air of the everyday to the image as well as pleasing colour harmonies whilst the figure itself is more reminiscent of the mythical tales of Odysseus and a Greek ideal of the male physique.

Craig Kauffmanm is on display at Sprueth and Magers with work from the 60’s that uses bright plastics. In the main window is a stunning display incorporating work by this artist alongside additional works by Donald Judd and Robert Morris. Each of the works by the three artists has been produced in a single coloured plastic and seen together they create an overall harmony as the eye moves from one piece to the other, resting upon a single colour before moving to the next. The plastic used by Craig Kauffman is actually slightly transparent and the effect is to make his works look delicious with the coloured lozenge of plastic both reflecting a warm glow of light but also, in some cases, projecting a coloured patch onto the gallery walls.

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Rachel Howard of Blain Southern with a wallpaper motif that she has then developed extensively in a further series.

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Brian Griffiths at Blain Southern has created a puppet-like character presented in simple cardboard stage sets on the gallery walls.

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Wim Wenders of Blain Southern showing a selection of his Polaroids at The Photographers Gallery. These were an important part of his movie film preparations.

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Peter Doig at Michael Werner.

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Josh Smith at Massimo De Carlo with colourful depictions of the Grim Reaper.

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Bridget Riley at David Zwirner with new work.
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Craig Kauffman at Sprueth Magers with works from the 60’s using bright plastics.

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Andreas Schulze at Sprueth Magers with colourful pipework.

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Tara Donovan of Pace Gallery has created a series of images using stacked cards with small cut-out sections.

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Gallery run 18th January

With an invite to the Foundling Museum this morning it is necessary to divide the day into two halves. The first half will be in the East and the second half in the West. Parasol Gallery, the first stop of the day, is hosting Lisa Milroy, an artist who rose to prominence in the 1990’s. Her distinctive style is a grid pattern of objects standing out against canvas backgrounds and onto which there appear to have been cast drop-shadows. The pairs of black shiny shoes make a particularly strong impression in one of the older works, actually borrowed from Tate’s collection, since they go beyond the literal representation of an object and evoke additional associations notably of mussel shells. Such metaphorical readings of paintings often come from powerful childhood memories and whilst these certainly reside within myself, it is impossible to know if such associations are also shared by the artist. A small biographical detail recently provided by a friend, that the artist frequented a stunning beach close to Liverpool inhabited by razor mussels in their thousands, adds support to this further association but ultimately just confirms our own love of resemblances.

The theme of childhood memory is one that also underpins the new show at the Foundling Museum, a show aimed for children who may have lost a vital connection to their environment. Poet and writer Robert Macfarlane has turned away from our mediated worlds of digital technology and taken us on a stroll through nature while artist Jackie Morris has produced accompanying illustrations of the poet’s main themes to depict a world populated by birds, some resting on twigs, another with a pebble held delicately in its beak. What we see is a sort of hybrid world that never really leaves culture behind, for the gold-leaf backgrounds in many of the artist’s images are often more pleasing to the eye than those in which the complex structures of trees and vegetation have been presented. Perhaps nature is only digestible in small quantities. Following this theme, we find the most lucid and beautiful quote in the press release to be one that is actually set against the cultural reality of Pokamon characters. A child may be able to name over a hundred of these cultural brands, the artists inform us, but when it comes to naming the species and genera of our own natural habitats this number falls dramatically.

What does the window panel of an envelope mean? This is one of the questions that arises at Sadie Coles HQ where Darren Bader presents a room with a few highly collectable art sculptures mixed with tat, but where the buyer is not informed as to which is the art since this is precisely the nature of the game. In one sense then, all the work is art including the tat, since just as in a landscape the figure can only be picked out in contrast to a less busy background, here the artworks would only take their full meaning when viewed in relation to the much weaker objects that surround them. But this would be to miss the point which is that the viewer or potential buyer is expected to put their own judgement on the line, and this brings us back to the envelope windows. Are they art or simply the incidental and spontaneous product of HQ’s recycling activity? That they are reminiscent of any activity at all is why they get the thumbs up from me as accomplished artwork but this is an easy thing to say, whereas it is for the dedicated punter to make the real decision on this through a purchase.

Finally, at Thomas Dane Gallery Phillip King is presenting a fabulous multi-coloured installation using painted objects that appear to have been constructed out of wooden sheet. Large circular holes punctuate a central piece that makes it appear like a giant block of cheese. Though the yellow is provided not by the object itself, which is actually a bright lime green, but by the painted wall behind, the association of colour is nevertheless strong enough to impart the idea of food to it. In all there are several of these objects propped up against each other and the overall effect is to create a space reminiscent of a stage set where the viewer can move around and observe the curiosities of colour juxtapositions and perspectival lines.

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Lisa Milroy at Parasol Unit. Shoes, distinctive flat style, fab painting in general, but also a passing resemblance don’t you think to hinged mussel shells?

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Oli Epp at Beers London.

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Jackie Morris at Foundling Museum has produced images to accompany poetry by Robert Macfarlane.

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Christina Quarles at Pilar Corrias as part of Condo.

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Gerasimos Floratis at Pilar Corrias as part of the #Condo project where artists from different galleries do a temporary exchange.

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Koppe Astner at Sadie Coles HQ part of Condo.

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? at Sadie Coles HQ. There is a room full of conceptual sculptures including this one made up of envelope windows. Four are by A-lister Darren Bader and a few others are by guests, the rest is intended to be tat! The catch is none of the sculptures are labelled and prospective buyers are invited to take a punt. I fancy this one to be a quality piece.

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Phillip King at Thomas Dane Gallery with an installation of bold forms.

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Martin Kippenberger at Christie’s.

Gallery run 11th January

The run to Trinity Buoy Wharf has been an attractive activity ever since a speaker at an event there, Ian Sinclair, notable for walking round the entirety of the M25 and writing a book about it, declared that this wharf, with its location next to the River Lee, marked an historic site. From here the Saxons would check out the Vikings, whilst the latter would return their reconnaissance in this direction from across the barrier of the River Lee. It is right on this junction that this smaller tributary departs the Thames as it takes its waters from the North. With a bacon roll consumed, it is time to head to the first gallery of the day via a series of waterways.

The River Lee provides quite a formidable barrier to the foot traveller even today and unlike the fairly tortuous route of a few weeks ago which required a four lane highway as travelling companion to cross the river, today’s route wends its way north past the giant docks of Canary Wharf and onwards up the Regent’s Canal, escorting me to Hackney, and indeed, arriving fifteen minutes early at one of the midday openers. PeerUK is hosting Catherine Story from nearby Carl Freedman gallery and in its window are clues to the nature of the show. Clay maquettes are the artist’s starting point and these have then been transposed to canvas as a series of Surreal looking paintings populated by chunky figures with shear planes suggestive of both limbs and machinery. They are in fact reminiscent of Cubism and with the clay being a plastic medium, the artist appears to have worked out in advance, the various folds, bobbles, distortions and protrusions, distinctive of that style, before then transposing them to the two dimensional world of paint.

Herald Street Gallery has opened a new space in Museum Street just near the British Museum and Ida Ekblad is on show. Her rather stunning, bright paintings are actually made with plastic, a fact gleaned whilst reading her press release off the phone in those last few minutes of waiting outside the previous space. The plastic has been melted and smeared with a palette knife and yet none of its intensity of colour, whether it be derived from a previous state as coloured carrier bag or plastic household object, a specific origin that the artist doesn’t actually divulge, has been lost. Rather this detritus of daily life lives on in a strange afterlife as material of a painting, depicting the simple forms of pots that are themselves reminiscent of Greek urns, along with a whole host of other types of ornamentation ranging from flowers to simple coloured planes.

After seeing yet more good quality work up for auction at Phillips, with a couple of stand out pieces by Alex Israel and Barnaby Furnas, the next destination is south of the River at Vauxhall where Cabinet Gallery sits proudly in the middle of the aptly named, Pleasure Garden. Henrik Olesen’s musings on the nature of an object lead to an unusual, though confident display of tacked, nailed and propped materials that sit and hang against the various white-walled nooks that this gallery has made available with its slightly unusual polygon-styled floor plan. On many of the box-sections of brushed aluminium, which feature as rectangular frames or stand-alone girders, there are small inscriptions presented on clear plastic rather as one might find accompanying cooking instructions on a ready-meal, and these provide further philosophical reflections by the artist on object hood. Perhaps by giving us a general scene of peculiar part-objects to look at whilst openly questioning their validity, the artist is also trying to evoke an aspect of the human condition that has been put into words by the philosopher Heidegger, that since the Greek ages we have passed over the phenomena of the world, a general being, and instead focused our attention, to our detriment, on individual objects from which we try to extract meaning.

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Catherine Story of Carl Freedman Gallery on show at Peer UK.

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Ida Ekblad of Herald Street Gallery with vivid paintings made from melted plastic.

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Barnaby Furnas of Victoria Miro provides the statement piece for auction at Phillips.

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Alex Israel on auction at Phillips and adorning the front cover of the catalogue as befits a top ranking artist shown by Gagosian Gallery amongst others.

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Michael Pybus on auction at Phillips.

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Clever use of stickers on this bike.

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Henrik Olesen presents a show at Cabinet Gallery of what could perhaps be described as partial objects, many of which are casually stapled or pinned to the wall. The show itself seems to question what an object actually is.

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Simon Thompson of Cabinet Gallery, an artist I’ve wanted to visit for a while, has done prints of objects on rather fab rug-like objects with a hanging tag.

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Michael Armitage of White Cube showing at South London Gallery. An allegorical piece as a mother gives birth to a goat. Not a good thing! and dreams of a better life symbolised by washing machine top right, are back on hold.