Gallery run 29th March

Greenwich Foot Tunnel is the gateway to the Isle of Dogs. Here the perimeter of the City Farm allows a sort of detachment from the nearby main roads, before a short excursion along the River Thames leads to The Regent’s Canal and another 20 minutes of peace and harmony. At Stuart Shave’s gallery, Eva Rothschild has made enormous sculptural pieces to harmonise with the internal space.

A watery theme continues with Jessica Warboys at Frith Street Gallery. She has created some great canvases using the sea as a fluid medium to move pigments around and to deposit additional silt-like particles of matter onto their surfaces. They have a delicate appearance with rhythmic patterns that make them look as though they were actually being viewed through water.

Finally the day is capped off with the much awaited arrival of this year’s fourth plinth sculpture. Michael Rakowitz has a majestic sculpture on view made up of old date box labels. Their localised bursts of colour, and exotic providence, have been used to recreate a Syrian sculpture that was recently destroyed.

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Eva Rothschild of Stuart Shave with various sculptural objects carefully presented in the space.

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Ricky Swallow of Stuart Shave with cast bronze objects based on incidental interior features.

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Jessica Warboys at Frith Street Gallery with images made by immersing pigmented canvases in the sea.

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Marvin Gaye Chetwynd of Sadie Coles HQ with gothic imagery based on bats and theatre props presented against flat photo backdrops.

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Thomas Struth of Marian Goodman with a photo of physics objects that would make one’s hair stand on end.

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Cristina Iglesias of Marian Goodman with a hard looking cage-like structure which on closer inspection is delicate and made of a granular substance that actually smells quite nice.

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Giuseppe Penone of Marian Goodman with a characteristic adaptation of a natural object.

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John Riddy of Frith Street Gallery with photo images of stained brickworks made during a stroll through South London.

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The fourth plinth has arrived. Michael Rakowitz has built a replacement for the original stone treasure recently destroyed, out of tin cans.

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Gallery run 23rd March

A classic stop-off point is Brick Lane, at Beigel Bake to be more precise, where apple strudel costs just 80p. From here I move on from some of the galleries in the east of London towards the west end and on the way encounter Hollybush Gardens in Farringdon. On show is Turner Prize winner, Lubaina Himid. The room is full of wall paintings extending onto some additional objects propped upright on the floor. It is fascinating that the original utility of these painted objects, such as piano lid, is still immediately recognisable.

Jogging west past Holborn, the Mayfair galleries are finally reached. David Zwirner on Grafton Street is hosting Andrzej Wroblewski, a Polish artist who oozes Eastern Block charm. His Chauffeur series features drivers with their back turned to the viewer. A Gauguinesque blaze of colour near the driver’s head appears to demarcate that area of the vehicle window where the subject’s own psyche has intervened into this external world.

Then doubling back slightly, for a reason I can no longer remember since this is a slightly stripped down and edited re-write, Sophie Von Hellermann has been exhibiting some lovely loose paintings at Pilar Corrias. Formally of Vilma Gold, which shut last Autumn, the artist has found a good replacement with this gallery on Eastcastle Street.

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Lubaina Himid of Hollybush Gardens with a painted piano lid.

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Jose Damasceno of Thomas Dane Gallery with a small intervention on the eyes of Brazilian money-prints.

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Pier Paola Calzolari at White Cube who uses refrigeration units in his sculptures to produce pure whites.

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Mel Bochner at Mazzoleni Gallery.

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Andrzej Wroblewski at David Zwirner with an image from his Chauffeur series.

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Roy Newell at Simon Lee Gallery with meticulously worked miniature paintings.

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Michelangelo Pistoletto of Simon Lee Gallery with shelving images on his characteristic mirror backgrounds.

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Jean Dubuffet at Timothy Taylor with one his familiar cellular-based sculptures.

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Sophie Von Hellermann of Pilar Corrias with colourful paintings from the imagination.

Gallery run 16th March

The day starts with a jog to Matt’s Gallery. The gallery is doing a sequence of short one week shows and with this fast turnover has quite an itinerary lined up. This week it is Mandy Ure, who I remember well from Goldsmiths. She had a great way of mixing random marks, from paint pouring and dripping, into purposeful compositions through subsequent blowing up and careful finishing with a paint brush. Her work today is reminiscent of the shapes under a microscope and her own purposeful action has become here a metaphor for the careful order maintained in the blob-like structures of cells.

A few hours later after seeing the works shown below I come to the last gallery of the day, Victoria Miro and see Jules de Balincourt. His paintings are from the imagination and a rather sublime one at that. Figures are dwarfed by a spectacular multi-coloured boulder. Though the image is physically small, it extends into the abyss of the viewer’s own imagination and stirs up a host of resident memories!

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Mandy Ure at Matt’s Gallery with small abstracts.

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Laura Gannon at Kate MacGarry with cut canvases painted with metallic pigments.

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Michael Dean of Herald Street.

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Amalia Pica of Herald Street showing a small cluster of castings of shell-like objects.

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Francesco Arena of Sprovieri Gallery with a performance stool. It can only be sat on by someone whose age is 33, the difference in age between artist and father. A death will cause this interval to change and that will impede on the required age for the stool-performer.

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Matthew Day Jackson of Hauser and Wirth with recreations of Dutch still life paintings made with DIY materials.

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Leon Kossoff at Ordovas.

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Lorna Simpson at Hauser and Wirth with delicate washes on screenprinted and newspaper images.

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Jules de Balincourt of Victoria Miro with vividly coloured landscapes populated by crowds of small figures.

Gallery run 9th March

The day begins with a jog up to White Cube Gallery in Mason’s Yard. Minjung Kim has used traditional Korean craft techniques to lay down layers of ultra-thin mulberry tree paper into rhythmic compositions. The paper has many uses outside of art in the artist’s native country including as window panes, due to its strength even in thin layers allowing light to diffuse between the various natural fibres. Downstairs, the artworks are vividly coloured. The paper has been dyed and applied in layers, with each piece burnt along one edge in a ritualistic gesture by the artist, one that we are told is accompanied by the smell of incense and a discipline of complete silence. The overall effect on the artworks is to create textured regions of intense colour reminiscent of flowers and natural vegetation.

In Sprueth and Magers just across Piccadilly, Anthony McCall is displaying a light installation. His use of a smoke-like mist in these light-works, allows the experience to be a 3D one rather than just the conveyance of an image from one flat medium, a digital Jpeg in a projector, to a screen on the far wall. Yes, the screen is still present as the final destination for the image, but the light wends its way through wisps of smoke, like in those cigarette-friendly cinemas of one’s youth, catching the little eddies of particles on the way, creating straight shimmering beams of light across the room. The image itself is simple enough, a single line that is curved into an ellipse, sometimes perfectly rounded, sometimes dislocated into a stepped join between end and beginning, but the transition between the two is captivating as the digital projector slowly cycles from the one to the other.

At Grosvenor Hill a few hundred metres further on, is the Gagosian Gallery. A burst of applause echoes from within the furthest room. Glenn Brown had given me a great tutorial twenty years ago and he is instantly recognisable as the same chap. With his address to a group of visitors in the background and my own sketchy knowledge of some of his main artistic concerns gleaned during that generous four hour tutorial, the work on display takes on an extra depth. The painting is ultra flat as many of us would be familiar with, whilst the waxy trails of paint from the historical canon he explores, are simulated with intricate brushwork. These labour intensive works used to net the artist just a couple of pounds an hour, a fact which he presented as a footnote to the precarious business of being an artist, during the aforementioned tutorial. It was interesting to hear from this address that whilst the paintings are still labour intensive, twenty years later, the intricate sketching style of some of the accompanying drawings is actually very quick to execute. Here, expertise of his medium appears to have allowed the artist to bend some of those time constraints of the beautiful painted works, and create an image that takes on the same rapid fluidity as those very lines he has imitated.

A second major gallery sits just round the corner and is the home of Almine Rech. Gunther Forg has several large photographs on display of variously imposing buildings. These are neo-classical in style and each is emblazoned with a title depicting the particular institution it houses. Whilst the titles such as GEOLOGIA and MUSICA are true to the original photographs, rendered in various block capitals in concrete or metal, and sitting above the grand entranceways, they nevertheless form a more extended and general index of knowledge, one which is familiar to us from library shelves and TV documentaries. Meanwhile, the buildings have a grand scale themselves, both in their photographic representation and in their actual physical size. Presented together along one wall, the images appear monumental and we get that rare sense of an illusionistic space that is actually bigger than the expansive gallery it has been presented in.

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Minjung Kim at White Cube who makes images from thin layers of mulberry tree paper.

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Tonico Lemos Auad of Stephen Friedman.

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Bjarne Melgaard of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac with recently finished work that fills the room with an aroma of linseed oil and paint from their drying surfaces.

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Sturtevant at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

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Anthony McCall at Sprueth Magers with slowly moving light projections, which uses a smoke-like substance in addition to a screen, to capture the image. The public are encouraged to move through the space and disrupt the image.

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Bosco Sodi of Blain Southern with a piece at Philips.

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Glenn Brown of Gagosian showing paintings where the brush marks of oil paint are simulated with a flat almost photographic surface.

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Gunther Forg of Almine Rech.

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Sculptures on Grosvenor Hill.

Gallery run 4th March

This has been the week of the big freeze. Whilst it’s been possible to run in the snow, the prospect of having to then shake off the snowflakes upon ringing a gallery buzzer, has been enough for me to delay these visits to this Sunday. First stop is Tate Modern where a stack of materials including red buckets and wooden pallets occupies an almost perfect cube of gallery space. This work is by Tony Cragg and represents the early development of an artist who would go on to create his familiar idiomatic style of layered figures with beautifully smooth machine-worked surfaces.

The Barbican lies due north, over the Millennium footbridge, past St Paul’s Cathedral and across the raised walkway that takes one from the old city walls near the Museum of London to the unassuming doorway on level 2. The banality of the Barbican’s entranceway offers a sort of parallel to the concrete facades outside, confirming the utopian ideal that culture itself should provide the colour and nuances that these physical surfaces lack. This is not an unreasonable or untenable position to take. Frequent visits are nearly always rewarded by the work on show and today is no exception. Yto Barrada, an artist represented internationally by Pace Gallery, has echoed some of the utopian concerns of the hosting site, by depicting another ambitious building project in Agadir, where the greatest architects of the 50’s laid down their smooth lines against the backdrop of a city ruined by civil war. To capture this unique moment in history, the artist has juxtaposed simple wall drawings of the various radical buildings against items of furniture made from more traditional North African weaving techniques.

Maureen Paley is the only commercial gallery I would go on to visit today, since it offers the gracious distinction of being open on a Sunday whilst also exhibiting one of my favourite artists, Kaye Donachie. The paintings are primarily of women and this indeed is one of the show’s themes, to recreate the lost history of which these women were an important part, and in this sense the paintings offer an alternative view of reality. The dissolving forms that loosely depict these figures offer a kind of critique of this failed history, a history that has not managed to grow or take root, by showing instead not a photographic likeness but rather a likeness that seems to have been fashioned from chance events. A nose with distinct outline takes on the additional burden of sporting a giant brush mark, one that has obliterated its curved form, yet somehow this addition works and the facial feature seems strengthened rather than undermined by it.

Finally at Chisenhale Gallery we have dentistry raised to the level of art. This is not because the golden tooth that would be inserted into the artist’s mouth is particularly beautiful nor is it anything to do with recent developments of artworks taking on the narratives of prosthetics or plastic surgery. No, this dental procedure comes as a rather beautiful gesture by the artist, Lydia Ourahmane, who had the tooth inserted as a delicate and empathetic response to her own grandfather. He had in fact extracted all his own teeth in a decisive gesture against the then ruling French government. As a native to north Africa, he was at odds with their presence in his country. Then faced with the impossible position of being required to fight for them, he decided to render himself unfit for service by taking the drastic action described. This story is revealed in the gallery through the body of the artist, his grand daughter. An X ray depicts her own mouth before having the tooth inserted, whilst next to it mounted on the wall is a little nugget of gold, a second identical gold tooth in fact, since the artist had actually had two made, which offer a sort of tableaux vivant of these various events of fifty years ago.

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During the big freeze, on the day of the hoped-for gallery run. It was too cold.

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Tony Cragg at Tate Modern.

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Wheat objects woven together by Ana Lupas. This was based on a traditional Romanian practice.

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Yto Barrada of Pace Gallery showing at the Barbican Curve with drawings of the modernist buildings in Agadir set against traditional woven chairs and lampshades.

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Kaye Donachie of Maureen Paley.

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Lydia Ourahmane at Chisenhale Gallery has produced a historical artwork. The gold tooth is a copy of the one the artist had inserted in remembrance of her grandfather who had extracted his own as part of his resistance to French rule.

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Regent’s Canal after the big freeze.

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Flavie Audi and Samantha Lee with large projections of iPad screens and an accompanying dancer at Specisl Projects on Decima Street.

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Adam Linder choreographed dance at South London Gallery.