Gallery run 22nd February

Rachel Howard is showing at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery. Fourteen large paintings are on display which, as the press release tells us, are intended to resonate with the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, the last hours of Christ as seen through the canon of Western painting. In addition a small fifteenth painting is on display based on a famous news photo depicting an Iraqi detainee standing on a box, arms outstretched and wires dangling downwards, connecting to an electric box. Human suffering is a theme that preoccupies this artist. The images themselves, apart from the latter, are abstract and their immediate content stems from the love that has been put into them. Many weeks elapse between the application of each new layer of paint, waiting for the old layer to dry, implying a degree of care and solemnity by the artist which offers some kind of parallel to her powerful subject matter.

Due North through St. James’, Green and Hyde Parks followed by a stretch of the Regent’s Canal then Primrose Hill, lies Camden Arts Centre located on the outskirts of Hampstead. Giorgio Griffa, an Italian practitioner of Art Povera, has spent a lifetime exploring the subtle variations of brush marks on different unprimed fabrics using just a limited set of symbols comprising numbers, loops and lines. A particular artwork catches a shaft of light, that has entered through a gallery skylight, and its simple lines seem to dissolve into the glowing surface of the surrounding unpainted canvas.

Running back down the hill towards Camden, brings the Zabludowicz Foundation into sight. Based at what looks like a former consecrated building of some kind, the visitor enters through a grand Georgian facade with doric columns, arriving at an entrance lobby with a small cafe counter to one side and two doors giving access to each of the two shows currently on view. Siobhan Coen has been invited to participate as part of a scheme to showcase artists not currently represented by galleries. Her interest is perception and the multitude of stimuli that do not make it into our conscious thoughts. Whether the perceptions segue into the unconscious is a moot point since we cannot judge their passage for ourselves, but it is a concern that provides the artist with ample possibilities to develop her practice. The words of Donald Rumsfeld, who is recorded reading one of his own books, resonate through the building. As former security chief, the implication of him broadcasting his own thoughts on perception, is that this is a matter of political importance not just personal.

Finally a small group of galleries in Fitzrovia offers the last few shows of the day. The Telecom Tower provides a ready-made landmark that makes for an easy approach across Regent’s Park. At Alison Jacques gallery, Roy Oxlade has an exhibition of paintings that have a fantastic faux-naive style. As a biographical point we are told that he was married to Rose Wiley and soon spot the outlines of her handsome nose as muse on some of the images. Indeed with both artists producing works with this certain childlike quality to them, since Rose’s work is similar in respect to her use of figurative outlines and simplified backgrounds, one then wonders if there is any other possible connection. Perhaps their apparently simple, yet complex, paintings evolved from a canon of intellectual concerns that Roy and Rose would develop and share over a lifetime together.

Rachel Howard at Newport Street Gallery with carefully applied gloss and bright acrylic base colours loosely following the sequence of 14 images in Christian depictions of Christ’s last days.

John Copeland in Newport Street Gallery with figurative paintings.

Giorgio Griffa at Camden Arts Centre with unprimed canvas and delicately chosen and applied brush marks.

Siobhan Coen at the Zabludowicz Collection with an artwork that explores perceptions, namely how we edit nearly all the information from our senses before we become conscious of the remainder. Political commentators play as a soundtrack and the artist claims our editing processes can be exploited by political propaganda.

Grainy video of Gillian Wearing dancing in Peckham shopping centre over 20 years ago. Shown in the Zabludowicz Collection.

Roy Oxlade at Alison Jacques Gallery with paintings that focus on symbolism rather than pretty painted surfaces, (though they are very pretty anyway).

Victoria Colmegna at Southard Reid with a picture cabinet suggestive of highschool memories.

Vivienne Griffin at Southard Reid encasing an aptly named object in resin.

Laurie Simmons of Amanda Wilkinson Gallery created mocked-up fashion shoots using herself and clothes sourced from second hand shops.


Gallery run 6th December

My phone is being sorted out this morning leaving me temporarily camera-less. Nevertheless this hiatus is a chance to build up the jogging miles before my retrieving of the device and doing the gallery visits in quick succession. At Alison Jacques Gallery, Juergen Teller is displaying a series of photographs called Go-Sees. The title used here refers to the term in the fashion industry of an informal introduction between photographer and aspiring model. In this exhibition the models have crossed over from the fashion industry into art. They are shown posing in a frequently used doorway or against a familiar backdrop revealing, all the while, different levels of engagement with the camera. Some models are at the artist’s front door waiting to be let in and have been caught unexpectedly from above, whilst others have adopted contorted gymnastic poses thereby taking control of the photograph and demonstrating a power of their own.

A few streets away at Pilar Corrias Gallery, Mary Ramsden has exhibited abstract paintings with dynamic motifs. A swoosh of paint arcs over the canvas and at its apex, where the droplets can no longer hold together due to the force of the brush swerving in a new direction, a secondary ejection occurs. The droplets have broken free and splay out across the canvas. This arching swoosh is a gesture but also a symbol, since the artist appears to have reproduced it at will, not only in its general shape, but also in its dynamism, harnessing the forces of nature to eject the paint spray at the chosen point. Other details stand out too, though with less dynamism, such as a bright pink strip of paint up the outside of the stretcher frame. It is normally a dead space that carries only the residues and traces of the main action on the painting’s front surface, but here on this side strip the artist appears to have intervened amongst the various accidents.

Sadie Coles HQ provides two further spaces for today’s run. At Kingly Street, Kati Heck has produced a central hexagon structure in the centre of the main gallery. Six paintings are displayed on its inner walls forming a sort of panorama of images. The images themselves are very strong, comprising figures and various objects of symbolic importance, all boosted in their immediacy by the economy and panache of the brushstrokes. Some of the background colour actually appears to have been applied with decorating brushes, evidenced by the width of their strokes, whilst other areas are omitted altogether, suggesting a confidence and good judgement on the part of the artist. Arms are detached from hands, a piece of sky missing, but each such intervention is done with a plausible logic thereby keeping alive the interest for the viewer.

With the day rapidly passing, there is a chance to see some work at Phillips. Jonathan Meese has a large image that oozes German Expressionistic appeal. The tell-tale fragments of German vocabulary along with roughly rendered figures populating the picture space, create a distinct style and attractive image. Finally in Peckham a climbing frame with art aspirations of its own catches the eye. The steel with flaking blue paint looks great and its image on Instagram sits in the middle of the other eight like a sort of carousel.

Juergen Teller at Alison Jacques Gallery who photographed aspiring models in informal settings called Go-Sees.

Mary Ramsden of Pilar Corrias.

Adriano Costa of Sadie Coles HQ.

Urs Fischer at Sadie Coles HQ with prints and photos.

John Armleder at Phillips.

Mel Bochner at Phillips.

Jonathan Meese at Phillips.

Kati Heck at Sadie Coles HQ with very good figurative painting that isn’t too finished in places.

Old frame in Peckham.

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.

Wandsworth Recycling Centre.

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

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

Enrico David of Michael Werner.

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

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

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

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

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


Frieze week 5th October

It is Frieze week and the galleries are all together under the Regent’s Park awning. Consequently there is little opportunity for a run. However, earlier this week I am given the opportunity to run up to Alan Cristea Gallery and review the new Michael Craig Martin exhibition of prints. Prints are the speciality of this gallery. To one side of the gallery, the newest work uses an altogether new method of duplication using a laser cutting process to remove a thin black surface and reveal portions of the white under-layer. The bonus of this process is the durability of the surface and these works look striking without even needing a sheet of protecting glass.

Two days later it is my chance to visit Frieze. The stand out works include some great ones by Ivan Seal, Mary Reid Kelley, Djordje Ozbolt, Patricia Treib, Sheila Hicks and Daniel Richter. A recent addition to Michael Werner Gallery called Peter Saul catches my eye in particular. It seems popular too on the Instagram feed with the most likes and as I look at the image it leaves this intense desire to produce a work of my own in a similar style. This of course will never happen. The work is great though, being a sort of dismantled figure with recognisable foot and hand emerging from some central tank-like container.

Lastly, a neon piece by Andrea Bowers is flashing away at Andrew Kreps Gallery, and since this is Frieze week, New York lies only a few seconds from London. The concourse between the neighbouring cubicles replaces the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. A cardboard cowling surrounds the neon letters and frames their pithy slogan, but also lends to their slick form an impromptu feeling, due in part to bits of random image left on the cardboard surface. This is almost the end of Frieze experience for me, but the same evening there is a bonus of seeing a talk by the Slade professor Andrew Stahl. A mutual friend has invited us to a rather exotic venue in Mayfair, home of the Woman’s University Club, and the evening assumes a slower and more relaxed rhythm.

Michael Craig Martin at Alan Cristea Gallery with laser cut plastic as a medium for his new drawings.

Sheila Hicks of Alison Jacques Gallery at Frieze 2017.

Mary Reid Kelley of Pilar Corrias at Frieze 2017. Images and props from a recent film are artworks in themselves.

Ivan Seal of Carl Freedman Gallery at Frieze 2017.

Djordje Ozbolt with Herald Street at Frieze 2017.

Patricia Treib of Kate Macgarry at Frieze 2017.

Peter Saul of Michael Werner at Frieze 2017.

Daniel Richter with Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac at Frieze 2017.

Andrea Bowers at Andrew Kreps Gallery.


Gallery run 31st August

The first stop today is a Science Fiction Exhibition at the Barbican containing artwork from several artists at London galleries. On arrival, there is a sort of sensory overload of robots, clips from 60’s sci fi films and models of rockets destined for the moon. Many of these items are film props which were used in classics ranging from Star Wars to The Incredible Shrinking Man. The initial attraction for this show was the abundance of familiar gallery artists, but this is soon matched by the great postcard-sized paintings by Andrey Sokolov of moonscapes and yet more rockets.

At the Barbican a helpful attendant points the way up to Old Street after asking me If I was lost and what look likes a very pedestrian unfriendly car ramp turns out to be a short cut back to the main road. At Beers, Adam Lee is showing some evocative paintings inspired by the exotic location of his studio in an isolated region of Australia.

From here the Regent’s Canal provides a direct, though fairly long, route to Regent’s Park where there is a choice selection of sculptures. This is the Frieze Sculpture Park show and it is kicked off with a stunning sculpture by John Chamberlain set against a background of the park and some of the Regency properties on its periphery. Next Ugo Rondinone of Sadie Coles HQ presents an enormous white tree planted firmly into the grass. Tony Cragg has a sculpture with his stacked disc motif all assembled into a gold figure that has some similarities to the fantastical machines and figures on show earlier at the Barbican. Finally Takuro Kuwata of Alison Jacques Gallery has presented some brightly coloured cylindrical forms that look slightly organic like brightly coloured mushrooms, though of a different shape. Urs Fischer, meanwhile, has a skeleton placed in a fountain. It is being cooled, or watered in some way, with a garden hose. Then for me it’s back south with tired legs after having spent much of the last week with feet up on vacation.

Postcards by Andrey Sokolov shown at Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction at The Barbican Centre.

Storyboard for The Incredible Shrinking Man shown in the exhibition Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction at The Barbican Centre.

Robot figure with light stick. Conrad Shawcross showing at Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction at The Barbican Centre.

Adam Lee at Beers London.

John Chamberlain of Gagosian showing at the Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

Ugo Rondinone at Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

Tony Cragg at Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

Takuro Kuwata of Alison Jacques Gallery at Frieze Sculpture Park in Regents Park.

Urs Fischer of Gagosian in the Frieze Sculpture Park in RegentsPark.


Gallery run 29th July

First stop today is Matt’s Gallery near Tower Bridge. Willlie Doherty has produced a video work on show here that juxtaposes on two screens, both the arrival of arms in Donegal prior to the Easter uprising in Ireland and also the location in Dublin where the revolutionaries were holed up in 1916. The centenary of that event seems to be the inspiration for this work and reminds me of another recent and important work on the Easter uprising by Jaki Irvine at Frith Street Gallery. Round the corner in Bermondsey Street is White Cube and there is a big mixed show of female artists. The theme is surrealism and the curating principle is that, just as the female body has been depicted by male artists as an external form and often disfigured by the removal of the hands and head for example, the female mind as an internal presence can through art describe and depict important realities whilst engaging in the discourse of surrealism. In short the work is fab. Stand-out artworks include Tracey Emin’s bronze statue with a slight alteration to one of the legs, and two great painters. Caitlin Keogh has made images of single female figures with various attachments including ropes and small male figures on puppet strings. The appearance is slick and has a flat graphic quality but with little touches of paint to provide the details. Meanwhile next door there is another piece that I try to identify from the exhibition catalogue. However due to its slightly unusual editing, wherein it has focused on the general work of the artists rather than the individual pieces, I still don’t know who it is by. With thirty or forty artists on show, I need to ask the gallery assistant to identify the artwork. She obligingly does with a well worn A4 sheet and a numbering system extending well beyond 150. Jordan Kasey has painted a fan with tassels that stream in the direction of an adjacent female figure, all of which has been depicted with a loose but precise application of oil paint.

Across Tower Bridge is the Whitechapel Gallery where in the main space, Benedict Drew is showing work based on the economic theory of the Trickle Down Effect. There are some large cartoon-like paintings on giant pieces of banner-vinyl whilst in the middle of the space is a podium of glitzy objects, though with some distortions to the tableau such as a giant veiny eyeball which acts as a device to remove some of the glitz on closer inspection. Clearly the artist is not a fan of the Trickle Down Phenomenon. Next door, Emma Hart has been to Italy with an awarded residency and has expanded her ceramic practice to include some specialised techniques. The ceramics are like lamp shades in practice, since they cleverly project speech bubbles through their openings onto the gallery floor and with surprisingly sharp outlines, but they are also beautiful objects in themselves. Externally they have simple designs on their surface but on the brightly lit interiors the colours are extremely vivid and maybe this is where her newly acquired expertise has found its application.

After the brief jog up Brick Lane and a quick lunch at Bagel Bake which has now finished its refurbishment, though they haven’t replaced the clock on the new grey tiles yet, I decide to put in the legwork and head for Trafalgar Square. The National Portrait Gallery has artworks by some important contemporary artists, including by Alessandro Raho, who has painted Dame Judi Dench, and by Marlene Dumas, who has envisaged a stunning portrait of Oscar Wilde. Finally, in the National Gallery next door, I find Chris Ofili’s large woven tapestry. A documentary with Alan Yentob has laid the foundation already in describing the three year period over which the professional weavers added different coloured pixels using a thick woollen weave even recreating the random marks of graphite powder that stand aside from the main composition in the original sketches. But seeing the artwork in situ it looks like an alter piece and the dim lighting adds a further sense of being in a chapel. Two figures are placed at the bottom of deserted cliffs amongst empty glades creating a depiction of nature that whilst being classical in composition, is decidedly modern with respect to its style and colour palette.


Willie Doherty at Matt’sGallery with work about the 1916 Easter uprising in Dublin.

Tracey Emin of White Cube in a group show called Dreamers Awake.

Caitlin Keogh at White Cube in a group show called Dreamers Awake.

Jordan Kasey at White Cube in a group show Dreamers Awake.

Benedict Drew at Whitechapel Gallery with artworks about a rather questionable economic theory called the Trickle Down Effect.

Emma Hart at Whitechapel Gallery.

Alessandro Raho of Alison Jacques Gallery with a portrait of Dame Judi Dench at National Portrait Gallery.

Marlene Dumas of Frith Street Gallery with a depiction of Oscar Wilde.

Chris Ofili at The National Gallery with a hand-woven tapestry.


Gallery run 6th July

Today is another hot day and with sun cream and cap at the ready, I head over Lambeth Bridge towards Pace Gallery just off Piccadilly. Nathalie Du Pasquier has created an installation out of the entire gallery. Central to the space is an inner room with walls painted red onto which four works have been hung. One artwork catches my eye here, comprising several chunky objects painted in separate primary colours but concealed behind a white screen allowing a multitude of shadows and colour combinations to be explored in their resulting still life depiction. Other paintings include factory-like images which occupy a strange middle space between the expanse of landscape and the intimate private space of a still-life set up. This is partly achieved through the artist having made wooden maquettes of the original objects before then painting these directly.

A few streets away in Golden Square, there is a group show at Frith Street Gallery and three artists catch my eye, Daniel Silver, Fiona Banner and Callum Innes. They have created, respectively, life-sized sculptures of elegant figures, strips of paper with heavily worked graphite surfaces and finally a painting of solid blocks of colour with delicate overworking that soften their geometric forms. With the temperature rising now towards midday I am switching vest and T-shirt over as I leave, in order to remain presentable in the galleries.

Along Eastcastle street, just north of Oxford Circus, I come to Pilar Corrias Gallery. Here another group show announces that summer is upon us, since this is a preferred format for this time of year, and there is some great work on show here too. Judith Bernstein has produced a fantastic depiction of life, the universe and everything in a single compact painting. Downstairs, Sophie Von Hellermann has joined two canvases together in the middle of the room to create an image that extends across their two surfaces up to the ceiling. It is a diving board but with a marvellous sense of light and colour that gives the art a fantastic sense of presence.

Finally at Alison Jacques Gallery I see two great artists on show. Of particular note are the artworks of Sue Dunkley. They are portraits of figures in social poses and situations and the best examples are two paintings each comprising two bathers. Though they inhabit a social space, the figures have a powerful sense of self-reflection and seem absorbed in their own consciousnesses uniting perfectly the public and the private lives of an individual. Now it is time to meet my Argentine relatives at our rendezvous just off Piccadilly and with their tickets loaded up on my iPhone, I will be taking them around a show.

Nathalie Du Pasquier at Pace Gallery with simplified and striking cityscapes that merge into the genre of still life.

Daniel Silver of Frith Street Gallery.

Fiona Banner of Frith Street Gallery with graphite-laden strips of paper that have a metallic appearance.

Callum Innes of Frith Street Gallery with a boldly articulated painting that also shows a delicacy with the uppermost layer.

Judith Bernstein at Pilar Corrias with a fantastic piece.

Sophie Von Hellermann of Vilma Gold exhibiting in a group show at Pilar Corrias.

Sue Dunkley at Alison Jacques Gallery with vibrant figurative paintings.

Jade Montserrat at Alison Jacques Gallery with intricate and thought-provoking drawings.

The Old Kent Road tank has had a striking Mondrian makeover.