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.

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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.

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John Copeland in Newport Street Gallery with figurative paintings.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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Gallery run 20th December

Rose Wiley has a show at the Serpentine Gallery and the jog out west from Peckham proceeds over Lambeth Bridge, along the Embankment to Chelsea before finally reaching the damp Autumn grass of Hyde Park. In the show, a great painting made of several panels, has been installed where two walls meet at right angles. A sort of half panorama is the result. Several figures float around the space, sporting tabs like the kind that were used in children’s cut-out kits for adding outfits and interspersed amongst these figures are various symbols such as ovals and bits of text, each deeply evocative. The overall effect is a painting that feels like a powerful memory since, in addition to the aforementioned symbols, there is also an extensive network of completely untouched canvas. The artist hasn’t tried to fill this space, as would be the case in a normal panorama functioning as a window on the world, but rather has left the raw canvas as a conduit allowing the eye to move smoothly from one symbol to the next.

To the north of Hyde Park lies the little cul-de-sac of canal called the Paddington Basin, and it is via this little stretch of waterway that one then arrives at Lisson Gallery, spared in the meantime from hearing the thunderous A40 traffic, by a sort of emotional bubble that this charming stretch of canal has put in place. Carmen Herera paints jagged forms that jump across the canvas like lightening bolts and it is in the first of Lisson’s two galleries that the viewer encounters them. In addition there is a surprise. The artist has installed a three-dimensional structure, about the size of two back to back wardrobes and with its shiny blue paint, it seems to encourage various dialogues with the other brightly coloured paintings in the show.

In the second gallery are artworks by Roy Colmer from the 1970’s. Think back to the tech prevalent then and we have bulky old TV sets with horizontal band patterns, flickering away due to the limits of their technology. These are exactly what the artist has evoked in his paintings with their uniformly wide bands of colour. The unique quality of these bands is that they change colour during a single pass and this is what makes them hard to pin down as simply a band of coloured paint, a feat achieved, we are told, by the artist having rigged the spray gun to switch colour whilst still applying the paint in a continuous stream.

Lastly, in Brewer Street, Amanda Wilkinson has set up a new gallery after the restructuring of what was previously Wilkinson gallery. She has taken approximately half of the original artist list and of these artists, Jewyo Rhii, is showing a great installation of make-shift printing devices. Reversed lettering and some strange pivoted arms along with black lettering marks on the gallery wall accompanied by various drips and splats, provides the evidence that these machines actually work, up to a fashion. A lump of rock has been placed in a makeshift tray and this seems to function quite literally as a power supply in the manner of the swinging motion of a pendulum in a clock. With this low tech set-up the artist has enabled the viewer to turn away from the immediate function of a printing device and, rather as Roy Colmer had done, in fact, with his depictions of the TV raster pattern, offer instead a profound meditation on the general nature of the reproduced image without the burdensome presence of the duplication devices themselves.

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The Gingerbread City in Museum of Architecture with different companies of architects offering various cameos that have fitted together in this carefully designed edible city.

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Rose Wylie at Serpentine Gallery with a panoramic artwork that uses a novel method to portray the human figure.

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Carmen Herrera of Lisson Gallery with evocative hard edge paintings.

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Roy Colmer at Lisson Gallery with subject matter based on old flickering 70’s TV sets, but using a cleverly rigged spray gun that can change colour on a single pass.

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Susan Hiller of Lisson Gallery with painted over wallpaper allowing bits of cartoon and word-caption to show through.

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Bex Simon has designed this great public participation artwork on Westminster Magistrates Court.

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Gower Street birthplace of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood.

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Polly Apfelbaum of Frith Street Gallery with a show themed around a foot drawing by Dubuffet.

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Jewyo Rhii at Amanda Wilkinson Gallery with an imaginative design for a printing press. The rocks help the hidden upper sections swing against the gallery wall, imparting black ink from the various word moulds in the process.