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 27th October

The main feature of today’s run is the exceptionally long and attractive stretch between Camden Arts Centre in the west and The Approach Gallery in the east of London. Over half of this journey is off-road.

Rewind two hours and I am in Newport Street Gallery at Damien Hirst’s fifth show since opening the showcase space for his own collection. Like Jeff Koons from an earlier show Dan Colen, along with Hirst himself, are all on the books of Gagosian. Without really following the logic of an argument, this simple association suggests maybe there is some swapping of priceless art pieces between these giants of the contemporary scene. Colen is included in this accolade because he is a rising star and his limited edition of glass bottle and glass cig butts on sale at the entrance for £1600 looks good value on this account. Colen’s works are summarised as essentially self-portraits, by the blurb, and that seems right. For as well as the photo-realist self portrait with its cartoon-like addition, featured, the sculptural works all involve an activity by the artist, be it sticking chewing gum to a canvas or collecting rubbish from New York’s streets and then turning it into improvised paint brushes.

The run north is a long one and features the Zabludowicz collection and the elegant pub-style carpet by Rebecca Ackroyd, before arriving at Camden Arts Centre. Language is a feature of Christian Nyampeta’s show. Some words, he argues, such as philosophy cannot be translated easily into his native tongue of Rwanda. Far from being a deficiency of his country’s languages it is almost the opposite. Western thought has ignored an important concept, which he refers to as “Being”, or more specifically “good will to fellow humans”. In contrast, words from his own culture, he argues, carry these additional connotations as part of their overall meanings. In the other gallery Nathelie Du Pasquier continues her foray into the London consciousness after having recently shown at Pace, and in this gallery she has made a brightly coloured installation suggestive of industrialisation through the tripling of her motifs which is reminiscent of the three phase power supply that remains segregated from generator to power line to factory.

The intermission referred to at the beginning, the long run between west and east, begins with Hampstead Heath. The hard-won altitude gained at Hampstead is quickly surrendered as one approaches the three ponds and with Highgate church now looming above, it is this ascent that will then provide the fantastic views across London before one enters the trees and scrubland of Parkland walk. As mentioned in previous runs, Parkland Walk is a disused railway line and thankfully today it is on a downwards gradient and, with its array of bridges over low roads and ornate arches under the higher ones, one that is remarkably constant in its gradual descent.

In the east, three artists are showing at The Approach gallery, whilst outside the downstairs pub police-style tape causes momentary alarm as it surrounds the railings of the outer seating space, before revealing its joke on closer inspection, as a Halloween prop and not the site of major incident. Artworks feature motorways and smoke from three of the gallery’s strong list of regulars.

Nearby, the building formally inhabited by Wilkinson gallery has been taken over by Stuart Shave. Josh Kline has cast familiar objects in concrete and then smashed them up slightly, whilst other objects have been cut in half with some extremely effective cutting tool. Having achieved the precision of a smooth cut through the variety of materials making up consumer objects, the plastic of a knob and the steel of a fascia, the artist has then taped together two incongruous halves. A twin of different shape but similar function ensures that this part of the process looks impromptu and scruffy like some final ironic comment about the objects and perhaps also about the process of making art.

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Dan Colen represented by Gagosian showing at Newport Street Gallery. Beautifully painted and a witty dialogue between cherub and a rather austere looking silver medallion.

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Rebecca Ackroyd at Zabludowicz Collection with a carpet design that explores Britishness referencing, in particular, the pub carpet.

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Christian Nyampeta at Camden Arts Centre with an installation and video work that explores the problem of translating western concepts such as philosophy into the language of the Rwandan people.

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Nathalie Du Pasquier at Camden Arts Centre with bold images using isometric drawing, a graphic technique that doesn’t rely on perspective.

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Sam Windett of The Approach with paintings incorporating collage based around the themes of roads and driving.

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John Stezaker of The Approach with pictures of smoke without its cause, in other words heavily cropped chimneys.

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Lisa Oppenheim of The Approach with solarised smoke photographs.

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Josh Kline at Stuart Shave Modern Art with cut up and reassembled objects.

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Tim Rollins and KOS of Maureen Paley with drawn-on texts.

Gallery run 21st July

To get to Lisson Gallery, I jog along the green corridor of St Jame’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park before cutting through the Paddington Basin and finally taking the underpass under the busy A40 and Edgeware Road. Lisson Gallery is hosting a group show themed around Chardin and in true Lisson spirit, the artworks are decidedly minimal as though the artists know there is nothing to be gained in trying to outdo the old master’s realistic rendering of light. The artworks are good though and include a great piece by Audrey Barker that looks like the palette of colours in an oversized make-up box. In the gallery’s other building, the central room has been filled with razor wire. Santiago Sierra creates spaces that are reminiscent of borders and boundaries to try to make us reflect on the effect of separation and the extreme measures sometimes used to enforce it. The grid pattern of the razor wire is actually remarkable on account of its regularity, allowing distinct shapes and patterns to be picked out from different viewpoints.

The next destination is Camden Arts Centre on the outskirts of Hampstead. Daniel Richter is showing a retrospective of his painting that includes figurative and abstract works. One of the latter works stands out as stunning having an enormous quantity of elements and layers to it. Meanwhile in an adjacent room a second artist, Jennifer Tee has made juxtapositions of woven fabrics and plastic objects that seem to be colour-matched and produce a strong overall effect of unity.

Jogging up to Highgate, a number of shrines come into view occupying a small section of tree-lined grassland cordoned off from the main village green. There are candles, flags and photographs and it quickly becomes clear that these are dedicated to George Michael. But there is also an intensity to the tributes suggesting that he really did die before his time.

After several more miles of green space, albeit with a dusty stretch through Angel, Wharf road plays host to the next gallery, Parasol Space. Vibrant work by Monique Frydman is on show. Close by, Stuart Shave Modern Art is showing the work of gallery artist Katy Moran. She has incorporated great brushstrokes into her paintings that seem to be made up of different colours, as though she loaded up the width of her brush with a selection of different colours. Then having been passed across the surface, the resulting strokes have brought these colours to life as coloured streaks which remain differentiated from their neighbours.

Finally Carl Freedman gallery is showing Nel Aerts. She has produced sublime cartoon-like paintings which portray the artist herself experiencing a period of slight isolation during a residency she was doing at one of Van Goch’s former dwellings. The gallery manager sneezes at the front desk which is out of sight and in that split second when I’m wondering whether to acknowledge it, he suddenly remembers that the gallery lights have been switched off and kindly rushes to put them on. The colourful paintings acquire an even greater intensity and new details appear.

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Audrey Barker at Lisson Gallery with a fab palette of colours in an exhibition celebrating Chardin.

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Santiago Sierra of Lisson Gallery with a no-go space full of razor wire.

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Daniel Richter at Camden Arts Centre, with a retrospective of his paintings including this great abstract piece.

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Jennifer Tee at Camden Arts Centre with a great, colourful installation.

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George Michael shrines around trees on the way up to Highgate village from Hampstead.

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Monique Frydman at Parasol Unit with great abstract pastels built up from rubbings and a vocabulary of repeated marks.

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Katy Moran of Stuart Shave Modern Art with great multi-coloured brush strokes.

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Fiona Ackerman at Beers London.

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Nel Aerts of Carl Freedman with paintings and fabric cartoon-like figures, mainly the artist herself, inspired by a residency in a former home to Van Gogh.

Gallery run 5th May

This week’s run is the big one up to Highgate which I do when a new show is on at the Camden Arts Centre near Hampstead. There is just enough time to get round the 6+ hour circuit and with the sun shining, I set off. First stop is Brick Lane to pick up an apple strudel from Bagel Bake and build up the carbs. Then north to the Regent’s Canal…Islington….Finsbury Park….Parkland Walk. This is a stunning disused railway line with trees and graffiti. A mother panics briefly as her child has lagged behind, but quickly reappears thankfully and jogs on past me. A bicycle bell then rings behind me and as I step to one side a child thanks me as she shoots past catching up with her mum. Then onwards to ….Highgate….Hampstead Heath….two ponds and Louie’s and more carbs. Then the steep decline of Arkwright Road before arriving at the Camden Arts Centre. As I read the blurb on the hallway wall before going into the gallery, the assistant sneezes. “Bless you” seems a good thing to say. Going into the gallery, the name Paul Johnson seems familiar to me from the list of artists I have memorised from the galleries on my running circuits. Bruce Haines gallery possibly. This is confirmed by the BH gallery’s homepage, news splash. Sculptural shapes dominate the space, some carefully manufactured and others made from stacked detritus. Together they create a strong unified installation. In the gallery next door Greta Bratescu, who is still making work in her nineties, has a retrospective with some beautiful little drawings accompanying photographs and stitched fabric. Then it is south to Lisson Gallery. Anish Kapoor is showing new work including a concave mirror with the top half edited out using an unreflective layer. The effect is striking as the reflected objects move in relation to this stationary surface responding to the viewer’s own movements. Further down Bell Street at the other gallery, Djurberg and Berg are showing cartoon-like characters that have submitted to base desires and appear to be having a great time in their rectangular tableaux world. At Gagosian Gallery further south I enter the darkened setting of a Picasso show featuring bulls and minotaurs. An attendant shakes his head as I point to the phone and therefore no photo but a great show and some beautiful paintings. In Simon Lee Gallery there is the smell of fresh paint. The paintings have been covered in a silver surface which has then been raked off to reveal colourful underpainting. Then the final leg south to the building that jointly houses Greengrassi and Corvi-Mora. Downstairs Brian Calvin has made pop-art style portraits that are very expressive but beautifully simplified. Upstairs Giuseppe Gabellone has made a carefully crafted crate from bamboo and carved supporting units into which some organic shapes gently nestle. That is the ninth and last photo of the day.

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Parkland Walk is a disused railway route turned into a nature reserve.

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Hampstead Heath pond which I passed on the way back south from Highgate.

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Paul Johnson of Bruce Haines Mayfair showing at Camden Arts Centre with sculptures mingled with consumer detritus.

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Greta Bratescu at Camden Arts Centre. Drawings and thought provoking objects from the nonagenarian artist.

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Anish Kapoor of Lisson Gallery with beautifully crafted concave mirrors and other objects.

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Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg of Lisson Gallery with objects and cartoon-like figures doing whatever they want with no inhibitions.

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Garth Weisler at Simon Lee Gallery with layered paintings all presenting a pleasing silver grid line surface.

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Brian Calvin showing at Corvi Mora with simplified but expressive faces.

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Giuseppe Gabellone at Greengrassi with what looks like a flat-pack object, but presented on a crate that follows the organic outlines with some of its wooden structure.

Gallery run 3rd February

East to West via Parkland Walk.

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Joachim Koester at Camden Arts Centre with video installations and plank walls. The performers on film do dance-like moves which awaken memories of imitating films as children.

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Brick Lane

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Bouchra Khalili at Lisson Gallery creates new maps of Europe with marker pen as he relates stories of people’s migration. There was a loud bellowing horn-like sound which I presumed to be a sound affect representing the arrival at a port, a major theme in this work.
It actually turned out to be workmen next door using some kind of heavy machinery as part of renovations.

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Johanna Unzueta at Greengrassi with felt pipework. Part of the Condo gallery exchange project.

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Brad Grievson at Arcadia Missa in Condo an art exchange project featuring International gallery artists in London galleries.

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Tomoaki Suzuki of Corvi Mora with carved miniature figures.

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John Latham of Lisson Gallery.

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Laurence Weiner at Lisson Gallery with a text piece on a wall surrounding a rather elegantly pruned tree.

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Karin Ruggaber of Greengrassi.

Parkland Walk, 23rd June

As usual this run is a loop, but unlike the Regent’s Canal circuit described elsewhere, it extends further north to take in Parkland walk. Parkland Walk is a nature reserve created from an old railway used until 1970. Amongst its trees and wildlife, graffiti and nature have rounded off the sharp angular forms of station platforms and decorated the arched bridges that carry criss-crossing roads overhead. Meanwhile, walkers and cyclists barely notice the gentle gradient of this green corridor that rises slowly up to Highgate from Finsbury Park.

From here, the beautiful green space of Hampstead Heath provides the next section of the loop before I arrive at Camden Arts Centre which despite its name is well north of Camden on the Finchley Road. It is hosting Anya Gallaccio and as I wasn’t allowed to get a photo of another group-show inside, am relieved to see her artwork stretched out across the garden, where no photography restriction could possibly apply. As an object it looks like a long, woven, rope structure and even has some similarities to a hammock. This impression is reinforced further by it being draped across the trees in the garden, having extended from the roof terrace space above the garden cafe. With its clear structure of frayed, brown rope that has been joined with knots and cross-links, the real subject of the artwork seems to switch back towards the trees on which it is resting. Somehow the artwork serves as a reminder that the living material over which it is currently draped has an intricacy and strength all of its own.

Whilst Parkland Walk and Anya Gallaccio’s artwork have united to create a theme of nature and its regeneration into cultural artefacts, the next piece at Michael Werner Gallery remains obstinately removed from nature. Jorg Immendorf has painted two figures of children in a cartoon-like idiom that oppose nature through their puffed out cheeks and inflated torsos. They represent a sort of distorted or lost innocence. As the artwork was painted during the Vietnam war, the theme of lost innocence is also historically relevant, though the precise meaning of the image still remains hard to pin down. Formally, the painting is a cut-out round two figures and a pool of water they are sitting in.

Soap suds cascade down these yellow cartoonish torsos and collect on the surface of water, still buoyed by the vigour of a sponge that created them, and then a marvellous little piece of logic unites the yellow of the skin with the blue of the water to determine that the submerged body should necessarily be tinted green. This green and yellow colour palette sets up a system based on the false initial premise of the bright yellow human flesh and lends a sense of disquietude to the image but also a beauty. Then with more false premises acquired for my own artistic ends, it is necessary to make all haste through the busy metropolis and visit the next stop on the run which shall be the RA Schools show in Piccadilly.

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Parkland Walk between Finsbury Park and Highgate. On the way to the Camden Arts Centre.

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Guillermo Kuitca at Hauser and Wirth. The fragmentation cubism-lines become a floor plan.

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Anya Gallaccio of Thomas Dane Gallery showing at Camden Arts Centre. Part of Making and Unmaking show.

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Victoria Morton at Sadie Coles HQ. Colourful images with beautiful recurring motifs.

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Jorg Immendorff at Michael Werner. The babies are iconic symbols of innocence amidst his fierce campaigning against the Vietnam war.

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Nairy Baghramian at Marian Goodman Gallery. The pole structures hold the elements together

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Anna Paterson at RA Schools Show 2016. Oil, pastel and print on aluminium. Another interesting artist at the RA schools show.

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Joseph Grigely shows The Gregory Battcock Archive at Marian Goodman Gallery. Gregory himself is photographed in front of the first plane painted by Alexander Calder for Braniff Airlines in 1972.

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Rafal Topolewski at RA Schools Show 2016. Yellow, Orange and Black and Turn. Great paintings.