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.

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Gallery run 15th February

Gallery runs by artist, jogger and London explorer Julian.

Gagosian Gallery, which is on Brittania Street near Kings Cross, has been between exhibitions for several weeks and the two present shows by Nancy Rubins and Vera Lutter are therefore much awaited. They don’t disappoint! The scale of work by both artists is stunning. For Nancy Rubins the scale requires engineering solutions to hold her sculptures together. Assembled metal objects originating from scrap yards and fairgrounds are secured to a network of cross linking metal cables. These cables allow the sculptures to project way beyond the relatively small plinths that they sit upon. Furthermore, the placement of these cables forms an elaborate system of cantilevers which incorporate the various objects on display into their design. The art objects then, rather like Calder’s mobiles, serve both as surface for contemplation as well as physical mass within this larger system.

In contrast Vera Lutter’s works, whilst being physically large, draw their true impact from the scale of the machinery that underpins them. Her works are giant negatives which are about 3.5 metres high, roughly 100 times the height of old fashioned film negatives. It is of no surprise, therefore, that the object she has used for a camera carries a similar multiplication of scale. It’s a shipping container no less. The various expanses of photographic negative before us in the gallery are a sort of physical trace of the walls of this container that they would have been stuck against during their exposure and on this account they bring with them a sense of the magnitude of the container itself, its steel plate and enormous mass. If this double reading were not enough, though, the artist has then presented yet another level of engagement with the images. For they are of the world’s largest radio telescope and this creates a powerful metaphor of observation through use of only the faintest of signals. The faint traces of energy from outer space would be equivalent in some way to the almost imperceptible light reaching the pieces of film inside the container.

The next section of the run is over the hill at Angel. This means leaving the canal behind as it disappears into a very long tunnel and hot-footing it across to the other side. Back by the water, another lock serves to drop its level, before a spur of water branches out sideways past Victoria Miro gallery. A great show by David Altmejd at Stuart Shave Modern Art, a gallery slightly further on, is followed by a return to the canal and a visit to Stuart Shave’s second gallery space in Hackney. Paul Lee has produced several combinations of canvas and tambourines, the latter being a familiar trope for the artist, and they have an interesting sensuous quality due to a sort of exchange of physical properties from their close proximity. The tightly stretched skins of both objects, both sitting about 2 inches away from the wall, unite to produce a sort of extended space across their combined surfaces.

In contrast to these, the artist has produced four wall-mounted objects that appear, at first sight, to be no more than a cluster of recyclables, fabrics and bits of wire. However, they have a great sense of freedom to their forms, something that would require either chance processes for their assembly or else the application of sound artistic principles to block any unwanted rational processes of repetition, use of pre-established pattern or over reliance on an external narrative. None of these deficiencies here and what’s more for good measure, the central core of each object, which may well have been fashioned from a fizzy drink can, offers the one-off surprise to a viewer taking a closer look, that they are actually portraits of a male face rendered in black screen print style ink. Though small, this figurative element offers a strong contrast to their constructivist style.

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Antonio Calderara at Lisson Gallery.

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On the Regent’s Canal. A new layer of image just added with the yellow sign.

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Nancy Rubins of Gagosian Gallery.

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Vera Lutter of Gagosian Gallery with images of one of the world’s largest radio telescopes made using a giant pinhole camera constructed from a shipping container.

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David Altmejd of Stuart Shave, Modern Art with plaster reliefs inspired by the complex biological evolutions of organisms.

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Paul Lee of Stuart Shave, Modern Art.

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Eddie Peake of White Cube with an immersive installation.

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He Xiangyu of White Cube with small clusters of wire and pieces of metal that had benn smuggled out of North Korea to China for a pitifully small cash price.

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Andrea G Artz has produced novel photographic origami pieces at Crol And Co.

Gallery run 12th October

One of the most enjoyable runs is along the Regent’s Canal from Lisson Gallery to Wharf Road, where Victoria Miro and Parasol Unit are situated. Having been to neither gallery for a while there are new shows to see at each and with the addition of an exceptionally fair autumn day the planets are aligned for a good run. At Lisson Gallery, Allora and Calzadilla have installed a display that very obliquely criticises America’s policy towards Puerto Rico and other affiliated states. These states don’t get a star on the US flag and furthermore, according to the artists, suffer from the ambiguity of their legal status of being “Foreign in a Domestic Sense”. They are foreign in some respects and domestic in others but in a way that gives them generally a bad deal, as the critique continues. How could this critique be presented as an artwork?, one might wonder. Partly through drawing attention to the phrase above in its use as the show title and partly also through arguing that the work itself by a sort of mimetic response, embodies contradictory aspects in its own form. On display is a transformer plugged into a domestic power socket making a surprisingly large humming sound off what is presumably a 13 amp plug. With various bits of foliage and earth surrounding it, the electrical equipment does indeed seem to deliver this contradictory response to the viewer that the artists had hoped for. The artwork is actually rather scary to get close up to for the photograph.

At the other gallery Daniel Buren has installed beautifully finished powder-coated, coloured modules against a mirror background. This encourages the simple conceit on my part of trying to pick up reflections from across the gallery and uniting the different modules in single camera shots. Buren’s characteristic 8.7cm vertical stripes unite all the modules together and this is a geometric feature which the press release diligently draws attention to.

The canal is looking good today adorned by the sparkling sun and the towpath is full of walkers and cyclists. Though the canal is not a short cut, it allows the mind to switch off and soon enough one arrives at Wharf Road, 5 miles away. Tal R is showing his sex shop paintings which are a lot less explicit than they sound. Indeed it is the very barrier of the front door and plain facade of the shop that the artist likens to a physical barrier of the painted canvas. The critique continues that the canvas obscures various desires forever hinted at but unrealised through the medium of paint. The images are painted from photographs but rather than this being a negative feature in the sense that the images are only copies, the photographs add a performative aspect to the artwork. For these photographs are collected randomly by the artist’s friends and thereby remove some sense of the artist’s own taste and instead allow the subject matter to be presented as a simple phenomenon.

Having also seen some more great artwork at Parasol unit, the last destination is The Strand where Lisson Gallery have taken over a building. The building is scheduled for demolition and has temporarily assumed the name of Store Studios. Here the Lisson artists have executed some of their installations in this new setting and of particular note is Ryan Gander’s sculpture depicting glowing steps ascending to a rectangular doorway, which is actually a sheet of back-lit plexiglass. The effect is to suggest some transcendental ascent to those climbing those steps (but as they number only three and are built of plexiglass too, cannot be walked on) set within the shabby walls of the condemned building. With the index of Lisson artists largely addressed in this show and the earlier works from the morning further drawing from that index, the day has finished with a decidedly minimalist Lisson-like feel.

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Daniel Buren of Lisson Gallery with wall mounted pieces based on his characteristic 8.7cm wide black and white stripes.

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Allora and Calzadilla of Lisson Gallery. Foreign in a Domestic Sense is a legal American phrase which the artists feel is unfair to certain of its allies.

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Regent’s Canal.

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Tal R of Victoria Miro with his new series of paintings based on photos of sex shops, many of which were sent to him from around the world.

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Martin Puryear at Parasol Unit with beautifully crafted sculptures.

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Robert Montgomery at the Parasol Unit with a large outdoor text piece.

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Idris Kahn of Victoria Miro with delicate text-based paintings.

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Anish Kapoor of Lisson Gallery showing at Store Studios on The Strand.

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Ryan Gander of Lisson Gallery at Store Studios on The Strand.

Gallery Run 6th August

Sculpture in the City 2017 is a trail of artworks in London’s square mile and is the destination for today’s run. With the sun shining I head towards Limehouse Basin before taking an eastwards loop that comprises the three links of the Limehouse Cut, the River Lee and finally the Hertford Union Canal. Having effectively done three sides of a square, the loop rejoins the Regent’s Canal and the waterway makes quick progress along its direct route towards Islington. It drops me off at Old Street and from here there is only a short distance to go before the beginning of the trail on the A10 near Tower 42.

Mark Wallinger’s sculpture of a thoroughbred horse stands sleekly in the lunchtime sun absorbing the rays through a dark bronze patina. A group of children stand by it and pose for a family snap. Just down the A10 is the next piece by Martin Creed. He has used plastic bags placed amongst the branches of a tree to create a colourful spectacle whilst copying the manner in which an individual bag might create an unfortunate eyesore, thereby allying this attractive artwork to its antithesis created by chance from the city’s litter.

Last year the route was V shaped and the apex of the V was Leadenhall market. This had provided an enchanting gateway to the blue chip buildings that cluster around the core of the City in homage to some of the world’s finest architects. This year the destination is the same but the numbering of the trail suggests a more prosaic progress along the trail with a simple left turn off the A10. The magic is quickly restored, though upon seeing the next two artworks lit by shafts of sunlight that have made their way through this towering core of buildings. Ryan Gander’s artwork continues the theme of an incidental object that has attached itself to a tree. Not a bag this time but a parachute. Alongside this are four blue tanks and when put together the narrative suggests perhaps a vertical descent of some vital supplies over a last few fictitious seconds before becoming embedded amongst the branches one is currently looking at. In contrast, Paul McCarthy’s work nearby uses none of the resident objects in the plaza to create its narrative but rather through its scale looks as though it has always been here. It consists of two giant figures that are almost as big as the trees populating the plaza. Characteristic of the artist, little nut-like protrusions give the figures a cartoonish quality.

The remaining artworks are an eclectic mix. Daniel Buren presents a classic four colour composition with accompanying black and white striped frame whilst Gary Webb has used the natural colours of exotic materials to create a delicious looking sculpture stacked up like a fruit sundae. A little further along the street Damian Hirst presents a colourful bronze anatomical figure of a man. Finally Karen Tang’s piece called “Synapse”, a large fibreglass construction comprising five or six yellow and green sausage-like elements, gets the biggest endorsement of the day from a group of kids who rush over to it saying “wow”!

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Regent’s Canal.

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Mark Wallinger of Hauser and Wirth, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Martin Creed of Hauser and Wirth, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Ryan Gander of Lisson Gallery, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Paul McCarthy of Hauser and Wirth, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Daniel Buren of Lisson Gallery, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Gary Webb of The Approach Gallery, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Damien Hirst, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Karen Tang, Sculpture In The City 2017.

Gallery run 24th May

The streets are filled with the drone of helicopters as I reach Lambeth Bridge. Security is high today after the tragic bombing of Manchester two days earlier. At St James’ Park the guardsmen on horseback are given a police escort as a car and policeman on bicycle flank the procession. The first gallery is White Cube where Wayne Thiebaud has a retrospective of pie and cake paintings along with landscapes. The application of paint is in thin single-coloured sheets rendered with parallel brushstrokes. On the food they look like icing whilst on the landscapes, nature itself looks edible. Across Piccadilly I arrive at Pace Gallery. Joel Shapiro has created an installation of coloured solid forms. I read that the airborne forms are made of 3mm plywood making them light enough to be suspended by thin wires. As described on the photo below, the floor based forms actively flaunt much thicker sides and greater mass. As a whole we are perhaps induced through illusion to believe the floating forms are of a similar design and are thereby defying gravity in some way. Back onto the streets I pass Berwick Street market whilst being stuck behind a cement mixer and pause to let the street and the way forward clear. Wardour Street leads on to Berners Street where I push open a door for the second time this month and find myself in an office next to Alison Jacques Gallery, a mistake in other words, and go into the gallery feeling slightly self conscious about the rather gauche circumstance of my arrival. The show I wanted to see is invitation only and in fact completely closed today due to the installation of a big show downstairs, though the woman on the front desk graciously invites me to the big opening in a week’s time. Hopefully this will feature in the next run. Slade School of Art have their BA this week and I was struck by the work of Chloe Ong and Max Martyns, both painters. The next student show I go to is the St Martin’s BA at St Pancras, but first I stop at Brittania Street and see a triple bill of Giacometti, Peter Lindberg and Taryn Simon. I had seen the work by Simon before and loved it. Bouquets recreated and photographed accompany political text describing the signing of a treaty, where the original flowers were present, and the narrative continues to subsequent events many of which involve war and conflict. The walk to St Martin’s College is stunning through the back of St Pancras and over a bridge crossing the Regent’s Canal. The college has an open atrium leading to 3 floors and on the top floor is a piece of work I love by Nathaniel Faulkner where high-tech facade meets low-tech materials. Another work by the same artist catches my eye. An IBM supercomputer, is powered by a few fairy lights, whilst the rest of the lights hang loose, visible from the back along with a roll of Sellotape casually left behind. Finally the canal takes me east to the exit at Wharf Road. After photographing Anne November Cathrin Hoibo’s beautiful textile works at Carl Freedman Gallery, I head south and reach Matt’s Gallery. David Batchelor has created a great installation notable for its use of giant hole cutter and un-precious materials. On the way out I meet the director and after an introduction we do a quick catch up on the day’s shows!

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Wayne Thiebaud at White Cube with richly rendered landscapes in addition to his famous cake paintings.

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Joel Shapiro at Pace Gallery with coloured plywood forms. From a technical viewpoint the floor based forms show thick chunky edges whilst by a kind of illusion the air based pieces conceal their thin 3mm sides and appear to float from thin wires.

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Chloe Ong at Slade Degree Show 2017 with beautifully composed landscapes.

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Max Martyns at Slade Degree Show 2017 with an exciting use of brushstroke.

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Taryn Simon at Gagosian with recreations of exotic bouquets that had been made originally for important signings of international deals.

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Nathaniel Faulkner at Central St Martins Degree Show 2017 with stunning recreations of technology from the front view. But look round the back and we see the proper artwork with wooden frames and flashing fairy lights that created the illusion of complex processes.

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Chicks on the towpath of Regents Canal.

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Ann Cathrin November Hoibo of Carl Freedman Gallery with beautifully woven threads and fabrics.

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David Batchelor at Matts Gallery with an installation that portrays the city landscape coming alive by night.

Gallery run 19th May

Today I would be zigzagging along the Regent’s Canal, catching the early openers such as Victoria Miro Gallery before doubling back to visit the later opening Hackney galleries. Soon the hump of the canal appears on Dalston High Street just behind a mosque. The run to Victoria Miro requires an exit at Wharf Road, about 5 or 6 bridges along. I am greeted warmly by a tall chap near the door. Alice Neel’s paintings are of friends and neighbours in Spanish Harlem, where she settled with her husband. The women all have strikingly graceful hands. Upstairs Isaac Julien displays atmospheric stills from a film. From here the route to Beers, the next gallery on the run, takes me across a main road coming down from Islington. Strong, colourful, geometric forms based on architecture fill the gallery. The shapes cast artificial shadows upon themselves whilst the surfaces are pleasingly distressed as though to upset the geometric perfection and allow the eye to feast upon the rich colours. Then a return up Wharf Road and onto the canal makes for quick progress to Wilkinson Gallery near Victoria Park. The current show comprises beautiful, intricate paintings of trees and landscapes by Elizabeth Magill. Branches divide the landscapes into gridded mosaics and in a few places where it suits the composition, the artist has not been afraid to overpaint the branches with background pushing their knotted forms deeper into the composition. There would be two more gallery stops nearby on Herald Street. First I see a powerful sound-based installation by Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Mobile phone footage flashes up on monitors accompanied by shouts and shrieks. But when the sound quietens the monitors appear to switch off. These intermittent images on about 10 different screens powerfully depict an incursion by a crowd across a barbed-wire frontier into Israel. Meanwhile in Herald Street Christina Mackie has displayed beautifully coloured objects in a way that highlights their surfaces and basic forms. Any sense of what the objects may have been used for in the past is lost in the form of the artwork. I jog back to Brick Land through a lovely park and church yard and then weave through a small warren of walkways. Then on towards The City. Raven Row near Shoreditch is an old Huguenot house and the curator and co-director of the gallery has brought together female artists who have added an edgy twist to domestic objects. Lucy Orta has made fantastic live-in objects including a tent with attached hoodie which peers out of the top like a strange periscope. Finally I return west along the River Thames and arrive at Photo-London in Somerset House. Tatsuo Miyagima, an artist I am familiar with from Lisson Gallery, has photographed a fantastic digitalised number 5 created with orange paint on the toned stomach of an athlete.

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Alice Neel at Victoria Miro with portraits of her neighbours in Spanish Harlem New York, though she would later move to Upper West Side.

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Isaac Julien of Victoria Miro with stills from his film Looking For Langston.

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Genti Korini at Beers London with paintings inspired by fantastical architecture.

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On the Regents Canal today.

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Elizabeth Magill of Wilkinson Gallery with paintings of landscapes comprising tree branches in the foreground. Excellent rendering of the broken planes of colour between the branches.

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Christina Mackie of Herald Street with an installation of colourful objects in unusual arrangements.

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Lucy Orta at Raven Row.

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Tatsuo Miyajima at Photo London.

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A tank parked up off the Old Kent Road near Peckham.

Gallery run 6th November

Regent’s Canal to Hackney. Plus Peckham galleries.

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Zeng Fanzhi at Frieze 2016 sculpture park.

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Antony Gormley at White Cube with interactive sculptures containing body sized gaps.

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Sam Porritt at Vitrine Gallery

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Patrick Caulfield at The Approach.

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Virginia Overton at White Cube with a very warm wood burner.

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Regents Canal.

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Piotr Lakomy The Sunday Painter with sculptures made from high tech aluminium honeycomb.

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Jean Dubuffet at Frieze 2016 sculpture exhibition.

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Amalia Ulman at Arcadia Missa with a Labour Dance. A new gallery in Peckham.