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.

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

Tony Cragg at Tate Modern.

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

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.

Kaye Donachie of Maureen Paley.

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.

Regent’s Canal after the big freeze.

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

Adam Linder choreographed dance at South London Gallery.


Gallery run 11th January

The run to Trinity Buoy Wharf has been an attractive activity ever since a speaker at an event there, Ian Sinclair, notable for walking round the entirety of the M25 and writing a book about it, declared that this wharf, with its location next to the River Lee, marked an historic site. From here the Saxons would check out the Vikings, whilst the latter would return their reconnaissance in this direction from across the barrier of the River Lee. It is right on this junction that this smaller tributary departs the Thames as it takes its waters from the North. With a bacon roll consumed, it is time to head to the first gallery of the day via a series of waterways.

The River Lee provides quite a formidable barrier to the foot traveller even today and unlike the fairly tortuous route of a few weeks ago which required a four lane highway as travelling companion to cross the river, today’s route wends its way north past the giant docks of Canary Wharf and onwards up the Regent’s Canal, escorting me to Hackney, and indeed, arriving fifteen minutes early at one of the midday openers. PeerUK is hosting Catherine Story from nearby Carl Freedman gallery and in its window are clues to the nature of the show. Clay maquettes are the artist’s starting point and these have then been transposed to canvas as a series of Surreal looking paintings populated by chunky figures with shear planes suggestive of both limbs and machinery. They are in fact reminiscent of Cubism and with the clay being a plastic medium, the artist appears to have worked out in advance, the various folds, bobbles, distortions and protrusions, distinctive of that style, before then transposing them to the two dimensional world of paint.

Herald Street Gallery has opened a new space in Museum Street just near the British Museum and Ida Ekblad is on show. Her rather stunning, bright paintings are actually made with plastic, a fact gleaned whilst reading her press release off the phone in those last few minutes of waiting outside the previous space. The plastic has been melted and smeared with a palette knife and yet none of its intensity of colour, whether it be derived from a previous state as coloured carrier bag or plastic household object, a specific origin that the artist doesn’t actually divulge, has been lost. Rather this detritus of daily life lives on in a strange afterlife as material of a painting, depicting the simple forms of pots that are themselves reminiscent of Greek urns, along with a whole host of other types of ornamentation ranging from flowers to simple coloured planes.

After seeing yet more good quality work up for auction at Phillips, with a couple of stand out pieces by Alex Israel and Barnaby Furnas, the next destination is south of the River at Vauxhall where Cabinet Gallery sits proudly in the middle of the aptly named, Pleasure Garden. Henrik Olesen’s musings on the nature of an object lead to an unusual, though confident display of tacked, nailed and propped materials that sit and hang against the various white-walled nooks that this gallery has made available with its slightly unusual polygon-styled floor plan. On many of the box-sections of brushed aluminium, which feature as rectangular frames or stand-alone girders, there are small inscriptions presented on clear plastic rather as one might find accompanying cooking instructions on a ready-meal, and these provide further philosophical reflections by the artist on object hood. Perhaps by giving us a general scene of peculiar part-objects to look at whilst openly questioning their validity, the artist is also trying to evoke an aspect of the human condition that has been put into words by the philosopher Heidegger, that since the Greek ages we have passed over the phenomena of the world, a general being, and instead focused our attention, to our detriment, on individual objects from which we try to extract meaning.

Catherine Story of Carl Freedman Gallery on show at Peer UK.

Ida Ekblad of Herald Street Gallery with vivid paintings made from melted plastic.

Barnaby Furnas of Victoria Miro provides the statement piece for auction at Phillips.

Alex Israel on auction at Phillips and adorning the front cover of the catalogue as befits a top ranking artist shown by Gagosian Gallery amongst others.

Michael Pybus on auction at Phillips.

Clever use of stickers on this bike.

Henrik Olesen presents a show at Cabinet Gallery of what could perhaps be described as partial objects, many of which are casually stapled or pinned to the wall. The show itself seems to question what an object actually is.

Simon Thompson of Cabinet Gallery, an artist I’ve wanted to visit for a while, has done prints of objects on rather fab rug-like objects with a hanging tag.

Michael Armitage of White Cube showing at South London Gallery. An allegorical piece as a mother gives birth to a goat. Not a good thing! and dreams of a better life symbolised by washing machine top right, are back on hold.

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.


Gallery run 20th April

West End to Peckham.

Set off at 11.15, later than usual, in the cool spring sun and made my way to Burgess Park. On the way a new friend I had made a couple of weeks ago, a tabby cat, bounded across the road to greet me. Onwards to the River Thames via Kennington Tube Station and Newport Street where Damian Hirst’s gallery is located. That’s a show I will be saving up for next time. Then I cross Lambeth Bridge and reach St Jame’s Park. Across Piccadilly and I reach Pace Gallery which is showing works in stitched fabric by the American artist Richard Tuttle. His works look like they are falling apart but yet have an understated beauty. They are stitched fabrics with additional embroidery and colour patches. In the press release he writes that he is exploring the space between two and three dimensions.
Richard Tuttle at Pace Gallery with artworks made from gently worked fabrics.

Then onto Almine Rech passing a film crew in Saville Row whom I overhear are searching for a location to film in the street. “How about the coolest gallery around”, I think to myself, though the chance of them stumbling upon it from the small flight of stairs that leads up from an unassuming entrance lobby seems unlikely. Ziad Antar has photographed public sculptures in a state of renovation with fabric protection completely covering them. In the gallery there are three-dimensional copies of these, creating an installation.
Ziad Antar at Almine Rech with photos of covered statues. There are also 3D recreations of them presented alongside.

Today is Peckham day and it needed careful planning as the three galleries I am visiting there are late openers and I seldom have enough time to catch them before I have to go to work in the afternoon. Today is fine though. Running towards Peckham I see an extraordinary display of waves of yellow and white paint spread out along the main road next to the Oval cricket ground. Clearly an accident earlier in the day.
Outside Oval Cricket Ground. Some paint spillage has been turned into street art by the car wheels.

My favourite baker Sophocles heats up a cheese borek for me and I grab a caramel slice knowing my pockets will fill up with change but also that the thick chocolate layer on top looks delicious. Eric Van Lieshaut is showing at The South London Gallery and the graceful charm of his video works puts across the personality of an artist who seems to make an adventure out of every day.
Erik Van Lieshout of Maureen Paley at South London Gallery with a film featuring wild cats.

Peckham building site.

Turn right towards Bellenden Road and I reach Arcadia Missa, a small gallery in a railway arch alongside car repair workshops.
Hamishi Farah at Arcadia Missa with a portrait presented in an unusual way in the gallery.

I also check into Hannah Barry gallery where a delivery man is gently reprimanded for not using the right door, having used the public one that I had been standing at waiting to gain entry myself. Upstairs I recognise James Balmforth’s works using an oxygen lance to disturb and obliterate the surface of a steel block turning it into a seething mass of droplets preserved now for posterity in the gallery.
James Balmforth with torched metal pieces.

Round the corner at Sunday Painter I beep myself in and see a beautiful pattern made by Leo Fitzmaurice out of junk mail leaflets carefully overlapped to conceal unwanted text.
Leo Fitzmaurice of The Sunday Painter with a striking pattern made from junk advertising leaflets.

Meanwhile Samara Scott who makes sculptures out of liquids, crystals and folds of paper has installed a tray of her latest offering into the laminate flooring of the gallery. With photos of these two gallery artists complete I return to my home.
Samara Scott at The Sunday Painter with a colourful liquid sculpture embedded into the gallery’s laminated floor.


Gallery run 5th January

Lisson Gallery to Hackney on Regent’s Canal then SLG.

Jason Martin of Lisson Gallery in a film at the gallery with his exhibited paintings, describing the paint moving technique he has returned to after 20 years.

Ai Weiwei at Lisson Gallery with parts of a Chinese hall. Sitting on the stones is encouraged.

Jonathan Baldock at Peer with Emma Hart showing a giant baby walker in a less than flattering portrait of domestic bliss. Love Life.

Kaye Donachie of Maureen Paley in a group show.

Silke Schatz at Wilkinson Gallery with work relating to political events whilst nature makes cameo appearances. A plant tree using shelf spurring.

Lucy McKenzie showing at Maureen Paley with images of our 4 infamous spies. Kim Philby.

Emma Hart at Peer with a two person show based on Punch and Judy called Love Life where domestic bliss is punctuated with arguments and repetition.

Brick Lane road sign.

Roman Ondak at South London Gallery on day 99 of his 100 day show. 100 slices of oak tree each bearing annual events of the last century are transferred from floor to gallery wall. Just one peg left for this Brexit slice.


Gallery run 6th July

West through Burgess Park, Lambeth Bridge, Battersea Park to Wandsworth recycling depot. Bacon sandwich, then back east to Chelsea bridge, through Victoria arriving at Gagosian on Grosvenor Hill. Then run to Ibid Gallery, Rodeo Gallery, Sadie Coles HQ and back South over Lambeth Bridge. To Greengrassi, Corvi Mora and South London Gallery. Picked up a postcard artwork there and returned it to the artist’s gallery.

Mark Grotjahn at Gagosian with work that departs radically from his close studies of nature.

Raymond Pettibon at Sadie Coles HQ.

John Adamo at Ibid Gallery. Small ceramic models of biscuits (and crumbs).

Damian Ortega of White Cube showing at South London Gallery in Under the Same Sun. Sculpted tortillas.

Ian Law at Rodeo Gallery. Wrapped hospital screens placed in the very bright sunny corner of the gallery.

Gallery Runner was encouraged to take a postcard from Rivane Neuenschwander’s artwork by one of the gallery assistants at South London Gallery. Only catch is it must be sent on somewhere. Why not to her gallery #stephenfriedman?

Karinruggaber at Greengrassi with a wall assemblage.

Erika Verzutti of Alison Jacques showing at South London Gallery in Under the Same Sun.

Gallery Runner has seen plenty of these along the canals! Simon Ling at Greengrassi with paintings of piled debris on junk barges.