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 22nd November

The Saatchi Gallery has been closed for the last two weeks and today’s run offers an eagerly awaited opportunity to check out the group show there. Makiko Kudo, who was previously on the books of Wilkinson Gallery before its recent closure, is showing paintings in one of the rooms. Her subject matter includes figures and trees and a multitude of interactions between them. The figures actually appear to have been gathered up by the arboreal companions and then raised to a viewpoint where they can look down upon the world as though from a lookout post or treehouse replete with those memories of childhood. Also of note in the group show is Dale Lewis. His paintings of street kids and workmen in visibility tops are striking. The figures are all engaged in energetic mannerisms around tables or standing in groups and their movement is conveyed effortlessly, with the figures’ flailing limbs sometimes occupying several positions at once.

Meanwhile, though not quite literally, my own flailing limbs have taken me to South Audley Street where Massimo De Carlo gallery is showing Yan Pei Ming. This artist has depicted the famous scene first rendered by the painter David, in which Napoleon has taken his crown from the then Pope and is lowering it onto his head, his first act as emperor. For an event of such historical importance the painting has to be good and the artist doesn’t disappoint. He has rendered the image not just once, but five times over in a series of tinted, coloured monochrome paintings. Two of these striking images are actually placed beneath the gallery’s own elegant chandelier, and whether by accident or design, the painted crowns seem to sparkle and refract in a way that is prompted by the illuminated glass immediately above them.

At Southard Reid, the gallery assistant is on the phone. But she helpfully gestures to the press releases presented in a neat pile at the foot of a small staircase. The artist R M Fischer is from New York and undergoing something of a renaissance, we are told. He has made a particularly impressive work using plumbing fixtures, such as taps and pipes, to create a sort of bas relief against a background that is itself reminiscent of a section of bathroom wall. On this surface, almost like a graffiti artist, he has rendered fat lines with marker pens and possibly oil sticks, to create the rough forms of cartoon faces. These in turn have commandeered an occasional washer or random mark to act as make-shift eye or expressive feature.

From here it is eastwards. Having slightly overdone the Thames and Regent’s Canal routes in the past, today will use the busy streets, populated by cars and people, to play host to the remainder of the run. Hollybush Gardens is accessed by a staircase that connects the main road to a small network of streets below and it is in this hidden enclave that Claudette Johnson is on display. She has made beautifully economic paintings of figures that dominate the space in which they are portrayed and her sitters, who are all from ethnic backgrounds, appear empowered to leave the confines of the picture plane at any time of their choosing. Finally, at Stuart Shave Modern Art, Karla Black has produced delicate artworks of abstract marks on glass, paper and polythene. Light is the companion to these swirling compositions. It plays across their various surfaces and many of the artworks, despite their simple materials, resonate and glow like the insides of giant shells. Responsible in part for this is toothpaste which the artist has requisitioned from her toiletry bag, along with nail varnish, and then added to her artworks. Through these cameo appearances of objects that populate the artist’s own daily routines, she has not only created interesting visual effects, but also instilled herself in the artworks as an additional presence.

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AES+F at Saatchi Gallery with photoshopped minarets in traditional settings but the minarets are actually rockets.

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Makiko Kudo at Saatchi Gallery.

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Dale Lewis at Saatchi Gallery.

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Yan Pei Ming of Massimo De Carlo with reworking of a famous image in which Napoleon was crowned emperor.

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Bruce McLean with a public sculpture just off Regent Steet called Handbag Heads.

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R M Fischer at Southard Reid with a sculpture incorporating plumbing parts and some drawing.

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Claudette Johnson at Hollybush Gardens with dominating portraits.

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Karla Black at Stuart Shave Modern Art with delicately coloured materials using a range of pigments and extenders including toothpaste and nail varnish alongside traditional watercolour pigments.

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Nick Flatt and Paul Punk showing in a drawing show at Beers London.