Gallery run 3rd May

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Julian Opie at Alan Cristea Gallery with the ubiquitous vinyl support now raised to the level of very good, high art.

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Helen Frankenthaler at Victoria Miro.

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Richard Serra of Gagosian with thickly covered sheets of paper, revealing uncovered edges built into the composition.

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Matthias Bitzer of Almine Rech Gallery with faces, mediating mathematical forms and his characteristic alternating light and dark bands of paint.

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John Chamberlain of Gagosian with posthumous artwork of crushed car parts shown in conjunction with his estate.

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Urs Fischer of Sadie Coles HQ with an emerging nude figure.

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Eric N Mack at Simon Lee Gallery with multi-media images and spaces.

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Karen Kilimnik of Sprueth Magers with small, vivid paintings. The effect of her imagination is clear from the explosion and bullet traces that have been frozen for the single moment of the composition.

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Spot the front door with letter box and street number 69, drawn onto this shelter along with the more obvious added brickwork.

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Gallery run 9th March

The day begins with a jog up to White Cube Gallery in Mason’s Yard. Minjung Kim has used traditional Korean craft techniques to lay down layers of ultra-thin mulberry tree paper into rhythmic compositions. The paper has many uses outside of art in the artist’s native country including as window panes, due to its strength even in thin layers allowing light to diffuse between the various natural fibres. Downstairs, the artworks are vividly coloured. The paper has been dyed and applied in layers, with each piece burnt along one edge in a ritualistic gesture by the artist, one that we are told is accompanied by the smell of incense and a discipline of complete silence. The overall effect on the artworks is to create textured regions of intense colour reminiscent of flowers and natural vegetation.

In Sprueth and Magers just across Piccadilly, Anthony McCall is displaying a light installation. His use of a smoke-like mist in these light-works, allows the experience to be a 3D one rather than just the conveyance of an image from one flat medium, a digital Jpeg in a projector, to a screen on the far wall. Yes, the screen is still present as the final destination for the image, but the light wends its way through wisps of smoke, like in those cigarette-friendly cinemas of one’s youth, catching the little eddies of particles on the way, creating straight shimmering beams of light across the room. The image itself is simple enough, a single line that is curved into an ellipse, sometimes perfectly rounded, sometimes dislocated into a stepped join between end and beginning, but the transition between the two is captivating as the digital projector slowly cycles from the one to the other.

At Grosvenor Hill a few hundred metres further on, is the Gagosian Gallery. A burst of applause echoes from within the furthest room. Glenn Brown had given me a great tutorial twenty years ago and he is instantly recognisable as the same chap. With his address to a group of visitors in the background and my own sketchy knowledge of some of his main artistic concerns gleaned during that generous four hour tutorial, the work on display takes on an extra depth. The painting is ultra flat as many of us would be familiar with, whilst the waxy trails of paint from the historical canon he explores, are simulated with intricate brushwork. These labour intensive works used to net the artist just a couple of pounds an hour, a fact which he presented as a footnote to the precarious business of being an artist, during the aforementioned tutorial. It was interesting to hear from this address that whilst the paintings are still labour intensive, twenty years later, the intricate sketching style of some of the accompanying drawings is actually very quick to execute. Here, expertise of his medium appears to have allowed the artist to bend some of those time constraints of the beautiful painted works, and create an image that takes on the same rapid fluidity as those very lines he has imitated.

A second major gallery sits just round the corner and is the home of Almine Rech. Gunther Forg has several large photographs on display of variously imposing buildings. These are neo-classical in style and each is emblazoned with a title depicting the particular institution it houses. Whilst the titles such as GEOLOGIA and MUSICA are true to the original photographs, rendered in various block capitals in concrete or metal, and sitting above the grand entranceways, they nevertheless form a more extended and general index of knowledge, one which is familiar to us from library shelves and TV documentaries. Meanwhile, the buildings have a grand scale themselves, both in their photographic representation and in their actual physical size. Presented together along one wall, the images appear monumental and we get that rare sense of an illusionistic space that is actually bigger than the expansive gallery it has been presented in.

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Minjung Kim at White Cube who makes images from thin layers of mulberry tree paper.

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Tonico Lemos Auad of Stephen Friedman.

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Bjarne Melgaard of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac with recently finished work that fills the room with an aroma of linseed oil and paint from their drying surfaces.

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Sturtevant at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

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Anthony McCall at Sprueth Magers with slowly moving light projections, which uses a smoke-like substance in addition to a screen, to capture the image. The public are encouraged to move through the space and disrupt the image.

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Bosco Sodi of Blain Southern with a piece at Philips.

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Glenn Brown of Gagosian showing paintings where the brush marks of oil paint are simulated with a flat almost photographic surface.

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Gunther Forg of Almine Rech.

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Sculptures on Grosvenor Hill.

Gallery run 25th January

At Blain Southern, Rachel Howard has produced a series of black and white paintings including an interesting one with a wallpaper motif. She appears to have then developed this image extensively in red and on a larger scale with four examples shown in the adjacent gallery. For the artist, wallpaper is a powerful motif because it represents the liminal space between a safe domestic environment and uncontrollable external events such as war. In some areas the wallpaper appears to reveal this external space through a semi-transparency, whilst the red of the pattern itself becomes a vehicle for introducing a more free-flowing use of red paint symbolic, of course, of blood and strife.

Meanwhile in the downstairs gallery, Brian Griffiths has created a puppet-like character which he has presented against simple cardboard and wooden off-cut stage sets on the gallery walls. The artist’s characteristic use of visual metaphor is clearly apparent in these simple backdrops commandeering, for example, a second hand spindle to function as a high-tech sun lamp. The introduction of figurative elements is by no means new to the artist’s oeuvre but the combination of low-tech figure in low-tech background is an interesting development.

It would then be a long loop up to Notting Hill via the Regent’s Canal followed by a return through Hyde Park, which lands me back amongst the Mayfair galleries and the shiny black door of Michael Werner bejewelled with brass trimmings. Peter Doig has produced a set of images based on a powerful looking figure standing astride a sandy beach. The paraphernalia of a red and white flotation device lends an air of the everyday to the image as well as pleasing colour harmonies whilst the figure itself is more reminiscent of the mythical tales of Odysseus and a Greek ideal of the male physique.

Craig Kauffmanm is on display at Sprueth and Magers with work from the 60’s that uses bright plastics. In the main window is a stunning display incorporating work by this artist alongside additional works by Donald Judd and Robert Morris. Each of the works by the three artists has been produced in a single coloured plastic and seen together they create an overall harmony as the eye moves from one piece to the other, resting upon a single colour before moving to the next. The plastic used by Craig Kauffman is actually slightly transparent and the effect is to make his works look delicious with the coloured lozenge of plastic both reflecting a warm glow of light but also, in some cases, projecting a coloured patch onto the gallery walls.

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Rachel Howard of Blain Southern with a wallpaper motif that she has then developed extensively in a further series.

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Brian Griffiths at Blain Southern has created a puppet-like character presented in simple cardboard stage sets on the gallery walls.

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Wim Wenders of Blain Southern showing a selection of his Polaroids at The Photographers Gallery. These were an important part of his movie film preparations.

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Peter Doig at Michael Werner.

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Josh Smith at Massimo De Carlo with colourful depictions of the Grim Reaper.

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Bridget Riley at David Zwirner with new work.
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Craig Kauffman at Sprueth Magers with works from the 60’s using bright plastics.

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Andreas Schulze at Sprueth Magers with colourful pipework.

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Tara Donovan of Pace Gallery has created a series of images using stacked cards with small cut-out sections.

Gallery run 20th October

At Stephen Friedman Gallery Rivane Nauenschwander has produced an installation based on the Brazilian version of the board game known in the UK as risk. Flags represent the individual countries that the players would normally roll dice for in their pursuit of world domination. Long all-nighters with friends playing this game have imbued this artwork with a particular aura for me. Round the corner in Grafton Street Sprueth Magers have been doing a refit to their gallery. It looks very slick and the formerly creaking floorboards have now been lovingly preserved and firmly secured. Gary Hume has experimented with gloss paint on paper and the effect is very interesting. The painted surface takes on a mottled form due to the paper support yielding in some way to the gloss, yet it still looks as though it has the solidity of a worked and beaten metal support.

Further down Grafton Street at David Zwirner, Sherrie Levine is displaying work made by re-photographing some iconic images made in a 1940 project to document rural American life during The Great Depression. The display itself is striking with about 50 images hung in a perfect grid on the gallery wall. After visiting this hub of three closely placed galleries the next stop is Grosvenor Hill where Almine Rech and Gagosian have created a new hub comprising two expansive white spaces. The former gallery is showing Ernst Wilhelm Nay. The abstract paintings are reminiscent of seeds and foliage yet they are not restricted to this interpretation. This ambiguity lends them an additional magic which also complements their perfect balance of colour.

The word is out that Almine Rech and Gagosian have teamed up with the estate of Tom Wesselmann. Both galleries have produced identical press releases describing the artist’s shaped canvases that predominate in his series of bedroom paintings. Various bedside objects such as clocks and designer lamps interweave the limbs, feet and hands that the artist has sketched and then blown up into full size paintings. In the Gagosian on Davies Street a subtle black and white maquette of two painted boards placed in front of one another simulate the two ends of a bed. A large pair of elegant feet obscure the rest of a body whilst the lamp peers out from further behind. This completes the Mayfair region for today and now it is time to embark on the old favourite route along the Regent’s canal whereupon one arrives at the gas storage frameworks that offer a familiar landmark for Hackney.

Two of the new galleries exhibiting at Frieze this year are Campoli Presti and Hales gallery, whilst a new artist has been taken on at Herald Street, called Jessi Reaves. These additions offer the chance to see three new artists in this region of the city which is really the birthing place for new talent and with its exceptionally high rate of Turner Prize nominations is also sustainable in its own right with no need to interact with or be fostered by the Mayfair galleries to the west. Jessi Reaves is an American artist and hence of international importance, who makes sculptures from old furniture. The assistant in the gallery invites me to sit down on the rebuilt comfy chairs and this highlights the critical space that the work operates in, being utilitarian in some respects but stripped of any designer chic. Concluding this exploration after a quick stop at Beigal Bake is a visit to Hales gallery. Since its early days on Deptford High Street as a well respected gallery cafe, it has now become important internationally. Frank Bowling is one of seventeen artists on their books and he is showing colourful abstract paintings incorporating small objects offered up by friends, as well as cutting and sewing, which all contribute to a complex and interesting surface.

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Rivane Neuenschwander of Stephen Friedman Gallery with an installation based on the board game risk. Each flag represents a risk territory. On the back is written “war”. This would be “risk” in the Uk version.

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This paving slab on Grafton Street appears to be made up of two parts?

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The gallery is open again! Gary Hume of Sprueth Magers uses his trademark gloss to produce a mottled finish on paper in his new works.

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Sherrie Levine has rephotographed and appropriated American Depression photos of farmers by Russell Lee. What was once an attempt to boost morale when they were made in 1940 has now become historical document. Shown at David Zwirner gallery.

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Ernst Wilhelm Nay at Almine Rech Gallery. Beautiful images with natural motifs but in bright colours.

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Brice Marden of Gagosian using terre verte, green earth pigment, from several well known paint suppliers, has produced 9 canvases of varying greenness.

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Tom Wesselmann at Gagosian with Bedroom Paintings.

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Jessi Reaves of Herald Street with sculpted furniture, cut up and reassembled.

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Frank Bowling of Hales Gallery with abstract compositions on stitched canvases.

Gallery run 23rd June

Today’s run is about 30 miles taking a large loop out to Chiswick, where my friend Suzanne from our ACME studios is showing. After looking at her works, which are studies of Brixton market, I head north to Acton and then east along the Grand Union Canal. As there are no galleries here I visit some places I have worked in, though of no relevance to Gallery Runner.

Eventually I arrive at Hyde Park and see the beautiful new pavilion by Diebedo Francis Kere. It looks like a chieftain’s palace with slatted roof and stained block-wood sides whilst being structured around an immaculate white metal frame that gives it further credentials as a piece of cutting edge architecture. Then I head on to the Royal Academy. After having photographed a couple of great works by Danny Rolph and Frank Stella, that I remember from my previous visit last week, I note the number of my painting and check the front sales desk to see if it has a red dot next to it yet. No, is the answer to that one.

Round the back of the RA on Old Burlington Street is Stephen Friedman Gallery. It has been influential in this year’s RA Summer Exhibition because of the contributions from its own artist, Yinka Shonibare, both by his curating and from his artworks there. In Stephen Friedman Gallery itself there is an unlikely but fascinating exhibition of material-based artworks that explore stretched canvas through a multitude of distortions and interventions that have been enacted upon it by sixteen artists.

Finally today I check out the RA School’s degree show. Work by Josephine Baker-Heaslip catches my eye due to great patterns she has created with stacked bricks whilst containing them in their entirety within wooden cut-out structures that hold the various brick forms in place. The bricks themselves have been painted on some of their faces with earthy but bright colours and make lovely artworks. After a quick half pint and the time now seven and a half hours past my departure time this morning, a marathon already achieved, there is a last hour remaining for the return home.

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Suzanne Baker exhibiting images made on location in Brixton Market.

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Diebedo Francis Kere Serpentine Pavillion with a beautiful mix of materials.

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Danny Rolph at RA Summer Show 2017 using a classic building material to great aesthetic effect.

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Frank Stella of Spruth Magers Gallery exhibiting at RA Summer Show 2017.

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Channing Hansen at Stephen Friedman Gallery using knitting to create coloured forms stretched across frames.

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Gunther Uecker at Stephen Friedman Gallery using nails to great effect.

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Zilia Sanchez at Stephen Friedman Gallery using canvas stretched across simple objects to create a beautiful simple piece.

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Zsofi Margit at RA Schools Show 2017 using painted MDF to create the illusion of reflecting glass.

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Josephine Baker Heaslip at RA Schools Show 2017 using painted bricks to great effect.

The Line Sculpture Trail, 4th August

With the galleries on summer holiday, I decided to check out The Line sculpture trail. Its collection of artworks are embedded along two geographic vectors that by happy coincidence lie superimposed upon one another pointing in a northerly direction. They are the River Lea and the Greenwich Meridian line. The Line sculpture trail is rather less fluent than the geographical lines it references, due in part to tight bows near the mouth of the River Lea and accompanying industrial estates that make the river at this stage inaccessible. But this makes for added adventure.

An Oyster card is useful too since another major feature of the Line is the Thames itself. Whilst the first sculptures are situated on the south side of the river the rest are reached by a ride across the Thames on the Emirates cable car. After a surprisingly exciting “flight”, the route planners have then urged the adventurer to take the DLR and resume on foot after a short journey by train. But I hot-foot it through the industrial estates and rejoin The Line further north. A river path has appeared and the Lea has become navigable again to the casual stroller.

Along this stretch of the river I see a sculpture by Damien Hirst identifiable by its cartoony style. It is a painted bronze about the size and shape of a saloon car. Small blue and red circles punctuate its surface in pairs and have been clearly articulated from the day they were cast in the original monochrome bronze. They represent blood vessels close to the surface of the skin and add a sensation of visceral reality to the giant biological machine of which they are part. Other vessels are rendered too in an extended palette of colours which try through their clarity to emulate the strange alphabet of the book of life. Sweat glands, hairs and shunts that cool the skin are all present and speak of their function with the clarity of a medical textbook illustration.

This mass of bronze mimics no more than a slither of skin but it is brought to life by the bright colours and remind me of a fabulous slice of trifle. I graciously receive this generous offering and tuck into yet another of the courses that have been served up today! The layers are stepped on their upper surface adding a further sense of grandeur to their scale. But like those classical depictions of vanities that have a skull or some other device to remind us of our own mortality, thick black hairs sit atop the spectacle, and upset any further sense of appetitive fulfilment. They are curved as though caught momentarily by a delicate breeze drawn off the surface of the nearby river. And it is along this river that the next item of the trail lies, a spiral DNA structure fashioned from shopping trolleys, somehow commenting on our most recent mutation that has come to characterise the first part of the 21st century, our transformation into shopaholics.

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Emirates Air Line which forms a vital link crossing the Thames for The Line sculpture trail.

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Opposite larger than life bronze contemporary figure with its own smart phone by Thomas J Price on The Line sculpture trail.

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Carsten Holler of Gagosian joins his spiral tube slide to the spiral tower of Anish Kapoor of Lisson Gallery.

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Antony Gormley of White Cube showing Quantum Cloud on The Line sculpture trail.

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Richard Wilson RA produced Slice of Reality, the title being visible on a life ring on board. The Line sculpture trail.

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Sterling Ruby of Spruth and Magers and Gagosian produced this angular canon-like form. He paid particular attention to the spray paint whose code is displayed in welded lettering on the base. The Line sculpture trail.

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Damien Hirst of White Cube on The Line sculpture trail. The painted bronze sculpture imitates a few cubic millimetres of skin.

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Gary Hume of David Zwirner gallery with brass leg-like forms on The Line sculpture trail.

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Abigail Fallis on The Line sculpture trail. Shopping trolleys imitate structural molecules in a DNA spiral. The poppies were growing round the concrete base.

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.