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 15th December

Trinity Buoy Wharf lies in the crook of land between The Thames and the River Lee. Because of the two converging rivers, this area feels fairly isolated from nearby Canary Wharf and the Millenium Dome across the water to the south. It accommodates an artist community, as evidenced by the strange and beautiful sculptures that are scattered around, but it also enjoys a strong connection to the surrounding waters. A lightship is moored at one end of an open yard whilst opposite stands an assembly of crisscrossing shipping crates, populated by creative types who can observe their environment through circular porthole windows. After a bacon roll in Fatboy Diner the time has come to make an arching detour round the loops of the River Lee and across the top right of London’s map into Hackney.

The Approach gallery has drawings and paintings by Bill Lynch, who as we understand from the press release led a free-living existence, taking on decorating jobs to make ends meet, all the while exploring the intricacies of fluid mark-making, prevalent in the tradition of Japanese landscape drawing and calligraphy. A tree appears in one of the artist’s paintings and it is opening up its foliage with the energy of small coiled springs, a state of affairs depicted with tight, circular brush marks amongst the living network of dark twigs and branches.

At Maureen Paley, a neighbouring gallery in this East London cluster, Andrew Grassie has made paintings that rival even Vermeer in their precision and use of colour. They are barely bigger than postcards yet carry a wealth of detail. The white beams of an open roof space recede towards a vanishing point, whilst objects associated with a functioning studio, since this is the chosen subject matter of the series of seven paintings, appear as if by magic with minute flecks of coloured paint, all the while being contained within a flawless, photographic-like surface. A few doors away in Herald Street Gallery, a dinner plate sits on a plinth. Oliver Payne seems more interested in the various distractions that might divert us away from art rather than the many objects catalogued in the previous show that are intended to make us think of art-making itself. Indeed, it is a testament to the left-field nature of the present show that none of its objects conform to the canon outlined in the previous show, neither the plate of cold chicken and pasta sitting on the plinth nor the array of eight I-pads that, despite all their powerful processing capacity, have been requisitioned purely for the purpose of displaying a single image, something of course, which could have been done with a piece of back-lit cellophane, were the artist not interested in turning his critical eye on digital technology itself.

Finally, back south of the river, Gilbert and George have been having a giggle thinking up how the F-word can be inserted into short pithy slogans. As the eye scans across the alternate red and black fonts of F-word wallpaper a kind of rhythm emerges. The two artists switch between being the randy agents of various described acts outlined in block capitals on the one hand, to being puppeteers of the English language on the other. Familiar slogans become wilfully distorted as the artists introduce the necessary four letter insert. A game is being played, for which we know the rules, and which all the while is being powered by the free-flowing imaginations of G and G, revealing in the process a sort of inner portrait of the two artists.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at Tate Modern with layered images.

Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Bill Lynch of The Approach Gallery with paintings on wood that appear to be inspired by the Japanese tradition of prints and calligraphy.

Jack Lavender of Approach Gallery with assembled rocks and taxi cards.

David Noonan of Stuart Shave Modern Art. The artist was there talking to friends about his work and it was great being able to eavesdrop!

Andrew Grassie of Maureen Paley with photorealistic paintings.

Oliver Payne of Herald Street with a new display format of wall-mounted iPads carrying a single image.

Florian Meisenberg of Kate MacGarry.

Gilbert and George at White Cube with rude words wall paper.

Gallery run 31st March

Tate to Tate zigzag.

Ged Quinn at Phillips.

Sylvie Fleury at Phillips with a gold plated tyre fountain.

Eddie Martinez of Timothy Taylor with vivid gestural images.

Cerith Wyn Evans at Tate Britain.

Agnes Martin at Tate Modern.

Irma Blank of Alison Jacques Gallery with heavily worked pen lines giving an all over blue.

Christopher Williams at David Zwirner with an installation about photography. There are X-rays of cameras and wall partitions on wheels with a worn utilitarian feel. I am sure I could smell a whiff of film developer too!

Knut Henrik Henriksen of Hollybush Gardens with an installation using pebbledash and accents of gold paint.

Theaster Gates of White Cube with an artwork in Tate Modern. The vertical lines are fire hoses.


Gallery runs extra photos

Favourite photos from the archive.

19a1Georg Baselitz at White Cube. These studies of the artist and wife in watercolour are great.

19a2Blair Thurman at Almine Rech Gallery. Loved the unfinished paint of this otherwise immaculate sculpture-painting. Photographed in April.

19a3Chantal Joffe at Victoria Miro. Loved this painting photographed in March.

19a4Sterling Ruby at Spruth and Magers with art to wear. Loved the colours of this work photographed in May.

19a5Jules de Balincourt at Victoria Miro. Beautiful colour and the light is almost tangible. A favourite photo from the archive.

19a6Nam June Paik at Tate Modern. A favourite photo I took on a gallery run in April.

19a7Matt Copson at Wilkinson Gallery. Great expletive-punctuated monologue from Reynard the Fox. But done with shrewdness by the artist.


19a9Adam Buick at Corvi Mora in February. A favourite photo I hadn’t posted at the time. A solar system of pots.


Gallery run 28th April

Frames, cages and a look at the Tate’s new display.

179Ai Weiwei of Lisson Gallery produced this sculpture at St. Mary Axe.

178Jules de Balincourt at Victoria Miro with great glowing images.

177John Knight at Cabinet Gallery re-exhibits an instruction artwork. Also showing is a gallery cage of which we see a reflection.

176Nam June Paik used electrical coils to distort (further?) Nixon’s televised resignation address. Now at Tate Modern.

175Billy Childish at Carl Freedman with more vivid trees. The images have a great power close up and a close crop here tries to emulate that.

174Marlene Dumas at Tate Modern.

173Trellick Tower at the beginning of the Grand Union Canal approach to the first gallery.

172Ed Ruscha at Tate Modern.

171Great mural on Cowper Street near Whitechapel.