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 16th August

This week I have chosen to go to Oxford. The main galleries are Modern Art Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum and for running purposes there is also a couple of rivers and a canal with which to fashion a loop out of the city and back in again. After having jogged to Paddington and sat on the train for fifty five minutes, there is a sense of expectation as the City of Spires pulls into view. The station has a sort of back entrance for cyclists wherein a bike path disappears out of sight into a housing estate and because of an association, albeit unwarranted, of similarity between barges and bikes it also seems a fair bet for access to the canal. Eventually, though not as easily as anticipated, the required transfer takes place and bike lane has morphed into towpath. At bridge number five Oxford’s famous Trout pub is signposted and this marks the way, too, for the River Thames in Port Meadow wherein the return loop to the city then commences.

Back in the City, Modern Art Oxford, is staging two exhibitions. A retrospective by Rose Finn Kelcey is the headline show and we quickly become aware that she was a performance artist who expanded her practice in later years to include installation and film. The iconic photo that launched the artist’s career is also on display. It is a picture of her doing a handstand on a beach wearing ballet-type shoes and a fantastic billowing skirt. This garment of clothing has been caught in the wind and looks like some fantastic shell or strange prosthetic at first sight, though on closer inspection we learn it is simply the white pleated skirt. Elsewhere the artist, in this posthumous retrospective, has a recreation of an artwork she made using coins of different metals to depict Van Goch’s sunflowers whilst alluding to its extraordinary multi-million price tag that was its primary feature at the time.

In the adjacent gallery Aleksandra Mir has giant drawings on display depicting satellites and control panels whilst suggesting through the use of symbols the vast quantities of data that might be passed between them. All the drawings have been made with black marker pens and the marks use a variety of saturations of ink to create textures and moods ranging from the precise to the casual. A video of the making of the work is shown in the cafe and it becomes clear that this artwork is a team effort with the helping artists working from style sheets and being assisted with grids.

As the cafe closes I head up to the Ashmolean Museum, slightly concerned that the 5pm closure of the former, might be a portent for an unexpectedly early closure of the latter. Alas this turns out to be true and the giant pair of panelled doors are literally being shut as I arrive. There is no chance then of exploring the Ashmolean collection on this trip and finding some hidden gems by John Ruskin. Instead the experience here takes a different turn as two large stainless steel sculptures by Lynn Chadwick take pride of place in the front courtyard. Light glistens on the polished metal and the blurb describes how the choice of material is very unusual for this particular artist. With these photos completed, there is an hour to spare and the natural destination is the river again but this time walking.

Oxford Canal leaving the city.

A ruin in Port Meadow near Oxford.

Cows by the River Thames in Port Meadow Oxford.

River Thames by Port Meadow Oxford.

Rose Finn Kelcey at Modern Art Oxford with a version of Van Gogh’s expensive sunflowers made from coins.

Aleksandra Mir at Modern Art Oxford.

Aleksandra Mir at Modern Art Oxford.

Lynn Chadwick at Ashmolean Museum.

Lynn Chadwick at Ashmolean Museum.

Gallery run 6th November

Regent’s Canal to Hackney. Plus Peckham galleries.

Zeng Fanzhi at Frieze 2016 sculpture park.

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

Sam Porritt at Vitrine Gallery

Patrick Caulfield at The Approach.

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

Regents Canal.

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

Jean Dubuffet at Frieze 2016 sculpture exhibition.

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


Gallery Run 17th December

blog22Leake street (pictured) will soon appear on a Gallery Runner map as the preferred access to the west end galleries, from the south. The image reminded me of the paintings of Jim Shaw that I would soon be jogging to.

blog25Jim Shaw at the Simon Lee Gallery recycles old theatre backdrops from the 50’s and adds vivid images on top.

blog26Jim Shaw at the Simon Lee Gallery

blog24I enjoyed Erika Verzutti’s show at the Alison Jacques Gallery. “The Painter’s Wife”, 2015, reminded me of a typewriter and also of Paul Noble’s picture shown below.

blog21Paul Noble has produced this great drawing which looks to me like pools of light on a starlit sea.