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 there is also an extensive system of rivers and a canal with which to fashion a great running loop. After jogging to Paddington and enjoying a quick fifty five minute train ride to Oxford I am ready to start. The canal actually runs parallel to the railway and the transfer between the two is straightforward as a cycle path disappearing through a housing estate offers some promise that it may be heading towards the canal or at least to a park in its vicinity. Once on the towpath, the canal edges up north and progress along it is gauged primarily by the bridges. The exit at the fifth bridge leads round to the River Thames in Port Meadow and the return loop to the city 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.

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Oxford Canal leaving the city.

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A ruin in Port Meadow near Oxford.

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Cows by the River Thames in Port Meadow Oxford.

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River Thames by Port Meadow Oxford.

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

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Aleksandra Mir at Modern Art Oxford.

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Aleksandra Mir at Modern Art Oxford.

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Lynn Chadwick at Ashmolean Museum.

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Lynn Chadwick at Ashmolean Museum.

Gallery run 11th August

The day starts with a run up to White Cube Gallery near St James’ Park, followed by a visit to Gagosian just across Piccadilly and up past Berkeley Square. At White Cube, Harland Miller has painted more imaginary book covers using the 70’s style idiomatic of self-help manuals. He seems to look back at that era with affection and there is a suggestion in the blurb that it marked a time when such projects on oneself were seen as augmentative to an already ok self whereas now the self has become categorised by science as being afflicted by a range of disorders perhaps best left to the professionals to remedy. After these thought provoking issues, Peter Marino’s work consisting of several patinated bronze trunks, serves up a healthy serving of bling preventing any further circumspection of the soul. Above each of these floor-based works are priceless artworks by Bacon, Picasso and Warhol all hung on the wall. Taken from the Gagosian group of elite artists, these works provide a sort of imaginary setting which no doubt many rich collectors will identify with as home.

Initially when I then arrive at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park and see the slogan “The most popular show ever” before being asked to queue, I wonder who might have written this in their revue. Then I realise it is the title of Grayson Perry’s new show. He is displaying vases and tapestries and some gloriously sumptuous bikes with cow horn handlebars, a motorbike and peddle bike. Judging by the crowds milling around these great exhibits, the show title rings true. Across the Serpentine lake in the Sackler gallery are more works by a black artist Arthur Jafa, exploring political and urban street life themes. My favourite work is a video showing a performance of two artists spontaneously taking over the central isle of a metro train and swirling around the central pole. As I snap the image and look at the photo, they are upside down with lights and seats receding into the distance creating a spectacle that looks like the astronauts on a space station. They are modern day “metronauts”.

Finally the journey back south takes me to Vauxhall where Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff are showing at Cabinet Gallery. In the middle of the gallery is a long one metre wide strip of vinyl which is being passed over motorised rollers in a complex system of zig-zags. Printed on this vinyl are occasional images of stonework lettering which, we are told, are addresses of American government organisations that have been carved onto their stone walls. Meanwhile in a sort of contra-punctual relation there are also images of the interior of an Irish bar in Berlin. Whilst the former is perhaps associated with military prowess, the latter still has associations of military exemption, a feature of Berlin life for many years. The structure of the present artwork in Cabinet alludes to a standard printing procedure of airing the vinyl strip to allow time for the inks to dry. But it is also suggestive of a much more poetical process whereby it is acting as a sort of collaging machine. Here the contrasting images from Berlin and Washington that have been printed onto the vinyl strip, whilst not actually drying together in a literal sense, are nevertheless settling together over time.

A short distance further south takes one to the South London gallery. Opposite is an important base camp for this final ascent, called Sophocles’ bakery which makes excellent cheese boreks. The placement of this bakery allows for a five minute walk, to consume the pastry, before arriving at the gallery. Inside Lubeina Himid has presented some collage-based works relating to her placement within a domestic and political culture and she carries an additional aura now as a Turner nominated artist. Meanwhile on a TV monitor is “roadworks” an early performance piece by Mona Hartoum. She walks barefoot through busy Brixton market and carefully drags DM boots attached by their laces behind each ankle seemingly oblivious to the constant chatter and comments. These video works under stressful situations, as they are described, perhaps helped to hone her abilities in making the powerful more static works she is known for today.

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Harland Miller of White Cube with images based on imaginary book covers with very brief titles.

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Howard Hodgkin large scale work.

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Peter Marino at Gagosian Gallery in Davies Street with decorative bronze chests made in a classical style.

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Grayson Perry of Victoria Miro Gallery at Serpentine Gallery.

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Arthur Jafa at Serpentine Gallery with a performance of acrobatics in a metro train.

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Victoria and Albert Museum have a new entrance and courtyard.

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Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff at Cabinet Gallery.

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Lubaina Himid of Hollybush Gardens at South London Gallery.

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Mona Hartoum of Lisson Gallery showing a performance by herself in South London Gallery.

Gallery Run 6th August

Sculpture in the City 2017 is a trail of artworks in London’s square mile and is the destination for today’s run. With the sun shining I head towards Limehouse Basin before taking an eastwards loop that comprises the three links of the Limehouse Cut, the River Lee and finally the Hertford Union Canal. Having effectively done three sides of a square, the loop rejoins the Regent’s Canal and the waterway makes quick progress along its direct route towards Islington. It drops me off at Old Street and from here there is only a short distance to go before the beginning of the trail on the A10 near Tower 42.

Mark Wallinger’s sculpture of a thoroughbred horse stands sleekly in the lunchtime sun absorbing the rays through a dark bronze patina. A group of children stand by it and pose for a family snap. Just down the A10 is the next piece by Martin Creed. He has used plastic bags placed amongst the branches of a tree to create a colourful spectacle whilst copying the manner in which an individual bag might create an unfortunate eyesore, thereby allying this attractive artwork to its antithesis created by chance from the city’s litter.

Last year the route was V shaped and the apex of the V was Leadenhall market. This had provided an enchanting gateway to the blue chip buildings that cluster around the core of the City in homage to some of the world’s finest architects. This year the destination is the same but the numbering of the trail suggests a more prosaic progress along the trail with a simple left turn off the A10. The magic is quickly restored, though upon seeing the next two artworks lit by shafts of sunlight that have made their way through this towering core of buildings. Ryan Gander’s artwork continues the theme of an incidental object that has attached itself to a tree. Not a bag this time but a parachute. Alongside this are four blue tanks and when put together the narrative suggests perhaps a vertical descent of some vital supplies over a last few fictitious seconds before becoming embedded amongst the branches one is currently looking at. In contrast, Paul McCarthy’s work nearby uses none of the resident objects in the plaza to create its narrative but rather through its scale looks as though it has always been here. It consists of two giant figures that are almost as big as the trees populating the plaza. Characteristic of the artist, little nut-like protrusions give the figures a cartoonish quality.

The remaining artworks are an eclectic mix. Daniel Buren presents a classic four colour composition with accompanying black and white striped frame whilst Gary Webb has used the natural colours of exotic materials to create a delicious looking sculpture stacked up like a fruit sundae. A little further along the street Damian Hirst presents a colourful bronze anatomical figure of a man. Finally Karen Tang’s piece called “Synapse”, a large fibreglass construction comprising five or six yellow and green sausage-like elements, gets the biggest endorsement of the day from a group of kids who rush over to it saying “wow”!

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Regent’s Canal.

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Mark Wallinger of Hauser and Wirth, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Martin Creed of Hauser and Wirth, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Ryan Gander of Lisson Gallery, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Paul McCarthy of Hauser and Wirth, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Daniel Buren of Lisson Gallery, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Gary Webb of The Approach Gallery, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Damien Hirst, Sculpture In The City 2017.

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Karen Tang, Sculpture In The City 2017.

Gallery run 29th July

First stop today is Matt’s Gallery near Tower Bridge. Willlie Doherty has produced a video work on show here that juxtaposes on two screens, both the arrival of arms in Donegal prior to the Easter uprising in Ireland and also the location in Dublin where the revolutionaries were holed up in 1916. The centenary of that event seems to be the inspiration for this work and reminds me of another recent and important work on the Easter uprising by Jaki Irvine at Frith Street Gallery. Round the corner in Bermondsey Street is White Cube and there is a big mixed show of female artists. The theme is surrealism and the curating principle is that, just as the female body has been depicted by male artists as an external form and often disfigured by the removal of the hands and head for example, the female mind as an internal presence can through art describe and depict important realities whilst engaging in the discourse of surrealism. In short the work is fab. Stand-out artworks include Tracey Emin’s bronze statue with a slight alteration to one of the legs, and two great painters. Caitlin Keogh has made images of single female figures with various attachments including ropes and small male figures on puppet strings. The appearance is slick and has a flat graphic quality but with little touches of paint to provide the details. Meanwhile next door there is another piece that I try to identify from the exhibition catalogue. However due to its slightly unusual editing, wherein it has focused on the general work of the artists rather than the individual pieces, I still don’t know who it is by. With thirty or forty artists on show, I need to ask the gallery assistant to identify the artwork. She obligingly does with a well worn A4 sheet and a numbering system extending well beyond 150. Jordan Kasey has painted a fan with tassels that stream in the direction of an adjacent female figure, all of which has been depicted with a loose but precise application of oil paint.

Across Tower Bridge is the Whitechapel Gallery where in the main space, Benedict Drew is showing work based on the economic theory of the Trickle Down Effect. There are some large cartoon-like paintings on giant pieces of banner-vinyl whilst in the middle of the space is a podium of glitzy objects, though with some distortions to the tableau such as a giant veiny eyeball which acts as a device to remove some of the glitz on closer inspection. Clearly the artist is not a fan of the Trickle Down Phenomenon. Next door, Emma Hart has been to Italy with an awarded residency and has expanded her ceramic practice to include some specialised techniques. The ceramics are like lamp shades in practice, since they cleverly project speech bubbles through their openings onto the gallery floor and with surprisingly sharp outlines, but they are also beautiful objects in themselves. Externally they have simple designs on their surface but on the brightly lit interiors the colours are extremely vivid and maybe this is where her newly acquired expertise has found its application.

After the brief jog up Brick Lane and a quick lunch at Bagel Bake which has now finished its refurbishment, though they haven’t replaced the clock on the new grey tiles yet, I decide to put in the legwork and head for Trafalgar Square. The National Portrait Gallery has artworks by some important contemporary artists, including by Alessandro Raho, who has painted Dame Judi Dench, and by Marlene Dumas, who has envisaged a stunning portrait of Oscar Wilde. Finally, in the National Gallery next door, I find Chris Ofili’s large woven tapestry. A documentary with Alan Yentob has laid the foundation already in describing the three year period over which the professional weavers added different coloured pixels using a thick woollen weave even recreating the random marks of graphite powder that stand aside from the main composition in the original sketches. But seeing the artwork in situ it looks like an alter piece and the dim lighting adds a further sense of being in a chapel. Two figures are placed at the bottom of deserted cliffs amongst empty glades creating a depiction of nature that whilst being classical in composition, is decidedly modern with respect to its style and colour palette.

 

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Willie Doherty at Matt’sGallery with work about the 1916 Easter uprising in Dublin.

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Tracey Emin of White Cube in a group show called Dreamers Awake.

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Caitlin Keogh at White Cube in a group show called Dreamers Awake.

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Jordan Kasey at White Cube in a group show Dreamers Awake.

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Benedict Drew at Whitechapel Gallery with artworks about a rather questionable economic theory called the Trickle Down Effect.

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Emma Hart at Whitechapel Gallery.

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Alessandro Raho of Alison Jacques Gallery with a portrait of Dame Judi Dench at National Portrait Gallery.

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Marlene Dumas of Frith Street Gallery with a depiction of Oscar Wilde.

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Chris Ofili at The National Gallery with a hand-woven tapestry.

Gallery run 21st July

To get to Lisson Gallery, I jog along the green corridor of St Jame’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park before cutting through the Paddington Basin and finally taking the underpass under the busy A40 and Edgeware Road. Lisson Gallery is hosting a group show themed around Chardin and in true Lisson spirit, the artworks are decidedly minimal as though the artists know there is nothing to be gained in trying to outdo the old master’s realistic rendering of light. The artworks are good though and include a great piece by Audrey Barker that looks like the palette of colours in an oversized make-up box. In the gallery’s other building, the central room has been filled with razor wire. Santiago Sierra creates spaces that are reminiscent of borders and boundaries to try to make us reflect on the effect of separation and the extreme measures sometimes used to enforce it. The grid pattern of the razor wire is actually remarkable on account of its regularity, allowing distinct shapes and patterns to be picked out from different viewpoints.

The next destination is Camden Arts Centre on the outskirts of Hampstead. Daniel Richter is showing a retrospective of his painting that includes figurative and abstract works. One of the latter works stands out as stunning having an enormous quantity of elements and layers to it. Meanwhile in an adjacent room a second artist, Jennifer Tee has made juxtapositions of woven fabrics and plastic objects that seem to be colour-matched and produce a strong overall effect of unity.

Jogging up to Highgate, a number of shrines come into view occupying a small section of tree-lined grassland cordoned off from the main village green. There are candles, flags and photographs and it quickly becomes clear that these are dedicated to George Michael. But there is also an intensity to the tributes suggesting that he really did die before his time.

After several more miles of green space, albeit with a dusty stretch through Angel, Wharf road plays host to the next gallery, Parasol Space. Vibrant work by Monique Frydman is on show. Close by, Stuart Shave Modern Art is showing the work of gallery artist Katy Moran. She has incorporated great brushstrokes into her paintings that seem to be made up of different colours, as though she loaded up the width of her brush with a selection of different colours. Then having been passed across the surface, the resulting strokes have brought these colours to life as coloured streaks which remain differentiated from their neighbours.

Finally Carl Freedman gallery is showing Nel Aerts. She has produced sublime cartoon-like paintings which portray the artist herself experiencing a period of slight isolation during a residency she was doing at one of Van Goch’s former dwellings. The gallery manager sneezes at the front desk which is out of sight and in that split second when I’m wondering whether to acknowledge it, he suddenly remembers that the gallery lights have been switched off and kindly rushes to put them on. The colourful paintings acquire an even greater intensity and new details appear.

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Audrey Barker at Lisson Gallery with a fab palette of colours in an exhibition celebrating Chardin.

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Santiago Sierra of Lisson Gallery with a no-go space full of razor wire.

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Daniel Richter at Camden Arts Centre, with a retrospective of his paintings including this great abstract piece.

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Jennifer Tee at Camden Arts Centre with a great, colourful installation.

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George Michael shrines around trees on the way up to Highgate village from Hampstead.

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Monique Frydman at Parasol Unit with great abstract pastels built up from rubbings and a vocabulary of repeated marks.

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Katy Moran of Stuart Shave Modern Art with great multi-coloured brush strokes.

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Fiona Ackerman at Beers London.

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Nel Aerts of Carl Freedman with paintings and fabric cartoon-like figures, mainly the artist herself, inspired by a residency in a former home to Van Gogh.

Gallery run 14th July

The annual Goldsmiths MA show is the first stop on today’s run. Spread across the old swimming baths and the stunning Ben Pimlott building with views across London, the show has a variety of interesting architectural back drops. These are matched in no small part by a great painting from Daniel Arcand displayed on the top floor of the Ben Pimlott building. The artwork has a Manga-like quality to it with excellent mark-making and a great economy of design.

From here, the quickest route to Victoria Park is through the Greenwich foot tunnel and then north along the Regent’s canal. The Approach Gallery is showing a retrospective of its artists as well as previous exhibitions spanning twenty years. Works by Rezi Van Lankveld and Gary Webb stand out in the group show, whilst in a side room there is a film of speeded-up highlights from the previous shows here from which I recognise in their younger years some of my former Goldsmiths colleagues.

Then after a stop at Wilkinson Gallery with some evocative work by the late Derek Jarman, Herald Street plays host to the next three shows. At Maureen Paley there are abstract sculptures depicting cubic volumes of mainly empty space, adorned with a few intriguing objects including books and carpet tiles. Tom Burr is a thought provoking artist and writer who is new to this gallery having transferred from Stuart Shave Modern Art. A few doors down at Laura Bartlett, a group show has lovely small pieces by Koak who depicts female figures in slightly unusual ways. The images seem to fulfil their remit of challenging the viewer’s gaze by showing the figures engaging only with each other and without any additional acknowledgement of the viewer.

At Herald Street Gallery there is a great installation by Klaus Weber. The gallery assistant warns me of the hazards of a temporary rickety floor and protruding cactuses. The planks spring up slightly across the joists, whilst the cactuses penetrate these planks through round holes. Meanwhile a policeman-figure is kneeling down, with head below floor level accessed through yet another circular hole. There is also a stack of coloured glass spheres raised up on a plinth that, we are told, represent a type of humanoid figure. This perhaps needs more explanation and comes from a story told in Plato’s symposium. Essentially these figures were described by the Greek philosopher as mythological beings that Zeus callously cut into two halves, bisecting them from top to bottom. As these half-beings entered into ancient history they then matched up to the anthropomorphic form we currently reside in. The truth of this myth seems to lie in its ability to articulate our constant psychological need to find our other missing halves.

After a quick lunch at Bagel bake, which seems to have had a cash injection as there is now a new air conditioning system and workmen replacing tiles, I stroll down to Kate MacGarry Gallery finishing off a last few bits of apple strudel. Inside there are works by four artists including Francis Uprichard. She has presented two gothic figures that resemble harlequins. They are smaller than life size, but have a powerful presence due partly to their positioning on plinths but also because of their excellently rendered faces imparting, not for the first time today, a challenge to the gaze of the viewer. With that now recorded and the Hackney galleries fully explored, there just remains a return back South to complete this week’s run.

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Daniel Arcand at Goldsmiths MA Degree Show with a great fluent painting with drawn outlines.

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Rezi Van Lankveld of The Approach with a lovely loosely rendered painting.

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Gary Webb of The Approach with a colourful resin-based wall sculpture.

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Derek Jarman of Wilkinson Gallery with a series of black paintings incorporating objects.

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Gretchen Bender at Wilkinson Gallery with works that explore how images are propagated through our media.

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Tom Burr of Maureen Paley.

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Koak at Laura Bartlett Gallery with figurative paintings that have a strong drawing quality to them.

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Klaus Weber of Herald Street with sculptures that depict a mythical human form made from globes that Plato had written about.

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Francis Upritchard of Kate Macgarry Gallery with gothic figures.

Gallery run 6th July

Today is another hot day and with sun cream and cap at the ready, I head over Lambeth Bridge towards Pace Gallery just off Piccadilly. Nathalie Du Pasquier has created an installation out of the entire gallery. Central to the space is an inner room with walls painted red onto which four works have been hung. One artwork catches my eye here, comprising several chunky objects painted in separate primary colours but concealed behind a white screen allowing a multitude of shadows and colour combinations to be explored in their resulting still life depiction. Other paintings include factory-like images which occupy a strange middle space between the expanse of landscape and the intimate private space of a still-life set up. This is partly achieved through the artist having made wooden maquettes of the original objects before then painting these directly.

A few streets away in Golden Square, there is a group show at Frith Street Gallery and three artists catch my eye, Daniel Silver, Fiona Banner and Callum Innes. They have created, respectively, life-sized sculptures of elegant figures, strips of paper with heavily worked graphite surfaces and finally a painting of solid blocks of colour with delicate overworking that soften their geometric forms. With the temperature rising now towards midday I am switching vest and T-shirt over as I leave, in order to remain presentable in the galleries.

Along Eastcastle street, just north of Oxford Circus, I come to Pilar Corrias Gallery. Here another group show announces that summer is upon us, since this is a preferred format for this time of year, and there is some great work on show here too. Judith Bernstein has produced a fantastic depiction of life, the universe and everything in a single compact painting. Downstairs, Sophie Von Hellermann has joined two canvases together in the middle of the room to create an image that extends across their two surfaces up to the ceiling. It is a diving board but with a marvellous sense of light and colour that gives the art a fantastic sense of presence.

Finally at Alison Jacques Gallery I see two great artists on show. Of particular note are the artworks of Sue Dunkley. They are portraits of figures in social poses and situations and the best examples are two paintings each comprising two bathers. Though they inhabit a social space, the figures have a powerful sense of self-reflection and seem absorbed in their own consciousnesses uniting perfectly the public and the private lives of an individual. Now it is time to meet my Argentine relatives at our rendezvous just off Piccadilly and with their tickets loaded up on my iPhone, I will be taking them around a show.

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Nathalie Du Pasquier at Pace Gallery with simplified and striking cityscapes that merge into the genre of still life.

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Daniel Silver of Frith Street Gallery.

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Fiona Banner of Frith Street Gallery with graphite-laden strips of paper that have a metallic appearance.

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Callum Innes of Frith Street Gallery with a boldly articulated painting that also shows a delicacy with the uppermost layer.

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Judith Bernstein at Pilar Corrias with a fantastic piece.

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Sophie Von Hellermann of Vilma Gold exhibiting in a group show at Pilar Corrias.

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Sue Dunkley at Alison Jacques Gallery with vibrant figurative paintings.

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Jade Montserrat at Alison Jacques Gallery with intricate and thought-provoking drawings.

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The Old Kent Road tank has had a striking Mondrian makeover.