Gallery run 29th March

Today I visit Stuart Shave’s two galleries using a route suitable for joggers and cyclists and then a further batch of galleries in the West End ideal for the urban pedestrian.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel gives access to the Isle of Dogs and by running round the perimeter of the City Farm on its raised walkway, the farm itself appearing to sit in what was once a major reservoir, the jogger quickly accesses the great docks once owned by the East India company. From here the Regent’s Canal is reached via the Limehouse Basin and this provides the cyclist or keen jogger with the route to Stuart Shave’s gallery near Victoria Park. Eva Rothschild is showing sculptures on both floors of this very large space and has organised the works to harmonise with it. Using the next stretch of the canal to access Wharf Road, the longer range gallery visitor can get to the second Stuart Shave gallery, located just off Old Street. Here, Ricky Swallow has produced intricate, coloured, bronze sculptures that occupy the entire space with their presence, despite having small physical dimensions.

Frith Street, about four streets west of Charing Cross Road, is a good place for the urban pedestrian to join the trek. Frith Street Gallery is showing a small group show that includes Jessica Warboys, who has created some great canvases using the sea as a fluid medium to move pigments around and to deposit additional silt-like particles of matter onto their surfaces. They have a delicate appearance with rhythmic patterns that makes them look as though they were actually being viewed through water. Using a road just north of Old Compton Street as a parallel access to Regent’s Street, Liberty comes into sight and marks the beginning of Kingly Street and this in turn leads to Sadie Coles HQ. Marvin Gaye Chetwynd has a deeply gothic theme that the viewer would enjoy, though they must beat the 7th April end date. Finally a dog-leg at the bottom of the street leads to Upper John Street and Golden Square. Marian Goodman has been showing some great works by Thomas Struth, Cristina Iglesias and Giuseppe Penone, but this was a last-day visit and not therefore, a show that can be visited now on this route.

Finally Frith Street’s other gallery sits alongside the square itself in the peaceful enclave just off Piccadilly. Photographs are presented of the brickwork inside tunnels where water of another kind, when taken in contrast to Warboys’ sea works, has created extensive marks, deposits and stains on the victorian architecture. Carry on down now along Lower Regent Street, or parallel to it which is what happened today, and Trafalgar Square comes into sight. Michael Rakowitz has a majestic sculpture on view on the square’s fourth plinth.

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Eva Rothschild of Stuart Shave with various sculptural objects carefully presented in the space.

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Ricky Swallow of Stuart Shave with cast bronze objects based on incidental interior features.

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Jessica Warboys at Frith Street Gallery with images made by immersing pigmented canvases in the sea.

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Marvin Gaye Chetwynd of Sadie Coles HQ with gothic imagery based on bats and theatre props presented against flat photo backdrops.

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Thomas Struth of Marian Goodman with a photo of physics objects that would make one’s hair stand on end.

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Cristina Iglesias of Marian Goodman with a hard looking cage-like structure which on closer inspection is delicate and made of a granular substance that actually smells quite nice.

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Giuseppe Penone of Marian Goodman with a characteristic adaptation of a natural object.

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John Riddy of Frith Street Gallery with photo images of stained brickworks made during a stroll through South London.

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The fourth plinth has arrived. Michael Rakowitz has built a replacement for the original stone treasure recently destroyed, out of tin cans.

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Gallery run 23rd March

This week’s run accesses Hollybush Gardens, via Brick Lane and The Regent’s Canal. From here it progresses west to the hub of galleries near St James’ Park and Regent’s Street. The first stretch, like last week, is too far to walk though well worth the journey. The remaining hub is very accessible to the pedestrian and offers a nice selection of current work.

A classic stop-off point on Brick Lane is Beigel Bake where apple strudel costs just 80p. With a refuelling stop of choice items the longer-range London traveller can weave up some backstreets past Hoxton Overground station whilst maintaining a course parallel to Kingsland Road before they reach The Regent’s Canal. Go west for a few miles until the various gas frames at Kings Cross come into view and then switch south heading down Gray’s Inn Road. Hollybush Gardens is situated in a low-lying segment of Farringdon and on show is Turner Prize winner, Lubaina Himid. The viewer will see a room full of painting extending onto additional objects propped upright on the floor, objects whose original utility is immediately recognisable.

A good place for the more sedate traveller to join the trek is at Duke Street St James, where Thomas Dane and White Cube are both located. They are presenting respectively, art formerly linked to Brazilian Street art, in the case of Jose Damescano, and art using refrigeration units to produce a glistening white frost, in the case of Pier Paola Calzolari. A lovely little show further on at Mazzoleni Gallery on Albemarle Street is also well worth a visit.

David Zwirner on Grafton Street has the pick of the day in my opinion, hosting Andrzej Wroblewski, a Polish artist who oozes Eastern Block charm. His Chauffeur series features drivers with their back turned to the viewer. A Gauguinesque blaze of colour near the driver’s head appears to demarcate that area of the vehicle window where the subject’s own psyche has intervened into this external world. Down Hay Hill lies Berkeley Street and Simon Lee Gallery. Two great shows are on here featuring Roy Newell’s tiny abstracts and Micelangelo Pistoletto’s mirror images. Finally, though this show is no longer on, Sophie Von Hellermann has been exhibiting some lovely loose paintings at Pilar Corrias. Formally of Vilma Gold, which shut last Autumn, the artist has found a good replacement with this gallery on Eastcastle Street.

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Lubaina Himid of Hollybush Gardens with a painted piano lid.

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Jose Damasceno of Thomas Dane Gallery with a small intervention on the eyes of Brazilian money-prints.

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Pier Paola Calzolari at White Cube who uses refrigeration units in his sculptures to produce pure whites.

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Mel Bochner at Mazzoleni Gallery.

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Andrzej Wroblewski at David Zwirner with an image from his Chauffeur series.

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Roy Newell at Simon Lee Gallery with meticulously worked miniature paintings.

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Michelangelo Pistoletto of Simon Lee Gallery with shelving images on his characteristic mirror backgrounds.

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Jean Dubuffet at Timothy Taylor with one his familiar cellular-based sculptures.

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Sophie Von Hellermann of Pilar Corrias with colourful paintings from the imagination.

Gallery run 16th March

The write-up this week will describe the connecting route between Matt’s Gallery in Bermonsey, Kate MacGarry’s gallery near Brick Lane and finally a cluster of galleries in the West End, the latter beginning with Herald Street’s new space near the British Museum in Holborn. This first section, described above, is only suitable for cyclists and joggers since it covers about 10 miles but it is well worth the effort with a lovely section through Southwark Park and along the River Thames. A second section, beginning near the British Museum, the location of Herald Street’s new gallery, comprises an excellent group of shows all within walking distance of each other and these will be described in paragraph three.

The day starts then with a jog to Matt’s new gallery space to see Mandy Ure’s curious abstract paintings. The gallery is doing a sequence of short one week shows and with this fast turnover has quite an itinerary lined up. The space is small but the artist list for future shows is impressive including Ben Rivers who has previously exhibited at Kate MacGarry. Southwark Park is a gem in Bermondsey and its immediate access at the far end onto The River creates a great, green corridor until Tower Bridge, allowing some poetic license for the building site near the bridge. A jog up Brick Lane then brings us to Kate MacGarry, previously mentioned, and Laura Gannon has a lovely show of ripped canvases covered in metallic paint. Gentle and poetic is my immediate impression.

The route to Holborn is not particularly interesting or worthy of comment but the show at Herald Street is strong consisting mainly of sculptural objects. Here would be a good place for the gallery walker to join the route as they would have a treat in store for them with this second section. To continue on this stage, take the first route west. Old Compton Street followed by Brewer Street is good and then by wending past Lower John Street and across Regent’s Street you will have access to Sprovieri on Heddon Street. Tucked away amongst restaurants, look for number 23 and the crew will invite you up to the first floor to see Francesco Arena’s thought provoking works based on the theme of time. Just round the corner we would then reach a hub of three gallery spaces on Savile Row. Take note of the two at Hauser and Wirth. There is a painting bonanza with interesting themes of recycling in the case of Matthew Day Jackson and social equality for Lorna Simpson. Hers are fantastic images with thin washes of vivid blues to create a sublime spectacle of glaciers. Across the road we see Ordovas gallery and the London Painters show that mirrors the current show at Tate Britain, with great works by Freud, Bacon and Kossoff.

Finally by walking, or jogging, across the dog leg that leads to St George’s Street, you would come to Victoria Miro and see the works of Jules de Balincourt. His are paintings from the imagination and are extremely beautiful. Along with Leon Kossoff at Ordovas, he has the most likes on this week’s Instagram post.

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Mandy Ure at Matt’s Gallery with small abstracts.

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Laura Gannon at Kate MacGarry with cut canvases painted with metallic pigments.

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Michael Dean of Herald Street.

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Amalia Pica of Herald Street showing a small cluster of castings of shell-like objects.

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Francesco Arena of Sprovieri Gallery with a performance stool. It can only be sat on by someone whose age is 33, the difference in age between artist and father. A death will cause this interval to change and that will impede on the required age for the stool-performer.

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Matthew Day Jackson of Hauser and Wirth with recreations of Dutch still life paintings made with DIY materials.

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Leon Kossoff at Ordovas.

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Lorna Simpson at Hauser and Wirth with delicate washes on screenprinted and newspaper images.

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Jules de Balincourt of Victoria Miro with vividly coloured landscapes populated by crowds of small figures.

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 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.

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During the big freeze, on the day of the hoped-for gallery run. It was too cold.

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Tony Cragg at Tate Modern.

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Wheat objects woven together by Ana Lupas. This was based on a traditional Romanian practice.

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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.

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Kaye Donachie of Maureen Paley.

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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.

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Regent’s Canal after the big freeze.

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Flavie Audi and Samantha Lee with large projections of iPad screens and an accompanying dancer at Specisl Projects on Decima Street.

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Adam Linder choreographed dance at South London Gallery.

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.

Gallery run 15th February

Gallery runs by artist, jogger and London explorer Julian.

Gagosian Gallery, which is on Brittania Street near Kings Cross, has been between exhibitions for several weeks and the two present shows by Nancy Rubins and Vera Lutter are therefore much awaited. They don’t disappoint! The scale of work by both artists is stunning. For Nancy Rubins the scale requires engineering solutions to hold her sculptures together. Assembled metal objects originating from scrap yards and fairgrounds are secured to a network of cross linking metal cables. These cables allow the sculptures to project way beyond the relatively small plinths that they sit upon. Furthermore, the placement of these cables forms an elaborate system of cantilevers which incorporate the various objects on display into their design. The art objects then, rather like Calder’s mobiles, serve both as surface for contemplation as well as physical mass within this larger system.

In contrast Vera Lutter’s works, whilst being physically large, draw their true impact from the scale of the machinery that underpins them. Her works are giant negatives which are about 3.5 metres high, roughly 100 times the height of old fashioned film negatives. It is of no surprise, therefore, that the object she has used for a camera carries a similar multiplication of scale. It’s a shipping container no less. The various expanses of photographic negative before us in the gallery are a sort of physical trace of the walls of this container that they would have been stuck against during their exposure and on this account they bring with them a sense of the magnitude of the container itself, its steel plate and enormous mass. If this double reading were not enough, though, the artist has then presented yet another level of engagement with the images. For they are of the world’s largest radio telescope and this creates a powerful metaphor of observation through use of only the faintest of signals. The faint traces of energy from outer space would be equivalent in some way to the almost imperceptible light reaching the pieces of film inside the container.

The next section of the run is over the hill at Angel. This means leaving the canal behind as it disappears into a very long tunnel and hot-footing it across to the other side. Back by the water, another lock serves to drop its level, before a spur of water branches out sideways past Victoria Miro gallery. A great show by David Altmejd at Stuart Shave Modern Art, a gallery slightly further on, is followed by a return to the canal and a visit to Stuart Shave’s second gallery space in Hackney. Paul Lee has produced several combinations of canvas and tambourines, the latter being a familiar trope for the artist, and they have an interesting sensuous quality due to a sort of exchange of physical properties from their close proximity. The tightly stretched skins of both objects, both sitting about 2 inches away from the wall, unite to produce a sort of extended space across their combined surfaces.

In contrast to these, the artist has produced four wall-mounted objects that appear, at first sight, to be no more than a cluster of recyclables, fabrics and bits of wire. However, they have a great sense of freedom to their forms, something that would require either chance processes for their assembly or else the application of sound artistic principles to block any unwanted rational processes of repetition, use of pre-established pattern or over reliance on an external narrative. None of these deficiencies here and what’s more for good measure, the central core of each object, which may well have been fashioned from a fizzy drink can, offers the one-off surprise to a viewer taking a closer look, that they are actually portraits of a male face rendered in black screen print style ink. Though small, this figurative element offers a strong contrast to their constructivist style.

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Antonio Calderara at Lisson Gallery.

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On the Regent’s Canal. A new layer of image just added with the yellow sign.

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Nancy Rubins of Gagosian Gallery.

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Vera Lutter of Gagosian Gallery with images of one of the world’s largest radio telescopes made using a giant pinhole camera constructed from a shipping container.

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David Altmejd of Stuart Shave, Modern Art with plaster reliefs inspired by the complex biological evolutions of organisms.

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Paul Lee of Stuart Shave, Modern Art.

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Eddie Peake of White Cube with an immersive installation.

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He Xiangyu of White Cube with small clusters of wire and pieces of metal that had benn smuggled out of North Korea to China for a pitifully small cash price.

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Andrea G Artz has produced novel photographic origami pieces at Crol And Co.