Gallery run 12th October

One of the most enjoyable runs is along the Regent’s Canal from Lisson Gallery to Wharf Road, where Victoria Miro and Parasol Unit are situated. Having been to neither gallery for a while there are new shows to see at each and with the addition of an exceptionally fair autumn day the planets are aligned for a good run. At Lisson Gallery, Allora and Calzadilla have installed a display that very obliquely criticises America’s policy towards Puerto Rico and other affiliated states. These states don’t get a star on the US flag and furthermore, according to the artists, suffer from the ambiguity of their legal status of being “Foreign in a Domestic Sense”. They are foreign in some respects and domestic in others but in a way that gives them generally a bad deal, as the critique continues. How could this critique be presented as an artwork?, one might wonder. Partly through drawing attention to the phrase above in its use as the show title and partly also through arguing that the work itself by a sort of mimetic response, embodies contradictory aspects in its own form. On display is a transformer plugged into a domestic power socket making a surprisingly large humming sound off what is presumably a 13 amp plug. With various bits of foliage and earth surrounding it, the electrical equipment does indeed seem to deliver this contradictory response to the viewer that the artists had hoped for. The artwork is actually rather scary to get close up to for the photograph.

At the other gallery Daniel Buren has installed beautifully finished powder-coated, coloured modules against a mirror background. This encourages the simple conceit on my part of trying to pick up reflections from across the gallery and uniting the different modules in single camera shots. Buren’s characteristic 8.7cm vertical stripes unite all the modules together and this is a geometric feature which the press release diligently draws attention to.

The canal is looking good today adorned by the sparkling sun and the towpath is full of walkers and cyclists. Though the canal is not a short cut, it allows the mind to switch off and soon enough one arrives at Wharf Road, 5 miles away. Tal R is showing his sex shop paintings which are a lot less explicit than they sound. Indeed it is the very barrier of the front door and plain facade of the shop that the artist likens to a physical barrier of the painted canvas. The critique continues that the canvas obscures various desires forever hinted at but unrealised through the medium of paint. The images are painted from photographs but rather than this being a negative feature in the sense that the images are only copies, the photographs add a performative aspect to the artwork. For these photographs are collected randomly by the artist’s friends and thereby remove some sense of the artist’s own taste and instead allow the subject matter to be presented as a simple phenomenon.

Having also seen some more great artwork at Parasol unit, the last destination is The Strand where Lisson Gallery have taken over a building. The building is scheduled for demolition and has temporarily assumed the name of Store Studios. Here the Lisson artists have executed some of their installations in this new setting and of particular note is Ryan Gander’s sculpture depicting glowing steps ascending to a rectangular doorway, which is actually a sheet of back-lit plexiglass. The effect is to suggest some transcendental ascent to those climbing those steps (but as they number only three and are built of plexiglass too, cannot be walked on) set within the shabby walls of the condemned building. With the index of Lisson artists largely addressed in this show and the earlier works from the morning further drawing from that index, the day has finished with a decidedly minimalist Lisson-like feel.

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Daniel Buren of Lisson Gallery with wall mounted pieces based on his characteristic 8.7cm wide black and white stripes.

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Allora and Calzadilla of Lisson Gallery. Foreign in a Domestic Sense is a legal American phrase which the artists feel is unfair to certain of its allies.

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Regent’s Canal.

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Tal R of Victoria Miro with his new series of paintings based on photos of sex shops, many of which were sent to him from around the world.

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Martin Puryear at Parasol Unit with beautifully crafted sculptures.

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Robert Montgomery at the Parasol Unit with a large outdoor text piece.

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Idris Kahn of Victoria Miro with delicate text-based paintings.

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Anish Kapoor of Lisson Gallery showing at Store Studios on The Strand.

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Ryan Gander of Lisson Gallery at Store Studios on The Strand.

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Gallery run 5th May

This week’s run is the big one up to Highgate which I do when a new show is on at the Camden Arts Centre near Hampstead. There is just enough time to get round the 6+ hour circuit and with the sun shining, I set off. First stop is Brick Lane to pick up an apple strudel from Bagel Bake and build up the carbs. Then north to the Regent’s Canal…Islington….Finsbury Park….Parkland Walk. This is a stunning disused railway line with trees and graffiti. A mother panics briefly as her child has lagged behind, but quickly reappears thankfully and jogs on past me. A bicycle bell then rings behind me and as I step to one side a child thanks me as she shoots past catching up with her mum. Then onwards to ….Highgate….Hampstead Heath….two ponds and Louie’s and more carbs. Then the steep decline of Arkwright Road before arriving at the Camden Arts Centre. As I read the blurb on the hallway wall before going into the gallery, the assistant sneezes. “Bless you” seems a good thing to say. Going into the gallery, the name Paul Johnson seems familiar to me from the list of artists I have memorised from the galleries on my running circuits. Bruce Haines gallery possibly. This is confirmed by the BH gallery’s homepage, news splash. Sculptural shapes dominate the space, some carefully manufactured and others made from stacked detritus. Together they create a strong unified installation. In the gallery next door Greta Bratescu, who is still making work in her nineties, has a retrospective with some beautiful little drawings accompanying photographs and stitched fabric. Then it is south to Lisson Gallery. Anish Kapoor is showing new work including a concave mirror with the top half edited out using an unreflective layer. The effect is striking as the reflected objects move in relation to this stationary surface responding to the viewer’s own movements. Further down Bell Street at the other gallery, Djurberg and Berg are showing cartoon-like characters that have submitted to base desires and appear to be having a great time in their rectangular tableaux world. At Gagosian Gallery further south I enter the darkened setting of a Picasso show featuring bulls and minotaurs. An attendant shakes his head as I point to the phone and therefore no photo but a great show and some beautiful paintings. In Simon Lee Gallery there is the smell of fresh paint. The paintings have been covered in a silver surface which has then been raked off to reveal colourful underpainting. Then the final leg south to the building that jointly houses Greengrassi and Corvi-Mora. Downstairs Brian Calvin has made pop-art style portraits that are very expressive but beautifully simplified. Upstairs Giuseppe Gabellone has made a carefully crafted crate from bamboo and carved supporting units into which some organic shapes gently nestle. That is the ninth and last photo of the day.

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Parkland Walk is a disused railway route turned into a nature reserve.

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Hampstead Heath pond which I passed on the way back south from Highgate.

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Paul Johnson of Bruce Haines Mayfair showing at Camden Arts Centre with sculptures mingled with consumer detritus.

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Greta Bratescu at Camden Arts Centre. Drawings and thought provoking objects from the nonagenarian artist.

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Anish Kapoor of Lisson Gallery with beautifully crafted concave mirrors and other objects.

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Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg of Lisson Gallery with objects and cartoon-like figures doing whatever they want with no inhibitions.

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Garth Weisler at Simon Lee Gallery with layered paintings all presenting a pleasing silver grid line surface.

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Brian Calvin showing at Corvi Mora with simplified but expressive faces.

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Giuseppe Gabellone at Greengrassi with what looks like a flat-pack object, but presented on a crate that follows the organic outlines with some of its wooden structure.

Frieze opening night 5th October

As it is my 50th birthday on the day and Frieze VIP team have very kindly given us tickets, I am doing a gallery walk this week through the micro-geography of the Frieze exhibition space.

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Neo Rauch at David Zwirner showing at Frieze London.

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Anish Kapoor at Lisson Gallery showing at Frieze London.

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Darren Almond at White Cube showing at Frieze London.

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Frieze London.

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Philippe Parreno at Pilar Corrias showing at Frieze London.

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Torey Thornton at Stuart Shave Modern Art showing at Frieze London.

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Michael Landy (and my friends Michelle and Enzo) at Thomas Dane Gallery showing at Frieze London.

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Hans Peter Feldmann at Simon Lee Gallery showing at Frieze London.

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Kevin Francis Gray at Pace Gallery showing at Frieze London.

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.