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.

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Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at Tate Modern with layered images.

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Trinity Buoy Wharf.

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

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

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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!

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Andrew Grassie of Maureen Paley with photorealistic paintings.

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

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Florian Meisenberg of Kate MacGarry.

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

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Gallery run 1st December

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Sprovieri and BlainSouthern are amongst the latest venues to be checked out on this week’s run. The first on this list, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, is showing work by Arnulf Rainer, Lee Bul and Medardo Rosso, whose displays are in the various ornate rooms and hallway spaces that fill a classically styled building. Due to the precious nature of Medardo Rosso’s sculptures, a specially sealed room has been created. It has curtains on both its doorways and a heater that raises the temperature to considerably higher than the freezing day outside. Apart from this unexpected warmth, the sculptures themselves offer a real pleasure for the viewer. They actually appear to have emerged from chunks of matter bringing with them a strange life-force to the blocks of inanimate material from which they are cast.

At Sprovieri, the artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, who are enjoying a current major retrospective at the Tate, have three paintings on display. Each of these paintings explores the relations between the surface plane of a painting and its picture plane, in other words the physical surface of an image and the illusory perspectival space that lies just beneath it. This dual space of a painting was truly liberated 100 years ago with Russian Suprematism, we are told in the press release. To use an extended metaphor of my own, the angular forms of the new avant-guard movements managed to haul themselves out of the illusionistic world of landscape and still-life, to sit on the paintings’ surfaces, rather as the first amphibians, in fact, had found themselves liberated from water and free to roam land! In this particular show the artists have employed angular forms that are reminiscent of Suprematism but painted in muted pastel hues and beneath these shapes are various rural landscapes. This duality not only adds narrative interest, but also demonstrates as a fate accomplis, the simultaneous existence of the two different painterly spaces the artists were keen to depict.

At Blain Southern, a gallery my friend has recommended to visit, James White is displaying paintings of glasses and associated objects. Catching a glimpse of them through the window last week, they looked like black and white photographs but this week they are revealed as highly realistic monochrome paintings. Every cut in the crystal of various glasses unleashes a new cascade of white paint executed in small brushstrokes. Close up their materiality is clearly discernible but from afar they dissolve into an overall impression of light.

The rest of the run is dictated by the cold weather, since a dead phone (and need for mince pies) necessitates a jog to Hampstead, albeit through some lovely parkland, and then back again in search of Apple HQ and a new battery. The process of queuing for the item actually provides the necessary warmth to bring the phone back to life and to photograph some remaining artworks. At Hauser and Wirth, Jakub Julian Ziolkowski is displaying some vivid paintings, whilst at Raven Row, and with the battery still surviving, Gianfranco Barruchello has produced drawings that resemble mind maps. A container is made with a few pen strokes and encloses several pinkish spheres. From here a cartoonish figure starts to come to life, as though the imagination has bestowed upon these spheres the power to regenerate into a network of vital organs. Perhaps the artist has tapped into yet another type of space then, a third type in addition to the picture surface and illusionistic spaces previously described, a space where the artwork is a trigger of images without needing to provide all the details itself.

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Arnulf Rainer at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac with abstract works from the 50s and 60s.

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Medardo Rosso with early 20th century works at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

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Kehinde Wiley of Stephen Friedman Gallery with paintings of brave boat steerers adopting heroic poses from famous western paintings.

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Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at Sprovieri with compositions experimenting with relations between the image and picture planes.

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James White of Blain Southern with intricate painted monochromes featuring transparent materials in close-up often invoking narratives.

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Jakub Julian Ziolkowski of Hauser and Wirth with images by his invented alter-ego, who depicts nature as it is sensed rather than seen.

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Monika Sosnowska of Hauser and Wirth with sculptures from industrial materials, including steel reinforcement bars here.

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Luciano Fabro showing iconic works from the 60s at Simon Lee Gallery.

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Gianfranco Baruchello of Massimo De Carlo showing at RavenRow. Detailed drawings resemble mind maps.