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.
Willie Doherty at Matt’sGallery with work about the 1916 Easter uprising in Dublin.
Tracey Emin of White Cube in a group show called Dreamers Awake.
Caitlin Keogh at White Cube in a group show called Dreamers Awake.
Jordan Kasey at White Cube in a group show Dreamers Awake.
Benedict Drew at Whitechapel Gallery with artworks about a rather questionable economic theory called the Trickle Down Effect.
Emma Hart at Whitechapel Gallery.
Alessandro Raho of Alison Jacques Gallery with a portrait of Dame Judi Dench at National Portrait Gallery.
Marlene Dumas of Frith Street Gallery with a depiction of Oscar Wilde.
Chris Ofili at The National Gallery with a hand-woven tapestry.