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.

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Gallery run 25th January

At Blain Southern, Rachel Howard has produced a series of black and white paintings including an interesting one with a wallpaper motif. She appears to have then developed this image extensively in red and on a larger scale with four examples shown in the adjacent gallery. For the artist, wallpaper is a powerful motif because it represents the liminal space between a safe domestic environment and uncontrollable external events such as war. In some areas the wallpaper appears to reveal this external space through a semi-transparency, whilst the red of the pattern itself becomes a vehicle for introducing a more free-flowing use of red paint symbolic, of course, of blood and strife.

Meanwhile in the downstairs gallery, Brian Griffiths has created a puppet-like character which he has presented against simple cardboard and wooden off-cut stage sets on the gallery walls. The artist’s characteristic use of visual metaphor is clearly apparent in these simple backdrops commandeering, for example, a second hand spindle to function as a high-tech sun lamp. The introduction of figurative elements is by no means new to the artist’s oeuvre but the combination of low-tech figure in low-tech background is an interesting development.

It would then be a long loop up to Notting Hill via the Regent’s Canal followed by a return through Hyde Park, which lands me back amongst the Mayfair galleries and the shiny black door of Michael Werner bejewelled with brass trimmings. Peter Doig has produced a set of images based on a powerful looking figure standing astride a sandy beach. The paraphernalia of a red and white flotation device lends an air of the everyday to the image as well as pleasing colour harmonies whilst the figure itself is more reminiscent of the mythical tales of Odysseus and a Greek ideal of the male physique.

Craig Kauffmanm is on display at Sprueth and Magers with work from the 60’s that uses bright plastics. In the main window is a stunning display incorporating work by this artist alongside additional works by Donald Judd and Robert Morris. Each of the works by the three artists has been produced in a single coloured plastic and seen together they create an overall harmony as the eye moves from one piece to the other, resting upon a single colour before moving to the next. The plastic used by Craig Kauffman is actually slightly transparent and the effect is to make his works look delicious with the coloured lozenge of plastic both reflecting a warm glow of light but also, in some cases, projecting a coloured patch onto the gallery walls.

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Rachel Howard of Blain Southern with a wallpaper motif that she has then developed extensively in a further series.

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Brian Griffiths at Blain Southern has created a puppet-like character presented in simple cardboard stage sets on the gallery walls.

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Wim Wenders of Blain Southern showing a selection of his Polaroids at The Photographers Gallery. These were an important part of his movie film preparations.

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Peter Doig at Michael Werner.

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Josh Smith at Massimo De Carlo with colourful depictions of the Grim Reaper.

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Bridget Riley at David Zwirner with new work.
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Craig Kauffman at Sprueth Magers with works from the 60’s using bright plastics.

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Andreas Schulze at Sprueth Magers with colourful pipework.

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Tara Donovan of Pace Gallery has created a series of images using stacked cards with small cut-out sections.