Sunday, 23 April 2017


Up Now in London

Paola PiviYou Don't Have to Believe Me @ Massimo De Carlo, 55 South Audley St - Mayfair                                                          

To May 27:

Here are two polar bears made of feathers, and Duchamp for kids: a dozen spinning bicycle wheels with feathers attached merge his readymade and rotary phases. But both are parodies of flight and, downstairs, any innocent view of the world - as captured on 52 screens through 40,000 images culled from google searches - is undermined by a soundtrack of spoken lies (‘in the middle ages, kings only ate at night’, ‘catfish are mammals’, ‘the largest statue in the world is of Michael Jackson’…). Would we hear about Father Christmas? No, but upstairs ungainly drawings are blown up big time to tell of Pivi and her husband’s four year custody battle for their adopted son. They won, but the darkening still seeps.

I am a professional bear, 2017 - urethane foam, plastic, feathers


Garth Weiser @ Simon Lee, 12 Berkeley St - Green Park

To 27 May:

Detail from '10', 2017

I’ve been following Garth Weiser (say ‘Vyza’) for ten years now, but this is his first substantial UK showing for his multi-layered, digitally-aware immersively-scaled  but somewhat unphotographable abstractions.  You could say that every canvas is actually three paintings struggling to co-exist: a figurative underpainting – currently somewhat comic – an expressive abstract painting, and a geometric overlay. Such complexity is hard-won: Weiser lays strips of tape in patterns on top of the figurative ground,(adding rope in some recent works)  covers the whole with oil paint, removes the paint while the tape is still wet (accepting or rejecting accidental bleeds and drips to taste) and cuts into the remainder with a razor blade.  Result: an alluring all-over flicker between oppositions. If you could jam Picabia’s transparencies, Stella’s stripes and Richter’s overpainted photographs together, you’d be pretty-much there. 

'10', 2017 - 244 x 201 cm


Paul Johnson: Teardrop Centre @ Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road - Camden

 To 18 June:

Whereas the chaos of Francis Bacon’s studio was reconstructed in identical disorder in Dublin, Paul Johnson has made what looks at first like chaos by shifting what may well have been his fairly tidy studio into Camden Arts Centre.  On closer examination, aided by Johnson’s own 40-feature map of the room, it turns out that all is very fully considered: he has variously cut, cast, re-oriented, combined and layered items, using the contents of his studio as raw materials for discovery as – or transformation into - art. Walls become a table, crates form a sculptural barrier, a door stands islanded... As he oversees the scene in the form of a 'Stack-Man' made from piled newspapers, Johnson must be pleased with how this rejig has turned out - the more so as he’s paired with veteran Romanian avant-gardist Geta Brătescu making the most of her studio in the other galleries.

Sarah Roberts: Torremolinos-Tableaux-Tongue-Twister (After Sun) & Mark Jackson: Face Is The Closest @ Block 336, 336 Briston Rd – Brixton

To 6 May: 
Sarah Roberts installation view

Block 336 has room for two substantial shows, but this impressive pair feels like a whole: Sarah Roberts collects surfaces, here from the capital of crass tourism, Torremolinos, and repurposes them into a cult city unified by redness of object and light in the post-beach sunset in which ‘dark closed in on the pinks… amidst the dried renders crumbling’ *. Mark Jackson’s paintings of barely-present faces evade readability through a marble-smooth screen-like effect built from layers of translucent glazes with a hint of psychedelia. They might be just the right insubstantial inhabitants for Roberts’ paradoxically three dimensional world of surfaces.

Mark Jackson: Surfacing, 2016

* from Roberts’ text

Peter Dreher: Day by Day, Good Day at The Mayor Gallery, 21 Cork St – Central

Tag um Tag guter Tag (Day by Day good Day) Nr. 1637 (Day), 2001
Oil on linen, 25.4 x 20.3 cm

Peter Dreher is famous for having painted the same empty water glass over 5,000 times. I say famous, but ‘Day by Day, Good Day’ has been little-seen in London. Here are 58 examples from 1991-2011, sequenced day-night-day-night. The strongest contrasts are between sunny and cloudy days, but all 58 demonstrate Dreher’s exceptional praxical capacity to remain invested in the painting for itself, regardless of subject even, as he regards the glass and its reflections intensely. Obsessive? Oddly, I think not: he has other streams of work, and comes across as more akin to a daily jogger than a monomaniac, though at 83, he’s now too frail to jog.

Night - Day - Night sequence



Anne Collier, Positive (California), 2016 in 'You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred'

Spring is bursting forth with photography shows, perhaps on the basis that the Photo London (18-21 May at Somerset House) will see the full blossoming. Wolfgang Tillmans at the Tate, 'You Are Looking at Something That Never Occurred' at the Zabludowicz Collection, the Deutsche Börse prize show at the Photographers Gallery (which has 4/4 worthy winners), 'Double Take' at Skarstedt  and Christopher Williams at David Zwirner are prominent and impressive manifestations, Saatch's selfie show prominent but (though there are good bits) a mess. Roger Ballen at Hamiltons is also worth mentioning, and here are a couple of other less obvious choices from the bouquet:

Scarlett Hooft Graafland: Discovery  @ Flowers Gallery, 21 Cork St - Central

To 29 April:

Still Life with Camel, 2016 - 120 x 150cm

Flowers is blooming just now, as the gallery has its best painter at Kingsland Road (David Hepher) and an interesting new-to-Britain photographer at Cork Street. Much-travelled Scarlett Hooft Graafland is one of several photographers to have impressed me in the Netherlands*, and her panoramic landscape images of exotic countries with performative sculpture added  cleverly conjoin beauty, humour, a surrealist streak, art references and cultural import.  Take Still Life with Camel, made in the United Emirates: an absurd take on Christo which subsumes what could have been a biblical scene of camel and riders into a joyous mass of pink.  Or Salt Steps: the Incredible Hulk meets Koonsian inflatables as a Bolivian man’s would-be-power is lampooned by his inability to see where he’s going.

Salt Steps, 2004

* You could make a Dutch school to rival the Finish (currently on view at Purdy Hicks) with women dominant: Marleen Sleeuwits, Awoiska van der Molen, Amie Dicke, Sara Bjarland, Melanie Bonajo, Annegret Kellner, Fleur van Dodewaard and Dana Lixenberg would be my other choices...


Elger Esser: Morgenland  @ Parasol unit, Wharf Rd - Hoxton 

Salwa Bahry I (detail), Egypt, 2011. C-print, Diasec, 97 x 124 cm

The key to German Elger Esser’s photographs of conflicted territories which appear ‘too quiet’, in the classic Wayne-spoken formulation of the American Western, is his perfect pitch. That brings just the right degree of implication to modest-sounding proposals: ‘fake an archive of views from Israel / Palestine in 1948’;  ‘make big modern photos of Lebanon and the Nile look like fading postcards’; ‘ask another artist to complement your travelogue with paintings of local orchids’ and, best of all, 'show either side of a border view printed on either side of a sculpturally propped sheet of copper’. 

Installation view with 'One Sky' series centre: Photography by Ben Westoby, Courtesy of Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art

Talking of 1948…


Ella Littwitz: No Vestige of a Beginning, No Prospect of an End @ Copperfield Gallery, 6 Copperfield Street - Southwark

Installation view

Ella Littwitz provides an object lesson in how to generate a political and emotional charge from simple-looking means - all relating to the expansion of Israel into Palestine territory. A filigree bronze cast of Dittrichia Viscosa represents the first plant to colonise disrupted territory, its allopathic qualities enriching the metaphor. Traces of the non-native pine refer to its mass introduction as a sign of support for Zionism: every Israeli receives a tree on birth, and you can have a plaque in the forest named for you if you buy enough extra trees - the imperialist narrative is strong enough for Hezbollah to have attacked trees!  A sort of cellular growth of connected unpicked footballs evokes the story of how UN officials collected and returned balls which children in a school close the border had kicked into a minefield in 1948.

"More poetry than instruction", "More instruction than poetry", chalk on Blackboard, 70 x 70 x 2 cm each


Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg @ Lisson Gallery, 27 Bell Street – Edgeware Rd

Still from Worship, 2016

Nathalie Djerberg and her musical mood-darkening collaborator Hans Berg have tended to prefer experiment to formula in recent years, with patchy results. But here they return to what they’re known for, with three short and transgressive claymation films. If you want a goat suckling a tiger, an aubergine car and frankfurter motorbike, turds growing up lively, a moon which moons (buttocks added for the purpose), a doughnut drinking tea, love made to a banana and a well-hung matador applying his best estocada to sponge cake, then these short films are for you.  It’s hard not be jealous of such a playfully perverse subconscious.
Still from Delights of an Undirected Mind, 2016


Maria Lassnig: A Painting Survey 1950-2007 @ Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row - Central

To 29 April:

Self-portrait with speech bubble, 2006 - Oil on canvas,  200 x 150 cm 

Following her shows at the Serpentine (2008) and Tate Liverpool (2016), it’s not exactly a secret that Maria Lassnig (1919-2014) was one of the best painters of the last 50 years, but this estate-driven show reinforces the point with examples not previously seen in Britain. It clarifies her geographically-driven phases rather well: from early Viennese experiments in hard-edged abstraction to more expressionist abstracts leading up to her move to Paris in 1961, where she developed her ‘body-aware’ style of figuration. Relatively realistic works followed as she found herself a painter reacting against the prevalent conceptual use of media in New York (1968-80). She returned to Vienna in 1980 to become, at 60, the nation’s first female professor of art. Self-portrait with Speech Bubble is typical of Lassnig's late, great flowering, showing her concern with the directly sensing parts of the body – no need, it seems here, for a brain.

Girl with Wine Glass, 1971 - oil on canvas, 178 x 127cm


Richard Mosse: Incoming @ Curve Gallery, The Barbican 

Still from Incoming, 2016
Richard Mosse made a big splash at the 2013 Venice Biennale with his film of the ongoing war in the Congo. He shot it with discontinued reconnaissance infrared film which turned much of the battle scenery pink, so infecting the scenes with a surprising look which also carried political resonance. Can he replicate that kind of impact? It seems so: The Curve features film footage centering on refugees movements and still images of the associated camp infrastructure. Both are taken with a thermal camera which can distinguish people at a distance of 30 km and, as such, is classified as a weapon for export purposes. Again, the aesthetic is beautiful and distinct. Seeing thermally removes racial differences but emphasises mortality. Even though Mosse doesn’t really exploit the unusual dimensions of the Curve, his name can be added to the list of artists who – out of 27 high quality commissions - have excelled there over the last decade: Richard Wilson, Clemens von Wedermeyer, Robert Kusmirowski, Celeste Boursier-Mougenout, Song Dong and Random International.

Hellinikon Olympic Arena, 2016, digital c-print on metallic paper



Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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Saturday, 22 April 2017


‘Opening Up’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 211

Dolly Thompsett: ‘After Boucher’, 2016 – mixed media on patterned upholstery fabric, 66 x 81cm
A couple of weeks ago I talked about good galleries, regrettably, closing. True, but that isn’t to say that the total number of galleries is reducing. On the other side of the coin, I visited four spaces for the first time last Thursday evening! All were showing artists I’ve previously met at other galleries, illustrating how things move around. First up was MadeinBritaly, an Anglo-Italian gallery near Warwick Avenue, where artist-curator Laura Santamaria held the closing event for Drawings from Lightning, a multi-artist commission with several exhibitions and a publication which demonstrated her considerable organisational energy. My next stop was more central: the previously nomadic Dellasposa has taken up a permanent collaborative share with a café near Shepherd’s Market, opening with tweaked puzzle paintings derived from Chardin still life paintings – Darren Coffield’s cool xxx on the digital misrepresentation of reality. Then to Sloane Square, where the Pontone Gallery has recently opened in a more traditional – and rather impressive – gallery space, which suited Dolly Thompsett’s teeming riffs on history, nature and pattern rather well. Finally, the FieldWorks Gallery, appropriately placed beneath the railway arches by London Fields station, started with a show made on site by the first artist in residence of the associated studio spaces. The upcoming Bea Bonafini (showing soon at the Zabludowicz Collection) made an engaging mix of painting, ceramics, tapestry and installation, much of which incorporated the furniture she found on site in an admirably efficient bit of appropriation. 

Darren Coffield: ‘Dead Game 3 (After Chardin)’, 2015

Laura Santamaria: ‘Cosmo celebrates its experience through the Flame and me’, 2015 – blacksmoke on paper, 700 x 500 mm each
Bea Bonafini: ‘Proposition for a Non-Religious Chapel (La Bacca)’, 2017 - 86 x 148cm
Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

Saturday, 15 April 2017


‘Advantageous Positions’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 210

Allen Jones: ‘High Wire’, 2006

Sculpture parks are a most agreeable way to combine the countryside’s freshening merits with the potential for positioning art advantageously. My Easter visit to the New Art Centre at Roche Court, illustrated that. Set, to the seasonal soundtrack of a rookery, in sweeping hills near Salisbury, Roche Court has some excellent indoor exhibition spaces – but its essence is the 85 or so sculptures in the grounds. Among the most effective locations at present are Allen Jones’ acrobat ‘High Wire’, which spins in the wind as it hangs from a tree, making the most of the changing distortions of a flexible figure as it rotates. Paul Morrison also takes on trees with flatness: his botanical illustration style ‘Hyazinthe’ is 13 feet high, enabling it to act arboreally. Michael Craig-Martin’s wheelbarrow is another sculptural drawing, and one which looks rather at home in the garden – though if you prefer unnatural incursions, Craig-Martin also has a huge pink light bulb nearby. David Annesley’s ‘Untitled (Circle)’ seems decidedly three dimensional in that company, and works particularly well with a setting of daffodils. Next up at Roche Court, to supplement the core of the changing mix, is show of Anthony Caro – who taught the under-publicised Annesley. 

Michael Craig-Martin: ‘Wheelbarrow (red)’, 2013 

Paul Morrison: ‘Hyazinthe’, 2014

David Annesley: ‘Untitled (Circle)’, 1966

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?


'How to Go': Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 209

William Daniels: ‘Untitled’, 2013 – as shown at Vilma Gold
The well-respected Ibid, Limoncello and Vilma Gold galleries have closed their London spaces, in what may be a watershed moment for the art business. I suspect more mid-market primary galleries will follow. Minor aspect as it must seem to the gallerists, it is worth thinking about ‘how to close’. Max Wigram (2015) can stand for how not to: no communication – no email to the galleries’ lists, not even an indication on the websites, leaving the conclusion to be drawn over time as no new shows were scheduled. Limencello and Ibid did manage on site notice of their closures, and Vilma Gold did better still, sending a message to their email subscribers. Ibid is somewhat different, as it continues in LA, and also has an off-site show in London*, only not ibid (‘in the same place’). I suspect the general lack of communication is down to embarrassment at having ‘failed’. Yet really there’s no need: everyone appreciates that the business is a fickle one, and things change and move on. Better to celebrate what has been, and maybe even hold a farewell event. Ceri Hand was an example of how to close in upbeat mode, as was Poppy Sebire – in the same space, as it happens – before her. But they are exceptions. Rebecca May-Marston and Rachel Williams might also have celebrated, as they have exhibition records to be proud of, for all that the toxic combination of a difficult economy, soaring London rents, and the threats posed by Brexit and, perhaps, online alternatives, make it increasingly tough to make things work. 

* One of their best artists, too: David Adamo at 15 Finsbury Circus, presented in conjunction with HS Projects.

David Adamo at 15 Finsbury Circus, London, EC2M 7EB. Curated by HS Projects and co-organised by Ibid Gallery, London. Wooden & Bronze sculptures displayed in the reception area of an office building.

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

‘Sex with Someone You Love’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN 208

Tom Worsfold: ‘DIY’, 2017, 160 x 240 cm – acrylic on canvas

Onanism isn’t the easiest art subject. ‘The Great Masturbator’, 1929, is some way from Dali’s best, even though the practice was close to his heart: it is said that he was an addict who, afflicted by various fears and hang-ups, practiced no other sexual activity. Nor does much of Sarah Lucas’ reputation ride on the ‘wanking arm’ stream of her work, or Sterling Ruby’s on his film ‘The Masturbators’. All the more credit, then, to Tom Worsfold for an appropriately seductive and humorous treatment of the theme in his recent show at Carlos / Ishikawa*. The diptych ‘DIY’ seems to show in the left hand panel the rather alarming use of a vacuum cleaner for purposes of self-relief, and in the comparatively empty right hand panel, deadpan instructions for turn-on and insertion. It all has the hit and miss air of the other sort of DIY, at least when I attempt it. Perhaps there’s a play, too, on the self-absorbed act of painting itself. Worsfold depicts a range of modern scenarios in parallel manner: waiting around, commuting, relaxing at an airport terminal: all sneak rather beautifully washy acrylic-as-watercolour patterned tactility into the environs of often partial glimpses of a Robert Crumb-ish type whom I take to be a self-portrait of sorts. Don’t overdo the suction, Tom, we’d like you to live to make more paintings!

Tom Worsfold: ‘Terminal’, 2017, 160 x 150 cm – acrylic on canvas


 'Something for Nothing’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #207

Samuel Zealey: 'Concord', 2017

An artwork for nothing? That’s a good trade, plain as the Concorde on your face. But wait… The star of Samuel Zealey’s new show is probably what he calls – being a fan of the American master - his ‘Serra in Reverse’. Where Serra uses the force of gravity pressing them together to keep precarious-looking giant steel plates from falling on us, Zealey sets the plates of ‘Life Line’ against each other so they push apart. No welding, just a stretched rope, prevents them falling down. It’s a little worrying, the more so when so much of the world seems about to collapse. The other big works at the Cob Gallery in Camden (‘Planes’ to 8 April) are the show-titling Folded Steel Plane Series’, several person-sized heavy metal versions of some of the 36 ways Zealey’s researches have tracked down for folding a paper plane. The fact that they’re also geometrical planes is emphasised by this move, and there’s a critical edge – typical of Zealey;s environmental focus - in the contrast in noxious emissions between model and reality. And the freebie? What was more natural than to ask Zealey to demonstrate his prowess by folding the show’s press release into a paper plane, and signing it as an edition. As if planned, the fold threw up planes on the wings, and it didn’t fly badly, either...
My Zealey edition contemplates a garden launch
Installation view with 'Life Line', 2017
Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?


'Secondary First’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #206

Linder: Superautumatisme Grande Jete XV, 2015

There’s something natural in expecting new art in commercial spaces and older work in institutions. Yet many of Mayfair’s commercial galleries present secondarily sourced work, and there are several outstanding shows up now.
Mazzoleni’s 30th anniversary exhibition of 30 modern Italian artists (to 5 May) scores with the high quality and often somewhat unusual choices and the strong case it makes for Salvo, Dorazio and Turcato – all little known here. My take-home would be an exemplary Burro. His language originated in dressing war wounds, which may be why I found myself seeing Giulio Turcato’s lunar scene painted onto rubber as ulcerous. Robilant + Voena reinforce my suspicion that if Tate wanted to show a South American surrealist they should have chosen Roberto Matta rather than the duller Wilfredo Lam (to April 20). Skarstedt’s survey of appropriative photography (‘Double Take’ to April 22) balances lots of now-classic Robert Heinecken and Richard Prince with more recent work in the same spirit. That links neatly to Luxembourg & Dayan’s ‘The Ends of Collage’, indeed that (to 13 May) also has Prince, with what could be described in boundary-pushing mode as ‘one image collages’. Add various others including plenty of John Stezaker, some unusual Linder and the too-rare chance to see Nusch Éluard as an artist, rather than as muse, and this – and the impressively organised book which accompanies it – is excellent. As is Pilar Ordovas’ display of just half a dozen white sculptures: Giacometti, Hepworth, Chillida…(‘Monochrome’ to 22 April). And, ending in Italy as we began, the highlights of M&L’s choices of Fontana in 3D are giant plates and a ceramic burst of fighting men from 1947. Guilio Turcato: Lunar Surface, 1964Lucio Fontana: ‘La Battaglia’, Polychrome glazed ceramic?, 1947

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

‘Drawn to Room’ Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #206

Heather Phillipson: ‘It would be weirder not to be having nightmares right now’, 2017 – digital drawing with ink and marker pen



250 works in A4 size! Purchasable in an online auction starting at £250! Drawing Biennial 2017 is Drawing Room’s best yet. The work-by-work standard is high, and if it’s hard to grasp as a whole, there are plenty of categories you might apply. There are, for example, six Turner Prize winners here (Deacon, Gormley, Kapoor, Perry, Prouvost, Wallinger) and some impressive international names you might not have expected (Jean-Luc Molène, William Kentridge, Anthony McCall…) There is some evidence of the equation ‘greatest fame, least effort’ – certainly Marcus Cope’s cunningly motif-linked inside-outside slab of lovingly detailed domesticity fits the other half of that tendency. I was, of course, more diverted by the contributions of artists who’ve been in my own shows (Alice Anderson, Rana Begum, Oona Grimes, Danny Rolph, John Smith, Troika, Julie Verhoeven). More thematically, some memorable text work phrases come up, from ‘Not All Friends Are Friends’ (Eddie Peake) to ‘Death of the Internet’ (Suzanne Triester) to the Trump-tinged worries of Heather Phillipson. ‘It would be weirder not to be having nightmares right now’ sets the weird bar pretty high, and may refer through its circle jerk of peanuts to the President including the size of his penis in his campaign content… Plenty more classifications – from category mistakes to footwear to thaumaturgy (‘a fancy name for magic’) – are provided by Tom Morton’s sparkling catalogue notes.. And Tannery Arts, which adjoins Drawing Room, has a show on ‘Shaping the Void’ which is also well worth seeing…



Marcus Cope: ‘Building Blocks’, 2017 – watercolour on paper


Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

‘Not his Best Period?’ Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #205

Francis Picabia: ‘Trees in Flower at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne’, 1906 oil on canvas 74 x 92cm

Looking around auctions recently, two works at Bonhams emphasised how prices vary across artists’ careers. In the long term, this often this rights itself – either it is all embraced by the market as with Picasso or Warhol, or the whole oeuvre falls out of favour. 50 years ago Francis Picabia (1878-1953) was pretty much defined by his Dada output of the 1920s. The many eclectic phases of his subsequent work are now highly valued, but his pre-Dada Impressionism (or pastiche Impressionism?) Is still relatively cheap. He painted 300 such canvasses during 1903 – 09, studio productions from secondary sources, so – as would become typical – undermining the character of a genre even as he embraced it. All the same, ‘Les arbres en fleurs à Villeneuve-sur-Yonne’ conveys the air of spring rather attractively. This typical example was estimated at £130-180,000* but went for £605,000 at Bonham’s, suggesting that a correction is occurring (a comparable Pissarro was £1.2-£1.8m at Christies). In contrast, while early de Chirico is very much top end, he dismissed modernism in 1919 and his later work was dismissed in turn for many years, although somewhat more attention is now paid to it. One proclivity of de Chirico (1888-1978) was to make backdated copies of his classic works, a ‘self-fakery’ sometimes seen as a pre-post-modernist move. These early 60’s horses, though, are from his tributes to the masters of the Baroque which, in Picabian mode, are interesting precisely insofar as they fail to ring quite true. Estimated at £50-70,000*, this sold for £65,000, so no shift there.

* compares with the £5m which might be expected for a top period work
** compares with the £2m which might be expected for a top period work

Giorgio de Chirico: ‘Frightened Horses’, 1960-65 – oil on canvas 52 x 63cm

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

‘Art and Drink’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #204

Jemima Brown: ‘Untitled Wife’, 2016

London is an increasingly problematic location for galleries, given rent levels. Perhaps there will be more shows in cafés, pubs, restaurants and such. At any rate, I was able to catch three such last Thursday. Charlie Smith, above The Reliance in Hoxton, has two shows to on ‘street semiotics’ to 25 March: in the main gallery (chosen by gallerist Xavier Ellis) and in he back room (selected by David Hancock of Manchester gallery Paper) – which is where you’ll discover Jemima Brown’s ‘Untitled Wife’, which makes great use of a pan scourer as a trendy top and pampas grass as big hair. The Approach gallery sits, rather naturally, above The Approach Tavern. Currently it’s as liquid above as below, at least in terms of art: German painter Helene Appel, who paints post-modernist Trompe-l’œil, often with lots of near-paradoxical raw canvas on show, has enormous tidescapes – waves expiring on beaches as if the paint just washed over them; middle format sinks; and tiny depictions of pasta (to 26 March). All life sized, I suppose. The gallery space was literally dry though: The Approach makes the most of its location by not serving drinks at openings. A newer, less established space is The Workers’ Café at 404 Kingsland Road. There you’ll find an attractive selection of works on paper by 25 contributors chosen by artist Carolina Ambida, and presented along with a nice little catalogue, which is something neither pub can boast (‘The Drawing Show’ to 10 March).

Helene Appel: ‘Sink 2’, 2016

Works by Alex Michon, Cathy Lomax and Tom Mason in 
‘The Drawing Show’

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

‘Use It Up’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #203

Tai-Shan Schierenberg: ‘Loki’, 2014 Oil paint and polestyrene, 28 x 26 cm

Paint is expensive stuff, best make the most of it. For the first time Tai-Shan Schierenberg is showing his sculptures (Flowers Gallery to 25 March). They’re heads made of paint on polystyrene, rather in the manner of Glenn Brown’s neat reversals of his flat Auerbach-style paintings, but unlike Brown (so far as I know) Schierenberg uses the paint scraped daily from his palette, making them something of a diary of his practice. That’s a known way of generating a chance-heavy yet grounded colour result. Gerhard Richter is the famous practitioner: most days he scrapes his palette off across a photograph, thus imposing a personalised diaristic mark which echoes his two famous moves: of blurring an image, or of employing stick-scraped paint as the basis for abstraction. Jonathan Meese, somewhat mockingly I suspect, has imposed similar markings onto images of his rather more chaotic life. At a slight angle to those, some of Bernard Frize’s earliest abstract works were made peeled off the coloured skins from pots of paint left open in the studio, and applying them over the surface of the canvas. And Jonathan Horowitz made his Leftover Paint Abstractions (2014) by flinging whatever half-used cans of paint were in his studio against a canvas. “I see them as a repository’, he says, ‘for something that would have gone in a landfill’. Not just economical, but responsible…

Gerhard Richter: ‘ Fextal, Piz Chapütschin 1992’ 10 cm x 15 cm Oil on colour photograph

Jonathan Horowitz

‘Reasons to Sallivate – or Not’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #202

David Salle: ‘Mingus in Mexico’, 1990
American painter David Salle (say ‘Sally’) has been prominent recently: following Skarstedt’s memorable showing of his ‘tapestry paintings’ late last year, and there’s more of his richly multi-sourced 1990’s work in the Saatchi Gallery’s uneven survey of ten ‘painter’s painters’ (does that make Charles a secret painter? Either way, to 28 Feb). And Salle has just published ‘How to See’, a collection of his writings on art, more in the territory of accumulating observations than of setting out grand theories, though he has emphasised that he’s ‘against literal-mindedness’, believing that in art ‘the how of its making is just as important as what it represents’. Salle is an erudite and entertaining companion, refreshingly open about reviewing his friends, and has plenty of interesting things to say about what makes good art, especially painting *. So, what to muse on when looking at Salle’s own conflations of art forms and time zones? ‘How?’, as well as ‘what?’ and ‘why?’, must be a good question by his anti-literalist lights. And three tests he cites and ought to pass are: ‘take a work’s temperature, look at its surface energy’, ‘gestures should be harnessed to the painting’s internal architecture, not just surface decoration’ and ‘the aesthetic rationale for using appropriation… is to insert a tiny wedge between the name and the named, to search out a crack in the wall built of habit and certainty, and work into that small fissure a measure of existential rebellion’.

David Salle: ‘Old Bottles’, 1995
* That said, quibbles are possible. The book kicks off with a discussion of Alex Katz’s use of colour (‘what counts most is the intervals between colours, precisely chosen’) illustrated by a pretty poor black-and-white reproduction – indeed, the only colour illustration is of the author! It’s probably in the nature of such a production, unless proactively edited, that some repetition occurs, and Salle lets plenty stand. And there’s no attempt at balance: perhaps naturally – as they’re often his friends – Salle concentrates on old white men who paint, mostly American-based, with just a couple of non-painters, a couple of women, and a couple of non-Caucasians (Oscar Murillo cops it for making ‘painting for people who don’t have much interest in looking, who prefer the back story to what’s in front of their eyes’).

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?


‘Still on Fire’: Paul’s ART STUFF ON A TRAIN #201

Clyfford Still: PH-150, 1958

I’ve just seen the Royal Academy’s show Abstract Expressionism on its transfer to Bilbao. The highlight remains the craggy abstractions of mid westerner Clyfford Still (1904-80). Still has had little prior visibility in Europe, mainly due to a famously difficult character, but he’s worth the hassle. Even at 21, he enrolled at the Art Students League in New York, but left within an hour, concluding that he had already rejected most of what was being taught. He spent only the 1950’s in New York, long enough to fall out with his gallerist and all the other abstract expressionists except Pollock. He rarely allowed his work to be shown, didn’t want it written about (all critics being ‘imbecilic’) and wasn’t too interested in selling. Instead, he gave 60 paintings to museums in San Francisco and Buffalo, then left his estate Turner-style to any city prepared to dedicate a museum to it: the Clyfford Still Museum opened in Denver in 2011 with 825 paintings, 1,575 works on paper, and no café or bookshop allowed. Still was the first of the group to go big, most typically 9 x 13 feet. The verticality of figures and the grandeur of frontier landscapes are equally evoked by his abstract sublimity, in which he uses a pallet knife to achieve contrasts of matt and gloss. There’s a quality of Gothic ascension which has been seen as symbolising a dialogue between Earth and Heaven, but it might equally be self and nature. ‘You can turn the lights out’, he told one venue, ‘the paintings carry their own fire’.

Installation shot, Bilbao

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09)and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, The Art Newspaper and Border Crossings. I have curated five shows in London during 2013-15 with more on the way.Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.