Latest Reviews of exhibitions in the Cork Street Area By Matilda Lawrence-Jubb
The Cork Street area is, as ever, alive with art, with many new exhibitions opening this March to stir creative minds. Galleries closely dot the surrounding area, and there really is something to fit everyone’s tastes.
Head first to the new add-on to the Sadie Coles Gallery, freshly named Situation, which will be devoted the work of Sarah Lucas. The gallery will present new exhibitions in February, May, August and November of this year, which means that it can be visited again and again, and at any time, while still remaining fresh. The current exhibition shows Lucas further exploring her signature use of everyday materials and found domestic objects. Her works are highly sexualised and candid, here, for example, depicting the female body paired down to the rudimentaries of genitalia – breasts grotesquely evoked via rancid fried eggs, the vagina replaced by a trademark chicken carcass. A large photograph covers the opposite wall as you walk in to the upstairs gallery, and the room is dotted with a combination of grounded and suspended works, each somehow reminiscent of the human body. These figures often appear empty, shell-like, as if human presence is needed to generate life within them. The new gallery is a wonderful space, with light intruding into every aspect through the large, open windows, and adding to the surreal dreamlike quality of Lucas’s work. As a ‘live’ space, continually moving to Lucas’s desire, it’s exciting to contemplate her next move.
For the more traditionally minded amongst us, Ffiona Lewis exhibits her new work ‘Figurine and Landscape’ at the Redfern Gallery on Cork Street. This body of work is the product of a deep curiosity about natural forms and their relationship to the artist, focusing mainly on landscape, still-life and human presence. Lewis works with oil paint on large boards, building up a thoroughly (almost overwhelmingly) textured surface, with scratchings and marks meshed into the paint to accentuate the shapes of the petals and leaves that she depicts. The colours remain muted in each painting, often realistic to life with creamy pinks and yellows imitating warm summer evenings. Her brush strokes are soft and flowing, following the curves of nature. In the main room each wall is dedicated to a single piece, and, sitting on the (exceptionally colour co-ordinated!) cream bench in the centre of the space, you could almost imagine yourself amongst the landscapes themselves.
Just across the road from Redfern hang the late paintings of Jean Dubuffet, in the Waddington Custot Gallery. Whilst Lewis’ colours are muted, Dubuffet’s are, of course, the polar opposite, with loud primaries overwhelming the canvases. The paintings displayed are from the last decade of Dubuffet’s life, and they reveal the profound change in style and technique that occurred in his final years, deploying bolder, more powerful colours and rudimentary symbol-imagery such as motifs of human faces. Waves, curves, lines and shapes clutter each piece, these combinations suggesting business and mayhem. The largest piece of all depicts a large number of figures, each self-sufficient with their own pattern and colour, and was created from a series of individual painted pieces, cut up and then composed. This is a striking work, creating multiple images without a compositional hierarchy or central point of gravity, forcing our eyes to dart about from detail to detail.
A few roads parallel sits the Hauser and Wirth gallery on Saville Row, which is currently presenting two exhibitions, the first being Mary Heilmann’s ‘Visions, Waves and Roads’. Heilmann plays with bright colours and geometric shapes in her work, colliding minimalism’s clarity of line with influences of American pop culture to recount elements of her own life story. They illustrate memorable road trips, or visions of waves breaking on the Californian West coast shores, and the delicacy of her paintings close-up is brilliantly complemented by with the loud colours and harsh shapes of the canvases when viewed from afar. The layout of the paintings on the walls is intentional unconventional, with some paintings placed wide apart and others almost touching. Contained also in the exhibition are bright plastic chairs to sit on, and ceramic objects dotting the shelf of one of the rooms. ‘Each time I do a show, I think of it as an installation piece’, Heilmann says, with these talismanic objects providing insight into the story of her life like aides memoire.
Hauser and Wirth come up trumps with with Michael Raedecker’s exhibition ‘Volume’ just next door. This is an exhibition of new pieces by Raedecker, who is best known for his beautiful works of paint and embroidery, utilising subtle colours and layered brush strokes. And it is only upon looking deeper into the pieces that one can understand the three-dimensional aspect of each painting, with fragments of wool and string glittering underneath layers of acrylic. The works convey great depth, further nurtured and highlighted by the shiny silvers and greys that of Raedecker palette. In terms of pictorial content, he depicts scenes of suburban architecture and everyday domestic life – houses and grand chandeliers and cakes. His largest work in the exhibition depicts a row of bungalows, stitched together to form a large canvas, then cut into strips, rearranged, and stitched back together. This exhibition does Raedecker reputation at a master craftsman, expertly combining paint and embroidery. They say we are to enter an artistic era of textiles; if so, Raedecker is sure to be a leading figure.
For a more conceptual, less-craft led form of art (and to complete a round trip), head around the corner to the Sadie Coles Gallery on Burlington Place, which first exhibits the work of Gabriel Kuri, titled ‘Classical Symmetry, Historical Data, Subjective Judgement’. In this exhibition, the three elements that make up the title become sculptural conditions, pointing to the formal and conceptual underpinnings of his works. Covering the walls of the upstairs floor are a series of pieces made out of gold insulation foam, with the curve of the material bouncing and abundance of light around the room. Each work is pinned to the wall with different object – from drinks cans to plastic bags – this mundane junk contrasting with the beautiful reflective quality of the foam. Downstairs, we are presented withthree ‘platform’ sculptures, which are made out of found objects: glass, concrete and plywood mounted as upright slabs. Kuri likens their appearance to ‘slices of information’ and this is perhaps a good epithet for the entire exhibitions – snippets of knowledge necessarily understood to form an interpretation of the work itself.