London Art Exhibitions Highlights December 2015 Curated By Paul Carey Kent

London Art exhibitions

Paul Carey-Kent curates his pick of the top London art exhibitions for December 2015 and into January 2016

Clem Crosby: My, my shivers / Rachel Goodyear: Fragments / Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture – Lampe VIII @ Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, 6 Heddon St – Central

To 9 Jan:

Rachel Goodyear: Facing the Wall, 2015

Pippy Houldsworth has three shows by artists I have previously recommended…The single work presentation in ’The Box’ is a classic from 1970: Alina Szapocznikow’s mouth-breast-neck of a lamp merger lit from within to sensually mournful effect.  The Viewing Room shows Rachel Goodyear moving her witty graphic style in a more chance-driven and painterly direction, rather paralleling, now I think of it, the direction of another Houldsworth favourite, Neil Farber.  And the main space yields 11 new paintings and oilstick works by Clem Crosby, their marks shivering across aluminium, formica and balsa board as he continues his cheerfully nervous exploration of the effects of different grounds. As I suspected, it’s all good.
Top Photo: Clem Crosby:Untitled, 2015 – oil stick on balsa board – 34 x 50cm

Cipriano Martinez and Christine Van Der Hurd: Woven Cities @ Maddox Arts, 52 Brook’s Mews – Bond Street
To 19 Dec:

Composition in Black Magenta, 2015: hand knitted low and extra low cut pile carpet, 139 x 178cm
 This unusual show focuses on nine large rugs hand woven in India by Christine Van Der Hurd’s team after paintings by the Venezuelan Cipriano Martinez. His work occupies a richly ambiguous space between cityscape and abstraction, architecture and networks, order and its deconstruction. That proves a good basis for handsome silk dhurries in what proves a genuine collaboration: the sizes, proportions and colours of the paintings are changed to suit weaving, and two were made by Martinez knowing they would be woven. Five representative examples of Martinez’s paintings allow comparisons to be made.

Cipriano Martinez and Christine Van Der Hurd


Mark Fairnington: Collected and Possessed

Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road – Forest Hill

To 24 Jan –

Face Monkey, oil on panel, 10x10cm, 2012

The Horniman Museum, already a fascinating place, is currently enhanced by an extensive retrospective of Mark Fairnington’s photo-realistic yet uncanny paintings inspired by this and other museum collections: they include life sized portraits of bulls, close-up tondos of eyes, panoramic views of specimens in storage, mounted insects trade at human scale and curious heads from the Wellcome collection.  Fairnington has also delved into the Horniman collection to find on exhibited material show alongside his paintings., pointing up the contructed nature of the all that we see here.

The Ambassadors, oil on canvas, 204x256cm, 2007 (detail) 

Rob Pruitt: Therapy Paintings @ Massimo de Carlo, 55 South Audley St – Mayfair

To 30 Jan:

Installation view

Rob Pruitt’s last London show was of ‘suicide paintings’. Things seem seem to be looking up, though, as his latest set finds a generative process in therapy.  Pruitt doodles on a small pad as a way of freeing himself up during each hour-long session. One wall holds 36 of these, some of which Shaw has then blown up by computer to various sizes up to 7 feet high, and overpainted in restrained colours true to the sketches’ medium of super-standard dark blue biro. Surrealist free association meets the magnification of small gestures used by such abstract painters as Kline and Hartung to produce compositions with more life than you might expect.  Sculptures of cats accompany the paintings by way of extra assurance, and it all feels pleasantly odd.  

The original 10 x 15cm ballpoint drawing and the  215 x 165cm acrylic, ink oil and water painting for Therapy Painting 8/31/2015

Robert Indiana: Don’t Lose Hope @ Contini Gallery, 105 Bond Street – Central

To 31 Jan:

HOPE Wall (Red/White/Blue), 2010, Silkscreen on paper

I suspect  neither the Contini Gallery nor Robert Indiana are quite cool in art world terms, but this match-up turns out well as a chance to judge the pop-text pioneer’s significance as a deflator of consumer society staples.  Born Robert Clark in 1928 and rebranding to his home state in xxx, Indiana is best known for his many graphic and sculptural encouragements to ‘LOVE’, in which the ‘O’ in  a pinball-machine-come-advert seems to have been kicked askew by the ‘L’. This substantial retrospective starts with early figurative works from 1946; jumps to 60’s word works with little LOVE but plenty else, including a whole room filled with a rainbow alphabet; then concludes with a series initiated for Obama’s 2008 campaign,  putting HOPE through its paces with some brio. I offer TOIL as the next word, though Indiana says he’s considering PRAY.

Robert Indiana – ALPHABET (A to Z), 1994 – 2011, 26 Silkscreens and Rainbow Roll on Canvas

Jonny Briggs: To Eat with the Eyes  11 Brookwood Road – Southfields (links to my essay on the show)

It’s worth a trip towards Wimbledon to catch the psychologically provocative and technically innovative photography of Jonny Briggs. He’s known for attempting a seemingly impossible act of self-escape: in his words: ‘I try to think outsidej the reality I was socialised into and create new ones with my parents’. Here he goes back further by altering historic black and white photographs of his grandparents and great grandparents. Briggs reconfigures their gazes by splicing them into an unsettlingly monocularity, or by pinning lips onto their eyes as if they might literally eat with them. His mother is here, too – though you have to look hard to spot her mouth smuggled into a woodland landscape.  

Peephole, 2015

Harm van den Dorpel: IOU @ Narrative Projects, 110 New Cavendish Street – Fitzrovia
To 19 Dec:

Painting from IOU under flash

There’s something of a modern tradition of painting with fire, from Yves Klein to such as  Bernard Aubertin, Aaron Young and Laura Santamaria. Dutch artist Harm van den Dorpel applies a neat tweak by using a heat gun as his brush, having covered his canvas with the paper commonly found in cash tills – which create their receipts through temperature rather than ink. Van den Dorpel  sprays water and then applies guns to form ghostly abstractions, made more distinctive by the rucks and folds which the process causes. It all fits with discussions of art’s value, merging proof of purchase with the content that threatens to  trump.  For the opening, van den Dorpel presented the paintings by candlelight, though I guess he should rather have warmed the room with heat guns.

Installation view by candlelight

Sarah Woodfine: We can hardly imagine how much the angels love the truly chaste 
@ Danielle Arnaud, 123 Kennington Road – Kennington

To 13 Dec:

Untitled (Branch) II  2015  pencil on roll of Saunders Waterford paper, steel and perspex  72 x 24 x 24 cm

Sarah Woodfine makes two unusual combinations: first, obsessively controlled drawing with sculptural forms; second, a poised and somewhat meditative aesthetic with such psychodramatic subjects as witchcraft, repression and the uncanny.  Here that all comes together through drawings which curl their way around outside or inside of the rolls of paper weighted to retain the shape. That formal suggestion of serpents – and the infinite motif of the Ouroboros eating its own tail –  is echoed in the pencil exactitudes of a rope which turns into a snake, and of thorny branches which are similarly transformed by implication. Atmospheric lighting completes a show which may well be less like any other than any other in London now.


Dark night, 2015 – pencil on paper, 15 x 52 cm (290 cm uncurled) 


Frame thy Fearful Symmetry @ Collyer Bristow Gallery, 4 Bedford Row – Holborn

To 24 Feb 2016 (weekdays, by appointment):

Rachel Maclean: The Massacre of the Innocents, 2011

Curatorial duo Hi Barbara’s choices for the unusual location of lawyers’ offices combine a witty shelf of Richard Wentworth prints with a younger generation of photo-based interdisciplinary artists –  Ruth Proctor, Tom Lovelace, David Raymond Conroy, Eva Stenram, Rachel Maclean and Tina Hage – who reframe reality through performance, construction, re-presentation and manipulation. For example, those last two present themselves as the sole actor to contrasting effect; Stenram shows new twists on the questionable but compelling, quaint yet dark voyeurism she extracts from rephotographing and digitally altering sixties glamour shots; artist and ice skating coach Proctor documents her attempts to land the jumps she could nail in her competitive prime, opening up the possibility of failing better – if that’s what falling more often makes for – as she grows older.

Eva Stenram: Drape (Centrefold II), 2012


Christina Iglesias: Phreatic Zones / Jeff Wall @ Marian Goodman Gallery to 18 Dec /Chantal Akerman: Now @ Ambika P3 – Baker Street to 6 Dec 

Christina Iglesias: Installation view with Phreatic Zone II, aluminium and water  (‘phreatic’: relating to or denoting underground water in the zone of saturation – beneath the water table).

Suddenly Marian Goodman is behind three of the best shows in London: what has become a memorial retrospective of Chantal Akerman’s gallery film installations at Ambika, Jeff Wall’s new photographs, and stunningly installed works with water by Christina Iglesias. The main gallery floor Is raised to the level of the pavement outside to cover the workings of the underground flows through root-heavy aluminium sculptures, Given the space’s classical columns, Phreatic Zone creates the air of a Roman plaza to the varying sound of water over a timed sequence. The water is visible through paralellograms cut in the floor to trigger a perspectival and ditrectional effect which points, says Iglesias, to the related public space of Golden Square nearby. Metaphors abound: the hidden – including an allusion to London’s Underground rivers – history, memory, origins.

Chantal Akerman: still from the multi-screen installation The East: Bordering on Fiction, 1995



Rosalind Nashashibi: ELECTRICAL GAZA @ Imperial War Museum – Kennington (where the Lee Miller show is also well worth seeing…)
Odd how three subtly political female film makers with Palestinian backgrounds are suddenly prominent: Emily Jacir at the Whitechapel and Jumana Manna at the Chisenhale have garnered most of the attention, but I like Rosalind Nashashibi’s ‘Electrical Gaza’ at the Imperial War Museum: 20 minutes depicting what the English born Irish-Palestinian artist calls the ‘wired stasis’ of the Strip. It opens and closing with crowding at the border gate. A contrast emerges between the man’s world of the enclosed city and the open run of the sea in which horses and children bathe as  Nashashibi finds enchantment as well as the ominous undercurrents. They’re pointed up by the contrasts in the soundtrack’s music and by the occasional device of an animated version of what’s on camera taking over to hint at hidden realities. 

John Armstrong: Paintings 1938–1958: An Enchanted Distance @ Piano Nobile,  
129 Portland Road – Holland Park 

Madonna, 1945

If you know John Armstrong (1893-1973), it’s probably as an associate of Paul Nash who made disquietingly quiet paintings of ruined buildings in World War II.  He was, though, both a glamorous society figure in the 1930’s and a consistently innovative artist, particularly in tempera (from which he switched to oil for no known reason in 1950). The streams of work here include timeless character types, seen singly (The Goddess, 1938) or in mysterious groups (The Battle of Nothing, 1949); his own take on divisionism (Madonna, 1945, is a masterpiece which collides that late nineteenth century movement with Roman mosaics and a medieval subject and makes effective use of swirling cloaks and a menacing sea); surreally-tinged anthropomorphisms of leaves and feathers; and symbolically fecund arrangements of thorns and seeds. And he was born in my home town, Hastings…

The Iceberg, 1946                                                       _________________________

Ann Veronica Janssens: yellowbluepink @ the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Rd – Euston


Not only is this the first time Brussels-based Ann Veronica Janssens has shown one of her mist environments in London, it’s also the most effective one I’ve been in.Yellowbluepink reveals a chromatic range wider than its title as you move through, and is dense enough to induce the right level of trippy confusion. Disembodied by colour as entity, you may be in need of the tip ‘exit towards pink’. There’s more here, then, than the fairground fun of bumping into the other 19 people allowed in, though the Wellcome may be stretching it by making Janssens the keynote artist for its forthcoming programme States of Mind, which will ‘trace the edges of consciousness’.


Out of Chaos – Ben Uri: 100 Years in London @ Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing – The Strand 
To 13 Dec:

Arthur Segal: Halen, La Ciotat (Harbour Scene), 1929 – oil 

The Ben Uri Gallery has had a dozen homes over a hundred years, and built a significant collection of art by Jewish emigres. It’s now hoping to find a new home under the banner of art, identity and migration, and to expand its ethnic reach to represent London as a home for multiple ethnic communities.  This show, featuring 70 of the collection’s inventory of 1300, illustrates what that might look like for the Jewish century. It’s not a parade of masterpieces, though there are a couple, but it is full of fascinating work, much of it by little-known figures, and it is exceptionally well presented via text and free audio commentaries. Bomberg, Gertler and Auerbach show well, and I rather liked the sort-of cubist pointillism of Romainian-born Arthur Segal’s harbour scene.

David Bomberg: Racehorses, 1913 – Black chalk and wash on  on paper

Images courtesy / copyright the relevant artists and galleries