London Art Review Round-Up April 2018 – Paul Carey Kent

London Exhibitions April 2018

The noted writer and curator Paul Carey-Kent gives us his rolling ten recommended contemporary art shows in London now. Paul currently freelances for Art Monthly, Frieze, Elephant, STATE, Photomonitor, Border Crossings and World of Interiors, and has a weekly online column at FAD Art News.

Observing the methods of projection, reflection and lighting, and the various films and holograms which populate her studio environment in New York, Signe Pierce saw that she could create a visually echoic gallery installation. All is controlled through her mobile phone, but the effects are actually ‘real’ rather than digital, forming an ever-shifting ‘projector painting’ which responds to fanned air, visitor movements and changing light – both natural from overhead and artificial Red-Blue-Green from the floor level.  The factors are too numerous for full control, which keeps things lively, but I was reminded of Larry Bell paintings, lava lamps, fun fair mirrors, swimming underwater and the Aurora Borealis.  See Top Photo: Signe Pierce: Metamirrorism @ Annka Kultys Gallery, 472 Hackney Rd – Cambridge Heath To 28 April


Bernard and Nathan Cohen: Two Journeys @ Flowers Gallery, 82 Kingsland Rd – Hoxton

To 5 May    Bernard Cohen: Octet, 2011 – 137 x 167.5 cm


It’s possible to draw a sharp contrast between father Bernard (84) and son Nathan (55) in this unusual pairing: the former is a free, spontaneous spirit, the latter maps everything out beforehand. But both make complex abstractions, and the results are similar enough that you could believe that Nathan’s work is the newest direction of his father, as for all their intricacy they are simpler than Bernard’s thrillingly complex networks. Bernard – from gliding towards a limpid late style – seem to be upping the ante as he ages. That can be seen more fully in his current ‘Spotlight’ display at Tate Britain (to 3 June), which covers six decades.


Nathan Cohen: Crystal, 2017 –   111 x 107.5  cm
Damien Meade @ Peter von Kant, 25 Tanners Hill – Deptford  To 27 April

Installation view with Untitled, 2018

Damien Meade’s paintings feel at home in Peter von Kant’s battered, brick-heavy interior in the deep ford which became Deptford, partly because they, too, make use of clay: Meade sculpts faces from it, and then paints from those models, so doubling up on artifice. Here, in a rare London solo, four of those visages  share the space with three flatter, more abstract depictions of clay as it could be after a head, unfired, is mashed back ready for the next to emerge. Do they represent the void for which all human clay is bound? Perhaps, but the plinth-necked presences seem more ineffable than salutary.

Untitled, 2017 – oil on linen, 44 x 35cm

Matt Johnson: 0,1,1,2,3,5,6,13,21  @ Marlborough Contemporary, 6 Albemarle St – Central   To 12 April


Installation view

By titling the show with the Fibonacci Sequence, American sculptor Matt Johnson indicates that he’s working with science and ratios: not so obvious when you see piles of baguettes and a giant (65cm square!) pizza box. But the bread, which is piled in the ration of the golden mean, is a scale model of the Giza pyramid, and it isn’t wheat but wood suggesting stone. And the pizza box has a black hole vortex in the middle – making it the logical pair of a version of the cosmos painted onto the fibreglass replica of the unevenness of a tarp, setting up Johnson’s version of a blip in the space time continuum. Opening just after after Stephen Hawking’s death, this show begun to feel like a tribute. A swan and a frog watch over proceeding, both made from shells enlarged, cast in bronze, and painted to look like shells again. Fun, to which Hawking himself was far from averse, of course, before  checking out at the surprising age, given his condition, of 76.

Black Hole Pizza Box, 2018, carved wood with paint, 26 x 25 1/4 x 5 in. (detail).


In Quotes @ the Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham Collage, Mottingham Lane – Mottingham  To 19 May

Cristina Garrido: Hymn, 2012 – homonymous work by Damien Hirst from the series of altered postcards Veil of Invisibility, 2011-present

The Gerald Moore Gallery makes a fine venue for Ann-Marie James’ stimulating presentation of collage and assemblage by 13 artists ranging from perhaps the most famous current practitioners (Linder, John Stezaker and Susan Hiller) to less known artists also finding logical reasons to represent and combine to generate a fresh aesthetic. For example Tim Davies subverts the function of bridges by sanding away their ‘from’ and ‘to’; Cristina Garrido almost erases the works of art from postcards, leaving us to wonder which are improved by the process; and Holly Stevenson’s riotously conjoins vintage postcards of 1950’s cowboy actors with the landscapes in which they acted, the latter in turn inhabited by snippings from jewellery adverts to ramp up their theme park qualities. I liked it more when Holly told me how one of the actors died following a marital row: he drove off with all his wife’s jewellery, crashed, and his head was fatally cracked by the flying casket of bling.

Holly Stevenson: Phosphorescent, Palmy Bonheur Series – 6 silver gelatin postcards, 22 linen type postcards, magazine cut-outs. The series, says Stevenson, applies happiness to images that have come to foolishly symbolise a perpetual state of readiness for a good time.


Invisible Cities: Architecture of Line @ Waddington Custot, 11 Cork St – Central   To 4 May

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva; Le couloir (ou Intérieur), 1948  oil and graphite on canvas, 46 x 55 cm

It would be easy enough to throw together a few artworks relatable to Italo Calvino’s famous book of imaginary cities. Harder, though, to obtain works by four artists whom Calvino actually wrote about (de Chrico, Melotti, Paolini, Arakawa), complement them with three whom he certainly could have engaged with, and persuasively relate each artist’s oeuvre to a particular ‘invisible city’. That’s what curator Flavia Frigeri achieves here. Her three ‘extras’ are Tomas Saraceno (matched logically enough with Octavia, ‘the spider web city’), Gego (steel drawing-constructions linked to Ersilia, a constantly regenerating metropolis based on a ‘pattern of strings’) and the Portuguese-Brazilian-French painter Helena Vieira da Silva. Her six shimmering visions of cities on the cusp of abstraction – the most I’ve ever seen at once – are the highlight, delicately teamed with Diomira, one of Calvino’s cities as memory triggers.


Maria Helena Vieira da Silva: Sans titre , 1955 oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm


Dominic Beattie: Cascade @ JGM Gallery, 24 Howie St – Battersea  To 14 April

Untitled (yellow/blue), 2017

Dominic Beattie has made his name with paintings which make a virtue of their scruffy construction, but here he adopts a new near-rigorous manner: repeated shapes are hand-drawn onto plyboard, which is carefully taped; and ink blotted on with a cloth to make patterns with two tones each of two colours depending on whether two or four layers of ink are applied; and modules so made are combined to make large paintings. The somewhat tapestry-like results  are complemented by several studio chairs (co-produced with Lucia Buceta) – monochrome contrasts on which one can sit to read Martin Maloney, in the excellent catalogue, compare his ex-pupil’s new mode to a schoolboy  sarcastically double-knotting his tie to indicate rebellious conformity.


Installation view with studio chairs

Anna Reivilä: Nomad @ Purdy Hicks, 25 Thurloe St – South Kensington  To 7 April


Bond #31, 2017

Young ‘Helsinki School’ photographer Anna Reivilä cites Smithson and Araki as inspirations, though Christo and Goldsworthy seem equally present. Her first solo show anywhere presents photographs taken in the remoter parts of her native Finland. They follow a move from drawing on landscape photographs to ‘drawing’ on the landscape itself, using rope which she knots around tress, rocks and ice.  That proves a beautiful ambiguous way to muse on man’s relationship with nature. The rope nets, intuitively rather than systematically formed with sailor’s knots, hover between protection and strangulation. In the case of ice, of course, rope is a hopeless stay against melting, triggering the thought of how little chance we seem to have of protecting ice in the larger scheme of global warming.

Bond #29, 2017


In The Future @ Collyer Bristow, 4 Bedford Row – Holborn  To 14 June

Installation view with Karen David

Law firm Collyer Bristow have, remarkably, now been using their offices to show art for 25 years*. And they’re big shows: 60-odd works by 20 artists appear in regulator curator Rosalind Davis’ latest, which uses a Talking Heads lyric even older than the gallery to set off thoughts about what the future might be like. Any danger of sci-fi similitude is countered by plenty of wit (eg Kitty Sterling, David Worthington, Sasha Bowles) and a good sprinkling of retro-futurism (Tim Ellis, John Greenwood and young German Arno Beck, who has the surprising idea in one of his age of using a typewriter to convert  digital images into deliciously delicate analogue equivalents). Four artists contribute especially large and coherent bodies of work: Dan Hays, Alison Turnbull, Ian Monroe and Karen David. You do need to know, I think, that the candies** are in David’s pictured installation because just that was used to lure E.T. from the woods.

* By appointment during office hours: and subject to meetings sometimes occupying rooms, so Friday afternoon is a good time to visit. Comes with a nice booklet.

** Odd what you can learn looking at art: Reese’s Pieces are American packs of peanut butter candy spheres, manufactured by The Hershey Company in yellow, orange and brown. Sales tripled when, in one of the earliest such film product placements, they featured at a cost of $1m in ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’, 1982.

Arno Beck: Textmode (Mountain), 2017 – typewriter drawing on Japanese paper


Lorna Simpson: Unanswerable @ Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row – Central  To 28 April

Woman on Snowball, 2018 – styrofoam, plywood, plaster, steel, epoxy coating, 277 x 210cm

Having set up a matching weather backdrop, Lorna Simpson’s first London exhibition uses snow and ice to dance her female protagonists between suggestions of stasis (attempts to arrest modernity in the USA, perhaps), misinformation (stacked issues from 1930-80 of the black culture magazine Ebony are seen through icy distorting prisms) disaster (paintings based on mash-ups of mountains, volcanos and strips of news text), froideur (cold shoulders from the ‘Me Too’ movement?), and transformation between forms. And it’s the edge-of-surreal transformations in the latest 40 of her subconscious-tapping collage couplings of agency photos with heads cropped from Ebony which communicate most directly. One of them leads on to the dominant sculpture of a woman precariously, if funkily, placed on a giant snowball – even before we deduce that only the collaged-on head will remain once the ball-plinth and body go the way of all melts.

The artist explains her collages: that for Woman on Snowball is just above her
Words: Paul Carey-Kent  –  Images courtesy/copyright the relevant artists and galleries 


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