Emily Sack Offers Her Pick Of The Best Current Art Exhibitions In The Cork Street Area
Cork Street is a thriving art centre in the middle of Mayfair. Innumerable galleries stand alongside exquisite luxury shops and around the bustling swarms shuffling down Oxford and Regent Streets. And the April exhibitions are well worth braving tourists wielding umbrellas on the busy streets. Some highlights include:
Literature, mathematics, graphic design, and fine art all come together in Jamie Shovlin’s exhibition “Various Arrangements.” Referencing the cover designs of the Fontana Modern Masters series, Shovlin creates a complex formula to determine the pattern and use of colour for 49 books. The first gallery space is devoted to the development of the series – from the colour wheel scheme and notes on colour use, to small studies for each of the covers. The large, open gallery spaces beyond are dominated by a handful of large scale canvases giving the impression of being Alice in some kind of book wonderland where everything is oversized. These works from a distance appear pristine and finely executed, but closer examination reveals splatters along the side of the canvas and the shadow of text that has been repositioned.
Perfectly timed to correspond with the Courtauld Gallery’s “Mondrian || Nicholson: In Parallel” exhibition, Bernard Jacobson gallery features an impressive number of works by British modernist Ben Nicholson. The works span the majority of Nicholson’s career and show cubism-esque still life sketches as well as the relief paintings that have become emblematic of his career. Nicholson’s use of natural and quiet colours as well as shadows from the low-relief sculptural elements give the works a softness uncommon in many other modernist works. The gallery has excelled itself on the lighting and arrangement of works so the career of Nicholson can be appreciated at its best.
In February everyone is bombarded with heart imagery and Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. After a bit of a breather, the “Sweethearts: Artist Couples” exhibition is sweet and fun for April. Featuring ten artist couples, the gallery explores works created together and influenced by these artists. Such endearing works as Mieko Meguro’s watercolours of Dan Graham on an airplane with a panda bear neck pillow cannot but bring a smile to the viewer’s face. Especially good is Gary Hume’s series of paintings based on partner Georgie Hopton’s ‘Nasturtiums’ print of 2009. Cheerful and subtly romantic, this exhibition should not be missed – be sure to see it before it closes on 21 April!
North of Oxford Street, the small and quiet Bartha Contemporary specializes in non-objective and conceptual art. The current exhibition features recent paintings and works on paper by Winston Roeth. The minimalist aesthetic may not suit everyone’s tastes, but the regal tones and creative details (such as creating a square painting that in reality is two rectangular canvases perforated by the white of the wall) are calming and beautiful. The subtle use of colour and geometry invite contemplation and the beauty of the simplicity is a welcome and refreshing break from the chaos of London.
“Point Fragile” is a group show curated by Khadija Hamdi featuring the works of Ismail Bahri, Jamila Lamrani, Jeremie Bennequin, Leila Brett and Safaa Erruas. These works are connected by an interest in neutral tones and the fragility of materials as a method of referencing the fragility of the world. Bahri’s simple video “Denouement”, for example, features a black string dividing a snow covered landscape as it is painstakingly rolled into a ball. The most striking of the works is by Bennequin, whose art is based on taking away instead of creation. The scraping sound of an erasure fills the gallery space, and on display are copies of Proust that have been labouriously erased alongside piles of erasings.
The oil and watercolour paintings of John Bellany alternate between the gruesome and the beautiful, causing a whirlwind of emotions in the viewer while moving through the space. Beginning with decaying flesh and a crucifixion scene, other works depict peaceful fishing villages with an obvious appreciation for the water and fishing culture. The works are certainly visually impactful with the use of vibrant (and at times violent) colours in dazzling turquoise, rich crimson, and acidic yellow. Bellany gives a contemporary twist on historic genres of still life and landscape paintings by incorporating unexpected and sometimes disturbing subjects.
It can be hard for small paintings to make an impact in as big of a space as the main gallery at Alison Jacques. But Michael van Ofen’s paintings make a commendable effort to seem bigger and more impactful than they perhaps really are. Using a wet on wet technique, the paintings inspired by 19th century works, are expressionistic and the forms are simplified to the barest essentials. High contrast of colour becomes the focus of the works instead of the narratives of the original paintings. Somewhat reminiscent of a reliquary, these works hold fragments of great works of the past by German painters and Gericault, but leave the viewer wanting something more.
Words/ Photos: Emily Sack © 2012 ArtLyst