Curated Choices: London Art Exhibitions April 2016 By Paul Carey -Kent

Paul Carey-Kent curates his choices of London art exhibitions for April 2016. His rolling ten recommended contemporary art shows are all on view now.

Anna Barriball: New Works @ Frith Street Gallery, Golden Square – Soho




Night Window with Leaves, 2015 –  Pigment and beeswax picture varnish on paper,            235 x 124 cm

I’ve never seen Anna Barriball apply her signature frottage with more resonance than here, moving from morning blinds; to her studio windows, pressed full of light; to a candle-smoked evening; and through to the first sunrays of a new a diurnal cycle, taken from lead window designs. She’s in there too, via the sequins on her T-shirt vibrating to her heartbeat. That suggests ultrasound, and Barriball has indeed just given birth, setting up a contrast with Night Window with Leaves, which memorialises a former neighbour. All use the exacting indexical sculpting of a small pencil to press her work up against the world, as if to avoid, in her words ‘the space between looking and representation’.  


Sunrays II, 2016 –  Pencil on paper,  52 x 53 cm
Das Institut @ the Serpentine Gallery – Kensington

See Top PhotoOne of the 80 slides in the series ‘When You See Me Again It Won’t Be Me’, 2014

Das Institut’s show applies a wide range of languages (graphic alphabets projected in light; slapstick slideshows; self-portrait photograms; marbled paint on mylar; stained glass brushstrokes…)  and a cornucopia of identities – solo, dual, collaborative, fragmented, disguised, subconscious, oppositional. All to the point as the umlauted German duo Kerstin Brätsch and Adele Röder* explore the annihilation of the self through cooperative action (rather than losing one’s identity in the corporate and commercial world).  Rebecca Lewin’s catalogue essay cites Deleuze’s notion of the ‘dividual, as a ‘a person made of data which can be endlessly subdivided and recombined. It’s complex, yes, but worth spending time on – the more so as the midpoint of a wander via Hilma Af Klint at the other Serpentine space and Slate Projects’ latest at the Averard Hotel.
* say ‘Bretsch’ and ‘Rerder’

Three of Adele Röder’s ‘Solar Body Prints’, 2013


Bonheur de Vivre @ Bernard Jacobson Gallery, 28 Duke St – Central
Henri Matisse: Jeune femme assise en robe grise, 1942  

Most shows reflect something of their gallerist, but rarely as explicity as Bernard Jacobson here declares ‘this is me’ through the art joys in his life. Matisse is God in Jacobson’s world, and he makes an annual pilgrimage to the painter’s grave in Nice. Matisse leads by way of colour and light to Miro, Calder, Sam Francis and the show’s only living artist, William Tillyer. The link to Robert Motherwell operates differently, as Jacobson is showing direct homages  to Matisse from the man he regards as the greatest ever American painter. We differ slightly, as I don’t even rate Motherwell as the best painter in his own house during his marriage to Helen Frankenthaler *, but it’s good to see such a passionate show, and the selection of 16 works is exemplary enough that I was surprised to learn it’s all for sale.  
*that said, I haven’t read Jacobson’s book on Motherwell, which doubtless makes a case

Joan Miró: Femme et oiseau devant la nuit, 1944


Frequent Long Walks @ Hannah Barry Gallery, 4 Holly Grove – Peckham 

To 23 April:

Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber: I grew these trees to hold up this message of patience, 2015 – acrylic on cardboard, 18 x 18 cm

Hannah Barry and her artist Christopher Green, who has curated and contributed a cheekily self-effacing painting which acts as the sign between floors, have done wonders in pulling together a stellar cast of 14 for this exploration of work which possesses, says Green ‘a kind of slowness’ in the manner of taking a long walk in which you don’t worry if your route in the fastest. Archive material from Agnes Martin and Anne Truitt – explaining how she tries to move colour out into space –  set the mood nicely. Vija Celmins, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Hreinn Fridfinnsson feel like logically enjoyable choices, but Mary Heilmann’s painting-chair pairing, the dotting around of Richard Artschwager blps, and five typically laconic little paintings by Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber provide less expected aptness, and then n there are 11 photographs of kitchen compost by Nigel Shafran. Hmmm…  
Nigel Shafran: from ‘Compost Pictures’


Jane Bustin: Rehearsal @ Copperfield, 6 Copperfield Street – Southwark


Faun (2015) acrylic, polyeurathane, copper pins, balsa wood, 50cm x 100cmThere are, I’d say, three ways of ‘infecting’ minimalism with the personal and lyrical: gesture, fragility and implied personal connections or narrative. Jane Bustin’s rigorously poised and openly beautiful geometries typically incorporate backstories, and here it is Nijinsky – in rehearsal, on the stage, in costume – as filtered through her son, who is himself a dancer and whose bodily dimensions are incorporated into the work. There is also some fragility: both in her characteristic use of potentially tarnishable copper, and in her new adoption of porcelain so thin it looks like paper. There’s also a hint of gesture in the circles formed on the porcelain by the rims of beakers – catching not just an implied choreographic movement echoed by studio practice, but Nijinsky’s favourite shape.

La Ronde (2015) Oxides on porcelain 23cm x 18cm


Liam Scully: A Digital Suicide

 @ Union Gallery, 94 Teesdale Street – Cambridge Heath
To 22 April:

What sounds like a dry technical exercise – Liam Scully’s bid to commit ‘digital suicide’ by eliminating all his online information, and compiling it into a book instead – proves very hands-on and lively. There are three reasons for that: the use as ground of pink electro-cardiographic paper resulting from another personal link, his participation in medical tests; the very free drawings which he lays over the data streams on these grounds, being versions of the images in his Facebook stream annotated to comment on the messages and images beneath; and the sheer grid-force of having 300 originals crowd out the gallery’s walls (from the book’s 953 pages:the others are on video) . In sum, the serious undercurrent of reclaiming control of one’s own data becomes a worthy addition to the tradition of obsessive recording of the self in art: stick this with, say, Roman Opalka, Tehching Hsieh, Danica Phelps, On Kawara and Philip Ackerman and you’d have quite a show… 


Thomas Mailaender: Gone Fishing @ Roman Road, 69 Roman Road – Bethnal Geen – and at Tate Modern 

To 15 April (Roman) / 12 June (Tate):

In this satirically simple satire on male irresponsibility, the French artist Thomas Mailaender tells the story of a man abandoning his wife and child in order to find himself through a series of physical and sporting challenges. He writes home, boasting of his exploits, declaring his undying love and moutiing bafflement that he gets no replies. Actions speak louder than words, and each letter has a photograph of his triumphs – landing a shark, say – for which Mailaender has digitally inserted his own face onto images found on the Internet. The artist wasn’t at the opening, as he was off skiing with his wife and children – demonstrating his contrasting responsibility or paralleling it by abandoning that to his gallerist? I don’t think she can complain, as you can see the same material in a different installation in Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern.

Installation view at Roman Road: letters with photos and the whole room covered in fake brick effect

Mark Wallinger @ Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row – Central

id Painting 12, 2015 – Acrylic on canvas, 360 x 180 cm

Mark Wallinger’s first solo show for Hauser & Wirth fills both impressive spaces and gains traction from how several works build to a vision of the self – not as straightforwardly unified, but rich in variant perspectives. One gallery is full of the 3.8m high ‘Id Paintings’ which explore the tall dark format of Wallinger’s versions of the I from different fonts, but with expressionist gestures applied with the hand and laboriously replicated in Rosrchach-like way.   The other contains the superego of a giant mirror revolvingon high, national identity linked to revolving views of an oak tree on a roundabout in Essex, and the artist as flaneur seen only as the shadow which precedes him through the city as he walks to experience it. 

Orrery, 2016 –  4-channel video installation, sound

The Conformist @ Belmacz, 45 Davies St – Mayfair
David Parkinson: Untitled, 1970More fine writing (by James Cahill, incorporating quotes from brass kissing to cross dressing from Denton Welch’s weird novel ‘In Youth is Pleasure’) accompanies this hugely enjoyable answer to the question: how many rebellious non-conformists can you fit into one of London’s smaller gallery spaces? The answer turns out to be 20 plus a soundtrack from Jah Wobble, covering the gamut of fashion, advertising, fine art and jewellery, with highlights including Julie Verhoeven’s manic new film Phlegm & Fluff, corn masks by Jonathan Baldock, Helen Chadwick’s self as ruin, and the rediscovery-worthy photographs of David Parkinson (1946-75). 

Julie Verhoeven: Phlegm & Fluff, 2015, Film, 04:19

Michael Joo: Radiohalo @ Blain Southern, 4 Hanover Square – Mayfair
To 9 April:

Untitled, To (Sleep), 2015-16 – Silver nitrate and epoxy ink on canvas 91 x 71 cm

Does this show have the substance to justify its rhetoric and scale? American Michael Joo is onto something in exploring the body as a generator and consumer of energy (hence the integration of calorific values for its actions) combined with the use of silver nitrate to make painting-come-photographic events which go halfway towards reflecting our own actions into the scenario. A monumental marble billboard adds convincing sculptural / architectural language, contrasting the marble’s own painterly effect on the front with a silvered rear at a height which brings in the space but not the viewer, and playing reflected transience off against geological timescale. Yet add in the eponymous radiohalo, the faultline in New York, Buddhism, and the graphite legs of endangered cranes scratching drawings over the stairs, and I have trouble putting it all together coherently – but it’s impressive enough to be worth puzzling on yourself.


Installation view with Prologue (Montclair Danby Vein Cut), 2014-15 – picture Peter Mallet


Preview Special: Having written the catalogue essay for John Stark’s forthcoming show, I can predict it will be interesting. Moreover, it has its own comet: 


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