Paul Carey Kent’s Curated London Art Exhibition Picks November 2015

Never mind the various fairs, there are scores of interesting shows to see at the moment including plenty of big names: Goya, Escher, Fontana, Auerbach, Ai Wei Wei, Kentridge, Boetti, Twombly, Richter, Lanyon, Durham, Burri,  Viola… And plenty more whose work I like: Rachel Rose, Emily Jacir, Nancy Holt, Phoebe Unwin, Dennis Loesch, Rodrigo Matheus, Katherine Bernhardt, Gordon Cheung, Sol Calero, Jon Rafman…  Ignoring all which, here are some shows which could pass under the radar.

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 (See Top Photo)

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 29 Oct 

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

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                                                       _________________________

Dan HaysInterstate @ Christine Park Gallery, 35 Riding House Street – Fitzrovia
To 28 Nov:

Dan Hays: Wanderlust, 2015 – oil on canvas, 152 x 270 cm

For a more recent take on divisionism, see the latest from Dan Hays, who continues to take inspiration from online images of Colorado – which he’s never visited but has built into a standing fantasy after discovering the website  of a namesake there in 1989.Wanderlust , one of the biggest paintings in that series, encodes the message ‘sweet home’ in its dazzlingly intricate version of pixilation, and reflects – presumably in the monitor – his own  window. What home is longed for here: nature, dwelling or screen?The other big work here turns a malfunctioning WebCam image into the matrix of a woven canvas.  When Karen David asked Hays what he’d choose if granted asuperpower ( he joked that didn’t need another one – though maybe he’s content with his phenomenal patience. 

Dan Hays: Wanderlust, 2015 (detail)


Last Year’s Snow: The Hungarian Neo-Avant-Garde In The 1970s & 80s @ Austin Desmond Fine Art,

Katalin Ladik: Poemim, 1978Austin / Desmond have put plenty of research and search into presenting a first London overview of the unofficial  Hungarian production of the Communist era. The emphasis is on performance and its photographic documentation, much of it with a subversive political edge. Dóra Maurer  is probably best-known of the ten artists here, though the ‘radios’ of Tamás Szentjóby (which are just bricks, as carried in protest at the banning of radios as part of the 1968 suppression) have been shown at Documenta. Poet and performer Katalin Ladik’s charisma does transmit through the photo sequences in which she re-presents her self.  I also liked Endre Tót’s self-negating expressions of pleasure at his freedoms.

Endre Tót: I am glad if I can type Zer000… 1975 – Typewriting, ink  
and rubberstamp on paper


Eric Bulatov: BOT @ de Pury de Pury, 3 Grafton St – Central


Entrance – No Entrance 1973 — 1995

This 34 work retrospective of the Paris-based Russian Eric Bulatov shows his considerable range to advantage, from the iconic billboard-sized text paintings to conceptual abstraction to atmospheric landscapes to re-envisioning older works, as when he resolves what he judges to be weaknesses in a classic Alexander Ivanov painting by adding spectators in the foreground. It also benefits from excellent explanations from Bulatov himself. It helps to know, for example, that ‘Da’ – ‘Net’ (Yes – No) is built into the spatial perspectives, contradictions and ironies of ‘Entrance – No Entrance’ in which the words VKHODA NET ‘plastically demonstrate the reality of the space while declaring it non-existent’.

Le Tableau et les Spectateurs, 2011 — 2013

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’.

Simon Callery: Flat Paintings @ FOLD, 158 New Cavendish St – Fitzrovia

Flat Painting Bodfari 15 Caput Mortum, 2015 – 237 x 178 x 26 cm

Simon Callery presents two types of paintings which – though categorisable as ‘flat’ – build up considerable interior space. The fold in the FOLD gallery comes from 125 meters of canvas rucked up to make the 75kg of Wallspine (Leaf), 2015. The other three large works are stratigraphic layerings built up at the archaeological sites which inspired them, their earthy tones considerably weathered by the practical necessity of being left out during the months of their formation on Welsh hill forts. The holes let into their inner voids are derived from the locations and shapes of artefacts found, but make, along with cutting and re-stitching, for a convincing exposure of process and excavation of painting.

Flat Painting Bodfari 15 Caput Mortum in progress on site


 Frank Stella @ Bernard Jacobson Gallery, 28 Duke Street St James’s – Central

To 21 Nov: 


Tell Shimshara, 2002  Mixed media on cast aluminum – 137 x 152 x 58 cm

Sticking with the archaeological inspiration, this zappy Frank Stella retrospective includes to wall mounted scultures named after key sites in ancient Anatolia: Stella threw found elements into a sandpit, poured in aluminium and stirred to taste. They’re from an early 80s series mounted on rings which, unusually, allow them to be rotated so that they can be displayed stably at any angle. That aside, Bernard Jacobson makes the most of his capacious new space to show the 4.26m square Michael Kohlhass Panel #7 and the linked sequence of seven canvasses Die Marquise von O… which is – at over 13m wide – easily the biggest artwork within 200 metres (ie until you get to Ai Wei Wei at the Royal Academy).

Die Marquise von O…, 1999, mixed media on seven canvas panels, overall 305 x 1,317 cms 


Eric Bainbridge / Joel Kyack @ Workplace London, Mezzanine Floor, 61-65 Conduit Street – Central

To 21 Nov (open daily 13 – 17 Oct):

Joel Kyack: The Very First Day, 2015 Bucket, pump, plastic finger, dye, water, tile and wood
129 x 41 x 41 cm

Chiming with that Stella,  LA artist Joel Kyack has a penchant for setting localised world records, mocking the Guinness Book (which, come to that, he claims to have thrown further than anyone, albeit without official recognition).  Gateshead’s Workplace as a supra-local outpost in London, currently showing Kyack’s sculptures – such as an endlessly spiralling balloon and a putple-watered start of the world Fountain which conjoins creation and urination – together with 10 new examples of Eric Bainbridge’s rather staisfying paintings using his signature material of synthetic fur fabric. He told me that this stream of production – less known than his fur sculptures – rather annoys painters, which makes them all the more fun to make.

Eric Bainbridge: Untitled, 2015  Fur fabric and acrylic – 140 x 140 cm

Gerard Williams: Cultural Currency @ Handel Street Projects, 14 Florence Street – Islington

To 28 November 2015:

On the back of thirty years’ work emphasising our personal and social preconceptions, Gerard Williams shows thirty double-sided birch plywood tablets. Small windows are cut from each face to highlight  details of two or three banknotes enclosed within. This economical collision of art and value might ask whether, as Dave Hickey has put it, art and money are parallel cultural fictions – based on demonstrations of trust – which have no intrinsic value. If that’s the question, one answer might lie in the aesthetic interest which accrues from revealing evocative image fragments while turning the tableaux into compelling abstract arrangements. 


Prem Sahib: End Up @ Southard Reid, 7 Royalty Mews – Soho

To 14 Nov:


The three potential meeting spaces of Prem Sahib’s extensive and well-received ICA show each create clinical and yet intense atmospheres, and there is in effect a fourth at his gallery a kilometre north: Southard Reid is boarded up as if to suggest an unofficial occupation. A fading neon, the eponymous END UP,  flickers between a closing down or having reached a goal. Inside, you’re in changing rooms, complete with benches, gay scene magazines and new objects through which Sahib can apply his brand of sensual minimalism: several silicone rubber rolls of paper towels.



James Hopkins: The Mirror’s Mirror @ Union Gallery,
To 28 Nov:

Stoned Turn – Turned Stone, 2015

It’s hard – says its curator, modestly * – not to commend this perfectly pitched quincunx of sculptures by James Hopkins, each of which reconciles opposites or sets up a paradox Thus a flame burns in water, stone mounts a ladder or hovers in the air, black turns to white and the word ‘mirror’ remains the word ‘mirror’, even though it’s reflected in ‘the mirror’s mirror’.  That then, is the set of illusions – all with intimations of what lies beyond appearances, from the nature of reality to the shadow of death to the possibility of an afterlife. What’s more, ‘Out of the Living at Supplement Gallery, which is next door to Union, is also well worth seeing.. 

Scaled Ladder, 2014


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 

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