a short tour of peckham galleries

28 September 2011 § 1 Comment

Peckham is the new Hoxton – or at least that is what the young and enthusiastic south London art community would like us to believe, and to be fair this is certainly a hotbed of creative activity.

Step out of Peckham Rye railway station – no London Underground ’round this way – and it is a world of pound stores, ethnic wholesale vegetable shops and fake nail salons. There is an energetic, edgy and interesting vibe to the area. Slipping down a side street and ringing the bell on a nondescript doorway I was led in to the Sunday Painter, a tiny gallery effectively sponsored by the artists studios squeezed around the stairwell. A clever video installation Push-Pull from LA-based artist Pascual Sisto fills the space. Steadily flowing traffic is manipulated to flow from a seemingly never-ending tunnel whilst behind you it flows away from you on another screen.

Back across the High Road and in the back passages of a slightly dodgy light industrial estate is the Son Gallery where a loop of Takeshi Shiamitsu films – Heavy Reflections – were playing. He fuses found video material and home-made footage in a riot of images, colour and sounds which makes for quite difficult viewing.

Nearby in the same Industrial estate is perhaps the most well known of the Peckham commercial galleries, Hannah Barry. Her large space is split in to three currently showing Bobby Dowler, James Capper and Viktor Timofeev, none of which particularly caught my eye, but it would be well worth keeping an eye on her exhibitions to spot any emerging talent from the area.

Flat Time House is rather more unusual in that it is the former home and archive of post-war British artist John Latham. Without elaborating too much on his complex Flat-time theory of the cosmos his work basically ‘offers an ordering and unification of all events in the universe, including human actions…’ Using glass, books, plaster, canvas and spray guns his work looks to freeze moments in time. He also equates the building to a body, with the exterior as the ‘face’ (image above). The studio is the ‘hand’ where there is a rotating series of exhibitions. The wonderful films of Motoharo Jonouchi (image below) are amongst those currently on show and feature multiple kaleidoscopic images and a distorted soundtrack which effortlessly drags you in to a strange and disturbing world.

Moca is another artist cum gallery space run by artist Michael Petry. Artist collective LuckyPDF (see them at Frieze) are next to use the intruiging glass wall that faces the pavement with a video installation running 6 to 8 pm on the 30th September.

Last but not least my charming guides Rozsa, Tom and Laura from Arcadia Missa led us to their railway-arch space, again sponsored by artist studios behind the gallery for a talk by LuckyPDF. There are many more galleries too – best found using the South London Art Map.

This is not an area of commercial galleries in conventional spaces this is a place where art is thought about, discussed and created in a diverse range of ways in any cheap and available space that comes to hand. The key words here are ones like collaboration, platform, artist-run, collective, projects, groups and artist space. I highly recommend getting down ‘sarf’ and taking a look around. It is not an easy place to get to and find your way around so to help on the last friday of every month there is an excellent ‘pay-what-you-can’ tour (£5 suggested).

Tours:  http://www.southlondonartmap.com/tours



museum of everything 4 at selfridges

23 September 2011 § 4 Comments

The Museum of Everything meets the shop of everything. As I commented a month or so back when this collaborative exhibition was announced, it seemed a rather unlikely-looking marriage of opposites. It appears wrong that those artists working outside the mainstream, perhaps by refusing to be part of society or having been shunned and ignored by it, are here linked up with a long-established shrine to mainstream capitalism.

My suspicions were well-founded. Everything from drawing pads, pens and bags to expensive designer dresses had been merchandised and were being sold in the slick ‘Shop of Everything’. To be fair the MoE has announced the launch of The Workshops of Everything – an ‘initiative to support studios for self-taught artists with developmental and other disabilities’ – but it was far from clear if how much of the profit would go to this venture, or indeed the artists involved in providing the designs used on the products.

There was much artwork in a cleverly-designed network of tiny galleries, that had lots of charm, such as Ruby Bradford’s portraits of assorted royalty, and I would strongly recommend anyone unfamiliar with the MoE pops down and takes a look. Nevertheless the whole exercise showed that outsider art and commercialism do not sit comfortably together. The sooner the MoE gets back to its former, appropriately ramshackle and charming location in Primrose Hill, the better. As my wife commented, the previous exhibitions smelled of childhood, the current one of money.

paul mcdevitt: running on woollen legs at stephen friedman

19 September 2011 § Leave a comment

I must admit I have a soft spot for Paul McDevitt. At home I have two immaculate landscape drawings in coloured pencil which deserve repeated viewings. Improbable geometric shapes and strange perspectives have been inserted in to a mountain landscape – he plays with convention and questions traditional views.

In Running… McDevitt works in a much larger scale than usual. Again questioning authenticity and the notion of artist as genius he here combines the modernism of  Piet Mondrian with lower art forms like cartoons. The clearly recognisable De Stijl grids are interspersed with the white gloved hand reminiscent of Disney’s Goofy. Careful painting is combined with silk screen printing.

In the current era of austerity these large canvases are also priced at a remarkably low level. At just £4 to 6,000 they seem like pretty good value. Well worth a look.

Thumb (above)  is available from A Kick Up The Arts at £2400.

Paul McDevitt: Running on Woollen Legs at Stephen Friedman Gallery until 1 October 2011.

roni horn: recent work at hauser & wirth

18 September 2011 § Leave a comment

The new Phyllida Barlow exhibition has created something of a buzz. So I made some time to drop in to H&W’s expansive new(ish) Savile Row space. Sadly I got the wrong gallery – the Barlow show is on at the company’s Piccadilly location.

Instead I got Roni Horn. Her first show since the ‘aka Roni Horn’ solo at the Tate. The first room, with a reprise of an earlier work You are the Weather has one hundred photographs of a womans head, as she sits in an Icelandic hot spring – apparently. We are also told that she is ‘reacting to the weather conditions around her’ – even though, with a series of seemingly bored and vacant expressions,  you would be hard-pressed to detect any variation. The ‘viewer is voyeurised by the view’ – we replace the weather as the reason for her changing expression. Perception, location, identity, yawn. In the second room Horn has made pigment drawings which she subsequently has dissected and re-assembled repeadly. Pencil lines and notes reveal the process. They are OK.

It is all very delicate, meditative and influenced by her Icelandic connections. The works are deeply considered and carefully thought out, neatly made in appropriate media, are reasonably aesthetically pleasing and so on. In other words they neatly tick all the boxes in an art-studenty sort of way. I am sure curators also love them – big statements on worthy themes that fill large spaces but I found this particular exhibition rather uninspiring. Note to self: must get over to see Barlow asap.

Hauser & Wirth Savile Row until 22 October 2011

marius bercea, adrian ghenie & the cluj school

14 September 2011 § 1 Comment

Well, what do I know? Rather unimpressed with Adrian Ghenie at Haunch of Venison the other day (see post) I went to see what the erstwhile owners of Haunch had to offer at Blain Southern. It turns out Marius Bercea is another Rumanian and also from the ‘Cluj School’ – a group of artists I was, up to that point, blissfully unaware of.

I should not have been. Apparently this particular school is sizzling hot in the contemporary art world (why did nobody tell me?) and both shows were completely sold out – so the galleries say – before they even opened. With the works selling for about £5 to £10k and up to about £50k this is no mean feat.

I felt the Ghenie exhibition was a little confused but to be fair I have discovered that the curator (see video at HoV site) actually sought to give an overview of some recent themes. His recent exhibitions have actually individually been much more cohesive and set around more specific ideas such as evolution/Darwin/eugenics and so forth.

Over at Blain Southern his fellow countryman Marius Bercea has only just joined the gallery roster. The similarity with Ghenie is immediately evident in respect of the way that he applies both rough and energetic as well as tight and controlled brush strokes across a canvas replete with complex imagery. Colours are often vivid. He also looks to make socio-political statements with for example derelict buildings and signs of poverty.

The works are probably more reflective than Ghenie’s with dreamlike and surrealist elements. One can gaze deeply in to the canvas where there is a feeling of drifting in and out of complex dreams. Disparate objects co-exist in a strange world which could be memories from past, a view of the present or a vision of the future – perhaps all three, perhaps none of them!

This is a very enjoyable and cohesive small show that gives perspective to the Cluj school. Try and see both together and find out what the fuss is all about.

Blain Southern until 1 October 2011

modern frustrations at sumarria lunn

11 September 2011 § 4 Comments

Sumarrialunn, in their neat little gallery space provide a welcome contrast to the vast spaces of the restored Haunch of Venison just around the corner. They also avoid the grand statements of the Haunch’s giant canvases – no doubt destined for corporate lobbies or grand homes – and instead feature young artists who thoughtfully investigate the world of contemporary art.

Often featuring installation, sculpture and less conventional art practice they provide a welcome alternative to the big international galleries. This particular small, but perfectly formed, show has Blue Curry, Ross Jones, littlewhitehead and Tim Phillips in a dialogue about the aggravations of modern life.

Tim Phillips - Hyperion

Ross Jones’ delicate pencil drawings depict a stripped-down version of a current political issue,  IED for example portraying the unassembled components of an explosive device. Passive but potent.

Blue Curry draws on a Caribbean background to expose personal and cultural frustrations. Untitled is a neat work that partly conceals rubber tyres with tropical beads in a snake-skin pattern. Tourist tat over industrial object – trouble in paradise.

littlewhitehead - The Philanthropist

Littlewhitehead’s irreverent views of society are here reflected by a ‘painted’ work created by the reaction of invisible chemical fumes. Are we the canvas upon which the chemical dangers, real or imagined, of the industrial society act?

The stand out work for me is Tim Phillip’s Hyperion. A gloriously over-the-top corporate logo for a future age. Inlaid wood in dynamic shapes is intercut with vinyl and backlit by LED lights. Russian suprematism meets corporate America.

All these artists will go far. These are good works (at low prices) well worth seeing.

Modern Frustrations at Summarialunn until 30 September 2011


adrian ghenie at haunch of venison

10 September 2011 § 3 Comments

The privilege of holding the first show at Haunch of Venison‘s restored and revamped space goes to Adrian Ghenie, a Romanian artist. A modest group of new paintings is supplemented by less successful collage works that are pasted directly on to the gallery walls.

Ghenie takes found images of historical icons and overlaps them with an array of cultural references on moody paint splashed canvases. Often dark and brooding he reflects on good and evil introducing figures like Ceaucescu and Mengele before almost obliterating them behind smears and streaks of multicoloured paint.

He says ‘I am interested in the presence of evil, or more precisely how the possibility for evil is found in every endeavour, even in those scientific projects which set out to benefit mankind.’ In one large-scale work for example Charles Darwin is connected to the Nazis by their search for Aryan perfection. In another deformed dogs scrabble around in the shadow of a nuclear test (we are told) or perhaps it is a post-apocalypic vision.

The works are undeniably eye-catching and the technique impressive but I found the purported links tenuous or opportunistic. The execution did not really reflect what we were told of the thought-process or perhaps they did not engage. The collages I will ignore as a decorative afterthought in order to fill the airy gallery space. Personally I would prefer more clarity in execution and perhaps in the future we could see something rather more special? Not sure really. Opinions welcome.

Haunch of Venison until 8 October 2011

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