Summer Exhibition Royal Academy, London

2 July 2016 § Leave a comment

This review is also posted in arts & culture magazine CELLOPHANELAND here

There is probably little point in making any sort of critical analysis of the latest Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It is what it is, which to be honest is rather a mess. Pretty much every gallery is hung by a different curator and whilst it is interesting to see what they have done it is ultimately beside the point.

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

The whole show should rather be taken more at face value – an annual opportunity for the talented, enthusiastic, amateurish and hopeful to apply to have their work on the walls of the academy. Here they can rub shoulders with the latest pieces from the Royal Academicians in a gloriously anarchic jumble.

David Mach Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

David Mach

Marina Abramovic Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Marina Abramovic – Carrying the Skeleton

This years ‘co-ordinator’ is the sculptor Richard Wilson best known for 20:50 – the oil filled installation at the Saatchi. He has invited twenty artistic duos to present their work within this years exhibition. We therefore have Gilbert & George with Beard Aware and Jane & Louise Wilson in the lobby stairwell with Chernobyl. 

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Jane & Louise Wilson

Boyle Family Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Boyle Family – Elemental Study

There are other obvious duos like Jake & Dinos Chapman, Eva & Adele, Allora & Calzadilla, Bernd & Hilla Becher and Tim Noble & Sue Webster. Their presence however serves no real curatorial purpose and they are lost within the show – at best it is simply of interest to see some of their work.

Gilbert & George Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Gilbert & George – Beard Aware

Almost all of the pieces are of course for sale and it is quite a good opportunity to pick some work for your own walls. Prices of course vary considerably from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand, and for the uninitiated it is not always easy to spot the difference!

Anselm Kiefer Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Anselm Kiefer – Bose Blumen

For the first time the works are available to browse and buy online and we would highly recommend taking a look online before the show and before purchasing (link here).

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

George Shaw – Black Magic

For our part we loved a little George Shaw edition (we highly recommend his National Gallery exhibition reviewed here) , Marguerite Horner’s enigmatic painted landscapes and Tom Hunter’s Rose prize-winning photograph Winterville. Harry Hill had one of his witty celebrity-oriented works – a tattooed David Beckham (sold but we hear High House Gallery has work available).

Tom Hunter Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Tom Hunter – Winterville

Marguerite Horner Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by

Marguerite Horner – On the Edge

Harry Hill - David Beckham Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by

Harry Hill – David Beckham

With rather more to spend Gert & Uwe Tobias’ had two spectacular works and there was a bright Gillian Ayres, which all seemed reasonable value despite the big ticket prices as did Rose Wylie’s Spider, Frog & Bird.

Gert & Uwe Tobias Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by

Gert & Uwe Tobias – Untitled

The floor to ceiling ‘salon’ hang – which is the norm at the Summer Exhibition – makes for difficult viewing, but it is not often that so much (varied) talent is on view at the same time. Take it slowly and concentrate on works that catch your eye – we have posted a selection of those that caught ours – and you may just have a very enjoyable visit.

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by

David Mach

Gary Lawrence Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Gary Lawrence – Cinque Terre with Runner Beans

The RA Summer Exhibition runs until 16 August 2016

Rose Wylie Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at

Rose Wylie – Spider Frog & Bird

For more information visit

Alex Katz: Quick Light – Serpentine Gallery, London

29 June 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s the instantaneous light. If you get it right then you get it in the total present tense – that’s what you’re going for, that’s eternity.” Alex Katz

The new Alex Katz exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries is a combination of two distinct series of work representing two aspects of his work – portraits and landscapes. Entering the gallery we are met with three walls each with one gigantic orange painting.


These are recent portraits of women – each given the subjects first name – Vivien, Anna and Ada (his wife, a frequent subject). They may be named and are ‘of’ somebody but that is as far as Katz wants to take us. These might just as well be still lifes, we are not invited to learn any more about these ladies and there is no narrative. We are simply encouraged to be ‘in the moment’ and the artists wants to see no more or no less that what is right before us.


The subjects are simply dressed, if indeed we see what they are wearing, almost expressionless, and return our gaze. The backgrounds a pure bright orange – they could be ‘Easy Jet’ adverts and indeed the link with advertising is there, Katz heavily influenced by billboards, his paintings characterised by their flatness of colour and fluidity of line.


The artist, now 88, came of age as an artist in 1950s New York, and developed his unique approach to contemporary representational painting during the height of Abstract Expressionism. His work is reminiscent of artists like Tom Wesselman and Andy Warhol but any association to pop art is to be avoided though as gentle and careful brushstrokes energise the caves and bring life to the faces.


The exhibitions title, Quick Light, comes from Katz’s desire to bring the image to us as quickly as possible – as in adverts – removing superfluous detail in order that our brains absorb the image with minimal delay. Like the almost totally two dimensional figures the paint is flat and he is happy to agree with the term ‘aggressive’ in respect of the quick impact that his images have upon us.


The Serpentine has also taken the clever opportunity to present a number of Katz’s landscape paintings in the leafy surroundings of Hyde Park. The central gallery is occupied by several of these, some almost abstract in appearance exemplify his life-long quest to capture the present tense in paint. The largest fill whole walls of the Serpentines sizeable walls.


Reflection is a rohrsach-style mirrored reflection water in blue and  black, West 1 features illuminated windows on a black background whilst Black Brook 18, in green and black we guess must be a stream and grass.


They are enigmatic and again Katz gives no story – these are paintings simply of present ‘moments’.  Regardless of their scale, he describes these paintings as ‘environmental’ in the way in which they envelop the viewer. Defined by temporal qualities of light, times of the day and the changing of the seasons.


Everything Katz does looks deceptively easy, and thats how he wants it. Seeing that Henri Matisse’s work seemingly required ’no effort’ he was inspired to paint in a similar way. The inspiration of this Serpentine show is seeing another master at the peak of his powers.

Alex Katz: Quick Light is at the Serpentine Gallery until 11 September.

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George Shaw: My Back to Nature – National Portrait Gallery, London

18 June 2016 § Leave a comment

“The longer I spend here, the earthier and more profane the collection gets. Even the religious paintings eventually get down from their high horse and meet you on your level. It’s all sex, death, bowls of fruit and flowers, and the odd landscape. That may sound somewhat dismissive, but it’s kept artists busy for 700 years and continues to do so.” George Shaw

George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery LondonGeorge Shaw has spent the last two years as the latest Associate Artist at the National Gallery. Provided with a studio at the gallery his brief is to produce work that responds to art in the collection. A Turner Prize nominee in 2011, Shaw is well known for his paintings of the decaying and depressing post-war housing estates of Tile Hill, Coventry, where he grew up, and for his idiosyncratic medium – the sticky Humbrol enamel paint.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery LondonFamously used for children’s Airfix kits, the use of this unusual paint has led to the assumption that he used to paint these models as a child. Shaw quickly puts us straight telling us that he never would have played with such mundane toys “I was upstairs trying to be a Velasquez or a Goya”.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London Living on a daily basis with artworks that that has admired throughout his career (“I still have my Thames and Hudson book on the National Gallery that my mum gave me for a birthday present in the early eighties” ) his first response to the residency was a series of charcoal sketches -14 self-portraits in the various poses taken up by Christ in traditional Stations of the Cross compositions, followed by other sketches and watercolours of trees.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London Positioned as the first thing the visitor encounters on entering the exhibition, Shaw encourages us to read his work as carrying other, deeper ideas, rather than being just a ‘rehash’ of traditional landscape imagery. Even woodland in the National Gallery paintings would be redolent with religious meaning – lone trees for example being instantly recognisable by a contemporary spectator as the crosses of Calvary. Indeed in illustration Shaw provides us with a stark and beautiful monochrome watercolour of three bare trees.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London Alluding to the theme of woodland in the collection, ‘My Back to Nature’ resonates with Shaw’s own experience of walking in the woods as a teenager, with the feeling that “something out of the ordinary could happen at any time there, away from the supervision of adults”. Looking through the National’s collection many of the paintings feature mythical events involving incidents outside the accepted norms of behaviour, including violence, illicit sex, and drunkenness that are in similar locations – woodlands near a town which we perhaps see, idealised, in a misty or hilly backdrop.George Shaw My Back To Nature National GalleryLike Cézanne’s BathersVelázquez’s Venus, and all the other great nudes in these halls, in the pastoral tradition, woods and fields are places of desire and dalliance – scenes of intense human drama. Perhaps the moment has just passed or is just about to happen. For Shaw it is a mark on the ground, trampling of leaves, the torn pages of an porn magazines.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London The School of Love by Correggio, is of Venus, Mercury and Cupid in a leafy bower – Shaw’s version is a striped mattress discarded in a clearing. In another a tree trunk drips with red paint: someone’s rage or someone’s private message.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London A year in to his residence Shaw ordered three large canvases – exactly the size of the Titian Metamorphoses in the gallery. His painted responses to them show firstly a dark and erotic clearing, in another the tree assaulted with red paint and finally a Titian-blue tarpaulin, dangling ghost-like from the arm of a tree. It is easy to see the religious parallels: life, death and the resurrection.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery LondonA kid from a suburban housing estate gets unlimited access to the National Gallery’s collection. This was George Shaw’s dream come true and through this perhaps unlikely interaction comes an inspirational exhibition of a special quality.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London is on until 30 October 2016

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Wang Guangle: Yellow – Pace Gallery, London

18 March 2016 § Leave a comment

This post is also published on the online Lifestyle Magazine CELLOPHANELAND* (link here)

“The sensation of the passage of time always inspires me. Time changes everything, and when I can detect the pure movement of time, nothing else seems to matter. In these moments, there is very little else I would want to do.” Wang Guangle

Wang Guangle: Yellow – Pace Gallery, London

Pace gallery is one of the world’s leading commercial art galleries. Their artists include modernist icons like Josef Albers and Robert Rauschenberg plus the likes of James Turrell (see our exhibition review here), John Hoyland (see review here) and David Hockney (see review here and ‘On the trail of…’ here).

Wang Guangle: Yellow – Pace Gallery, London

Anyone remotely interested in the ebbs and flows of the contemporary art market would indeed therefore be very wise to keep a close eye on their latest activity. A recent example would be the February 2016 opening of their new gallery space in the cultural desert that is Palo Alto in silicon valley. The ‘out-there’ decision to add Menlo Park to their big city portfolio of London, New York, Beijing, Hong Kong and Paris caught many in the industry by surprise but it is certain that there will be many carefully monitoring its success – or otherwise.

Wang Guangle: Yellow – Pace Gallery, London

Wang Guangle is a younger artist who was born 1971, trained at the Beijing Academy and graduating in 2000. His name will not be familiar to many outside China, indeed Yellow will be his first solo exhibition in Europe, but this is a name that we will probably hear more often. His style of abstraction is easy on the western eye with its superficial similarity to modernists like Albers and Rothko perhaps, although it is an abstraction that actually comes from a more distinct and  recent Chinese angle.

Wang Guangle: Yellow – Pace Gallery, London

Wang is best known for his memento mori style abstraction—inspired by the traditional burial practices of southern China, his tactile works are produced in a process of repetitive layering of different colors of acrylic, his works united by experiments in depth and space. One of the preeminent abstract painters of his generation in Beijing, Wang’s work is rooted in questions of painting’s temporality and the canvas as a vessel of labour and marker of time.

Wang Guangle: Yellow – Pace Gallery, London

The exhibition includes a selection of recent paintings that evince the spirit and style of his work from the past decade, which in this case perhaps unsurprisingly includes an unprecedented use of yellow. Although he has no prescribed meaning for the colour, he apparently embraces its various associations, from timidity and carefulness to a more Chinese connotation of the erotic.

Wang Guangle: Yellow – Pace Gallery, London

A series entitled Coffin paintings, shows thin strips of acrylic paint lining the canvas and wrapping around the frontal surface, leaving the drips along the sides. Multiple layers of paint added over periods of several weeks provide a characteristic striped effect and both illusionistic and real physicality. This layering process has its origins in his home region of Fujian, where elder men annually add a fresh layer of lacquer to their coffins in anticipation of their death.

Wang Guangle: Yellow – Pace Gallery, London

The Untitled paintings mirror this process of scaling and accumulation in the Coffin works while placing a greater emphasis on geometry. Wang paints rectangular fields, each layer progressing farther from the edge and closer to the centre, creating a subtle gradation of colour and the effect of an illuminated rectangle or void. In these works, the question of abstraction arises; for Wang, abstraction is less a means of non-figuration and more of record that most abstract of phenomena: time.

Wang Guangle: Yellow is at Pace London until 16 April 2016

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Gathered Leaves – Photographs by Alex Soth, The Science Museum, London

26 February 2016 § Leave a comment

This post is also published on CELLOPHANELAND* (link here)

Despite the process of photography being somewhat scientific, Gathered Leaves – Photographs by Alex Soth, is on first appearances a slightly surprisingly choice as the latest exhibition at the Science Museum. Alex Soth is a contemporary photographer who takes an innovative aim at documentary photography whilst perhaps another (excellent) current exhibition of early images from photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron also on now at the same venue is more in line with the sort of thing we are expecting at the museum.

Alex Soth Sleeping by the Mississippi The Science Museum

What many may not know however is that the Science Museum Group (SMG) has just announced an historic agreement with the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Over 400,000 objects from SMG’s three-million-strong photography collection will be transferred to join the V&A’s existing collection of 500,000 to create the single largest collection on the art of photography in the world in their International Photography Resource Centre.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Sleeping by the Mississippi

The collection will comprise encompasses exquisite vintage prints, the world’s first negative, unique daguerreotypes and early colour photographs, as well as important albums, books, cameras and the archives of major photographers. There are also of course major holdings of the worlds top photographers from the dawn of photography right up to to the present day.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum

Alex Soth is one of those artists featured in the collection and this beautifully presented exhibition, surprisingly his first ever in the UK, is a fitting backdrop to the announcement. Surveying a decade of his work it features Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Niagara (2006) and Broken Manual (2010) as well as the UK premiere of Songbook.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Songbook

His work is characterised by a lyrical approach to documentary photography and a restless experimentation across the many forms that photography can take: from exhibitions and books, to zines and digital media. Soth, who lives and works in Minnesota, also shares the great American fascination with the open road, bringing a fresh perspective to ideas explored in the twentieth century by artists and writers such as Robert Frank, Stephen Shore and Jack Kerouac.Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Living by the Mississippi

Throughout the exhibition we are in no doubt that we are looking at the work of an American photographer. We recognise the physical landscapes and wilderness of the USA, from iconic sights like the Niagara Falls through to wild forest. We also see the small rural towns whilst rural and run down suburbs also act as backdrops for his poetic surveys of American life.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Sleeping by the Mississippi

For Sleeping by the Mississippi Soth set off with his large format camera to travel its 2000 mile course. He drifts lazily down its course taking in dreamers, visionaries and time worn motels. His camera transports us physically and metaphorically via the moving waters and the wandering imaginations and dreams of the regions residents.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Niagara

Niagara has of course long been associated with both honeymoons and suicides. Soth refers to its ‘intensified sexuality and unsustainable desire’ and grabs snippets of poetry and evidence of passion, people in bars an wedding venues and juxtaposes them with the grandeur of the flowing falls.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Broken Manual

Broken Manual explores the desire to run away from civilisation. Researching the web he discovered a world of communications and manifestos distributed by those who have chosen to withdraw from society: survivalists, monks and hermits.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Broken Manual

We see some of the documents and Soths own zines displayed in glazed cabinets in the exhibition space. Soth also created his own survival instructions, the Broken Manual and then went on the road himself in seeking out here people.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Broken Manual

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Niagara

He found his recluses in the vast unpopulated expanses of America – from deserts to forests – and photographed them in their solitude, drafted in their settings.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Songbook

Finally, in Songbook, Soth elucidates modern American life in a timeless black and white. The project emerged from a series of road trips with the writer Brad Zellar. Posing as local newspaper reporters, over the course of two years they attended hundreds of meetings, dances, festivals, and communal gatherings, the resulting stories published as an ad hoc series of ‘dispatches’ from the different states visited.

Alex Soth Gathered Leaves The Science Museum Songbook

Soth isolates his photographs from their original news context, and in doing so, evokes a human desire for interaction in an era increasingly defined by virtual social networks. Funny, fragmentary and sad, Songbook is a lyrical meditation on the tension between American individualism and the urge to be united.

Gathered Leaves – Photographs by Alex Soth is on until 28 March 2016

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Noemie Goudal: Southern Light Stations – The Photographers Gallery

7 January 2016 § Leave a comment

This post is also featured on the online cultural magazine CELLOPHANELAND* –

Photography has since its invention been primarily seen as a medium which reproduces reality, albeit more or less honestly. There are of course many photographers who are still documenting reality, and in the digital age these resulting images have an ever increasing shape-shifting flexibility transferring with ever-greater ease from the camera to the screen, internet, print, photo-book, advertising hoardings and even T shirts or mugs.

Noemie Goudal: Southern Light Stations - The Photographers Gallery

There is however an increasing movement of younger photographers who seek to deconstruct, alter and redefine the medium by foregrounding such formal aspects its physical form and the chemical or technical processes involved. Grouped loosely under the term ‘constructed photography’, the work of artists such as Matt Lipps, Walead Beshty, Daniel Gordon and Antonio Marguet makes the scaffolding of the photograph explicit whilst re-building photography as both a physical and technical art.

Noemie Goudal: Southern Light Stations - The Photographers Gallery

Noemie Goudal is one of the latest wave of these photographers having only graduated from the RCA as recently as 2012. Our attention was originally drawn to her work in an excellent High House Gallery group exhibition Re:Vision at 44AD in Bath and it is a significant comment on her talent that after such a short time The Photographers Gallery has given her a solo exhibition.Noemie Goudal: Southern Light Stations - The Photographers Gallery

Southern Light Stations continues Goudal’s interest in man made interventions within the natural world. Her practice is to use props, large photographs or constructed photographic sets and rephotograph them within natural settings or other existing backdrops. For one set of images she looks at historic celestial and solar perceptions – the sky once being considered for example as a solid plane. Roughly built circular forms are hung within landscapes, their theatricality clear to see, and photographed.

Noemie Goudal: Southern Light Stations - The Photographers Gallery

Reflecting a fascination with our relationship to the sky, the exhibition draws upon a rich history of myths, legends, religious symbolism and early scientific theories. Through photographs, stereoscopes and architectural installations, the exhibition aims to explore the intangible nature of celestial space – long considered a mirror of terrestrial turmoil as well as an expression of the sacred.

Noemie Goudal: Southern Light Stations - The Photographers Gallery

For another series of architectural objects Goudal has digitally manipulated images of concrete buildings before affixing the collaged prints on to wooden constructions. These are then placed within barren landscapes or seascapes and again rephotographed.

Noemie Goudal: Southern Light Stations - The Photographers Gallery

Moving a work in to position

Both series draw upon the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, highly influential German deadpan photographers – who documented German Industrial architecture with multiple images of similar objects such as water towers. Goudal’s work nevertheless adds to their work, is thought-provoking and fascinating.

Noemie Goudal: Southern Light Stations - The Photographers Gallery

NOÉMIE GOUDAL: SOUTHERN LIGHT STATIONS The Photographers Gallery, London until 10 January 2016.

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Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

17 November 2015 § Leave a comment

The title Fieldwork hints at some sort of preparatory work of rough ideas taken from the world at large – the resultant notes, plans and sketches not necessarily drawn in to a final form. This is indeed the format that it takes with an exhibition of interlinking new works by the artist, each offering a glimpse of the inspirations that feed his practice.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Encompassing everything from a kitchen sink (literally!), the exhibition presents an eclectic selection that includes for example a year’s worth of skies, the clothes of absentee statues, a tent, a helium balloon, the artist’s phone number and a pebble beach. As ever with Gander’s art, the forms convened in Fieldwork are elliptic and opaque, starting stories for the viewer to invent or complete.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, LondonOccupying the entire back gallery, the titular work Fieldwork 2015 opens a window onto the revolving touchstones of Gander’s art presented on a Generation Game style conveyor belt. Objects from the artist’s collection glide slowly past a window in the gallery wall and unsurprisingly including a ‘Cuddly Toy’ – this is a bear however that has seemingly been ‘tortured’.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Each piece is seemingly found but on closer inspection uniquely crafted. A National Trust sign proclaims ‘Culturefield’, the artists imaginary artistic utopia. Here there’s a baseball bat covered in nails, a pair of dead pigeons, a chocolate bar swoosh… This is a memory game of strange associations and a prism of connections (a chess set, a tortured teddy bear, a dead chick served on a plate with a napkin signed by Picasso…) through which to consider the rest of the exhibition.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Perhaps because of the the fact that Ryan Gander’s work is not always self- explanatory, much of its appeal lies in trying to work out what it is all about. Full understanding does often however require a gander (sorry) at the exhibition catalogue: a modern stick for example, has an arrow head attached. It is not self-evident that it is a selfie-stick with a genuine neolithic stone head, the object being cleverly reduced back to what it basically is – a stick that could have been used for example as a weapon in millennia past.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, LondonPreparation is everything is a work composed of 365 daily attempts to mix the exact colour of the sky in acrylic paint, while the installation Never enough – a shingle beach filling the entirety of the downstairs gallery – likewise refers to the seascape near Gander’s home, the endless pebbles reference an alleged punishment for smugglers: to seal up the perpetrator’s storage cellar with stones.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, LondonThe entire exhibition is one that deliberately teases, presenting sealed-off worlds and frustrating knowledge. Enigmatic objects on the conveyer belt are tantalisingly out of reach, the cellar of pebbles can be seen but not accessed, in a sealed courtyard space is an internally lit, semi-transparent fibreglass tent while stuck, out of reach, high on a gallery ceiling is what appears to be a helium balloon.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Some other sculptural works seem to have disappeared entirely and are only suggested through the discarded items that remain while I be… (i) and I be… (ii) are dust-sheeted mirrors as might be found in a closed-up stately home, the sheets however are of marble, the mirrors reflections sealed forever.


Outside the gallery, a giant billboard announces Gander’s phone number to the public. We called the number to receive an apology from Gander for not answering his ‘second phone’ and requesting a message. In the playful spirit of the show we left a message apologising for not being available and asked Gander to leave us a message. We are still waiting!

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Ryan Gander Fieldwork is at the Lisson Gallery until 31 October 2015

Images by CELLOPHANELAND* and Lisson Gallery.

Agnes Martin at Tate Modern, London

16 November 2015 § Leave a comment

My paintings have neither objects nor space nor time nor anything – no forms. They are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down form. 
Agnes Martin, 1966

Agnes Martin is not for everyone. In sharp contrast to the eye-popping bling of the current The World Goes Pop exhibition a few yards away on the same level of Tate Modern (reviewed here) this is art that is understated and serene. There is nothing here that is brash or demands attention, and its appreciation requires a willingness to take a deep breath and slowly take in what the artist has to offer.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

It is however well worth the time and effort. Agnes Martin’s art is about the search for sublime beauty and serenity, she herself states that “art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.”

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

Working in the second half of the 20th Century, her early career covered the era when Abstract Expressionism was overtaken by Minimalism. She is often considered as a pivot between the two – her fine-lined grids, bands and square blocks of pale color fusing the emotional resonance of the former with the sparce purity of the latter.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

The show is laid out chronologically, and begins with her highly derivative early “biomorphic” works reminiscent of artists like Joan Miró and Mark Rothko. Seeing her work in Taos in 1957, the dealer Betty Parsons however saw something in Martin’s talent and persuaded her to move to New York.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

It was here she fraternised with, and was influenced by, artists like Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, and Robert Rauschenberg in the hot-bed of art that was the Lower East side at that time. She made sculptural assemblages using found objects such as boat spikes and nails and began to depict simple geometric forms such as squares, rectangles and circles as well as a range of linear marks and dots, often repeated across the surface.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

By the early 1960s, Martin’s geometric compositions had evolved into what would later be seen as her signature style: the square grid. The beauty in this simplicity is seen in works like Friendship – where gold leaf is incised to produce a grid of tiny rectangles. Referring to these paintings, the critic Lucy Lippard described them as ‘legendary examples of an unrepetitive use of a repetitive medium’.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

By 1967 however, fighting against mental illness, Martin left New York in search of solitude and settled in New Mexico for a self-imposed five year break from painting. When she did start again the grids are replaced by horizontal lines, and the darker tones by palest pink, blue and yellow. The colours are evocative of nature: sunsets, light through the mist, rocks in the sun.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

Shown together in their own room here are The Islands I-XII  – a spellbinding series of 12 near white paintings from 1979 that Martin considered a single piece These paintings can be seen as Martin’s most silent works and invite concentrated looking over time in order to see their fine lines and subtly nuanced surfaces.


The works convey a contemplative quality, indicating Martin’s interest in East Asian philosophy, and spirituality however knowing about Martin’s schizophrenia it is also clear that this calmness was hard won – the result of a deep inner battle.

Agnes Martin Tate Modern

Agnes Martin is at Tate Modern until 11 October 2015

Images by Tate and CELLOPHANELAND*

John Hoyland: Power Stations Paintings at Newport Street Gallery

16 November 2015 § Leave a comment

The Newport Street Gallery is the culmination of a long stated Damien Hirst ambition – a desire to publicly show his private collection. It may also be part of an additional desire to prove that an artist can also be a gallerist and curator. Hirst of course broke the mould in 1988 as one of the main mover and shakers behind the notorious Freeze exhibition, where he helped gather together a group of his Goldsmiths art College contemporaries, many of whom later became known as the young British artists (yBa’s).

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on
He has then since collected several thousand pieces for his ‘Murderme’ collection with the eventual aim of its public display. He states “I believe art should be experienced by as many people as possible and I’ve felt guilty owning work that is stored away in boxes where no one can see it. Having a space where I can put on shows from the collection is a dream come true… I couldn’t be happier.”

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on

John Hoyland is perhaps surprising as a choice for the inaugural exhibition at the new space as he and Hirst are not at first glance natural bedfellows. Hoyland, one of Britains foremost abstract (he preferred the term non-figurative) painters, was notoriously anti-conceptual and also felt that artists should be very much ‘hands-on’ and physically creating their own work. Despite Hirst being the antithesis of Hoyland’s ideals the two however became friends with Hirst steadily purchasing dozens of his works.

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on

And what an exhibition it is. Over thirty works pop and sparkle like jewels over the half a dozen airy ‘rooms’ set over two floors. This is a perfect venue for Hoyland’s works, the ‘white cube’ warehouse space a fine foil for the oversized canvases with their gloriously vivid blocks of colour.

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on

Hoyland ‘discovered’ colour in the south of France in the fifties and in the early sixties was heavily influenced by American Abstract Expressionism, having visited New York to seek out artists like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. It is these influences from which Hoyland forged his own path and from this time that the first works in this exhibition were painted.

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on

Arranged largely chronologically we begin with pieces from the sixties – the first room full of vivid red works, the second bright green ones. They are clearly heavily Rothko and Newman influenced, with expansive colour fields – the very earliest like 17.5.64 including biomorphic shapes, which in slightly later works have evolved in to roughly delineated colour blocks or columns. Rather than being flat though, there is a sculptural dimension with influence from his sculptor friend, Anthony Caro.

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on

As we move onwards (and upwards) the soft edges of the colour fields harden whilst surface texture increases. In works like 29.12.66 greys appear, whilst in others there are more colours, diagonals and bolder forms make a more graphic statement.

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on

One rather different work 23.2.71 painted in a pale pink and gold comes from a short period in the early seventies spent in his Wiltshire studio where he used a more delicate palette, but it was not long before he was back to powerful blues and reds alongside other strong colours in works like 29.3.80.

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on

Using diverse means of application these forceful compositions include strong diagonals and fractured patches of colour in heavily textured paint.

Newport Street Gallery John Hoyland Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 Exhibition review on

Perhaps Hirst has selected Hoyland to avoid the more obvious selection of works from fellow yBa’s for example or perhaps he feels an affinity between this sculptural use of colour and his own spot and spin paintings. In any case this is a successful show in a truly wonderful space. Hopefully soon we can follow a Newport Street Gallery visit with a meal in Pharmacy2 due to open on the top floor in 2016.

John Hoyland: Power Stations Paintings 1964-1982 is at Newport Street Gallery until 3rd April 2016.

For further information, visit:

All images by CELLOPHANELAND* and Newport Street Gallery.

The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern London

15 November 2015 § Leave a comment

This is pop Jim, but not as we know it. There are no Warhol Brillo Boxes, Roy Lichtenstein Whaams or Peter Blake collages to be seen. The key word here is World and here the Tate is attempting to present this movement, usually and primarily seen as a British/American phenomenon, in a wider context by not only gathering works from lesser known European and America artists, but also farther afield.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

How many people know that there is Icelandic pop art for example from the excellent Erro where, for example Chinese and Vietnamese troops invade the idealised American home (below) or Cuban ‘folk-pop’ from Raul Martinez?

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

It is an ambitious show presenting works by over sixty artists from Latin America to the Middle and Far East whilst also presenting a broader narrative for the creation of works considered to be included within the canon of pop art.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

In the west pop has traditionally been seen as derived from, and as critiquing  consumer and capitalist culture it is here presented as a much broader movement. Public protest, politics, the body, domestic revolution, consumption and folk art are all considered worthy of categorisation and given separate exhibition space in an examination of the broader worldwide movement.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

The show, curated by the Tate‘s Jessica Morgan, also goes further in providing a platform for many of women artists who were also involved, and who have perhaps been under-represented in the history of pop art.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

The best works here though are American with fetish painted car bonnets from Judy Chicago and Martha Rosler’s clever photo-montages.  Nicola L created her iconic ‘Red Coat’ for eleven people to bond come rain or shine, but I’m not sure that Jana Zelibska’s silhouettes were really deserving of their own section and others are hit and miss.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

Around the world pop was not just a celebration of western consumerism but was often a subversive international language of protest. Polish artist Jurry Zielinski’s protester for example has their red fabric tongue firmly nailed to the gallery floor, John F Kennedy and Nikita Kruschev face off in a work by Italian artist Sergio Lombardo whilst for the Frenchman Henri Cueco, The Red Men (below), alludes to the government provoked anti communist ‘Red Scare’.

It is an exhibition that only partially succeeds. It succeeds where it expands the narrative of Pop Art but there are occasional substandard works whilst others with dubious pop pedigree are shoe-horned in to make a point. It is also strange that whilst big name British/US artists are excluded others like Colin Self and Joe Tilson or Rosler and Chicago seem to qualify as ‘world’ artists.

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

Despite these failings it is still a fascinating show that brings a new and more international perspective to the well-worn mantras of pop art theory and is worth a view.

The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern runs until 24 January 2016

For further information visit

The World Goes Pop Tate Modern

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