ahmed alsoudani at the haunch of venison

21 October 2011 § 1 Comment

You have too give credit to Charles Saatchi. Three years ago the gallery snapped up half a dozen works by the New York based Iraqi painter, Ahmed Alsoudani, no doubt for peanuts. At the time an up and coming middle eastern artist ranked (if you take any notice of such things) by Artfacts way down below 30,000 in their scheme for world artists, he is now, after a near vertical climb, already rated under the 10,000 mark. Since appearing at auction last  year his works have exceeded £200,000 each whilst last week at Sothebys Baghdad I  – actually from the Saatchi collection – sold for an amazing £713,000 against an estimate of £250-350,000.

His first UK exhibition has just opened at the Haunch of Venison and you can bet that it has already been sold out. The works, mostly medium to large-scale, are certainly striking. Starting from energetic charcoal drawings, which often remain in unpainted areas, his figurative works feature distorted and intertwined bodies or body parts, in a more or less tangled mass together with assorted, barely identifiable objects like clothing, foam, tubes and pieces of concrete. Flashes of vivid, bright colour combine with more painterly sections and charcoal drawing.

The paintings naturally relate to his, and his compatriots, experience of conflict in his homeland. Without expressly depicting war they however clearly reflect the effect and experience of war upon the people who live under its shadow. Pain and suffering is clearly visible via the tortured and broken bodies. The wide spaces of the fine new Haunch of Venison Gallery allows a calm and reflective viewing. These are hugely impressive and very powerful paintings in a striking setting.

Haunch of Venison until 26 November 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

lee friedlander: america by car & the new cars 1964 at timothy taylor

9 September 2011 § Leave a comment

I was surprised to discover that despite Lee Friedlander being one of great American photographers of recent years this exhibition is his first in the UK since 1976. It is also one not to be missed. Lined up in close succession around the extensive walls of Timothy Taylor’s pleasant West End gallery every image is of the highest quality.

The automobile and the open road are highly evocative icons of American culture. Immediately therefore one is drawn in to the ‘American Social Landscape’ that Friedlander so successfully seeks to record. Captured on a large format Hasselblad, which brings the forground in to sharp relief these are images taken entirely from the interior of rental cars. 

Friedlander immediately makes one a voyeur as, using the side window and windscreen as frames he democratically records passing subjects – or perhaps I should say objects. Gas stations, motels, advertising signs, churches and the occasional Officer of the law all are carefully photographed. Shapes and angles are cleverly captured; edges, reflections and verticals neatly matched. Perhaps it is the very eyes of the car itself as it roams the dusty roads?

In remarkably clever asides there are often further images that pop up  in the wing-mirrors. Appearing to be accidental they are obviously not. Neatly framed the smaller image may encapsulate the larger or act as a comment upon it. Other windows, mirrors, advertising signs provide more grist to the mill for Friedlander’s multiple visual games.

Shot over the last ten years as he has travelled around the states of the USA the series is cohesive and brilliant. Across the gallery is a recently discovered series of shots from 1964, a rejected Harper’s Bazaar shoot. The car, typically photographed as iconic objects of desire is placed down amongst the urban landscape. Sulking in parking lots, half hidden or reflected they provide a clever counterpoint to the seemingly more geometrically considered shots they face.

Timothy Taylor Gallery until 1 October 2011

the museum of everything goes shopping

10 August 2011 § 1 Comment

The delightfully quirky gallery/ museum/organisation/charity that is the Museum of Everything has just announced its next exhibition – number 4 for those who are counting. Having left – or been chucked out of (we are not sure which) – of its rickety premises at Primrose Hill in January the location of it’s next outing comes as something of a surprise – Selfridges!

To those unfamiliar with the MoE it specifically champions the work of ‘Outsider’ Artists – those that are self-taught working outside the conventional art world and who may be suffering from mental or social problems. The work may perhaps be naive, visionary or folk-orientated but what it is not is dull. MoE’s previous exhibitions have shown a wealth of creativity. Want some truly original art? Forget the Tate, this is where you will find an Aladdins cave of the imaginative, interesting and intricate or perhaps the the beautiful, bizarre and bonkers.

The announcement therefore of an ‘Outsider’ exhibition in the heart of the consumer mecca that is Oxford Street is, on the face of it, somewhat contrary. It seems right to bring ‘Outsider’ work to the creaky fringes of the London art world but not quite so fitting to present it quite so closely with the insider’ world. The delight of exploring the rambling venue that was the Primrose Hill venue contributed much to the pleasure of the experience so I will look forward to the new show with some reservations.

We are promised some fifty such new discoveries, from wrestle-maniac Tomoyuki Shinki’s technicolour ring of combat to the magical flying cities of Teutonic meister Hans-Jorg Georgi. The shop windows will be filled with MoE displays whilst in a downstairs hall we are promised ‘a dive of possibilities, a Willy Wonka sweetshop of aural delight, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, on every wall, in every nook, never before revealed to human eyes.’

Not eschewing the opportunity for at least some financial gain (the entry is free and MoE is a charity) there will also be a shop and an ‘almost free’ cafe. Put it in your diary- it is free, handy for some Christmas shopping and one other thing is for sure – it won’t be dull!

Exhibition #4 opens 2 September 2011 at Selfridges Oxford Street.


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