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.

Curated by Tony Cragg at Blain Southern London

6 November 2015 § Leave a comment

Arriving recently for a stay at the excellent Ham Yard Hotel near Piccadilly (reviewed here) I was surprised and delighted to find a spectacular new Tony Cragg sculpture ‘Group’ gracing the heart of the eponymous Yard – a mini oasis where Soho relaxes post work, and chic revellers spill out from the hotel’s stylish bar.
Tony Cragg
Dominating the space is a spectacular giant bronze from this Turner Prize winning artist. Resembling wood or stone it could – but not quite – be a  block transplanted from the Grand Canyon or a stump of weathered wood, and will be familiar to anyone who has seen Cragg’s work. Working with stone, wood, glass, stainless steel, aluminium, cast bronze/iron, and found objects, Cragg is constantly pushing to find new relations between people and the material world. His sculptures lie somewhere between plastic imagination and solid reality.
Mathias Lanfer Blain Southern
Coincidentally, I had already planned to visit Blain Southern’s airy new Hanover Square gallery nearby where Cragg is curating an exhibition that features three renowned German artists, all alumni at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf where he is a long-standing Professor.
Mathias Lanfer Blain Southern
With a predominantly industrial aesthetic, each artist has found different ways to explore the use of materials. Gereon Lepper creates kinetic sculptures that draw upon engineering, technology and physics.  In Der Apparat fast unbewegt, two electric motors controlled by a timer, provide a surge of energy to large propellers  producing a roaring inferno of sound. As the power is cut, the noise and activity subside – the work is a mechanical drama that explores energy and inertia.

Blain Southern

Drawing on his background in design, animation and computer programming, Andreas Schmitten creates sculptures and installations which he describes as ‘props from another, undetermined time’. A new sculptural light installation Prop No. 2 is characteristic of Schmitten’s work, which lies somewhere between installation, autonomous sculpture and model.

Blain Southern

Exploring contrasting ideas of weightlessness and mass with his series of ‘Heavy Air’ sculptures, Mathias Lanfer has used industrial technology and product engineering to create Dicke Luft II. A steel frame is married with a perspex dome that has been blown into soft curves – the opaque dome acting as a counterpoint to the steel block. Heavily influenced by his previous work in plastics factories, aluminium pressing plants and the car industry, Lanfer manipulates materials in order to challenge our preconceived ideas of their industrial nature.

Blain Southern

Curated by Tony Cragg is at Blain Southern until 29 August 2015. For more information visit www.blainsouthern.com

Tony Cragg is also at the Lisson Gallery Milan until 18 September 2015 For more information visit www.lissongallery.com

london commercial galleries – top ten

23 September 2010 § 1 Comment

Continuing on from the public gallery top ten here are my commercial gallery selection. This was a much more difficult choice and reflects the fact that curating a commercial gallery is in many ways a harder task. The potential range of art is usually much broader – a good gallerist will need have an eye for the best of these new artists, be able to develop existing ones and at the same time, let us not forget, run a business to make money.  They have to curate interesting shows at close intervals in spaces that are often less than ideal. Many galleries can rarely exploit prime locations – with the cost of retail space in London at exorbitant levels – and they will often need to attract visitors to out-of-the-way locations.

There are however plenty of arty masochists willing to give it a go. A guideline figures for the number of London galleries is impossible to nail down – not least because they open and close faster than Wayne Rooneys flies – but it seems to be somewhere between 300 and 500.  Picking a random selection and dropping in may seem like one way to look at some art, but it will produce very mixed results. A recent trawl around a series of ‘first Thursday’ galleries in the East End nearly made me slit my wrists in frustration – I found nothing that was close to worthwhile looking at over a period of over three hours. Ultimately only a fine curry and a beer on Brick Lane saved the evening!

My advice? Try sticking to names that you may have heard of or those recommended to you. At the same time why not try popping in to their near neighbours – these galleries may be riding on their famous neighbours coat-tails but are often are looking at the same market and at least can afford similar rents. Many of the best galleries are in small clusters in key areas – Hoxton, Vyner Street and Cork Street for example although some are out on a limb and need extra effort. Some the best are big and international, some are small and inventive. Here is a brief and very flawed guide to my ten favourites:

10. Stephen Friedman. An interesting international roster of established contemporary artists that include Yinka Shonibare, Thomas Hirschhorn, Yoshimoto Nara, Catherine Opie and David Shrigley. An OK gallery space close to Cork Street.

9. Hauser & Wirth. An International giant. Represent the estates of Eva Hesse and Allan Kaprow as well as Henry Moore.  Founded in Zurich 1992, the London gallery is in a wonderful historic Sir Edwin Lutyens building on Piccadilly, another branch being on Old Bond Street and yet another opening in Savile Row on 15 October 2010. Important and impressive exhibitions by established artists but are they a little dull?

8. Maureen Paley. Ever black-clad Maureen was one of the first to present contemporary art in the East End. Promotes US and European artists as well as launching new talent from the UK. Gallery artists include Turner winners Tillmans and Wearing plus nominees Gillick and Warren.  Always interesting and worth watching her artists.

7. Gagosian. Another international monster founded by Larry Gagosian with seven galleries: four in the USA, two in London, one in Rome and one in Athens. Built on the legacy of the New York School, abstract expressionism and Pop Art it also showed then contemporary artists like Basquiat. Expect museum quality exhibitions that feature artists of the calibre of Twombly, Picasso, Bacon and Warhol.

6. White Cube was set up by Jay Jopling in 1993 and is arguably one of most influential galleries of the past twenty years. Many of the very biggest names in art have appeared here, Hirst and the YBA’s of course amongst others like Kiefer and Orozco. Has very impressive spaces in both Hoxton and St James’s.

5. Timothy Taylor. A lovely space, just next to the exclusive Connaught Hotel (drop in for tea!), they feature a fascinating mix of established names like Arad, Riley and Katz with an, always interesting, selection of contemporary artists like Martin Maloney and Philip Guston. A good place to watch recently emerged talent.

4. Lisson Gallery. An impressive history which it has continued to build upon. Founded in 1967 artists included the likes of  Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Art & Language with art that represented an ethos concerning art’s place in a wider cultural and social context. They have continued to feature those like Anish Kapoor and Julian Opie ‘identifying and supporting succeeding generations of artists, each with a radical and distinctive approach to the artistic possibilities  of their times.’ Always interesting.

3. 20 Hoxton Square. Facing White Cube across Hoxton Square this gallery ‘is a collaborative project space, operating as a platform for emerging contemporary artists, whilst also acting as a creative hub for independent projects.’ They also have resident artists, a bookshop, screenings, artists talks and performances. Great place to spot emerging artists.

2. Haunch of Venison. Formerly the Museum of Mankind this vast neo-classical space just off Piccadilly includes ten separate gallery spaces. Often featuring multiple exhibitions its artists are contemporary, cutting edge and top notch. The curation is excellent and the space spectacular. Sometimes the vast open areas can overwhelm the art but who can complain when it features wonderful shows like the recent Joana Vasconcelos. Sadly it is all owned by Christies and widely despised in the art world. It loses money hand over fist and may not be here long – enjoy it whilst it lasts!

1. Victoria Miro. A fabulous big white-cubey space,  a little out on a limb but near enough to Hoxton and East End galleries. Wonderful artist portfolio includes the likes of Eggleston, Neel, Doig, Ofili, Perry and Elmgreen & Dragset. The current Jacco Olivier is excellent too. Make the effort to get there and drop in to the excellent (charitable foundation) Parasol Unit gallery, next door.

Please suggest your own favourites or tell me who I should have included!

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