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Artists and exhibitions

Elmgreen and Dragset at The Whitechapel Gallery.

I visited the Whitechapel Gallery and saw the Elmgreen  and Dragset show. I really liked how they created a completely false narrative for the swimming pool installation. 

There was also a table with a bottle and glass and a book. Apparently you are invited to sit and take a drink and look through the book. When I went back the gallery attendant had gone and taken the whisky. So i looked at the book only. I thought it was a really good way to involve the viewer. I think it could have been a little clearer though.

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Swimming pool at Whitechapel Gallery

Phillip Allen at the Approach Gallery, London

To get to the Approach Gallery you need to manoeuvre through a large pub on the ground floor and then proceed up some wooden stairs.

Once in the space you are greeted with a vast contemporary expanse of white dotted with approximately six Phillip Allen paintings, all fairly small in scale, maybe 30x40 cms.

The white space of the gallery walls surrounding the paintings gives them a real sense of gravitas. When you stand in front of a painting nothing else enters your field of vision so you are free to dive in and enjoy there painterly existence.

I had been a huge fan of Phillip Allen’s paintings from around 10 years ago that straddled Frank Aurbach style thick painting with more graphical signs and symbols. From my own painters perspective I had always struggled to combine these two opposing elements to create a harmonious painting and not something that looks like two different paintings. Allen’s earlier paintings were this bridge.

The new paintings on show at The Approach have had the signs and symbols removed. Having only seen these paintings previously on Instagram I was feeling a little disappointed at their lack of a more graphical content.

When I actually saw these paintings all thoughts of this lack of graphicality disappeared and I was captivated by them.

I walked round the room several times, sometimes making notes:

Treading the line of kitsch and non-kitsch (whatever non kitsch is)

Old masters studios

Thick impasto frames

A deconstruction of a classical painting into a globular collection of stuff



Cake Icing

Bubble-gum cliché

Jeff Koons put in a blender

Painting models with Umbrol paint

Painting by Philip Allen at The Approach Gallery.

Oskar Schlemmer

Oskar Schlemmer’s ballet Triadisches Ballett premiered in1922. It was the most widely performed avant garde dance at the time and toured while Schlemmer was at the Bauhaus.

Oskar Schlemmer began to conceive of the human body as a new artistic medium. He saw ballet and pantomime as free from the historical baggage of theatre and opera and thus able to present his ideas of choreographed geometry, man as dancer, transformed by costume, moving in space.

The idea of the ballet was based on the principle of the trinity. It has 3 acts, 3 participants (2 male, 1 female), 12 dances and 18 costumes. Each act had a different colour and mood. The first three scenes, against a lemon yellow background to affect a cheerful, burlesque mood; the two middle scenes, on a pink stage, festive and solemn and the final three scenes, on black, were intended to be mystical and fantastic.

He saw the movement of puppets and marionettes as aesthetically superior to that of humans, as it emphasised that the medium of every art is artificial. This artifice could be expressed through stylised movements and the abstraction of the human body. His consideration of the human form (the abstract geometry of the body e.g. a cylinder for the neck, a circle for head and eyes) led to the all important costume design, to create what he called his ‘figurine'. The music followed and finally the dance movements were decided.

‘My themes – the human figure in space, its moving and stationary functions, sitting, lying, walking, standing – are as simple as they are universally valid,’ he once said of his work. ‘They are inexhaustible’

Schlemmer’s grasp of theatricality, geometry and sheer eyecatching imagery has made him influential, with the likes of David Bowie and New Order clearly taking inspiration from his designs

Triadisches Ballet by Oskar Schlemmer

Dorothea Tanning at Tate Modern

Dorothea Tanning was an American painter, printmaker, sculptor, writer, and poet. Her early work was influenced by Surrealism.

The show at the Tate was very large and comprehensive and showed a wide range of the artist’s career including sculptures and installations to printmaking and painting. I was particular struck by a series of seven lithographs.

I found her paintings equal if not superior to the surrealist greats we all know about, Ernst, Dali, and De Chirico. In fact I preferred them to Dali’s. Tannings paintings had more mystery and softness where I often feel Dali was merely painting literal Freudian translations.

There was a very small section on her designs for costumes and plays.

Tanning’s costumes convey narratives of transformation and push the limits of the theatrical. They often feature uncanny and outlandish face masks or headdresses, like a deer’s head with jewelled antlers (Night Shadow), a tentacle octopus (The Witch) and a bird-like figure with a dramatic spray of head and tail feathers (Bayou), engulfing and transfiguring the heads of the dancers who might wear them. (WIA article 18th October 2017)

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Costume for “Night Shadow”: A Guest, 1945

Captain Eko

Captain Eko is a ‘sonographic’ novel by Professor Julian Henriques.

In his interview with Harold Offeh in Futures and Fictions he describes Captain Eko and her Sonic Warriors: Episode 1 The Clash as a ‘sonographic’ novel, as distinct from a graphic novel. The work includes a soundtrack. Also the images are projected as with a film or slideshow rather than read on a page. The images are drawings, mostly in charcoal . All the artwork was created by Heidi Sincuba.

The soundtrack was composed by Ben Hauke. The soundtrack is not in sync with the story as such; the dialogue appears on the screen between silent movies, rather than in speech bubbles.

Currently I can only find a one minute snippet of this film on Vimeo.

Henriques describes himself as a story teller before becoming an academic and how these two things can run parrale and feed into each other.

“ Also what I find is that Eko’s imaginative world gives her a lot more freedom – to have new crazy ideas- that quite inspire some of my research thinking. The two, fiction and research, work very well together for me. And so that whole way of academic research ideas being kind of informed by creative processes and vice versa was an interesting one, which I continue to persue. And as her name would suggest, Eko is a fictional interlocutor, someone who answers back. And someone I can tell my thoughts as I am writing them down..”

Plastique Fantastique at IMT Gallery, London

THere was a performance that coincided with the opening of this exhibition. Annoyingly I couldnbt make it due to underground closures.  I have seen video clips of it so I feel I have only experienced half of the show. In the performance they are seen singing, chanting, making looped electronic music. 

When you enter the gallery you are greeted with a series of large scale printed boards possibly referencing Tarot Cards. The images are taken and adapted from two films that are playing in the other room of the gallery.  Some of the boards have holes cut into them and pieces of rope coming out with lights and feathers attached.  There is a feel of intentional 'naffness' about the whole thing. The videos are quite basic in there construction and put you in mind of the film booths you could go in years ago at the Trocadero Centre London and be in your favourite pop video. 

Plastique Fantastique at IMT Gallery, London.

John Walters and Shonky.

The exhibition Shonky at Bury Art Museum explores the nature of visual awkwardness through the work of artists and architects.

Shonky is a slang term meaning corrupt or bent, shoddy or unreliable, standing here for a particular type of visual aesthetic that is hand-made, deliberately clumsy and lo-fi, against the slick production values of much contemporary art.

The exhibition proposes a more celebratory definition of ‘shonkiness’ and showing how it can be used for critical purposes in the visual arts to explore issues including gender, identity, beauty and the body. By drawing together artists and architects whose work has not previously been exhibited together or discussed within the same context, Shonky allows for new ways of thinking that privilege shonkiness over other aesthetic forms that have dominated recent visual culture.

In a series of conceptual rooms, Shonky explores this aesthetic across a range of media including paintings, sculpture, video, architecture and performance.

John Walters at Shonky Exhibition.

Chicago Imagists. Goldsmiths University 15th March-29th May 2019

The Chicago imagists were a group of artists in the 1960s and 70s. Using a mash up of comic book art, psychedelia, folk art and popular culture.  At the same time as pop art was taking the New York art world by storm the Chicago imagists were developing their own unique style free from the fine art hierarchy. The artists all studied together at The Chicago Art Institute, an institute that housed modern and classical art. Along with trips to the Oriental Institute and field trips to study natural history and anthropology these all helped to inform and influence their work.

The show at Goldsmiths contained a large collection of these works ranging from drawings to paintings to sculptures and prints.

It seems like there is a direct link between the Chicago imagists and also the more contemporary world of Shonkiness that could be explored more in depth.

Chicago Imagists Exhibition at Goldsmiths University.

David Burrows

David Burrows is a British artist whose work consists of drawings, paint splattered installations which will may then be filmed and overlaid with a soundtrack.  His research focuses on aftermaths of events and utopian narratives. He collaborates with Plastique Fantastique.

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'In outer space there is no painting or sculpture'. David Burrows

Stuart Middleton

Stuart Middleton is a multi-disciplined artist. His practice includes works on paper, video, sculpture and animation. There is a ‘Shonky’ feel to his work that I find very accessible. He also makes a lot of stop motion animations and this is something I want to develop in the future. I was pariculary drawn to one of his pieces that involve a large model van. It was another reason I chose to move away from the bought Barbie vans and develop my own objects.

He is also a writer and recently performed a piece of fiction at the ICA.

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Van that was used in Stuart Middleton's film.

David Ostowski at Spruth Magers, London

I was very interested in this particular exhibition because it took the paintings away from the traditional wall hanging experience and suspended them from wires or leaned them up against the wall and also on top of each other. It made me think about how to present my work. Now that my degree show is done I can look back on seeing this show and its importance it may have had on me.

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David Ostrowski at Sprueth Magers Gallery. Image courtesy of the gallery.

Mantegna and Belini at The National Gallery.

A stunning show. So great to see so many Mantegna's. One of my favourite pieces in the National is 'The introduction of the cult of Cybele in Rome', I often sit in front of this painting. 

'The introduction of the cult of Cybele
'The introduction of the cult of Cybele in Rome' by Mantegna

John Cage at Gallerie Thaddaues Ropac.

A small room full of drawings and a compositions inspired by a rock garden at Ryoanji(Temple of the peaceful dragon), A Zen Buddist temple in Kyoto.

John Cage at Gallerie Thaddaues Ropac. Image Courtesy of Daily Art Fair.

FBA at The Mall Galleries.

It was great to meet Jack Candy-Kemp(last years MA student) and hear him read his poetry in front of his paintings. It reminded me of the start of the course where I had one minute to read out loud a mini story in front of my painting.

The Waiting Room by Jack Candy Kemp. Image courtesy Mall Galleries

Carousel. The Koppel Project Central

The Koppler Project in Soho is a large warehouse style building on several floors. The Current show features 38 artists all working in the field of abstraction and the materiality of painting itself.

I thought the curation of the show was in keeping with the randomness of the building and its industrial past.  It is good to visit exhibitions that are not housed in immaculate white walled temples. It can challenge the curation and push ideas in different ways that may not be possible in more clinical environments.

The Koppel Project, London

Bonhams auction house, London

I was able to view several costumes from the Ballet Russes that were to be auctioned. The Ballet Russes were active between 1909 and 1929 and is widely regarded as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century working with Stravinsky, Cocteau, Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse and Coco Chanel to name a few.

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Dan Coombs Contemporary

I really enjoyed this exhibition if only for the reason I got to say hello to Fiona Rae again. The show itself is housed in offices of the law firm Watson Farley and Williams. Showing some big names alongside lesser known artists the exhibition weaves its way in and out of individual offices and corridors. There is plenty to see, including works by Basil Beatie, Fiona Rae, Dan Perfect, Jane Harris and Phillip Allen. Exhibitions like this are becoming more frequent than before due to galleries and artists moving away from HIgh street properties because of ever increasing costs. 

Basil Beattie at Coombs Contemporary
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