Thursday, 23 February 2012

Karla Black at Stuart Shave/Modern Art

Karla Black's extraordinary rise to art stardom over the past years has seen the Glasgow MA rife with impersonators, her first solo show for Stuart Shave shows the unique beauty of her work on a more intimate scale.

The first room contains a curious window display, halfway between an experimental visual merchandiser on acid and the detritus from a child's birthday party, complete with polystyrene cake with lurid pink icing, pastel streamers and decimated party bags. The leftovers of an 80s tween sleepover, powder pinks and blues, sticky with eyeshadow, a busy feminine mess.

The back room in contrast contains a large bold chain link structure rendered in the most fragile of materials, a huge aggressive symbol of restraint rendered ethereal. Powder paint pigment, again in a delicate pastel tone dusted over the work and sprinkled onto the floor, already being carried away on the soles of people's shoes only minutes after the gallery opened. Everything about the work softly screams impermanence, any minute I expect the sellotape to unstick, the cellophane to drop and the sculptures to return to their separate original components.
Down the stairs is a delicate falling of rainbow of pastel sanitary/doggy-doo/nappy bags, its weightless bag-in-the-wind quality broken by large hooks holding it firmly in place, making me realise with all their fragility and laissez-faire appearance the sculptures are very deliberate and strong settled arrangements.
Downstairs is a beautiful installation, the large white gallery space, a perfect setting for the three boulders of primary colour plastic (of course- still pastel!). Although translucent and held together by sellotape again, they take on a solid and impressive weight.
This is a really absorbing show, and although messy and busy at points it still holds an overall serenity, as the impact of the sculptures becomes a perfect backdrop for contemplation on medium, form, femininity and ultimately sculpture itself.

Paul Kindersley

Karla Black
Modern Art
23/25 Eastcastle Street, London W1
23 February - 24 March 2012

Rosa Loy: Tautropfen

There seems to be an endless supply of lovely German words that don't quite translate into English - sehnsucht (which is also the name of one of the works in this show), unheimlich etc - and tautropfen could be another to add to the list. Google translate tells me it means dew but the press release for the show makes it dewdrops (so there is a tiny bit of discrepancy there) and relates it to the way that the works in the show - which are predominantly on paper - are formed from the artists thoughts of the day and night before.

Rosa Loy, Der Bienenkorb, 2011, casein on canvas, 60x80cm

Rosa Loy is one of the Leipzig school and it is exciting to see her showing in the UK, but I'm not sure that this show has the most coherent selection of her work. The three paintings on display feature  awkwardly positioned composite girls - part 50s pin-ups, Social Realist workers and sixth formers at Mallory Towers - interacting with each other and evocative objects, such as beehives, in a slightly dispassionate way. But they do not really fit the 'dewdrops' brief which applies much more directly to the swiftly executed small pencil and watercolour works.

Rosa Loy, Inspiration, 2011, pencil and watercolour on paper, 23x31cm

These 'dewdrops' on paper are less constrained than the bigger paintings but are too stylistically varied to hang together as a serious body of work. Individually there are works which are quite stunning in an illustration-from-the-strangest-of-all-fairy-tale-book-way with Wizard of Oz like floating houses and fruit laden trees with faces. But they are really little more than fleeting ideas from a sketchbook. The show would have been more convincing with a whole room of more judiciously selected, stronger paper works.

Rosa Loy,  Freie Gedanken, 2012, pencil and watercolour on paper, 31x23cm

Rosa Loy (and indeed her husband Neo Rauch) seem to be very undershown in the UK so it was a treat to see this small collection of her work. But for her next solo show in the UK it would be fantastic to see a show which really hangs together - maybe even a serious collection of her paintings.

Cathy Lomax

Rosa Loy, 'Tautropfen'
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery
6 Heddon Street, London W1
23 February - 15 March 2012

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Waxy Faces and Acres of Flesh: 'Lucian Freud Portraits' at National Portrait Gallery, London

The National Portrait Gallery's addition to 2012s bunch of blockbuster shows is a huge gathering together of portraits by the recently deceased Lucian Freud.

Freud's later works are very familiar; acres of creamy flesh, flaccid members and ghastly blue veins. There is no sign of Kate Moss in this collection but Leigh Bowery, Big Sue and numerous other models are very much in evidence. Skipping past these my favourite works are from early on in Freud's career - much smaller and flatter than the big flesh pots they are somehow both more tender and darker.

Lucien Freud, Boy Smoking, 1950-1

Boy Smoking is quite possibly my favourite Freud painting. In common with other work of the early period the skin tones are almost deathly pallid with a curious waxy quality and the features quite stylised. The boy himself looks like an archetypal teenager of the time - part Brando part teddy boy. The painting is very small and tightly framed - constrained within its surroundings - with only the languidly placed cigarette leading the eye out of the frame. 

Lucian Freud, A Girl (detail), 1946, conte, crayon & chalk

A Girl, 1946, a conte crayon drawing, shows a downward looking woman with almost schematically painted hair which was quite typical of Freud's work at the time. What raises this above the ordinary is her left eye which within this closely observed work has only a slither of white showing and consequently is almost completely black.

Lucian Freud, Girl with a Kitten, 1947, oil on canvas.

Girl With a Kitten, 1947 is an extraordinarily unsettling painting. A girl looks blankly out of the canvas while her right hand holds a kitten. The kitten stares directly at us and appears to be unperturbed by her fingers which are tightly wound around its tiny neck. This painting along with a number of other nearby works is of Freud's first wife - Kitty Garman who described sitting for Freud as 'like being arranged'

Cathy Lomax

Lucian Freud, 'Portraits' 
National Portrait Gallery, London
9 February - 27 May 2012