Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Skin I'm In

In the third of our reports from Frieze 2018, Sarah Cleaver curates a semi nude collection.

Every year I walk around Frieze with headphones on to exclude myself from the crowd, at the pace of an irritable father trying to speed through the Saturday family activity. I stop when I see something I love, and this year it was these 3D works by Martin Soto Climent that seemed like flesh coloured tights, the ugliest thing in the world made beautiful. My mini curation is #sendnudes, works that are reminiscent, not of real skin, but skin on the internet - re-coloured, re-molded - made better. 

Martin Soto Climent

Peter Vermeersch

Dinh Q Le, All the Boys in the World

Dinh Q Le, All the Boys in the World (detail)

Michael Borremans, Lily, 2017

Walter Pfeiffer

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Point of View

Social Work, a curated section at Frieze London 2018, featured politically engaged female artists of the 1980s and 90s. Following this strong female focus, and to coincide with our next issue of Garageland, themed (Difficult) Women (to be published on 28.10.18) Alli Sharma picks out some works with a female perspective.

Mounira Al Solh, Two shooting grandmothers, 2016, oil on canvas, 145x114cm
Sfeir-Semier Gallery, Beirut

Sophie von Hellermann, With Pierrot, 2018 acrylic on canvas 180x230cm
Greene Naftali, New York

Rose Wylie, Black Rescue Horse with White Bird of Truth, 2018, oil on canvas in two parts, 334x183cm
David Zwirner

Lisa Yuskavage, Couple in Bed, 2017, oil on linen, 195x178cm
David Zwirner

Elizabeth Macintosh, Parts, 2018, flashe and oil on canvas, 134x227cm
CANADA, New York

Ipek Duben, Sherife III, 1981, oil on canvas, 110x80cm
Pi Artworks, London

Raphael Simon, Kragen, 2018, oil on canvas, 160x200cm
Galerie Max Hetzler

Food for Frieze

Cathy Lomax visits Frieze London and Frieze Masters and devises a visual feast

Every year when I visit Frieze London and Frieze Masters I start to curate my own mega exhibition, gathering work from galleries from across the globe, and including cutting edge contemporary artists with grand masters. But this game only works with a theme. The theme is not  preconceived - it is decided upon spontaneously, derived from the work that I see on display.

This year my theme was food. I can't pretend that this is the ultimate food exhibition curated from Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2018, because maybe I missed things (I always miss things at Frieze - a friend will say 'wow did you see the Diebenkorns?' and I'll have to admit that I didn't). So please feel free to suggest things that I may have missed.

Marcel Van Eeden at Sprüth Magers

Maria Farrar, Brioche con Gelato, 2018, 180x130cm at Mother's Tankstation

Avigdor Arikha, Figs, 1974 at Blain Southern (Frieze Masters)

Elizabeth McIntosh, Split Strawberry, 2018 at Canada, New York

John Baldessari, Fake Carrot, 2016 at Marian Goodman Gallery

Euan Uglow, Loaf, 1981-83 at Marlborough (Frieze Masters)

Karen Kilimnik, Dinner at Liberaces or one of Liberaces beloved pets eating dinner without him enquirer photo back entrance LA Club, 1987, pastel on paper at 303 Gallery, New York

Maria Farrar, Marzipan, 2018, 180x130cm at Mothers TankStation

Matt Mullican, Untitled (Yellow Monster 21), 2017 at Mai 36 Callerie, Zurich

Zilla Leutenegger, Vincenz, 2018 at Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

Peter Doig, Contemplating Culture, 1985, 195x241cm at Michael Werner Gallery

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Spike Island in the summer

Fountains and blown glass chandeliers at Spike Island, Bristol.

Zoë Paul, Land of the Lotus Eaters, 2018

It’s an uncomfortably humid day in Bristol when I set off for Spike Island, and as I heave myself across the harbour-front through throngs of clammy city-dwellers and tourists it’s hard not to dismiss the idea that this might be a day better suited to ice cream than contemporary art.

Nonetheless, Spike Island’s redbrick facade emerges from the haze, and its high warehouse-like ceilings always offer respite from the heavy air.

Zoë Paul, Sebil, 2018

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Life in Motion: Francesca Woodman / Egon Schiele at Tate Liverpool

Kirsty Buchanan finds a compelling sense of urgency connecting these two very different artists.

I was very excited to see this exhibition as I love an unusual pairing of artists. Sometimes it takes just one other artist to completely transform the context of another, it is like watching an 'in conversation' but more ambiguous. I also love the serenity of Tate Liverpool, maybe because of all the windows looking out over the water. Sadly they decided to board up the windows for this exhibition, which is a shame as the other exhibitions I’ve seen on the top floor are only enriched by the diffused light.

I like the work of both artists and although it might be tempting to look for visual or biographical similarities, I feel that it is irrelevant when you see how visually complementary the works are together. 

Egon Schiele, Standing Male Nude, 1908

The exhibition has clusters of work by both artists in a loose chronology and begins with Schiele’s drawings. My favourite was Standing Male Nude, 1908. I love the sincerity of all of his drawings yet this one seems less stylised and as an ardent advocate for life drawing I find this drawing brilliant. His drawings confidently exclaim what he clearly finds most interesting such as, hair, fingers, nipples and pink cheeks.

A focus on the domestic emanates from both of their work, Woodman is quite explicit about this but with Schiele it is more subtle, the intensity of how the figures are depicted only draws attention to the absence of background which makes me think of bed sheets or white walls. One outstanding similarity is a focus on point of view, each makes use of domestic objects such as mirrors and ladders to find a particular perspective.

The subject of self portrait is prominent but not overtly so, it seems that urgency is most important. In Woodman’s words 'It’s a matter of convenience, I’m always available', there is a clear need to take a photograph or make a drawing but with limited resources. Both artists' works have that sense of speedy depiction about them. In Schiele’s self portraits it is clear that with use of a mirror he is trying to discover something about the human body. Woodman places mirrors as props in her set-ups, possibly alluding to the self-portrait. 

Egon Schiele, Self Portrait in Crouching Position, 1913, 
Gouache and graphite on paper, 323 x 475 mm, Moderna Museet / Stockholm

In one portrait of a woman by Schiele, he draws her nipple as a spiral, affirmation that there was such a tight connection between his eye and the end of his pencil and how felt his line is. I noticed a similar interest in curved lines with Woodman and a connection with the beautiful eel photograph, which is also 'felt' in the way she uses the slippery and curved form of the eel to draw parallels to the curves of her own body. Both artists were prolific and their drawings and photographs were made up of speedy actions. That urgency has a melancholy significance, when with hindsight we know that their lives ended prematurely.

Francesca Woodman, Eel Series, Roma, May 1977- August 1978

Life in Motion: Francesca Woodman / Egon Schiele is at Tate Liverpool until 23 September 2018

Friday, 8 June 2018

Ornamental Neon at ASC Gallery

Alex Michon reviews a ‘performance of the feminine’ painting show by imagining that the artists are all members of a girl band. 

Amanda Houchen, Kaleidoscope Dreams, 90x80cm, oil & acrylic on canvas

A faintly corrupt sweetness seeps through the fluro-fakery overload of the sensual in Ornamental Neon where four artists present their individual responses to the explicit title. The press release states that ‘ornament, like the world of emotion, is transformed into an elaborate stage set upon which to enact the performance of the feminine’ this led me to imagine the exhibition as a metaphorical enactment of a radical girl-band, where each player lends her own rhythm to a collective song. 

As her paintings most overtly express the title, I designated Amanda Houchen as the ‘singer. Decorative - check, flourishes of neon - check, yet just as in a song where the words and the music create their own unintended poetry, so Houchen’s paintings subvert the viewer’s expectations suggesting varied, mysterious and layered readings. Kaleidoscope Dreams in all its Viennese Secessionist suggested sequinned splendour and folk-art frenzy is a carnivalesque acid tapestry trip of a painting. The eye to the turned tube releases a shaken tsunami of glass beads reconfiguring and pattering across the lens / canvas as a turquoise eyed Madonna holds court with her ambiguous black faced flame-haired companion. Cocoon with its peacock plumage-ing and lush Max Factor orange glamoured lipstick presents a bejewelled lady of fashion and fantasy. To me she appears to be wearing a crown-like hair net snood, American Civil War stylee - think Scarlett O Hara, or even those chunky knit crochet hats of the 1970s once the height of boho fashion now more likely to be relegated to some second hand bargain bin. Houchen’s opulent paintings are located in an indefinable no time where hints of previous eras replay an unknowing nostalgia for a never real.

Amanda Houchen, Cocoon, oil & acrylic on canvas,  60x50cm

Vanessa Mitter for me is the lead guitarist, as in guitar solos were the notion of less is more is disregarded her colour palette is unapologetically tuned to the highest setting. Her canvases are bathed in sumptuous over the top high-octane floribundal flourishes with added collaged overdubs. Suggestions here are of fashion, interiors or bridal magazines where the promise of a gaudy good life has been stretched so far it is fit to burst. Unquiet Brideswas particularly interesting as when I visited the exhibition the whole country was wallowing in the spectacle of the Royal Wedding. Mitter’s paintings also lead me down a rabbit’s hole of reminiscences. I was reminded of Socialist Worker Vanessa Redgrave singing the Lusty Month of May in the camp over decorative hippyfied section of the 1967 musical film Camelot

Vanessa Mitter, Unquiet Brides, oil, collage & pigment on canvas,  90x80cm

Many films from this era had at some point to include a totally unrelated hippy segment in them to make them seem more current. Mitter’s maidens however are no mere flower child fetishes, the fact that her brides are ‘unquiet’ hints at a knowing upended painterly seduction. 

Camelot (Joshua Logan, 1967)

In the context of my Ornamental Neon girl band combo, Paige Perkins is the bass player, the stripped back soulful heartbeat holding down the rhythm. In Messengersa pony-tailed nude petting a little creature stares out at the viewer from the canvas in a melancholic mood of languorous longing. By her side lies a drawn-down-from the moon pierrotesque head lending the scene a ‘silent laughter of the soul’ sadness. In the background, bluebirds, blooms and crimson polka dots fall from the sky like shooting star kisses. A vaguely painted second figure looks on ambiguously. Perkins’s paintings are rooted in her subconscious, where the narratives are never fixed. Her stories are ours to steal for our own interpretation. So is this sad-eyed lady of the pink-lands post coital or waiting on a promise? Whatever the outcome it is her relationship with the little animal that is most striking. Un-lulled by the petting, the animal too stares out at the viewer ready to pounce should any harm come to its mistress.

Paige Perkins, Messengers, oil on canvas, 120x160cm

As Daisy Parris’s polemical word poetry paintings crash against the over exuberant neo-Baroque overload on show she stands in as my imaginary drummer. Parris’s hard-edged text driven paintings lend a contradictory Situationist ‘beauty is on the streets’ aesthetic. Intrigued by blood (or maybe wine) splatters she spots on the pavement as in Red Liquid in a Clear Bin Bag she uses these queasy dark signifiers of urban unease as the starting point for her painting. 

Daisy Parris, Red Liquid in a Clear Bin Bag, oil & emulsion on canvas, 92x75cm

Out of all the artists, Parris will I hope approve of my review being couched in girl band terms, after writing my piece I did a brief internet search of her work and found to my delight that she had also once formed a fantasy band which she called the Ugly Bitch Club which as she says ‘has now become more of a reality as a feminist paint collective’.

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen Ornamental Neon have now left the building.

Alex Michon 

Ornamental Neon
Amanda Houchen, Vanessa Mitter, Daisy Parris, Paige Perkins

18 May – 1 June  2018
ASC Gallery, The Chaplin Centre, 1 Taplow House, Thurlow Street 
London SE17 2DG

Jeune Femme

Alice Pember craves a chip butty after watching a new film by Léonor Serraille.

I had an odd reaction to my first viewing of Jeune Femmeit made me hungry. But not hungry in a generalised sense. This was, rather, the sort of urgent craving which can only be conquered by indulging, abundantly and messily, in the desired foodstuff. And so it was that I found myself, at 11pm on a school night, trawling Stepney Green for a chip butty.  But I was not looking for any old chip butty. I needed the seafront chip butty of my childhood. I needed a fluffy white roll, floppy chip-shop chips, tart with Sarson’s malt vinegar and slathered in ketchup.

At my kitchen table an hour later (mission completed, butty demolished) I pondered my peculiar response to the film. Jeune Femmeis not, in any concrete sense, ‘about’ food. It’s been touted as a coming-of-age film which, in director Léonor Serraille’s words, charts its main character Paula’s journey ‘from a girl to a woman, from an object to a subject’. The film opens with Paula howling at the front door that her photographer boyfriend has just unceremoniously slammed in her face. It transpires that, content with being his ward and muse for the last ten years, Paula has stagnated. Unable or unwilling to forge an identity of her own, when she is thrust out onto the streets of Paris to invent her life anew she is so lacking in a distinct sense of self that she picks up and puts down identities at random. To present herself for a babysitting job she becomes an arts student; when mistaken for a stranger’s childhood friend she accepts the error without correction; in an interview for a lingerie shop she performs the role of vapid shop girl to secure the job. Flitting between these identities, Paula’s selfhood is so rootless that she cannot even seem to decide how to wear her hair. She modifies its style endlessly, changing it between scenes with an indecisiveness that mirrors her own uncertainty about who she should become. In a world in which women are constantly reminded to commit to ‘personal growth’ on an endless journey to impossible perfection, Paula’s uncertainty offers an antidote to these narratives of perpetual progress. She might be evolving ‘from a girl to a woman, from an object to a subject’, but this transition is neither an easy or with a clearly defined destination. 
The film has been compared to other portraits of rebellious young women that have emerged in recent years, particularly Céline Sciamma’s banlieue-set drama Girlhoodand Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang.Like these films, Jeune Femme is not a story about a lone female protagonist struggling to forge an identity, but a mediation on the need to become oneself with and through other people. In this sense the film also offers a rejection of the ruthless individualism of modern life, presenting intimacy and interpersonal relationships as vital to Paula’s personal growth. 
As Ruby Tandoh (who writes beautifully on the pleasures of film food) suggests, the magic that food and cinema share is ‘the ability to transpose something vague – heartbreak, lust, loneliness or fury – from the world of feelings to the world of things’.In Jeune Femme food becomes a shorthand for the value of intimacy in Paula’s struggle to become. The story of Paula’s journey from object to subject could be told solely through the food she eats (or does not eat) in the film. Beginning the narrative as a disconnected wastrel, rooting through bins for half eaten sandwiches and gazing longingly into vending machines teeming with confectionary, Paula’s hunger manifests her inability to care for herself. This is, presumably, the result of a relationship in which she has been controlled and infantilised (‘have you been eating?’ her boyfriend asks, tellingly, when they briefly reconnect in the film’s final third). It is through food that Paula begins to open herself to other people and other ways of being. As Tandoh writes, ‘it’s impossible to be closed to the world and still open your mouth wide for new foods. Every single bite opens us up to the world. No woman is an island, as long as she eats.’ Paula takes food, without qualms, from anyone that shows her enough kindness to offer it. First, from the woman that mistakes her from an old schoolfriend who offers her fresh, crusty bread filled with ham and then buys her some tomatoes (which Paula munches heartily straight from the punnet on a hotel bedspread). Then, from a security guard who offers her a bite of his lovingly homemade lunch straight from the Tupperware. She takes toffees from the doctor who offers her pregnancy advice, stem ginger from the mother of the child she babysits and wine from whatever house party she ends up at come the end of the night. There’s undoubtedly something transgressive about watching a woman consume food with such gusto on screen and a freedom implied in Paula’s canny ability to survive on her openness and charm. In one particularly satisfying shot Paula is shown post-coitus, framed against a burnt orange pillow, her hair a burnished gold like a Burne-Jones portrait, squeezing honey directly into her mouth.
But there’s both a fragility and strength that comes from Paula’s transition from brazen hustler to someone who shares food as a way to express intimacy. In one devastating scene Paula lets herself into the home of her estranged mother, who tries to physically push her out of the house. Paula attaches herself to the bannisters, immovable. In a wordless transition from conflict to connection the women begin what we know is a time-honoured routine. They wash and peel potatoes, finely chop them and then fry them in a heavy based pan. Silently and meticulously they lay the table, sit down, shake the chips into a bowl, serve themselves and begin to eat. For Paula this act of cooking and eating together, a gesture of love and intimacy after ten years of estrangement, is too much to bear and she breaks down in tears- a first step towards reconnection with her mother. In turn Paula becomes the nourisher of Lila, the little girl she babysits. Though Lila is initially hostile towards Paula’s attempts to make pancakes with her, in their first moment of connection Paula offers her a candy floss flavoured lolly-pop. On learning that Lila has never had real candyfloss Paula takes her to try some. This shared experience, the joy of sharing the stick of bright pink candyfloss unites Paula and Lila in a moment of intimate connection that brings Paula’s journey full circle. Her role is not reversed here- she is not just a mother figure or a nourisher. Her journey is more complicated than that. Paula’s transition ‘from object to subject’ has been facilitated by the intimacy that she shares with other people and the food exchange that has facilitated that intimacy.
On reflection, emerging from the cinema with the urge for a chip butty was not so peculiar. Food always represents the ability to translate emotion from the felt world to the real world. Consuming a food of my childhood, often handed to me by loving parents and grandparents, was a means of translating Paula’s journey on screen (from girl to woman, from object to subject) to my real world, facilitating intimacy with Paula and the screen. No woman is an island, as long as she eats.

Alice Pember

Jeune Femme (Léonor Serraille, 2017)

Watch on demand at Curzon Artificial Eye

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Pregnant Landscape: Phoebe Unwin

Phoebe Unwin resumes service in full-colour.

After the black and white paintings in her last exhibition at Wilkinson in 2015 Distant People and Self-Soothing Objects I am glad to see Phoebe Unwin make a return to colour, because she does it brilliantly.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Heaven Help My Heart Recover from the Chess Revival

A trip to the English National Opera's production of Chess proves too much for Garageland theatre reviewer, Lisa Duffy.

Chess is one of those shows that bestows a certain status onto musical theatre fans. The original concept album was something of a cult recording for the genre’s devotees in the 1990s, passed around with reverence at high school cast parties and amateur theatre rehearsals. Knowledge of the show separated casual enthusiasts from hardcore nerds and being able to perform “One Night in Bangkok” without missing a word was akin to a superpower. (Though this is perhaps truer in America, where the 1988 Broadway transfer lasted less than three months, as opposed to the original London version’s more impressive three-year stint).

After an absence of over thirty years from the West End boards, the time certainly feels right for a revival. There is an increasing trend of throwback, pulsing, synthesised music throughout the Theatre District—in addition to fellow 1980s stalwart megamusicals The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, Bat Out of Hell is currently cranking out the tunes of Meatloaf eight times a week and the upcoming Knights of the Rose will be giving a Shakespearean backdrop to the songs of performers like Bon Jovi and Bonnie Tyler. But more importantly, Chess’ story of Cold War politics told through an American and a Russian battling for supremacy in the World Chess Championship seems poised to be able to offer commentary on the contemporary world. (The American is a brash narcissist named Trumper, just increasing the potential relevance).

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Diamonds in the Rough

Cathy Lomax hunts for treasure at the London Art Fair 2018

Anna Katrina Zinkeisen, The Dark Lady, 1938, oil on canvas, 
Nottingham City Museum and Galleries

As always the London Art Fair is a mixed bag. Star of the show is the not-for-sale Art UK exhibit where five art stalwarts; Sonia Boyce, Haroon Mirza, Oscar Murillo and Rose Wylie, have each selected work from UK regional collections. This means that an eclectic group of works, that I imagine have been stashed in cupboards in small provincial museums, have their five minutes in the 2018 limelight. Rose Wylie’s choices include Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid’s In Spinster’s Salt Collection. While Haroon Mirza has used an algorithm to make his selection, thereby subverting the very idea of the elitist notion of selecting itself, and has maybe turned up with my favourite painting of the bunch, Anna Katrina Zinkeisen’s The Dark Lady.

Lubaina Himid, In Spinster’s Salt Collection, 1989, 
New Hall Art Collection, Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge