Painting and Walking Gallery Tour in London

(Italicised quotes from the press releases received at the exhibitions)

1. Modern Art – Sanya Kantarovsky ‘Feral Neighbours’

First exhibition we visited on the tour. In this gallery space, the paintings were large, vividly coloured with a cartoonish style. The paintings felt like an intimate portrayal of personal scenes, a feeling that felt a bit unsettling at times.

2. Victoria Miro – Nijdeka Akunyili Crosby ‘Portals’ & Group Show ‘Protest’

The first exhibition we visited at the Victoria Miro was Protest, a group exhibition including 17 artists.

The exhibition was an exhibition of historical and contemporary works by artists concerned with the socio-political issues of their day, who question the status quo and the power structures found within societies, and who take the language of protest as a means to explore its potency.

My favourite works from the exhibition were:

  • Doug Aitken’s Free, 2016 – a sculptural text work lined with shattered mirror that takes a single word and through the actions of light and reflectivity, turns a ‘quick read’ into an endlessly shifting experience.
  • Kara Walker’s Tell Me Your Thoughts on Police Brutality Miss ‘Spank Me Harder’, 2015 – a series of works on paper which ‘conflates different eras, idioms and attitudes to explore racism, its symbols and legacy from the American Civil War to very recent killings and assaults that have fuelled the Black Lives Matter campaign.
  • Isaac Julien’s WESTERN UNION: Small Boats (The Leopard), 2007 – which questions what art that deals with newsworthy issues, or protests against suffering of others should look like, in this piece he brings together baroque pageantry and metaphor in a work that, referring to the journeys made across the Mediterranean by Asians and Africans trying to enter Europe by sea, experiments with the notions of cultural entanglement and the dissent between aesthetics and politics.

Outside the first gallery space in the Victoria Miro Garden was Alex Hartley’s piece A Gentle Collapsing II. This piece was a preview of his solo exhibition at Victoria Miro in November. This architectural intervention transforms the gallery’s waterside garden into a scene of poetic dereliction and decay. Resembling an International Style domestic building apparently abandoned to the elements, the site-specific work gives rise to thoughts of modernism and its legacy, Romantic ideas of the ruin and the picturesque, as well as the nature and meaning of the folly in the constructed landscape.

In Gallery II was the exhibition Portals by Njideka Akunyili Crosby – this was probably my favourite exhibition from the day. In these pieces, Akunyili Crosby draws on historical, political and personal references to make luminous, densely layered figurative compositions whose intricate surfaces combine disparate materials and aesthetic traditions. An amalgam of processes including painting, drawing and photo-transfer techniques are harnessed in large-scale works on paper that, precise in style, nonetheless conjure the complexity of contemporary experience. In these works, doors, windows and screens function as physical, conceptual and emotional points of arrival and departure, while in a broader sense the work itself is a portal through which mutual ideas about transcultural identity flow back and forth.

3. Tramps – Denzel Forrester

”Denzil Forrester’s work is rich, complex and highly sophisticated. The strength of his draftmanship and his extraordinary use of colour enable him to bring to his canvasses dynamic movement, and purposeful power. London’s urban life is his main source of inspiration. The music which permeates his work comes from the West Indies; the range of iridescent colours into which he translates the music has been evoked by the light and colour of Italy. Forrester has been painting at his London based studio for the past 30 years. He is currently lecturing at Morley College.”


4. Carl Freedman – Fergal Stapleton ‘La Ceremonial’

”Small paintings in exhibition from an ongoing series of vanitas begun several years ago. Initially they were quotations (over-looked details and fragments) of Old Master painting and a few were painted as still lives.

Larger paintings are fuller and more expansive celebrations of the same anti-gestalt: mass of uncertain features cohering into unstable versions of human faces, clothing, action, with highlights tending to resolve into peculiar jewels and baubles”

We also had a talk from the Gallery Director – Robert about the artwork and his role as a director as well has his experience within the art world.

5. Limoncello Gallery – Alice Browne ‘Forecast’

”Title ‘Forecast’, refers to her interest in the problematic practice of projecting a vision of the future. For her exhibitions, new body of paintings which for the first time figuratively reference Boticelli’s illustrations and Dante’s vision of the ‘malebolge’ – structure of concentric evil ditches in which sinners guilty of fraud are punished. Works also gesture towards a more innocent desire to will our own futures through reading star signs or simple gestures such as crossing fingers for luck (also used as a sign of deceit). Working procedurally with layers of paint towards a formally unpredictable outcome. Browne embraces the anxiety of not knowing.

Paintings describe obscure imaginative spaces , which simultaneously appear to adhere to the rules of gravity and perspective whilst outwardly ignoring them. Boxes, shadows, screens and girders mingle with drips, floating transparent forms and abstract geometric shapes. Works appear to occupy multiple planes and visual languages, result in a complex network of forms that flip between object and image.

Floor of gallery collection of ‘photo-objects’. Obscure in origin, unplaceable images reference practice of cleromancy.” 

Also had a talk from Alice Browne about her exhibition and process as well as her general experience as a practicing artist.

6. Gallery 1.1 – Charles Williams ‘Louise Bourgeois & Other Stories’

”’Recent series of still life paintings started as an attempt to escape the tyranny of meaning and narrative by painting things and not people, quickly fell into a meditation on mortality that led to my getting the horrors when I painted them. Cannot escape the figure because painting is a means of dragging out things about own existence from my mind and making them ‘real’ in front of me, and hoping for validation from other people.’ – says Charles William.

Image of the still lives convey a meaning, even if it sidesteps the visual/tactical one of texture and shadow. By default, almost, Williams’ objects are objectified, showing us the notion of a person or a political idea, or a memento mori.” 

7. Campoli Presti – Jutta Koether ‘Best of Studios’

”Work deconstructs the distinction between copy and original. Paintings open a broader discursive space through the incorporation of performance and the appropriation of art historical subjects and positions. Best of Studios, Koether reframes the position of painting as a resistant body whose experimental character addresses the digital condition in which painting operates.

Through insisting, noisy techniques of applying paint in deliberated zones, Koether penetrates into the historical organization of painting’s different fields of passage.”

Short talk from Cora Muennich – Galleryist about the work of the artist and her personal experience as a galleryist.

8. Laura Bartlett – Sol Calero ‘Solo Pintura’

”Solo Pintura = 10 new works by Venezuelan artist, which investigate issues of nationality and identity construction – themes at the core of her practice.

Embracing the style and pictorial vocabulary of a culture misrepresented, paintings are rich in topicalia – bursting with fruits, plaints and ‘exotica’ – restrained only by the hand painted frames that contain them. Vibrant colours spool from canvas to wall, as Calero connects areas of the gallery by painting the walls in pastel shades of green, yellow, pink and peach. Paintings function within them to bring a sense of the domestic just as now they evoke an inside/outside dichotomy.

Calero uses pictorial repeats to mimic tiled floors, wallpapers, blinds and vases – creating at once, an interior and exterior environment. Work display an architectural awareness, as the corners of walls meet floors, tables and windows but any symmetry is lost to the intrusion of abrupt patterns and broken borders that steer the works towards abstraction. Surface accentuated in larger works by inclusion of small mosaic tiles bringing a new texture to the paintings. Message is bright and persistent: there are layers to these works, as there are to an individual and a nation.”

9. Maureen Gallace – Maureen Pall

”Group of new paintings Gallace has selected depict carefully adjusted visions of the houses and landscapes that she has visited and reimagined as a subject over many years. Focusing her attention on specific aspects of the weather, the beach shore, architectural details and plants that grow in these areas – Gallace’s oil paintings are realized with wet-on-wet brushwork into formal compositions and completed on small wooden panels.”

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