Saturday, 25 February 2012

Maro Gorky: The Geometry of Nature

This review has been published by Londonist

Verdict: Worth a look
Where: Long & Ryle Gallery, Pimlico
When: 23 February – 24 March 2012

Most people know that independent galleries are mainly found in Mayfair, but there is a collection of contemporary art galleries in Pimlico that you may not have seen.

One of these galleries is Long & Ryle and it’s currently showcasing the latest paintings by Maro Gorky. The best way to describe Gorky’s work is ‘if you loved Hockney’s current exhibition at the Royal Academy, you’ll enjoy these’. She uses the same bold and bright colours as Hockney, but with delineation akin to Magritte.

Gorky’s small selection of landscapes seem to capture the essence of the Tuscan scenery she’s painted, but it’s when her works take on a more surreal tone that they become more absorbing. The peacocks roosting in a tree that’s in the shape of a peacock’s feather is a personal favourite because it flirts with surrealism but remains grounded in reality. The only downside to Gorky’s work is that it may be a bit too similar to Hockney’s to truly differentiate itself in the burgeoning London art scene.

If you like her works then they are available to purchase, or you can simply browse and bask in the vivid colours.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Parallax Art Fair

Verdict: Worth a look
Where: Chelsea Town Hall
When: 16-18 February 2012

There seems to be a lot of art fairs going on so what distinguishes this one from the rest?  As it’s in Chelsea you would expect something very expensive and pretentious, while what you get is the opposite - which is quite refreshing.

The art on display is in the affordable price range with most works being in the £200 - £2,000 bracket.  This is a nice change when compared to other art fairs when tens of thousands of pounds are the norm.

There are several artists on display with each one getting a limited display space to ensure that over 50 artists can squeeze into the main hall and its numerous side rooms.

Notable mentions to:

·     Samuel Lee’s calming photographs of plastic sheets flapping in the wind (pictured);
·     Alec Jackson’s painstaking photographs created by light exposure;
·     Charlotte Greenwood’s apocalyptic landscape with butterflies; and
·     Svein Traserud’s surreal artworks.

One art fair that may slip under the radar, but definitely one to catch when it returns next year especially if you’re a fan of contemporary art or are wanting to start an art collection.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Mondrian || Nicholson: In Parallel

Verdict: Worth a look
Where: Courtauld Gallery
When: 16 February - 20 May 2012

If you don’t know who Piet Mondrian is you will undoubtedly be familiar with his compositions using bold black lines and primary colours. They are among the most famous pieces of abstract art, and many of them are displayed at the Courtauld gallery.
This exhibition explores the relationship between Mondrian and the British artist Ben Nicholson by examining the work of both artists side by side. It’s clear that Nicholson was inspired by Mondrian and the similarities in their artworks are evident.
Most people look at Mondrian’s paintings and think ‘I could do that’ but the brilliance of his art is that though it is quite spartan in nature, the bold blocks of colour always run to the edge of the canvas suggesting that this isn’t the entire picture and that we are only seeing a glimpse of something greater.

In contrast, Nicholson’s works can seem cluttered and yet somehow contained. Though he experiments with depth, his art is never as engaging or as mysterious as Mondrian’s. You have to feel some sympathy for Nicholson as many will find him wanting when compared to Mondrian and Picasso in two separate exhibitions that are currently on display.
Mondrian’s may not be everyone’s idea of great art, but if you’re a fan of his work then this exhibition is one you’ll want to see.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Song Dong: Waste Not

This review has been published by Londonist

Verdict: Worth a look
Where: The Curve, Barbican Centre
When: 15 February – 12 June 2012

Song Dong is a Chinese conceptual artist whose latest exhibition consists of over 10,000 household items laid out in the Curve Gallery in the Barbican Centre.
Waste Not is the external representation of his mother’s depression, brought about by her husband’s death, which resulted in her becoming a serial hoarder. Over seven years she amassed many items ranging from hundreds of plastic bottles through to dozens of empty cardboard boxes. The fact that these are everyday items will make you question your own possessions. Will those boutique bags or childhood toys really come in useful one day?
The Curve is the perfect gallery to host this exhibition. Its unique layout makes the collection appear to extend without end.
Though Waste Not hints at the wider issue of  the impact of one person on the environment, it’s the personal element to Song Dong’s work that provides its poignancy.

Picasso and Modern British Art

This review has been published by Londonist

Verdict: Go see it
Where: Tate Britain
When: 15 February – 15 July 2012

Think Picasso and what springs to mind are cubism and paintings that have sold for millions of pounds. But Picasso’s most enduring legacy is the impact he has had on shaping much of the modern art that followed, including many notable works by British artists.
This exhibition aims to explore these links to see how the likes of Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Henry Moore were influenced by Picasso.
There is a profusion of Picasso on display here, including works from his early Impressionist days, through his blue period and on to his cubist and surrealist paintings. A few masterpieces are present, including ‘Three Dancers’, ‘Nude Woman in a Red Armchair’ and ‘Weeping Woman’.
With the many styles that Picasso experimented with, it would be difficult to find a modern artist who hasn’t been influenced by him, and his works are here used to greatest effect when displayed beside the work that they’ve inspired; the similarity between Picasso’s ‘The Source’ and Henry Moore’s ‘reclining figure’ is uncanny. The comparisons are less effective for those who were influenced by many other artists, such as Nicholson who clearly owes as much to Matisse and Mondrian as he does to Picasso.
Though the influence of Picasso on British art is an interesting journey, the real draw of this exhibition is the works by Picasso himself. They highlight that he experimented with many different styles but was able to inspire at every turn, and though many British artists followed in his wake, none ever managed to surpass the master.
This is your opportunity to appreciate why Picasso is heralded as one of the most influential artists of all time.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Contemporary Masters

Verdict: Go see it
Where: Opera Gallery, Mayfair
When: 17 February – 2 March 2012

Amongst the multitude of galleries on Bond Street, the Opera Gallery stands out for its focus on contemporary art and its willingness to showcase new artists that might not catch the eyes of their neighbours.

Their latest exhibition is dedicated to the artists that they consider to be the masters of contemporary art, and there are plenty of household names present such as Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, Picasso and Andy Warhol.

However, the real stars are the artists you may not have heard of who are taking new and inventive approaches in their work. Arman’s use of paintbrushes in his homage to Van Gogh’s ‘Starry night over the Rhone’ is visually arresting and you will be amazed at how David Mach has managed to create a bust of Charlie Chaplin using nothing but matchsticks.

This is a small exhibition, with less than 50 paintings and installations on display over two floors, but the brilliant artworks on show will make you glad you paid it a visit.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Kinetica Art Fair 2012

Verdict: Go see it
Where: Ambika P3 gallery, Marylebone
When: 9-12 February 2012

The Kinetica Art Fair is a yearly event held by the Kinetica museum to highlight the work of inventors and galleries that bridge the gap between technology and art.  It’s held in the Ambika P3 gallery which is tucked away underneath Westminster University – where you would expect an underground car park to be.

The works include simple yet ingenious student designs such as the light bulbs that light up every time someone tweets about a certain topic – judging by the constantly flickering light bulb for Justin Bieber we now know that the world is doomed.

But there are also some revolutionary technologies on display such as the robots that can mimic or draw your face if you look into their webcams.

There’s a Da Vinci feel to a lot of the stalls with some clever clockwork items on display and complex mechanisms with marbles that feel like an extremely complicated version of the game Mousetrap.

But let’s not forget that this is an art fair and there are plenty of beautiful and surreal uses of technology.  Some notable standouts were:

  • Tim Lewis’s surreal mechanical emu (pictured above) that has stuffed gloves for its head and feet;
  • Karen Neill’s droplet artworks whose bold colours have such impact that Matisse and Klee would approve; and
  • Alexander Berchert’s Water Wheel – who knew gravity and coloured liquids could be so mesmeric (pictured below).

Many of the displays aren’t as polished as they could be, but this only adds to the quirky charm of the fair.

Both children and your inner child will love the contraptions on display and it’s a shame that it’s only on for one weekend.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Yayoi Kusama

This review has been published by Londonist

Verdict: Go see it
Where: Tate Modern
When: 9 February – 5 June 2012

Yayoi Kusama is renowned for her repeating polka dot patterns, whether in paintings, on walls or over naked bodies. This exhibition is a retrospective that charts Kusama’s development from her early Dali-esque landscapes through to the larger installations that she is famous for.

The art itself is a reflection of Kusama’s personal growth. It starts off as introspective and disturbing, expressing the self-doubt that she felt at the beginning of her career; but as Kusama became more confident her works adopted simpler forms and bolder colours.

At first, the curation attempts to provide some background on Kusama’s journey, transporting you into her mindset, moving through all the phases of her career and the techniques she experimented with. The finishes with a flourish by displaying her latest and most impressive installations and paintings.

Her works are most arresting when they are on a large scale such as the sculpture titled ‘Heaven and Earth’ that was created with everyday items but appears like it is a living entity whose grasp you want to avoid.

The highlight of the exhibition is the two rooms designed by Kusama – it’s only when you are surrounded by her repeating patterns that you realise what it’s like to be immersed in her hallucinatory and fantastical world, where there is a constant struggle between light and dark. You will leave these rooms hoping that Kusama will design a house one day, and believing that if she did it would be a cross between Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and a haunted house.

The Tate Modern has done an excellent job of charting the career of one of the world’s most eccentric and imaginative living artists whilst showcasing some of her greatest works.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Migrations: Journeys into British Art

This review has been published by Londonist

Verdict: Give it a miss
Where: Tate Britain
When: 31 January – 12 August

Immigrants have clearly had a massive impact on the development of British art. The latest exhibition from the Tate Britain aims to explore this link by displaying the different styles that immigrant artists brought with them, and how British artists learned from them to further their own skills.

The exploration of how such artists ended up in Britain is fascinating. Though the exhibition skirts over the fact, it’s likely that many of these artists came over to Britain as a business opportunity rather than to contribute to British art. Their handiwork might have seemed pedestrian at home but would have been considered exotic, and therefore more lucrative, in Britain. It’s apparent that though the Dutch and Italian painters who migrated here were talented, their works were not on a par with the contemporary masters at work in their home countries.

A few pieces hold interesting back stories along with superb artistic qualities, but the majority of the works on display are largely disappointing – even the Canaletto is not one of his best.

The exhibition has more to offer when displaying contemporary art, with the hypnotic ‘Cloud Canyons’ by David Medalla and the spiritual and powerful work by Rasheed Araeen being two highlights.

Though this exhibition explores some great stories around migration, the art on display does not necessarily do them justice.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

David Shrigley: Brain Activity

This article has been published by Londonist

Verdict: Go see it
Where: Hayward Gallery, Waterloo South Bank
When: 1 February – 13 May 2012

David Shrigley is primarily known for his crudely drawn cartoons, having worked for both the Guardian and the New Statesman in the past. The best comparator for his work would be the ‘Far Side’ cartoons by Gary Larson, but Shrigley’s cartoons have a much darker undercurrent and highlight his dislike for societal norms and the banality of everyday life.

Though there are plenty of cartoons on display — many that are brilliantly funny — the purpose of this exhibition is to highlight Shrigley’s progression on to other media. His surreal and often abstract sense of humour translates well into photography, paint and film, but less so into sculpture. His humour might feel hit and miss to some, but this display is guaranteed to attract new fans.

Some artworks will make you smile, if not burst out loud laughing. A personal favourite is the lost-pet poster that asks passers-by to call if they spot a grey pigeon that doesn’t answer to a specific name.

The surrealism stretches to the layout of the exhibition itself. The display starts in the lift, and there’s a wall with a hole giving crawl access to the next gallery. The curators have done an excellent job of bringing Shrigley’s world to life, keeping the tone light-hearted – a must if you want to truly enjoy Shrigley’s art for what it is.

If you can appreciate a wicked, and often abstract, sense of humour, then you won’t want to miss this.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Bee

Verdict: Worth a look
Where: Soho theatre
When: 24 January – 11 February 2012

The Bee revolves around a mild mannered businessman named Edo who comes home to find his wife and child being held hostage by an escaped convict.  Rather than playing the victim, Edo decides to take matters into his own hands and reciprocates by taking the convict’s wife and child hostage.  The tit for tat exchange then escalates and we get to witness Edo’s descent into barbarism.

The four actors do a brilliant job of conveying the many characters in this production and the use of props is ingenious, henceforth the sound of a pencil snapping will make me wince.   The only perplexing casting decision is why they chose to have a woman play the lead male and a man play the lead female.  It’s understandable that a woman could convey the meekness of the normally law-abiding businessman but it’s difficult to appreciate the vulnerability of the female lead when she’s played by a man that towers over Edo.

The actors do a brilliant job playing both the light-hearted and intense roles that they are required to convey, but the switch from light to dark is a jarring process and you can’t help but wonder if the play would have been more engaging if they had either played it straight or for laughs.

Overall the Bee has brilliant moments and the cast are excellent, but the script and direction seem muddled and unsure of how to re-tell this story of power and revenge.