Friday, 4 October 2013

Soho Reflections

A sunny day in London and Frieze is around the corner again.

Walking around Soho, pop into Riflemaker and see a new series of works by Josephine King (b.1965) who has just featured on the United Nations latest postage stamp in the US. Her work is extremely powerful, colourful but with a serious note and reflection on life. King suffers from bi-polar mania and uses her painting as self reflection, as well as a form of therapy. The Gustav Klimt or Egon Schiele feel to the compositions and pallet lift the otherwise heaviness of the artist's work.

King's latest body is particularly attractive. 

Josephine King, In Persuit of Beauty, 2013

Each work is based on masterpieces in the National Gallery, London, and will be exhibited at Christie's Multiplied fair from 18-21 October. Of 'The Paintress' series the artist describes,

I am in the continuing pursuit of the inspiration from the ancient painters. 
I feel their living power operating through my brush. 
I feel compelled to follow the way that they are showing me. 
I feel close to the things that they were close to: nature, required solitude, fervour, the power of colour to evoke feeling. 
The words I use enhance the moment of intensity. 
There is the poetry of words and the poetry of painting. 

Juan Fontanive, Ornithology, 2013

My favourite work at the gallery is a Juan Fontanive (1977), revolving 'paper film'. Made up of 90 hand painted drawings of humming birds, a mechanical flip-book effect is created. Each image is delicate and the bird dances around the box in a light and playful manner. Fontanive works with 19th Century ornithology manuals, and with each of his stills being a work of art in itself, Fontanive creates his own moving book of birds. The artist composes everything, from the motor to the metal casing, to the hand finished drawings. He says, I like to make things that dance. The gentle noise that the motor creates doesn't sound dissimilar to a flutter of wings and adds a musical dimension to the work. I've never seen anything like these.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Preview

Last Wednesday saw the Royal Academy benefactors dinner and there was incredible array of people who gathered to preview the annual Summer Exhibition and celebrate the institution that is the Royal Academy.

In a room so full of achievement, it was truly inspiring and remnant of the magical set of Hogwart's dining hall. One could imagine the days of the French Salon and all the artists, who strove to be a part of it like here, at its British counter part.

London feels at its prime, although the hay fever ignited by nearby Green park was also at a high.

Antony Gormley humbly described an upcoming project (which he had just submitted that day for approval)- a massive 'magic' carpet he plans to elevate some eight-metres high which visitors can mantle and moves according to mechanical receptors. Huge safety issues to overcome no doubt, but an exciting vision. Apparently, should it go ahead we can expect to see it in May of next year. 

Paula Rego

Anselm Kiefer
Gagosian Gallery did an incredible Kiefer exhibition in New York last December, which coincided with Miami Basel. Their website provides a good video which captures the various installations.

Michael Craig-Martin

Antony Gormley (very Cycladic)

Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley
 The Kapoor, usually so immersive and with such depth, was disappointing.

Tracey Emin (very friendly)

One cannot profess that this Summer Exhibition is fresh, but it definitely had an air of historicism and importance. A few favourite, strong, friends but not a groundbreaker. No doubt, it is a great cultural activity for the many visitors expected this summer (particularly those coming from abroad).

Nearby at the Mandarin Oriental, Dinner by Heston Blumental, is certainly recommendable- be sure to try the Meatfruit and the Tipsy Cake. Definitely an experience and well worth while, though note whilst ordering that that extra-side and glass of wine that it does contribute to the final bill. They also serve lunch.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Miami Basel

In Miami, art is served with smoked salmon and espresso. Flying in from New York to land in Miami for breakfast, an abrupt start was inevitable and needless to say the coffee was appreciated.

Swarms of well dressed casuals descended as local collectors opened their houses to the privileged-public; an invitation was still required. With an abundance to digest, all one could go with in terms of judgement was immediate reaction.

Cuban-born Felix Gonzalez-Torres ’ pile of old fashioned sweets sat in the corner playfully and referenced the hosts' alleged currency as collectors. The title of his most recent retrospective exhibition, Specific Objects without Specific Form (2010), exemplifies the ambiguity and abstract element of his work, a quality which summised the often minimalistic 70's art. Referencing a historically important and groundbreaking idea: Subject before Matter and Object without Form.

Some readings of the artist's work suggests a strong influence of his experience with AIDS and he is subsequently said to reference death through his work; often using lightbulbs and other elements that diminish like the piles of sweets in a room. Viewers can take away with them parts of his installation, stacks of paper with poetic messages, or hard-candy. Even after his premature death in 1996 he continues to connect with his audience. His work remains light and optimistic, though once discovered, with an underlying sadness.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (America #3), 1992

Unfortunately, though with exceptions, there was occasionally a lack of curatorial hand and it appeared as if some collectors had just hung all the art they owned on the walls for the purpose of the visitors, rather than growing an organic collection which had become a part of their home. The art did not live in the space. This is not to say these visits were not enjoyable; afterall we were still in Miami.

The Rubell family collection was exceptional. Notably,  Nathalie Djuberg's video installations which took up a large part of the first floor. Several metre-high screens had video projections of her clay doll animations getting up to all sorts. Grotesque meets sexual in the Swedish artist’s work, Wallace and Gromit gone wrong. A point of criticism would be in the choice to execute the installation with such large projections; the size of her work is far more effective and engaging on smaller screens. At the Venice Biennale in 2009, Djuberg represented Berlin with an immersive installation The Experiment (2009) played in a dark room surrounded with over sized gaudy ceramic flowers to create a twisted Eden. Particularly because of the explicit nature of the scenes it becomes less voyeurstic and interesting when commericalised on large scale white walls.

Nathalie Djuberg, Badain, 2005 (video installation)

Natalie Djuberg, Badain, 2005 (still)

Matthew Day Jackson had some strong work.

Matthew Day Jackson, Return to Heaven, 2009

Matthew Day Jackson, 2010

Lanvin installation

Designers pay the price for subsidsation. A great installation none the less and one which matched their Mount Street window display. A cynical sign of the art world selling out and answering to larger market-leaders and a more developed art-business, or, a demonsration of the success of the art world, validated by the appearance by the famous fashion house? Who gets there first- the designers or the buyers?

Bentleys hosted a boring party- the highlight being sitting in a stationary car. Party wise, the problem here lay that in order to go to as many as possible and stay on schedule there wasn't time to finish a drink at one, leaving one remarkably sober and proficient. Judgement was sharp. The night scene did deliver and the parties were wonderful- art did not stop and was a part of everything.  Damien Hirsts 2 metres wide and a wall of Kenny Scharf in the hotel lobby, it was very Miami- big, bold and wonderfully tacky at times. Hummers and horses, rivers of vodka.

Tobias Madison, Against Nature, 2010
Huang Yong Ping's work was fantastic- several ceramic vases lined up with no indication of what was inside- a snake, a goat, and various other startled & startling animals. Taxidermy is current and an effective way of engaging with an audience as is his choice of material which references his Chinese heritage.

Huan Yong Ping, Well, 2007

Huang Jong Ping, Well, 2007

Outside, Jennifer Rubell served her signature porridge breakfast, titled Just Right, in a cottage installation down the garden path- adding to the surreal and experiential element of the week. Art is about performance and happenings. Guests were invited to enter through a small concrete hole in the wall and enter a series of rooms where they could help themselves to over sized pots of porridge and various toppings. Simon de Pury had this at his wedding some weeks prior. Meanwhile, at the main Rubell house Nobu were making packed lunches. Mrs Rubell, Mera, added to the theatrical element by wearing her signature vibrant purple wig. Mr Rubell was less friendly; saying it was a pleasure to meet him he abruptly asked why. My response was measured against his art and contribution.

Jennifer Rubell, Just Right, 2011 (installation)

The De La Cruz collection was housed in an architecturally striking building and a visual gold mine. Ugo Rondinone's colourful windows were tantilizing and memorable. Rondinone likes to play with doors, hide and seek; delivering an entrance but refraining from permitting it. A black door in a corner of a room, a window without a view. The curator explained, 'Clockwork for Oracles asks us to slow down and contemplate the nature of time, while inviting us to enjoy its playful sensory delight' .

Ugo Rondinone, Clockwork for Oracles, 2008

David Altmejd, The Shepherd, 2008
This huge sculpture is both monumental and in a state of decay, a graondoise is countered by a volitile gesture. A mythical creature embezzled with mirrors and micro constructions. As with Rondinone's mirrored windows which reveal and distort the passing audience, the question of self and the universal obsession with identity construction is evoked and broken in Altmejd's work.

Peter Doig, Rainbow Wheel, 1999

The Design Fair this year was cleverly placed next to the main convention centre (previously it had been in a different district hindering its accessibility) and to my fortune I met the very handsome Konstantin Grcic, ‘Designer of the Year’ who was being interviewed outside on his comfortable hammocks. Inside, there were some beautiful designs and as this exemplified this industry is increasingly considered closer to art than craft. Check out the Carpenters Workshop gallery.

Art Basel Miami was spectacular. I'd never seen anything like it- the execution, the quality, the standard, the vastness: it was America at its best. Frieze, held in a tent, is the British equivolent and pinnacle. By comparison, entering the convention centre was a revelation parallel to that of Plato’s caveman, staring at the shadows on a wall to then discover the real. I spent six hours in here just wandering around discovering various new artists only to absorb but a fraction.

A pile of Ai Weiwei ’s sunflower seeds had made their way from Beijing at Faurschou gallery. The Art Newspaper reported that a visitor tripped up on the pile whilst admiring the Robert Rauschenberg opposite, and quite rightly. One of the most enjoyable luxuries was having the Art Newspaper every morning to mark the various happenings and goings on in this small but vital-for-a-week community. Not to be standing on the Piccadilly Line reading, The Metro. Life was good.

Ai Weiwei & Robert Rauschenberg

Tom Wesselmann

Antoni Tapies, Three Brushes, 2008

Jan Fabre, Tribute to Belgian Congo, 2010


Man Ray

Man Ray's sculpture of hangers turns the banal into something peculiar and wonderful. Re-presenting the ready made and challenging the narrowed & bored minds of his audience.

Tabaimo, Tawamushi, 2008
Incredible, intricate drawings by Japanese artist Tabaimo- woven hands remnant of Hans Bellmer's inspired drawings and legendary 30s Les Jeux de La Poupee (Game of the Doll).

At Chantal Crousel gallery’s stand, The Camel’s Humps and the Ironing Board by Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla a title that sounds like a fable, indicative of an exotic animal being ironed by a larger power. A human control issue and impossibility at the hands of nature. 


Isaac Julien's exhibition and video installation Ten Thousand Waves at the Bass Museum of Art was an hour, nine-screen installation, captivating and referencing various stories of ancient native Chinese travellers, mediating unfinished journeys which end in death. Narrating, is a transient watcher and female muse. The artist’s core inspiration was the high profile tragedy that made the tabloids in which a group of Chinese illegal immigrants drowned working in UK. The artist counters and lightens the tragic with the heavenly and positive landscape.

There was so much missed but this will always be the case. If one word counted it’d have to be consumption: without any negative connotations; ABM was rapid, inspiring, growing, indigestible, insatiable.

Miami Basel 2011, 1st-4th December. Go to the W, the Setai, the Delano, Shore Club.