Erik van Lieshout and Alicia Reyes McNamara at South London Gallery

Nowhere Else by Alicia Reyes McNamara
Alicia Reyes McNamara, Nowhere Else, installation view at the South London Gallery, 2017. Courtesy Alicia Reyes McNamara. Photo Andy Stagg

Erik van Lieshout: Three Social Works
Alicia Reyes McNamara: Nowhere Else
7th April – 11th June 2017
South London Gallery, Camberwell

Erik van Lieshout is showing three films at South London Gallery and has designed interlinked spaces to watch them. I begin with EGO, positioning myself on the carpeted incline that slopes back sharply from the screen. I am presented with odd, ugly camera angles, erratic cuts, unfiltered sounds, the adolescent yelps of the artist as he interacts with family members. At the beginning of the film, Van Lieshout reads out his intention with this project – to work together with his family in order to help others, an intention ridiculed by a voice out of shot. Undeterred, the artist goes ahead with his plan, observing the social and therapeutic work carried out by his family members and incorporating his brother’s stop-motion paper-cut animation in an edit that finds visual rhymes.

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Amelie von Wulffen at Studio Voltaire

Ohne Titel by Amelie von Wulffen
Amelie von Wulffen, Ohne Titel, 2016, Oil on canvas, 100 x 120 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Barbara Weiss Berlin. Credit: Lepkowski Studios

Ameli von Wulffen: The misjudged Bimpfi
10th February – 2nd April 2017
Studio Voltaire, Clapham

There are several paintings by Amelie von Wulffen that I’d especially like to mention and they are all untitled. One is copied here – I would add that the dominating pink is a deep candy tone, glossy and brittle – indeed, it is cracking up in pieces. The blue eyes of the Siamese cat have a strange fixation on the recumbent figure, or are they beholden to her clothing, just as blue? A slight clutch of blue-green curtain is the only element of the painting to entirely withstand the ubiquitous pink candy. The painting is over a metre wide and its scale has a bearing on the chain of stares, from painted cat to painted human to me. The piano and the settee face off, and the slip of hanging cloth has the role of interloper or invigilator.

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16th June 2016

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© Jessie Makinson

Four artists stood out above the rest this week. First, the paintings and drawings of Jessie Makinson – on show at Roman Road. Makinson is the sort of artist whose influences evidently are many while her own hand is singular. The work is figurative – particularly images of women; it is gestural, employing motifs in a manner that most recently recalls to me the George Blacklock paintings I mentioned here on 5th May. Playful and thoughtful, they depict figurative scenes as they appear in a reasoning mind. See this Roman Road exhibition while you can – and if you are more West than East London, a fine example of Makinson’s work is currently on display until Thursday in a group show at the Dot Project. (ends 15th July)

‘…the “self” is a fraud. Mine, Ours. It’s nothing more than a delusion, a virtual machine, a network, a mere proof of concept’, writes the artist Rubén Grilo in the notes to his exhibition Proof of Concept at Union Pacific. The effect of this warning is to emphasise the distance-making strategies that are anyway present in the installations. There is surprise, structural ingenuity and contemporary resonance on display across the gallery’s two floors. Grilo (or the proof of concept named Grilo) incorporates everyday items – often corporate detritus with familiar brand names – into these sculptures. Materials are combined, repositioned and re-evaluated in bizarre set pieces. If Grilo is genuine in his avowal of his own absence, the invisible entity that has created this show has a forceful character – wilful, precise, absurd, demotic and somehow righteous. (ends 2nd July)

Pace has an exhibition of Louise Nevelson’s big and heavy sculptures assembled from furniture parts and fly-tipped objects given a matt black coat of paint. These assemblages are forbidding and fantastical; though made between sixty and thirty years ago, their strangeness renders them contemporary. At the same time, identifying – or attempting to identify – the objects and fragments of objects from their outlines is an archaeological way of seeing that seeks to return Nevelson’s materials to their original time and place. (ends 16th July)

What’s 194cm by 194cm and infinite? A Yayoi Kusama painting. Both Victoria Miro’s galleries are showing works by Kusama at present. This week I entered the Mayfair gallery via its fancy sliding wall to be met by 12 uniformly sized Kusama paintings within (a further two are on display in the gallery’s Maddox Street windows). To many, Kusama is known as ‘the polka dot artist’, a recurring motif across her sculptures, costumes, installations and photographs. Here the dots are smaller and take on an atomic role in compositions that intersperse toy-coloured cellular forms with human faces. The style fuses folk art references with post-abstract colour blocks and more illustrative techniques. Kusama often emphasises the field of vision by painting a thick border around the image. The overall sense is a celebration of various kind of human observation in the living universe: the microscope eye, the satellite eye, the organic eye and the eye of the artist. (ends 20th July)

9th June 2016

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© Mary Ramsden

This week I had a look round the free displays at the Tate Britain.

Vanilla and Concrete is a group exhibition by Marie Lund, Rallou Panagiotou and Mary Ramsden, described by Tate as ‘emerging artists’. The exhibition has the feel of a show you might see in a smaller gallery, but here the work of the three shares a fairly big space. Although Marie Lund’s distorted copper sheets command attention first, it is the other two artists who seem more timely. Panagiotou’s gentle palette and smooth execution conspire to winning effect in immaculate visual jokes. Ramsden’s work is harder to like but more memorable for that. Apparently innocuous sculpture-pictures are arranged in a fashionably haphazard manner. The exhibition text encourages us to notice visual references to the traces made by fingertips on touch-screens. Ramsden is reflecting a particularly modern anxiety felt by users of touch-screen devices, namely the discord between spotless perfection, as transmitted in the block colours favoured by software designers, versus the interference of greasy marks and accidental scratches. (ends 19th June)

What is Pablo Bronstein doing in Historical Dances in an Antique Setting? Angular patterns on the floor guide the movements of dancers who gesture baroquely as they glide across the Tate Britain’s big hallways, known as the Duveen galleries. There is a non-binary vibe, as performers are uniformly attired in simple colours and giant ‘pearls’ regardless of assumed gender. At either end, large temporary walls present stylised photographs of the building’s exterior. Spectators are free to move through the space, although many stand to the sides respectfully until they are ready to cross to another gallery in a polite dash. In 2016 there is still a small thrill in seeing live performers in an exhibition space like this. The piece fits its surroundings, it is semi-ironically ‘pleasant’ and perhaps that is enough. (ends 25th June)

At present Tate Britain is also showing some historically interesting artist films. Bruce McLean’s sardonic In the Shadow of Your Smile Bob (1970) is a teasing tribute to a photograph of the sculptor Robert Morris. McLean turns the (film) camera on himself silently singing Tony Bennett’s minor hit ‘The Shadow of Your Smile’ accompanied by an overdub of the artist in conversation with someone else – they are evidently watching the same footage we are, which is interspersed with a sequence of McLean posing with a cigarette. The title of the film is frequently repeated by McLean in the audio. On the opposite wall of the gallery is displayed the picture of Morris. The film is a playful example of young cats of the day looking at kings of the art establishment and taking the piss using proto-punk methods.

The D.I.Y filmmaking trend of the 60s and 70s is further in evidence in Shoot Shoot Shoot: The London Film-Makers’ Co-operative 1966-1976. There is an hour-long loop of experimental films including John Smith’s The Girl Chewing Gum, comparable to the aforementioned McLean film in its use of overdubbed commentary, its black and white aesthetic and its documentation of 70s hairstyles. Smith’s narration is more intriguing than McLean’s in its deployment of language and its relation to the scene in view, managing to be at once materially experimental and a skewed form of social commentary. Archive materials from the Co-Operative build a picture of its irreverent and energetic collectivism. (ends 17th July)

26th May 2016

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© Dawit L. Petros

Originally from Lebanon, Rasha Kahil’s second solo show at Art First, Anatomy of a Scandal, is a documentation of the online storm created by her first. Her covert and spontaneous nude self-portraits went viral after an Arabic news station posted them to social media, prompting their followers to take a view on how the photographer uses her body in her work. Kahil rises above the melee with precision and grace. (ends 11th June)

TJ Boulting is showing a couple of the photographs featured in Kahil’s original show in Now You See Me, along with other artists who push the boundaries of the form. There are a few striking examples here, including Thomas Mailaender’s images burnt onto the skin of his models using UV sun lamps. (ends 2nd July)

Getty Images have collected archive photographs from a single year for 1926: Britain Through the Lens. This is more than a merry jaunt through our national photo album. Pictures from the General Strike give a fascinating insight into the political climate of the time, while a number of images – a girl attending to a primitive electric toaster – are startlingly fresh. (ends 2nd July)

Dawit L. Petros’ travelogue The Stranger’s Notebook at Tiwani Contemporary presents brightly clothed male figures often partially, in intense closeup in video and, particularly effectively, as part of a fragmented pattern with an airline insignia in a set of photographs. (ends 25th June)

I found an instant appeal in Duncan MacAskill’s DNA paintings at Vigo. Black horizontal lines control colours over a large field of play in this series from the 1990s. (ends 11th June)

Massimo Vitali’s huge vistas at Ronchini are in some ways a photographic version of Jules de Balincourt’s paintings of tourists in commanding surroundings (see 28th April). The intensely high definition of Vitali’s images reveals all kinds of detail in the movements of tiny figures wandering classical ruins and a beautiful beach. (ends 18th June)

Roelof Louw is the subject of the first of four-part exhibition Some Dimensions of My Lunch: Conceptual Art in Britain (1956-1979) at Richard Saltoun. Louw’s work is an interesting snapshot of a particular period in art history, his concepts esoteric and deadpan. His rope piece fits the gallery context very well. I am looking forward to the next three parts of this series. (ends 17th June)

The art stars of the 1960s and 70s are out for Shigeo Anzaï’s Index II at White Rainbow. Elegant and modestly sized, these black and white photographs catch them at work, setting up exhibitions, performing and posing. Some faces are very familiar, some less familiar than their names. (ends 18th June)

Conceptual Poetics is a genre that fits the Poetry Library’s exhibition series well. The poem-objects of ZimZalla – lines of text among takeaway ‘chips’ for example – were destined for a display like this. Elsewhere, Information as Material have repurposed a Charles Bernstein sound recording to make a hilarious duet between Bernstein and Jasper Morris, who is a child. Who counts to 100 first? (ends 3rd July)

My brother accompanied me to Jeff Koons: Now at Newport Street. We stood in awe of the big, blue balloon dog and left with a nice selfie. Thanks, Jeff! (ends 16th October)

19th May 2016

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© Michelle Dovey

Enter Through the Headset at Gazelli presents various artists who work with virtual reality. Skullmapping, a duo comprising Antoon Verbeeck and Filip Sterckx, have constructed a hypnotic vision of the Styx river featuring interference and subliminal ‘real world’ images. Ian Nicholls and Tom Szirtes’s site specific work is more like taking a ride in the Epcot Centre under the influence of psychedelics. (ends 25th June)

Speaking of psychedelics, Michelle Dovey’s Colourful Sausage Trees at Gimpel Fils are a mellow trip. A study of the same oak tree in her garden, the series conjures in bright oils a multicoloured grove. (ends 27th May)

Fans of Twin Peaks might appreciate the reference to Catherine E. Coulson’s Log Lady character in Margaret by Thomas Grünfeld at Massimo De Carlo. The assembled works do justice to Lynchian sensibilities while advertising Grünfeld’s own brand of strange. (ends 28th May)

Skarstedt has a compact Spring Group Exhibition featuring three recent works by George Condo, all betraying an evident debt to Picasso. A galactic interval bisects the two subjects of Condo’s ‘Artist and Muse’ while a painting by Albert Oehlen held my interest in its deceptively rudimentary relationship between two figures, namely ‘Titanium Cat with Laboratory Tested Animal’. (ends 25th June)

The Fine Art Society has an exhibition of Laura Knight’s work in various media. Her aquatint etchings are sublime little glimpses of public life, in particular the dream worlds of the ballet, the theatre and the circus. (ends 26th May)

After his uncharacteristically po-faced (or was it just really, really deadpan?) illustrated Book of Genesis, R. Crumb’s Art and Beauty exhibition at David Zwirner sees the cartoonist getting his teenage kicks. Crumb’s pastiche of an early 20th Century catalogue of soft porn (dressed up as a respectable artist’s resource) allows him to display his virtuosity with an ink pen, his lust for curvaceous and muscular women (Serena Williams is one of his paragons of anatomical beauty) and his self-deprecating sense of humour. (ends 2nd June)

The Op Art of François Morellet features in Les Règles du Jeu at The Mayor on Cork Street. Paintings from the 60s and 70s are strong examples of the genre, and the effect produced by a canvas overlaid in wire mesh shows Morellet’s simple ingenuity. (ends 27th May)

Dark Adaptation at Seen Fifteen and South Kiosk presents together the photographs of Ciarán Óg Arnold and Ryan L. Moule. Arnold’s images of Irish nocturnal activity are rough and red-eyed portraits of people on a night out; Moule’s sepulchral monochromes are deliberately eroded and underdeveloped to create images that resist inspection. (ends 29th May)