Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Artist Alert - Marcus Jansen

With a keen awareness of his surroundings he creates a surreal urban like atmosphere filled with subconscious revelations that foretell of a future fraught with consequence. Violent brushstrokes, changing textures, and instinctive contrast of color reflect an explosive spontaneity that is the direct and raw effect of emotion.

Jansen's Intellectually provocative and paradoxical work encourages discourse among viewers. Inspired by political and social events of today, he paints his own interpretations as he tries to separate truth from fiction in a world of increasing disinformation. His paintings ask us to look at the world in a new way and to consider not only our interdependence, but also the universal nature of our existence. We are forced to recognize the repercussions of our own apathy and then ask ourselves what are our responsibilities and how much are we willing to sacrifice.

Jansen continues to remind us that progress has a price. In his most recent work, the streets are now filled with the crumbling infrastructure of a previous generation. Isolated figures walk in the aftermath without refuge from the surveillance of new world technology. Spotlights illuminate the scenery, as the stage is set for a virtual wasteland rich in metaphorical imagery.

Cornered pigs wait with targets on their back, as we crossover into Jansen’s suburban landscapes and are confronted with foreclosed homes, receding farms and the scattered debris of industry. A school bus careens head on into a collision, the wheels no longer turning. Sheep graze in once green pastures replaced with the urban sprawl of the forgotten cities.

The themes that run through Jansen’s work are vast in scope and are indicative of his insightful ability to see the correlations that connect them. Genetically modified food, increasing surveillance, the degradation of education, corporate greed, and global dominance are just a few. In his work lies a deeply rooted spirituality that becomes evident by his willingness to explore the unknown. He brings our attention to the things we would normally overlook, while reminding us that within our struggle resides beauty.

Martin Creed 2006

Martin Creed

"First scene from Sick Film, 2006, 35 mm color film transferred to DVD, 21 minutes. Premiered at the Curzon Mayfair on Friday, October 13, 2006. On general release July 2007.

Next 5 Days - Your Guide to Openings in London

march 30th 
NbNathlyn BaptisteNathlyn Baptiste 

A&D Gallery    mayfair 
51 Chiltern Street, Marylebone
London W1U6LY, United Kingdom

6:30 PM - 9:00 PM 


Kaleid editions    shoreditch 
Unit 2, 23-25 Redchurch Street
London E2 7DH, United Kingdom
07870 173 524

6:00 PM - 9:00 PM 

march 31st 
PaintingFeatured Louise ThomasEverybody is a lake 

Bischoff/Weiss    mayfair 
14a Hay Hill
London W1J 8NZ, United Kingdom
+44 (0)207 629 5954

6:00 PM - 9:00 PM 

Esmond_binghamEsmond Bingham, John ChristieCONSTRUCT 

Eleven Spitalfields    shoreditch 
11 Princelet Street
London E1 6QH, United Kingdom
020 7247 1816


6:30 PM - 8:30 PM 

april 1st 
Untitled-richardflyer_copyRichard DuckerNULL & VOID 

Oblong Gallery    st. pancras 
69a Southgate Road
London N1 3JS, United Kingdom
0207 354 8330


6:00 PM - 8:00 PM 

Usugrow_lifetime_commitmentUsugrow‘Hasadhu, In The Night Before A Storm’ By Usugrow 

StolenSpace    shoreditch 
Dray Walk, 91 Brick Lane
London E1 6QL, United Kingdom
+44 (0) 207 247 2684

6:00 PM - 9:00 PM 

april 2nd 
MacIain MacLeanIain MacLean’s “Passion” 

Candid Gallery    st. pancras 
3 Torrens Street, Angel
London, Islington EC1V 1NQ, United Kingdom
0207 837 4237

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM 

IampatchworkSoraia AlmeidaGroup Show, 'Smile' 

Red Gate Gallery    south bank, southwark 
209a Coldharbour Lane, Brixton
London, London SW9 8RU, United Kingdom
0207 326 0993

6:00 PM - 1:00 AM 

Medicine_box_2_smallGroup ShowSmile: An exhibition that brings back laughter 

Red Gate Gallery    south bank, southwark 
209a Coldharbour Lane, Brixton
London, London SW9 8RU, United Kingdom
0207 326 0993

6:00 PM - 1:00 AM 

april 3rd 
Well_worn_stepsTom Henderson SmithLived-in Landscapes from Cornwall 

Chapel Row Gallery    other (outside main areas) 
6, Chapel Row
Bath BA11HN, United Kingdom

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM 

Bart_s_treehouseRob Reedthe great escspe 

DegreeArt.com Ltd    shoreditch 
30 Vyner Street
London E2 9DQ, United Kingdom
020 8980 0395

6:00 PM - 9:00 PM 

Tony Cragg - Lisson Gallery

Tony Cragg
52-54 Bell Street
London NW1 5DA
United Kingdom

March 17th - April 17th

Tony Cragg's abiding interest is in the dynamic potential of matter to assume form. At the Lisson, he will present five large new sculptures, a series of smaller works and a number of related drawings. The selection demonstrates the consistency with which Cragg has pursued his sculptural explorations, particularly since he moved from his early assemblages to casting sculptures in the mid-1980s; it also demonstrates the range and ambition of those explorations. Cragg, an unashamed materialist, is nevertheless a magician of matter, taking an essentially simple image like the human profile or the hollowness of many natural forms and subjecting them to extreme extrapolation. This often takes place around an active axial structure: Cragg has said that in these works 'there is no longer a straight axis, the axis bends and re-orients itself compressing the volumes around it. Obviously, the forms associated with these kinds of variable axis infer an energetic dynamic, the kind of constant material condition found in the whirlings of tornadoes...' (quoted in 'Tony Cragg, Signs of Life,' 2003). In his new exhibition, Tony Cragg works with wood, fibreglass, cast and constructed steel, in each case taking his interest in material beyond the conventional constraints and processes of fabrication or imagination. His drawings add another dimension to the work, often zooming in to microscopic detail or out to macrocosmic form.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Artist Of The Week - Idris Khan

Music and mystery ... Idris Khan's Seven Times (2010) is a reference to Islamic worship. Photograph courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro gallery

You'd be forgiven for not realising Idris Khan's photos were actually photos at all. With their accretions of smudgy black marks, they look more like hand-rendered charcoal drawings than flat snaps realised at the push of a button. Get up close, though, and the thick black lines dissolve into a spore-like buildup of words or musical notes. His images are composites built from layered sheets of music, book pages, paintings or other photographs that seem to squeeze journeys in time – like reading or hearing music – into a single picture.

Every … Stave of Frederick Chopin's Nocturnes For the Piano (2004), for instance, is just what its title claims. The music sheets are photographed and manipulated on a computer by Khan to become a lone image whose blurred hieroglyphs seem to convulse. It's as if each rendition of Chopin's music could be seen rather than heard, experienced in one visual cacophony. In Sigmund Freud's … the Uncanny (2006), Khan uses the same technique on the psychoanalyst's landmark essay on eerie recurrences. In the artist's image, the crease at the book's centre is built into a menacing well of darkness, like a trauma waiting to surface.

In fact, although the 31-year-old London-based artist was awarded the Photographer's Gallery prize in 2004, he doesn't consider himself a photographer. The camera was simply the tool he turned to as an aspiring art student who longed to paint or play music but couldn't. His first composite images stemmed from photos taken while travelling in 2002, such as Every … Photograph Taken in Portugal With My Ex-Girlfriend. From these experiments in compressed memories, Khan went on to tackle iconic photographic works – including books by theorists Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes – to high culture's greatest hits, such as Beethoven's sonatas and Rembrandt's self-portraits.

Though Khan stopped practising Islam at the age of 14, he remains fascinated by the rituals and devotion of his parent's faith. He has said it underscores the repetition and obsessive production processes behind his work; each image takes several months to complete. Yet he is not shy of addressing religion directly, as with a recent sculpture work, entitled Seven Times, which fuses references to minimalism and the Kaaba, the cubic shrine in Mecca that Muslims must try to visit once in their lifetime. Here, steel cubes echoing the proportions of the shrine are laid out in the arrangement of Carl Andre's 144 Graphite Silence. Sandblasted with lines of prayer, the overlying strings of Arabic script recall the five daily prayers uttered by Muslims all over the world.

Why we like him: The Creation (2009) is derived from the oratorio that took composer Joseph Haydn years to realise. From a distance, the bold grey-black bars of Khan's huge image recall the calming abstractions of an Agnes Martin painting. Up close, however, the myriad notes seem to hum with creative struggle and the energy of religious and artistic faith.

All about my mother: It was Khan's late mother who first stoked his passion for classical music. His recent work Black Horizon uses one of her favourite piano pieces, a Bach melody.

Where can I see him? Khan's solo exhibition is at Victoria Miro gallery, London, until 24 April 2010.


Quilts 1700-2010 V&A, London

Natasha Kerr's At the End of the Day, 2007, part of Quilts 1700-2010 at the V&A. Photograph: Richard Davis

The soldier looks peaceful but alarmingly pale. He has a metal plate lodged in his head. They've patched him up at the military hospital and even given him something to keep his mind off the horrors of the Crimea. He is sitting up in his nightshirt stitching the most startling quilt.

The triangles alternate black and white, black and red, red and yellow in fierce chevron stripes. It is a terrific piece of op-art geometry. The painting that commemorates Private Walker's labours shows not only the quilt and exactly how it is done, right down to the difficulty of keeping each fiddly little triangle from curling up as you stitch it to another, but something else too.

There on the bed lies Walker's uniform, complete with medal. The quilt turns out to be made of his regimental colours, almost literally – a piecing together of the torn clothes, if not the bodies, of the dead.

Are all quilts an act of commemoration, more or less public or private? It seems so from this tremendous exhibition. Quilts 1700-2010 has had more advance bookings than any other at the V&A, with visitors due to fly in from all round the world. It deserves its enormous success.

For what it shows is an art form that takes scraps of the real world and transforms them into visions and images, that shores up the fragments of the past while making something new (and warm) for the future. This is not quilting as commonly imagined – Laura Ashley pre-cut squares machined together for the guest room – but something infinitely more imaginative, idiosyncratic, personal; another way of drawing or painting, another form of narrative or expression.

Look at the unknown 18th-century woman who has stitched her entire world into a coverlet, beginning with the clock at the centre that measures time and life, radiating out through the day's objects – comb, thimble, scissors, the very needle she is using right now – to the emblems of her home and the garden beyond, where the spring birds arrive, then depart for the winter sun. It feels like the whole of an existence, circumscribed, confined and yet rich in the mind, condensed to the visual equivalent of a sonnet.

Look at James Williams's anthology of wonders – a camel, an elephant, a Chinese pagoda, the whale swallowing Jonah; to which he has proudly added a perfect cloth reprise of Thomas Telford's miraculous suspension bridge in Menai. Williams was a Welsh tailor. It took him a decade to piece the quilt together after work, and no wonder, for each vignette is united in a web of tiny shifting mosaics that feels like a dream adrift in the mind.

Ten years, 40 years: the curators have been able to determine from the fabrics themselves how long some of these quilts were under the needle – picked up and abandoned and picked up again. Each quilt is the measure of its own making. And as time passes, relationships and events are both implicit and explicit in the work. The death of a husband is felt in darkening tone and sombre embroidery; the length of a pregnancy apparent as the baby's name is eventually added after the relief of a safe birth. Quilts reflect family history as much as private lives.

Some of these histories turn out to be dark or sorrowful. Miss Nixon's quilt, made in the 1870s, and known as a strippy piece for its bold stripes of turkey-red and white cotton, was stitched in poverty at a miner's quilting club in Northumbria. The painstaking art is all in the patterning of diamonds, roses and leaves described with infinitely small stitches, perhaps compensating in this case for the lack of affordable cloth with which to vary the design.

Even an inexperienced eye can gauge how many long months of patience, skill and eyestrain were involved just by examining a single inch. But such quilts earned for Miss Nixon and her friends nothing more than the equivalent of a miner's wage for a fortnight.

Other quilts tell of lost children, unfaithful husbands, imprisonment and poverty, of persecuted Baptists and women convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land. One of the most dynamic – and vitality, not weakness, remains the dominant characteristic – is the so-called George III coverlet which shows the monarch reviewing his troops in the middle. But this formality is surrounded, and nearly upstaged, by a wonderful border in which official portraits of soldiers alternate with unofficial portraits of women: talking, writing, painting, laughing, walking and – of course – making quilts. There is no sense of Penelope sadly spinning away the war years; this is Homer revised, with women rising to the moment, refusing to waste either life or time.

This coverlet includes fragments of regency petticoat. The condition of life is materially apparent, so to speak, in a quilt. A tiny piece of expensive brocade, a circle of Indian fabric illegally imported during the 19th century trade ban, the lace from a Victorian wedding dress: what's prized is presented like a jewel in the ordinary cloth.

There are quilts made entirely from striped pyjamas, blankets, old coats, black-out curtains. Ingenuity is underpinned by frugality. The curators of this show had their ears to the ground when they first began to gather quilts five years ago, for this is an art that speaks more clearly than ever to our make-and-mend era.

And it does feel like speech. The most obvious (and commonly drawn) analogy is with abstract art: primary shapes, blocked colours, modular non-representational arrangements. Quilts have the shape and form of paintings; museums and collectors like to hang them on the walls. The great Amish quilts look like precursors to the minimalism of Sol Lewitt, Joseph Albers and Frank Stella.

But this is an exhibition of British quilts, and though there is one stunning abstraction, mute in its glowing cobalt and red, the sense is far more of representation, of the power of quilts to make a direct address.

Which is precisely the subject of a piece by Sara Impey, one of 10 works specially commissioned for this show. Impey found a letter in a drawer after her mother's death that breathed a hint of lost love; she has preserved it, like scented air in a bottle, in a most beautiful quilt in which phrases and half-phrases are stitched into the spectral surface of the fabric in broken lines that both imitate the patterns of speech and the motion of sewing itself, piercing the cloth, then drawing the thread slowly away.

We are all familiar with quilts that anthologise a family's old clothes, or commemorate its story through births or marriages; with quilts as complex pixellations of colour, tone and shape, patterned in jockey's cap or sawtooth star. But what this show reveals is the sheer originality that can thrive within such precise parameters. It is a show to enthral and inspire in equal measure, not least because there is such a sense of order in this hardwon art, this creation of a world out of scraps. It is all there in the portrait of Thomas Walker in his bed: the strange peace of making a quilt.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Hank Willis Thomas

Exhibitions Pick of The Week

Tomory Dodge, London

While LA-based painter Tomory Dodge has plunged into abstract territory, his dense tangles of paint still retain something of the chaotic wildernesses depicted in earlier works. Smears and blocks of luminous pigments amass like a flurry of city lights. In new diptychs and large-scale paintings he explores symmetry, with the frame divided in two to create mirror worlds of curiously balanced frenzy.
Alison Jacques, W1, to 24 Apr

Ron Terada and Susan Collis, Birmingham

Ron Terada's neon works stand like deadpan provocations for road-movie reveries. A towering aluminium sign reading Entering City of Vancouver is set against a series of posters for group exhibitions by local artists. A neon Big Star sign is directly lifted from the logo of the cult rock band of the same name, who in turn lifted it from a supermarket chain. Susan Collins's installations initially appear to be in process of construction. On closer observation, however, we see that the old table spattered with paint is inlaid with pearls and opals; the paint-stained dust sheet is painstakingly embroidered; and there are nails of gold and silver. Enchanting stuff, playing at the age-old art of making magic of the mundane.
Ikon, Wed to 16 May
Robert Clark
Exhibitionist 27/03: Ron Terada

Anna Maria Maiolino, London

Sao Paulo-based artist Anna Maria Maiolino is hand-rolling several thousand kilos of clay into hundreds of balls, which will be left to dry out and crumble, bearing the marks of kneading fingers like a stigmata to artistic industry. As physically impressive as the project promises to be, though, Maiolino seems more interested in the act of making, rather than any final result. The mass of sculptures allude to social structures, and the interplay between individuals and culture. Like peers Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, her work has developed through the object-suspicious ethos of feminism and conceptual art. While she has worked with clay since 1989, several of her films included in this show reveal her as a polymorphous artist.
Camden Arts Centre, NW3, Fri to 30 May

Vertical Thoughts, Dublin

Subtitled Morton Feldman and the Visual Arts, this show charts the influence of the American composer on some of the most innovative visual artists of the 1960s and 70s, and vice versa. Feldman's "indeterminate" music has more in common with the open-ended colour fields of abstract painting than it does with the melodic linear structures of more traditional composers of the time. The show includes works by such pioneering visual art colleagues as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly. It's an engrossing reminder of one of the most exciting concentrations of artistic talent in the 20th century.
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Wed to 27 Jun
Robert Clark

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, London

It's not hard to tell from Ilya Kabakov's work that he came of age in Soviet-era Russia. In his installations, impossible wishes are piled optimistically high, tempered by a hollow foreboding of failure. He has collaborated with his wife, Emilia, since 1989 on projects such as Palace for Projects (1998) and House of Dreams (2005). But the Kabakovs also work on a smaller scale, as demonstrated in the Malevich-inspired Flying Paintings on show here. Slanting geometric shapes contain happy, idealised scenes of outdoor gatherings and homely repose that threaten to slide off the canvas.
Sprovieri Gallery, W1, Tue to 29 May
Skye Sherwin

Francis Bacon, Compton Verney

Francis Bacon: In Camera sets unforgettable paintings from 1944 to 1989 against the photographs the artist so often used as catalytic source material. On loan from the archives of Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, many of the images are soiled and distressed by the prevailing organised chaos of Bacon's studio. But the smooth surfaces of powerful photo-images by the likes of Eadweard Muybridge and John Deakin are further distorted and transformed by Bacon's messing with the oil paint. It's as if the artist needed the fixed certainties of the photographs to anchor his wayward, grotesque figures in real life. This, after all, is the thing Bacon was a master of: setting up poignant visual and psychological tensions between fierce passion and provocative restraint.
Compton Verney, Sat to 20 Jun
Exhibitionist 27/03: Francis Bacon

Tim Head, Cambridge
Back in 1977, when Tim Head was the first artist fellow at Kettle's Yard, he had been doing disorienting things with mirrors and projections. Gallery walls were transformed into uncertain shifting surfaces with little more than reflections and light. Now, Head returns to the gallery as one of Britain's foremost innovators of digital art. Having developed his fascination for space through the logos and gizmos of consumer culture, evolving media and new technology, he has turned his attention now to computer pixels. Typically blown up large and projected in changing constellations, his recent works are kaleidoscopic and mesmerising, as if a Jackson Pollock painting had been created by 2001's supercomputer Hal in introspective mood.
Kettle's Yard, to 9 May
Exhibitionist 27/03: Tim Head

Simon Faithfull, Preston
If Simon Faithfull's drawings and video installations are exploratory, it's because the process of exploration itself is being explored. A record of the artist's trip to the Arctic Circle, here viewed as a series of reflections captured in a human eye, includes a fascinating array of wild locations and complex scientific gadgetry. But the supposed object of the artist's exploration – the northern lights – are nowhere to be seen. Elsewhere, a lone figure is tracked by video camera as he uses a GPS device to follow the exact route of the Greenwich meridian from Peace Haven in Hampshire to Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire. Streams are waded through, windows and hedges climbed; but the point of it all is left up the air. There's an absurdist edge to all that Faithfull does, plus an obsessive and quixotic love of travel and random observation.
Harris Museum and Art Gallery, to 5 Jun
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