Red, White & Blue @ Chelsea Space, London, 2012

Simon Perriton Argy-Bharji

I was invited to review this exhibition as a student on the MRes Arts Practice course at CCW Graduate School, based at Chelsea College of Art & Design. I took a combined angle of reviewer and of my awareness, as a student, of this gallery’s place within the academic context. I was intrigued to learn of curator Donald Smith’s interest in presenting the archive in a gallery context. This knowledge cast light on archival intentions behind the exhibition.

‘Curator Donald Smith’s own fanaticism of the British Punk era, supported by the archival example of Mick Jones Rock & Roll Public Library, makes this a very ‘British’ focussed exhibition. But how does this resonate with the expectations of the predominately academic, multi-national, Chelsea College of Art visitor profile? In taking a political/subjective stance, this exhibition allows the document to displace the artwork, and in doing so transforms the gallery into an archive. ‘

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Gordon Cheung – The Solar Cry @ Edel Assanti, London, 2012

Gordon Cheung, Supercell 2012An intimate setting for Gordon Cheung’s ambitious range of work, Edel Assanti offered enough space for several paintings as well as three dimensional work, the installation of which perhaps assisted by the fact Cheung’s studio is only upstairs. The imagery demonstrates sophistication in computer-developed imagery, but my attraction to the work lies in the physical manipulation of material. As much as conceptual and practical aspects of art practice cannot be separated from each other, nevertheless I wanted to focus my review on how the material surfaces of the paintings appear on a painterly level. As a painter myself, I am particularly intrigued by the ways Cheung pushes the boundaries of what paint can do, in terms of various degrees of relief, and how it connects to liquid/active elements in the imagery.

In ‘Supercell’, swirling lines describe the watery ground, picked out through sparing painterly intervention. Attention is drawn to the force of the bull’s movement, which appears to cause rainbowed worms of paint to fly into the depth of field of the painting’s surface. Cheung associates the movement of his subjects with the action of his technique, thereby linking the challenge of his materials with the imagined struggles of the paintings’ protagonists, within a setting of materially evocative surrounds.’

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Objects of Desire by The Searchers Contemporary @ Centrespace Bristol, 2012

The Searchers Contemporary is a new gallery in Bristol set up by Ruth Piper. I knew Ruth Piper about 10 years ago when we both had a studio in Wimbledon Art Studios, where we found some common ground in our practices, namely a geometric type of abstract painting, and bold graphic use of colour. Discovering recently that Ruth was launching a new gallery venture with an exhibition of predominantly abstract work, I was curious to see the exhibition, despite it meaning a long journey down to Bristol. A pattern is emerging however, in my posts, of the most rewarding exhibitions entailing a journey away from my usual surrounds in order to see them. A beautiful sunny September day greeted me in Bristol, one of the last private views of the year that will begin in daylight. The bright colours and multiple subject matters combined to make a very enjoyable exhibition in the gallery’s temporary space in the city’s centre. The show will continue in a new space at 14 St Michael’s Hill, Bristol from 2nd October.

Battled out in the studio through hours of looking and decision-making, Woodrow’s paintings display processes of both adding and removing paint. She layers on the paint so thick and clotted the whole canvas becomes encased, and then more tentatively scumbles and scrapes back in the final stages to resolve the surfaces. In contrast there is a Victorian sensibility at play in Korzer-Robinson’s laborious craft which complements the old-fashioned naive illustrations which he reveals layer by layer in his book sculptures.’

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Are Louisa Chambers’ Paintings Abstract? in Garageland 13: Paint, 2012

This article, questioning ways of looking at Louisa Chambers’ paintings, developed out of a studio visit and a proposal which I wrote in order to curate the exhibition Needle’s Eye, which is currently being shown at Transition Gallery, Hackney, 18th Feb – 11th March 2012, and will be touring to BayArt in Cardiff later this year. The exhibition is of four painters including Louisa Chambers, who all employ methods in their treatment of subject matter which like the allegory of the needle’s eye, transform or perform the impossible. Cathy Lomax chose to include my article in Transition Gallery’s self-published magazine – Garageland 13: Paint, which was launched on the same night as the private view of the exhibition.

The subjects, methods and resolving of her paintings all carry through a very idiosyncratic vision; hard to define, but easy to intuit once presented with them in the flesh, dodging between easy categorisations through their playful search for a truth beneath the obvious surfaces of things.’

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Von Ribbentrop in St Ives @ Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 2011

I first heard about this exhibition through a chance encounter with one of the artists in the show when I was down in St Ives in January this year. The show was very much still in the planning stage, but the connection to St Ives, and the curation by Andrew Lanyon, son of Peter Lanyon, sustained my curiosity to see the show as soon as it came to Kettle’s Yard. Andrew Lanyon has carved himself out a broad career spanning art, writing and film, not to mention self-publishing his own letterpress books and the odd bit of historical research. He remains very much true to the spirit of Cornwall, and in that respect represents a lot of the values defended by his father. The venue of Kettle’s Yard Gallery seemed particularly appropriate for such an exhibition,  the neighbouring Kettle’s Yard House having originally been occupied and curated by Jim Ede a forward-thinking curator for Tate around the same period as the story of this exhibition, not to mention a keen collector of work by St Ives artists including over 100 paintings by Alfred Wallis.

This all relates back to the story of the incomers. Small incidents are enlarged. The sound of the train door closing as Von Ribbentrop left after his visit in 1937 is explored as a moment of betrayal. The stature of Alfred Wallis reversed with that of Ben Nicholson in one of the many illustrative paintings by Lanyon draws attention to the fact that Nicholson took valuable influence from Wallis’ work, aligning him with Nicholson’s other influences: Mondrian, Gabo and Calder.’

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Gilding the Lily @ Transition Gallery, London, 2011

The metaphor of ‘gilding the lily’ allowed this exhibition to pull together a wide range of works that all show something different on the surface than what lies underneath, and drew attention to the fact that all art relies on a surface illusion to various degrees. I enjoyed the implications this metaphor had for reading the materiality of the works in particular, whether they were paintings, or referencing craft, or found objects, or familiar materials used out of context.

“The enduring impression of this grouping of eight artists brought together through a theme of embellishment is the alchemic possibilities of their respective strategies: whether they succeed in presenting surfaces independent of their subject matter, allowing both to be read together, or whether the act of “gilding the lily” undermines their intentions, or further still becomes superfluous.”

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The Absence of Work by Rachel Haidu, MIT Press, 2010

I took up the opportunity offered by A-N interface to review this monograph about Marcel Broodthaers’ career with mixed feelings of curiosity and cynicism. As a ‘key figure’ in critical attitudes to exhibition presentation, Broodthaers is described in Haidu’s book as an artist who almost doesn’t need to have existed so much as just believed in. Not only does the work seem to take a backstage role, but the artist himself is negated by the mythologising of his career. I found it quite strange to read a monograph about an obscure artist whose work was essentially inconsequential and whose exhibitions during his lifetime seemed to refuse any attempt at creating a legacy…

“in some ways the work (as in labour) seems to be literally absent. In particular, the work seems to exist more as legend and a subject of debate in relation to other contemporary works”

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