Thursday, 22 September 2011

Luis Zerbini

                              Every Jetson Has a Flintstone Inside

Max Wigram Gallery
106 New Bond Street

9TH September- 1st October

 Arriving 10 minutes late in a fluster I ring the buzzer and galumph up to the 2nd floor. As I open the door I hear A click of a camera. My beautiful auburn haired friend has captured me coming in the door. She is grinning like a cat that’s got the cream. I couldn’t have picked a better exhibition for her to see. In the 10 minutes I wasn’t there she has already got the assistants fluttering around her with promises of back rooms and more of Zerbini’s delights. They are put on hold while we view the exhibition together.
Luiz Zerbini has created large scale beautifully lush paintings that you find yourself immersed into. This Brazilian artist is inspired by his personal archive of old objects, photos, texts and souvenirs and has evolved them into the dense environments. In ‘Mamangua Recife’ every inch is a delight to the eye. He plays with colour, light, perspective, realism and fantasy. The foreground becomes the background as your eyes feast upon its glorious lushness. There is a feeling of having arrived in a new land where everything is exciting and fresh. Old shoes mingle with lush vegetation as Bridget Riley like ripples of water dance light onto the modernist buildings. Every part of this painting asks for attention and yet it sits calmly in its own space.

On the other side of the room a table of cast resin vase sculptures contain succulent plants and bones which change as you walk around them, appearing and disappearing, merging into one another. Luis Zerbini asks us ‘when you look at something, you must forget what it is, and, at the same time, you must see inside the thing’.

I am already feeling visually full when an assistant arrives to take us into the back room. Here we see a beautiful Aluminium pigment painting dotted with coloured squares. I feel as if I am looking down from on high at a futuristic game being played out and tactics planned. After seeing more of his white, green and orange collages utilizing old slide mounts, which allude to processing and archiving, I am visually and mentally full to bursting.
As we enter back into the gallery we are greeted by the presence of gallerist Max Wigram languishing against the door frame while two men take his photograph.
We take our leave

Saturday, 17 September 2011


13TH September-30 October and touring

JVA at Jerwood Space
171 Union Street
London SE10LN

Louisa Fairclough  'Deep Grief'  Watercolour on Gesso Board

Having been invited to a collector’s breakfast preview of this year’s drawing prize with the promise of pastries I couldn’t resist. This year’s drawings have been selected by Iwona Blazwick (Director of Whitechapel Gallery), Tim Marlow (Writer, broadcaster and director of exhibitions at White Cube) and Rachael Whiteread (Artist) and were as interesting as ever. The selection is broad ranging and many artists have 2 or even 3 pieces chosen. Ranging from exquisite representational pencil drawings; such as Joy Gerrard’s Shelter Seeking Crowd, to easy free formed marks; including Louisa Fairclough’s Deep Grief, a highly charged drawing of a tent, a strange ominous shape tethered the ground and video pieces. All sorts of medium are embraced, pencil, biro ink, watercolour, oil, charcoal, collage, fabric, wire, cord and film. As always the exhibition has been beautifully curated, each of the 70 works has room to breathe and embody its own space. This competition attracts a wide range of practitioners from established artists to students.
Joy Gerrard   'Shelter Seeking Crowd, New Orleans'   Pencil

There is a marvellous 5 metre long tour de force by Jessie Brennan; a narrative of local oral histories inspired by local stories and memories that originate along the Lea River Canal. Lottie Jackson-Eeles brings us a joyous concertina sketchbook, mapping the spaces of London journeys the artist has taken. I particularly enjoyed Jessica Killeen and Samuel Taylor’s ‘Interventional Drawing’. This is a funny and engaging video piece. A man is lying on his side on paper and a woman comes and joins him mirroring his shape and leaving a negative space between. Their foreheads touch and their knees touch, an intimacy is established. They both pick up crayons and with a wry smile start to scribble on the page. This is both funny and sexual, lines being made from forehead to forehead down to knee to knee, encountering chest to chest, and crotch to crotch on the way. There is great vigour and energy in their back and forth marks and after time they become tired and the marks are more sporadic, yet still intentional. Like a crazy sexual frenzy ending in soft embraces.
Jessica Killeen & Samuel Taylor  'Interventioal Drawing'  Video Performance

However the piece that caught my eye and which I would have been tempted to buy, had it been for sale was a small video projection ‘Sketch’ by Nicki Rolls. This is a beautifully executed 1 min film of a street scene which is projected onto a small sketch book and slightly beyond onto the wall. Very little happens, a person walking, a van driving past. As the book is open at an angle the van travels round the book off the page and then seems to reappear from under the book and onto the wall. It is very satisfying in its simplicity.

Nicky Rolls  'Sketch'  Video Projection/Sketch Book

I was delighted to bump into Anita Taylor who is the Director of the Drawing Prize, and was over from Australia, where she is currently Director of Sydney’s National Art School. She is very passionate about drawing and believes in the vital role of drawing in contemporary art practice.

Later that evening the prizes were announced: £6000 was awarded to Gary Lawrence for ‘Homage to Anonymous’, ballpoint on discarded posters.

£3000 to Jessie Brennan for ‘The Cut’ and student prizes of £1000 to Kristian Fletcher and to my great joy to Nicki Rolls.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Stephanie Carlton Smith

Stephanie Carlton Smith


Beaux Arts, Cork Street

7thSeptember-1st October

As I walk through the doors of the gallery, after being momentarily distracted by the presence of Alan Rickman, I am greeted with strong bold structures which feel earthbound yet free. In Stephanie’s debut exhibition at the Beaux Arts, she mixes organic materials and glass blending the natural with the man-made in a sort of synthesis. There is gentleness and brutality in each piece. The physicality of the craftswoman is very evident and the precise placing of oak and alabaster, or jesmonite, glass and onyx are so beautifully considered as to seem the natural way of things.In ‘This Mortal House’ a rough circle of alabaster, polished front and back and a hole hewn in the middle, sits a tiny tree, its roots exposed and its branches fitted to the holes’ shape. Passing through to the back of the gallery finds ‘Between Air and Earth’, large brutal chunks of beechwood between which two halos of marble hover playfully, seeming to dance between the rough forest structure.

On the wall there is a beautiful series of drawings on plate glass. Stephanie works both on the front and the back with black, white and red enamel to produce special, textural and gestural images that hover on the picture plane.
This exhibition is a celebration of the fine balance in the natural world and a considered playfulness seen through a woman’s mind.
I feel light as I leave the gallery, so much so that as I drag on my cigarette do not notice until nudged that I am standing next to David Hockney also enjoying a smoke


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Life. Ishbel Myerscough

Ishbel Myerscough
Flowers Central, Cork Street, 1st-25th June 2011  

Walking into a room full of family and friends is always a joyful feeling and although the family and friends were not mine; the atmosphere of intimacy and joyous celebration I encountered at Ishbel Myerscough’s ‘Life’ exhibition made me feel as if I belonged. There on the walls all around me were portraits of the same family and friends looking back upon themselves.

In this exhibition Ishbel paints exquisite portraits of the people she loves. You could not feel anything but flattered to have your portrait painted by Ishbel for although she paints honestly, showing scars, blemishes, moles and all, there is a tender intimacy that holds an emotional bond between sitter and painter.

One wall is hung from left to right with a series of ascending height approximate life size portraits of her family. Starting with her 2 year old daughter and following through her 6 and 9 year old sons, her 16 year old niece and ending with her 41 year old husband. The children’s faces are tenderly painted, depicting every mole, freckle and perfect imperfection. They all stand alone in the briefest of underwear(although her niece is modestly covered in a black t-shirt), against dark blue backgrounds. The contrast between the realistic glowing flesh of the children and the background makes them appear solid and flat at the same time as if cut out from a magazine and placed upon the background. Their un-nerving appearance is further emphasised by the strange foreshortening of their legs, giving the viewer a double aspect and making the legs of her daughter almost rubbery and ‘tadpole like’. The contrast to her husband’s portrait is strong. He is painted side on looking back in time over the upcoming generations, his thin body starkly placed upon a yellow background. He does not confront the viewer as if his time is over and it is now the time of the children.

In the back room are 4 tiny portraits of the artist and her friend artist Chantal Joffe, both heavily pregnant their bellies distended to the point of bursting. Their bodies are comic and tender at the same time. They stand in bra and pants, their pale flesh silhouetted against a black background. Standing back to back, like book-ends, one in front of the other or alone they look as if at any moment they might do a silly walk or can-can kick.

The most impressive thing about this exhibition is the attention to detail and the sheer joy that Ishbel derives from this. Every hair and cotton stitch is depicted, one begins to wonder if she owns any brushes with more than one hair, so fine is the detailing. It makes you want to come in close to enjoy the intimacy the artist is experiencing with her subjects. Intimate indeed!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Contemporary Perspectives in Water Colour

Mall Galleries     14th-18th June 2011
Lucy Jones
On arriving at the Gallery, BL and I had no idea what to expect. A watercolour exhibition at the Mall Galleries conjured up images of twee watery washes and unadventurous landscapes. However the list of names exhibiting had lured us along, in particular Lucy Jones and Patricia Cain (the latter of which had won the much coveted Threadneedle Prize in 2010).

It turned out to be a bijou collection of paintings in the smallest of the Mall Galleries. This exhibition has been put together by Lewis McNaught the Mall’s director as a new initiative to invigorate and refresh the Mall. Having taken over the running of the Mall 4 years ago Lewis is ambitious to bring new life to this exhibition space  and make it a destination gallery. Although committed to keeping the traditional societies that have made the Mall what it is today he is also very aware that the Mall needs a face lift for the millennium. The small gallery is about to undergo a major refurbishment (with much of the funding coming from the Arts Council, a coup in itself nowadays), polished concrete floors, exposed girders and a much needed window onto the Mall itself. This will be a much  larger and more contemporary space to rival ‘The White Cube’. Lewis is hoping curators will be excited enough to fill the space with new and innovative work.

So BL and I enter the exhibition. Lucy Jones did not disappoint with fresh vibrant landscapes of St James and Battersea Park. Confident washes of colour and intense squeezing of pigments joyously gamble across her paper and give the viewer a wonderful sense of the artist enjoying her creativity

Iain Andrews Bat Flood Acrylic,
thread and beads on canvas
This is not a traditional watercolour exhibition; it embraces watercolour, acrylic, print and collage. Of particular note were the pictures by Iain Andrews and David Orme. Iain uses a mix of thick squeezes of acrylic, washes and delicate brush work. He builds a magical theatrical landscaped world in a murky forest with ominous bats hanging from trees. It brought to mind the recent exhibition by Ged Quinn at Stephen Friedman and that of Mathew Weir at Alison Jacques. David Orme (who recently graduated from the RCA) in contrast uses a mix of wash, pencil and collage on paper. Every mark seems sensitively thought about, light of touch and delicate, the rubbings out as important and the remaining marks.


David Orme, Untitled, Collage on paper
This exhibition certainly was a fresh look at watercolour and delighted and intrigued in equal measure. I look forward to what this gallery may become.