Thursday, 26 June 2014

Sean Scully: Kind of Red - Timothy Taylor Gallery

Sean Scully, Kind of Red, 2013 (detail of 5-part piece - see below)
Sean Scully: Kind of Red is at Timothy Taylor Gallery until 12 July 2014.
Scully is, I think, my new favourite artist. I have always been an admirer but actually have seen relatively little work in the 'flesh'; having been knocked out by Doric Night in the RA Summer Show (see below) I visited this exhibition and was impressed.The focal work here is a 2013 suite of 5 paintings on aluminium - bare metal remains exposed beyond the edges of the painted areas. I like his work because it combines a forceful, muscular presence with a nuanced, poetic sensibility - the blocks of colour are rich and subtle and the total effect is beautiful, powerful and mysterious.
The exhibition also includes some blue and grey toned paintings from the Landline series. A terrific show.
Watch a short video of Scully talking about his work: "There are no certainties in my paintings", and read the gallery exhibition blurb; see also a 2009 review of Scully's paintings from the 1980s by Laura Cumming.
Sean Scully, Kind of Red, 2013
Sean Scully, Kind of Red, 2013
Sean Scully, Landline Blue, 2014
Sean Scully, Landline Grey, 2014
Sean Scully, Landline Grey Grey, 2014

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Royal Academy Summer Show 2014 - Top Ten

Sean Scully, Doric Night
I have visited the Royal Academy Summer Show for the first time in – ooh, a good couple of decades. It has clearly come on in that time. From my own perspective, what is notable is that many of the Young (and youngish) British Artists I was interested in 20 or so years ago now sport ARA after their names and are amongst the great and the good (and not so good) on the walls of the Academy: they are now the establishment.
The Summer Show – once a byword for conservatism and stuffiness – has tried to reinvent itself as a much more vigorous contemporary art exhibition while retaining its famously democratic principles. The exhibition is, indeed, stuffed with well-known names from the world of British art (and beyond – with guest appearance from Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, Ed Ruscha and James Turrell) and has been organized as a series of curated rooms – some more successful than others.
I enjoyed the rooms curated by Hughie O’Donoghue  (which contained, to mind, the best works in the show) and Cornelia Parker – her black and white theme was engaging and entertaining. However, I was disappointed by John Maine’s room – it broadly sported a Constructivist theme (to which I am highly sympathetic) and might have been expected to be clean and cool, but instead felt fussy and cluttered.
The scale of the show is overwhelming and one can’t hope to take in more than a fraction of the work on display. Although many of my favourite artists were represented it wasn’t always by their best work. My top ten art works are listed below. (Unfortunately I can’t find images for all of them.) 
Watch a video about the show and read reviews by Mark Hudson and Zoe Pilger.
  1. Sean Scully, Doric Night. (see above). Far and away the best thing in the show for me - this fabulous painting occupies the prime space in the first major room curated by O'Donoghue. (NB see also blog entry for Scully's concurrent show Kind of Red)
  2. Mitra Tabrizian, Leicestershire. This photograph of a derelict industrial site is from a series about ‘cultural and political displacement’ but ironically conveys considerable formal beauty.
    Mitra Tabrizian, Leicestershire
  3. Frank Bowling: 4 grand paintings by Bowling dominate the second of the rooms curated by O'Donoghue.
    Frank Bowling, Buttoned It Up Again For Barney and Marco
  4. David Nash, Tumble Block.
    David Nash, Tumble Block
  5. In joint 5th place and getting my prize for curatorial juxtaposition are Phil Shaw and Glen Baxter. The former's 'Mondrian' print of bookshelves of books on Mondrian is next to the latter's drawing, A Recently Discovered 'Lost' Mondrian Receives Authentication From Two Leading Experts In Dutch Paintings Prior To Auction In New York. (No image available.)
    Phil Shaw,  For Piet's Sake II
  6. (see 5)
  7. Richard Wentworth, Not Now. (Books, steel cable and bricks - no image available.)
  8. Geoff Hodgson, Shelter at Twilight. I was delighted to see this beautiful photograph by Geoff Hodgson - an alumnus of the BA Fine Art Photography course at University of Gloucestershire (2005-8).
    Geoff Hodgson, Shelter at Twilight
  9. Anselm Kiefer, Kranke Kunst. (No image available.)
  10. Basil Beattie, Top Up.
    Basil Beattie, Top Up

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Roger Mayne, 1929 - 2014

Roger Mayne, Girl Jiving, 1957
Roger Mayne died on 7 June 2014.
"Roger Mayne... might be thought of as England's Robert Frank". So wrote Colin Westerbeck and Joel Meyerowitz in Bystander: A History of Street Photography (p192). High praise indeed for a photographer whose work is probably far less well known that it deserves to be. Mayne will principally be remembered for his wonderful pictures of children and teenagers in London in the 1950s and 60s - subject matter which might suggest an affinity more with Helen Levitt than Robert Frank. Whichever, Mayne was his own man and a great photographer: his high-contrast pictures of a now lost post-war England of bomb-sites and poor housing are proof of that.
Read an obituary by Amanda Hopkinson.
Roger Mayne, Goalie, Brindley Road, off Harrow Road, 1956
Roger Mayne, Girl on the Steps, St Stephens Gardens, W2, 1957
Roger Mayne, Black and White Boys, 1959
Roger Mayne, Boys Smoking, Portland Road, North Kensington, 1956
Roger Mayne, Footballers, Southam Street, 1958
Roger Mayne, Crowd, Cup Tie - Arsenal v Liverpool, 1963
Roger Mayne, Portrait of Gillian Ayres, 1960
Roger Mayne, Children in a Bus, Calangute, Goa, 1994
Roger Mayne, Iidibashi, Tokyo, 1986
Roger Mayne, Man and Shop Window, Paris, 1993

Friday, 13 June 2014

Ian Davenport - Waddington Custot

Ian Davenport, Ambassador (Double), 2014
Ian Davenport: Colourfall is at Waddington Custot until 12 July 2014. 
You wait years for a good exhibition of stripe paintings, then two come along at once! First Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings 1961-2014 at David Zwirner (until 25 July 2014 - see below) and now Ian Davenport at Waddington Custot. Davenport is, however, a painter of a different stripe to Riley!
I have loved Davenport's work since his Goldsmiths/Freeze pourings of 1988; his subsequent experiments with chance and control in the ordering and flow of paint have produced some spectacularly beautiful results. This exhibition brings together a range of work from 1989 up to the present. The earliest piece is Satin Black on White from the Bottom to the Top (1989) in which he 'drew' lines by dripping paint from a nail attached to a long stick. (He has also employed syringes, watering cans and electric fans as well as, most commonly, gravity, as means to disperse paint across a surface.) The most recent work comprises lines of acrylic paint poured down a stainless steel surface and allowed to 'puddle' at the bottom. 
Read articles by Karen Wright, Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Sheryl Garratt; watch a short video of Davenport talking about his work.
Great stuff! (NB click on images to enlarge.)
Ian Davenport, Satin Black on White from the Bottom to the Top, 1989
Ian Davenport, Poured Painting: Magenta, Orange, Magenta,1999
Ian Davenport, Second Season Part 1, 2014
Ian Davenport, Colourcade: Magenta/Purple/Green, 2014
Ian Davenport, installation view, Waddington Custot, 2014
Ian Davenport, installation view, Waddington Custot, 2014
Ian Davenport, installation view, Waddington Custot, 2014
Ian Davenport, installation view (Colourcade, 2014), Waddington Custot, 2014

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings - David Zwirner

Bridget Riley, Après Midi, 1981
Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings 1961-2014 is at David Zwirner until 25 July 2014.
I do like a good stripe painting and they don't come any more subtle and finely judged than by Bridget Riley, so this exhibition will be a treat.
Read an interview with Riley by Jackie Wullschlager. 
(NB click on images to enlarge - vital for the horizontal ones which are a bit cramped in this blog format. Most, but not all, images here are included in the exhibition.)
Bridget Riley, Horizontal Vibration, 1961
Bridget Riley, Late Morning (Horizontal), 1969
Bridget Riley, Prairie, 1971
Bridget Riley, Elysium, 1973/2003
Bridget Riley, Serenissima, 1982
Bridget Riley, Bali, 1983
Bridget Riley, Rose Rose 5, 2009
Bridget Riley, About Yellow, 2013-14
Bridget Riley, installation view of The Stripe Paintings at David Zwirner

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize (2013) - The Wilson

Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou , Untitled (Citizens of Porto-Novo), 2012
The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, 2013 is at The Wilson, Cheltenham until 20 July 2014.
The exhibition comprises 60 portraits selected from a competition entry of over 5000 submissions which were first shown at the National Portrait Gallery at the end of last year.
The winner of the £12,000 first prize was Spencer Murphy for his photograph of jump jockey Katie Walsh.

Spencer Murphy, Katie Walsh, 2013
Judge Rebecca Valentine commented: I think the quality of the photography  – the colours, the colour balance and the palette that he’s used – really stood out from everything else in the over 5,000 images we looked at. Her expression is almost one of defeat, she seems exhausted and looks so female, and clearly emotional, in what is a very masculine sport. All sorts of reasons: primarily the photography; secondarily the portraiture and thirdly the celebrity, make it a winner. (From NPG blog) 
 Second prize was awarded to Giles Price for Kumbh Mela Pilgrim Mamta Dubey and infant. His portrait is from a series shot at the 2013 Kumbh Mela Festival in Allahabad India. Taken outside the main hospital in a pop up studio, the portrait shows Mamta who was on a pilgrimage to the Kumbh.  

Giles Price, Kumbh Mela Pilgrim: Mamta Dubey and infant, 2013
Judge Suki Dhanda commented: What struck me about this portrait was that it is not a typical portrait of an Indian woman, photographed in India. Because of the plain, contrasting backdrop it could have been taken anywhere – it doesn’t have the busy background of a street scene or crowds typical of photographs made there. But the light is so beautiful it has to be in India and the combination of fabrics, the way she is isolated and the expression on her face as she looks at the camera, really caught my attention. (From NPG blog)
Third prize went to Anoush Abrar for Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Anoush Abrar, Kofi Annan, 2013
Judge Rebecca Valentine commented: The reason this particularly resonated was the power of the use of black and white and his expression. Ordinarily when people are photographed with their eyes closed, they look very serene and rested whereas he doesn’t. He looks troubled – he seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. I thought it was the perfect portrait of Kofi Annan. (From NPG blog)
Fourth Prize went to Dorothee Deiss for The twins. Her portrait, from her project VisibleInvisible, is of twin sisters she visited in their house. ‘I took a lot of more conventional portraits of them’, she says, ‘but when I found the bathrobe in a corner, perfectly fitting to the bedspread, that was when I knew I had the picture’.

Dorothee Deiss, The Twins, 2013
Judge Suki Dhanda commented: What’s interesting about this portrait is the composition and the layering of different colours in what is, on first glance, a very quiet picture. The restricted palette of tones that have been used for the bed sheets and the dressing gowns all seem to reflect the colour of the twins’ hair – these combined elements all made this portrait stand out. The way the two women are entwined means that they seem to merge. It’s complicated, but it doesn’t feel contrived. (From NPG blog)
Other shortlisted photographs include the pictures below and at top of post. To see selected portraits from previous competitions, see posts for 2012, 2011 and 2010.

Richard Alexander Pilnick , Cat & Phil - Painting of Love, 2013

Erik Almas, Holy Mother, 2012

William Lakin, Martyn, Sean and Jacob