Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Painting Rules at The Whitechapel

I saw the new Whitechapel shows Raoul De Keyser and Edge of the Real a couple of weeks ago and was quite dismissive about Raoul. I just thought that his paintings were boring abstracts. This weekend I went back and saw the show again and... I have to admit that I really liked it. It is quiet and reflective and the canvases are refreshingly distressed. The colours are quite beautiful, layered to create chalky backgrounds with semi abstract motifs, quite a few of which are flowers and leaves. I read in the gallery leaflet that he is rated highly by Luc Tuymans and I can really see the connection, that quiet, intense Belgian thing. In the bookshop there is a beautiful book with Tuymans and De Keyser juxtaposed which I would love to own but I couldn't quite justify the high cost. The other show Edge of the Real occupies less than half of the upstairs gallery and is a survey of new British painting. The first time I went I preferred this, the second time I wasn't so sure. The new circular Gary Hume is really horrible and David Rayson's contribution is not the best thing I have seen of his. The highlights are Artlab's intriguing Eight Part Cluster Type, Vicken Parson's quiet, little paintings of corridors and corners (which I think I have seen before at Tate St. Ives) and Michael Raedecker's beautiful stitched painting of a little house with a coloured lighting grid above it (I wonder if this is on its way to The Saatchi Gallery)
I think that overall it is one of The Whitechapel's best shows for a while and of course there is a great cafe and the fab new Artwords bookshop to check out (where you can buy the latest Arty - The books Issue). So well worth a visit

Come On, Play It Again Number 4 - Raoul de Keyser - 2001

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Like Beads On An Abacus Designed To Calculate Infinity

Now there are some of you who are probably quite justifiably yawning and thinking what a load of pretentious artistic rubbish is going to follow a title like that. Well I can’t really blame you. Although in its defence this line seems perfectly alright in the context of the book it was taken from, the fantastic The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald (which by some strange coincidence I have just finished reading)

In this instance though Like Beads On An Abacus Designed To Calculate Infinity is the title of a show at the achingly trendy Rockwell, 230 Dalston Road, London, E8 until 16 May. The show is curated by Andrew Hunt and contains work by 43 artists some of whom are fairly well known and quite a few who aren't. The theme of the show is unsuprisingly work about or inspired by The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald. The book describes a journey by the author through East Anglia. It is a slow situationist drift of a journey and along the way he is sidetracked by almost everything he sees. It is engaging, moving and illuminating.

The show is also a rambling kind of drift, each artist has contributed a small piece of work that in some way or another they or the curator has decided fits the brief. One piece is by the nineteenth century, Norwich School, water colourist John Sell Cotman. So it is an eclectic affair. Some things I quite liked (a list of which follow along with descriptions from the excellent gallery notes) but no artist seemed able in the allotted space to expand on anything, so it was a stilted affair. Overall it left me with an empty feeling, which added nothing to the book, in fact most pieces were hard to relate to the theme at all. It was not engaging, moving or illuminating.

This kind of show sounds good in a proposal to the Arts Council, but it is lazy and pompous. Please just give me a little more conceptual emotion, a little whimsy, a little romance. I want to be moved.

Work I Liked
1: Elizabeth Wright – Dalston Lane, Amhurst Road, Pembury Road, Pembury Place – Removed
An architectural model of the junction in Hackney near the gallery where four roads meet. A response to The Rings of Saturn where Sebald talks of a spot into which memory collapses
2:Eleanor Cherry – Projections 1, 2, 3
Beautifully crafted sculpture from everyday plastic materials*
3:John Russell – Purple (Guitarist)
A collage showing Peter Frampton with a giant bird’s head

*these were little pretty flowers made from plastic lolly spoons

E9 Art Alert

Two new ‘galleries’ have opened up in close proximity to me this weekend.

Front is at 174 Victoria Park Road, E9 in an old shop and is showing work by Emma Bennett, Marion Coutts and Anna Lucas. The space is small but atmospheric and although I can’t quite work out the connections between the three artists' work apart from them being women, I quite liked the show and especially Emma Bennett’s quiet paintings. They are called Don’t Look Now and “extend her preoccupation with the language of Cinema and Dutch Still Life”. Paul Murphy (currently showing APU150 at Transition) thought that they looked like the Joy of Sex, which is a fair comment although I didn’t see any beards.

Cassland, is at 5 Cassland Road, E9 and is a house which has temporarily become a gallery space. The show called View From the Sitting Room spreads throughout the house and includes a sound piece in the sauna, a fountain in the living room and a piece called All the Little Dickybirds Come Home to Roost at the top of the stairs! Impressive you may think, however this Deutsch Bank sponsored show didn’t supply any press releases or artist lists to take away, so I can’t name specific pieces or remember any of the names of the artists.*
The show was ok in the way that lots of shows are, although nothing particularly stood out

Anyway its great to see all this art being shown in E9

*I have just been contacted by the show organiser who has told me that there were plenty of press releases upstairs. So this was my mistake, she also told me the full name of the Dicky Birds piece which is how I've been able to include it (I love dicky birds)

Yeh, Arsenal are the new Premiership Champions

So they could have done it a little more stylishly but what the hell they still won the league at White Hart Lane. Lets hope that Thierry Henry also wins player of the year tonight.

You're Stuck, Stuck, Stuck

I’ve really been trying to just let it lie but I can’t any longer, I have to speak out about those pesky Stuckists and their contemptible leader Charles Thomson.

The latest gossip on their site consists of an attack on the East London gallery MOT. Why? Because MOT’s new show Russian Doll has a nice name but dares to include conceptual work. They actually say thet having Martin Creed in a show means that you should hate it and then go on to describe the press release as vomit

It is sad to see that this so-called art movement is based entirely on putting down other artists and types of art. Do they not realise that reactionary is not a smart thing to be? It is almost as if they hate conceptual art because they are not clever enough to understand it. Also why the vendetta against Charles Saatchi, he is one of the few serious collectors of art in Britain.

Grow up Stuckists and maybe, dare I say, concentrate on your own art rather than slagging off other peoples. Is it any surprise that people leave Stuckism in droves and don’t wish to be associated with it? Stuckism is all about being bitter and nothing about fresh exciting new work. On their site they have included a quote from the Feb 2004 issue of Arty, but they've missed out the important bit, let me fill in the missing words "work here is a wonder to behold if you can side step the Stuckist manifesto lecture/conversion attempt"

Painting with an emotional bias (which is basically what the Stuckists are about) is not something that I disagree with but the Stuckists are putting me off it. Charles Thomson should be ashamed of himself, far from promoting painting in the modern world and encouraging young painters he is alienating and if my case is anything to go by making people think twice about painting at all

As long as this terrible attitude continues Stuckists have no place on the contemporary art scene and they will be given the little attention that they deserve.

P.S What happened to Stella Vine’s Honeymoon? Was this desperate attempt at exploitation a step too far for even the Stuckists?