Symbiotic Sensibility

The weather seems to be a bit snowy and sleety and, with ice underfoot, it’s not really time to go tramping the streets looking for galleries that have remained opened during the Christmas break.  Consequently, I thought I’d make today’s blog a bit different and take a chronological click through the five thousand or so photos that I’ve taken during the past year on my cheap little mobile phone and post up one from each month.

I’m not sure if this first shot, taken inside the Blain Southern gallery and looking out into the real world, actually counts as art but the contrast between the apparently structured arrangement of the empty invigilator’s chair and the random parade of utterly unaware outsiders seemed to symbolise something of the symbiotic sensibility that differentiates the…oh, well, perhaps one shouldn’t take these things too seriously and try to over-analyse the situation.  I think I just took this snap as some form of exasperated protest at the overall uninterestingness of the exhibition that I was meant to be looking at.

This peculiar painting by Anthony Green comes from a small show he had at the Royal Academy that I didn’t get a chance to review.  It’s very typical of his particular style of what might perhaps be called suburban Surrealism and captures the quirky everyday strangeness that exists just behind the façade of normality that we all try to project.  It also show what a wonderful painterly technique Green has and that while narrative, figurative art may be very much out of fashion at present, it still has the potential to be every bit as interesting as all the clever, cool Conceptual stuff.

This poster was not part of the UKIP campaign to extricate ourselves from the clutches of EU bureaucracy and Continental perfidy but a comment on the institutional sexism that pervades the gallery system on both sides of the Atlantic.  This and other propagandistic expressions of outrage at the discriminatory behaviour of artworld practices formed part of a show at the Whitechapel Gallery dedicated to that famously anonymous group of female subversives, the Guerrilla Girls.

And here we have some tea bags drying out on a radiator.  Doubtless a scene repeated in chilly artist studios throughout the capital as legions of misunderstood creative types suffer the indignities of a penurious lifestyle waiting for that day when their talents are finally acknowledged and they are thrust into the spotlight of critical and commercial recognition.  In fact, this particular construction is a finished work by Laure Prouvost shown at the Serpentine Gallery as part of the homage to an earlier Conceptualist, John Latham, the man who famously ate a whole book of critical writings by Clement Greenberg.

This limited edition plate by Tschabalala Self was on sale in the foyer shop at the Parasol Gallery and got a plug from me when I wrote a blog having a moan about the quality and unaffordability of much of the art at the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead.  I thought Self’s exhibition of large collages that referenced themes to do with Black identity politics in the US seemed both serious in content and attractive in composition.  So, subsequently, I followed my own advice and tried to buy one of the plates.  After having made a couple of visits to the Gallery then phoned and texted, I got an email of apology from the Gallery and was told that they would be getting back in touch with me shortly.  Six months later I’m still waiting.

And this is just a great luscious slab of painting by Wayne Thiebaud from his show at White Cube.

Simon HeijdensShade creates a performance of ambient light. It filters sunlight from the Sainsbury Gallery’s oculus skylight into a kaleidoscope of light and shadows, varying across the day.  Shade’s animated pattern is choreographed by the wind passing outside.  It’s ever-changing character brings a natural, continuously evolving atmosphere to the interior of the gallery – no one experience of shade is the same.’ I hasten to add that these words are not mine but the curators who decided to open the new Sainsbury Gallery addition to the Victoria & Albert Museum with what I inadvertently took to be a completely empty (waste of) space.

The small scale Frieze Sculpture trail reappeared in Regent’s Park but this particular objet that I trouved amongst the other more formal works must have been a late addition as it didn’t feature in the official guide.

Over at the South London Gallery, The Place is Here exhibition took a look back at some of the dynamic artworks being created by Black British artists back in the 1980s.  Alongside the paintings, videos and sculptures was a whole bunch of archival material including this small selection of posters and other ephemera borrowed from this blogger’s personal collection of Brixton Art Gallery material.

The Jerwood Space held what I think is going to be the last of its annual Drawing Prize exhibitions.  I suppose the word drawing conjures up images of Leonardo’s chalk sketches, Rembrandt’s etchings, Degas’ pastel images of Parisian daily life, Egon Schiele’s fiercely erotic scratchings, Hockney’s precise pencil lines or even Tracey Emin’s comically dreadful scribbles.  In other words, the range is very broad indeed. Which makes me wonder why on earth the curators here decided to stretch it to breaking point and include a plinth topped off with this old discarded shoe.

I’m a bit of a fan of John Bellany and his colourful expressionistic paintings but displaying them dotted throughout the five floors of the Fortnum & Mason emporium meant they were, perhaps, not shown to their best advantage

And finally, to end on a seasonal commercial note here is a pair of socks from the Royal Academy gift shop.


The opening picture shows a photograph from the Thomas Ruff exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery which I thought was one of the best shows of the year.

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