So many galleries, so little time…

8 Apr

Yesterday was definitely a mega gallery trawl.  Having spent a few days in bed suffering from the dreaded lurgy that I always seem to get at this time of year, I was suffering art withdrawal symptoms.  Heels at the ready (although having regard for my frailty I had a pair of flipflops in my Mary Poppins- like handbag just in case), I set off.

My first stop was Parasol unit on Wharf Road whose current exhibition, I Know Something About Love, includes works by Shirin Neshat, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Yinka Shonibare MBE and Yang Fudong.  Each artist explores the theme of love in various times and cultures reflecting on their personal experiences.  I went as I am a huge Yinka fan; for this exhibition he has re-configured his installation Jardin d’amour originally shown in Paris in 2007.  The works are housed within an evocatively romantic maze of ivy-covered trellis filled with secret walkways and mysterious turnings. 

Own photograph

You come across the three Yinka installations after losing yourself in the work. Please note, this was the only time that evening I got lost but that’s probably due to the fact that later I was with “the boys”!  I felt like a child again, on a treasure hunt and these works are indeed buried treasure.  Peepholes in the maze mean you see the installations of The Confession, The Pursuit and The Crowning before you find them. 

Image via www.parasol-unit.org

There is an exciting sensation as your pace quickens trying to reach the goal – hunting for the mystery of love.  Ironically, you encounter lots of dead ends in the process!  Beautifully complemented by the maze, Yinka playfully applies a political perspective by looking at love in eighteenth-century Rococo France.  The three scenes resemble Fragonard paintings with elegantly dressed, affectionately intertwined (headless) couples.   

Image via www.parasol-unit.org

One of the installations, surrounded by fritillarias, has a bench enabling the spectator to become part of the scene.  No-one is indifferent to love and Yinka’s garden will bring out the hopeless romantic in even the most cynical of us. 

Image via www.parasol-unit.org

The other artists’ works are in the upstairs gallery – three striking video installations that are all powerful in different ways.  To be truthful, I hurried through the upper galleries still lost in Yinka’s magical mystery tour so I didn’t afford these works very much time.

Image via www.parasol-unit.org

As I was next door it seemed opportune to pop into Victoria Miro where they are showing ‘new and recent’ paintings by Chantal Joffe.  As you enter the ground-floor gallery space you are confronted by seven large-scale paintings in a muted palette of black, red, blue and white. 

Own photograph

This limited palette is very effective, creating a sombre and dignified feeling.   The paintings depict portrayals of Joffe’s heroines, both imagined and real (painters and writers of the 19th and 20th centuries).  The young women, isolated against dark backgrounds, are trapped within the canvases; their bodies are in awkward or sexual poses, distorted or kneeling, conveying a sense of vulnerability.  The works are untitled to denote a lack of specificity but this reading is meaningless when looking at the works and the artist’s intention isn’t helpful.

Image via www.victoria-miro.com

The works left cold rather than feeling sympathetic or empathetic – they just had no impact.  However, I love this gallery and large works look good in this cavernous space.   In all Joffe’s paintings the figures gaze away from the viewer, maybe looking into the future or reflecting on the past.  Who knows?  And, sadly, who cares?  I felt the works were bland and, unfortunately, this didn’t change as I walked around the exhibition

Upstairs, smaller works are overpowered by the architecture.  Being familiar with Joffe’s earlier works, to me these new canvases seem hurried and I didn’t sense how these women felt or how Joffe herself  felt. 

 

Own photograph

Time to move on…

I met with ‘the boys’ and we headed to the Bernard Jacobson Gallery for the opening of an exhibition of new works by Harold Cohen.  Cohen, who represented the UK at the 1966 Venice Biennale, is undoubtedly a well-known artist – a pioneer in applying computing to the arts having created a unique technique.  These works are created with his celebrated program AARON which here forms the digital equivalent of underpainting the canvas.  Cohen then works over this underlayer with oils creating the finished works we know today.  I was fortunate to chat briefly to Cohen at the gallery; even during our short conversation, his passion and pride for the works is evident.  They are vivid and make good use of the upper gallery space.  For me, the works reflected the gorgeous weather outside.  As simplistic as this may sound, they were happy abstract canvases – the perfect antidote to the Joffe. 

Image via www.jacobsongallery.com

By now we were getting conscious of the time and, with my flipflops on, dashed up to the Lava Gallery for Page Tsou’s opening.  Although I’m a regular to Carnaby Street and the surrounding courtyards, I’d never noticed this gallery before which I think is a large part of its problem. 

Own photograph

This is a small space in a great location but there is nothing that exciting about the set-up to draw people in.  Tsou’s exhibition is only on for a week but it’s definitely worth a visit. 

He has flipped traditional portraiture – drawing the back of heads to form unidentifiable portraits. 

Image via www.rca.ac.uk

It’s a clever idea.  Tsou said he began this project as he realised it’s the back of the head that we look at every day, walking down the street, on the bus… and he didn’t know why people always focus on facial features when the hair and skull can be just as interesting.  These portraits are semi-figurative and mysterious.  Tsou’s technique is unquestionably good and the intricacy of his drawings is fascinating.  He has an unusual vision whilst upholding original techniques – certainly one to watch. 

Own photograph

And, he was giving away free combs – a nod to the hair-themed exhibition.  Love it!

 

Own photograph

As we legged it down to White Cube it was time for the heels to go back on.  I have a reputation to uphold after all and what fun would a PV be if I wasn’t tottering around.  Also the boys are all rather tall (they cheekily say I’m rather short) and I can see them better with my heels on.  Mason’s Yard was mobbed!  It was as if someone had sent an e-mail out earlier in the day offering sunshine and free beer after work and the whole of Mayfair had turned up. 

Own photograph

I doubt that many of the people there actually saw New Order as when we ventured inside it was blissfully quiet in comparison to the people-packed courtyard.  White Cube has to be the only gallery I know that operate crowd control with an in-out system in use for the PVs.  Classic and something only they could pull off. 

Apparently, the works in this exhibition share ‘a focus on the transformation of social or ideological structures that shape experience and, in different ways they explore existing communal, political and physical constructs of the everyday’.  A suitably broad and all-encompassing statement that enabled White Cube to shove in whatever they wanted.  There is no denying that the individual pieces in this show are great but, overall, I don’t feel there was any formal coherence to the show and the pieces don’t come together well. 

Image via www.whitecube.com

If I didn’t know better, I’d say these works had been pulled out of storage to fill a gap in the exhibition schedule.  The Balka work on show downstairs was generating a lot of attention but that was partly because, after a few beers and too much sun, people were enjoying the interactive element.  It is actually a very poignant work: a long tunnel with five coloured threads hanging and intermittently rotating, recalling wartime atrocities in Poland. 

Image via www.whitecube.com

By all means go to see the pieces and admire them in their own right but, for me, the theory does not make this a cohesive show. 

Time was getting tight and we were forced to sacrifice openings at Simon Lee and in Hoxton Square and hail a cab to the Britannia Street, Gagosian. 

This is another space that I adore and I particularly admire the versatility of the layout.  For this exhibition of works by Philip Taaffe, the gallery has returned to the format I like best, the one that was used for their wonderful Bacon/Hirst exhibition in 2006 and many more besides, with the main room as a huge rectangular space and a side room on the far left.   

Taaffe’s first solo show in London was one of the best of the evening.  The main room is filled with intoxicating triangular canvases – their kaleidoscopic shapes produce a trance-like mesmeric state.  The works are full of contradictions: the near violent use of clashing colours is still harmonious (or, perhaps, the fashion for colour blocking makes it seem so), the works are both filled with control and abandon, figuration and abstraction.  Considering this, they are very powerful pieces. 

Image via http://1.bp.blogspot.com

The second room is very different in style and, for me, not as exciting; here, Taaffe focuses on the interrelation of forms and images across art, nature, architecture and archaeology, recalling masks from Greek tragedy, ornamental friezes and late-antique stone carving. 

Image via www.gagosian.com

These are more muted than the stained-glass effect of works in the first room.  Although the works are aesthetically pleasing and this is a nice exhibition it is nothing outstanding.

An exhausting, but kind of wonderful, gallery overload and I couldn’t have planned a more diverse route if I’d tried.   I changed back into my flipflops outside the gallery and the security guard actually came out to tell me how clever he thought that was.  He laughed at me so much as I shrank a good four inches that I decided to call it a day.

Next stop … next week … Miró at Tate!

 www.parasol-unit.org

www.victoria-miro.com

www.jacobsongallery.com

www.pagetsou.com

www.lavacollective.com

www.whitecube.com

www.gagosian.com

Advertisements

2 Responses to “So many galleries, so little time…”

  1. Sarah Wilson January 8, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Chloe – This is fabulous! I especially agree with your Christmas tree lament and thanks for doing this – I will send to the French next year credited to you! Was writing about Yinka Shonibare’s Garden of Love…..Keep up the good work and Happy New Year! We should go together to NLCS in Korea….
    Sarah wilson

    • chloenelkin January 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

      Thank you so much for reading – I’m really glad you like the blog. Happy New Year to you too! We should have coffee at some point if you have a minute x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: