It’s been a little while since I gallery hopped and, as a result, I’m feeling a little behind on exhibitions so I thought it was time that I did the rounds.
I started my ‘tour’ with lunch at Raffety Clocks on Kensington Church Street – such a beautiful shop. Aside from admiring the antiques, this is the place to go for relaxing (well, I think it is anyway). It beats meditative spa treatments. Five minutes sitting in Raffety listening to the tick tock of tens of chiming beauties can relax anyone. I even stayed to hear them chime the hour at 2pm which was a delight.
Inside Raffety Clocks. Image via www.raffetyclocks.com.
The Dairy Art Centre has been open for a little while now. Hidden down a side street in Bloomsbury, the space is amazing and unexpected (the premises of a former dairy, it’s big with a wonderful industrial atmosphere). The first thing that stood out was the warm greeting from the gallery staff – so often galleries ignore visitors or glance up coldly from their work but The Dairy is actively welcoming people.
Finding The Dairy. Own photograph.
The space is the brainchild of Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm, a non-profit exhibition space that is said to be showing art, dance and music. It has a lot of potential for cross-disciplinary exploration with a quirky layout and small spaces opening at unexpected angles so this is an interesting statement and I will be curious to watch as their programme develops. But the opening exhibition but John Armleder wasn’t as inspiring as I’d hoped. The main gallery, the first room that I entered, is hung with a number of large paintings and twelve fairly large glitter balls. I half expected dancers to appear and for the gallery attendants to crank up some music for visitors to boogie to but, no, this is the installation.
Glitter balls in the gallery. Image via http://dairyartcentre.org.uk.
Throughout the space there are projections, fake and real flowers, taxidermy, strange installations and more paintings (relaxed relations of Abstract Expressionism). Armleder certainly makes the most of the space and uses the gallery as a whole in a fluid style of curation that seems uncluttered and coherent. His work extends further than we may originally think as the gallery is also full of his design – the first example being the multi-coloured bar stalls in the entrance space.
Armleder’s installations at The Dairy. Own photograph.
The exhibition wasn’t my thing but the space is worth talking about.
I walked out of Wakefield Street to find that Google Maps on my phone wanted re-loading. Of course, I did sort of know where I was but decided it wasn’t worth the risk of ambling in the wrong direction in the drizzle. Taxi time!
It’s always a slight disadvantage seeing the Deutsche Börse Prize after the winner has been announced as it spoils the fun of guessing who you think might win. As it happens, my money would have been on Broomberg and Chanarin anyway. The prize rewards living photographers for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format which has significantly contributed to photography in Europe in the previous year. This year the finalists were Mishka Henner’s images of sex workers sourced from Google Streetview cameras, Chris Killip’s black and white documentary photographs of Northern English communities in the 1970s and 1980s, Cristina De Middel’s faux documentary images inspired by an actual space programme in Zambia and Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s documentation of the War on Terror using images sourced from the internet and mobile phones which pays homage to Bertold Brecht’s 1955 War Primer in which he matched poems with newspaper clippings about World War II. Broomberg and Chanarin’s project requires far more attention that I was able to give it – it is bold and powerful, challenging the relationship between text and image, looking at the re-appropriation of past photography. The duo are always pushing boundaries in everything they do and their extreme works, and views, normally garner significant interest.
Broomberg and Chanarin’s winning piece in the foreground. Image via www.125magazine.com.
This year’s prize focuses on different aspects of documentary photography with a particularly strong focus on found imagery. As ever, the show makes us question what photography is and challenges the very essence of the art form.
Chris Killip’s Boo and his rabbit, 1983. Image via www.guardian.co.uk.
As I was heading to Dering Street and still in the mood for photography I popped into Ronchini Gallery who have mounted a mixed exhibition illustrating photographic diversity in terms of techniques, locations and motifs. With only one or two works by each artist we’re not really able to get a proper feel for the works or their investigation into the media. There were a couple of interesting pieces all the same.
Mixed photography at Ronchini Gallery. Image via www.ronchinigallery.com.
My real reason for coming in this direction was to see the exhibition of Leon Kossoff’s London Landscapes at Annely Juda. Curated by the director of visual art at the British Council, this exhibition focuses on Kossoff’s life in London from City bomb sites of the early 1950s to recent drawings of Arnold Circus. Drawings look at sites in the 1960s and then again recently post-renovation, reconstruction and revitalisation. Kossoff has grown with this city and, like it, he never seems to stop. Aged 86, he is still working. Through his works we see the vibrance and fast-paced nature of the constantly changing city; they express the rawness and true grit of his hometown. Kossoff isn’t trying to clean up London in his works. What he loves is the congestion, the dirt and the real life. And I agree with him; it is the vigour of London that makes it special and, if you’re feeling slightly disillusioned having just walked down Oxford Street, Kossoff can make you fall in love with the city again. These ninety drawings show his life and work over the past 60 years.
Leon Kossoff, Dalston Lane No. 1, 1974. Image via www.onestoparts.com.
The thick impastoed surfaces of the paintings stand out one, possibly two, inches from the canvases, the paint blurring our vision while imbuing the works with the same sense of energy and dynamism. In spite of this, his paintings are far less effective than his works on paper.
The upstairs gallery, of course, is flooded with light from the fabulous skylight that makes Annely Juda such a wonderful space. The floor below is a bit too yellow for my liking and could do with being softened slightly to allow the works to speak more for themselves. The works are quite dark and the contrast with the natural light is just what they need.
The light filled upper galleries. Own photograph.
Next up couldn’t have been much more different with Thomson & Craighead’s exhibition at Carroll/Fletcher, exploring the dissemination of information through the World Wide Web. One wall is papered with Tweets gathered from within a one-mile radius of the gallery that have been printed as posters with a political feel. The wall is personally edited by the artists and changes every day – it would be interesting to monitor the progression and the changes if you’re in the area. It documents the idle thoughts and passing observations that saturate the Twittersphere almost like a form of collective poetry looking at the mundanity of the everyday. Another work in the same room turns text from spam emails into song lyrics on a karaoke-style machine, accompanied by the kind of anodyne music favoured by supermarkets and shopping centres. Are we really expected to pick up the microphone and engage with the work? How far do these pieces go?
Upstairs at Carroll/Fletcher. Own photograph.
Spam email, the web and social media generate new data all the time at an extraordinary pace. Thomson & Craighead create new meaning from what, by many, is considered as junk in the online sphere. Read about this exhibition before you go or while you’re there. It’s truly fascinating but if you haven’t done your homework then the sophisticated essence of the works will completely pass you by.
Thomson & Craighead, Beacon, 2007. Own photograph.
Finally, as it’s practically next door I headed into Pilar Corrias to finish with some more photography – their exhibition of Julião Sarmento’s 75 Photographs, 25 Women, 42 Years. Drawing on themes of memory, sexuality, transgression, morality and duality, Sarmento’s portraits of women explore the relationship of each of them with the artist. The work’s titles reveal the woman’s name and connect her to a time and place in Sarmento’s life. The shots are candid – showing intimate exchanges but also impulsive playful moments.
Pilar Corrias. Image via www.galleriesnow.net.
And, with that, it was time to stop tottering from gallery to gallery and return to the hustle and bustle of Kossoff’s London.
John Armleder: Quicksand is at The Dairy Art Centre until 17th August 2013, http://dairyartcentre.org.uk/. Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013 is at The Photographers’ Gallery until 30th June 2013, http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/. Summer Photography Show is at Ronchini Gallery until 19th June 2013, www.ronchinigallery.com. Leon Kossoff: London Landscapes is at Annely Juda Fine Art until 6th July 2013, www.annelyjudafineart.co.uk. Thomson & Craighead: Never Odd or Even is at Carroll/Fletcher until 6th July 2013, www.carrollfletcher.com/. Julião Sarmento: 75 Photographs, 35 Women, 42 Years is at Pilar Corrias until 27th June 2013, www.pilarcorrias.com.