Friday, 21 December 2012

Review of Sanja Iveković: Unknown Heroine at Calvert 22 and the South London Gallery

Sanja Iveković: Unknown Heroine
Calvert 22 and the South London Gallery
14 December 2012 – 24 February 2013

For her first major exhibition in London, and her first solo show in the UK, Croatian artist Sanja Iveković (born 1949) has taken over two galleries – Camberwell’s South London Gallery and Shoreditch’s Calvert 22. Spanning a variety of mixed media – from collage and photography to film and performance – Iveković’s prolific socially and politically rooted oeuvre simply wouldn’t have been done justice in just the one space.

At Calvert 22, the emphasis is placed on works concerned with the transition from socialism to capitalism after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and the ensuing dissolution of Yugoslavia. Social systems, public space, and the agency of the individual are also investigated. At the South London Gallery, the focus is more on the question of female invisibility in the public arena, constructions of femininity, and performativity of identity and gender. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Review of Judy Chicago: Deflowered at Riflemaker Gallery and Judy Chicago at Ben Uri, The London Jewish Museum of Art

Judy Chicago: Deflowered
Riflemaker Gallery
12 November – 31 December 2012
Judy Chicago
Ben Uri, The London Jewish Museum of Art
13 November 2012 – 10 March 2013

 “Feminist art is all the stages of a woman giving birth to herself. […] It is art that reaches out and affirms women and validates our experience and makes us feel good about ourselves.” (Judy Chicago, What is Feminist Art?, 1977)

Judy Chicago (born 1939) is a pioneer of feminist art, who came to prominence in the late 1960s, and is probably best known for her controversial installation, The Dinner Party (1979). Made to celebrate great women throughout history, this was a ground-breaking work, both as an icon of the feminist art movement, and, more broadly, of twentieth century American art history. Chicago herself describes the piece as: “a monumental work of art, triangular in configuration, that employs numerous media, including ceramics, china-painting, and an array of needle and fibre techniques.” Each of its 39 place settings – plates decorated with variations on butterfly- and floral-styled vulva – commemorates a goddess, historical figure, or important woman, and the whole thing stands upon an immense porcelain floor – the Heritage Floor – comprising 2304 hand-cast tiles on which the names of 999 other important women are inscribed.

These two parallel exhibitions, hosted by Riflemaker and Ben Uri, The London Jewish Museum of Art (Chicago was born Judy Cohen, into a left-wing, politically-active Jewish family in Chicago in 1939, and legally changed her name in 1970 to escape the perceived male patriarchy), are the first showing of Chicago’s work in London since her installation of The Dinner Party toured to an empty warehouse in Islington in 1985, and she is pleased to have the opportunity to introduce her UK audience to aspects of her work beyond this iconic piece, since, unsurprisingly, in a career spanning five decades, there is much more to Chicago’s oeuvre than widely known. Touching upon her most commonly recurring themes, which embrace autobiography, art as diary, erotica, feminism, the nude, self-portraiture, performance, issues of masculine power, birth and motherhood – and the cat – Riflemaker is primarily showing early paintings, sketches and sculpture (albeit alongside a rarely seen test plate and runner drawing for The Dinner Party), and Ben Uri is focusing on the more private and intimate side of her work, with over 170 pieces on display, contextualised alongside three women artists from this side of the Atlantic: Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), Helen Chadwick (1953-1996) and Tracey Emin (born 1963).

Review of Clarisse d’Arcimoles: Forget Nostalgia – A Little Theatre of Self at BREESE LITTLE

Clarisse d’Arcimoles: Forget Nostalgia – A Little Theatre of Self
20 November – 19 December 2012

For her second solo exhibition with BREESE LITTLE, French artist Clarisse d’Arcimoles has turned the Great Sutton Street space into a local photographer’s studio in Britain a century ago. Venturing in from the cold winter air, the warm red walls and wooden panelling, the worn Persian carpet, and the various suitcases of bought, found, donated, and home-made props and costumes warm the visitor to his core, and the model boat standing against the cloudy backdrop at the far end of the gallery beckons to him to step not only further inside, but simultaneously back in time.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Elizabeth Price - 2012 Turner Prize Winner

Elizabeth Price - 2012 Turner Prize Winner

Had I been asked to place a bet upon who I thought would win the Turner Prize 2012, my money would not have been on the film artist Elizabeth Price (born 1966), for her 20-minute-long hand-clapping, finger-clicking, sing-a-long lesson in architectural history and a 70’s news tragedy, The Woolworths Choir of 1979 (2012), erring instead towards the intricate and classically skilled pencil drawings of Nobson Newtown, produced over a 16-year period by Paul Noble (born 1963). Had I, however, been asked whom I would want to win, I would have backed Price all the way. And so it was that I found myself letting out an involuntary cheer, midway through an evening committee meeting, on 3 December, when the results were announced, and Price took to the stage at Tate Britain to accept the award from actor-presenter Jude Law.

Review of the 2012 Film London Jarman Award

2012 Film London Jarman Award
Whitechapel Gallery

Following on from an exciting and jam-packed day of film screenings, live performances, and talks on Saturday 3 November, it was revealed at a special ceremony hosted at the Whitechapel Gallery on Monday 5 November 2012 that the winner of this year’s Film London Jarman Award is James Richards.

Launched in 2008, when it was won by Luke Fowler, one of this year’s Turner Prize nominees, the Award is an annual prize celebrating the spirit of experimentation and imagination in film. Any mid-career artist film-maker, whose work embraces the legacy of Derek Jarman’s own highly experimental approach, can be nominated, and, alongside Richards, this year’s longest ever shortlist of ten nominees, drawn from suggestions made by a network of industry professionals, included Brad Butler & Karen Mirza, Marcus Coates, Shezad Dawood, Benedict Drew, Nathaniel Mellors, Ben Rivers, Aura Satz, Matt Stokes and Thomson & Craighead. As the winner, Richards will receive not just £10,000, but also a broadcast commission to produce a series of film artworks for Channel 4. This year also brings with it the added honour of marking the 70th anniversary of the birth of Derek Jarman himself. For the first time too, a further three artist film-makers from the shortlist – Brad Butler & Karen Mirza, Nathaniel Mellors and Shezad Dawood – will also be commissioned to produce short art films for Channel 4.

Although each of the artist film-makers nominated has his or her own unique style, certain features seem to permeate their works. Many investigate a fusion of sight and sound: bright colours, lights, distorted shapes, swirling, spinning and moving against a soundtrack of jarring, discordant, metallic noises. Benedict Drew’s Gliss (Phrase III) Encounter With The Un-Rare, for example, pulsates to thuds and thumps, unpleasant clanging sounds and screeches, a drum, space-age noises, and a baby wailing, as clay-like shapes gyrate across the screen, an invitation to the wildest imagination to interpret what they might be. For my part, there’s a skull, and some sort of internal bodily examination going on, but what the next person will see I can’t even begin to guess.

Language is also a significant ingredient, with text flashing up on screen, varying fonts and colours, some words exclaiming alone, others going on to build up sentences. Many of the works, Richards’ included, involve voiceovers. Breaking this down, Brad Butler & Karen Mirza’s short piece, Hold Your Ground, inspired by the events of the Arab Spring, dissects the ‘semantics’ of the protesting crowd, isolating individual sounds as pre-speech elements. The result is alienating and implies a sense of struggle to communicate.

In conversation with writer and curator Gil Leung, Richards spoke of his film-making process as a dissolving of the self, and an attempt to cut back and refine his material whilst preserving an overall sense of unknowability. Appropriated and contingent fragments from very different sources jar in some way, never quite making sense, offering both resonance and dissonance. Indeed, this was the feeling I was left with after the day of events, and one which certainly echoes the tone of much of Jarman’s own work. The films in this Award offer a fitting tribute, and through the opportunities offered as a result of this exposure, many more artist film-makers will go on to leave their own mark.


Image of the Jarman Award letters spelt out on the beach

James Richards
Not Blacking Out Just Turning Off 
courtesy the artist

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Review of Brush It In at Flowers Kingsland Road

Brush It In
Group Show curated by Lorenzo Durantini
Flowers, 82 Kingsland Road
26 October – 22 December 2012 (extended run)

The title is both the key to and the stumbling block of this group exhibition, curated by Lorenzo Durantini, currently on show at Flowers, Kingsland Road. “Brush it in” is a colloquial expression for a wide variety of post-production alterations which can be carried out on digital photographs, but it is perhaps somewhat misleading given that most of the works in this show have not actually been manipulated post-production at all. Rather, they explore and exploit the realms of what would or could be done using Photoshop or other similar techniques, instigating, in the words of Durantini, “the beginnings of a post-Photoshop engagement with photography, [whereby] photographic manipulation as a physical wet process becomes digital and immaterial only to be re-materialised as physical and sculptural interventions.”

To read the rest of this review, please go to:

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Profile about Music and Liberation

She Rocks!

Although describing herself primarily as a researcher, Deborah Withers is also an artist, curator, musician, publisher and writer who sees herself as existing between different worlds: “I enjoy doing things which are hands on and practical, like publishing and making exhibitions. Communicating research to wider audiences is very important to me.” With a PhD about the work of Kate Bush, music has always been an important part of her life, and Withers has played instruments and written songs since she was a teenager. She now plays in a band called bellies!, together with her girlfriend, Natalie. 

To read the rest of this article, please buy the December 2012 issue of Diva magazine

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Anna Dickinson: Art, not Craft

Anna Dickinson: Art, not Craft
Von Bartha Quarterly Report, 4/12

Before I went to meet Anna Dickinson in her spacious Dulwich studio the other week, I have to confess to having little knowledge of the intricate processes involved in glass artistry. I also had a fairly fixed image of what the works must look like: perhaps something a little chintzy, or kitsch, or exaggeratedly flamboyant like Dale Chihuly’s Rotunda chandelier at the V&A. But this is not Dickinson’s style at all. Firmly rooted in the ethos of art, not craft, her largely monotone vessels may be devoid of function, but certainly not of feeling. She described her methods and inspirations to me with a contagious enthusiasm, explaining at the outset: “I just love making things, and I’ve always really liked vessels, right from the beginning. I think it’s because they are very approachable. There’s nothing scary about a vessel. Everyone understands a vessel, and yet they’re quite intriguing as well.”

Image © the artist

To read the rest of this feature, please go to pp.10-11 of Von Bartha Quarterly Review 4/12

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Review of Hannah Brown: The Unseen Landscape at Payne Shurvell

Hannah Brown: The Unseen Landscape
Payne Shurvell
5 October – 17 November 2012

“I have never understood why more women did not paint landscape,” bemoaned Germaine Greer in The Guardian a couple of years ago.[1] Indeed, despite the number of Victorian women who ventured out to make sketches in pencil and watercolour, very few turned these into finished works. Hannah Brown (born 1977) is a contemporary exception. Her current exhibition, her second solo show since graduating with an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art in 2006, contains a carefully hung selection of ten small-scale landscapes, oil on plywood and oak, waxed rather than varnished, and each one “typically English”. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Artist Profile: Aura Satz

Artist Profile: Aura Satz

Artist Aura Satz works across various media, including film, sound, performance and sculpture, with a particular interest in sound visualisation. During 2009-2010 she was artist-in-residence at the Ear Institute, UCL, where she was able to collaborate, amongst others, with neuroscientists and scientists studying acoustics and hearing. This autumn, she performed at Tate Modern’s new live performance space, the Tanks.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review of Susie Hamilton & Inguna Gremzde: Vacant Lots at WW Gallery

Susie Hamilton & Inguna Gremzde: Vacant Lots
WW Gallery
10 October – 10 November 2012

Modern society is defined by consumerism and mass consumption of the commodity. The most visited destination is the supermarket, where the overwhelming array of choices between myriad near identical alternatives leads to what the American psychologist Barry Schwartz describes as the “paradox of choice”, and the incessant drone of background music, broken up by advertising bulletins for the latest deal, is the ubiquitous soundtrack to contemporary living. WW Gallery’s current exhibition, Vacant Lots, both celebrates and exposes this dystopian landscape, assaulting the viewer with the bright colours of Susie Hamilton’s shapeless and featureless shoppers, as they traverse the neon supermarket aisles, and with Inguna Gremzde’s repetitive and detailed “life through a lens” studies of shoppers and their trolleys, painstakingly painted on to plastic bottle tops and yoghurt pot lids.

Opening with Hamilton’s Shopper, a six minute long looped video made up of four small screens – one following shoppers as they trawl round outdoor market stalls; the others inside, with consumers inspecting and selecting goods, marching almost mechanically up and down the aisles, and standing listlessly at the check out – we immediately recognise our surroundings and, despite the anonymity of the store at hand, know exactly where we are. The gallery is eerily silent, however, countering our expectation of piped music, and thus keeping us cleverly at one remove, as we proceed, nevertheless, to potter along, looking at both artists’ repeated characters, pushing their trolleys through the banal environment.

Gremzde’s shoppers are clear victims of Schwartz’s malady, scratching their heads and chins, distractedly studying the endless rows of products, hands thrust deep in pockets, as they struggle to make their selections. The shelves on either side of the aisles recede to a distant vanishing point, swallowing the shoppers up in their vortex.

Confronting us both small- and large-scale, with characters pared down to basic shapes and bright colours, but easily recognisable, like logos from an advertising campaign, Hamilton’s canvases, displayed en masse in grid formations, capture the anonymity and “everyman” nature of the modern shopper. Their titles only serve to reinforce this dehumanising aspect, with examples such as: Red Shopper, Asda/9, Lidl/3, Yellow Freezer, and Mauve Aisle. In the latter, a grey-coloured woman is bent almost double over her trolley, demonic black eyes staring out from her otherwise featureless face, whilst in the oversized Shopper, a gloomy canvas in varying shades of brown, a depressed, stooping, and overladen woman steps out from the garish in-store lighting, back into the grim reality of a cold, hard outdoor world. The weight of her bags is tangible, and the monotony of her humdrum routine hangs equally as heavy. She may have escaped the store for now, but her return is imminent: an inescapable part of her weekly routine. What is saddest of all is that this short escape from the grey reality into the hyperreal aisles, full of what is both the shopper’s dream and her nightmare, might still be the highlight thereof.


Installation shots from Vacant Lots
Courtesy the artists and WW Gallery

Review of Victoria Kovalenko: Pulse of a Sequence at Frameless Gallery

Victoria Kovalenko: Pulse of a Sequence
Frameless Gallery
22 October – 3 November 2012

Time never stands still, and one of the joys of photography is its ability to capture and preserve fleeting moments of transience. Yet Siberian born photographer, Victoria Kovalenko, seeks to move beyond this fragmentation, and to portray the flow of momentum, or, as she terms it in the title of her current exhibition at Frameless Gallery in Clerkenwell, the Pulse of a Sequence. Influenced by Eadweard Muybridge, her beautifully shot and painstakingly collated images document transition, overlaying instants, just as we experience them in real time, and telling a narrative. After all, “that’s how our brain works,” she explains. “It always wants to see the pattern, the story, it can’t help it.”[1]

Her works are large scale, since they seek to celebrate beauty. Water is a recurring theme, for example in Wave and Between Borders, where it is seen from above, swirling in perpetual motion, like the waves of time, continually in flux, and in her various pieces depicting surfers as they ride and crash through the breakers. Kovalenko works initially with a digital camera and then puts in a lot of postproduction hours, working, re-working, and examining every inch in minute detail so that the joins between the images are seamless. Looking at the resulting works, it is not a surprise to hear Kovalenko describe herself as a perfectionist.

Dance is another common motif, with Trisha Brown Studies paying tribute to the choreographer of its title, a pioneer in contemporary dance, as it captures a dancer recreating the seven moves which made up one of her early performances, comprising repetitions of just these moves. Downstairs, A Day Yet Without Me represents movement through colour, with eight repeated images of a girl poised in an arabesque, each subtly different in hue.

Calendar looks at the passing of time at a slower rate, with 31 circular shots of a girl’s exposed torso, top rolled up, hands in jeans pockets, each with light falling from a slightly different angle, corresponding to the phases of the moon. Next to it, Song Without Words also comprises 31 discs, each of which freeze frames a moment in time from a film of a pianist at play. The effect is like the display of the pages of a flickbook, or a zoetrope unfolded and spread out on the wall.

Other mediums depict ideas, but photography explores reality,” says Kovalenko. And yet her works are both real and unreal at the same time: moments of reality, telling a true story, even presented in the correct sequence, but, somehow, because we see them all at once, simultaneously, in a way in which real time would never permit, intriguingly impossible.


Victoria Kovalenko 
Beyond Borders 
© Victoria Kovalenko  
Victoria Kovalenko 
© Victoria Kovalenko

Victoria Kovalenko 
© Victoria Kovalenko

[1] See video interview with Clare Clinton at [accessed 28/10/12]

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Review of Mitra Tabrizian: Another Country at Wapping Project Bankside

Mitra Tabrizian: Another Country
Wapping Project Bankside
21 September – 2 November 2012

Born in Tehran, the photographer and film-maker Mitra Tabrizian has lived in London since 1977. As such, she is one of the nearly 3 million individuals making up the Iranian diaspora worldwide. It is perhaps not surprising then to find that her work deals primarily with the themes of displacement and exile, and that her most recent series, Another Country (2010), currently on show at Wapping Project Bankside, focuses on the politics of everyday life for Muslim communities in the UK. 

To read the rest of this review, please go to:

Review of Who is Ana Mendieta? at Space Station Sixty-Five

Who is Ana Mendieta?
Space Station Sixty-Five
22 September – 4 November 2012

“To die, great god, to die!?! Without leaving anything after me? To die like a dog, like a hundred thousand women whose names are hardly engraved upon their tombstones!” (Marie Bashkirtseff, artist and diarist, 1858-1884)

Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) was a “brown-skinned, female, immigrant artist,” sent from Cuba to the USA at the age of 12, by her politically prominent parents, as part of the United States-assisted Operation Peter Pan, to escape Fidel Castro’s regime. The trauma of this forced exile, and the ensuing years of mistreatment in a group home for disturbed children, three foster homes, and boarding school, informed much of her later artistic output.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Review of Luc Tuymans: Allo! at David Zwirner

Luc Tuymans: Allo!
David Zwirner
5 October – 17 November 2012

What better way to inaugurate American gallerist David Zwirner’s new London space (his first European location, and happily placed in a Georgian townhouse in the heart of Mayfair) than by loudly hailing “Allo!”? Belgian painter Luc Tuymans (born 1958) is the one who has been appointed to carry out this task, with an exhibition of his haunting scenes, inspired by the 1942 film, The Moon and Sixpence, itself an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s 1919 novel, loosely based on the life and Tahitian travels of Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). Albeit with none of the tropical colour of Gauguin’s own works, these dark and deliberately unfocused scenes nevertheless greet the visitor with flair.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Review of Paul Housley: England Sleeps at Poppy Sebire

Paul Housley: England Sleeps
Poppy Sebire
14 September – 20 October 2012

In an art world brimming with prolix paintings overstuffed with historical hyperawareness, the appropriation here constructs a refreshing picture of self-doubt within knowledge.” Such was ArtReview columnist Nigel Cooke’s comment on Paul Housley’s Self Portrait as Picasso’s Last Self Portrait (2011).[1] Clearly Housley must have a large dose of self-doubt then, as his current exhibition, his second solo show in two years with Poppy Sebire, is largely made up of further such appropriated portraits – depictions of himself as an artist, both through the act of making a painting, and in his alter-ego guise as Picasso, fully kitted out with beret, paintbrush, and “the Spaniard’s regulation school-of-Paris stripy shirt.”[2] Yet is it not a contradiction to contrast such work with a “historical hyperawareness”? Is this not precisely just such a case in point?

Housley’s works are virtually all cases of appropriation – be it of subject, image, or object – since he works primarily with found artifacts. His studio contains an ever-growing collection of strange and intriguing paraphernalia, bric-a-brac, and discarded works. Whereas previous exhibitions have largely comprised paintings of these objects themselves, this one is filled with appropriated images painted on to found canvases and frames, often spilling over the edge so as to unite the two components in their reincarnation. The works deal with the nature of what it is to be an artist, and, in their play on this, as well as in their homage to Picasso, several have spawned multiple eyes, including the small and dark Artist Wearing a Blue Beret (2012), and, most extravagantly, Totally Wired and Cranked Up Really High (2012).  At slightly larger than A1 size, this is by far the biggest work by an artist who prefers to produce pictures on a smaller-scale, thereby forcing his viewer to come closer and thus confront his own self-image head on with the image in the portrait staring back.

If one were to risk further artistic comparison, it is possible also to recognise an element of George Condo, but without the grotesque or cartoon features, and, of course, the famous pose of Matisse’s Nu bleu II (1952) is unmistakable in Green Thinker (2012). The paint is scratchy, messy, and seemingly carelessly applied, with a lurid pink skin tone, like something a child might pick out of a box of crayons. Nevertheless, there is an appealing quality to these simplistic images, which certainly are not as naïve as their surface appearance would suggest, carrying a deeper meaning and discourse, expressing both self-doubt and self-confidence, for it is surely not just anyone who would be audacious enough to take on the style of masters such as these.

[1] Nigel Cooke, “Now Hear This”, ArtReview, September 2011
[2] Ibid


All images © the artist and courtesy of Poppy Sebire

You Ain't No Punk You Punk
Oil on canvas
35 x 25.5 cm

Artist Wearing A Blue Beret
Oil on canvas
26 x 20 cm

Woman Showing Joy
Oil on canvas
60 x 45.5 cm