Tag Archives: exhibition

Guillermo del Toro exhibition

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My main reason for going to LA (do you need a reason?) was to visit the Guillermo del Toro show AT HOME WITH MONSTERS at LACMA. I have always been a fan of his films since Cronos was first released and I went to the cinema to see it.  I love his artistic vision and strong sense of aesthetics. He is a film maker for whom the title “artist” is fully justified.

But i also went see exactly how a major museum creates an major exhibition that pulls together fine art, cinema and popular culture. And I have to say, it is a triumph. The show features all kinds of things, from fine art to historical artifacts, strange compelling things Del Toro has collected, prints by the master Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada, comic books, film clips, props and maquettes. Glorious introduction to the stimulating cornucopia of visual elements that make up a movie! Wow!

The show travels to Toronto and Minneapolis but NOT the UK, which is a pathetic oversight on the part of our museum culture… However I think that the show could/should/must stimulate curatorial interest in mounting sjhows of this nature, that integrate cinema inot the musuem space ina  truly meaningful way.

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What is drawing? What is good drawing?

I am not really good at drawing. I used to be considered to be good at it, at school and I did well at Art and as a kid I drew a lot. But I stopped.

However, it’s clear that Drawing is one of the first and most deeply embedded human acts. The first time the tiny hand takes some kind of stylus and makes a mark. It happens to everyone, everywhere, across history. We do that.

And we all draw. We call it doodling. At work, while listening to a lecture, on the phone. Even tablets and smartphones have drawing programmes (not very good ones: a Biro and an old receipt is more satisfying to draw with).

notebook doodles

notebook doodles


notebook doodles

If you Google “drawing” the images you get tend to be realistic. Using the pen or pencil to recreate the real, often a person. As well, I’m familiar with the great drawings of the past, just as you are. Raphael’s glorious heads (his drawings much better than his paintings); Da Vinci’s wondrous machines and astonishing anatomy; detailed and intricate botanical drawings, weirdly more fascinating than the actual plants; the sensual monsters of Aubrey Beardsley and the harrowing experiences depicted by Kathe Kollwitz.

But drawing as contemporary art is really a puzzle to me. Scanning and invitation sent to me by a London gallery, I saw a photograph of some weak, faint pencil on paper, totally undistinguishable, accompanied by the following passage (an excerpt):

This most recent series of drawings takes as its starting point, the axonometric grid. Through a process of division and sub-division, [the artist] dismantles the axonometric grid to reveal a series of equally diminishing equilateral triangles. These triangles are employed in a subversive manner by [the artist] to shift the grid away from its original intention – understanding three-dimensional space through a linear form of projection – and instead layers and overlaps the grid to reveal dimensional arrangements constructed from perceived tonal shifts brought about by the relative proximity of one shape to another.”

I am sorry, but I am not going to cross town for this. I am not interested in “dismantling the axonometric grid.” THAT is what I used to do every day in Math class confronted by the gridded notebook, I’d skip to the back pages and demolish the grid by drawing over it, forcing the lines into curves and often sticking a pair of confrontational eyes on top of the whole.

This is a kind of curator’s-wet-dream art, boring and intellectual*. Unengaging. Yes, of course I’d rather go play on my smart phone.

* And I am what would pass in most circles for an intellectual.

This what I think of as a good drawing:

drawing by Glenn Ibbitson

drawing by Glenn Ibbitson

and this:

bedtime drawing by Nazir Tanbouli

bedtime drawing by Nazir Tanbouli

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photography in London in 2012

Photography is somewhat unevenly catered for in London’s art scene. Ages can go by without a single decent show then suddenly there’s an explosion of activity. I decided to only write about what I really liked very much, and so here are my highlights of the year’s photography shows.


My highlights for 2012 included summer’s London Festival of Photography; in particular the wonderful International Street Photography show held in the odd yet atmospheric space at 29 – 31 Oxford Street – a bird’s eye view of Oxford street as well as a terrific show of diverse and captivating street photos from around the world. I was particularly taken by the work of Mexican Alejandro Cartagena, the festival’s street photography prizewinner – you can see more of him on http://alejandrocartagena.com


The London Festival of Photography also showcased the wonderful Minnie Weisz, a London based photographer who has been based in King’s Cross for some time now, photographing the area and its buildings, But her work is not the social realism you might expect: rather Weisz photographs textures, shadows,memories and fleeting moments through the use of artful and creative photographic techniques, including the camera obscura. Photographic places and places that are changing or about to change, she documents their transformation as a process that is almost liquid in its intangibility. One day it’s there, solid as a fortress, the next day it’s different: uprooted, smashed down, built up, covered, renovated. Weisz has a studio gallery right next to St Pancras station, and I have to admit that, on the strength of the show she put of for the festival, it eludes me why the likes of the Deutsches Bourse and similar honours have not yet come her way. At the very least, treat yourself to the website: http://minnieweisz.co.uk/


With autumn came two shows in my own neighbourhood of East London which I feel are worth writing about. The first is the show The Roxanne Series by Julia Riddiough at A Brooks Art in Hoxton. The Roxanne Series is a densely packed, rich series of photos that raises a volume’s wroth of questions and ponderings. The photos in question are said tbe found images that have been reworked. As an educated guess I’d imagine they are screen grabs but Riddiough has worked them so that they are printed as lush, velvety-textured ink-blue-and-midnight coloured large prints. The images are ghostly, as if photographed by one of those 19th century “spiritualist photographers” who sought to capture the world of the undead among the living. The subject matter is almost timeless in art history: a brothel scene. Half dressed ladies displaying themselves to the male client. Riddiough specifically refers to the painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme Phryne revealed before the Areopagus (1861), but Picasso’s Demoiselles is here, as is Titian’s Diana and Actaeon, Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, and so on. The prostitute or courtesan displaying herself to the male is a staple of Western art. The painters were normally addressing the picture from the point of view of the male fully implicated in the transaction, since frequenting brothels was until recently quite socially acceptable for artists. (it’s interesting that in the less worldly van Gogh’s attempt at a brothel painting, everyone is fully clothed). Riddiough’s Roxanne photographs are equally voyeuristic however, the viewer is emphatically not identified wit the male client, who is a shadowy figure on the edge of the picture. Instead, ours is the voyeurism of the screen, the image-hungry media culture that voraciously and greedily dense what it consumes then self righteously condemns. The exhibition made me think much about our appetite for images, about the artist’s role in aestheticizing the images, the fact that the images may have come from pictures of trafficked or otherwise exploited women, that the photographer may have just staged the whole thing. It made me think about voyeurism, about feminism, about the female appropriation of such images and what it means when a female artist creates and presents them. I haven’t found any answers but I’m still thinking about these pictures. I’m uncomfortable that I found them so compellingly beautiful. Well, any exhibition that keeps my attention almost two months since I saw it, has got to be one my shows of the year! http://abrooksart.com/portfolio/julia-riddiough/



The last show I want to mention I found totally by accident. I was walking though Ridley Road market in Dalston, going to buy fruit. Usually I walk through the centre of the market, but it was so busy I went along on the pavement at the side, past the arcane little food shops and rather smelly butchers. The last thing I was expecting to find was an art gallery, yet suddenly I spotted a sign announcing an exhibition. Intrigued, I went down the rather spooky staircase and found myself in the Doomed Gallery. I’m not sure what is the significance of the name, but the place has bags of atmosphere and I was immediately glad I had found it. The group show I saw, Art Of Imperfection, was absolutely stunning, featuring work by Pascal Ancel Bartholdi, Ryuji Araki and Bernhard Deckert. Deckert presented huge abstract prints made in the darkroom; relationships of light, chemical, paper. Araki went in the other direction with highly complex, immersive and fine photomontages inspired by and making a journey from, traditional mandala painting. The works combine the meditative quality of traditional “eastern” philosophy and the lush, glossy glamorous images associated with modern consumerism. Araki somehow brings them together and lets the glossy images melt into a purer, spiritual form. Bartholdi’s work probably resonated with me the most, but that is subjective. I loved his monochrome, highly textured images of places, bleak and deserted places that his use of light and shade made simultaneously enticing, compelling and forbidding. Bartholdi’s work is photography, but there is a painter in there somewhere; his vision is deep and rich, and aware of the art-historical weight that an image is capable of holding, yet is never weighed down by it. Wonderful. http://doomedgallery.wordpress.com/


So that was photography for me in 2012, so far. There are two months left, let’s see what they hold.

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Strength in decay

In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.
Ernst Fischer (Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art: A Marxist Approach)

“The things of mortals, mortal are as they: All pass us by, quickly to fade away, If not, we pass by them and they decay.”
Lucian, Syrian writer, circa 150AD

ALLOWING the work to decay was Nazir Tanbouli’s choice as he announced the end of the King’s Land project. Initially the idea was to keep making murals until the building was hoarded and demolished. However several things intervened to change this plan.

Firstly, the building work was put back and put back. This meant that the mural making could have gone on until October or even November. By which time any impact would have been lost, if the artist was even still interested.

Second, the weather this year has been unprecedentedly wet. As the project was based on the idea of paste up changing murals, there were just too many days of soaking rain when no work was done, or murals melting and dying before their time. 2012 is the wettest  year even in British history. No other year has been recorded this wet. Ever. And it’s Britain., That tells you how wet it its. It became a Sisyphus task of putting and reputting. That might have been interesting in itself but it was not the aim of the project.

Lastly and most importantly, Tanbouli wanted to make an impact and with The King’s Land he did. He also wanted to make something for the place, and as some of the murals are indeed painted, there is a good selection of murals that will stay until the building is torn down. He also wanted to make a point about decay: that this is an estate that has been left to decay for a long time by the powers that be – lives blighted, neighbourhood made ugly and embarrassing. The murals were not meant to hide that. Now the murals play their part in making a comment about urban environments and the politics of decay. Had it not rained so much, the murals might have lasted the summer. But let Nature do what it does, and let the artist do what he does.

Tanbouli finished the project by holding a big party and declaring the murals “open to view for as long as they last.”


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tales from the electric forest

“Monsters of London!” the invitation proclaimed, like a 19th century penny dreadful.

My review:




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