The latest London art reviews
Anxiety is at epidemic levels. The painful agoraphobic stress of contemporary life is everywhere, and we’re all looking for a mindful way to escape it. American video artist Shana Moulton uses a character called Cynthia as an avatar for all of that modern angst.
The worst people on earth are the ones who take the tube from Covent Garden to Leicester Square. They have no idea what they’re missing. London is a walking city. These damp, polluted streets are built for trudging down; you’re meant to slap your feet on the pavement and make the city your own. Young English artist Rhys Coren knows that.
After decades of fuzz, fug, fog and gloom, there’s some clarity peeking out of Peter Doig’s work. The Trinidad-based Scottish painter has built a massively influential career out of clouding his works in a haze of dreamlike mist. He paints visions of childhood, nature and obsession that are barely there, like half-forgotten memories.
Imagine viewing the world through a blob of transparent jelly and you’ll come close-ish to recreating what 1960s America looks like in the art of James Rosenquist. The artist isn’t an especially familiar name to British art fans, but he’s normally scooped up into the pop art bucket. His art ticks a lot of those boxes but he also has an aesthetic of his own.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings are stuck in the middle; caught between the past and the present, reality and fiction, freedom and constraint. The British artist captures black figures at rest and at play. A white-shirted couple reads, one in silence, the other speaking out loud. Three characters sit at tables, another lies in bed, a group moves in a line. Everything is quiet, dark, sombre, frozen in twilight.
For a man who casts such a huge, dark shadow over the history of British art, William Blake’s drawings, paintings and etchings are quietly unobtrusive little things. The poet, artist and printmaker (1757-1827) spent his life huddled over, creating mesmerising, tiny works to illustrate poems and histories.
Thabiso Sekgala’s story is only half-told. The South African photographer came to his medium late, aged 27, and left it early, taking his own life in 2014 at just 33. So what you see across these walls are only the beginnings of an artist. He captures scenes from the South African homelands – rural towns built to house the country’s black communities – alongside mining towns, the Middle East and Berlin.
Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and the place to head if you want to flood Instagram with panoramic shots of Victoria Harbour. Artist Cui Jie, however, doesn’t want you to look at the view from the peak, she wants you to look at the place you view from.
Walking into the gallery is like stumbling on a hoard of lost treasures. Old maps, browning and aged, line the walls, the heady scent of pungent spice fills your nostrils. This duo show of South African artists Vivienne Koorland and Berni Searle drags you into a world of closed borders, dark hinterlands and the ever-present shadow of colonial history.
If you’re British, Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) is a relatively unknown artist. If you’re Finnish, Helene Schjerfbeck is a very famous artist. This show of 60 paintings is the first chance London audiences have had to join the Schjerfbeck fan club.
Olafur Eliasson does epic like few others. The Danish-Icelandic artist was last at Tate Modern in 2003 with 'The Weather Project', a monumental installation that transformed the Turbine Hall into a pulsating, hazy sunset. This time, they’re showing 40 works, including many large-scale installations, made throughout his career.
Scraping, screaming, hovering, vibrating: the shards of metal in Takis’s show hum with invisible energy. Since the 1960s, the Greek artist has used magnets to create thrumming, shaking works of abstract sculpture.
You can’t call the RSPCA for crimes against toys, apparently, but one look at Jamian Juliano-Villani’s art and you’ll desperately want to. I mean, if hammering a dildo into a toy tiger’s mouth over and over again isn’t abuse, then what is?
Félix Vallotton wasn’t just one artist; he was at least three. The French-Swiss painter (1865-1925) was a historically indebted traditionalist, a satirical commercial printmaker and an experimental, fully paid-up member of the turn-of-the-century Parisian avant-garde. He was all of those things, often at once.
It’s easy to take photography for granted. In fact, it’s easy to get sick of photography. But as this show of Latin American photography from 1959 to 2016 makes clear, cameras have long served a more important function than capturing the light bouncing off an acai berry bowl. T
There’s an etching in this exhibition taken from Christopher RW Nevinson’s oil painting ‘Any London Street’. The joke explains itself: this scene of life in a Georgian terrace could come from anywhere in the metropolis, geddit? LOL. Only… it couldn’t. What makes London fascinating is how almost none of its streets or buildings look the same.
Walking into ‘Misbehaving Bodies’, the Wellcome Collection’s free exhibition of artworks by Jo Spence (1934-1992) and Oreet Ashery (b. 1966), you first notice two giant, bright pink teddy bears with extra-long arms. The terror-inducing teds sit on the floor under draping canopies of the same intestinal colour.
The female gaze is a funny thing. Three little words used to describe everything from lesbian erotic fiction to the abstract expressionism of Lee Krasner. What’s missing from all this talk about ‘the gaze’ is any sense of a physical human being doing the looking. Enter: Luchita Hurtado.
If you’ve ever seen Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, then you know you’ve never really seen it. What you’ve really seen is a jostling crush of irritable tourists with their cameras obscuring your view of an enigmatically grumpy Renaissance woman somewhere in the distance.
Tate Britain is filled with the corpses of British industry, the long dead, rotting remains of this country itself. Strewn across the massive central Duveen Galleries are chunks of enormous abandoned machinery: presses, clamps, welders, cutters. Some have been left untouched, others have been piled on top of each other.
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