In the gallery entrance sits a vending machine selling Cofftea/Kafftee, a coffee-tea hybrid by Albert Oehlen that apparently 'won’t let you sleep ever again'. That might sound like a bold claim, until you look at the paintings, drawings and collages filling the exhibition space. All painted in the last 30 years, the artworks are a manic, sprawling cacophony of shape, colour, line and vaguely-emerging images. They look precisely like the result of mainlining cold brew after starting the day on three macchiatos. And the intermittent crashing soundtrack, created by three-piece group Steamboat Switzerland, sounds like it too. At the centre of the gallery is a set of huge canvases echoing a series in the Rothko Chapel, Texas. These, and everything else on display, riff on an oil painting by John Graham, a semi-forgotten American Modernist painter. The original, titled 'Tramonto Spaventoso’ (Terrifying Sunset), features a self-portrait of the mustachioed painter, a hyper-busty mermaid, a large letter H and a ragtag collection of cosmic symbols. Oehlen repeatedly recreates this hodgepodge assortment, a bit like how love-sick teenagers doodle the same series of hearts, initials and faces over their notebooks. The dopey handlebar ‘tash, the pneumatic-boobed mermaid, that contextless letter that keeps reminding me of ‘Jesus H. Christ’, it all just keeps appearing. Has Oehlen done this because he hearts Graham’s sludge-hued work as much as he loves an Americano? No. In the exhibiti
It’s a weird one, because on the surface, Elizabeth Peyton’s work is so traditional it’s almost boring, so simple it’s almost bad. Any one of the paintings in this show would fit neatly into the rest of the NPG’s collection (and some have even been placed upstairs among it). The American artist paints portraits of her friends, her heroes and her life. But the traditionalism, the formality, the whole idea of fitting into the history of portraiture is kind of her point. You’ll find images here of Liam Gallagher and Kurt Cobain, of Napoleon and Delacroix, of stills from films and scenes from history, of herself and her friends. Some are dark and brooding, others are breezy and light, with soft daubs of lilac and green. Some are formal, some are rough, some ugly, some neat, some bad, some better. But these portraits, taken together, are like a portrait of portraiture: a love letter to the genre. She’s not trying to show how great her skill is, but how amazing portraiture can be. In the process, this show becomes a paean to her genre, and to her passions. So it works as a whole. It’s strong, it has a concept that stands ups. But you just can’t get away from the fact that a lot of these paintings are seriously dodgy. Peyton’s odes to historical art are incredibly weak, the darker paintings are teenage and amateurish, and I really don’t ever want to see her paintings of Kurt Cobain or the singer from The Strokes ever again. Also, contemporary artists need to stop putting their w
London’s streets are haunted by vile ghosts. Everywhere you walk, there are statues of Britons who conquered the world and pillaged its nations looming over you. And in front of Buckingham Palace stands the Victoria Memorial, an ornate, lavish celebration of Queen Vic and her imperial achievements. Now a version of it haunts the Turbine Hall. But American artist Kara Walker’s bubbling fountain isn’t a celebration of the British Empire, it’s a vicious, angry, fearsome attack on it. Walker has previous. Her career has seen her tackle the legacy of the slave trade for decades, using film, puppetry and installation. But this is her first stab at Britain, and the knife’s going deep. The enormous fountain is covered in crudely carved figures. Sharks leap out of the water, a man lies in a sinking boat, a prone body is pulled from the waves. On the tier above the water sits a ship’s captain, and a noose hangs from a tree. At the very top stands a black Venus spurting water from her breasts, with a mouth like a magical black goddess. It’s full of references to art history – Goya, Hirst, Turner – and nods to Britain. The whole thing is an allegory for the Atlantic as a site of black tragedy, of forcible removal, of death and pain. Though it’s a little rough, a little rushed, it still hits you pretty hard. Walker is using the fountain to highlight the links between Africa, Europe and America, to show how connected we are through a shared past of pain and exploitation. In its heady
Noses at the ready! This immersive exhibition tells the story of Barking’s industrial past through the power of smell. Sewage, fish and the scent of a fizzy pop factory will all be on display for you to take a whiff at, so you can discover what the streets of the east London suburb smelt like 200 years ago. It's certainly not to be sniffed at. The smelly exhibition can be found at Valence House Museum, Dagenham. A further exhibition (which doesn’t include the smell feature) can be found outside the National Theatre until Oct 5.
At one point in their show, United Visual Artists make your stomach turn. The walls of the room collapse around you, or split wide open, or spin sickeningly. But it’s not real. It’s a trick of perspective that reaches through your eyes and tickles your brain. The laser installation, inspired by the perspective tricks of the Renaissance, is a good example of what this collective (led by Matt Clark) does. Using light and sound, UVA create works that force you to consider and confront the spaces you inhabit. First up is a rejig of UVA’s Barbican Curve show, a ballet of swinging mechanical lights set to a glittering, glitching electronic soundtrack by the brilliant Mira Calix. As the lights dance, the space goes from static to fluid, staccato to legato. The light shapes the feeling of the space. Then comes the laser room with its brain-tickling beams of white and blue. But the best comes last. Using the vast sound database of ecologist Bernie Krause, UVA visualise the sounds of nature. Yukon gulls squawk at 2000khz, each screech registering as a blip of light scrolling past you, while elephants rumble at 100khz in an African nature reserve. All sounds create stuttering patters, like an electrocardiogram of nature: it’s the symphonic heartbreak of the planet, and it’s immersive, affecting, and beautiful. The reason this all works so well as an exhibition is because it deals with the human body in three ways. One work explores how your body interacts with the space around it,
Ever wondered how a science lab manages to breed, feed and store a million fruit flies for experiments? Well, prepared to be amazed. The Crick Institute is offering up a behind-the-scenes look at the methods and people driving the latest scientific advances. And it's not just flies either, with the lid lifted on laser guides, cell growers and tech fixers too.
If you thought Harvest Festival meant arranging nearly expired canned goods in a basket and singing hymns about cauliflowers, get ready for your mind to be blown. Skylight – the rooftop playground at Tobacco Dock – is putting on another autumnal-themed shindig. For HarvestFest, they’ll be bringing out the blankets, turning on the heaters and creating lots of warm rooftop nooks and crannies to hang out on as the nights get chillier. Across three floors there’ll be seasonal games including horseshoes and apple-draughts, live entertainment, warming street food and a cocktail menu filled with harvest ingredients including apples, blackberries, pears and autumnal spices. If you want to go all out, there’ll also be beer and cider buckets you can share with friends – think a fall version of the fishbowl.
Street parties get a bit of a bad wrap, what with all the bunting and awkward chat with neighbours you never usually speak to. The above wasn’t an issue at The Oval's night market this summer, and the party will be returning again to warm up your autumn evenings. Expect street food traders, live DJs and plenty of hot cocktails for when there’s a chill in the air.
The cabaret night spotlighting queer performers of colour decamps to Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre. Expect burlesque, drag and sideshows set to neo-soul, RnB and Motown. Oh, and lots of voguing.
You crafty so and so. Want to get your mitts on heaps of gorgeous gifts? Well, the Crafty Fox Market is a great place to start. Whether you're after original homeware or artwork, cards and handmade toys, you're sure to find something special even for those that are notoriously hard to buy for.
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