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Shoreditch Gallery Roundup

PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:52 pm
by art reviews
People ask why are these reviews so aggressive and negative. I guess it's just I walk into a gallery and the art is really depressing. I know the artists are trying, I know the galleries put a lot of effort in (sometimes). But if we don't say how we feel about art then what's the point. I want to see good art. Perhaps I am too stupid to get art, too reactionary and philistine, so please do explain to me in simple language what I am missing, if I am missing anything.

At white cube Friedrich Kunath's installation painting show works well. There are many funny objects and the smell of incense and music effectively create a 70s retro feel of lost dreams. Some of the bits like the bananaman walking off a plinth and the train through a modern sculpture are actually amusing. The paintings go no further than a kippenberger/polke fusion but at least there is visual stimulation to be had. Not a massive step forward but well executed.

Ibid Projects also has paintings riffing off the minimalist beautiful constructions site space. Amir Moghrabi is of the scruffy bit of wall looks like a painting and vice versa school. It's all gray and brown with a flash of gold, and there is a tiny bit of pleasure at looking at this stuff but as Leonardo said you might as well stare at a crack in the wall.

At Jonathan Viner Elias Hansen has assembled some pseudo lab equipment with kitsch objects sculpture, these kind of juxtapositions no longer excite my visual or mental cortices.

Seventeen Gallery presents some nice tables with scribbly marks on them by Kate Owens, yeh, ok, get it, whatever.

Limoncello has Young British Art curated by Ryan Gander. He's selected art which is black and white, in hue, that's it. And there is a white carpet. So all the art actually almost looks like it was done by one person, which is a clever trick to play on the artists. The art itself does not hold much attention.

So that's the miserable negative bastard round-up. Paintings just seem like rehearsals of styles, emptied out, or mishmashes of images of art and photos, no matter what context or structure they are given. What's good you say? What do you want to see?

Well this: but contemporary and new.

Re: Shoreditch Gallery Roundup

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:38 am
by CAP
I'm afraid that's the way it's always been AR, the way it'll always be. There just ain't a lot of quality around, never will be. That's sort of what makes it quality, really.

It is depressing trawling through the dross after a while. Your senses do get deadened, blunted by wave after wave of mediocrity. I've found the best thing to do is to just plunge into other things for a bit. Preoccupy yourself with other interests. I use politics actually, or the monastic discipline of academic research (reading reading reading...).

I used to use music, but that's so revolutionised by the internet, I wouldn't know where to begin now. But films, TV are just as good. Sometimes that leads back to 'video art' and stuff, but on the whole I can lose myself in Spanish or French cinema for a few weeks and just rehabilitate my senses.

The London scene is pretty big though, sometimes it pays to just skip Shoreditch or Hackney for a bit, stick with the west end or go south. In the old days you could recharge your batteries by going to museums, when museums stayed the same for years on end, but these days when I go it takes me all my time to find my favourites again, (like Richard Dadd or Chardin) and sometimes (most times!) they're on bloody loan somewhere and I'm supposed to be comforted by some touring load of tosh from some remote civilisation, like Scotland or Iceland or whatever.

That's also depressing.


Re: Shoreditch Gallery Roundup

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:29 pm
by art reviews
thanks for the advice CAP, you're right quality is in short supply partly by definition but where is it in contemporary painting?

Re: Shoreditch Gallery Roundup

PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:23 am
by CAP
Well ‘contemporary painting’ is a huge category. Let’s sort it a bit. Firstly, there’re different kinds; like abstract, semi-abstract, figurative from expressionist to photo-realist and so on, all painting, and all rough but valid categories. Then there’s global versus local painters, stuff that’s just shown in London by locals and stuff that’s circulated on franchises here through the US, Europe and elsewhere. Let’s face it there’s an endless torrent of stuff to consider – even just for ‘contemporary painting’.

Then there’s the question of excellence or quality and while it’s rare to unreservedly identify it in contemporary work, equally, it’s rare to find it completely absent in most stuff. It’s all a question of sorting, trying to decide priorities. In general, people are only really confident of excellence in older stuff, that’s ‘stood the test of time’. Even if you don’t really like, say, Francis Bacon or Willem de Kooning, Mondrian or Picasso, people still can accept that they were good at what they did - which was painting, firstly, obviously, but more particularly some area or genre within that. I don’t really go along with the arguments for an absolute definition of painting – like full abstraction gets you to the real nub of the matter or Cubism was really all about time and space or whatever. Yes they’re all dealing with aspects of picture-making, and yes there are lofty and metaphysical issues to be addressed in different ways. But there are other options. There are dreams; myths, social habits and customs, there are traditions – even for the iconoclast. It really depends what you’re interested in. So as far as ‘quality’ is concerned, I’m saying it’s how you join the dots, fit it in with your take on history and some projection to future fields.

But to go back to the older stuff point – ‘the test of time’ is really where we can see how work fits into history, the present, where it will go, the impact it’s had, the arc it traces. Then we feel comfortable with it; we have this whole satisfying network at our fingertips. But that mostly takes a lifetime to build, if not longer. It’s easy to look back and identify quality, because a lot of the quality comes in retrospect. With contemporary work, we’re in the business of putting it there. We do our part, the artist does theirs. But there’s no guarantee we’re right or that one party won’t let down the other, that subsequent developments, here or elsewhere, won’t revise our whole perspective. So the whole thing is always a bit fraught, a bit of a gamble. Which is what makes it exciting in some ways, frustrating in others. A lot of effort goes into institutional support, establishment acceptance. But they too make mistakes; grant expensive surveys and publications to artists never to be heard of again. Not everyone stays ‘made’. And as institutions multiply and compete (for funding, reputation) so does their support. The general public at best accept pluralism, suspect politics and vote with their feet. I think artists have always known it’s whom you know as much as what you know. This idea of Vasari’s that everyone’s on the same page and always has been – sounds like a sales pitch to me.

Anyway to get back to here and now – there’s stuff I like on the local scene, but on a provisional basis. It looks like it might be going somewhere, rather than just stopping at a familiar and popular destination - which can often look like a good thing or quality, if you’re rather dull or in an insecure mood. Again, there’s a certain amount of personality involved. So I like, for instance (and in no particular order) Christian Ward’s fantasy landscapes, for the way they cite computer games graphics and neo-orientalism (Manga, martial arts, n myth). I don’t play, of course – too tedious – but I do buy the magazines… I like Neil Tate’s compact figures and summary revision – although I do sort of wish he’d get over the drawing more and get on with the painting, still, you can’t have everything, at least not just yet… I like Claire Woods, surfing the old graphics/painterly interface with her crisp silhouette plant motifs set against rich painterly gesture although I wish she’d get a bit more expansive or inventive with those gestures. I like Thomas Hylander (although I’m not sure he’s British) for his grey, bleak tableaux, that remind me a bit of late Braque, archaeology and abandoned meals. Mmm tasty…. I like Francesca Lowe for her flaky heraldic diagrams (I wish Nick Byrne could be more like that) but I also wish she could loosen up a bit – and be a bit more like Ryan Mosley, and Ryan a bit more like Cornelius Quaback, come to that, and who I like of course but I wish he could tighten up a bit. And yes he’s not British either. I like Tony Swain, although I worry about the newsprint thing. I like Toby Ziegler, although maddeningly he never seems quite certain or committed to an idea, and you can’t help feeling maybe he just needs a clip around the ear. But there is something there, unquestionably. Is it enough? We’ll just have to wait and see. I was about to add Val Favre – French lady based in Berlin I think - but I’m not sure she actually shows here. But I like her and wish Cec Brown could take a few tips.

This is just to grab a handful off the top of my head, but gives you some idea of what I’m interested in - which is not to say they’re the only things that are ‘good’ but just in what ways they are part of what is good. And they by no means exhaust my likes, even of just London painting. I’m not going to list the many things I think are overrated or bad because I have enough enemies as it is. ;)

what people like in contemporary painting...

PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:17 am
by jasperjoffe
HI CAP and AR. It's nice to hear what people like in alive painting. I'll have a go myself too. I look forward to shows by Chris Ofili, Peter Doig, Stuart Cumberland, Tal R, Nigel Cooke, Jonathan Meese, Chantal Joffe, James Jessop & Harry Pye (both good friends), Ceciley Brown, Alex Katz, Malcolm Morley.

I don't always love their work but I think there's something there.

Re: Shoreditch Gallery Roundup

PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:18 pm
by Corr
Thank you CAP I enjoyed that very much

Re: Shoreditch Gallery Roundup

PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:46 pm
by CAP
Chantal a relation, JJ?

Re: Shoreditch Gallery Roundup

PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 10:10 am
by jasperjoffe
sister! I didn't feel i had to declare this as part of full disclosure as the last name gives it away