Skynymalynky Does Art

contemporary art in london – views and reviews

Skynny says Goodbye

And so and so and so…. 51 posts later (52 including this one) and many many exhibitions, fairs, private views later, my manifesto pledge is complete.

What have I learnt?

– there is some wonderful contemporary art out there, but an infinitely larger quantity of emperor’s new clothes. The good stuff biffs you in the nose, you just have to persist. You really do need to see large quantities of art to feel confident in your own mind about what is and is not good

– there is some really good writing and gallery blurberie out there, but again an awful lot of unalloyed tosh that seems to be written in a bizarre kind of 1960s european pseudo intellectual style which makes the newcomer to contemporary art feel even more at sea and intimidated than they might otherwise feel

– oddly enough, some gallery people actually do like talking to random punters who have come in off the street. It isn’t like those scenes from Pretty Woman.  A fistful of dollars/roubles helps, but actually just plain  enthusiasm and interest usually does the trick.

As for me, I’m off to see the Jeremy Deller show in Walthamstow…ciao ciao



Zebedee rools, boing boing: Invites. Rachel Maclean @ Zabludowicz

So, imagine visuals of the magic roundabout, Zebedee, Ermintrude, the whole thing, now mix it up with some 18th century style, some baroque,  and some 1960s hippy trippy california. Now add some “found” audio, let’s start with those Bob Hope haunted house films where all the inheriting relatives are locked in a haunted house over night with eyes shifting behind the oil paintings, a little rappy Busby Berkeley and sprinkle with the Wizard of Oz and there you have it.

What? Maclean’s video, that’s what.

Shown in a white box off the main space. Pity because if you are looking, as I am, for galleries which  aren’t white/polished concrete/boxes, the main spaces are corkers. This is a deconsecrated palladian style church with a huge nave and even bigger (or so it seems) balcony space above, room for multiple hallelujah choruses.

The invites series is for young artists who don’t have gallery representation yet.


Bisch Bosch: Come and See. Chapman Bros @ the Serpentine Sackler Gallery

A double boschian sundae:

First the garden of earthly delights. The Zaha Hadid designed restaurant which looks like a giant fungal growth (in a good way) attached to the side of Decimus Burton’s classically facaded magazine store. There is something about the internal stalactites, outpouchings, which is reminiscent of the structures/pavilions at the top of the central panel of Bosch’s triptych of the Garden of Earthly Delights.

Second in the magazine store itself, the Chapman Brothers’ version of Bosch’s hell and last judgment paintings, their hellscape vitrines and other works. A more than decent retrospective of their version of evil. The whole space being full of lifesized Klu Klux Klan figures, rendered infinitely more sinister by the rainbow socks and birkenstock sandals which they are wearing. The uncomfortable feel of a “be sure to wear some flowers in your hair” hippy storm trooper cult.

A definite go see, for both the architecture and the retrospective. And apparently for the butter; cf the restaurant review in the Daily Telegraph.

It is good to see a bit of superstar architecture on a small scale. NB there’s a fab little Daniel Liebeskind on Holloway Road – the London Metropolitan University’s Graduate Centre.


Scotch bonnet: Red hot. Thomas Knight @ the Gallery Redchurch Street

An exhibition of male redheads, all against a light blue, sky blue background. Torso and shoulder shots. Aimed at addressing the weird british prejudice against redheads, particularly male redheads.

Men of beauty and presence.

A chilli hot, if vogueish, show. Something interesting to see in a season when we are all about to eat too much, then make silly body related resolutions a few weeks later, which we won’t keep.

And so, a useful time and exhibition to ponder body image, physical image, colour image and the way we clothe ourselves.

Damian Lewis, the benefits supervisor paintings of lucian freud etc, etc.


Let there be light: Tate Britain re born

Far be it from me in these austere times to urge anyone to spend money on something not strictly necessary. But Tate membership now gets you access to the entirely superior members’ room come gallery come bar at the folies-bergere come rotunda at Tate Britain. Light pours in through the rotunda dome. A superior caff which  runs to waitress service (eat your heart out Tate Modern), lutyens chairs, a remarkable quantity of bentwood hatstands and columned nooks for lunch a deux. It is like a post modernist version of Brideshead meets gentleman’s club.

Not really an after thought, but there is a decentish exhibition called Painting Now. Some good, some pedestrian, some why bother and two bafflingly satisfying oil on baking paper studies of the back view of a Jacobsen egg chair(?)  – Big Foot I and II by  Catherine Story.


She sells sea shells on the sea shore: Connemara. Dorothy Cross @ Turner Contemporary

So, down in Margate an Ah Ha moment.

I struggle,  Ahab like,  with installation/conceptual/video art. Even when I can argue myself into  “getting it”, I’m still generally left  with a sour after taste of the emperor’s new clothes.  No doubt the failing is mine. So I struggle on.

Until recently the sole exception to these unsatisfactory mental wrestling bouts has been Lindsey Seers; who  I regard as a bit of a magician. But now I’m about to add  one more artist to my personal shortlist of installation/conceptual /video artists who are a bit of alright. Quite a bit really.

Curiously given that my favourite Lindsay Seers piece was last year’s tin tabernacle installation, the new piece which has made me  go Ah Ha is Tabernacle by Dorothy Cross.

It consists of an upturned currach standing on stilts with 3 pull down black out blinds and a porthole in the wall coming down to earth from the blunt end of the currach. There are 3 stools, one behind the other, facing a black and white video of  waves coming into a cave slit into the rocks.

Call it a seaside garden shed, a temple to the sea. Phooey who cares. It is wildly satisfying and if I had a garden with a view,  I’d commission one immediately.

If I need an excuse for reviewing something outside London, I would claim that wherever the Tate goes, it takes with it a little bit of London. Turner Contemporary is an outpost of the Tate.


NB Margate is a bit of alright too. Nothing really compares to the british seaside in winter, walking along an esplanade, buffeted by the salty sea winds, with a full English for ballast.

Back to the future? :Through darkest America. Mark Bradford @ White Cube, Bermondsey. Opening the Shutters. Group show @ Malletts

This week I have been pondering how art is displayed for the purpose of sale. So commercial galleries not museum galleries. Two extremes.

First the cathedral meets laboratory, the clinical white, polished concrete floors of the White Cube. The current standard contemporary art gallery format from here to istanbul to new york and round the world.  The White Cube in bermondsey is the acme of this particular style because of its vastness and strict adherence to the ascetic.

This very clinical way of viewing art works because it deletes all distractions. There is nothing to get between you and the art. It is art up close and personal. You and it.

But is it how many of us, any of us, live?  Is it even how the sort of people with enough money to buy Bradford’s vast canvases live? Maybe I just don’t know enough oligarchs and hedge funders. Or maybe this art is not actually intended for anyone’s house, but made purely for the corporate space or museum gallery.

Second, the group show of contemporary photography (Tabrizian, Martins, Marlowe, Roversi, Brotherus, Zanon-Larcher , Hassink) at Mallets which is a high end antique dealers  in a stunning georgian house in Mayfair.

The photographs are displayed in rooms furnished with the antiques also for sale. It is more of a salon hang. There’s plenty getting between you and the art. Plenty in theory to distract. It doesn’t. I may not live in such style but it is how most of us look at the art we buy. Intermingled, hugger mugger, with our furniture, our belongings, our lives. Life and art mashed up.

You can see this sort of approach at the Hoffman Sammlung in Berlin; although admittedly this is not a commercial gallery.

I’m not suggesting that a return to the salon hanging style is the way forwards or that art for sale should always be displayed with furniture. I just wonder whether the day of the antiseptic box gallery is over? I went to the Belleville Sassoon couture show across the road from the White Cube and left feeling that both were of their time, that the Belleville Sassoon era has passed and maybe that of the antisepic box gallery is passing too.


The eye that never sleeps: Madge Gill – Medium and Visionary @ Orleans House

Outsider art is, just in case you hadn’t noticed, most definitely “in”.

Whether this is because, as Will Gompertz says, it is a reaction against the increasing  commodification of art, or whether it is simply where the fickle butterfly of fashion has temporarily landed, who can say.

Outsider art was the theme of this year’s Venice Biennale and within the last twelve months, there have been major exhibitions in Philadelphia and London and a BBC documentary (“Turning the art world inside out” – still available on i player). And going from the sublime to the ridiculous, I realise I have written about outsider art 4 times in the year since this blog began.

Now, there is a Madge Gill retrospective at Orleans House down in Richmond. So whether you are just a dedicated follower of fashion or a real Madge fan, get yourself down to Richmond. This is a fine exhibition with one of the massive calico pieces, The Crucifiction of the Soul, on display, smaller Madge pieces for sale (most of the really good stuff is already sold) and proper catalogue.

There are also some context pieces, photos of mediums and spirits from the 1870s and a number of drawings and small paintings by other visionary artists. Particularly taking is one of the spirit photographs – a man sits by a table,  his top hat is on the table, issuing forth from the hat is, depending on your beliefs, some ectoplasm or a bit of smoke.

There is only one thing more I would like to have seen, one of the Madge embroidered dresses. There are a couple of photos but alas no actual dresses.

For a potted biog of Madge, see my earlier post of 1 November 2012 “Myrninerest rises”.










Alexander’s Bridge: The enigmatic world of Joseph Boshier @ the Standpoint Gallery

Not quite the fictional Bartley Alexander, but the very human Joseph Boshier.

Some quotes from the gallery blurb:

“On September 29th 1948 the first two floors of Chesney Court buckled and the ten storey concrete structure collapsed leaving three dead and forty seven injured. Ten years earlier the building had been proclaimed as a breakthrough in design and construction, so its collapse shook the architectural world and the public.

Although the subsequent enquiry could find no obvious reason for the disaster the press singled out the architect, Joseph Boshier for blame. Joseph Boshier was a successful  London architect with several impressive projects behind him – now his career was in ruins. After a nervous breakdown and estrangement from his wife and child, Joseph became a virtual recluse. He disappeared from the architectural scene and was forgotten. On his death in 1982 his north London home revealed a staggering trove of intricate wooden sculptures and a mass of drawings and writings.”

The pieces on display are collages/mosaics of found wood, adorned with dominoes, clock workings, draughts pieces, globes, mirrors. They are in the form of towers/totem poles and, for me, more successfully,  large wall panels. They have the endless fascination of a scrap yard or a junk shop. So many lives discarded and reassembled.

Standpoint is an artist run space with some ceramics studios and the entirely splendid New North Press upstairs. They are having a open studio days on 30 November and 1 December.

There is also a website devoted to Boshier:


And did those feet: Only in England. Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr @ Media Space, Science Gallery

The 1960s and 70s seem like another world. Seen through the black and white photographs of TR-J and Parr it is a far country where

ordinary  women wear extraordinary dumpling hats

visits to the seaside have an almost medicinal therapeutic feel, the compulsory taking of sea air huddled behind flimsy folding wind breaks

there is an awful lot of tea and teas, silver jubilee teas, nonconformist chapel teas, inaugural mayoral buffet banquet teas, picnic teas

You can almost smell the salad cream and spaghetti hoops.

Sociological and anthropological treasure house, but is this kind of journalistic photography art? I simply don’t know. Does it matter? Probably not.

My favourite photo is in fact one by Parr. Part of his nonconformist series taken during the 1970s.

Three women, of a certain age, at a chapel anniversary tea. Seated, side by side, in a back  pew of their chapel with their teas and hats. One looks up to God. One looks down to her tea cup on the pew in front. The third opens her mouth as wide as wide can be, not to sing, but to swallow whole, python like, a large piece of cake.

Art or not, it is an exhibition of fine photographs and should be seen.