Friday 31 May 2013

Review of Michael Landy: Saints Alive at the National Gallery

Michael Landy: Saints Alive
National Gallery, Sunley Room
23 May – 24 November 2013

“Before we go any further, can I just make sure that you actually know who I am and that you know what I do?” This was the question with which Michael Landy (born 1963) announced himself upon arrival at the National Gallery having been invited for consideration for the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation Associate Artist scheme. A Goldsmiths graduate (1985-1988), a YBA, and a participating artist in the notorious Freeze exhibition (1988), Landy is probably best known for his 2001 installation, Break Down, for which he took over an empty department store building on Oxford Street and systematically catalogued and destroyed everything he ever owned. One might, therefore, understand his uncertainty. Nevertheless, he was appointed as the gallery’s eighth Associate Artist and accordingly given a studio for two years. 

To read the rest of this review, please go to:

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Preview of Suzie Pindar: Reflection at 14 Warren Street

Suzie Pindar: Reflection
14 Warren Street, London W1T 5U
Private view: 7 June 2013, 6-9pm
Open to public: 8 – 9 June 2013, 12pm - 7pm

If true art is about baring the soul, then Suzie Pindar’s work must be true art indeed. As an artist she identifies as “self-expressive”, and her work is all about survival, and life beyond survival. It reveals, as she puts it, “the naked truth”. Really, her artist statement says it all:

I feel now as I have got stronger, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, that I am no longer surviving, or existing, I am finally living, embracing the world and all it has to offer through my art. I look at the world differently, I feel empowered by it, and I take much of my inspiration from life, lust, and love and how someone makes me feel. Random thoughts, circle my head today, contemplative, positive energy, excitement, friendships unfolding, breathing life, inspired deep in my core, wanting to share, expose, the beauty that one feels for .....”

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Review of Margaret Harrison: On Reflection at Payne Shurvell

Margaret Harrison: On Reflection
Payne Shurvell
17 May – 20 July 2013

They don’t make them like this any more. Margaret Harrison (born 1940) is an old school feminist artist, perhaps less well known than her contemporaries Mary Kelly and Nancy Spero, but with seven pieces in the Tate collection, and currently on the shortlist for the 2013 Northern Art Prize, the winner of which will be announced on 23 May.

Having studied at the Carlisle College of Art (1957–61), the Royal Academy Schools (1961–64), and the Perugia Fine Arts Academy in Italy, from which she graduated in 1965, Harrison went on to found the London Women's Liberation Art Group in 1970. In April 1971, an exhibition of her work, London's first overtly one woman feminist art show, was closed by the police on the grounds of indecency after just one day. Apparently, whilst it was ok in the name of art to portray women in all manner of questionable poses and situations, Harrison’s genderqueer comic book heroes, and a corseted, high heeled, and suspender and stocking clad Hugh Hefner Bunny Boy, were inappropriate for public display. 

Review of Rhiannon Adam: The Journey is the Destination. Polaroids of the “British” Seaside at The Mill Co. Project

Rhiannon Adam: The Journey is the Destination
Polaroids of the “British” Seaside
The Mill Co. Project
2 – 31 May 2013

Displayed as neatly framed individuals or pairs, and as supersize, bulldog-clipped, digital C-print enlargements, the lobby of the East London social enterprise and exhibition space, the Mill Co. Project, is currently filled with seaside snapshots like those we all grew up with and remember from our family albums. As such, where the protective sheets have lost their stickiness and are now peeling back, whilst the Polaroids adhere relentlessly to the browning pages, their value can only be sentimental, but here, preserved as they are with tidy white mounts and frames, hung on a white wall, and neatly labelled, they are imbued with artistic (and monetary, since the works are for sale, and are also to be included in a forthcoming publication*) value.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Review of Malgosia Stepnik: City of Angels at 20 Eastcastle Street

Malgosia Stepnik: City of Angels
20 Eastcastle Street
25 April – 23 May 2013

I try not to go to exhibitions with preconceptions or expectations, but with a title like City of Angels, I did, perhaps foolishly, expect Polish-born Malgosia Stepnik’s current show at 20 Eastcastle Street to be somewhat pleasant to the eye and gentle on the mind. But I was mistaken. City of Devils would actually be a more appropriate name. The painted-over photographs, displayed in LED frames, and the purpose-designed wallpaper, confront the visitor with zombie-like creatures, both disturbed and disturbing, with faces overrun by amorphous fluorescent spillages, dripping from their mouths, and scaly, scabies-like spots spreading across their beleaguered visages. The hallucinogenic colours conjure up a very bad trip, and the wallpaper, quite frankly, would induce nightmares of the very worst kind. 

Stepnik, whose work draws on the tradition of semi-autobiographical and confessional art produced by women artists since the 1960s, and is further influenced by philosophers such as Carl Jung (1875-1961), herself studied Sociology, Psychology and Philosophy in Wroclaw, before coming to London and acquiring a Fine Art Degree in 2008. Her multimedia approach incorporates photography, painting, performance and film, and, alongside the still works on show, there is also a film to be watched, and the opening night viewing was accompanied by a haunting and traumatised performance in which Stepnik, clad in a hospital gown, lopped handfuls of her hair with blunt scissors. Perhaps her aim is to voice a critical comment on the aesthetic focus and values of contemporary society, where even beauty is no longer beautiful until it has been airbrushed or “perfected” still further?

Admittedly, close-up, there is something strangely alluring about the glittering scabied pockmarks of the photoworks, raised blobs of acrylic paint, glistening like gemstones in the LED light, but even so it reminds me of Count Robert de Montesquiou’s topaz-encrusted tortoise from Belle Époque Paris, which epitomises the desire to adorn and beautify taken to such an extreme that one becomes blind to nature’s joys, inflicts cruelty, and truly loses sight of aesthetic pleasure.


Installation shot

Performance shot


All courtesy the artist (Malgosia Stepnik) and curator (Beverley Knowles)

Saturday 11 May 2013

Video Review of Fischli/Weiss: Rock on Top of Another Rock outside the Serpentine Gallery

Video Review of Fischli/Weiss: Rock on Top of Another Rock
Serpentine Gallery
8 March 2013 - 6 March 2014

Placing one rock on top of another is a seemingly simple gesture, and, as the Swiss artistic duo, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, themselves said, an archaic means of man making his mark. At the same time, Fischli also makes clear: “We wanted to make something that forces you to stop your car and get out to take a photograph.” At about five and a half metres tall, this towering balancing act, just near the entrance to the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, is certainly bound to make people stop and look. Whether you admire it for skill, concept, or purely sheer audacity, these boulders are bound to be a talking point for the duration of their year-long commission.

To view the vodcast, please go to:

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Artist Profile: Francesco Jacobello

Francesco Jacobello: A Profile

Francesco Jacobello was born (1970) in Militello, Val Di Catania, Sicily, a UNESCO World Heritage “monument”. As such, the artist, now based in London, and currently working with Debut Contemporary, explains that almost as a matter of course his path was set to become an artist. “It was impossible to avoid all that flavour of the Greeks, Romans, and the Classical Italians. I cannot ignore more than 2000 years of Art History,” he says.

Nevertheless, Jacobello is largely self-taught. Having failed to get into any of the over-subscribed local art colleges, he studied ceramics in Caltagirone, another small town near to his birthplace, consoling himself that any knowledge of art and its techniques would be useful. And, indeed, his time there allowed him to make some important contacts, and, by the time he graduated, he was already winning competitions – but not for his ceramics. His early love for drawing persisted, and it was – and is – in this field that Jacobello excels.

His current series, Graphitology, named after his ongoing study of the material, uses pencil and pastels to almost sculptural effect. Jacobello’s work combines the classic and the contemporary, as he sets Grecian faces within modern contexts. His aim is always and simply “to create something that actually excites me when I’m working on it.” At least 30% of the idea is there when he begins, but each work is an adventure with its own personality, and Jacobello works diligently for 10 hours a day, with an average work maybe taking him a whole week to complete.

Building up layers and sections, Jacobello usually begins with the pencil drawn face, since that’s “the powerful part of the work,” and then adds in the coloured pastel background using carefully researched elements that have a relevance to the subject at hand. He is fond of the use of symbols and likes to incorporate elements of nature as well. His works spill over with majestic birds, fruits, berries, and flowers, each drawn with the minute accuracy of a nature study.

Jacobello’s work is also recognisable from his use of mirroring and symmetry – “another way of making the classic more contemporary.” In most pieces produced over the past two years or so, there is not just one face, but its reflection as well. Again, as if this were to be expected, Jacobello explains: “You’re never alone: there’s always two of you. If you look in the mirror, you you’re your reflection. Wherever you go, you have your shadow.”

Jacobello works primarily from photographs since his method is so meticulous and slow that the sitter would, he suspects, get bored. He, on the other hand, doesn’t get bored, but he does get tired. He also confesses that his mind is faster than his technique, and that he’s always projecting ahead to new ideas. Accordingly, he tends to work on more than one piece simultaneously. Alongside his Graphitology series, therefore, Jacobello is currently also working on a series entitled Ritratti Scritti, or Written Portraits. For these, whilst it might be scarcely credible at first glance, he is using what he terms his “forte”, namely black biro. “It gives a very distinctive, contemporary feel to the drawing,” he says, or, as Samir Ceric, Founder and CEO of Debut Contemporary, puts it, “an attractive urban edginess.”

“It’s a big challenge,” adds Jacobello, “since you cannot afford to make any mistakes. But I love challenges. I am into the wow effect. I’m after my work being stunning. I don’t do lovely.”

Jacobello tries to produce at least 20 works per series before moving on. “You grow with a series as an artist. You perfect your technique. It’s part of you.” His current two series have more than this number in each already. For now this work, and his work with Debut Contemporary, remain his focus, but he also has forthcoming shows in Italy and Canada to prepare for.

“I am proud of what I do,” says Jacobello. “I believe in my work. I know I’ve got potential.” With the support of his gallery, and a number of convinced jurors and critics, it would seem that he is not alone in this view.

Jacobello will be appearing in Debut Contemporary’s window on 18 May as part of their Saturday Debut programme, providing people with a chance to watch him as he works.

For further information, and to follow Jacobello as he works, see his blog:

See also Debut Contemporary’s spotlight interview with him:


Francesco Jacobello 
January 2013 
42 x 60 cm 
pencil and pencil pastels on paper

Francesco Jacobello 
August 2012 
42 x 60 cm 
pencil and pencil pastels on paper

Francesco Jacobello 
October 2012 
42 x 60 cm 
pencil and pencil pastels on paper

Francesco Jacobello 
April 2011 
42 x 60 cm  
black biro on paper

Francesco Jacobello 
December 2009 
48 x 60 cm 
black biro, pastels, ink and sanguine on paper

Francesco Jacobello at work

Monday 6 May 2013

Video Interview with Patrick Hughes re. Superspectivism at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street

Patrick Hughes: Superspectivism
Flowers Gallery, Cork Street
24 April - 18 May 2013

Hughes' new exhibition at Flowers, Cork Street, includes nine new paintings employing his unique technique of reverspective.

To view the video interview, please go to:

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Review of Stefana McClure: Science is Fiction at Bartha Contemporary

Stefana McClure: Science is Fiction
Bartha Contemporary
29 March – 11 May 2013

Advocating the belief "science is fiction," the early 20th century French marine biologist and cinema pioneer, Jean Painlevé (1902 –1989), directed over 200 science and nature films, including a number shot underwater. He has been credited with single-handedly establishing a unique kind of cinema, known as the "scientific-poetic cinema". For her current exhibition at Bartha Contemporary, Northern Irish born artist Stefana McClure, who now lives and works in New York, has captured 23 of Painlevé’s films as stills on paper, by meticulously copying the subtitles on to wax transfer paper, and mounting them, line upon line, stacked successively, until the words become obscured and the meaning hidden. At the same time, a new meaning appears: partly the original, but with the word becoming image, and the voices speaking through a new tongue. With material lost as information is added, the paper eroding, and the graphemes merging into lines of light, all that remains by the end of the transcription process is a monochrome colour surface, with two white bands across the bottom. Even without knowing how these works were made, or to what they refer, the viewer might well be inspired to think of an ocean’s waves, and the white spume on each one’s crest.


Stefana McClure
Science is FICTION
No 9 The Vampire
Wax transfer paper mounted on rag
27.8 x 32cm

Video Review of Pae White: Too Much Night, Again at the South London Gallery

Pae White: Too Much Night, Again
South London Gallery
13 March - 12 May 2013

Inspired by a recent bout of insomnia, and using the colours of Black Sabbath’s album cover from Master of Reality, which terrified the LA-based artist Pae White so much as a child that she had to hide it under her bed to be able to sleep, black and purple threads are strung across the lofty South London Gallery, like on a loom... 


Pae White
Too much night, again
Installation, mixed media
Courtesy: greengrassi, London
Photo: Andy Keate

Video Review of New Order: British Art Today at the Saatchi Gallery

New Order: British Art Today
Saatchi Gallery
from 26 April 2013

Long associated with its support for emerging artists and early recognition of talents to watch out for, the Saatchi Gallery is now launching a new programme of exhibitions with the aim of enabling young graduates, based in the UK, to see their work displayed in a museum environment.

The first exhibition in this series, New Order: British Art Today, showcases the work of 17 up-and-coming artists.

The works on display are disparate, ranging from sculpture to painting, oils to industrial materials, kings and politicians to underpants and banana skins, but they are united by their shared investigation of 21st century living, in a culture where we are perpetually bombarded by imagery.