Friday, 25 October 2013


CERI HAND GALLERY, 8 Coppperfield St, SE1 0EP

PLIAGE Acrylic on purple wool, 180 x 140 cm
I have to declare a bias. Michael Raedecker's haunting, deserted landscapes and interiors failed to win the Turner Prize in 2000. Raedecker applied thin washes and thick impasto to the canvas and then used thread, embroidery, fabric, sequins and textiles. Did the judges see a disjunction between highly valued 'fine art' and lowly 'craft'?

Fabric is the ground of Hannah  Knox's work, each piece  chosen for the possibilities it opens up: from pink linen to silver PVC to day-glo orange pure silk. Her beautiful exhibition at the Ceri Hand Gallery -   tucked away behind the spacious premises of the Jerwood Gallery and its excellent cafe - is a joy. In Pliage dark woollen fabric is folded and sprayed to become a dramatic, mesmerising rainbow. The works are folded, stitched, sprayed and draped, these are paintings barely and painted barely - this is painting in the 'Buff', the intriguing title of this exhibition. 'Buff' as a verb means to polish or to perfect; it also conjures up a yellowish-beige colour worn by genteel ladies in small provincial towns in the 1930s. Better still, the phrase 'in the buff' suggests being caught naked - and really rather pleased about it - as in a naughty Donald McGill comic seaside postcard of the same era.  

 Third Wave Riot, Acrylic on cotton mix,  170 x 100 cm x 3
Third Wave Riot is a triptych of inky blue lines spray-painted onto thin blue and white striped fabric.  It reminds me of Bridget Riley's paintings and I even walked slowly past it to see if the lines would give the illusion of swooping and swerving as hers do. Instead they stay put - because they have already slipped and smudged. The title refers to Third Age Feminism and 'Riots not Diets'. She says 'This way of working - folding, taping, creasing is an attempt at it becoming something, working blind in some sense, only see what you've put on, not what you've left out'.

 I'm including 2 extra images  in order to show something of Knox's remarkable versatility.

PNEUMA, Heat sensitive T-shirt in artist's frame,97x87x4.5 cm
Pneuma is an ancient Greek word for breath or spirit. It's found dozens of times in the Bible's New Testament, often meaning  the Holy Spirit, the energiser, the One who breathes new life into us. The work's  pastel tones are perfect. And while I was at the viewing someone (not wearing lipstick) was invited to  get very close to the work and to breathe out. Like a child's magic painting book, a patch of colour faded and then bounced back into life as the fabric cooled. Shocking! Imagine getting that close to an Art Work and reminding us of our frail dependence on the invisible air in which we live and move and have our being.

Fall 13 is different again. The folds represent falling leaves and change. Thee is a musical reference: the Laurie Anderson song, Walking and Falling.  The song reminds us that with every step you take you fall forward slightly and catch yourself from falling. Over and over again. But without falling there's no walking.

STOP PRESS Louise Bourgeois: the Fabric Works by Germano Celant has just been published.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


ADAM GALLERY, 24 CORK STREET until October 5th
Works available for viewing at the Adam Gallery, Bath, by appointment

High St New York, Oil on panel,60 x 120cm
A slim, dainty image like this cannot covey the impact of this vibrant, vertiginous painting. The viewer is scooped up  in the air and looks down in comfort on a grid of fast-moving traffic and a panoramic view reaching over roofs tops into the far distance. (One of the paintings in this exhibition is View From the Shard - the catalogue is online at the address below).

Garrido's cityscapes, stripped of all ornamentation, are said to have been inspired by urban American artists, such as Edward Hopper. They convey the mood and atmosphere of a place by giving us less, not more. A smudge of paint translates into  a moving car, a bead of colour suggest a traffic light.  His cool, soft tones are a surprise, and especially powerful when he paints rivers, inccluding the Thames .

The restless movement of traffic - and the inclusion of infrastructure, which is usually pushed out of sight by artists - brings energy and wit to many of his works. But February, London draws the eye horizontally along the surface, down an almost empty street, dull and charmless, only red stripes of danger racing towards us. Here we get the sensation of waiting and hoping, waiting and hoping, while the wet pavements gleam and the pale winter light is fading.

February, London, Oil on panel, 80 x 130cm

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


Art First Gallery, Eastcastle Street W1W 8DD

EDGE TO EDGE is open until October 12
Gemini, Oil on canvas, 137 x 168, photograph Justin Piperger
Spring Fever, Oil on canvas, 168 x 137 Photograph Justin Piperger

 The title of this exhibition Edge to Edge draws attention to Cooper’s intriguing use of space. Soles of feet often press down on the edges or are partly obscured by them. A forehead, a shoulder or a toe are mischievously cropped, as if the painter had miscalculated the size of the canvas. The effect is of a snapshot - we are seeing a fleeting moment which will never be repeated. 

It's also playful - women, men and children having a jolly time, while animals casually wander in. Cooper's subjects are often surrounded by artefacts and imagery, part romantic, part commonplace, which defy a neat response. The dogs in Gemini are entering into the carefree spirit of the moment, as are the birds in Spring Fever. Meanwhile the cautious fox in Spring Fever has her eyes on the artist (and the viewer).    Cooper's bold lines and formal composition act as containers for a luscious use of colour, and the candid, alert, intelligent gaze of many of her figures is one of her hallmarks. 

Her previous show at Art First in 2011 was called Showing Off. It’s a wonderful title, packed with meanings. On the one hand you can legitimately ‘show off’ (or showcase) a product or an amazing skill as a pianist or an athlete, but small children used to be regularly castigated for ‘showing off’ by drawing attention to themselves – a pretty dress, a spectacular jump, a clever answer.The people inhabiting Cooper’s paintings have no such worries.  Many turn to gaze straight into the artist's eyes (and ours). The painted observe the painter. No one is discomforted.

Eileen Cooper is a painter and a printmaker. In 2011 she was the first woman to be elected Keeper of the Royal Academy. In the same year Jeanette Winterson, novelist and journalist, was the Speaker at the Royal Academy of Arts Annual Dinner. She said: 
Standing still in front of art – letting art happen to us – letting art overwhelm us, gives us the courage to stand still. The courage to look intensely at what we are
looking at. To see. To feel. And after that, not before, comes thought.