Friday, 25 September 2015


MARION GOODMAN GALLERY, Lower John Street, London W1F 9DY

This still image  cannot begin to convey the excitement, the provocation, the depth and the pleasure of More Sweetly Play the Dance. It is from Kentridge’s first substantial solo presentation in London for 15 years and includes monumental ink-on-paper paintings, sculptures and drawings as well as two immersive multiscreen film installations.  

More Sweetly Play the Dance is an eight-screen processionary danse macabre

It may give a taste of the experience on sitting on scattered chairs in the upper gallery immersed by a 40 metre, life-sized,  constantly moving screen. An  entire brass band leads the procession,  with its haunting, wailing but vital, defiant anthem.

Who are these people? Most of them are filmed marching past holding up silhouettes transcribed from enlarged Kentridge drawings: a group of priests sway past bearing a forest of lilies; patients cling to drips with sketched saline solutions barely keeping them alive; robed shadow-figures hold giant classical busts, propagandist portraits, bird cages and miners’ heads (many of which are shown in the adjacent upstairs gallery). A trio of skeletons dance on a platform dragged across the artist’s barren, charcoal-drawn landscape. Kentridge’s long-time collaborator Dada Masilo brings up the rear, dancing en pointe with a rifle to the last strains of their canticle, as if singlehandedly “hold[ing] the hope and disillusion together”. William Kentridge, Peripheral Thinking, 2014-15

Some cultures have, or have had, the notion of dancing as a means of staving off death. This art work, however, feels more like  a cortege of people deprived of a fully realised life – is this yet another procession of refugees fleeing a skirmish or warlord or destitution? But the energy, beauty and depth of Kentridge's work mean that the images flicker with hope and determination.

 ‘My concern has been both with the existential solitude of the walker, and with social solitude – lines of people walking in single file from one country to another, from one life to an unknown future’. William Kentridge, A Dream of Love Reciprocated, 2014



photographs from post-apartheid South Africa

Abandoned Sportsfield, Mzwiwabantu, Britstown, 

Merino Inn Hotel, Colesburg

'Now I see' is our normal visual response as we negotiate the world outside us. Then we move on. The  effect of this terse, repetitive exhibition - full of real situations and real people, but set out without commentary - suggests that the artist is interested in stopping the 'Now I see' moment, and giving us the chance to reflect on time past, present and future.

Downstairs in Art First's lower gallery are selected works from two photographic essays by South African photographer Graeme Williams. Between 1989 and 1994 the artist covered South Africa's transition to democracy for Reuters and other news organisations. In Marking Time his new images (2008-2013) offer a compelling view of the shifts and realities of a nation working out the challenges of the first 20 years of a new democracy. Using a square format and bleached light Marking Time focuses on unfinished, abandoned, re-imagined and re-invented structures in a quickly-changing landscape: shared electricity supply points, a shack without windows, an abandoned brick factory.
Burgersdorp South Africa,2015, Ashenkosi Gatyeni (18)
Nearby As the Grass Grows is a collection of portraits of the first generation born after the end of apartheid, eligible and free to vote for the first time in the 2014 elections. All we know about Athenkosi is that he:
left school after Grade 6 when his father told him that he needed to find some work so that he could help with his family. 'I work a bit as a DJ. I have never really thought about what I want to become'.
The captions are brief, just a few facts plus date, place and name: Mosele, Dimpho, Ntombi, Siphosethu, Jacob and Vuyisa. Real people. 

Monday, 21 September 2015



Photograph by courtesy of Sheila Needham
Take a sunny but chilly Sunday afternoon. Add a couple of young grandsons and mention a beach - for that is what the Thames near Vauxhall Bridge is turned into twice every 24 hours. Even more, mention the prospect of ice cream and cake at the splendid Members' Restaurant at the top of Tate Britain, and the deal is done.

The Rising Tide is an underwater sculpture  concealed and revealed by the daily ebb and flow of the tide on the Vauxhall foreshore. Four proud horses and riders highlight the role of the Thames as 'the lifeblood of London', an evolving centre for culture, industry, commerce and much, much more.

The artist is a qualified diving instructor and underwater naturalist. He is also an award-winning underwater photographer, famous for his dramatic images capturing the effect of the ocean on his sculptures. He created the world's first underwater sculpture park off the West Coast of Granada, listed as one of the top Wonders of the World by National Geographic. His work not only pioneers examples of marine conservation but encourages environmental awareness and an appreciation of the breath-taking beauty of the underwater world.

Meanwhile back at Vauxhall people of all ages stand on the muddy beach and ponder. Many will have seen the horses before from the tops of red double-decker buses passing over the bridge: horses  'drowning' at high tide as the water laps over their heads, but perking up and poking their heads above the tide as the water recedes. And then there is all that wet sand to play in, filling your crocks with sludge. And the splash of stones as they hit pools and scatter lumps of mud in all directions. And the terrible thought that if you stayed there long enough nothing would stop the tide making you invisible for ever.

Do take a look at
and be amazed.

Friday, 18 September 2015


until October 4th 2015

 pva glue, acrylic paint, sugar, spray paint, pigment, plastic component 20x20x20cm

My first impression of Fitting is of a stack of delicious, soft, powdery, sugary confection, called 'Turkish Delight', or even 'Greek Delight',  depending on where you come from.  The colour is what used to be termed ‘shocking pink'. It's fashionable and bold. On my desk at the moment I have the notes accompanying Grayson Perry’s Provincial Punk exhibition at Turner Contemporary, Margate. His cover is doused in the same fun-loving pink. Art First, in Eastcastle Street close to Oxford Circus, is not a large gallery but it always surprises. 

In Fitting  the artist injects a kind of physical humour which lends itself to slapstick.  My brain says that of course I am looking at hard non-edibles, but I want to stretch out my hand and touch them.  I know I mustn’t. By mixing paint and sugar (and strawberry syrup - see below) and making it look so delectable, can you see a glorious rebellion against the current passion for rule-ridden cookery recipes handed down to us by experts, who perhaps unwittingly instruct, constrain, warn and deskill us?

As I walk away I wonder how Fitting will cope with London dust? The image of a Victorian glass dome with a knob atop springs to mind.

PLACED, JUST AS IT IS, pva glue, polystyrene beads, silicone, acrylic paint, sugar, food colouring, polystyrene, strawberry syrup, spray paint, pigment, plastic component,  20x44x14 cm
The use again of this piercing colour helps to defamiliarize the work. Evelyn O’Connor combines traditional sculptural materials with the stuff of everyday life, presenting us at one and the same time with the recognisable and the incomprehensible. 

The exhibition focuses on chance and of 'letting go' in the creative process. The art critic T J Clark, writing in the current issue of The London Review of Books, describes the experience of making (or if you're a viewer, of seeing) modern art as 'something that is truly senseless and preposterous as it comes into being, unknown and unidentifiable. and therefore if you're lucky,  a glimpse of freedom, a unique particular, a way to slip off the mind-forged manacles'.