Thursday, July 27, 2006

Gimpel fils and Ceal Floyer's Helix (2) 2002

It's the party for the 60th anniversary of Gimpel Fils tonight and it's really hot. Really too hot. And it's especially hot downstairs, which is a real pain because not only is the bar down there (oh no), but Ceal Floyer's Helix (2) 2002, is down there too and it's one of my favourite pieces of work. That's it at the top of this posting. Good, huh? Great, yes? Yes.
I love this piece. I am more than glad to suffer the heat to be able to look at this close up. I've seen photos of other versions of this that she has done. Click here for the other 2002 edition and here for the 2003 edition. I don't know if she's done any more than these three. There's very little information on this piece out there.
For me, it's the best piece she's done.
This is the deal. She begins with a plastic template which has a series of different sized holes cut through it. It is, quite simply, a tool for drawing circles. It's the sort of thing I had at school. I think 'Helix' is actually the name of the company that produce it, because I'm sure I've seen the word 'Helix', in that self same logo, on a ruler. I could be wrong. But no matter. Ceal calls the piece 'Helix' and that's good enough for me. And Ceal has filled every one of the circles cut into this piece of stationery with some object. Whatever fits that exact circle is used. A toothpaste tube, a Pritt stick, two different sorts of batteries, a candle, a roll of tape, a tablet...there must be about 30 different sized circles and objects.
And all of the objects have a patina of autobiography. But Ceal doesn't give much away. It's tantalizing because of its lack of real personal detail. But it's also comforting in its use of such recognisable and familiar objects. There are a couple of things that I can't name, but it occurs to me that they are those odd, orphaned pieces of detritus that love to hide at the bottom of drawers or shoeboxes, receptacles of the uncertain bits and pieces in life which we fail to throw away. It's just such a beautiful and quietly brutal way to present a picture of a life. Whether she thinks of it in these terms I don't know, but certainly very few, if any, of her other works include anything like as much of a sniff of her life's detail. It is so rigorous and unflinching a piece. I stand and look at it for ages.
Eventually, I take a break and go upstairs for a bit. The drinks are now being filled by staff carrying bottles. They instantly become the most popular people in the room.
I see Martha Pym from the ICA there with Marcus Sweeney. Martha used to work in this gallery years ago when she was fifteen. It was scandalous apparently, and quite an education for such a delicate flower like Martha. Nowadays she works as PA to Ekow Eshun at the ICA. That's gotta be even more scandalous, surely, I say, but, dammit, she's very discreet...
I decide I can't really take much more of a posh gallery in this kind of heat so push myself to have one last look at Ceal's work. I stand looking at it, sweating. It must have taken such a long time to complete, an obsessive period of looking investigatively at each and every circular thing that was in her life. It's almost painful.
It refuses to give anything away. It doesn't change, doesn't get deeper, doesn't reveal anything further. It fascinates me. It is so completely what it is and resolutely so much more that lies just beyond any really satisfying understanding. It is formal and unforgiving and a small, largely unsuccessful, attempt at controlling the whole day to day chaos we all live in.
Or a tiny, almost pathetic, attempt to find some kind of meaning.
fils pics

flash mob

I've heard of these things, read about them - where a group of people come together at a prearranged location and either just stand around, or take directions from their mobiles or disrupt a particular environment; have a mass pillow fight or simultaneously open umbrellas. I always thought it sounded great. I always liked the idea. A buzz going round the internet, emails being forwarded as locations and times are announced. All very secret and quickfire. A uniquely beginning-of-the-century kind of phenomenon. A real internet-has-arrived kind of thing.
So I'm of course intrigued when the web address for a flash mob happening comes my way via Artkrush or Flavourpill, I can't remember which. A fashion catwalk event down Carnaby Street at 6.30pm, Thursday night.
I make a detour there on the way to Gimpel Fils. I get there a little after 6.30. There's maybe six people dressed up, having their photos taken by about two or three press and a bunch of passing mobile phones.
It all seems rather small and unexciting. I'm quite disappointed.
I head off to Gimpel, thinking, ah well.
A few days later I am visiting people in Burton in the Midlands and chance to look at a copy of their local paper. There's a big picture of the flash mob from a couple of days earlier and a bit of a write up, about that crazy place London, full of crazy people having lots of fun doing flash mob stuff.
It looks so good in the article I wish I could have been there.
flash pics

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


As I'm walking towards the doors that lead to the beer, just on the edge of the Economist Plaza where Julie Verhoeven has her opening tonight, out comes Calum F Youknowwho who sees me and says, in a voice laden with mystery and foreboding, 'Don't forget to pick up a seed...'.
But it's ok, because - for once - I know what he's on about. According to the press release I saw earlier, Julie has made this big flower thing in the building and filled it with seeds which you can take away, up to Riflemaker Gallery on Beak Street and plant, so that your seed will be sprouting and growing when Julie's show opens there later in the year.
Nice idea.
Sadly though, it looks like it's going to remain an idea.
I go in, grab a beer, look at the flower and think: can't see any seeds in that. I look around a bit and see another one of her works and check that out. I'm beginning to form an opinion on it, compare this stripped back wooden flower with the first colourful one I saw, when I suddenly realise that I'm looking at a coat rack.
I've only had, like, a sip of beer. I move away quickly, hoping no one has seen me looking at it so intently. (Thank the Lord I didn't take a photo.)
The seeds must be in the first flower thing I saw...
I go back and check it out.
Doesn't look like it to me.
I ask one of those nice, attractive, posh girls who work at these things (what can that job advert look like? 'Nice, attractive, posh girl required. Must have public school upbringing and an interest in being nice, attractive and posh.') who tells me, very clearly, that Julie has made a flower with some seeds in which will be growing when her show opens at Riflemaker later in the year. 'Yes,' I say, 'that's right. And we can all take a seed tonight and then take it up to Riflemaker and plant it.' She gives me that look that only nice, attractive, posh girls can do when you've said something to them that isn't in the script. The sort of face that starts at 'hi, how can I help' and ends, a second later, abruptly, at 'hi, where's SECURITY?!'
'No, I say, that's what it said...'
'I'll need to check that for you,' she says, now looking around nervously, backing away. I realise this whole thing isn't going the way I wanted, certainly not the way it was supposed to. Maybe it was the way I said the word 'seed' that did it?
I take my hand off her mouth and place the gun calmly back into my pocket and head back to that damn flower. I can't work it out at all.
Outside I wander around looking at the bits of wood and paint that Julie has lashed up the sides of the building. It all seems pretty slight. Like a DIY job abandoned halfway. I look around, Julie is there, looking a little like a plank of wood with splashes of paint herself. Maybe she was abandoned halfway through, too.
Calum comes up and I listen to him tell me about all the various shows and performances and bits and pieces he has coming up. I find the best way to talk to Calum is to let him get his promotional spiel out the way first and then maybe have some sort of reasonable dialogue after. This doesn't always work, of course, because sometimes this first bit doesn't actually end. Anyway, he is going on tonight but we both become interested in a curtain that is blowing out the window of the building next to the plaza. There is a trio of women at the window, all dressed the same, who are watching the proceedings going on beneath them. Are they cleaners? Hotel maids?What is that place? We both stand taking photos, other people seem them and wave. They wave back. It is all faintly exciting, like in a french film.
Graham Hudson is there. He was interviewed in Time Out this morning. He is looking very tan from Chelsea Parade ground. He also introduces me to two students who are working out on the parade ground with him now. James and Luke, I think they are called. There they are at the top of this entry. They are the first two soldiers in Graham's army. Two students who are being taught in the Grahan Hudson School of Art.
I guess Graham is planting seeds too.
me julie pics

Friday, July 14, 2006

Emma and Helen leave

Emma Bennett (left) and Helen Mason are leaving the ICA Bookshop. Emma is leaving to continue working with her company These Horses and Helen leaves to be a picture researcher. They have both been extremely wonderful in the shop and I shall miss them both.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Faces and Names

Hey, look at this guy - you know who this is?
Thought not. Pretty hard to tell thru all that beer, eh?
Well, that's just the way he likes it.
We are drinking at Bistrotheque in Wadeson Street, parallel to Vyner Street where we have been tonight to see the Modern Art opening (check out their website here - then, just for a laugh, check out mine here). I'm there because I know they have some Ricky Swallow work on show and, as we all know, Ricky Swallow's a genius, right?
Well, no, not according to Harry Burden. Harry gives me a funny look when I say that Ricky's a genius and I can tell that he ain't going to be agreeing with me in that. 'I like some of his early stuff,' says Harry, like one of those guys I knew at school who, every time you asked them about a band they always, only, ever, liked the early stuff. New Order? They only really liked Joy Division. Pink Floyd? Only really liked Piper at the Gates of Dawn, when Syd Barrett (respect) was songwriting. Bob Dylan? Only before he actually recorded anything at all ever and when he used to play harmonica and guitar with his kid friend and they used to record it on some shitty little tape-to-tape thing in his bedroom which years later was put out as some kind of bootleg which you could only get if you knew someone who....
What is it with guys? Why are we like this??
Anyway, Harry's not quite this bad, no, not at all bad, really, and, in fact, the really cool thing, thank you, about Harry, is he has a business card. Not enough people do, I find. I give him one of my cards, which, having been in my top pocket all day is consequently, given the ever rising temperature of the day, slightly moist. Harry takes it with a little trepidation.
Once we are done with 'the card thing', as people often say at the start or end of business meetings when cards are dealt across the table like poker hands and everyone's feeling slightly awkward and unprofessional, like they should've been smoother about this whole transaction - or even like they shouldn't have to resort to cards in the first - or last - place and when did we all grow up and have to do things this way (??), I get a photo of Harry. Harry then asks to take my photo. He does a better job of my photo than I do of his. He also takes a photo of his business card sticking out of my pocket. I figure maybe tonight, Matthew, I could be Harry Burden. Or maybe Lisa Penny could be Harry - she tries on his card for size in her jeans pocket. She doesn't look like a Harry, though. She's there with Brian Reed and they are looking at a print out for their forthcoming show in Berlin. They are looking at this and thinking about a game of Art Charades (someone can certainly have this one for free - Brian squiggles his finger in the air - 'painter' - then clutches the side of his head - 'no ear', etc etc ). Then we are looking at the art. We are across the road from Modern Art looking in the other space at the work of a painter called Wawrzyniec Tokarski. It's big stuff. Huge canvases filling the gallery. I really quite like them. The accompanying press release says that he borrows and manipulates 'familiar symbols and typefaces to create a layered and complex critique of the dissemination of information within our media saturated culture.' Blimey, if I read one more press release which talks about our 'media saturated culture' I'll eat somebody's bloomming hat. Wasn't it Basquiat, way back in the day, who was creating images that reflected our 'media saturated culture' and wasn't he, in turn, re-inventing the experience that Andy was himself re-inventing to comment on our 'media saturated culture'? Sometimes, I just think, come on people, look up from your books. Watch Big brother. Watch Love Island. Watch the adverts in between. Buy the logos. This isn't media saturation. This is just normal life...
Talking of Big Brother, though...
I meet someone who loves watching Big Brother.
I meet Reza Aramesh.
We are talking over a beer and he is saying how much he likes Big Brother. We offer this up to the table. 'Who else here likes Big Brother?' Everyone looks noncommittal and a small, gentle, chorus of 'no's waft back towards Reza and I. Until someone mentions Nicky. Then everyone's suddenly talking and having an opinion. Reza laughs. We've all been sucked in, some way or other. Every year I see how long I can hold out. I never make it the whole way through. I'm always tuning in for the final. Usually, then, abruptly wondering why on earth this is drawing a sliver of a tear from my old, cynical eye.
I really liked the Changing the Guard you did in Trafalgar Square, I say to Reza. 'Thank you' he says. Then suddenly, 'Ah, yah, that facking photo of me, that's you, huh? That facking photo with my chin on my facking chest. Man, I hate that photo. Delete it, man, facking delete, will you? Ah, fack it. I hate it.'
So I say yes, I'll delete his photos (after all he might beat the crap out of me). Go back to that entry where I wrote about that piece and look for photos of him. You won't find any. Not anymore. No siree, they are all gone. If you didn't see them before, well, now it's too late.
The only photo of Reza now is that one up top. Like some kind of alcoholic Magritte. I think it's a pretty neat photo.
Anyway, I'm thinking about this photo but Reza's talking about foxes. He feeds the foxes in his garden. And not just any old food either, he feeds them sushi. Ok, maybe he did this once. He bought some sushi and was going to eat it with his friend Georgina Starr and they were - Hang on a second, there. Georgina Starr? Georgina Starr?? What happened to her? I used to be so into her work, all that kooky, slightly off-beat mad sixties/seventies trip she was on. Then nothing. For years. I know she was doing all this Bunny Lake stuff but none of that was really coming into focus and I could never really get a fix on it. But, no, she's still around and she's still doing stuff and she's still eating sushi. Which is a shame for her, because it turns out the sushi was little bit off. So she phones Reza and says 'don't eat the sushi, I'm feeling well sick.' So Reza doesn't eat it, he gives it to the foxes. But then, as Reza goes on to say that he takes his dog to restaurants and gets a place set for him, I guess that's not too weird, right?
Anyway, whatever, Georgina Starr. Brilliant name, brilliant artist. And here's someting else. She was in a show at legendary gallery City Racing in 1997, called Thoughts. And that was show number 46 at City Racing, factlovers. And show 46 was an odd show because there were actually three shows happening simultaneously: Thoughts, Interesting Painting and Urbanite. And even more bizarre: Reza and I were both in the latter. I was working under the name SR London and Reza had an extra 'i' at the end of his name, so he was Arameshi.
What happened to that then?
What happened to all of us?
I decide to say my goodbyes and take a drift. Down Wadeson Street, left onto Cambridge Heath Road, right into Hackney Road and down, a good walk, past Columbia Road, across Kingsland Road, down Old Street and on to the junction with Great Eastern Street. And standing like a fortress on the corner is The Foundry. Not a place an old geezer like myself would usually go, but I'm going in because it's the launch of issue five of Savage Messiah, a zine put together by Laura Norder. There's been a bit of word of mouth about this. Two people, within my hearing, independently of each other, have mentioned it. I need to check it out, and I certainly need to check out any girl with the name Laura Norder. So I go in. The place is such a dive. But there's a table with copies of Savage Messiah and there's Laura Norder (aka Laura Oldfield Ford) and I go and buy a copy and I give her the money and I take her photo and it makes me laugh.
On February 16 of this year I've just come out of the view for Pack of Cards at 39 and I'm in the pub and I see a girl and she looks very striking and she's wearing a very cool hat and so I ask if I can take her photo and she says yes and I do and it's her and tonight I say, can I take your photo and she says yes and I laugh.
It's small world, and it's probably a good world and it's all faces and its all names.
modern art pics

Friday, July 07, 2006

Graham Hudson

"Please note that these objects are not works of art - they are gifts from the artist to you..."
I am thinking about this sentence - which was printed on a flyer handed out with all the objects - toys, mostly - picked up by eager punters at the end of Tomoko Takahashi's installation at The Serpentine last year - while sipping from a plastic mug of red wine, standing on the terrace of Graham Hudson's installation/house/castle/sculpture on the evening of Friday July 7th, the one year anniversary of the London tube bombings and looking across the detritus of Chelsea Parade Ground which Graham has now almost completely covered with his continuing residency down here...
There's a lot to think about, because there's a lot going on. Since I was last here for one of his evening parties back in April, the whole place has changed. His original small house is still here but there now seems to be another, slightly smaller house, beside it. And across the rest of the parade ground his work stretches out. Many piles of wood and wooden frames, traffic cones, plastic chairs, armchairs, sofas, a wardrobe, cupboards, lumps of metal, huge rolls of plastic sheeting, hazard tape, hammocks, pallets, bicycle wheels, umbrellas, an old briefcase...where does it end? Windows, carpets, wire, some stuff half in construction, or maybe half in demolition, or maybe even complete by some standard that we have yet to recognise and affirm....where does it all end? Rubber hosing, radiators, broken electric fans, huge chunks of polysterene, boxes, metal just goes on. And as for the end? Well, I guess it doesn't end, does it? I am standing in the middle of something that long ago did away with concepts of beginnings and ends. Graham doesn't break down or step over boundaries, he just works without them. He lets us worry about them, if we choose to. This is one of his gifts to us, if you like, a glimpse of how things could be, or are, if you are Hudson. And talking of gifts he is also very generous with all this. I am talking to Ed Greenacre at one stage and we are pointing at various things across the parade ground. I delineate the sharp right angles of what looks like an enormous wooden box, standing, improbably, on only one of its corners. 'That was one of the students pieces,' says Ed. And so too with various bits and pieces lying around. Where Hudson's work ends and others begins is impossible to say. But there I go again, worrying about boundaries.
Ed says that someone he knows described the place like the result of a tsunami, bringing all this stuff in to the parade ground and dropping it there. I think about this. And I think about the date, July 7th. There should be a link between all this cacophony of objects out here and those terrible events, but I think it's clear that we are looking at something that is coming into being, not being destroyed. I think this is a happy place. It's a celebration and not a lament. It's a party, not a wake.
And as it's a party, let's say hello to a few people. Hello, in particular to Sally O'Reilly. Yes, it's her again. Since I met her at Kitson Kaleidoscope I can't turn round without her standing there, walking past or cycling along. It's one of those strange things, like when you hear a word for the first time and then it subsequently appears in everything you read. Was it always just there, unnoticed and unremarked, or has it really just started appearing? Have I stood beside Sally at openings and views for the last year and never noticed her? Or has she only just started going out to all the same things as me? Unfortunately for her I decide this is an interesting thing to tell her about, obviously risking the charge of 'stalker' that I always find it so easy to fall into on account of always logging people's names in this blog. However, she doesn't run off screaming, fumbling for 999 on her mobile phone, and pointing at me, she stands and lets me politely talk to her. Then she, also politely, I think, relates a similar, or at least comparable, story about wearing a bright blue coat and, feeling slightly more self-conscious than she would like, therefore notices the colour bright blue everywhere, as if the city itself was bent on making her feel even more awkward. Finally, she comes into an area where she feels she can relax. Grey buidlings, drab walls, and turns down a street as if to gulp down an huge lungful of the lack of the colour blue, only to be confronted with a gang of KwikFit Fitters, their bright blue uniforms stark against the grey street and grey houses. See, she does understand what I was saying...
Then she leaves...
I'm looking around the ground at all this stuff. Collected from skips mostly, picked off the pavement. I feel like I want to go round and look at everything in detail, to really look at it and investigate and know it. But conversely Hudson's work isn't really about the objects. It's a great adventure which will be here for a while then disappear back to where it came from, like an apparition or a dream. It could be hard to sometimes say what it is that Hudson makes, but I think I'm right in saying that whatever materials he uses and how he arranges them, the one thing he always makes is history. I can't help but stand here thinking that this really is history being made. There will be some documentation (of which this will inevitably be a part), but more than that, for me, it will be a memory. And that's a very real and powerful thing.
And while this whole installation is a bold, heroic stand against nothingness, it's also, let's not forget, a shrewd and canny way of drawing a lot of attention to your practice. I can't help but think that Hudson's house has it's chest puffed out towards Tate Britain not a few yards away, like a challenge, goading it into some sort of fight. 'Think that's art?' it seems to say, it's little wooden jerry-built fist waving about, 'come and have a look at this if you think you're hard enough. Let's see what you're made of.' Hudson is a revolutionary. And also, as someone who I was talking to the other day described him: 'a businessman'. He is a man with a plan.
And it's good to have a plan. Lisa Penny is there and we are talking about this. Lisa's not sure she's got a plan. So we talk about plans for a bit. It's just about getting stuff on your CV sometimes. 'Well,' I say, 'you can just put shows on it, can't you? You don't actually have to have been in them. Who's going to check?' I'm thinking about a certain artist I knew who just put a whole bunch of shows on his CV to get a residency. I'm thinking of another artist I also vaguely knew who submitted slides of someone else's work to get a placement. It happens. Maybe that's the art. Maybe to make a name for yourself all you need is a name. The work isn't that important. You don't actually need to make anything. The CV and the history and the work in private collections and the years you spent at Goldsmiths - how valid is all that? What does it mean if it's all untrue? Lisa and I start cooking up ideas. And I'm thinking back to that line from Takahashi's show. What does that mean? Where is the art? It seems we have spent years trying to convince people, right back from Duchamp, that art can be anything. And now, finally, when everyone has caught onto this, the artworld is backtracking like crazy, going, yeah, but actually that's not art...It makes me laugh. And Lisa laughs too, because with all this talk she has forgotten to tell me her news: she's just been signed up with Hauser and Wirth.
So congratulations to her. That'll look good on her CV...
parade pics

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blackness, then Ron, Tom and Rem

It's still hot. I'm swallowing the thick air like I'm eating giant marshmallows. I walk like I'm underwater. I'm sweating like I'm a watering can.
But no matter. I have a job to do. There are people to see and galleries to visit. First up tonight is White Cube and an interesting show called Dark Matter, a group show of 'black' works. Such a tightly parametered show as this obviously invites all sorts of criticisms (I can't help but think as I write this that of the 14 works on display here 13 are by, I'm pretty sure, white males and the other by a solitary white female. A notable lacuna is Gillian Carnegie's recent black trees work, surely...). Whatever, there are still some lovely works here and it's all big names: there's a great Ellsworth Kelly and a black neon by Cerith Wynn Evans. There's a black door painting by Gary Hume which I've never seen before, apparently done this year. I'm sure I remember somewhere reading that Hume once said that painting the doors was the best thing he felt he'd done. And outside a few almightly brilliant figurative pieces he's pulled off over the years, I'm inclined to agree. All the door paintings I've ever seen of his are superb. Filled, inexplicably and bizarrely, with real feeling - the same way Jim Lambie gets folded up, brightly coloured doors to sing with wonder and sadness in ways I can't begin to comprehend. And as I'm on the way out I have to acknowledge that bronze cast of a binbag that Gavin Turk did. It annoys the hellout of me on one level (Damn! I wish I'd done that!!) and yet, on another, makes me think what a great piece it really is (Double damn!! Why didn't I just do it?!!).
So that's White Cube. Really nice show. I probably spent all of 45 seconds on it. But, actually, could have happily spent four hours, maybe more. It's that kind of show.
So, that's Blackness done, now for Ron. Studio 1.1 on Redchurch Street has got big Ron Meerbeek's solo show. And talk about a contrast.
Blimey! What is going on? Ron's filled the galleries with about 24 separate little shows. There's all sorts of all sorts in all sorts of places. As you come through the door there's a drawing taped to the floor. There are plastic figures from The Simpsons lined up on a shelf looking into a mirror; there are big, colour filled paintings, there are blocks of paintings on small canvases, there are toys in glass bell jars (hello, Nigel Grimmer...), drawings lit by ultra violet light, a collection of plastic hands and heads, heck, there's even a toilet on wheels. Man, Ron, you've brought everything in here! Though, apparently not. What we have here tonight is, Ron assures me, the result of some heavy and strict reduction. What the hell did it look like before?? There's a lot of it, but everything is immaculately hung. I take a tour. It makes me smile a lot. What the heck, I think. You've got a solo show, bung everything out there. Get it all out and let people see what you've been up to. I think there's more in his one show than I have actually produced in my entire career. It's some achievement. It's some full-on colour too. I feel like I need sunglasses. Look at Ron up there, at the top of this entry. He ain't afraid of colour. He ain't afraid of nuthin'.
Ok, so now I'm in in Clerkenwell saying nice things to Tom McCarthy at the launch of his book Tintin and the Secret of Literature. Tom hounded me a bit about his first novel, Remainder, which I was very slow on the uptake with but it turned out to be a bestseller in the ICA Bookshop. Then abruptly it went out of print. Anyhow, finally, it's back again with a new publisher. It garnered some great reviews the first time around and now it's coming out again with his new book. Looks good for Tom. He's happy. It's a good launch. Jonathan Allen comes up and says hello to him. I also see Ashley Biles there, the rep for the Tintin book, I see him around a bit. 'How come I never make your website thing?' he complains. Every time I've taken a photo of him before he always looks like a fish gasping for water. It's like he does it on purpose. I take a photo of him. He looks like a fish gasping for water. I show him the photo. 'Oh, ok,' he says, 'I see what you mean.' Anyway, just for him, click on pics, below...
Then I'm standing in the big bubble that is Rem Koolhaas's pavilion at the Serpentine. So let's just say that I have really travelled across London tonight. And it shows. By the time I get to The Serpentine I look like the runner up in a wet T-shirt competition. Only not as nice as that could potentially look. Let's just say, I'm feeling really rather hot. Anyway, more about the big bubble. In all the press leading up to this tonight we've been treated to lots of digital impressions of how the thing wil look and, I must say, given to believe that it will be a huge helium filled balloon, delicately bumping up and down above the Serpentine, pray to the slightest changes in temperature and the environment. In the flesh, or whatever the material is, so to speak, it's like a big balloon-shed building, securely tied down by lots of heavy duty ropes, immovable, and skirted below by some fluted plastic to provide a secure, large room underneath. It is definitely amazing, and you can see it from way off as you approach the Serpentine, but it wasn't quite the ethereal floating palace I thought it was going to be.
No matter, because I have secured for myself a piece of pure gold and I hold it in my hand and watch it glisten. Oh yes, I have in my hand a piece of paper printed with the words: 'Complimentary Drinks 4.30 - 9.00pm. Please present at the bar.' And yes siree, I do indeed present it at the bar....
I see some people, have a few drinks and chat. Then the bar is closing and it's time to go. Rem's Cool House (as the papers are, inevitably, already calling it) looks great. And actually, I like the ropes that hold it down, because I wouldn't want it to go anywhere else too soon.
kool pics

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Cathy Lomax at Stella Vine

It's as hot as hell, the hottest day of the year, or something close, and all I can think is that I'm standing in front of this fan and I'm not going to move. Olly Beck is beside me, getting some of the fan too, but not, I think, quite as much as I am. It's so lovely to be in the path of some cool air that I say 'I think this is what Heaven is like.' Olly muses on this: could Heaven really be something so simple? Is it conceivable that Heaven is a place that's just very, very hot - rather like we imagine Hell - but with the simple addition of a fan? And could Hell be a very, very hot place but with, say, a three bar electric fire? Maybe. Think about that for a moment. Remember we are talking about eternity with both these states. It could be possible. We both take another plastic beaker of wine from the tray that is being proffered around and think some more. I look round the room. Who's here? I ask. Olly says, 'it's the usual crowd.' And yes, I see what he means. But of course this crowd isn't quite the usual crowd, because this is the opening night of Stella Vine's new gallery. And although the gallery's called Rosy Wilde, try as I might, I can't really think of it as anything other than Stella Vine, such is the scale and weight of Stella's name these days. It's a small space above an Ann Summers shop, right in the middle of Soho. A perfect location. There's a lovely girl called Colette who is doing the rounds with a tray of white wine (zooming, I have to say, straight to the number one slot in Best Barperson at a Private View, and knocking both Pearse from Rokeby and Matt at White Cube into a cocked hat...) and there's even some food - quiches and custard tarts and all sorts from Patisserie Valerie. Stella knows how to treat her guests, I'll say that. And tonight the guests in this tiny little gallery are busy looking at a solo show of Cathy Lomax's paintings.
Cathy is late arriving and early to leave, clutching a bunch of roses and looking great. She has a selection of paintings here tonight, the majority of them new. There's some familiar themes that I recognise from her previous works. The royal family? Check. Mary Bell? Check. Cathy's heroines? Check. But there's also something new, formally. The women in the some of the paintings tonight have slipped out of the centre of the canvas, have only just been caught before they disappear completely beyond the parameters of the frame. In all the works there's a sense that she is reclaiming these women as her own in some way, whether through empathy, sympathy or just some sense of emotional parity. It's difficult to paint pictures of members of the royal family without somehow putting your foot into a political puddle and getting the bottoms of your trousers wet, but I don't think Cathy's paintings of various members of The Firm are about their monarchical place, they seem to me to be more about the women trapped and held within these roles. Sometimes pitying their predicament, sometimes lamenting, sometime reaching out to them. It always strikes me with Cathy's paintings that she is trying to reach a moment of real human understanding in the most unlikely of places. The royal family, a childkiller, models, singers, other nameless women throughout history who have stumbled inadvertently and momentarily into history's big picture. Cathy is pressing them like flowers into a big book of history. Trying either to give them a place they haven't had, or redefining, in very real human terms, their existing place. So I guess there's something about finding your place in history which must be a question for Cathy. But then, I guess, isn't that the question we are all asking? And don't we all have, as I say to Antonio Gianasi later in the evening, when trying to convey something about what my piece on last week's Kitson Kaleidoscope was, 'problems with identity'? He roars with laughter and rightly so. In trying to explain myself I had simply told him what we all already knew. What nearly all of us standing in this hot little gallery are feeling. Have you ever met an artist who didn't have 'problems with identity'??
He has some good news too: from the work he had in Baroque My World at Transition he has secured a small commission for GQ Style. Good pay? I ask. He laughs again...
Cathy has a painting here tonight called It's me. I'm Cathy which I've seen reproduced before and, as far as I can tell, is made up of small paintings of her heroines. Sarah Doyle and I are looking at it. There's Kate Bush, I think, there's Kate Moss. Christina Ricci, Lily Cole. I think that's who it is, I know Cathy did a big, beautiful painting of Lily some time ago. 'Look,' says Doyle, 'that's Cathy when she was younger.' I look at the portrait. Yes, could be her. Her younger self as one of her heroines. I think that's pretty good.
I said it was the opening of Stella's gallery tonight but it also the closing of various other bits of Stella's world - she's pulled the plug on her blog and her webcam. She's dropping out of sight for a while. I have a quick chat. I've met her before and tonight, again, I can't help but find her captivating. She seems both wise and naive at the same time. It's very endearing and, I suspect, a useful quality to have when there's something she wants. I have no idea whether there will be another show here. Stella seems quite confident about future shows. But I also think she gets bored easily. We are talking and she says at one point that she is hated by the artworld. She says that a lot of fashion people like her work, and magazines, but the artworld isn't bothered. I think it's probably not that easy being Stella. But she can never stop being Stella. Whoever that is, at whatever time. Fully exposed by the internet and her blog, or totally invisible for a bit.
Maybe, if you looked closely enough tonight, there is also some sort of portrait of Stella here, too.
wilde pics