Modern Maureen Crave Madder
So last night I was at Chisenhale.
And I know, I know, gentle reader of this blog, that you have become accustomed to a little bit more than one gallery in a evening when there is so much suddenly going on...so apologies. And tonight, just for you, I have spread myself a little thinner. Modern Art, Maureen Paley, Rawspace and Madder Rose.
Enough for you?
Good. Because that is certainly enough for me. More than enough, thanks...
Arriving at Modern Art I bump into Lisa Penny, freshly back from the Berlin residency and I get to hear potted bits and pieces about her time. Seems there was a lot of drinking involved, but I could be wrong. Anyway, while she is talking we are wandering round the Collier Schorr works and I'm trying to work out why I'm not really liking it. I stand in front of each piece listening to Berlin, but it's not happening. All the component parts are there for me to like: magazines, cut up photos, just the sort of aesthetic I like, but it's just not happening. Unlike Berlin - which was really happening.
We go across the road to see the other space and an installation by Florian Slotawa. This I can get a grip on. Three sculptures, all made using a bath, a stepladder, a window frame, a metal shelving system and a bright orange belt, but all in different combinations. It makes me think of a clean, methodical version of Graham Hudson's work. But then again, most things make me think of Hudson's work at the moment. I can't walk down any street in London without seeing a skip full of building junk, scattered bits of wood on a pavement, delapidated housing, construction works....
Lisa P is on her way to the big opening at The Hayward. I have decided to do my east end thing. I say I am heading to Maureen Paley's and she says she can stop off there on her way to the Hayward. She is on her bike. We'll meet up there.
As I'm walking down Cambridge Heath Road she trickles past me. That's the last I see of her all night...
Anyway, there's a trendy and lively crowd at Maureen's place as befits Seb Patane and his arty dj credentials. I look around. I say hello to Maria Benjamin from Guestroom and I also see Andrew Grassie who I used to know from when he worked at the ICA. He has a show coming up here, at Maureen's, in a couple of months. He paints incredibly small paintings that command a huge space and presence. He is enormously talented at this.
I also see Maureen stalking around. She is wearing big dark glasses and has her hair up in some kind of sixties way. She looks more and more like Audrey Hepburn's wicked elder sister each time I see her.
We've never properly met but I decide tonight is the night. She frightens the shit out of me to be honest, but I sink a bottle of beer in one and go up to her.
'Hi,' I say, and then quickly say some positive things about the show.
I ask if I can take her photo. She says yes, but insists on wearing dark glasses on account of a bloodshot eye (a fight, I reckon) and asks who I am.
I tell her I write a sort of online diary of art events and give her a card.
She takes it, much as one would handle a dead bird presented to them by their cat, turns it over, decides it has no importance whatsoever in her scheme of things and (and I have to say I love her for this next move) calmly hands it back to me, as if to say, 'here, this is of no use to me. Maybe you, little man, could use it for something.'
Anyway, she is as good as her word, stalks off into the gallery, adjusts her glasses and stands for me to take a photo. It's a tense moment. I know two things: 1. I will only get this one chance to take the photo and 2. I will have to immediately show it to her once it's taken for her approval. I take the photo. It's a bad photo, like all the photos I take (which is the point) and then I quickly flip the switch to get the image back on screen, even as she is already moving towards me to check it.
She looks at it and nods. There she is, above.
We have a few more words and I tell her that I work at the ICA bookshop. She softens, slightly, in much the same way that a glacier could be said to be melting on the basis of a single drop of water the size of a baby's tear zigzagging it's way down the icy cliffedge.
Well, as long as you like the show, she says. I nod. I want to keep my kneecaps.
Anyway, it really is an interesting show. I first saw Seb's work in Beck's Futures last May. It stuck in my mind like an awkward, sharp edged shape. His work isn't easy. There are thematic arrangements that refuse to yield any simple deconstruction. He seems to put disparate, subtly augmented objects together - old theatrical photos, their faces inked out by swirling, writhing pen marks; old magazine and newspaper images adorned by pressed flowers, covers of old vinyl records, print images with the eyes obscured by a black censorship rectangle. And noise/sound/music. Always there is some interventionist sound which hovers between noise and music. And usually there's an image acting as some sort of mysterious focal point. In the upstairs part of the gallery, where the sound piece is, there's a small picture of a man carrying what looks like an axe handle. And there's also what looks like exactly this axe handle resting on some of the boxes which sit in the noise piece. His work is deeply set, I think, in a personal series of signs and symbols. I think sometimes that these things serve as a form of communication for Seb, but I don't think they commuicate in a way that he intends. But they do communicate in a very individual way. I always leave his works feeling a sense of irresolution, but am fascinated by what I've just experienced. Not easy, but certainly not forgettable.
With all this going on in my head I arrive at Crave, a group show under the auspices of RawSpace, in a disused office or retail outlet just off Spital Square down near Liverpool Street. And although it's a group show I'm really here to see one of Gordon Cheung's works. I've seen his stuff in reproduction loads of times but I've never actually seen one in the flesh - or in the FT, I should say. Gordon's easy hook is that all his works are painted onto cut up collages of the Financial Times stock market figures. And here it is. A huge painting on a collage of the Financial Times. His work always looks like the end of the world, but strangely always both optimistic and sad. Great. I look around at the other stuff. Michael Ashcroft has presented a piece which seems to be photographs of mountains ripped from magazines. I like this a lot.
I don't stay long. I still have to try and get the last drink in at Madder Rose in Whitecross Street, the new gallery run by Flora Fairbain (ex of Studio 1.1)
I get there and nearly bump into a couple of very well known television actors, squeeze past a shoal of giggling blonde girls, and catch a couple of guys, who wouldn't look out of place wearing rugby shirts, lining up empty wine glasses on the window sill outside as a bit of a hoot, building some sort of glass pyramid. Everyone has come along dressed up and out for the night. I arrive knackered, crumpled and bedraggled, the veteran of three other private views already tonight, with my customary black shoulderbag accessorized by an old black rucksack (for reasons I'm not going into, suffice that I had no option) and try and blend in. Which I do, about as well as a drunk uncle at a childrens tea party......(read more about feeling in the wrong place at the wrong time on Nooza's blog - he was there too, although we never met)
I am taking a few photos. One guy there is dressed in a sharp black suit, big black hat and dark glasses (at night, sir?? Are you sure??). He sees my camera turn in his direction and dodges down, puts up his hand up and makes an extraordinarily ostentatious display of not wanting to have his photo taken. Which is fine by me, but then if you don't want to be photographed, DON'T DRESS LIKE THAT, DUDE....
Anyway, this is the second show at Madder Rose and I remember reading about it in a Sunday supplement before it had opened so we all knew it was going to be very chichi foofoo. And it certainly is. I part some womens blonde hair and have a look at some of the works by Jason Shulman. The first piece I see I really like, two solpadeine tablets dissolving in a glass, both tablets on the undulating pirouette that they make, just dropped in the water, sinking to the bottom, bursting with thousands of tiny bubbles. But the whole thing is static. It's a sculpture. I like this a lot. Then, pushing past some expensive suits, jewellery and some more blonde hair, I see more solpadeine tablets in various different arrangements and situations. It begins to feel a little tiresome. Each piece has an art historical reference to bounce off, but it becomes a little too: 'and now I've done this with a solpadeine tablet. And now this! Look!' It fails to convince. It gets very tideous very quickly and by the time I get back to the first one I saw all I can now see is one of those tacky souvenir shops (are there good souvenir shops, I wonder?) that sell fake glasses with plastic flowers stuck in transparent resin...
There are more works downstairs, but I don't make it down there. There's a sculpture of his dad, oh, no wait - the sculpture is his dad - his dead dad's ashes sifted and arranged. Part of me is glad that I don't see this tonight. But it also clicks as well with the whole crowd here tonight - I think dad was Milton Shulman, the famous theatre critic. I wonder what some of those actors are thinking, looking at his ashes?
A few glasses suddenly smash outside on the pavement. The glass pyramid is falling down.
I am tired and crushed and not a famous actor or a blonde haired girl.
I figure it's either I get my hair done - or it's time to leave...