Thursday, October 26, 2006

Seventeen, Jerwood, Art Monthly


Would you say that's nerdy?
I am talking to Graham Dolphin (above) at the opening of his show at Seventeen gallery and he is pointing to the album cover of Patti Smith's Horses, one of his works perched up on the wall. 'When people walk past and look in it'll look just like the cover of the album, as though I've done nothing at all to it and I'm just showing the thing itself.'
But of course, it's not simply the cover, because scratched into the cardboard of it are the lyrics to all the songs on the album. Tiny, tiny script that goes from one side of the cover to the other. It must have taken months.
Would you say that's nerdy?
'And look at this,' says Graham, pointing to the word Horses on the album. 'This is a first pressing of the album and in the subsequent editions the word Horses is in grey, not white like this. Apparently, when they were first put out there was some worry that people wouldn't be able to see that title.'
Would you say that's nerdy?
'It sounds a bit nerdy, really,' says Graham, and you know what? I have to agree.
But that of course is precisely the strength and attraction of his work. I've been a fan of his stuff from seeing a series of works he did using fashion magazines a few years back. 'I kept getting put into shows about fashion, and it's not that the work is really about that.'
'So now,' I say, looking round the gallery at the albums, singles and pop posters, 'you'll be in shows about music.'
'Yeah. Probably,' he says.
We would have talked more about this but Dave Hoyland comes and introduces someone to Graham who has just bought one of his works from tonight's show.
I head off, down to the Jerwood to check in with Simon Tsyzko and the show Blurred Certainty. We have a quick chat but I have to move on, up Blackfriars Road, left onto Stamford Street to the Hayward and a party celebrating 30 years of Art Monthly.
It's a big party. And there's free champagne, so you just know that there will be some blurred uncertainties by the end of this one...
I see Jen Thatcher and JJ Charlesworth there. Sally O'Reilly too. While Sally and I are trying to attempt to have some sort of conversation that doesn't involve silly voices, Patricia Bickers gives a wonderfully measured and perfectly concise speech about Art Monthly and its hardcore crew of long serving staffers.
Then we head over to see the Art Monthly cake. While we are there I meet Rosie Spencer, who I recognise from the background of thousands of private views we've both been at over the last year. She has just been working on the big new Phaidon book Vitamin Ph, is working at Icon magazine and even finds time to produce White Collar, a small magazine which I have been stocking at the bookshop and which is a unique little read. I bump into David Gleeson who I met recently at Giorgio's (who is also there himself, muttering darkly, and apropos of nothing 'I don't like you anymore,' which is not as bad as it sounds as I point out to him that he never liked me in the first place anyway....). Andrew Cross is there with David and I hang out near them for a while. Being near David is like having all the gossip delivered directly to you. People rarely pass him without handing over some delicious piece of information or name of a recently successful applicant for whatever job is currently hot...and so as Sarah Kent stops off for a chat, and we say hello to Rebecca Wilson and many others I slowly realise that there's practically nothing I can report back. But then again, it'll all be common knowledge in the next few weeks anyway...nothing is more important to successful gossip as a sell by date.
I meet other people and chat but, as there's free champagne, I think you know the rest of this story already...

party pics

Monday, October 23, 2006

Your Gallery at The Guardian


There's, like, about a million artists on the Saatchi Your Gallery site. Everyone puts their work up there, hoping that one day Saatchi, at a loose end, sipping a cup of tea, will be idly scrolling through the artists and works online when suddenly, he comes across YOUR work and, spurting tea out of his mouth, shouts: 'MY GOD! THE FUTURE OF ART! I HAVE TO BUY THAT! NOW!'
Of course, this doesn't happen. Saatchi never drinks tea. He likes coffee.
I like coffee too. So a few months back, when I get an email from the Saatchi website that says, could you have a look through the artists online and maybe suggest a few names that we could put on a shortlist, BY TOMORROW, I let a little drop of coffee fall from my mouth too.
There's no way anyone could go through the whole list. It's just not feasible. So, I quickly scroll thru and find the names of anyone I know.
Yes, people of integrity and moral fibre, this is what happens. You all know it, but wish it wasn't so. It is the lesson that everyone has to learn eventually: It is not what you know, but who. Or in this case, who knows you.
So I know some people on the list. I send their names off to the website with a little bit of text saying what I think of their work.
Weeks, months pass.
Then I get an email from James Ford saying he is in The Guardian this morning having made the shortlist for a possible show at The Guardian's Farringdon Road offices.
Well done, James, I think.
He was one of the names I put forward.
So then there's a bit more voting by people and eventually there's a group show of ten artists.
James sends me an invite to the view. He got through.
Well, he sort of got through.
This is where it gets a bit curious.
James's work is General Carbuncle, a piece he has spent the last three years, on and off, working on. This is it here. It's a car, covered in thousands of little toy cars to produce a knobbly looking version of the General Lee car from the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. I like this because it has a lot of impact. I like it because it nods to my own childhood with the toy cars and the TV series. And I like it because I think it is really, really stupid. Stupid, in a good way, though.
Tonight the General is sitting outside the gallery on the road, looking like a car has just parked up but obviously creating a lot of attention.
I find James inside. There are ten artists in the show and he isn't one of them.
Eh?
'First they phoned me and said I was joint 10th, which was a bit odd. Then they said, er, actually you're 11th. Bring the car, they said, put it outside for the opening night.'
So James got the car to outside the gallery where inside the top ten artists are standing around, with their works on the walls, reading about themselves on the all the press material that's being handed out.
But no mention of the General or James.
We chat for a bit. I'm a bit confused by the whole thing.
And talking of being confused, I bump into Warren Neidich, who, true to previous form, looks slightly dazed, and says he has just landed. He's always just landed. He blinks and looks around. Maybe it's another planet he has landed from, I think.
He has a show coming up at Andrew Mummery's place and he is over here for the opening and, strangely, for the closing. Or the finissage, as Warren calls it. Warren likes those kinds of words. In the sentence after that he uses the words: 'postproduction', 'metaphysical', 'ontological' and 'symbolic'. It's a very Warren sentence. And he was only talking about going to the corner shop.
Mathieu Copeland and Dallas Seitz are there too. Mathieu is talking about my blog, saying that when he looks his own name up on google it usually ends up in my blog somewhere. I wonder, how many times does Mathieu look up his name on google?
Probably, I think, as many times as I do.
Dallas is talking about 1,000,000mph, his gallery. He says he should do more in terms of trying to get people to review it and stuff, but, he says, I'm too embarrassed to phone people up and talk to them...
Both Mathieu and I start laughing. This is rather like the pope saying he feels uncomfortable talking about religion.
Dallas's partner Matt is there too and I took a magazine for the shop from him the other day. Dallas had talked to me about it when I last saw him at Three Colts a while back. I say I was so relieved that the magazine was good; there's nothing worse than being recommended a fantastic new magazine/book/handstitched CD in a limited edition jewel case by an acquaintance only to find that it's complete rubbish.
Dallas says he wouldn't do that to me. He says when you tell people you run a gallery, the last thing you ever want to hear back is someone saying, 'oh, a gallery? You know, my friend's a really good artist..'

guardian pics

Friday, October 13, 2006

My Dead Gallery


Frieze week is nearly over and I end up on Friday with a bit of history.
Ah, history. You know, old people and bits of paper. That's what history usually looks like.
And this is sort of true for the Centre of Attention's very selective review of independent spaces and collectives of the latter half of the last century. At least three people ask me why City Racing isn't in all this; possibly one of the most famous independent spaces of the last 30 years. But there you go, there are plenty of others missing from this and, also, that's history, isn't it? Selective, subjective, incomplete, random, fickle.
The opening is at Fieldgate Gallery which is a pretty big space and more than adequate to the job of displaying all these bits of paper. The magazine Women's Art Library, which then became Make which then became nothing at all is presented as a carpet of magazines in the floor. Other historical organisations seem no more than a table, a chair and a title. There's bits of paper from workfortheeyetodo, 2B Butler's Wharf, Artslab and lots of others that I've never heard of.
BANK, who I have heard of, also have some bits of paper there - as well as some lifesize crucifixions that are leaning against walls and pillars. I still like all that mad BANK stuff. It was just so arrogant and angry and, really, downright childish. I can't think of anyone doing anything like this now.
But maybe that's no bad thing...
I look around. There's a whole mix of people here - lots of old people who look like hippies. There are also lots of kids who look like children of hippies. For a while a few of them play football with an enormous black balloon (above).
Near the back of the gallery there's a video screen showing a short piece of film of naked women with their bodies painted in a decidedly sixties type way. It all looks very...free, man. But also beautifully innocent. And fun.
There are a few women watching the screen too, wearing expressions on their faces that I'm sure could only be read as 'look at me there, what was I doing?' and then taking photos and howling with laughter...
The whole place seems to be a multi pocketed reunion for different groups. Some of them have faired pretty well, some of them have clearly gone mad. That Japanese woman who kept screaming and running around and then later, lying on the floor. Not sure if she was faring too well.
There's some interesting stuff here, but the best bits are actually to be found sitting down with the website and taking time to read thru the texts and looking at those old photos of groups of people inside and outside their galleries. I adore those photos. So of their time, so dated. So hopeful. It reminds me of some of the photos that I have on this blog, great people caught up in the little history I am writing; making history now, instead of waiting fifty years. And we all know what history is like: selective, subjective, incomplete, random, fickle....

old pics

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Little Bit of Frieze


Here we go, then - 1 million artists and over seven million pieces of work. All of it for sale.
It can only be Frieze Art Fair.
By row D I actually can't see anything. As usual there's far too much to take in and my eyes just give up. They hand in the towel. They refuse to carry on. They are ex-eyes (etc etc).
We are all there, bumping into each other and saying hello and wandering along for a bit in the big Frieze soup for a while then detatching and meeting up again...
You don't really look at art at Frieze, you look at other people and you look at small examples of reputations. You shop. You buy.
Or many people do. It is, after all, just a big, noisy trade fair, with lots of stalls selling their wares, and then trying to sell more. Nothing wrong with that. Just like most other industry trade fairs.
But we still find it all a bit difficult. I lose count of the conversations I have with people who say 'this isn't the art world,' when it quite clearly is. Might not be the bit of the artworld that they like, but it's defintely a major part of what keeps people interested. And it's growing each year. And it won't go away.
Anyway, what do I care? I'm in the VIP Lounge, sipping a mojito and eating creme brulee canapés. Or at least Lena is. 'These are great,' she says, carrying canapes and glasses over to us from the bar.
Tracey Emin is in here too, signing her big new book. And there's lots of people going up with the big new book and saying how much they like her.
Which is nice.
Just before it ends I figure I ought to get a signature too. Except I don't really want to get a book or anything signed, nothing that could then become an object which I would have to keep and puzzle over. I have a little idea.
Unfortunately, as I go up to see her there's a guy in front of me talking to her. Carl Freedman. Bloody Carl Freedman, hell, that's all I need. Yep, that Carl Freedman who wrote the book on her and used to go out with her a long, long time ago and who she doesn't now have a great relationship with. She's looking pretty pissed off, looking away from him and he's looking like he's enjoying it. She refuses to meet his eye.
He turns and looks at me 'I just put my head in the lion's mouth,' he grins, then clears off.
Leaving me and a well pissed off Tracey.
'Hi,' I say, being all lovely and pleasant. 'I was wondering if you wouldn't mind signing my...hand?'
I figure this will work. I get a signature on my hand for the rest of the night, it slowly fades, there's nothing to sell or to worry about at the end of it, just a cute little memory.
'No, I won't sign your hand, I'm not signing flesh.'
She's not laughing.
'The last two times I signed people's skin they both died,' she says.
I figure maybe she has a point here. I don't want to die. Specially not because Tracey signed my hand. What is she? Some kind of voodoo woman?
'I'll sign some paper or something,' she says, 'but not your skin. People go and have my signature tattooed on them.' She flicks over a little paper napkin. 'I'll sign this,' she says. 'Then you can put it on ebay later.'
I say I was trying to avoid all that object business.
She looks at me as if to say, 'prat.' Then she laughs.
I thank her and take my napkin.
Now what do I do?
Well, here's what: Leave Frieze and head down to Year_06, one of the many alternative fairs that have sprung up round the big party. This is the thing put together by the Keith Talent boys: thirty one galleries from Europe and the US.
As we leave the Frieze tent and are looking to cross the road a Canadian voice, coming from a small, anxious looking middle age woman, stops us. 'Could you tell me how to get to Charlotte Street, please? I'm diabetic you see, and all my things are there, in the Charlotte Street hotel. I'm from Canada.' She doesn't look too steady and I'm thinking, woah, lady, you need to get there quickly for sure - but isn't this too much information already that you're giving me? I recommend she gets a cab. I point out the best corner, just across the road from us. 'Best place, there,' I say. She thanks us and ambles off.
We cross the other road ourselves and I see a cab start coming up the road towards her. It looks like a done deal. Suddenly, though, there's a whole lot of shrieking - 'TAXI! TAXIIII!' and Tracey and her mate are haring across the lanes of traffic, waving their arms around, towards this cab.
We stand and watch. Will the driver stick with the original Canadian woman who really needs to get to the Charlotte Street hotel before she keels over? Or will he pass her over and let Tracey, a well known shrieking celebrity - 'guess who I had in the back of my cab tonight?' - get in?
Well, Tracey's shouting and waving, still running like a banshee towards the cab, and the Canadian woman is doing a fairly ineffectual, but quite moving, queen mother type wave.
OK, you are the cab driver: What do you do?
Exactly right. You pull up sharply, stop for the guy in the black suit who's chivalrously stepped out of nowhere in front of all these women, get him straight in and on the back seat and put your foot down, hard...
We trudge off on our route, leaving three women on the pavement to a conversation about bad cabs, London art and diabetic collapse...
A little later and we are standing in the Mary Ward house where Year_06 is happening. We are drinking beer and, because we suddenly got hungry and they were selling it, eating a cheese sandwich.
Lena wails: 'two minutes ago I was drinking mojitos and eating creme brulee - now I'm drinking a warm beer that cost 2.50 and eating an old cheese sandwich....'
She has a point.
There are lots of people here and I see the Keith Talent boys (looking very smart in suits) moving around the place. They seem pleased - if a little tired. But I have to credit them, they've pulled it off.
A couple of galleries already sold most of their work this morning, before they even opened. There's a real freshness to a lot of the stuff here and I'm delighted by both stuff I've seen before and new stuff too. Also, the gallerists all seem friendly and eager to chat and relaxed about the whole thing. It's a really good vibe.
'Look,' says Woodeson, 'I've found you!' He points out the piece at the top of this posting. It's by William Powhida, who has done a whole series of neatly observed skits on the artworld and it's archetypes. Worryingly, I think the picture above does actually look a little like me....
He's drawn a picture of Tracey too, in amongst a load of other people, in a piece called The London Enemies List.
It's getting late and I blow my nose, wondering if I'm getting a cold.
Then I put the used napkin back in my pocket.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Matt Packer leaves


We say goodbye to Matt Packer who leaves the ICA bookshop after less than a year. He's off to Cork in Ireland for a year-long curatorial fellowship at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery.
His erudition and learning will be missed.
So too, his beard.

The Charlotte Church Show


Matt Packer laughs and says, 'Ah, Russell. You do High and Low, don't you?'
'Matt,' I say, laughing back at him, 'to me there's no difference.'
Which roughly translated means:
You are all off at the opening night Frieze party and I, well I, am standing holding a cold beer in the Green Room at the television studios with Charlotte Church, following the recording of the last in the present series of her Friday night show.
And a very jolly experience it was too, thanks.

Anyway, isn't Charlotte Church the Tracey Emin of the light entertainment world?
Discuss.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cheshire Grim


I have just jumped up on the bed of a lorry, walked along the back trailer and climbed down through an unexpected hole in the floor. I'm now in a very low ceilinged room with what look like some sort of indian carpets on the floor, or prayer mats or somesuch, and then I'm in the next room which is just a few plastic chairs and the walls covered with newspaper pages featuring naked women.
It isn't nice. It's claustrophobic, clammy, dirty, unsavory, scary and grim.
I'm in one small part of the vast installation that Christoph Büchel has produced for the Hauser and Wirth space in Coppermill in Cheshire Street off Brick Lane.
I bump into someone who has been working on this thing for the last month. Yes, the last month. It's taken a whole month to install all this - the hundred or so fridges piled up, the containers leading to dirty, rank eating areas, beds, a freezer that you can climb through to an even more claustrophobic and dirtier area and a sort of archeological dig (I don't do this - the queue is too slow moving, there's a promise only of more discomfort and dirt - and suddenly I'm just not that interested); there's a caravan almost buried beneath hundreds of old, mashed up computers and dvd players; there's the whole scrangy hotel set up you have to walk thru when you arrive...
I don't think 'scrangy' is actually a word, but it summed up the hotel rooms for me. And I think you can probably get what I'm meaning.
So, what else?
Well, not much really.
It's a bit like walking round a film set. It's wonderfully done, the attention to detail, the effect of a just deserted blackmarket workcamp extremely well executed. But....
Well, it's art, innit? There weren't really people here running this whole thing like it was some sort of illegal work place. Those people were never really here. I can't stop thiking that this is so well done, that I don't actually believe any of it. And if I don't believe it, I don't really know what it's here for.
(Other than to go down in art history as a monumental installation, of course.)
Coppermill is a big building in which to make your mark - a sort of anti-turbine hall. It's huge and daunting and a real challenge.
Sometimes, I think, do we need another space this big?
(Then again, sometimes I also think, do we really need any more art? But that's for another day, maybe)
Since Paul McCarthy inaugerated it last year with the Whitechapel show Hauser and Wirth have followed with the Dieter Roth/Kippenberger show and now this. I can't help thinking that Büchel's show really isn't helped by following these two previous shows - both of them teeming with rancid material and chaotic order one way or another. This now looks like one more variation on a theme.
And this piece also feels too close to the surrounding environment - weren't there sweatshops and black market factories all round this area? And isn't it still possible to find areas where a pile of fridges or broken computers is just daily life? Why would I go to Hauser and Wirth to see this when it's happening all round me anyway?
And, finally, isn't this all a bit Mike Nelson?
I meet up with Ben Woodeson there. He goes off round it sniffing like a tracker dog, looking to find the really good bits. He takes about 10 minutes. He comes and finds me, shakes his head.
I know what you mean, I say.
Woodeson has seen Büchel's stuff before, he says, and it was a much better piece that he saw.
We head off out, back into the street, bumping into Nooza, Lucy Harrison and others, then heading up to Fred's on Vyner Street. We take a quick look at Simon English's big scratchy drawings. These are quite nice after the nightmare of Cheshire Street. And surprisingly detailed. Just when you think you've looked at every bit, another little scenario appears, offering up another little avenue of thought...
Woodeson says, 'check out David Risley, next door. See what you think.'
I do check it out and I like it a lot. There are four paintings by Jonathan Wateridge. Big, bold, thick paintings depicting plane crashes and shipwrecks. And all of them painted on about eight or ten sheets of perspex hung one in front of the other, so that when you look at them up close and from an angle you can see that he has painted different parts of the picture on different levels. Stand a little distance away, straight on, and they look like normal 2D paintings. I'm not convinced that the added depths provide added depth, but I really like them. As I'm standing there (probably nodding to myself like an idiot) Charlie Danby comes up and says hello. Charlie is a writer and a curator and an artist and he writes really well on artists for magazines like i-D. Anyway, I know him because of stuff he has written and curated and we are standing looking at Wateridge's works and I say I like these because of the colours: I say I like that one because it's really blue, and I like that one because it's really green. I'm not sure Charlie was ready for quite such insightful criticism and appreciation of this painters work, but that's what he gets. Charlie's got his doubts about the whole perspex depth thing too. We chat for a bit then we head off.
Wateridge's paintings stay in my head. They have tapped on the shoulder of a memory and it is only a few days later that the memory turns and faces me. Of course. They remind me of the cover paintings on the trashy paperbacks I read when I was growing up: adventure stories, Willard Price books, Leo Kessler, Sven Hassel books. I always loved those covers. I used to sit and look at them. Or look at them while I took a breather from the actual reading. And his paintings took me back to all that. A plane, crashed in the jungle, the survivors fighting for their lives, trying to get back to civilisation.
I can almost see the strapline:
'Lost in the rainforest, desperate and a long way from home - how long before they start eating each other??'

cheshire cheese pics

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ceal Floyer at Giorgio's


I am standing in Giorgio Sadotti's front room. Well, sort of front room. It's not like a usual house because Giorgio lives in a David Adjaye designed house in the east end. From outside it just looks like a big brown thing, with no windows or doors or anything. From outside it looks a bit weird. But inside it's great. A really quite amazing house. The whole of the back wall is just a giant window, letting light down into the bottom of the house.
I'm here for one of Giorgio's - what? I don't really know what they are called. Every year he shows work by an invited artist and himself. It's usually on a Sunday afternoon. It's not really a show and it's not really a party, though there are lots of people and there is some drink and some food. It is what it is, I guess. I'm very fond of it and of the idea. I have done something similar for the past few years too. Make some work, invite people round, feed them, give them some drink, have fun.
Anyway, I'm here and looking at a monitor showing a road where there are some cars passing. This is Ceal Floyer's work. It's slight and short and minimalist.
I am drinking red wine from a white china cup and saucer and talking to Liz Wright, Giorgio's partner.
'Where's Giorgio's piece?' I ask, expecting to suddenly hear something blaring out, loud and disruptive.
Liz smiles, inscrutably. Liz does inscrutable really well.
'OK,' I say, 'Are you alright if I take a couple of photos?' It's like her and Giorgio's house and everything, it's not like a gallery so I'm not sure of the ground rules.
'Ask Giorgio,' say Liz. Then she says, 'I think it's time you stopped taking photos, isn't it? It's a Sunday. Have a day off.' She looks at me pityingly, like I'm a child wanting to play the same game again and again.
'I will have a day off,' I say, 'in about five months time. Five months and then I'm done.' Five months and then this blog, this piece of work about history, place and identity, about what it means to be here, now in London, in the artworld (whatever that is), chipping away at a thin strata of what the artworld is for me, for all of us, comes to an end. But that still all feels a long way off. And there's still lots to do.
Anyway, more of that later...
I try again.
'OK,' I say, 'Ceal's work is these cars going past, but only white cars....And Giorgio's piece is....?'
Liz smiles that smile again.
I often think Liz would make an excellent sphinx.
'OK,' she says. 'So. White....'
She motions to the cups we are drinking from, raises her eyebrows, nods towards the table of cups and wine....
Hmmmm, so Giorgio's response(?) to Ceal's piece is the cups we are drinking from.
Maybe his work is just a generous gift of drinking vessels.
Seems unlikely, though, I think.
I go over to the table to look at the cups (and get more wine) and chat to Mathieu Copeland who is there. I tell him that Cerith Wyn Evans bought three copies of his magazine, Perfect, the other day, saying, 'I bet you don't sell many of these' - but actually we do, it's one of the most consistently selling magazines we have. So Mathieu is very happy. I also wonder if he is a little drunk...
I see Gavin Turk there, Bob and Roberta Smith and Jessica Voorsanger. It's a good turn out. Whatever it is.
I also get introduced to David Gleeson. He is very funny and very gossipy. He mentions ArtRumour which everyone used to read online. He used to contribute bits and pieces. No surprise, I think.
I'm starting to get myself together to leave (wondering if I should take one of the cups and saucers, but don't), say my goodbyes and, by chance, leave with David.
Before we go separate ways I give him my card. 'I really ought to give you mine,' he says, 'but I've only got this on me.' He offers me his Boots Advantage card. If there were enough points on it I might have taken it, but I let him keep it. We say our toodle pips and I head to the tube.
I stand at the edge of the road, waiting to cross. There are lots of cars, and inevitably, none of them are white.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Through the Large Glass at Three Colts


and see James Ford and make a victory v sign with my hand to denote that I just need two minutes (to go to the toilet actually - I've just arrived, yes) and then I'll be back and then when I am back Harry Pye comes up and says 'you look well' and I say yes, and think, ugh, I feel awful because I have a cold coming and I don't feel well at all and then Harry says, have you been in the other room yet and I say what other room (I've only just arrived in this room) and he says I'll take you there and I follow him along a corridor and there's no one around and I suddenly think where is Harry taking me and what is going to happen is Harry an axe wielding maniac and taking me to my death and I make a joke of this with Harry and he laughs but then we get to the other room so it's ok and Harry doesn't murder me and the room here is pretty much empty (although Harry says it was really full about 10 minutes ago) except for a whole pile of TVs and some sort of projection on the wall and Professor Timecreep standing around in the middle of it and we know Timecreep from here and there's also some painting on the wall, the words The Crisps, in big black letters and there's also one of Harry's paintings (above) and Harry talks to me about it and says it is a painting of him with two people who he housesits for and he did it while they were away and painted himself as this sort of wizard and them as his helpers and now they are moving to Scotland and I ask is there any coincidence there and Harry laughs and says they are moving to Cromarty which I recognise from the shipping forecast so we say that that is good and that Harry will always know what kind of weather they are having and then we look at a work next to Harry's which is black and has some back to front text on it and the face of a cat but the eyes of the cat have had jewels put in them and it's all a bit weird and Harry says that an Italian girl he knows has done this and there are also some headphones beneath it to listen to and we both agree that it's not good to have headphones as that takes more effort than either of us are up to at the moment, so I take some photos and Professor Timecreep comes over to see me and says would I mind taking some photos of her because the flash on her camera isn't working and so I do and I say I will send her what I take and then my phone goes and it's Ben Woodeson, I see his name come up on the screen, but I don't answer it quick enough and he doesn't leave a message and there was a sort of arrangement to meet him here tonight so I decide to go back to the main gallery and I walk in and there's Barry Thompson and he says hello and motions me to come and stand near him so he can ask - ain't this always the way - if I can do a favour and the favour is can I get him tickets to a sold out gig at the ICA next week that his friend's band are playing and he is the second person today to ask me this, but I can't do anything unfortunately (although a couple of days later I can and that makes it all pretty cool with people and they get in to see the band) and then Barry kind of loses interest shall we say and then two guys come up and say hi to Barry and Barry says, these two guys are the lego artists and I'm not sure what he means and then they say they make sharks and dali clocks out of lego and I think maybe I have seen some of their work, I think they are these guys here and we say hello and then Barry says we're going to find Harry Pye, you coming...I say, no, I just want to have a quick look round and I think better phone Woodeson to see what is happening so I go and stand outside the door and ring him and as it starts to connect he taps me on the shoulder and he's here and we get a beer and then I say have you seen the other room and we start to walk there and see James Ford and we talk to him about his work General Carbuncle which is coming up in The Guardian show that he is in and he talks about getting engaged to his lovely girlfriend and he shows us a tattoo he got done when they got engaged which goes up his arm which I think means 'joined' but I could have got that wrong and then I say well, we are going to the other room and we say goodbye to James and Woodeson talks a bit about a show he has going on in Lancaster and I make a joke about being an axe wielding madman as I walk with him down the corridor when we get there to the other room The Crisps are playing and we look at them for a very short while and then we go back to the main gallery and we bump into Simon Ould who is wearing wellington boots that he bought for £3 and he is talking about being in Harry Pye's show about John Peel and that he is doing a painting of Mark E Smith for it and then Dallas Seitz comes up and we talk to him for a bit and we talk about The Crisps ('they're, like, the art band du jour,' says Dallas) and then we talk about Sarah Baker whose work I think is very interesting and Dallas shows me a ring he has on his finger which is a Sarah Baker ring and while we are talking Woodeson says he is heading off and I take a few photos and when I look at them later when I am at home I see that Sarah Doyle is in one of them but I didn't see her there as I often take photos without looking at what I am taking, so, belatedly, hello, Sarah, and talk to Dallas a bit more and then I say I have to go myself and

large glass pics

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Yujiro Opens


I'm south of the river so feeling a little uneasy already, trying to find a new gallery called Yujiro which is on some industrial estate. It's dark and I see a girl wandering round with a similar email print out to the one I am clutching, for the show The Universe in a Handkerchief. We join up and stalk through lots of buildings and eventually find Block A, go up about five flights of stairs (there's a lift but by this time neither of us are feeling keen) and we get there and it's all ok. In fact, better than ok - we're in what looks like a good show....
Sometimes when you walk into a gallery (especially one you've never been to before) you know instantly that you have walked into a good show or a bad - the size of the gallery, the layout of the works, the amount of pieces, the colours even, the smell, the vibe, something...
And also, as an added bonus, I have to say, being served saki in small wooden boxes instead of green bottles of beer, is a complete winner. Even if everyone does end up spilling quite a lot down their chins.
I'm chiefly here because Giorgio Sadotti (above) has some work in here and I see his stuff almost immediately. How could anyone miss it? Plastered up all the way round the gallery is a series of large (maybe) arbitary words, in a range of fonts and backgrounds and styles, all prefixed with word 'not': 'Not averse. Not useless. Not these. Not promised... I also notice that actually these words don't go all the way round the gallery in a single strip - they are in the spaces between the other individual artists works. Bet Giorgio didn't like that, I think. He always likes things to have a completeness, a unity. And to get his own way. Then I think: how on earth did they get him to compromise on this? Was there money involved? A gun to the head? Concrete shoes??
I have a wander round. In the middle of the first part of this big gallery space are a collection of video pieces by Eric Hattan. Odd clips of a shopping trolley freewheeling across a car park and crashing into a car; a large mechanical digger dropping a large heavy ball onto a bridge and slowly demolishing it; people crossing roads; humdrum, slightly off-beat things. And the monitors are looking out from a pile of cardboard boxes. It's good.
A weird, very loud mishmash of sounds suddenly start thumping and wailing thru the gallery, replacing the clattering chatter. Then another sound starts up with like a thick club dance beat, really, really loud.
I look across the gallery and see Giorgio standing calmly by a turntable and speakers, a large lump of butter in his mouth, which is very obviously not melting.
He's arrived then, I think.
I also think, how typically Giorgio, to do a work that totally defines the whole space. Defines and influences, dominates and ultimately, controls the space.
It's a very Giorgio type of thing, I think.
The thumping sound piece last a few minutes. It's a (very) limited 12" made up of people's voices performing a techno track.
Later, when it ends and the gallery goes back to its tinkling babble, there feels something missing. As well as heralding Giorgio's arrival, the piece also brought a sense of excitement and energy to the whole place. I start looking forward to it coming back on. Which it does, whenever Giorgio, or me, or someone decides to start it up. It gets better each time. The whole gallery starts happening...
I meet Matt Hale. I've known him on and off over many years as the person you email to place your ad in Art Monthly. I also know him as one of the original City Racers, so that makes him not only pretty special in my book (or, even, blog...) but in art history itself.
We are looking at a video piece by Ed Oliver which shows a cut together Super 8 film of a guy jumping up and then moving, seemingly in mid air along a path, as though he were inexpertly, and jerkily, flying, stuttering through the air for a short length of time. I absolutely love his piece because it reminds me of a dream that I've had a few times where I suddenly realise that if I jump up and keep my legs moving I can, actually, for a short distance, almost fly. It's the most beautiful feeling. And it feels completely real when I dream it.
Bizarrely I must have said all this out loud.
Matt says dreaming you are flying is good, that dreaming you can fly means good things. I hope so. He then tells me about his dreams of flying. When he was young he used to jump from the stairs in his house, seeing just how far up the stairs he could go and still jump to the bottom. He used to have a dream where he was jumping down the stairs and instead of landing at the bottom, just took off into flight.
Isn't that wonderful?
Anyway, there are some other works there that are really good: I like Sarah Pickering's photos of shells being detonated. I've seen these before and they are great. It looks like clouds have come down from the sky to take a rest just above the ground. Or like there are trees growing, made entirely of smoke.
Micheal Sailstorfer shows 10 photographs of a hut being dismantled and burned in the stove that sits in the midle of the hut, thus consuming itself. It makes me think of Simon Starling's works. Minkoff and Olesens Meteorites of Love are photographs of balls of duvet made in hotel rooms.
I bump into Patrick Coyle who says he just discovered my blog the other day and sat down for an afternoon to read it. He says he's been in many of the views I have been to, just over the other side of the room. I say that's great and take his photo.
I hear Giorgio's piece start up again.
The gallery starts to energise.
I lift my right foot slowly off the ground and hold it in midair. I gently ease my left foot up beside it. I spread my arms, carefully, out to the sides and, like I am swimming, softly push myself along, flying, for a little while, and then for a little while longer...

square box photos

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rosy Wilde


I'm on my way home but detour through Soho to have a quick look at Jemima Brown's show opening at Stella Vine's place, Rosy Wilde.
I've seen some of Jemima's work before at Family Viewing at Family Viewing at Curatorspace so I'm prepared for the show to look pretty spooky and unhinged. And indeed it does. She has some of those familiar sculpted faces in flowery wreaths that she's had before. I don't like these at all, they look like props from some 70's Hammer horror film. From what I understand there's this whole family thing going on with Brown and a lot of these sculptures relate to family members. There's also tonight a wallpaper piece that she has covered the walls of the gallery in. It's to do with the unamerican activities committe from the 50's but is also spliced up with images from more recent American wars. And there's a video piece too. This has people (from Rosy Wilde, I think) looking directly to camera, but with their eyes replaced by Jemima's. She's done this before at the Curatorspace show but instead there she used photographs of her grandmother. This new set is less interesting than those because the difference between the individual and her eyes is much less noticeable, so it could be just a single, slightly weird, person you are looking at. The ones at Curatorspace worked much better as there was a definite disconnection between the still, old, black and white image and Jemima's eyes, softly blinking and looking around, partly as though they were surprised to find themselves in that face and yet, sort of complicit in the imposition and rather interested and amused by it. There were layers of meanings about genetic make up, history, personality, psychology, determinism. Actually, yes, they were brilliant - way better than the piece she has done for tonight. They really had a ton of psychological weight behind them, and were done so delicately.
And I'm thinking about all this, and thinking, wow, they really were good works and I didn't, I don't think, write about them at all when I saw them - it's only now, with this new work, that I have understood those pieces. And only now, that I realise how much they have stayed with me. Mmmm. Good, yes, I'm starting -
'You're looking very serious,' says Harry Pye.
'Just thinking,' I say, wondering if, having slipped into the chair that I keep in the little comfy study in my mind, my face, momentarily forgotten about, had fixed into some rather unsettling scowly frown (I do that a lot - I was born with a frowning face).
Harry starts pointing at faces on the wallpaper and naming the figures that are on it. 'Recognise her,' he says, 'that's Condoleezza Rice.' We look at them. Is that Cheney? That's Blair. Rumsfeld, David Kelly. And that's that girl in the prison pictures with the tortured Iraqi soldiers. Wasn't she called Lynndie? Something?
Harry says he has been here a little while, hanging about, waiting to meet up with some friends and apart from Stella doesn't really know anyone else here. I know that feeling. I often go places on my own. And going to private views is sometimes like going to someone else's party. Even though they sent you an invite and they want everyone to come along, most private views are groups of the artist's friends. So I go along and step into someone else's bunch of friends for the night. Some galleries have a committed bunch of attendees for every view while others have an ever changing crowd who come to their friend's view and then never again. And that's fair enough. It's just the way it is. I'm kind of used to it now. And I'm usually there just to catalogue things and then move on.
Harry then tells me about some shows he has coming up. Stuff he is curating, or has work in, or is waiting for funding for. He's busy. He goes through loads of things and finally peters out in March next year. It's a long list.
April, Harry? Anything in April?
'Not yet,' he says.
I ask if I can take his photo. I figure I ought to as he has a new thing on his face. A beard.
'OK,' he says, 'but I need someone attractive to stand next to me.'
He looks around and, as we are at Rosy Wilde, it's an easy choice: Colette is here, managing the drinks. I take a couple of photos.
Harry heads off.
I hang around a bit and chat to Colette and take more photos of her.
Then I take a quick look back in the main room.
It is full of someone else's party.
And they all have Jemima's eyes...

rosy pics