Author: Debbie

Henri Matisse : Dance (1)

Compare this with the previous post Damselles D’Avignon 1907

Henri Matisse Dance (I) Paris, Boulevard des Invalides, early 1909

Damselles was first published in an article about The Wild Men of Paris : Matisse, Picasso and Les Fauves.
Fauves meaning wild beast, was a handy term to differentiate use of colour, from that of the impressionists fascination with light ; the Fauves used colour in saturated blocks, rather than smaller marks, but equally representation was not literal.

Dance (1) was part of another earlier painting Le Bonheur de Vivre 1906

Henri Matisse. Le Bonheur de vivre, also called The Joy of Life, between October 1905 and March 1906. Oil on canvas

Dance (1) specifically shows the essence of the original’s overall lightness and joy.


Stand back a minute and think of how this is conveyed. Firstly, if the bodies were rendered as literal, in a painting of a dance like this; the movement would be of the mechanics of a group of people dancing – yes some maybe in the air mid movement, but the mechanics of the positions in relation to each other’s time-held movement would be the only way to mimic the real-life scenario.

As with Picasso and Damselles. Matisse takes the mechanics of reality out if this. He directly uses colour and the flatness of the canvas, away from a true sense of perspective.
The impressionists had also been doing this, depicting how they saw light rather than solidity of object. Now Matisse saw form through colour arrangement, as a way of expressing an emotion or feel of something.


The colours used are simple and easy to relate to. We could assume the background is green for grass or blue for sky or water. Either way there is no way of knowing for sure as there are insufficient details.
Only the dancers have the necessary detail to invoke a feeling. And that feeling is subjective to the viewer. But the simplicity and essence of movement and freeness in their abandon, with nude bodies, relaxed lines and lack of tension is shown in their lightness of touch with the perceived ground and the space they occupy on the canvas and as a group.

There is a break in the chain, this could be a point of tension, but the colour of a knee fills that, possibly. The break could mean all sorts, an offer for the viewer to join ( it is closest to the viewer’s stand point).
Or a gentle slip; in that a break doesn’t matter in the great scheme of the dance itself.  But it doesn’t detract from the overall unity of the group and feeling of a perfect moment.


All conveyed through a different way of using colour, form and arrangement to express an idea of reality.



Dance (1)

MoMA Dance (1)


Barnes Foundation Le Bonheur de Vivre


Attribution for images :
Dance (1)  :
Bonheur de Vivre :

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon


Damoiselles d’Avignon

What do you see.
Sharpe angular outlines of women? flat tones, little depth for expression of shape within the ‘unfeminine’ outlines?

Not a mirror image of real life for sure. Especially when portraits and figurative images had, from the beginning of 1300’s renaissance Europe, been striving for that similarity in likeness. Nature rendered as itself. The flatness of either godly or human form was given depth ; the new science of perspective having effect in architecture and painting.

Why now in 1907 did Picasso decide to ‘retrograde’ back to rendering an image flat? When artists worked in tempera up to the early renaissance, they didn’t have the luxury of time to mix and blend colours into formations of depth illusion and shape.
Picasso worked in the relatively new medium of oil and did, yet he had no desire to paint ‘photographic’ or even remotely similar mimics. He instead chose to invoke his questioning imagination. He was, as were many at that time interested in what had become in the west a developing craze – a fascination with all things exotic, born on the exploration and colonisation of continents since the 1700’s.
And, for artists like Picasso and Gauguin and Matisse… the fascination with African imagery, history and the far east, became a fascination with their own way of seeing and how they rendered images.

And the timing of 1907; specifically, this was a time of change, old certainties and the bedrock of faith, science and philosophy had been questioned for some time. But the first decade in the new millennium was a time when these changes gained traction. Some groups of artists created their own social norms in manifestos. This would be tempered or change again after the carnage of the first world war, but the years prior to 1913 were riding on new ideas, and importantly not resting on statues of older, time-embedded ones.

Picasso’s life may have shown evidence of his attitude toward women, but his paintings are, as far as paintings go, only able to depict the image represented. Any thoughts or feelings invoked are all subjective, along with any information about the artist the viewer has, and what the artist intended.

So from the point of the angular lines, the unfeminine lines, the aggressive lines maybe, what is their point? Or maybe they are ‘just’ shapes. The dark lines are not shadows as we would see them, but could be, holding the two central figures shape’s softer tones of pink, lifting them away from the lighter blue and white ‘background’. And African mask-like lines on the faces of two of the others. Dark tones on the face of the figure on the left. And green stripes and blue edging to the nose of the two mask like faces on the right. The fruit is recognisable, but not balanced on any surface. It could be sliding off the canvas.

The red ‘curtain’ or is it a block of colour, although a hand appears to be holding it. This could make for a dramatic or theatrical side drape to the canvas. There is no background as such, just more shapes highlighting the figures, as if backlit perhaps. The colour of the figures are pushed forward to the viewer, maybe that is where any proactive stance could be felt. As opposed to the passivity of so many previous reclining nudes throughout history.
And looking at it as a mirror of where the viewer is stood, changing that to looking downward.  You could see the surround to the figures as sharp angular shapes of fabric, a bed maybe.

The images in front of you are of female forms, for sure, but rendered in a completely different way from that of the norm. A shock inducing move for the times? Or at least a contentious one?
Except they are naked, nothing new there. They are erotic, the one on the left for example, holds her arm up, bearing all, as would many typical reclining nudes. Except she has a non-passive stance, her eyes and expression unflinchingly direct.
The nude and ‘vulnerable’ bodies eschew an angular fortitude, a strength. They certainly are foremost in the viewers eye when looking at the canvas, not shying away. Their eyes, almond shaped like that of Byzantine or Egyptian art. Three of the stares fixed on the viewer.

The white drapes an almost unnecessary prop. A coy reminder of female portraits of the past.
There are no references to pubic hair or erogenous zones, just shapes.
Not necessarily vulnerable as a group here. As was the single model of many portraits of nude women.

To me the group show a strength, with their in-your-face stance, nakedness, eyes fixed on the viewer and their bodies broken down into cones and triangles, shapes rather than voluminous curves.

Away from any ambiguities, we do know that they are five women from a brothel in Barcelona. The original figure on the left, initially intended to be male.

This painting would be put into categories; the flatness of Primitivism and the way Cubism would breakdown seeing; from what was considered ‘reality’ into paintings that would show in terms of flatness, shape of colour and movement.


Art Made Clear is a soon to be available series of videos intended to remove the mystery from art history.
Please take a look at some excerpts 


Further links

Venice Biennale 2017 : Damian Hirst Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

No cow’s (or artists) were hurt in the making of this exhibition :

This, by Biennale standards was a large exhibition. And by Biennale standards a move away from the more ‘equal space for all’ approach initiated all those years ago. Its Giardini pavilions designated for each participating country and designed individually, largely on an equal footing, size-wise with each neighbour.

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, taking years to make, ten precicely, certainly needed the space of The Pinault Foundation’s two buildings the Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi.

Aside from the work itself, it did appear to slightly overshadow the main event, by its size and the artist’s reputation. The main event being held as always in the Arsenale and Giardini. And various venues dotted around Venice.

First of all, the space. I saw Dahn Vo’s exhibition at the Punta della Dogana in 2015 and one thing I noticed was, how easy it was to move around the building; being able to view larger rooms from above and all with plenty of natural light. All, apart from one room (in this case used to great effect with lights dimmed for the gold and crystals).

The Sadness


I had read some reviews of the exhibition before I saw the sculptures in this part of the two spaces. The Dogana (Customs House) housing the wreck’s treasures and the Palazzo Grassi re-inventing these as expensive collectible items.
I didn’t get to see the second part in the Palazzo Grassi – all the drawings, and re-models of the broken and tarnished objects laid out in the first.
Or the huge sculpture,  a gigantic re-model of a smaller object housed in the Dogana. Which Hirst based on Blake’s Ghost of a Flea. I imagine this, the larger sculpture 18 metres high, with dimensions similar to Colossus of Rhodes 33 metres, to be the most obvious jewel in the crown of The Wrecks crowd-inducing benefits.

So a good space for the first part. And for so much.

And, just like visiting the ordered and complex nuances of a museum it left me feeling slightly stir crazy after an hour in the building.
I almost felt nauseous, at the abundance of garishly beautiful, faded colours of fantastical corals fastened to the sculptures. And with the Mediterranean blue of giant photo stills depicting a far from ‘deep water’ recovery of these would-be historically endorsed artifacts from 2000 years ago. After an hour persevering with the detail, they all seemed to blur into a mass. A fantastical, grotesque, barnacled discovery, from epic proportions to the minutiae. The smoothed powder-white and slightly distressed sculptures, revealing some ancient form of photoshopped beauty. Only to be confirmed when I later realize the model for Aten was Rihanna and The Pharaoh, Pharrell Williams. All very contemporary.

I thought the idea of recovered historical artefacts from a wrecked ship fascinating. Based on a legend, centered around roman slave Cif Amotan II and his reversed fortunes, his name an anagram for ‘I am a fiction’.
With this concept underpinning, a question about the basis of historical fact was introduced but also invited doubt into the exhibition’s origins, a doubt that would subsequently permeate through every image and piece.
But the ship especially, named Apistos or Unbelievable, a brilliant twist, as the meaning of the word Apistos is more akin to lack of, or loss of belief. And with belief historically being a glue of sorts, that all society would look to, this has now shifted away from the centuries-old traditions of belief, of empires, and god(s) of religious focus, to more contemporary obsessions, with money, fame, status and power.
Not least because the whole idea was given a plausible gravitas and believability by the sheer size and documentation of the collection.
You had to believe (or honour its presence as art) as there was just so much ‘evidence’.
To find any anomalies led to a sort of Where’s Wally hunt for truth.
And as in a museum the walk around led to consuming more and more of this historical novelty. Like I said I began to feel a little bit nauseous.

But it worked.
I didn’t like it, say, as a piece of art that would hold my attention in an aesthetic way through the forms, shapes or colours, whether I thought them beautiful or not.
It seemed all about (manufactured) recovered artefacts, an idea. Which was obvious, but unbelievable, a story. In parts beautiful, as in beautifully made. Intricately re-incarnated as expertly as any historical restoration. And because of the idea of unbelievability, the grotesque and uneasy elements could hold that attention (a little like the fairy tale attention grab of Koon’s Cicciolina Made in Heaven).

From the contents of the ship; everyday objects, old deities of worship, aesthetics of human form and differing states of societal ‘discomfort’, like slavery, rape or bacchanalian pleasure, they created an uneasy voyeurism. I drew parallels about believability in general. That and status, ‘worship’ and worth. How we consume uncomfortable facts, and how this unease and discomfort can be anesthetized into the everyday through onslaught and repetition. The way institutions have been formed over time and how facts are assimilated.
Also whether these unbelievable facts and subsequently re-modelled objects shown in this immense collection has relevance to art, the art of Damian Hirst, or the market he supplies, is an interesting thought.

Overall for me, this half of the exhibition was good, by its sheer audacious and all-consuming attitude. It is toying with ideas that bolster itself; neither fake nor real, it puts itself outside of that, with parallels to art’s worth, art making and collecting.
An idea of the unbelievable made believable, displayed with gravitas and made to be disbelieved. Fantastical in its conception, though at the same time more than a little bit tedious to consume.

And stating the obvious here, this is not something a new kid on the block could achieve in either time, money or scale. From this point he has used his own status as artist well.

Whether his naysayers like it or not, only Damian Hirst could have done this, in this way on this scale. His reputation and his art stepped up to this.
The jokey element just enough to cause a stir in the arena of the art world’s high-end comfort zone, without affecting its real-time collectability either I imagine.



Corinna Spencer: Photo Booth Girls and the Nottingham Castle Solo Show 2015

Three years ago in June, I was on the train to Coventry going to meet Corinna Spencer.

I was on my way to see the Tainted Love Exhibition, a group show installed by her, its origins derived during a discussion with some of the artists taking part. As she succinctly described in the show’s exhibition diary:
Tainted Love was an idea that emerged from a chat in October 2011 between myself, Cathy Lomax and Alli Sharma about painting, obsessional love and what it is to be a fan.”

The venture included artists selected by Corinna and was arranged over three venues during the summer of 2012, starting at Transition Gallery in Hackney, moving on to Corinna’s home town of Coventry at The Meter Room, then to Great Brampton House, Down Stairs Gallery in Hertfordshire.

All three very different locations and spaces. The art work as I remember, looking perfectly at home in all. I also remember being quite amazed by the individual artist’s work. The whole being a great, complimentary and thought provoking combination.




Corinna Spencer: Robert at Blue Cut, from Robert and Jesse, oil on found postcard, 15×10.5cm Tainted Love, 2012

I had first seen Corinna’s portraits during 2011 after visiting the new and now hugely successful Art event Sluice.

Her portraits, by their expressions alone, give an intriguing window into each individual, each subject’s inner world. The postures, a tilt of the neck, a framed back all transmit a sometimes spiritual feel or sometimes worldliness aura, full of emotion. More recently her portraits winged their way over to Theodore Art of Bushwick, NY during the summer of 2013 to be shown in group exhibition Notorious.

Wallis 2
wallis 1

Dressed 2


part of the Wallis Simpson series



Lady of The House 2014

Lady of the house series, 2014 oil on plywood 21x15cm


Back in 2012 closer to my home town of Nottingham I was also writing about a local artist Alex Pain who had just left college and found himself the winner of the first Nottingham Castle Open in 2011. This resulted in him holding his own solo show the following year during the next exhibition.
Technically Nottingham Castle Open dates back to 1878, with the first being held in the then new Dawson Gallery, showing contemporary work of the day, and so creating ground for artists in the locale to maintain an annual group exhibition.

Nottingham Castle Open in its present form, however is a relatively recent addition to Nottingham and East/West Midlands calendar of art events. An annual open call, that since 2011 has gained nationwide reputation. And offers equal platform, with good critical panels, for all artists wanting to take part. This year the solo show was given over to the wonderful works of Andrew Bracey.



Nottingham Castle Exhibition Jan 2015 054

View from Nottingham Castle Balustrade


Nottingham open 2014-15 121

This years Solo Show in the Main Gallery, by Andrew Bracey


So when I heard some of Corinna Spencer’s lovely ladies were taking part. I made tracks up to the castle to take a look. It was a great pleasure to see her Photo Booth Girls, not least amidst the quality of art work that was on view this year. I wandered around late on a wintry January afternoon without too many visitors so I could take in all the works, and there were some excellent pieces.



Nottingham Open Photo Booth Girls

Photo Booth Girls at Nottingham Castle Open


I must admit I was rooting for Corinna, since I first saw her work in 2011, I have been taken with each new painting she does…. Each individual face or gesture has a depth and subtly, that to me, is mesmerising.


Photo Booth Girls 1

Photo Booth Girls 111

Photo Booth Girl 3

Some of my favourite Photo Booth Girls from Corinna’s more recent work



So, as I hurried along to the closing prize-event-proper, hoped I wasn’t going to be too late. And as Nottingham Castle, like most castles is on a hill, believe me you really don’t want to be running up that hill in a hurry. As it turned out the prizes had been scheduled to the beginning of the evening, probably a better approach than previous years. But just my luck I missed it!.

However the individual pieces had all been marked with the appropriate prize, so I was able to catch up. I spoke with Corinna later, and she mentioned the wait, along with all the artists expectancy when the list was read out, and it is a fairly long list!. So after what must have seemed an eternity the last prize was read out. The next Nottingham Solo Show, was handed to Corinna Spencer.

Nottm Open artists

The Artists at this years event


And when I spoke with her a few days after the event, she said the schedule was still to be laid out for 2015-16, apart from the time and place obviously. That and the fact that she was furiously painting!. So well done Corinna ! and I’m sure I am amongst quite a few others in wishing you congratulations and in looking forward to seeing your solo exhibition at Nottingham Castle Open in December 2015. 

New York: Art City (Part 2 Escape from New York)


New York : On the second leg of my trip I cross the bridge from Manhattan’s Lower East Side to Williamsburg and then Bushwick. (Part 1 – Follow the Art) First published in Garageland Review Aug2014 



It’s May 2014, and as a visitor to New York, during my short but fruitful stay in arguably one of the most prestigious centres of the art world, did I notice a pervasive attitude that is happening across cities globally. That of sky-rocketing rents.
Here though, the very essence of art and its purpose are thrown sharply into view. As many cutting edge, long time galleries, and studio spaces are increasingly priced out.


New York has been the base of the solid art market that exists today within the global one, due to a culturally rich and vibrant past, and historic encouragement of the arts. Small wonder it is such an intense draw for so many artists now.

And this is the problem, as rents rise, the few pricey art venues and artists who are shown in them, are creating an ever smaller clique. The go to of choice for the few who can afford these prices. And within this clique are many who are buying for profit alone.

So, the art may or may not be of quality, but the entry point into this world is undoubtedly about money and lots of it.


The Lower East Side, once an eclectic haunt of artists in the 80’s. Has had numerous high profile building projects of late, projecting this area into one of the trendiest sites on the Island. Some newer galleries like Brian Morris manage to incorporate these spiralling costs within their vision.



Brian Morris Gallery on Chrystie St, LES



basement steps to the gallery’s indoor and outdoor space



As Above / So Below by Carol Salmanson and Ruth Hardinger
Brian Morris Gallery May, June 2014







Carol Salmanson’s light works, inside and in the garden.                                                                                      

Carol is also part of artist run, non profit organisation Nurture Art, based in Bushwick



I went via the Lower East Side galleries as they are only a hop, skip from Williamsburg’s bright, young trendy professionals over the river in Brooklyn. Stopping off a few notches down the line in Bushwick for Bushwick Open Studios.







Merged into the City of New York over 100 years ago, Long Island’s districts have become synonymous with the economic politics and flux of the City. Immigrants settled in Bushwick and invested in ownership over rent.

Then the perfect storm happened,  a well meaning policy encouraging  higher rents for those on welfare transformed into the reality of landlords snapping up huge swathes of the needy and placing them in vacant buildings around the Bushwick area. Drugs and crime followed in the 70s and people moved out. Riots ensued and reluctance to return to those days was understandably ingrained.




Williamsburg Sunday





The buildings in disrepair, a housing regeneration process began with assistance from  the NYPD’s narcotics branch. By then the artists had already moved in.

So in 2014, emerging from the Williamsburg subway, a stone’s throw from Manhattan, I ventured onto the streets. I was faced with what I can only describe as a wall of hipsters out on their Sunday stroll. Williamsburg’s artists have long been edged out by a steady influx of other creative professionals and city commuters.


Bushwick is two stops down from here and has over 900 artists registered in studio spaces in its long deserted industrial units. This number does not include the wider area of Brooklyn, purportedly one of the largest concentrations of artists in the world.


And in these units space is key. The studios I visited when I spent the weekend walking round the Bushwick Open Studios event (which incidentally is in its 8th successful year) were a surprise to me. Some averaging 50 square feet, with or without window, costing on average $1.50 to $2 and now up to $4-5 per luxury square foot. The type of art made in these spaces is obviously going to be smaller, accumulative pieces or internet based, and certainly not large unless you get lucky.

IMAG0622Carla Gannis in her studio at Varick Ave during Bushwick Open Studios


Carla’s studio space


Man Bartlett in his studio at Varick Ave during Bushwick Open


Man Bartlett’s studio

IMAG061541 Varick Ave



56 Bogart Street


Carol Salmanson of Nurture Art, a collection of artists running non-profit studio spaces and gallery located in the basement of 56 Bogart, spoke quite matter of factly about the very real and imminent threat of rent hikes, saying simply, “it will come.”



Nurture Art




Theodore Art at 56 Bogart

IMG_6788 IMG_6759

Joyce Robbins exhibition Paint and Clay at Theodore Art June 2014


IMAG0612 copy

Stephanie Theodore at NEWD Bushwick Open Studios







Theodore Art representing Scooter La Forge at NEWD

56 Bogart is located adjacent to the Morgan St L train subway, probably one of the first areas to be seen as good pickings. Some of the gallery spaces around may just afford it, but it will alter the number and also type of artists who can be in studio spaces in this area.

The number of artists here in 2014 bares a similarity to Berlin’s Auguste Strasse district in the 90s when everyone flocked after the wall fell. That too was reaching community status until the cheap rents and boho life appeal took on currency. Those artists had to move.


Bushwick artists are a community, and a well organised one, not like their predecessors in Williamsburg. And they are in no doubt that they are going to be up against this tidal wave of gentrification very soon.



Jefferson Street Bushwick


Rent, for residents, artists and gallerists alike is key, to whether they are to stay within this particular area of New York, which has, up until now, been one of the most accepting of cities as far as creativity goes.


As an outsider,  the only option I can see is to have a well organised time-relevant rent stabilisation programme with limits in place when leases are up. This will at least slow down the rampant focus on cash for space. And most importantly it will give time for communities, art or otherwise to evolve.


Art is at the very heart of New York, and so a balance has to be met.

It’s either that or head back out to the sticks. Escape from New York indeed.

New York: Art City (Part 1 Follow the Art)


New York  :  On the first leg of my trip I follow the art through Central Manhattan to Chelsea and then North to Harlem. First published in Garageland Review Aug2014



View from Chelsea High Line



I visited New York.

And I specifically visited New York for its art. A visit, that on reflection confirmed that this is indeed one hell of a place to see it. And yes, people will disagree about the relevance of some, stacked up amongst all the art business hype. Which I get too. But from where I stood, I was pretty much blown away, not least with the attitude of the artists and gallerists I met.

It’s spring mid May 2014 and having landed relatively clueless in deciphering between districts, I found it was the art that led me rather than the area’s reputation. And I did see some amazingly good art.  But what struck me most was the abundance of the stuff.


The ‘bare bones’ of art in New York is fairly well defined by area. And the different areas are key in showing the city’s preoccupation with real estate, rents and gentrification.

For those who haven’t encountered art in Manhattan before, it has a rich population of public museums and galleries clustered around Central Park, all in pleasant (and extremely well-heeled) walking distance of each other.

Places like the old, established and massive Metropolitan. The all-American Whitney. The Guggenheim with its ‘no photos’ policy, not to mention the astonishing building itself. And the sometimes lamented new gallery space of MoMA, which I found pretty airy and impressive until a more attuned New Yorker pointed out that the art suffered a little with all the drama of the museum’s large atrium, which somewhat overpowers the smaller galley like rooms. That, and far too many gift shops. The sculpture garden en-route to the coffee shop, and if you missed those, there was always the MoMA design store on the street opposite. Yes I got that.


But there it was, all the art from an American perspective that you could ever possibly want to see, and in outstandingly gobsmacking spaces. An overwhelming experience, with or without the art. I wasn’t complaining.



Cheek by jowl – apartments next door to The Guggenheim


Caravaggio, Matisse, Monet, Pollock, Van Gogh, Picasso, Hopper, even Cezanne’s The Bather – the foundation stone of MoMA, brought over for the opening in uncertain times between the wars, during depression, mass immigration and an American identity crisis. And just look at the museum now, everything I’ve ever heard about New York is epitomized here in the way honour is endowed on its art. MoMA has even officially set aside new space for time-based and performance works. A bold museum. Some would say not bold enough, pandering to the mass spectacle, popular footfall and of course those value-added sales.


This is not about cynicism though, I am trying to understand it – the absolute abundance of quality art in Manhattan and its outlying areas – and to get it into some kind of perspective. And I think I have. It isn’t rocket science. It is, however, very much about New York’s historic attitude toward the arts, which is at odds with its penchant for premium real estate.


View from The Met


New York City has a law that requires no less than 1% of the first twenty million dollars of a building project, plus no less than 0.5% of the amount exceeding twenty million dollars be allocated for art work in any public building that is owned by the city.


However, in tandem with this, the New York art market today has fewer artists receiving a larger share of attention. Less buyers are willing or able to collect for passion over asset. At the top of the high-priced art bubble (and this is the bracket of art that receives the majority of public commissions) there is too much focus on asset mentality and flipping for profit.

If you believe what is being written by respected gallerists and art commentators alike, the talent being looked at or bought by most high-end collectors at this point has nothing to do with desire for art and a lot to do with the latest hot ticket and following a speculative hedge. Not healthy. Not creative.

To understand this current trend in art buying you also have to look at the movement of businesses and inhabitants in New York over a few decades.


Last year Postmasters Gallery, who show the cream of New York’s current artistic talent, moved from this Chelsea area down to Franklin Street because of imminent hikes. Postmasters has been in New York since the 1980s and is run by Polish born Magda Sawon. The space has had three locations in that time, four years in East Village, ten in SoHo and fifteen in Chelsea. They moved back down to SoHo/Tribeca last year. This was poignantly posted on their imminent move:

We want to afford ourselves the opportunity to show art that the market is not yet swallowing whole. We want to continue championing work with challenging but relevant content that may take time to be loved, appreciated, and acquired. We want to look for art by artists – old and young – that confounds us, that we don’t know or understand. We don’t want to anticipate the market and try to deliver on its demands. We want to challenge the market and perhaps teach it. We have, after all, sold some impossible things in the past. We want to search deep and wide for collectors who share this vision.

Aside from the ‘Museum Mile’ nestled in comfortable Upper Manhattan, one area is synonymous with creativity; the meatpacking district on the Lower West Side, which at the start of the 70s found its buildings in disrepair.

The district’s abandoned warehouses started to house clubs and also racketeers quick to prey on a fledgling neighbourhood (the Mafia gained a strong hold). The subsequent chaotic and creative style of the area spawned the advent of disco and the high energy music scene that eventually saw clubs and art studios littered all along Bleeker Street to Bowery and the Lower East Side.


IMG_5633 (1)



The areas of West Village, Nolita (north of Little Italy) and East Village were the original settling grounds for the Italian and Chinese communities and lower rents gave rise to this episode in New York’s creative appeal. The list of notables to emerge from all this was significant and spanned decades, including: Warhol, Basquiat, Dylan, Lou Reed, Talking Heads.

This creative vibrancy though, ran side by side with the negatives of new neighbourhoods and the drug-fuelled culture of the time. This reached its peak in the mid 80s at the height of the Aids epidemic with the council closing some of the more salubrious sex clubs for health (as well as racketeering) reasons.


IMG_5638 (1)



And so the clean up began. What you see today in Chelsea is evidence of this: a nice market and equally nice galleries like David Zwirner and Andrea Rosen, the latter of which recently housed Mika Rottenburg’s Bowls Balls Souls Holes, a sprawling mix of revolving doors and artefacts, giving minimal nods to her film. A frying pan on a small camper-like stove in the lobby complete with an exceptional amount of white wall surround. The work definitely has room to breathe in these galleries.


Bowls Balls Souls Holes

Bowls Balls Souls Holes


The artists, either new or remaining, who do live around Chelsea, West Village or Nolita will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of David Bowie, who apparently has an apartment down on the corner of Lafayette and Houston. This lower side of Manhattan does have a life other than expensive artisan shops, Louis Vuitton and extensions of high end 5th Ave stores though.


Nolita houses Marcia Tucker’s innovative New Museum, founded in 1977 on Bowery off Prince Street, which most recently held Me, My Mother, My Father, and I by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. This exhibition was typical of their global and innovative vision. Kjartan Sveinsson, composer and former member of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, transformed the scene’s dialogue into a ten-part polyphony played by ten musicians, who sang and played guitar in the tradition of the troubadour to accompany a projection of film by Kjartansson.


Ragnar Kjartansson

Ragnar Kjartansson at New Museum



New Museum


The area around the reclaimed and pleasant to walk High Line in Chelsea steeped in this recent creativeness, is now facing more change. In 2013 Barneys luxury department store made moves to open another in Chelsea for a ‘new and pleasant go-to destination for its clients’ prompting real talk of rent hikes. 


Now, Chelsea may only be within the realms of less hands-on, major city chain galleries like David Zwirner or Hauser & Wirth, which typify the shift. Leo Koenig took over the Postmasters Gallery space.


John Powers

John Powers at Postmasters





And so the type of art being made and the galleries that are able to show it is in flux. Another established and innovative gallery, Winkleman Gallery is on the move from Chelsea. Having had their lease expire in March, they too are looking for a new home.


They have also been active in setting up Moving Image Contemporary Art Fair, which is in its fourth year, holding regular bi-yearly events for moving image art during New York’s Armoury and London’s Frieze. With work coming in from all over the world and from various galleries in London and New York. They recently hosted a hugely succesful event in conjunction with Istanbul’s Art Internatinal.


Certainly there is no air of plaintive hurt in these gallery owner’s decisions. Their gallery is currently less concerned in permanent street presence and more in temporal events. Where their gallery space emerges in the future remains to be seen, but the idea of having to move and move quickly is obviously not new.



Hoarding selling storage space Chelsea


Historically this is a city of migration; of Gershwin, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, also of the ‘American Bloomsbury Group’ and Ayn Rand’s thinking, the Beat poets, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Hip Hop. The maths of art and rent has always been paramount.

Manhattan is very, very wealthy. No more are the gritty and violent streets of 70s and 80s cop dramas. Always amazing, it is now a relatively safe and enjoyably amazing place, but still with its brownstone streets, iconic and tv-familiar buildings and gritty backdrop of seeming chaos and street mess – it looks the same.

In modern day New York you may work in a restaurant and live quite comfortably off your tips. Live the life, for as many years, in your tiny downtown apartment. Available square meters are snapped up and turned into living space from penthouse to small kitchenette studio apartments. There are no empty buildings for long.

But some resident artists have been saying that more and more this city is without the creative edge that defined so much of the collective memory of those inspired but dangerous times 30-odd years ago. Whilst a decrease in crime is definitively a positive, the logic behind this seems to be that things can only improve with gentrification, or rather, rent hikes.


This story isn’t new and it is happening all over the globe with vengeance at the moment, but here it seems far more pronounced, and is occurring with frightening speed. Space is a premium, an asset, and increasingly a realm only of the wealthy.


I ventured a little north of Manhattan  to West 155th Street and the not too frequented, wonderfully dusty museum of The Hispanic Society of America in Harlem, housing Goya, Velázquez, El Greco and much more.




Francisco de Goya y Lucientes 1746 -1828   La Duquesa de Alba, 1797


Escritorio de Salamanca, Spain 1630 -1650



Nasrid door circa 1306 -1400


Artist unknown. Altarpiece of the Assumption of the Virgin 1400 -1500  tempura on panel








The Hispanic Society during the Sorolla exhibition 1909


I took the bus, the difference between Harlem and its nearby neighbourhood, the comfortably cultural zone of Upper West Side, was palpable. The shops are peppered with mobile gadgetry, convenience corner shops, Western Unions and local DIY stores, except the shop signs and billboards are in Spanish as well as American.

The bus had school kids and parents doing the school run, along a route that had cafes spilling out onto the street, local people sat outside on benches.


Around the same time I noticed an article describing this same area of Harlem as being the “bare bones” for investment, a new place to be discovered within easy distance of all that art and edge that ever was Manhattan. The human analogy of “bare bones” seems relevant, and these are not the desolate buildings of Chelsea’s abandoned meatpacking district or the 70s gun toting, crime ridden streets. There may be crime, but the bus I took seemed pretty normal to me.

Communities take time to grow and this one has been here for over 100 years, not transplanted by upward economic trend. And, just like these Harlem residents, for many art galleries and artists the cheaper rent will always be a defining factor. Reinventing areas with prime rent coffee shops does not creativity make.


The Hispanic Society Museum Harlem





Part 2 – Escape from New York. Visits to Lower East Side, Williamsburg and the burgeoning Bushwick Open Studio event.


Cradle to Grave : Plastics, Resins, Infinity and Industry

Getting the Balance Right.

A few years ago I went to a discussion about sustainable fashion, one of the speakers was
Katherine Hamnett. Back then the organic cotton manufacturing industry was in
all sorts of conundrums about authenticity; from growing the cotton to its
destination of shop rail; from training to be a designer to retail ethics.
Katherine made it clear that the only way she could guarantee a truly fair
trade organic product was to oversee the entire process herself.

Katherine being who she is was able to do this. She sold her
successful business and started E.Hamnett. She purchased a farm in India and
hired local staff. She booked containers to carry the cotton, uncontaminated,
to a factory which she also owned in the UK where the garments were then made
up. And so receiving a genuine label of authenticity, rather than a nod in the
direction of one. The labelling of which many companies were then using more
than generously in their favour.

The details of these issues I had already covered at the
. But this week I found myself re-thinking this ethical sustainability
issue in a completely different light.

Sand : Water Under the Sand  twin : painting and sculpture

I had decided I wanted to create a piece of work connected
to my Sand painting with a piece about dessert storms. I’d collected
Saharan sand from one such storm while in Southern Spain. And to do this what better way than suspend it in
clear resin. To be able see the particles free floating encapsulated in a resin cube. To use plastic was always my intention, I use all
kinds of organic, in-organic and synthetic products in my works. So after
researching on the web for the best possible clarity of resin-for-purpose I
clicked and bought.

It arrived. It had Skull and Cross Bones on the labelling.

visited my old University for advice, and not surprisingly had a re-think about
the product I was about to use.

While I was in Spain I had also written my thoughts on
plastic and landfill in general. But this particular product made me think
again. I then started to look into using a resin which was more eco-friendly but was
surprised at my results.

Rather than using a Petrochemical sourced resin I was now
looking at a Bio-resin sourced from vegetable matter.

The biodegradable results were though as far from eco-friendly
as they initially sounded. Both types of resin start in liquid form and both
require a toxic “hardener” to be added. You can break the whole process down
into three different categories.

The Source :

Petro – from fossil fuel – not sustainable in the long run
hence recycling.

Bio – from vegetable matter like corn oil – dubiously sustainable
in its demand-requirement of land clearance in order to grow. Along
with pesticide usage, the pesticides themselves being toxic. The more we switch
to bio-plastics the more demand.

The Process :

Both are either toxic (as with Petro) or hazardous because
of use of the hardener, the Bio less so.          

The End Result :

Recycling plants are industrial composting machines which
heat the plastics and are a sustainable alternative to just dumping in landfill
or oceans. These have been set up to primarily deal with Petro and are certainly
not dealing with the vast majority of plastics produced of whatever
denomination. However when a plastic does reach the plant a conundrum becomes apparent
not least in abuse of actually labelling how degradable a product is.

In order to degrade quickly Petro has to be heated in the
compost this then turns it into a “humus” like substance. Bio on the other hand
does not respond to this composting process in the same way so even though it
can be argued it has been composted it has not actually been fully degraded. It
does on the other hand retain sustainable Carbon 14 which replenishes,
Petro does not.

I had always seen the plastics industry as a simple case of
Recycle, whereas actually it is far more complicated than that. Even the Standards Organizations cannot decide the exact labelling criteria (see below).

Katherine’s talk about cotton made me think a bit more about
the plastics industry. And I am only throwing this open as an idea as this may
be a little too simplistic to apply.

But at what stage does a manufacturer leave the responsibility of
process? when it has been sold onto the supplier? and in turn with them onto
the customer?. Governments and (true) industry have set up recycling plants.
But maybe we need to see a Cradle to Grave approach to producing whereby the
cost of disposing and recycling is an upfront cost of production in the first
place. Unpopular sure, more expensive yes.

As an idea it would place the onus wholly onto those
involved in the manufacturing process. The initiators in the chain of demand.
No hiding or at least no putting on a commercial face-saving act with the fickle use
of labelling.


A commitment from start to end of a products life.

When I was a child I saw no end to infinity – the world was
huge the oceans vast. This is not so today. Aside from the vortex of plastic in
the oceans the semi-degraded particles are now the size of plankton and are
well and truly absorbed into the food chain. The dust and sand storms carry
these same tiny plastic particles in the air. We are it seems surrounded by our
own detritus of plastic – a massive industry that has grown around us and is engulfing.

I realised this week with a clarity I had not felt before that this is
not just about a plastic shopping bag, a bottle of cola, eco friendly rhetoric
or nods in the ethical direction. It’s not even about a dwindling fossil fuel industry.
The sheer scale and toxicity of our use of plastic is mind boggling –literally everything
that can be is made from the stuff.

I have made the choice to use a bio-resin as eco-friendly as possible for this piece –
but I am now aware that one day the plastic produced – unless recycled Fully
may well end up back in the Sahara or some other arid place devoid of top soil ready
to be whipped up into a dust storm only to be dumped many miles away (and yes very probably in a
town near you) and ingested by some poor unsuspecting person.

Check this animated Sand and Dust Storm forcast for the next 7 days from the Turkish Met Office

Explanation of Bio-degradable standards from a Wikipedia article on Bio-Plastics

Withdrawal of ASTM D 6002

In January 2011, the ASTM withdrew standard ASTM D 6002, which is what provided plastic manufacturers with the legal credibility to label a plastic as compostable. Its description is as follows:

“This guide covered suggested criteria, procedures, and a general approach to establish the compostability of environmentally degradable plastics.”[36]

The ASTM has yet to replace this standard.

Biobased – ASTM D6866

The ASTM D6866 method has been developed to certify the biologically derived content of bioplastics. Cosmic rays colliding with the atmosphere mean that some of the carbon is the radioactive isotope carbon-14. CO2 from the atmosphere is used by plants in photosynthesis, so new plant material will contain both carbon-14 and carbon-12. Under the right conditions, and over geological timescales, the remains of living organisms can be transformed into fossil fuels. After ~100,000 years all the carbon-14 present in the original organic material will have undergone radioactive decay leaving only carbon-12. A product made from biomass will have a relatively high level of carbon-14, while a product made from petrochemicals will have no carbon-14. The percentage of renewable carbon in a material (solid or liquid) can be measured with an accelerator mass spectrometer.

There is an important difference between biodegradability and biobased content. A bioplastic such as high density polyethylene (HDPE) can be 100% biobased (i.e. contain 100% renewable carbon), yet be non-biodegradable. These bioplastics such HDPE play nonetheless an important role in greenhouse gas abatement, particularly when they are combusted for energy production. The biobased component of these bioplastics is considered carbon-neutral since their origin is from biomass.

Anaerobic biodegradability – ASTM D5511-02 and ASTM D5526

The ASTM D5511-12 and ASTM D5526-12 are testing methods that comply with international standards such as the ISO DIS 15985 for the biodegradability of plastic.

Hyperallergic’s Discussion on Tumblr, Social Media Platforms and Art

This is well worth a listen.

Hyperallergic’s discussion held Saturday 9th March in Brooklyn streamed via the link below.

Running at 2 hours 30min – is something to perhaps take in short bites. On the subject of art and the use of new communication technology platforms. The views may, on the surface sometimes seem to be going over ‘things we had already thought about’. The overall picture though, is far from that!.     


“Hyperallergic and Tumblr have joined forces to present “The World’s First Tumblr Art Symposium.” This project, which is part discussion and part exhibition, explores the fast-evolving artistic landscape of Tumblr, one of the world’s leading social media and blogging platforms. “Over the last few years, artists have been gravitating to Tumblr as an open and welcoming platform for artists and the art community,” says Hrag Vartanian, editor-in-chief of the Brooklyn-based art blogazine Hyperallergic. “The types of art projects being created on Tumblr are diverse and growing by the day, so we felt it was time to have a discussion about the art community on Tumblr and how they are impacting art making today.” “This is an exciting context for art on Tumblr,” says Tumblr Arts Evangelist Annie Werner. “What was once floating out into the ether is now constructed in an official, curatorial format. It’s an amazing experience for artists using the platform as a medium — we hope to see only more of it.” The one-day event on Saturday, March 9, which coincides with Armory Arts Week in New York, will feature an exhibition and function as a forum for work to be discussed, shared, liked, uploaded, and critiqued.”


take time also to link to the essays on the subject at the bottom of this article…

Alex Pain :: Erratics

“Erratics are boulders or rocks lifted, transported and
deposited to an unfamiliar environment, far from their original location, by
glacial movement”.

I’d seen Alex Pain’s work earlier in the year at the
opening of Two Queens new gallery space in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter.

Back then I was immediately struck by his subtle use of
materials, and the ways he managed to subvert their actual meaning alongside their physical presence.  

Take Truncated Spur for example with its ramp like form,
corroded copper rods and concrete solidity offering a time worn and rigid
permanence. Made from jablite with purposely corroded patinated copper rods.

Alex Pain Truncated Spur

50 Alex Pain Patinated Copper Poles Jablite April 2012 052

 Alex pain Bergers

54 Alex Pain Bergers Metal Shammy Leather April 2012 093
Truncated Spur and Bergers : 2011

Close inspection of Alex’s work belies an immediate

As with his four new pieces showing at Nottingham Castle’s
Open 2012.

Placed in the middle floor space amongst the walls of salon style Old
Masters. They have a presence that neither intrudes on nor excludes the
surrounding work. They just are …very much Alex Pains art.

Alex Pain Order Emerging from Chaos
Order Emerging From Chaos Or Architecture Reclaimed
By Nature : Foam, Jablite, Brass 2012

The four immediately strike you as a whole, a connection of
an idea of form and structure which travels through his art.

Alex’s use of foam and jablite (polystyrene insulation
material) give an overall sense of topsy turvy weightlessness to the pieces.

Especially from the suspended Order Emerging From Chaos, Or Architecture
Reclaimed By Nature.

Alex Pain Order Emerging From Chaos 3

Alex Pain Order Emerging From Chaos 4

Alex Pain Order Emerging from Chaos 2

Although rough hewn with a stained-like sliced and hacked exterior, it still suggests a softness through its recognisable natural foam state. The application gives an idea of another more rugged terrain, of a rock face for
example. And gazing into its interior more closely you are also struck, by regimented
sometimes gleaming, metal razor teeth. Protrusions sliced into the dark, smooth-hewn jablite of this rock like cavern.  All this waiting to descend frighteningly from the trapeze wire
suspension above with its suggested sheer weight. Standing underneath you
feel the sense of a would-be-coffin.

Alex Pain Bald Arch 4

Alex Pain Bald Arch 2

Alex Pain Bald Arch 3
Bald Arch : Flashing Strip, Underlay 2012

I found the upside down nature of this chair-like structure,
sealed in with flashing strip and buffered with underlay, spoke of all the usual
orders of structure used in architecture. And although it looked as though it had been
turned on its head at the same time it made sense as a form. All the weight
bearing elements of the materials used being true to their inner core of
physics. So imparting a logic as to its purpose.

Alex Pain Tor 2

Alex Pain Tor 3

Alex Pain Tor 4
Tor : Foam and Copper 2012

A ridged piece towering high. A notion of a place to sit
at the top, with a patinated copper seat or possible slide. The foam although
of dark grey solidity still giving no clue to its real physical susceptibility.
If a breeze were to blow would it topple?. The corrugated teeth although set slightly
off kilter with each other, as are want of grinding jaws, are given sharpened
bite as copper sheets fit strongly and neatly along the cutting edges. Adding
to the impression of an insecure but impenetrable and lonely place of rectitude or

Alex Pain Junction

Alex Pain Junction 2

Alex pain Junction 4

Alex Pain Junction 5

Alex Pain Junction 6
Junction : Brass,
Jablite 2012

As with Alex’s earlier work from 2011 this echoes the notions
of structure being held within an unlikely material. The wrapped and
impenetrable aspect from one side looks reminiscent of shiny gold (brass)
wrapping paper. Suggesting a child like temptation to unwrap. On a larger scale it could be seen as the kind of gleaming polished and smart exterior of so many skyscraper buildings. Built to eschew confidence in their surrounds and their clients. Turn the
corner on this piece and you find again the double question of exposed interior
held no less uniformly and sleekly within its brass strapping. A do not cross
the line brass strip, with the notion of that initial promise of the exterior being not
what it seems. By holding something stark, bare, dark and possibly rough to the

I’m becoming more and more intrigued by Alex’s art. A fascinating body of work and study of materials and aesthetics, which engage in our reactions to them and with each other. A distinct cognition of how they are used and work within our environment.

There are further images and video of his new work here. Erratics will be
showing at Nottingham Castle Gallery until October 28th  (note the opening times are changing for
winter this week 10 am until 4 pm last admission 3.30)

  Alex Pain Erratics

Tainted Love :: Part Three

It was in early May that I first came across Tainted Love.
Or rather I already knew about the exhibition while it had been in its first home at Transition
in Hackney, London during the spring of 2012.

But now it was June and I was on the train to Coventry to see Corinna Spencer,
one of the artists and the curator, who’d also had the inception of the whole

And, newly installed I was interested to see how I would
react to it there, placed in a concrete and glass 1960’s built former council-office.

I’d heard of The Meter Room before and being a keen art-tweeter living in Nottingham had noticed that for a gallery somewhere outside the usual London area, that the artists who had been asked to join this
exhibition were an interesting group – whose base could have been from absolutely
anywhere in the uk.

The Meter Room is a great use of gallery studio space right in
the centre of Coventry. Looking out onto the main road only a short distance from
the station it’s easy to find. And, up a short flight of stairs I came across
Tainted Love’s second home and the lovely Corinna Spencer. She explained that
all the artists involved were people whom she thought would bring interesting
insights and also fun elements of expression to the idea of Tainted Love. A
traditionally tragic, sometimes illogical and emotive idea that seems closely connected to our
perception in understanding the fragility of pure love.

I had seen the work of some of the artists before. From Transition Gallery owner
Cathy Lomax’s The Sixteen Most Beautiful Men to Hayley Lock’s individual site specific collaboration with romantic writers set in English stately homes with (Now that would be) Telling. Which culminated at Transition Gallery earlier this year. Already hooked on Corinna’s paintings of Moss Haired Girls and her more recent Fanbook and Gems. I was
interested to see the sum of the whole.

P1140276 copy

Cathy Lomax :  The Sixteen Most Beautiful Men

P1140348 copy
Gallery View : Corinna Spencer ‘s  Robert and Jesse  and Alli Sharma ‘s paintings including Diana Dors. Yield to the Night.

 And a must-read specific Diary of Tainted Love events has been written to compliment this tour.

Corinna had made intimate spaces for each Tainted Love piece – a little
sanctuary of contemplation. With a new dimension revealed as you turned every

P1140282 copy

P1140286 copy

Georgie Flood : Shroud and Flower Eater

P1140300 copy

Tainted love july 2012 cov 030

Hayley Lock

Tainted love july 2012 cov 005Corinna Spencer : Robert and Jesse

Tainted love july 2012 cov 008

Tainted love july 2012 cov 009Andrea Hannon

Tainted love july 2012 cov 021Annabel Dover

Tainted love july 2012 cov 022

Tainted love july 2012 cov 023Paul Kindersley

One of the pieces caught my eye as its presence had a slightly
different visual effect….. in as much as all you could see were columns of
tightly wrapped copper coloured thread. They offered no insight other than
their finitely woven exterior. I later found that the artist
Alice Anderson had taken
objects of personal meaning and hidden them in each core, while having
meticulously and repetitively wrapped them in the fine copper thread. The only obvious differences within these columns from the outside were in their height and their
distance from each other.

Tainted love july 2012 cov 018
Alice Anderson : 8 full photographic containers

Tainted love july 2012 cov 033
Kirsty Buchanan 

Tainted love july 2012 cov 035

Tainted love july 2012 cov 036

Tainted love july 2012 cov 037
Mark Scott Wood

Tainted love july 2012 cov 026

Tainted love july 2012 cov 028

Tainted love july 2012 cov 029
Jessica Vorsanger

Each piece opened a window into this world encouraging a journey.
Different ideas surrounding the expression and subsequently the viewer’s
perception of a certain kind of Love.  Be
that from the point of view of the unrequited to the worshipped, the idolised, rejected, excluded or the hurt.

I found each artist took me on a slightly different and revealing tangent of
thought, within the more darker, subtle and humorous areas of how we feel love. Places I
had never been before. A journey well
worth taking.

Tainted Love is next in its final home of this year from
29th Sept until 18th November 2012 at Downstairs Gallery 
Downstairs opened in 2011 in the heritage building of Lady Pidgeon’s former Great Brampton House, Madley, Herefordshire.

Recommended reading!

A great artist on artist interview in a special Tainted Love edition of Arty Magazine which can be bought through Transition Gallery shop or by post.

And a Diary of Tainted Love events mentioned above.

Downstairs at Great Brampton House, Madley, Herefordshire.

View Larger Map

The Meter Room at 58-64 Corporation Street, Coventry, West Midlands. On the corner of Corporation St and Burges next to the pub.

View Larger Map

Transition Gallery Unit 25a Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road, London E8 4QN
View Larger Map