Peter Saul’s luridly coloured pop explosions create quite a dissonance with the beautiful but staid rooms of the Michael Werner Gallery in which they are exhibited, two rooms of the first floor of a gorgeous 18th century townhouse, just off a grand oak staircase, located in lush Mayfair. Saul’s subjects, products of a conjugal visit between pop abstraction and underground comics, are engaged in any number of sweaty, desperate activities, subsumed in a swirl of their own unwieldy appetites and neuroses. Bodies distort out of all proportion, brains combust, all manner of fluids congeal. It’s the playful, bold surface colours that prevent the paintings from becoming freighted with too much despair or pain, offering something akin to a cartoon salvation. You emerge with a curious vitality and vibrancy.

SOME TERRIBLE PROBLEMS continues at Michael Werner through 5 November


Bruce Nauman’s “Natural Light, Blue Light Room”, an architectural installation now on display at Blain/Southern, is at first somewhat soothing, as you walk into the ample, barren space lit on one side by a fluorescent strip of blue light along the ceiling, and on the other, along the floor, by a slightly raised wall that allows a strip of natural light from the gallery’s front window to crawl into the room. img_0952As you stand in the environment, though, very gradually the blue light begins to take a queasy toll on your senses, making you feel a pulse of oppression and constriction that grows increasingly larger. It’s difficult to determine when or how this happens, a feeling is just suddenly present, and you long for escape into the promise of the thin shaft of light opposite. Nauman specialises in these environmental installations that force physical and psychological confrontations with space-unsettling but fascinating.

The room is on display at Blain/Southern until 12 November,-blue-light-room

Lygia Pape, informed by the geometric abstractions of Concrete art, has created a room of wonder at Hauser & Wirth, a dazzle of tautly grounded lattice works of thread that wheel in and out of substance and presence in a hypnotically lit room.img_0954 The work plays subtly with perception and perspective. As you move in circular motion around the installation, certain threads brilliantly announce themselves, as others that were previously illuminated dart into sudden invisibility. The piece speaks volumes on reality and illusion, weight and immateriality, but is most successful as a sensual experiment. You could easily spend hours in its company, drifting along the course, rapt in its ever-shifting, mercurial momentum.

Lygia Pape continues at Hauser & Wirth until 19 November

Onto more sickly colour palettes at another elegant 18th century townhouse, this time Neo Rauch’s Rondo series at David Zwirner Gallery, the canvasses festooned in shades of vomit and faeces. Rauch seems to collapse several eras of art history into his paintings, elements of Renaissance and Pop and European folk art commingling on the frame.img_0957 Figures of history loom large over denizens of town and country, haunting, hulking hallucinations of collective conscience and memory. Modern industrial representations also find purchase in the margins of the pictures, a rebuke to the simple pleasures of community labour evoked as fable throughout the works. You wouldn’t necessarily hang any of the pieces on the walls at home, but you don’t have to search hard for the talent or skill in Mr. Rauch’s intriguing series.

Neo Rauch’s Rondo continues until 12 November at David Zwirner 



I finish with the most perplexing of all the exhibitions, Tala Madani’s “Shitty Disco”, a bracing collection of singular paintings imagining a strobe-lit nightclub bacchanal in which a group of male hedonists gleefully abandon themselves to ritualistic routines of both desire and decay, illuminations from genitals and bottoms suggesting creative and destructive spark. img_0958There’s a bonkers, ticklish mentality to the work that salvages the material from mere offensiveness or outrage, a playful nature to the depiction of digestive processes and life-producing bodily fluids. It certainly creates an original worldview, although those of more tender sensibilities may want to give this a pass.

Shitty Disco continues at Pilar Corrias until 11 November

Tala Madani: Shitty Disco



The East End now has its own acclaimed Indian establishment to join the highly-regarded (some may say vaunted) ranks of Kensington’s Amaya and central London’s venerable Veeraswamy and the Cinnamon Kitchen. Detractors may claim the only exceptional aspect of these celebrated restaurants are their elevated prices, which can be fairly eye and wallet-gouging. And, despite the sprawl of Indian options along neighbouring Brick Lane, most gastronomists would conclude the fare at these eateries more cosy than sensually resonant. In steps this modest storefront business just off perilously busy Commercial Road, with on-trend (post-trend?) unadorned brick walls, blackboard menu, bare light bulbs and no-reservation policy (although it has made impressive use of decommissioned stainless steel relish bowls as lampshades) . The intimate space, seating for no more than thirty at a time, can become a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare when at capacity, with diners cramped violently together, clatter and chatter at forceful din. The food, most dishes with origins in the home recipes of the owners and management, are thoughtful and creative celebrations of spice and herb, with generous dollops of tangy yoghurt accompaniment on many a plate. A sigri grill is a chief component of the cooking process here, so much of the food has an alluring undercurrent of smoky sultriness. img_0955For my taste, I would consider the most innovative take on traditional Indian cooking Dalston’s Gujarati Rosai (to this day, my palate still tastes the deconstructed take on paneer, miles away from the usual heavy drench base of curry gravy-this was a dry, light stunner, which must speak to regional  methods). I have yet to try Peckham’s Ganapati, which also comes highly recommended. Gunpowder is certainly worth a visit, my only advice being to arrive early to avoid the crowds. Most mysterious and bemusing to me was being told that, despite being one of the first tables to order sweets, that the evening’s supply of the intriguing molten spice chocolate cake with masala chai custard was no longer available! Alas, I’m left bereft as to its ultimate disappointment or brilliance of quality.



In direct violation of my stated remit, this post will focus attention on a recent urban renewal project that I encountered on my trip home to the States, an urban art development that really wouldn’t be out of place in the East End of London (think Shoreditch or Hackney). img_0893Perhaps it’s in echo of such affinity that my senses were piqued to such a degree that I feel an absolute need to mention this repurposing of a fairly vagrant alleyway into an open-space graffiti art gallery. Used as a thoroughfare by university students on their way to classes at a neighbouring campus, and seized upon by an enterprising arts professor who saw in the barren pathway a potential creative rehabilitation (who quickly secured permission from the businesses on whose premises the alley borders), 11 artists were commissioned to paint murals upon the existing brickwork, limited solely by their imaginations and fancies. Upon entry to the space (a visitor must not forget to glance upwards first to catch sight of the awe-inspiring behemoth of a frog that greets all entrants, splayed across the entire side of a building), not more than a few steps in, be prepared for a senses-shattering play of colour and scale-an agile eye is rewarded, as there are small treasures to be found throughout the walk.img_0886 The titular black cat makes frequent appearances, both solo and within a few of the larger works. They lounge gracefully or at rest or at play on existing doorways or gas metres or at the foot of buildings, cleverly incorporating the more industrial and practical aspects of place. img_0901There’s no apparent unifying theme for the works, yet they seem to commingle comfortably. The gallery is a brilliant addition to an already propulsive cultural quarter (including the historic, palatial Oriental Cinema and enduring 24-hour Ma Fischer’s diner, as well as a host of popular bars), and, as in cities as widespread as Melbourne, San Francisco, New York and indeed London-all offering similar urban art corridors and incentives- the project will mark the area as an even more desirable tourist attraction. If you should ever find yourself in Milwaukee (for orientation, about 90 miles North of Chicago), this is a definite destination. img_0890






A big, wet kiss of American kitsch, this new Whitechapel shrine to the 50’s diner style is a fantasia of chrome, tin and formica surfaces, red leather seating, black and white tiled flooring and walls festooned with mirrors and memorabilia (road signs, pop advertisements, vintage license plates). And of course there is the omnipresent fixture of the jukebox. The crazed centrepiece is a fully restored Cadillac, the seating of which is now a functional booth perfect for enhancing the dining experience, especially for kids, whose excitement levels will kick up a notch or two at its very sight. img_0691There’s also a fully functional soda fountain and counter which runs along one wall of the establishment, another nod to classic design. It’s clear that the management has authentic passion and love for this particular style, and the dedication extends to the menu and the food-emphasis is on freshly-prepared burgers (chicken sandwiches, salads, steaks and even ribs are also on offer, as well as tasteful consideration of vegetarians, items for whom are cooked on separate grills with separate utensils, and there are multiple options for appetisers, including stalwarts like chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, onion rings), and the desserts are mammoth creations, gargantuan servings of ice cream, sauces, wafers, easily too ungainly in scale not to be shared. img_0692This joins the venerable The Diner franchise, prestigious restaurateur Tom Conran’s stealthy Lucky 7 Diner, Trinity Buoy Wharf’s caboose-shaped Fatboy’s Diner, Fulham’s 24-hour slightly posh Vingt-Quatre and the Tinseltown chain in London’s devotion to this timeless American fixture (Mayfair’s Automat, an attempt to graft an upscale sheen on to the template, closed its doors a few years ago, despite being the beloved of a bevy of high-profile celebrities). This new East End arrival is visual overdrive at its most fun and playful.