What’s in a name? This American artist’s surname is volcanically appropriate for her predominant themes and preoccupations-with her emphasis on collage technique, exploring the elusive, constantly shifting nature of identity (specifically, in this case, of black female identity), Self is on a ferocious mission to piece herself together. Her figures, although not in finished nor wholly complete state, are not reductions or studies in vulnerability. They are vividly and determinably alive, in inviolable process. Often, she uses pieces of cloth or fabric provided by her mother (a clear, emphatic indication of both a generational and gender continuity of concern and subject), or pieces from her own unresolved, or rejected works, a repurposing of what was once cast off. Posture, body, character are all expressive and often fractured, deliberately contrary to realistic portrayal, yet these figures all carry a defiant, candid physicality. There’s a reflective, sometimes voyeuristic quality, to many of the paintings, but Self’s subjects remain steadfastly themselves under this aesthetic watch, and the viewer’s blunt scrutiny. This gallery is located directly next to Victoria Miro, and is a great double feature with Do Ho Suh’s show currently on show there (in fact, there’s a second room of Self’s work that I believe can only be accessed through the Miro gallery, and would be a shame to miss if you visit only the ground floor of Parasol Unit). Self is on exhibit until 12 March 2017
“I see life as a passageway”, states South Korean artist Suh, and certainly this endlessly fascinating collection of two and three-dimensional pieces revealingly bears out his mission to explore the in-between spaces. A viewer is first confronted by an arresting series of large-scale works of doorways and thresholds painstakingly recreated from his own experience, functional entrances of buildings where he has resided, resplendently resonant with the emotions (jubilant, turbulent) of his time spent there. The canvas is haunted by a viscerally obsessive attention to architectural detail (mouldings, fixtures, piping), and the mixture of delicate fabric threading on gelatin sheeting fed through water so as to bleed on a backing of cotton paper lends the images a ghostly quality, a sequence of lost although wistfully remembered transitory areas. Upstairs provides the event work, an immersive installation through which a visitor may walk, nine linked to-scale versions of corridors and vestibules again from various periods of his working and personal life, and similarly charged spaces of emotion and sentiment. You marvel at the meticulous detail,the intricacy and delicacy of the steel and fabric structures-the curious feeling of walking along the gossamer edge of memory begins to infest you. Suh has you confront the evanescent spaces of a journey, the humble bindings between the rooms in which major actions take place, important insofar as they deliver a person to a destination. Themes of migration and self-reflection (both fearful and revelatory) arise as you move through the colourful creation. A multi-screen video work continues his exploration of travelling through space, following his daughters as they gambol (in lengthy shots) along streets of both London and South Korea in a visual pinwheel of language and location, boundaries in flux. The exhibition runs through 18 March 2017
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this West London temple devoted to the concept of “clean eating” (the voguish term for cooking free of gluten, sugar and most fat-generally, food devoid of all processing), but it seems to be organised more around a trend than genuine integrity. From its questionable play on the word pharmacy (aligning itself with a business associated with the dispensing of materials for health and wellbeing), a too-clever-by-half pun, to the inclusion of such items as syringe shots on the breakfast menu (literally, a single shot of fruit juices, herbs and spices delivered in a syringe that a patron injects into a small glass, for the not-small price of £5), gimmick is preeminent. I can’t vouch for lunch or evening meals, but a tremendous discrepancy between price and portion looms large on breakfast choices. The sweet berry probiotic parfait “jar” could more accurately be dimensionally described as a soufflé pot with a meagre ration of seasonal berries and a serving of sprouted buckwheat granola that appeared as if a portion of a cereal bar had been broken in half and stuck upright in a very puny layer of “house made” cashew yogurt (in any case, it would hard to defend the £10 cost against any of the ingredients, made in-house or not). Similarly, the warrior waffles amounted to two quarters of a whole waffle (neither my friend nor I could fathom what became of the other half), certainly nowhere near enough to be able to sate the appetite of an ordinary mortal, much less a warrior (also £10). Much care (and ponce) has been lavished on the menu’s descriptions, if only to overembellish components and unnecessarily inflate prices. The restaurant is spacious and bright, the staff very pleasant, the decor warm with decorative wicker pieces and earth tones-distressed wood along the bar, a continuous garland strung along the periphery of the ceiling, a run of large windows casting bounties of natural light into the room-but the food just did not deliver. Many other customers were content to nurse cups of coffee and converse with table mates, eschewing food altogether. Most dinner items hover around the £15 mark, and on evidence of reviews and mentions online, portion sizes (and in some cases, taste) are a matter of contention, so the breakfast issues most likely don’t exist in a vacuum. The restaurant is run by Camila Al-Fayed, daughter of business magnate (and former Harrods owner) Mohamed, so the establishment was never going to be of humble origins-its roots are in spectacle and splash, and, one would hope, some sense of longevity. Ominous signs of economic distress are abundant along the length of Westbourne Grove, many storefronts darkened and empty-let’s hope this venture (with its beautiful brick-fronted corner plot) isn’t the next casualty.
One of my greatest cultural regrets last year was a fatal lack of preliminary knowledge of Complicite’s acclaimed THE ENCOUNTER on the Barbican’s calendar, which, by the time my awareness kicked in, was entirely sold out the length of its run. Even worse, I learned too late that the piece, an aurally immersive work that convincingly transported its audience to the humid environs of the Amazon forest via individual headsets of marvellously pristine state-of-the-art technology, was available as a free online experience for a week following the close of the live show on Complicite’s website! I shall not make the same mistake in 2017, as Complicite’s latest venture, an adaptation of Stephen Zweig’s 1939 novel charting a young Austrian soldier’s slippery and dangerous spiral into ethical and moral turpitude (an anticipation of graver discriminations to come), will be live streamed at 3:00 on 12 February and available through 26 February. Similarly, the run is completely sold out, so this will be the only way in which to experience what has been another well-received production by the ceaselessly inventive and original company. Simon McBurney, the sole performer of THE ENCOUNTER, cedes the stage to an ensemble this year, but once again directs. Time Out’s website is another source by which the live stream may be viewed. Enjoy!
Without a shiver of doubt, the standout piece of this genuinely strong collection of works at the East End galleries hosting the Condo event (through sheer exuberant, extravagant weirdness) is Oscar Murillo’s installation at Carlos/Ishigawa, Human Resources, something akin to a stage set in which the viewer enters into a tiered seating arena where figures (some lone, others in pairs or groups) sit awaiting an event to commence. Postures are varied, anywhere from a slouch to an anticipatory rigidity, certain faces calm, yet others anxious. Although outlandishly artificial, the longer you spend in the company of these figures, you feel uneasy pulling too close to their bodies-the piece manages to be simultaneously playful and menacing. Philosophically, a viewer begins to question his or her presence in the space, as if an interloper into a sacred area, an wholly inappropriate intruder. A queasiness settles uneasily in the mind, as if the looming spectacle for which the collected wait may be more sinister in nature than entertaining. This is achieved in a brightly lit room, no shadows, and with ample room between the figures to join the crowd if you so wish. It’s quite remarkable the ways in which it quietly burrows into the most apprehensive aspects of one’s psychology. Elsewhere, in the intriguing upstairs space above the Approach pub, Sophie Bueno-Boutillier’s folded fabric tapestries captivate the attention with their seductive intimations of exposure and concealment. Much of the work forces the viewer to stare deep around the edges in attempt to glimpse the full colour and body of the image, always left tantalisingly, alluringly incomplete to a frustrated eye. Maaike Schoorel’s Bloempot (Flower Jar) at the cramped 1st-floor back room at Maureen Paley cleverly mimics the negotiations of an eye adjusting to a sudden plunge into a pitch-dark room, the contours of the space gradually resolving into focus-the longer you stare, you begin to notice the outline of a table with a vase of flowers set upon it, what appears to be a hearth, the tease of light at a closed door’s base emanating from a neighbouring chamber. It’s a fascinating optic puzzle, which rewards a patient engagement with its slowly unfolding reveals. Anna Zacharoff’s collection of clay pots, cracked and bleeding gold leaf (in some cases, keenly aligned with naturally occurring cracks on the concrete floor of the hosting Vilma Gold gallery) nevertheless retain a defiant earthy solidity and inviolability against all assault and time, in confident conversation with her equally earthy aquatic paintings with their tenderly rendered creatures, as if just approaching visibility. Misako and Rosen’s pop-art goofs on celebrated painters (with a thoughtfully violent Leatherface from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” honouring Cy Twombly ) and Jan Kaps’s overscaled, curiously malevolent snowman create a playground of campy fun at Union Pacific. Generally, the works on offer at this East End portion of Condo were more upbeat and brighter (at least superficially) than their West End counterparts, fascinating in their varied details and contemplations.