It’s back to basics for the group of creatives commissioned for this online initiative from Thorp Stavri gallery hosted on World of Fad’s Instagram account. Invited participants are representative of artists with whom the curatorial platform has established relationships as well as newer individuals who were initially scheduled, of course, for more tactile exhibitions. The show’s title, Contact, holds within itself the tension of present circumstances-unable to interact with close physicality, we are left with the beguiling proximity of the virtual, a mimic of the immediate masking the remote-but it is what is available, and we must continue to communicate and relate.

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 What is keenly felt in the majority of these works produced while in lockdown is the return to pure, primal materials and concerns, an earthy reliance on (or digital recreation of) wood, cloth, yarn, cement, thread, wire, a direct reflection of a sudden stripped-down, spare existence, a celebration of modest but durable elements. An emphasis on folklore and myth, those sustaining and foundational tales that are the backbone of culture, are pushed to fore (the tight cosmos of symbols and patterns of Anna Perach’s My Braided Hero, a pair of gloves given extra contemporary currency as avatars of security and defense); Tess Williams’s rough, raw and ungilded industrial Sirens is an ascendant statement of the plain-spoken; Christopher Stead’s Jungle and Catriona Robertson’s Chute repurpose detritus into new empowered forms of reference, soups and stews of rubbish reconfigured; Anna Readings’s Augury, a cement and oyster shell rendering of a cormorant fanning its wings, harkens back to mythic fables of avian messengers, bearers of ominous, apprehensive news, oracles of doom;

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Kieran Leach’s trippy  Mean Pills foregrounds a foggy-brained Casper the Ghost against a hazy background of splotchy paint spray, mental eruptions of colourful frisson and unease; Veronika Neukirch’s Coral Connect 4 flailingly attempts to find a coherent pathway or connection; Andrea Wright’s Maquette for Future Sculptures 3,4,6 beckon towards the comfort of the analogue, the simplicity of the hand-crafted, not so much an escape into nostalgia but a confirmation of the strength of the rudimental; Katharina Fitz’s Memory Palace-Hollow, a series of empty, delicate latex vessels, echoes the present state of ethereality, ungrounded and unsupported, an abrupt loss of weighted ness; Jack Evans’s Nostalgia depicts a particular “recreational” tree found in pubs and parks in the East Midlands of his youth, now lost to time, reimagined digitally as a Viking-type warrior seemingly covered in (and withstanding) a cape of shit, an apt image for a Covid-infused population;

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Rob Branigan’s Checkout heralds a sinking of commodified culture, a penetrated concrete interruption of the accelerated; Mike Ballard’s Letraset-style sheet of transfers (Coast to Coast)  crashes in like an outmoded language, a series of manic arrows and scratch-outs creating a lexiconic cacophony of direction and movement, as if certainty and assumption-normality-have suffered breakdown. All the works throb with the unique frequency of viral-loaded times, anxious and unresolved. Contact can be found-indefinitely-on World of Fad’s Instagram feed

THORP STAVRI present the exhibition CONTACT @worldoffad




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Commissioning digital art works in direct response to the current pandemic, focusing on the particular anxious melancholy that has been stirred awake in its vortex, these enterprising galleries are able to showcase projects of immediacy and force borne of a still-emerging and unfolding catastrophe, reports and reflections from within the realm of besiegement. Form and content encompasses a wide range of  impressions-sober, humorous, anecdotal, bemused. Both Annka Kultys’s [the art happens here] and Edel Assanti’s Contactless Deliveries initiatives are releasing  weekly works for the indefinite stay-at-home future: Toronto artist James Knott’s campy video works Crisis du Jour: Petty Déjeuner (featuring Knott’s drag persona), spoken to camera seated at table, take as their ostensible form that of the tutorial, the first of which (Eggs, slightly re-conceptualised from a pre-Covid existence) details the proper way in which to eat a plate of fried eggs, matter-of-factness drifting off into strange philosophical riffs and unnerving, unsettling alleyways of apocalyptic ruminations-dead flowers and rotting bananas litter the table, indicating a sure presence of death, unconscious and underlying psychological disturbances crawling and grating against the spirit, compromising strength in isolation, throwing up reflections of tremendous terror and fear; Beans in Isolation, delivered in a mock-Wild West accent (as if thrown back to a more elemental, civilly uncertain, time) amusingly descends into nihilistic, violent observations and musings, a quiet, seething psychosis slowly being willed into being from lack of significant contact and interaction.

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Jillian Mayer’s preceding piece, You’ll Be Okay, a four-minute video of prodigious fragility and tenderness, presents wispy smoke trails as if from a sky-writing plane spelling out the titular words, which begin to disassemble in the relentless onslaught of wind and pressure, breaking apart and losing integrity, although never quite completely relinquishing their presence -the ghost of the lettering persists against all effort to erase them (the video concludes, rather optimistically, before total loss of body). The first of Edel Assanti’s program, text-based works set against static shots, opens with the phrase “I can’t breathe”, words spoken by African American Eric Gardner while in custody, dying words which became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, now transposed powerfully by Jesse Hlebo to encompass the  dire situation affecting the respiratory systems of both world and individual (political and commercial systems, cultural assumptions, as well as one’s own lungs), allowing for both panic and perhaps profound contemplation that the silence, the pause, offers us.

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Dependent upon perspective, the cityscape in the frame is either descending into perpetual dark or surfacing into a new dawn. It’s a beautifully composed poetic essay, managing both the best and worst consequences of present circumstances.

One day in the future, humankind will be properly able to study and investigate this most unprecedented time, come to grips with the spectrum of societal fault lines and failings exposed along with the ways in which humanity rose up to express its greatest virtues and compassion. For now it’s enough to spend time with these thoughtful, engaging, heartening artists as they tread bravely through the madness.







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Ably and deftly managing the comprehensive closure of  gallery spaces due to the Corona pandemic (and the indeterminate date at which they may again commence operations), Guts Gallery’s founder and curator Ellie Pennick, as many others, has chosen, with masterful improv, to move online to a brave new virtual world. She has gathered together 38 of her favourite emerging artists for her inaugural Instagram exhibition entitled When Shit Hits the Fan, a series of mixed-media works that coalesce thematically into a study of identity politics and forces both societal and personal that work to at times undermine the self, and the strategies by which an individual finds emancipation from the thicket of disharmony.

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Often central figures find themselves lost in overburdened psychological landscapes, bowed under by crippling and censorious symbologies of doubt and fear. Others are locked in erotic reveries that shiver with promise and vulnerability. Some fight for definition from within squalls of erratic lines and heavy, rampaging scratches. Luke Riffins’s snarky graphic interstitials appear regularly throughout the feed, amusingly exposing the more dubious motivations of certain individuals at an opening reception (less aesthetic than opportunistic, happily feasting on gratis food & drink, trawling for possible hook ups-or avoiding former ones- situationally manipulating a way into photographs with essential individuals, bound for the social pages or gallery website).

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Among the most memorable works: Douglas Cantor’s thrilling collision of yellow and red equines in Keep Some To Miss, a bracing twist of union; Rayvenn D’Clarke’s serenely defiant black face resisting a white annihilation; Victoria Cantons’s What Is Going On Right Now, a possible walk with an unknown part of the self, a quiet endeavour to access the incomprehensible; the pastel disquiet of Joe Bloom’s Departure with its wavy runways, disemboweled airplane and bared teeth on horizon;

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the exquisite alienation of Anymay George’s It’s A Nice Day Inside, a delicate face staring warily out from within an encumbrance of what seems patterned blankets and covers, a womb or cave of softly crushing comfort; Sam Harris and Trackie McLeod use consumer detritus and objects (a knitted tapestry of chicken shop window meal decals and repurposed football jersey, respectively) to explore British identity as factored through fast-food culture and wardrobe, the meanings, limitations-and burdens-of institutional and gender characteristic embodied.

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Although unable to recreate the experience of being in a live space and physically taking in the exhibition as a whole (in which individual works-potentially- may fizz and pop off of close placement with others in curated conversation), in the absence of this possibility I applaud those managers with an entrepreneurial spirit and imaginative zeal to keep some semblance of continuity and allow, in any form, the gallery adventure  to continue. When Shit Hits the Fan continues through 16 April, but I imagine will remain on Guts Gallery’s Instagram feed-a viewer may have to scroll down a length to find it

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Once inside the door of an unassuming brick building just off of London Bridge Station, you’d be forgiven for guessing you had wandered into a paradisiacal Spanish or Greek villa, when in fact you have just entered the new gallery space of Kristin Hjellegjerde (set, unfortunately, for renovation-the first item to go will no doubt be its signature arched sky-light ceiling, perhaps not the best complement to each exhibition’s works, offering a constant conflict of excessive natural light). As a visitor rounds up the stairs into the main space, the striking image of a painted series of broad, massive backs, a gravitas of flesh spatially obliterating each frame, accosts the eye.

In these elementally brawn portraits, Ethiopian artist Dawit Abebe inscribes bodies with an overlay of insects, cd’s, cassettes, masks and license plates with number schemes that reflect historically significant dates (a curious fact: Ethiopian calendars are consistently seven or eight years behind the Gregorian template). His process commences with a foundation of pages from educational exercise books placed upon the canvas , signalling the underlying rigour and regulation of “authoritative” teaching, over which he creates tense (mostly male) narratives of more compositionally base societal influences (music, cars, jewellery-tokens of power and position).

His “long-hand” series portrays naked, looming male figures rampaging over landscapes, a grotesquely disproportioned arm reaching out in an annihilating grasp, in some cases an obscenely gleaming gold watch affixed to wrist. The position is one of absolute dominance, crushing the earth  with impunity and privilege-all around, a collage of eminent figures from the worlds of politics, sports and entertainment gather along the horizon, unobtrusive but present, avatars of aspiration.

Abebe teases out the pressures, the infestation of cultural myth and fable upon both body and mind, its sometimes regrettably disreputable absorption into character and behaviour, the destructive ways in which it may manifest into a great and tragic misconception. These energised images explode a study of the exploitative uses to which tales are put, how they are consumed by a population, and the consequences for a culture. Exits closed on 14 March and was one of the final exhibitions I attended before lockdown






Offering a pleasant, if brisk, early March evening stroll through the grounds of the hallowed 18th century West London heritage estate Chiswick House, this candy-coloured illuminated trail of Chinese lanterns, facade projections, laser light shows and interactive displays heralds the conclusion of London’s official season of light-based extravaganzas (including the festive Kew, Eltham Palace and Syon Park enchanted light programmes, Canary Wharf Winter Lights, Winterfest at Wembley Park, Glow at Eastbury Manor, as well as a plethora of smaller-scale offerings at various city venues). It’s clear that London is in deep attraction to a play of light.

Lacking the sophistication and style of many of Kew’s pieces or the creative edge of Canary Wharf’s contributions, or the majesty and awe of the infrequent London Lumiere, the works here settle for a straightforward, steady reliability, a widespread appeal to all family members. Woodland creatures, birds, jungle animals, fairies, plants, flowerbeds and toadstools abound. Carpets of animated laser lights, like bits of shimmering and restless confetti, gently disorient step at certain stages of the walk. Patterns of light search through trees. Gardens of clustered lights flash on and off in musical sequence. Brilliant, explosive orchestrations of image splash vividly to life upon the walls of the villa. A peacock flashes its psychedelic plumage.

It’s all perfectly comfortable and charming, but it doesn’t offer anything particularly original (perhaps the unfortunate result of such a glut of light-based exhibitions scheduled so closely together). An outdoor food market, fairground rides and big-top tent with acrobats and artisan crafts greet visitors at the end of the trail, enhancing its familial attractiveness. It will certainly put a smile on many a kid’s face, and a spell upon the mind and heart. LIGHTOPIA closed on 1 March Video footage available on the Instagram account




Bronze-cast icons from across the history of Warner Brothers studios have colonised the spaces in and around London’s famed Leicester Square, settling in for at least a six-month residency. As this area has long been associated with its grand and majestic cinemas and its use as the premier location of red-carpet ceremonies, a more apropos place to situate such enduring film characters could not be found.

Laurel & Hardy lock in slapstick step atop the HotTix booth, Gene Kelly frolics upon a lamppost, Mary Poppins lands at a gate entrance, Bugs Bunny pops up in a garden spot, Charlie Chaplin toddles on his cane, while Mr. Bean and Paddington take seats on benches within the square, anticipating the relentless selfie opportunities to come (but do take care to respect that Paddington may want to savour his marmalade sandwich in peace).

Batman surveys the activity with his signature fraught vigilance from the high roof of the Odeon Cinema across the way. Only poor Wonder Woman is unceremoniously consigned to a distant corner, bursting forth from a side wall of the Vue West End Cinema onto a mean little passageway now under heavy construction.

No doubt the sculptures will bring delight to thousands of visitors-those who venture with intention and those who happily stumble upon them as tourists. Light displays in the evening will further enhance many of the pieces, and Spotify offers an immersive soundtrack to accompany a walk through the trail. Scenes in the Square will run through the summer, if not longer due to demand




A few words on notable shows just about to close (or, in one case, already shuttered but with a continuing resonance that moves me to comment and broaden awareness of an exceptional artist):

Bridget Riley @ Hayward Gallery

One does not interact quietly with a work by this enduring maestro of op art. Almost feral studies of the possibilities of line and colour and dimension, the longer you stare the more unhinged your optic nerve feels, carried off on a queasy sea of twist and waver and shift and throb (only in the rare occasion is there a more tranquil billow or pulse). Vertiginous and commanding, dangerous even, the most powerful canvasses seem to evince a keen consciousness that threatens to consume you whole should you look too long-it feels coiled somewhere in the back of the frame, vigilant. Both a mathematical and architectural precision guide and inform the paintings. Approaching ninety, Riley is still very much active and just as committed to her inquiries into perception: the uses of repetition, subtle alteration, manipulation of shape and line to induce a physical reaction in the viewer, a sudden loss of steadiness and certainty. Bridget Riley continues through 26 January at Hayward Gallery


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Just one week left to witness the mesmerising lightscapes of artist Villareal, panelled screens of various sizes on which cosmological phenomena play out, a swirling sequence of birth and decay, surge and collapse. Universes spin out of matter and dust, vigorous in intent and direction, whirling successions of perambulas and eddies. They are masterful meditations of pixels and binary code, a Big Bang of operational systems. Taking the cold logic of computation, Villarreal somehow alchemises it into the awe of witnessing creation, surrounding and immersing the viewer in a celestial grandeur, vaulting the individual consciousness into a wider transcendental field. Leo Villarreal closes on 18 January

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On the first floor of this two-story exhibition, Kawamata has fashioned heaving, crowded  three-dimensional devastations of crushed wooden boxes that, from a distance, mimic aerial views of disaster zones, referencing  crushed communities and human loss. The canvasses swell and ripple outwards as if the landscape beneath has erupted. A viewer is dwarfed by the scale of these pieces, as if swallowed up in an overwhelming crisis (the beleaguered wood used is in most part reclaimed from sites of conflict or blight).

Upstairs, Kawamata fashions a miracle: an absolutely serene environment of resurrection and hope, suggested  spaces of refuge and security, using as their basic bedrock the same wood material. To make the acquaintance of an artist expansive enough in spirit to see both the sober as well as the sanguine is very pleasant indeed. Kawamata could be Anselm Kiefer’s more optimistic, less bilious, cousin. Destruction/Reconstruction closed on 20 December 2019 at Annely Juda