In an era dominated by the click, swipe and scroll, fractured attention distorted to the most cursory glance, this new exhibition insistently demands a certain rigour of observation and attentiveness to each work, a close, abiding engagement slowly undressing layer after layer of meaning and intent. Many of the pieces reflect on their own process of creation-a fair few excitedly exploit the sensuality of texture, inviting a keen, woozy, nearly illicit interest, a canvas of colours, shapes, sinuous movement whipping up to wild abandonment (Alexis Harding, of this I find you especially guilty-even his fairly tame cosmological studies are a lush, twisting, cuddling embrace of black and greyish white). The compact frames of Donal Moloney inversely contain a multitudinous convulsion of intricate ephemera, a hurl of narratives both natural and fantastical raging and colliding, an imagination split wide in multivalent surge; Antoine Langenieux-Villard’s ravaged frames, torn, slit, overlaid-exhaustively worked-pulse with tension, an unsettled confusion and conflict between start and finish, the certainty of the order of construction remaining troublingly hidden and unresolved. The collaborative, “exquisite corpse”-like works of Sarah Kate Wilson, made in concert with members of the public, are shrink-wrapped emotional curations, each item contributed a significant individual remembrance of a past event or conversation revealed through a profusion (and diffusion) of objects, artist and subjects inextricably linked in a manufactured rapture, packaged and “shipped” for spectacle; Jim Cheatle, Peter Lamb and Alison Goodyear, in various disciplines, dimensionally reference and reproduce and rework elements from previous (or the same) works-or from their physical environments-directly onto their work, Cheatle most explicitly investigating the gap between “flat” simulation and the flagrantly genuine, topping his frames with egregiously present, lusciously glistening pastel swirls and globules impossible to evade. All the artists direct attention inwards, through the frame, to all levels of context, allowing the viewer to apprehend the full weight of the image, a clear rebuke to the facile churn of consumption of the digital age, reasserting the supremacy of a physical, material interaction. Of course, I’m well aware the photos accompanying this post are no substitution for a real, in-person communication with the works, where their complexities truly manifest. Substantifs continues through 27 April





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This virtual reality work devised by celebrated sculptor Antony Gormley in collaboration with Dr. Priyamvada Natarajan (of NASA) sweeps a viewer from the beachfront of a tropical island through the outer reaches of the atmosphere into an asteroid belt and straight onto the surface of the moon, before catapulting a user directly into the annihilating path of the sun, flares snaking off its blinding orb, an all-consuming image of white concluding the experience. I’m fairly certain there is nothing much profound to uncover philosophically or conceptually from the work-it exists mainly as an avenue towards heightened sensation, using the first-person aesthetic of gaming culture as its base.

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The simulations are produced using geometric data from NASA models, lending the environments a sweep and detail and expanse especially striking to the spirit. As much as Gormley’s preoccupations are with the (static) body and its materiality in space, as a place or location of matter , I can see the curiosity and challenge for him offered by this new technology, in which a creator must guide a disembodied user through a series of limitless spaces while achieving the sensation of body. Absent of his foundational, explicit element, he must rather suggest the subjective conscious in its movement (velocity) through space and time, the driving environment dictating definition.

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Quite beyond all this theoretical notation, what I will remember most (in the moments each participant is allowed to roam freely via controller before being whisked off to the next level) is a frolic along the waterfront up into the lush vegetation of the tropical island, rotating around the circumference of the Earth as it recedes, and bouncing happily along a crater’s edge in zero gravity, lifting off in flight soaring meditatively above the barren moonscape in a sacred, silent covenant. You are encouraged by your “attendant” to decompress in a lounge before venturing home, as perceptions may have been impaired-I confess to remaining a bit woozy following disembarkment. LUNATICK continues through 25 May 

Antony Gormley & Dr Priyamvada Natarajan




In contrast to the relatively sedate works Bowman contributed to the Getting Away! exhibition at Arthouse1 last year (which she also curated)-abstracted studies of sea and shore filtered through a lens of unsentimentalised memory, in which the greatest (genial) threat was that of overcast day and possible storm-the new pieces comprising this show in the West End churn and roil with a turbulent, dark undertow, tremendously unsettled and restless, awash with disruption. Conflicts and collisions of colours abound throughout each canvas, whirls, swirls, whips and whorls of orange and white marauding across the frame like hurricane systems. The sea is bothered, a plague of squall, plight and peril, etched with scratches, aggressive squiggle patterns, unbounded drips of paint, unyielding blocks of hue. Corrosion and toxicity have embedded within the environment. As one element of the imagery, per Bowman’s objective, is to interrogate the idea of the sea and coast as locus of border and belonging, it’s impossible not to sense in the visual chaos the ongoing migrancy crisis and concomitant treacherous, desperate, sometimes fatal, sea journeys undertaken. The softer colours of the two Plashy Place studies (and Diversion 1) provide essential playful, innocent relief for the eyes, brief breezy beats of breath and reflection set apart from the surrounding clash and clamour. As merciless, unsparing and tumultuous as the sea, these are thrillingly, poetically active and alive works informed by a very expressively astute consciousness of turmoil, their very creation a feat of getting through. You will be shaken and stirred. Tearing Up The Rule Book continues through 13 April



Steeped in the aesthetic lore of folk art, advertising, comic books-especially underground comix-poster art, graffiti and found material, this hallowed (but overlooked) group of alumni and teachers from Chicago’s Art Institute gathered together in the latter stages of the 60’s to establish a loose school of work that resonated with broader national movements (Pop Art blasts from either American coast, conceptualist critiques of an emerging consumerist society) while managing to locate distinctive personal aspects of its own. Colours are bold and brash, irreverent imagery abounds, all wrapped in a sense of play that is wildly liberating and go-for-broke, instrumental instructors generously including non-Western and outsider artists into their syllabi-and straight into their students’ artistic souls. Much of the work radiates with a boisterous DIY-ethos (the self-made posters created for their various exhibitions are a brilliant expressive species unto themselves), a sense of fun and experiment contagious, spilling across several disciplines, from painting to sculpture to drawing to publications to film to ephemera. Unlike many of its contemporaneous fellow circles, in which the dominant paradigm was that of a white male braggadocio with women sidelined or entirely erased from the conversation, the Imagists operated with an unemphatic gender parity, a casual appreciation for both female member and teacher. They often exhibited under droll, impertinent collective names such as Hairy Who, Nonplussed Some, the False Image and Marriage Chicago Style, contravening against the pomposity and strenuous whimsy of the larger schools (in comparison,  much of this work appears positively serene and composed even within its own mania). Christina Ramberg reclaims kink and fetish imagery, transmuting it into a study of female construction, a Bettie Page directing her own story, panelled narratives told in detailed close-ups; Ed Paschke’s canvasses are awash in wanton, lurid, acidhouse colours, his figures in repose post-apocalypse; Jim Nutt’s plexiglass subjects, with their unnerving enamel sheen, break down/blow out to pustular extremes, sum totals of effluvia and bodily discharge, sometimes with a sharp political edge (see Officer E. Doodit); Gladys Nilsson’s and Karl Wirsum’s frames explode with vibrant nightmarish individuals, the psychedelic frenzy of movement and velocity warping coherency of body-the same for Barbara Rossi’s tangled, swirling masses of amorphosity; Ed Flood presents elegantly layered, dimensional plexiglass cabinets of squiggly dispersed lines and curves that suggest fantastical undersea or forest environments. Roger Brown provides the most meditative pieces: deco-ish, visually tidy renderings of landscapes, buildings and people that pulse with pockets of mystery and shadow and private acts. His architecturally tribal Mask For A Waitress is both armor and straitjacket, evoking the weight of servitude. Nilsson provides one of the softer images, as well, a black-and-white illustrated beach idyll of a group of similarly attired women (and the odd glamorous  animal friend!) enjoying a day out. I must admit my shame in never having heard of the Imagists despite living in Chicago for many years, and I am very happy indeed for this opportunity to belatedly make their acquaintance-the sheer energy, verve and joy emanating from the works is impossible to resist. Warhol may have had the monopoly on media attention and notoriety, but Chicago in its own modest, possibly more sensible and breezy way, hosted its own version of the Factory (and it isn’t a great stetch of imagination to envision a young Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat happening upon the work of a few of these artists and finding their spirits enflamed). Chicago! Imagists 1960s & 70’s runs through 26 May




Quite beyond the overall quality of the work on display, I champion the ethos of this annual event in which local independent galleries (and, increasingly, a few higher profile names) host fellow independent galleries from all corners of the world, allowing artists whom otherwise would be unable to exhibit widely outside their native countries, due either to monetary or sponsorship constraints, to be seen by a greater number of people. The economics are “softer”, as the founders of the commission state, far from the heavy-breathing of the major market-driven annual art fairs, which allows space for more experimental and fringe work. Originating in London in 2016, Condo has been successful enough to launch versions in New York, Mexico City, Shanghai, Athens and São Paulo-I hope with great sincerity that as it expands its reach it will be able to retain its alternative integrity. This year, 52 galleries were represented across 18 London spaces. I am happy to report I and my friend Nora, with skilful negotiation, were able to visit every gallery without maniacal pace over the course of Condo’s four weeks, pervasively spread out across the city (if nothing else, Condo offers a tremendous opportunity to experience the breadth of an urban environment, from corners both chic and gritty).

And so, to highlights: You’d be forgiven for believing that you had walked into a bath and shower showroom at Modern Art, what with the glistening, gleaming ceramic surfaces of Nicolas Deshayes’s pieces-basins, cisterns, plumbing networks glaze with an unearthly shine, troublingly, strangely erotic in their bare, shapely offer of curves and angles; upstairs, Charlotte Posenenske’s cardboard creation-mimicking, from afar, the solidity of wood-is a playfully monstrous playground attraction, releasing a desire to frolic atop, along and through its dimensions. At The Approach, Vanessa Safavi’s prolific and generous use of silicone and ovular imagery confronts and interrogates, lightheartedly, performative issues and articulated demands around the body (a crushed, abundantly folded piece of silicone, appearing almost like an impossibly twisted ceramic vase, is stuffed uncomfortably within a frame adorned with wooden bars, suggesting a sinisterly transparent form of oppression); Cajsa Von Zeipel’s The Gossips (referencing Camille Claudel’s oft self-repeated sculptural work) are a quartet of female figures arising out of plinths with groovy, leisurely assertion (human/alien hybrids engaged in a form of transformation), a nearly synthetic Siren “collectivisation” against a world that would otherwise seek to reduce, debase or demean them-they are empoweringly afflicted by technical and sexual refuse on their skin and bodies, carrying a song beneath their surface , beaming their way to satisfied self-actualisation entirely on their terms; at Hollybush Gardens, Vadim Fishkin’s beguiling projections (video footage on my Instagram account) prey intriguingly upon the perceptions-with a sly sleight-of-screen, silhouettes of stationary objects move with an abandoned animation (another work, a small globe tipped over on its side, bleeds out the colours of its continents); Lina Viste Gronli’s sneaker series at Union Pacific nods at both the materiality and (eventual) practical reality of the shoe fashion industry (one piece is adorned in shiny copper coins, the other blanketed in a coy pattern of detritus collected off the street and pavement), a wry disconnect between the decorative aesthetic and the functional destiny of an item-elsewhere, Hans-Christian Lotz, like a madly inspired craftsman, works found pieces of aluminium, silicone and acrylic glass into stunning industrial window frames akin to Arabic friezes; Chelsea Culprit’s canvases eye-pop with colour, a riot of gestural and bodily contortions and distortions (sometimes whirling free of the frame) , a devolution into fractal patterns, elongated terpsichorean manoeuvres endlessly cycled in systems and codes of anguish and delirium-upstairs, Juliette Blightman’s images suggest interesting negative spaces within interior environments, teasing what is and is not seen, one object in full colourful, bold view, and a hidden (or less conspicuous) space rendered in pencil, humming with the breath of a private refuge, or perhaps the tender ghost of a remembered, but now lost, anchor; at the Sunday Painter, Samara Scott offers symphonic horizontal urban collages, flat cabinets of curiosities in which collections of grit, dirt and general rubbish salvaged from across the spectrum (English country estates to council grounds) smash together-and level-smug distinctions between high and low culture, hung like window dressing (or props) set by the visual stylist at a high-street boutique. I could go on and on , which speaks volumes about the profligate variety on display, the sheer head-spinning glory-I’m glad to have made the acquaintance of all the participating artists, and look forward to another round next year. Please watch out for 2020’s iteration-information should be available at the top of the year. Condo ran from 12 January to 9 February



Photos are not able to justly communicate the majesterial physicality of these furiously visceral paintings of Swiss artist Conrad Jon Godly. With but a few bold strokes and sweeps of brush, he conjures flagrantly, turbulently expressive vistas of mountainscape and valley, his inspiration the town of Chur, the capital of the Swiss canton of Grisons. A close side perspective of each enlightens the viewer as to Godly’s technique-prodigious (nearly profligate) impasto marks churn off the frame, thick horizontal clumps that imitate the vertical grandeur of Godly’s subject matter, and which lend a roiling texturally  dimensional kick to the works when faced head on. The results hover between a photorealism and the abstract-fine, wispy overlays of white suggest mist or snow set against the denser, craggy blacks of rockface; temperate uses of blue and green seasonally expand Godly’s range, capturing the landscape in various modes of mood and tone and light. Humming through the pieces are Godly’s very obvious awe and respect for this environment, its inviolability and magnificent silent presence, its ancestral soul.  “Only after closely watching and listening, can you understand your subject,” Godly claims, acknowledging the interference and intrusion of words or speech on artistic process. Once a successful fashion photographer, Godly now divides his time between Switzerland and Japan, where his work enjoys great popularity (especially with its illustrative and design link to calligraphy). These are pieces that exert an aesthetically hallucinatory hold upon the viewer, surrounding than swallowing you whole with a glorious severity. To See Is Not To Speak closed on 2 March



Before you even take the first step to ascend to the top floor gallery, Julie F Hill’s Dark River II arrestingly assaults the senses, a celestial curtain spilling down the length of the atrium and crumpling at its base, the spiral of the staircase in a comradely conspiratorial conversation with its cosmological surface, the arithmetic of its canvas of nebulae and stars. Using an archival astronomical print (a section from the largest photograph ever taken of the Milky Way, staggeringly measuring 108,200 by 81,500 pixels, containing close to 9 billion pixels overall), a viewer stands transfixed, vision guided heavenward, lost in the infinity of its upwards sprawl. Upstairs, Hill’s Dark River I, seemingly more restrained, neatly situated at a point of egress to the roof, sits atop a mirror, a straightforward reflection of object and also endless elongation of its central mystery, each crease and fold containing any multitude of latent, gestating universes. Hill’s video installation, Through Machine and Darkness, harnesses a revolutionary algorithmic class of AI called DCGAN-Deep Convolutional Generative Adversarial Network to be precise, and quite a mouthful-trained on over 45,000 images from cameras onboard the Hubble Telescope. From darkness, the piece incrementally wakes to full screen, until a viewer is enmeshed in a floating, geometrical rhapsody of pure pattern and shape, undefinable and elusive, a not-necessarily terrifying encounter with an environment devoid of recognisable conventional spatial signifiers such as borders or horizons-it’s a meditative fall through the conscripts of time and meaning, pleasantly detached from the need for a beginning or end.

In their eschewment of all visual fuss, Hannah Luxton’s sublime works are left to concentrate entirely on the elemental-they have the absolute expressive simplicity of cave paintings, communing with the ancestral. Luxton allows the viewer a very generously portioned space to contemplate and interrogate her natural images as they shimmer and spill and creep across the linen canvas, suggesting slightly anxious inner states that are nevertheless held in a warm earthen embrace of negative space (I was reminded of the otherworldly environments as seen in photos of Namibia). A gossamer wash of celestial light gently troubles the frame in Star Spill; a black cellular blot (malignantly?) drifts unfixed through a nebulous landscape, whispering chaos; a dark, blue-edged stain thrusts up from the canvas bottom in Moon Mountain, its spread ratio undetermined; ovular pools (one of pure white, another  flecked with bloodied-red coils) are set beneath mercilessly rich, dark skies possibly  redolent of approaching storm or apocalypse; a soot-coloured cloud prepares to unleash upon a fragile slip of sky-blue optimism in A Storm is Coming, You Should Stay Home. Elsewhere, lunar objects reflect delicately in clear pools of water and shine harmoniously over mountaintops. In some alchemical way, the works seem to brighten and soften the physical space in which they are exhibited, despite the occasional surface tension. Present is a grave knowledge older, deeper than language, surmounting any small personal crisis, implying an empyreal endurance .

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Mapping both inward and outward perspective, the vast realms and panoramas contained within each, Hill and Luxton engage with the imagination’s power to burst boundlessly through reason to a more instinctive and primal intelligence, a majesty of fancy , wielding forces from the primordial to the very latest technological advancements. Of Stars and Chasms closed on 24 February

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