35-year-old Wong Ping is not afraid to go there. His animated tales (delivered in the charming lo-fi analog aesthetic of 80’s video games) are steeped in the awful melancholy of ageing and loneliness, the swell of inappropriate desire and masturbatory throb, anxiety, cruelty, conflict, the sense of a world cycling into a disarray from which it may not emerge. It’s only the giddy, gaudy playfulness of the craft that leavens the thorough existential bleakness on display. Given Wong’s birth place is Hong Kong, it does not require a great leap to comprehend underlying political and cultural issues informing the films, studies of increasing alienation and bewilderment, uncertainty and blight, authoritarian power, helplessness, revolt. The cast of characters in his newest works, Fables, are victims of their own excess and indecision, driven and riven with greed, psychopathy, opportunism, cowardice and weak, compromised constitutions. Even with the most extreme distortions of behaviour and personality, Wong maintains a compassionate, strangely gentle gaze-he acknowledges, if not forgives, the ugly bowels of the human soul. All the filth, perversity, resentment, ill-will, pedantry, the sheer breadth of antisocial tendencies that lurk just below curated civilised surfaces (justly-and mostly-unexpressed), he reveals. The works communicate uncomfortable truths with a frolicsome zip and elan, a honeyed  way to digest disaster both private and public. Wong provides some groovy props (inflatable sculptures and seating, chattering sets of false teeth) to accompany his warped, psychedelic takes on Aesop’s tales. Heart Digger closed on 15 September, but many of Wong’s animations can be found online





Over the course of his 23 years, Kontaxis has suffered more than 50,000 seizures as a result of extenuating circumstances from a congenital brain tumour, in addition to registering on the autism scale. A self-taught artist, Kontaxis has found both refuge and expression through his medium, his armada heavy acrylic paints and a series of pallet knives with which he constructs (mostly colossal) frames of vivid colour fields dense with daubs, squiggles, scratchings and whorls. The titles of each work on a whole are felicitous and upbeat, and indeed standing in their bright surround enlists and enlarges the spirit, a less laborious and mannered Pollack, absent of his abrasiveness and churn. Despite the obsessive repetitions and stark regimentation of design, it is an ethereal and blithe sensibility informing their creation, a cheerful disposition. Mostly non-verbal, Kontaxis voices himself through the paintings, and his manner is one of jovial chaos. A mighty marketing machine is hard at work on his behalf-major shows in Chicago and Los Angeles and now London, several high-profile commissions with the likes of Adidas, the Coachella music festival and various sports teams-and famous patrons such as Roger Federer provide a visibility and legitimacy that could take years for most artists to achieve (if at all). I truly hope that Kontaxis can withstand this onslaught of trend and flavour machinations, as beyond all the heaving mechanics a sweetly substantial outsider soul is at play. Reach was on display at 35 Baker Street from 4-10 September



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The three participating artists’ delicate works exert a fascinating effect upon the gallery space that hosts them, lifting it of any material weight or sense of solidity, collaborating in a tender crime of ethereality in which a viewer can’t help but become enmeshed. A sense of being grounded is gently ceded in favour of a keen drift, a frolicsome flotation.

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Hanna ten Doornkaat’s wooden block pieces adorn the walls like primal communications that flirt just at the edge of definition (unfolding inscriptions of a secret language that spiritedly elude comprehension or garbled broadcast signals), the physical bodies and marks of which speak and reveal sudden confessions and evasions, admissions and erasures, lights and shadows.

Annamarie Dzendrowskyj’s spectral, gauzy studies (which find their apotheosis in her Between the Space I-IV series) tease through a haze of awakening consciousness, caught at the intersection between memory and imagination, a skein of half-remembered landscapes and states of feeling existing with tenuous grace and fragility, forever at the precipice of being lost and overridden.

Sinta Werner’s architectural “interventions”(both on-site and in a collection of manipulated photos) playfully and wilfully exploit perspective and assumption of the knowable dimensions of a space. Both her Broken Line (a row of tiny mirrors that runs the floor length of the larger room of the gallery, creating a decorative, transitory  border that invitingly diverts attention to new spatial encounters) to her Echoes I-XIV, a series of 14 “false” painted shadows inset into the corners and crooks of the walls so as to create a double exposure (and a true trick to perception), drag an immobile gallery space from its usual formal reserve into active engagement-it is now a subject, a relation.

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Her photo “collages” stage 3-D projections onto staid images of public and private spaces, evoking unforeseen dimensions, connections and covert angles, directing the senses to multivalent possibilities. In the nurturing realm of Arthouse1, far from an inhospitably blunt, uncultivated and obvious external world, these pieces are allowed full expression and flourish to contemplate lines not so well-drawn and boundaries diaphanously dissolved-an exaltation of the substantial insubstantial. [Un]Seen continues through 3 August

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On an unassuming neighbourhood street a few roads removed from a main thoroughfare in Peckham, curators Ines Neto dos Santos and Huma Kabakci set up shop (for a six-week residency) of this conceptually terrific and innovative hybrid of gallery and cafe, offering each patron a multi-sensory experience in which every element of the space collaborated in and contributed the central theme:all is art. From the wallpaper to the utensils to the table lamps to the serviettes to the plates on which the food is served (the cafe menu is also curated by dos Santos, with an emphasis on Middle Eastern touches-and sustainable practices) to indeed the tables and chairs themselves, all were created specifically for this installation. Interaction with the various works dissolves the formal principles between object and viewer, rendering art as personal and functional (and usable). The consumption of the food within this sphere transforms the act itself into the realm of performance (and dos Santos, with her delicately layered and dimensional dishes, like all gifted cooks, elevates the food into an art form). Sofia Stevi provides whimsical and jovial napkin prints; Clementine Keith-Roach offers seductive candleholders (two hands gently cradling a gourd-like base upon which the candle flickers, dripping its wax languorously down and along its curves); Bea Bonafini’s crockery, with its map of odd angles and curious swoops and pockets, intriguingly distributes oils and sauces upon the plate; Lindsey Mendick’s chunky cutlery gives colourful agency from dish to mouth. A complimentary cup of coffee was generously provided upon arrival, and dos Santos briefly (and helpfully) explained the foundational ideas that birthed the show-a series of talks, supper clubs and performances were scheduled throughout the run. With just days left before its closing date, I am ecstatic that I was able to visit this most delightful one-off after returning home from holiday, a truly unique experience. Tender Touches ran from 17 May-30 June at Amp Gallery


I’m back from a rather protracted holiday hiatus, and will briefly cover a few outstanding cultural outings from just before and after my travels.


In these charged, volatile images (usually depicting a group or crowd of people engaged in an activity driven by frenzy), a squall of rupture seems to infest the centre of the frame, a clamour towards a sort of white-noise annihilation, a dictation of erasure overseen by authority or, increasingly, avaricious groupthink.  Tianbing’s sizeable canvasses seethe with (and uncomfortably capture) moments of sudden, blurred action, the rapid and quick motions a tumult of expression queasily devolving into the blossom of violence. The pieces pop with Maoist red and bureaucratic grey (uneasy children, gathered in what appear to be internment camps, struggle against being overcome by coiled branches in one series-in another, what appears to be a drawing class has descended into war, the boys’ faces twisted with fury and malice). The world, in fact, appears to be moving too fast to cohere any longer-paint bleeds, explodes, obscures, the individual fights against closure. The frames themselves are subject to scratches, a torn quality.In a world increasingly dominated by the ultra-nationalist (isolationist) and post-compassionate, Tianbing’s pieces have an urgency and immediacy that cannot be shaken. They tear at the vision. Li Tianbing’s Urban Series ran until 15 June at JD Malat

Li Tianbing




Imperturbable from afar, a swarm of soft black markings nesting at the base of wide spaces above, the canvasses of Chinese artist Lu Chao reveal, upon closer inspection, troubled narratives of struggle and torment. Tiny figures, in a multitude of gesture and motion, teem, teeter and crowd along the edge of gaping holes in inexorable thrall to magnetic pockets of apocalyptic oblivion, awaiting some transformative occasion, or gather in ritualistic fervour at sites of momentously descending cosmological events; others get swept up in calamity, become components and playthings in brutal consumerist systems (in one macabre instance, crowds are displayed as tiers of densely packed cupcakes ready for consumption), are subject matter of social and scientific experiments, tread precariously along thin ropes controlled by unseen authority, or stand in stupefied, incomprehensible, enshrined contemplation and awe of themselves. Columns representative of any number of eras of architectural history are adorned in a swirl of physiognomies. Pastoral landscapes, the interior of a cathedral (wrought with dizzying dimension) subsume the human element, the scale and power (both natural and religious) casting the human into a stunned, pained insignificance. Gently fraught issues of social engineering, identity politics, the fight against the collective, float with a disarming buoyant unease throughout the imagery. Lu Chao’s monochromatic frames are magnificently detailed, crafted scenarios of disruption and anxiety, of an existence lived at the precipice, one step away from the abyss. As sober and severe of investigations as they are, Lu Chao folds in a liberatingly bizarre existential humour that prevents the pieces from collapsing into turgid, laborious oppression (this is not the heavy squall of a Goya). The few instances of colour elicit an almost slickly lascivious pop amidst the otherwise muted frames. Lu Chao manages to leap out of specific cultural references to embrace an universal psychological malaise, a sense of being eternally lost in the vastness of the cosmos, a satisfying answer to essential questions of existence perpetually, achingly just out of reach, a human population eternally bewildered and  perplexed by enduring mysteries, aimless despite achievements-mere motes. Black Dots closed on 11 May



Architect Sir John Soane’s London residence in Lincoln’s Inn Fields has long been established as a notable city landmark, a museum devoted to its owner’s extensive collection of antiquities and paintings. Unbeknownst to me, he also owned and partially rebuilt (circa 1800-04) a property in then-rural Ealing (yes, Ealing at one time was considered countryside!) for purposes of family retreat and the entertainment of clients and influential friends, ably staging elaborate dinners and garden parties for their delight. Soane sold the house in 1810, and through the rest of the century it changed hands several times, until the council acquired the land at the turn of the 20th century. In 1939, in the space formerly occupied by Soane’s kitchen block, a local lending library was established, operating until the mid 1980’s. Now, following a three-year closure and a £12 investment, the property has been painstakingly restored to  its original design (including a comprehensive rebuild of a conservatory demolished in 1901, and a careful reinstatement of paint and wallpaper schemes), as well as an overhaul of what was the library into a full-service gallery space, which will host three exhibitions per year, a mix of artists, designers and architects who will present work centred around and elaborating upon Soane’s own conceptual philosophies and preoccupations. Its inaugural show is devoted to Anish Kapoor, whose felicitous investigations into the distorted play of concave mirrors, the funhouse upheavals of form and space, comment on Soane’s own use of mirrors within his property to both elongate, enlarge, heighten, deepen and collapse both space and light. Although classical in exterior, Soane’s house is full of modernist touches, reveals a warm use of illumination and natural light, and illustrates a fine sensibility for the properties of wood and its genial effects upon the spirit. Even the grandest rooms of the home retain a human scale, feeling cosy rather than chilly and intimidating-a true civility. Outside the manor are the green sprawling grounds of Walpole Park, a most magnificent back garden indeed. The refurbishment includes both a cafe and proper restaurant.

While in Ealing, I highly recommend a walk about the area, the streets just off the main thoroughfare from Ealing Broadway Station offering a relaxed village feel. A plethora of attractive independent cafes and restaurants could keep you busy for days, more than inspiring a return visit. I had a lovely homemade soup from Tiramisu, a charming corner restaurant run by a friendly Italian couple, and sampled the flavoursome snacks from the tiny (walk-in only) Japanese bakery Tetote Factory, sweet/savoury baked buns bursting with inspired ingredients (I opted for the improbable potato salad). The Acton/Ealing area is home to a sizeable Asian population, thus a preponderance of business and retail devoted to Japanese goods.

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The Electric Coffee Company is a sophisticated haven in the heave just off the station, and my list is considerable for the future, as I passed by many an appetising spot but no room left in my belly-Burnt Norton, Cafe Zee, Maryam’s Kitchen (cute, cosy Persian), Santa Maria for a traditional Neapolitan pizza. Even the High Street was an intriguing mix of franchise and pop-up alternative (including a chic hippie shop).

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A walk slightly afield brought me to the doorstep of the Pitshanger Bakery, the window of which was offering tantalising freshly baked pastries, and just down the road on Northfield Avenue is home to London’s oldest allotments, dating back to 1832, much reduced from their original twenty acre dimensions, but still quite impressive, now officially recognised as an asset of community value.

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All these “pastoral”sights exist just at the end of the District Line, but you feel truly far from London-a quick and cheap day out. Promenade already. Anish Kapoor runs through 18 August. Please see my Instagram for video footage of the exhibition.