Wednesday, 30 October 2013

George Osodi: Kings of Nigeria

Whilst I was in Bermondsey, I also caught this show by the Nigerian photographer George Osodi. The Kings of Nigeria documents a variety of Nigeria's regional monarchs whose ancestors owned vast tracts of land, but who were all stripped of their constitutional powers in 1963 when Nigeria became a republic within the British Commonwealth. Despite being stripped of their powers these monarchs still cling to the pomp and ceremony of the royal lifestyle and are still very popular amongst, and feted by their loyal subjects, and act as intermediaries between the people they represent and the Nigerian government. There are parallels in what Osodi and Kehinde Wiley, (the subject of a recent post), are trying to achieve, in that they are documenting, and preserving a peoples and their lifestyle, and how they choose to express themselves in culture, and dress, through portraiture.  

I do not know if it was the photographer George Osodi's intention, but when I look at the two photos above I am reminded of the formal, historical European portraits of royalty, and in particular Velasquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (below). Their poses, age, extravagant dress, and direct stare out of the picture plane at the viewer lends them an air of gravitas. I think there are distinct similarities, what do you think? 

I like looking at the clothing of the various Kings in these photographs. There are sumptuous taffeta and brocade robes as well as traditional African textile prints. Other photographs from the series (not shown here), depict elaborately beaded necklaces, veils and head wear. I would like to know more about the choices made by the monarchs represented. What influenced their tastes in how they choose to display their wealth? They differ from those of the contemporary monarchs of the West, so were they cultural decisions, or based on geographical necessities? 

Also interesting is the decoration and architecture of the palaces which isn't represented so well in the photographs here, but you get a good glimpse in the exterior shot of the palace in the last photo below.

This was an interesting exhibition as it documents a different experience of wealth and culture to that most of us are used to. Osodi has hit upon a good project and will hopefully capture for posterity all of the remaining Nigerian monarchs.

George Osodi Nigeria Monarchs
Until 3rd November 2013
Bermondsey Projects
46 Willow Walk
London SE1

Monday, 28 October 2013

Mark Bradford: Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank

Again as with Kehinde Wiley, and Hurvin Anderson, the artwork of African-American Mark Bradford was discovered fairly recently, and naturally struck a chord with me as he uses similar materials and processes that I use, but with markedly different results. I made a point of going to see his show at White Cube, Bermondsey, and was impressed with both the design of the White Cube Bermondsey gallery, and Bradford's work. 

The gallery rooms are huge and easily able to accommodate vast scaled work such as that by Bradford, and are also airy and very well lit without spoiling the artworks with the reflected glare of harsh lighting. I also loved the shiny, polished concrete floors. 

The work on display appears to be mainly about mapping and grids - Bradford's attempt to relate to Dwight Eisenhowers' interstate highway system, and the disruption that ensued to the various communities in the way when the road building work was implemented. 

What struck me immediately is the surface textures of the works, as they are densely layered and cut into, and sanded to reveal the underlying layers of collaged materials. There is a lot of 'movement' and rhythm in the work because of the Bradford's mark-making on the torn and cut layers. The typography in the works reminded me of ancient texts and hieroglyphs because of the surface treatments that Bradford has applied to them. The materials for his collages are posters and found materials, and in this respect his work reminds of  that of the work of Rotella, and Villegle, but Bradford's are more oblique and executed on a much vaster scale. It was really good to see the work first hand and experience the textural surfaces. Inspirational collage-paintings.

Mark Bradford
Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank
White Cube, Bermondsey
16th October - 22 December 2013

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Hurvin Anderson: New Works

The artwork of Hurvin Anderson was also a fairly recent discovery to me. I really liked and identified with his barbershop paintings, and the content of some of his other paintings displays a similar background to myself. It was a joy then to go to the Thomas Dane Gallery and finally get to see the paintings in the flesh so to speak in my gallery dash. 

There were two paintings in particular that stood out for me in his new work. The first being Loft 2013, (below). I was seduced by the intense blue which sucked me in, and the loose, gestural, mark-making at the top of the painting. Would love to own this piece. 

The next piece was American Tan-Mrs Keita, which transported me straight back to my youth, and reminds me of the photography of Neil Kenlock and other Afro-Caribbean photographers who documented black British life and the material trappings we were able to afford way back when, in the 1970's.

Much of the work on display shows a recent preoccupation with merging a representation of Nature, grids and stencilled patterns. It will be interesting to see which direction he takes his work in, in his next show.

Hurvin Anderson: New Works
15th October - 16th November 2013
Thomas Dane Gallery
11 Duke St
London SW1

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

George Grosz: Berlin, Prostitutes,Politicians, and Profiteers

I was really glad I caught this show in my frenzied gallery dash. I admired George Grosz's draughtsmanship as a student, and it was really good to engage with it again years later in the intimate setting of the Richard Nagy Gallery. It has been 20 years since there was an exhibition dedicated to Grosz's work in the UK so it is was a good, and timely choice by whoever chose to curate this show.
George Grosz had a contempt of bourgoise life in Germany and it was this dislike, and negative experiences as a soldier in the trenches of the First World War that fuelled his artistic vision and satirical view of the German establishment. Grosz is known for his association with the Dada movement, but it was with the sexual and violent images of prostitutes and their wealthy clients in decadent 1920's Berlin that he is best known. The biting, satirical nature of the artwork is tempered by the tenderness of his drawn line. He clearly loved drawing as a medium, both to express himself artistically, and also vent his frustrations at the authorities. I was reminded of the British satirical political cartoons of Gillray, Cruikshank and Hogarth, and also of the factory workers in the work of LS Lowry in the drawing below.

This is a real gem of an exhibition for those who are interested in drawing, or a glimpse into an artists view of decadent 1920's Berlin life. Another one to definately catch again before it finishes on November 2nd. 

George Grosz Berlin: Prostitutes, Politicians and Profiteers
Until 2nd November 2013
Richard Nagy Ltd
22 Old Bond St
London W1

Friday, 18 October 2013

Kehinde Wiley

October is a big month for art in London, what with Frieze and all the other fairs going on. October also happens to be Black History month and don't know whether it was happy coincidence or design, but here in London we are spoiled this month with 3 of the biggest African-American names in contemporary art having solo shows in the capital, as well as a Black British artist. I am going to escape my desk and try to catch as many shows as possible. There is something for everyone whatever your tastes, a real visual feast.

The first stop on my whirlwind gallery tour was the Kehinde Wiley, The  World Stage: Jamaica exhibition on Old Burlington St. I only discovered his work last year and have been a big fan since of his portraits of black and other indigenous people whom he culls from poorer backgrounds after a series of street castings, and captures them in poses taken from classical European paintings, redressing the balance of black people depicted in these paintings mainly being reduced to positions of servitude. The scale of Wiley's paintings and the dominant position of the models within them puts them centre-stage and ensures they have a place of importance/parity in the visual arts. This is quite important given the ongoing debate about the lack of black faces in the media and on the catwalk, and also the sad fact that sales of magazines go down when a black face is featured on the cover. Although we are in the year 2013 there is clearly still a long way to go!

What comes across is Wiley's love of, and respect for art history and in this latest series of his "World Stage" projects, he visits Jamaica and takes his models from there, (engaging with the dance-hall culture), and makes links with Britain, adapting poses from 18th and 19th century British portraiture and taking the floral background designs in some of the paintings from a selection of William Morris's textile patterns. I love the way the tendrils and floral elements from the background creep in over the figures, which is a device I used to use with my lino-cuts.

Surprisingly this is Kehinde Wiley's first UK show. I absolutely loved the work on display and was really inspired by this exhibition. Definately one to return to before it closes. Catch it if you can!

Kehinde Wiley The World Stage: Jamaica
until 16th November 2013
Stephen Friedman Gallery
11 & 25 Old Burlington St
London W1

Saturday, 5 October 2013


As a recent commission I was asked to create a Butterfly Ball to be hung against this fabulous Cole & Son Flamingo wallpaper. 

I prepared a swatch for the client of colours I thought would be most appropriate from the palette of papers that I use, and then once these were client approved I started cutting. 

I thought that as the dominant background colour of the Flamingo paper was a cool duck egg blue, then the Butterfly Ball needed to be made up of warmer reds, and pinks to highlight the pink of the birds, with accents of blue and grey. This was the resulting artwork. A very nice commission.