ORGAN: Frieze Week Part Two, avoiding the art fair madness? The excitement of those Sean Scully paintings at Blain/Southern, punchbags, red roads, goose feathers and a strong 21st Century Women show at Unit…


21st Century Women at Unit, London, October 2018

Frieze Week Part Two:  Leave Moniker and Part One behind and wonder why so and so’s art wasn’t in there, and where was thingy and they do miss out on so much of the cutting edge in terms of the art they show at Moniker don’t they? So conservative, so playing it so very very safe, enough of that, on with our Thursday adventure and off to pick up our Frieze press passes (yes, let’s own up, we get into these things for free, I’d hate to be paying the entry prices). Like we already touched on in Part One, is there any point in going to any of this week’s art fairs besides Frieze? Actually is there any point in actually going to Frieze again this year?  Part One of the Frieze week adventure is back there, a quick pint after Moniker and we’re ready for more, we;re ready for part two…


FRIEZE 2017, London – Do we really need to go again? 

Went to Frieze last year and the year before that and the year before that and the year… Frieze is by far the best art fair in town  it is, as we said already, the only really honest one, you know what you get, you know what Frieze is about, they don’t hide it – it is mostly a money thing – and you know that if you take the time to search through the aircraft hangers full of art and people and elbows and expensive smelling perfume and well groomed men in suits (and slightly non-conforming ties so you no they do actually live life on the very edge of things despite those expensive suits and the air of the car showroom about them), You know there’s going to be acres and acres of art, seeming endless rows gallery booths and after eight or nine hours you know you’re going to need to go back again for a second day to see the things you missed on the first day and then saw posted by others on their social media feeds, I didn’t see that one! How did I miss that 30ft cat?  We know we’re almost certainly going to see something rewarding if we do go to Frieze, we know we’ll overload on art, we’ll look at things standing or hanging in booth after booth (after booth), but we will see something exciting, we will see something that Thomas Scheibitz flower from last year that is still gloriously standing in in my head or those Piotr Uklański flags, of course we know if we go again this year then in there somewhere in the acres of art several things will jump off the walls and excite us again this year.  But hey, really? Will any of it be anything more exciting than the things we see on any given week of the year in the back streets of East London or over in Deptford or down in Vauxhall?  Do we really want to spend hours and hours grabbing brief glances of this or that while the gallery people eye you up, make a snap judgement and see if you’re worth talking to and if they might have a chance of a sale? Nah, let’s skip it…


Sean Scully at Blain Southern, London, October 2018

Let’s skip Frieze this year and go explore some of the new shows at actual proper art galleries instead. Most of the West End galleries of Mayfair and St James are open tonight, tonight is Frieze West End night at the likes of Victoria Miro, David Zwimer and the rest – far less of a cattle market, far more relaxed and friendly and frankly, rather then stand in line to be charged twenty quid for a bottle of water or a cup of coffee at Frieze, people are plying you with half decent champagne, food and more importantly friendly conversation about the actual art in the actual galleries.  Yeah, sure, they’re still trying to sell us something and yes, I guess they don’t really know, I might be some kind of eccentric dressed-down multi-millionaire in my scruffy painted-covered Adidas four-stripe trainers from Lidl. Hey look, why take on the challenge of Frieze once more when we could spend a few hours exploring the art spaces of Mayfair – okay so you’re not going to get the galleries from Paris or Berlin or New York but these are mostly the same London galleries that are showing at Frieze…


Sean Scully at Blain Southern, London, October 2018

And so, we leave the conservative efforts and the somewhat expected underwhelming disappointments of Moniker behind, avoid the Other one, skip the effort of Frieze itself and we’re off off to central London and the Sean Scully show that’s just opening at Blain/Southern’s big Hanover Square space.  The London branch of Blain/Southern is a big big space, a gallery that can and so often does afford the art the freedom to expand, to breath, to really live, a great big main room that they never over-populate. The Sean Scully paintings are beautifully simple, emotionally powerful, liberating, well these wonderfully large pieces in the main room are – others might be muttering about Rotko under their breath but I have to say I instantly love these pieces and indeed the hang in the big room, I want to punch the air in excited triumph, this is more like it, (did I actually punch the air? I might have done without knowing it).  Love this big room full of so much life – amazing to see how neutered and spirit-broken his paintings become down in the secondary gallery once they’re imprisoned in white frames, it the same thing that happened to those Florence Hutchings paintings at that Delphian Gallery show in East London recently, and like those brilliant Florence Hutchings paintings, these pieces are really exciting to see in there in front of you in the actual flesh  – you can;t capture this in a photo of the paintings or in an image of the show seen on line, you have to go and actually stand there with the painting, to go and allow yourself to get lost in it all, to wade into that paint, drink it in, the intoxication of… ). There’s four of Sean Scully’s big paintings in a line on one wall that are just so thrilling to see all together, almost a privilege to see them side by side like this (no almost about it), beautifully painted, gloriously textured, colours so alive, paint so alive, surfaces so inviting…. Oh how I wish I hadn’t gone downstairs, almost upsetting to see the ones downstairs castrated like that. these pieces in this big room are so so exciting to be with.


Sean Scully at Blain Southern, London, October 2018

Uninsideout is apparently Sean Scully’s first exhibition with Blain|Southern, they say “it offers an overview of the artist’s multi-faceted practice. The presentation encompasses large-scale, multi-panel paintings, as well as works on paper, sculpture and a group of his celebrated Landline paintings”. it seems that In recent years, Scully has started painting on both aluminium and copper, exploring the interaction of paint on metal, and the ‘dull but vibrant light’ it yields. The Landline paintings and multi-panel works in this exhibition, all oil on aluminium, showcase the artist’s ‘inexplicable fascination’ with this medium” – you really do have to step up close, dance around them, get up close and then step back again, switch your points of view  “Born in Dublin in 1945, Scully grew up in London and settled in America in the mid-1970s. One of the most admired abstract painters working today, his work draws on the traditions of European painting, invigorated with the distinct character of American abstraction. Scully views abstraction as ‘an equal opportunity art form’; a universal language that can be read by all” – I’m excited, this is exciting, at last, so so needed this after Moniker, really must never ever go to Moniker again, I could stand in here for hours just looking at these powerful Sean Scully paintings, this really is thrilling, this is thrilliant and I really don’t feel the need to even try and explain why, really don’t feel the need to try and argue for these paintings – he’s right, it is a universal language, it is something than anyone can just enjoy or react to or love or surely not hate? What a glorious relief (and in an almost empty gallery at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon  because everyone is at Frieze jousting for a view of whatever Blain|Southern and the rest have on offer over in all the noise of Hyde Park) …


21st Century Women at Unit, London, October 2018

Right over the the road in Hanover Square at the blandly-named Unit London gallery, there’s yet another all female art show going on – actually in this slightly higher league of the major London galleries it seems to make far more sense than it does in the artist-led space of South or East London – what we actually have here is a really good, rather rewarding if slightly flawed group show, some really good art, one or two really powerful pieces and one particular painting, a wonderfully red piece by Suzy Murphy that really does jump off the wall to great you in a powerfully dramatic way as soon as you walk in.  The hang is dreadful though and there’s some gawd-awful music (non ironic muzak?) being piped around the two floors of the gallery, that music really does infringe.  The show is called 21st Century Women, a show presented by Fru Tholstrup and Jane Neal, “an iconic new group exhibition of British female artists, at our new Mayfair gallery. The exhibition comprises a survey of emerging and established British female talent working across a wide range of disciplines, including, Helen Beard, Anna Freeman Bentley, Zoe Buckman, Charlotte Colbert, Laura Ford, Eloise Fornieles, Maggi Hambling, Chantal Joffe, Kate MccGwire, Polly Morgan, Annie Morris, Suzy Murphy, Ishbel Myerscough, Vicken Parsons, Jenny Saville, Sue Webster, Vicky Wright and Michaela Yearwood-Dan  Launching in tandem with Frieze art week, the show includes British artists who examine the role of women in contemporary society; others who are motivated by the body politics surrounding the objectification of the female form; and those who question the fractured sense of being that many contemporary women feel today. Some of the artists included have chosen work that is not intended to be read and interpreted through the lens of their sex. This is a show about the freedom of women to make the art that they choose”.


21st Century Women at Unit, London, October 2018

The Jenny Saville painting is almost an afterthought as is most of the art downstairs – it feels like it might have been shoved down there, like it was almost an after thought, and there really is no indication that a downstairs even exists, almost missed it – and that damn music! Taht music is driving us out, it really is making us now ant to like the show  The Zoe Buckman punch bag in the corner stirs powerful debate, too obvious? Brilliantly inspired? Humourous? Contentious? I love it, I think I do, who cares what I think, you’ll love it, or maybe you won’t, you can’t ignore it. That music though, got to get out of here, can’t stand any more of that bloody music even if that Jenny Saville self portrait from 1991 is a treat to see up close in 2018 and all she’s done since, and even if that Kate MccGwire piece does pull you in with those goose feathers. Oh look, group shows are about the whole, to start picking out things like the Annie Morris flowerhead is unfair (really really like that red Suzy Murphy painting though), this is a great show (lose the damn music though and why so dark in the basement), this is a show that adds to the debate in a positive way, adds to several debates, this is a flawed yet powerful  group show with several piece of really (really) strong rewarding pieces of art, a show to go back to (with earplugs in), really really find that Suzy Murphy painting exciting… Sean Scully on one side of the road, Suzy Murphy and quite a few more on the other, the Frieze week is looking up…


21st Century Women at Unit, London, October 2018 – Suzy Murphy 

And on we go, Victoria Miro is very formal, black suits on the door and… Will they lrt us in?  On we go into Thursday evening and the drinking and the Frieze Week Part Three adventure will be along in a minute… (sw).

Sean Scully is at Blain/Southern until November 17th

21st Century Women is on at Unit London until  October 31st

Do please click on an image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show…



5 thoughts on “ORGAN: Frieze Week Part Two, avoiding the art fair madness? The excitement of those Sean Scully paintings at Blain/Southern, punchbags, red roads, goose feathers and a strong 21st Century Women show at Unit…

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