ORGAN: Five Recommended Art Things – Cecily Brown at Thomas Dane Gallery, Billy Steiger at Cafe Oto, Laurence Watchorn at The Bomb Factory, Anna Kolosova and Melissa Vipritskaya Topal, Ridley Road Project Space at the Tom of Finland thing and…

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I guess Frieze week is almost upon us, well no, I don’t guess, I know. I guess it is mostly about the big establishment galleries this week? Is there much going on by way of a real alternative though? Much happening in the undergrowth or has the situation and the gentrification really bitten the real artist-led creativity now? Yes, we will be covering Frieze next week, why wouldn’t we? No car parks this year?

Five more art things then. five art things, almost on-time and on-point this week, but hey, I’m an artist, I don’t own a working clock, the one I had ended up in an installation, so maybe we are late? Someone will say so at an opening later tonight, “hey, you were really late this week!” he’ll complain, never a thanks, always a complaint, they she goes my beautiful world. Five more art things happening somewhere around right now or any moment now. Five art shows to check out in the coming days. An (almost) weekly round up of recommended art events. Five shows, exhibitions or things we rather think might be worth checking out. Mostly London things for that is where we currently operate and explore, and like we said last time, these five recommendations come with no claims that they are “the best five” or the “Top Five”, we’re not one of those annoying art websites that ignore most things whilst claiming to be covering everything and proclaiming this or that to be the “top seven things” or the “best things this weekend”. This is simply a regular list of five or so recommended art things happening now or coming up very soon that we think you might find as interesting as we think we will. Wonder what happened to that car park guy?

Five art things happening now and coming up in the next few days in no particular order then, just five art things happening around about now. Entry to these events, unless otherwise stated, is generally free.

Cecily Brown, Untitled (boy), 2016 © Cecily Brown

1: Cecily Brown – Studio Pictures at Thomas Dane Gallery – Okay, we said we’d dig into the undergrowth this time rather than the bigger galleries as Frieze week gets ready to kick in, but hey, really really (really) can’t resist what they have at Thomas Dane this month. A show that runs for 11th October until 17th December – “Brown’s small(er) studio pictures from the studio, of the studio even, make her full repertoire”.

“It perhaps comes as no surprise that, after having realised in recent years some of the largest works of her career – including the epic Triumph of Death, 2019, which was first exhibited at Blenheim Palace two years ago and has been on view for most of 2022 at the Capodimonte Museum in Naples – Cecily Brown would have felt compelled to return yet again to her beloved smaller (and smallest) paintings.  Brown feels at ease with both scales – the looser, gestural, hyperactive physicality of the former, or the quieter, contained focus of the latter – and consistently goes back and forth between the monumental and the intimate.

Because the grands formats are possibly where you lose your breath; small paintings are probably where you lose your mind. For Brown, ‘you can see things more clearly when they are small’, or as Altoon Sultan wrote when reviewing her 2015 exhibition of small paintings, The English Garden, at Maccarone in NYC: ‘it [is] a lesson to me in slowing down, looking carefully, and being open to new work. […] Each painting contains a particular quality of light and air, and most refer to a landscape space, one that asks us to make our way through dense paint to the spaces behind.’

Their effects are no less virtuosic, but their demands are deceptively effortless – even though Brown will mostly work on them seated and will have to move around the paintings much less, they are not easier to make than a large one. In conversation with Allie Biswas, Brown reminds us that ‘It is a quieter process, definitely. And, this is a cliché, but it is a lot harder to make a small painting than a big one.’ Minute is often much more.

Some of the most memorable and iconic paintings in art history are indeed tiny: La mort de Casagemas, 1901, by Pablo Picasso, is merely 30cm and yet eclipses the next 70 years of his career in poignancy and precision. Le Talisman, 1888, by Paul Sérusier, contains, on a wood panel barely the size of a biscuit tin, a lesson in Modernism (as dictated by Paul Gauguin) that would never be transcended. Such is the scale of Eugène Boudin’s timeless beachscapes or Johannes Vermeer’s hypnotic vignettes.

Brown’s small(er) studio pictures from the studio, of the studio even, make her full repertoire. This is what happens (and remains) behind closed doors. The works can hang on her studio walls for years, as inspiration, as aides-memoire or just old friends. Always in the corner of her eyes, sometimes reflecting from a judiciously or randomly placed mirror, they are neither studies nor afterthoughts, but forever present.  Brown’s entire gamut and palette are on display: her older small paintings are like old tunes echoing and supporting the new album, as the majority of the pictures in the show were realised in the last two years. There are landscapes, interiors, hunting and battles scenes, swings and bowers, Baroque mélées and Rococo fantasies, Shipwrecks and Assemblies – a palimpsest of art historical references which becomes Brown’s own iconography. It is as if the whole of French painting history was playing in front of our eyes: Poussin, Watteau, Fragonard, David, Delacroix, Manet, Boudin, Degas and Bonnard… The latter is a particular favourite of Brown’s, in the ways he treats his female models with such empathy.

Edgar Degas himself acquainted this as almost looking ‘through a keyhole’ – coining the term ‘keyhole views’ – as if, without any sense of misplaced voyeurism or male-gaze control, the models and subjects were seen through the modesty, ease and naturalness of their alcove or bathroom. This re-emerges in a series of works, central to Brown’s exhibition. Following a visit to the major Walter Sickert retrospective at the Tate Britain this year, Brown depicts a reclining female nude on a bed as an homage to a suite of faux-louche paintings Sickert realised in Paris in the summer of 1906, themselves very much reminiscent of Degas and Bonnard.

Through these iterations and transformations, the same respectful (and gentle) act of looking, or as Brown-the-female-artist puts it, a painting in which you are the model’, traverses time and space and perhaps becomes the central allegory of the show”.

Thomas Dane Gallery is found at 3 Duke Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y 6BN. The gallery is open Tuesday until Saturday, 11am until 5pm, Midday until 6pm on a Saturday.

Previously on these pages and still on at Thomas Dane – ORGAN PREVIEW: First UK exhibition of Bruce Conner’s ‘The White Rose’ Showing at Thomas Dane Gallery this month. There’s a crash course in Bruce Conner here including the film for Brian Eno and David Byrne’s ‘Mea Culpa’…

Billy Steiger at Cafe Oto

2: Billy Steiger at Cafe Oto, happening in the Cafe Oto Project Space, Saturday 8th October, 10am until 4pm –  “To coincide with the release of his debut LP, Loud Object, on our in-house OTOroku label, we’re thrilled to present the first solo exhibition from visual artist and musician, Billy Steiger”. This should be a good one, and entry is free so – “Steiger’s artistic and musical practices have always run in tandem, with a symbiotic blurring of the lines being present right from his first release, Recordings, drawings and photographs from in and around Fr​î​dd Newydd, in 2016”.

“Utilising different media forms, Steiger’s work seems to come from a place of visceral spontaneity simultaeneously rooted in a process of highly considered refinement. His paintings and drawings playfully interrogate notions of form and shape, stripping away the unnecessary to reveal the suggestive and totemic forms within. In his distinctive line-work and dynamic painting, there are sometimes echoes of the expressive figures of Philip Guston, in others the fragmentary, chimerical assemblages of Franz Josef Kline or Adolph Gottlieb. But Steiger’s work is very much rooted in the here and now; a highly present approach at once elusive and charged with meaning”.  This exhibition brings together works created alongside the making of Loud Object ahead of the album launch show in the Cafe the very same Saturday evening and also “represents a rare event in the OTO Project Space”. Do wish they’d do more with the idea and the notions of the project space.

Billy Steiger was born in Howth on the 16th December, 1986. Now he plays the violin –  “Then he sat down by a pond and began to play a tune. As he played, the most extraordinary thing happened. One by one the fish in the pond began to jump out and fly about in the air. And what is more, they were all different colours and they were singing to the music.”

Cafe Oto is at 18–22 Ashwin street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, there is an page dedicated to the event here and although this particular Organ page is more concerned with the art in the afternoon there are details of the evening gig here (you do have to pay to get in to the evening gig, the afternoon is free)

There is an album of Biily’s musical work along with some visuals up on Bandcamp and you can explore his own website here

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Laurence Watchorn

3: Laurence Watchorn, Skincrawl at The Bomb Factory Art Foundation, a show that runs from 7th Oct until 29th Oct 2022 with an opening night on Thursday 6th October (6 until 9pm) – “Skincrawl is the inaugural solo show by painter Laurence Watchorn, a painter from South London who recently graduated from The Slade School of Art. Watchorn is also the co-founder of OOZ, a music collective based in South East London”.

“His first solo exhibition is composed of a series of large-scale abstract paintings that are unstretched and hung away from the gallery walls. ‘Skin Crawl’, the title of the show, comes from the artist’s holistic approach to painting, which is characterised by the belief that the work and the artist become one entity. This intimate connection with his work enables him to attribute skin-like qualities to his canvases on which he can incise his soul and express innermost feeling.

This approach has been honed while on a residency programme at The Bomb Factory Art Foundation and investigates picture-making as a synthesis of spiritual inquiry. In his large-scale abstracted paintings, there is a lightness of touch and spontaneity. The artist employs an automatic drawing style that deliberately allows chance and accident to create marks. Archaic imagery, philosophies and musical landscapes are hinted at within his work with signs, words and symbols eluding to ancient scripts or stone tablets and sonic elements made visual. This particular style of drawing to a large extent is freed from rational control and may be attributed to the artist’s subconscious. The repetition of shapes and signs in the paintings appear like the words of an unknown language. These symbols appear alongside bright washes of colour, which the artist splashes and drips over the raw canvases that are worked unstretched on the floor with rough edges and rounded corners. Moving away from a traditional mode of painting is a deliberate shift by the artist from the heavy connotations that come with the western canon of painting, allowing the works to exist in a state of flux.

This act of making, for Laurence, is an expression of the human spirit and how we as spiritual beings exist symbiotically within the natural world. His images are allowed to happen and are neither ordered nor controlled toward preconceived ideas. He sees his work as offering questions in regard to his place within his environment and embodying offerings for moments and experiences. It is an expression of his life in balance somewhere between the spiritual and the organic with each thing he produces existing as something animistic and vital”.

The Bomb Factory Art Foundation is at Unit 2 Boothby Rd, Archway, London, N19 4AJ. The gallery is open 10am until 6pm Tuesdays to Sundays

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4: Music Connected Us – Redefining Women Artists and #Girlpower  – An “all-female exhibition ‘Music Connected Us’ by The Artist Workspace Gallery featuring works by Anna Kolosova and Melissa Vipritskaya Topal“, This does look rather interesting, it is the super-unfriendly Artist Workshop lot but we’ll overlook that, there are two intriguing artists. The show opens on Friday evening, 7th October, 6pm until 9pm and then Saturday and Sunday 8th/9th October

“The Artist Workspace Gallery (AWS) invites you to an an upcoming London exhibition.  On October 7th at 6-9PM, London artists and Central Saint Martins graduates” – don’t you just hate the way people wear their art schools like some kind of badge, who the flip care which damn art school you did or didn’t go to, let’s see what you do in the real world, Laurence Watchorn did it up there a minute ago as well, i really can’t take any artist that seriously until they’re at least five years beyond art school and telling us about it – “Anna Kolosova and Melissa Vipritskaya Topal will exhibit paintings and sculptures (including one collaborative piece created by the two artists). ‘Music Connected Us’ focuses on women supporting women and embodies the best of what women in the art world have to offer today. The show strives to show how we — as female creatives — can shape the future of female artists, the work that we create, as well as, the support that we can provide as colleagues, rather than as competition, i.e. our own re-interpretation of #girlpower”

Anna Kolosova is a contemporary artist living in London. Her practice is focused on painting in an ‘expanded field,’ experimenting with materials, dimensions and with life itself. Anna paints sound, energies and personal experiences seen through her synesthetic visions”

Melissa Vipritskaya Topal is a London artist whose work explores the world’s intricacies through painting and sculpture using acrylics, markers and rich pigments. Through her work, she hybridizes nature with mechanical tools and urban landscapes to reflect the chaos, speed and noise of big cities. Her constant research of silhouettes, lines and forms, her curiosity and passion for experimentation with different materials, colour and form inform her own unique style”.

The Artist Workspace Gallery is at Unit 3 Projects, Bow, 3 Empson Street, E3 3LT. The show opens on Friday evening, 7th October, 6pm until 9pm and then Saturday and Sunday 8th/9th October. There is an Eventbright page but hey, don’t you hate all that rsvp bulshit as well, actually as interesting at this might be, do we really want to make it one of our recommended five? Does seem to be a lot of baggage attached, I guess the artists can’t be blamed for that? The curator seems far more interested in telling us about herself and all her hundreds of (expensive) qualifications (yawn).

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5: Tom of Finland Foundation (ToFF) is presenting the 27th Tom of Finland Art & Culture Festival, Tom Unites, in both London and LA this weekend 8th/9th October. The Festival is ToFF’s yearly programming effort to bring together artists, galleries and patrons from all over the globe in a socially friendly setting, so that they can network as well as buy and sell works. This is the first time the Festival incorporates Second Home’s London outpost in Spitalfields. This year’s event will bring together erotic artists, vendors, performers, DJs, and galleries. ToFF will also present its annual awards.

There are many galleries involved including the always rewarding (and now homeless?) Ridley Road Project Space (who mostly operate via the savageries of Instagram and the lottery of those annoying algorithms so it is rather hit and miss in terms of anyone actually seeing their posts, the RRPS way of aloofly not following anyone themsleves doesn’t help with those Algorithms, art can be very aloof at times) who will present “a group exhibition of London-based artists at the Tom of Finland Foundation’s Art & Culture Festival 2022. In response to the fair’s theme of unity and the Tom of Finland Foundation’s subversive history, the exhibition brings together artwork in a variety of mediums including sculpture, works on paper, video, print and textiles”.  RRPS say they are “delighted to show” the work of Adam Farah, The Backstreet, David Leal, Deming Huang, Eddie Peake, Eve Stainton, Firpal Jawanda, Florence Peake, George Henry Longly, Graham Martin, Gray Wielebinski, Guille Carmona, Iain Woods, Jack O’Brien, Jamie Bull, Matthew Pagett, Max Allen, Natasha Rees, Prem Sahib, Princess Julia, Roxy Lee, Sam Cottington, Simon Gray and Waj Hussein

Second Home Spitalfields is at 68 Hanbury St, London, E1 5JL. The event is open from 11am until 7pm on the 8th and 9th Oct 2022, Unlike most events featured on this page you do need to pay to get in, seems a little pricey to me (although saying that usually gets me into trouble, go ask Cafe Oto about that one). The ToFF website is at best vague about who is taking part (vague about everything really, it was only the Ridley Road team and their line up that poked us really and well if I’m going to part with twenty quid for a ticket I kind of want to know who else is there, but then I guess it is about the ToFF name and reputation and whatever they do it is probably going to be good? We’re not really sellin these recomendations to you this week are we? Maybe just stick to the free spaces of Cork Street as we work up to Frieze? Would have been easy to recommend five of them, there are always good shows in the Cork Street area these days, have you caught that excellent (and free to enter) Caroline Coon show yet? We did recommend that one a couple of weeks ago, here’s the follow up review, I;m kinding of thinking it might be better to ignore our recommendation this week and just head to the West End – ORGAN THING: Anne Rothenstein and Caroline Coon both open at Stephen Friedman’s West End Galleries in a stylishly lead up to Frieze…  

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And while we’re here, actually, as I’m about to blow my own trumpet again, is this the point where I insist in telling you (several times) which art school I went to? If indeed I did? Got invited by a gallery to participate in a show this week, no big news there, but after they had invited me and after we’d agreed in a positive manner and everything was sorted, they came back and asked me which art school I went to, “people like to know these things” they said. “Why?” I said, “You’ve asked for the art, you want to show it, you think it of some value, what does it matter?” Maybe I did go to some name art school, maybe I didn’t, what the hell does it matter? Who the hell cares? “Slade” I said, for a got a lot of my art education from a foundation laid down by Nod The God and everything that followed, yes, I went to the Slade school of art, my first time was at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall, and what an education it was. Come on, really, does it make anyone’s art any more valid? Actually Organ started is a very handmade zine kind of way at some art school or other that I could namedrop, but hey, who the flip cares, let your art do the damn talking, get down and get with it, cum feel the noize, gudbye to Jane! I was actually going to say Mixtape No.1 opened this week, 40 artists invovled, we didn’t ask then if they went to art school or if they did if was one worth namedropping, we just reacted to their art. The show opened on line last Tuesday evening, it has now been viewed just over 15,000 times by people from all over the globe, here’s the link if you wish to join them – Cultivate presents Mixtape No.1 – an online art exhibition. I went to Saint Martin’s once, got in a right royal fist fight, The Parkinsons were playing, can’t remember who else, it was some kind of celebration of that time the Pistols played there, they tried to the throw us out for selling copies of Organ without permission, that’s art school for yer!

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