oh, no ho, so ho, oh.

yesterday was like a protein bar of 6 months of living in london, squished into 1 day, plus a sprinkling of life in melbourne.

it started off with a whirlwind tour of a bunch of galleries in and around soho/noho, a wonder through the streets of soho, coffee at flat white, yoghurt peanuts from berwick st market and then a soothing soak into the permanent collection of the national gallery.

the commercial gallery shows i saw were a right mixture of fantastic, challenging and downright shit. there also seemed to be an over-riding arrogance about a whole lot of the shows and, typically, almost all of them male. something which the countesses would probably have something to say about.

mummery + schnelle: merlin james – paintings.
this was first show i saw for the morning and by god was it crap. the paintings of horses and bodies were sub-foundation-year and the archive and collection of drawings out the back, by charchoune were kind of interesting, but given absolutely no context. blunt, sorry. but it’s true.

david roberts art foundation, fitzrovia – alastair mackie; not waving but drowning
this show was amazing: a few large, key sculptural works, linked with taxidermy, dead animals and the parts we use: a dolls house from wasp and hornets nest, a loom with fabric woven from mouse hair, and a pile of mice skeletons, used to make the fabric. gruesome, but valuable reminder about using animals for our purpose and blurring the lines of grotesque and functional.

this gallery also reminded me that the commercial gallery scene in london is full of snooty bitches. it’s 1000 times worse than the worst day at anna schwartz. like no ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and just plain ignoring you when you ask a question. thankfully i remembered to not take it personally and just have some pity for the poor fuckers who believe that they’re on some higher caste.

alison jacques: jon pylypchuck – just sit back and recount the violence of one year
my first impression of the show was a bit of ho-hum, thanks to the very boy-art installation in the middle of the floor. however, the paintings and drawings were awesome. not necessarily for their form, but as narratives of hilariously dark and cynical conversations between fucked up characters. my personal favourites:

“chase your dreams, baby boy”
“let’s even if up, fuck faces”


“your name will be the last thing i say when i die”
“i hope you don’t still owe me money when you die”
“watching you two douchebags climb this mounting together is really heart warming”

stuart shave: jonathan meese – casinoz babymetabolismn (put dr.no’s mone in your mouth, baby)
this was an impressive exhibition. the large paintings, photocollages covering the windows, drawing on the walls, the manifestos scrawled all over the place and the bronze fucked-up sculptures were all-encompassing. jonathan is kind of a big deal in germany and i can see why. his work has a presence about it and he is certainly focused. i still can’t say whether i liked the work. i have a problem with that level of arrogance and i’m always suspicious about artists spouting the ills of art in the form of art. irony or hypocrisy – either way, both are really irrelevant in terms of communication. i also found his choice of identity somewhat difficult to digest: jesus christ-charles-manson-glenn-from-deicide-albrecht-durer. all people who are deified for their preaching and, well, i wrinkle my nose at that kind of blah-blah-blah.

having said that, his sculptures were fantastic and i have some level of admiration for the sheer determination and ballsiness of his work. and the gallery seems like a really cool new venue – i’m looking forward to seeing what else they’ve got going there.

the approach w1: phillip allen: sloppy cuts no ice
the paintings in this show were actually really unappealing to me. in fact, they were a real turn-off. thankfully, i went downstairs and saw the drawings by the same guy and they were beautiful. i would have even bought some (if i was, you know, loaded). and i ended up having a really sweet chat with the canadian gallery assistant about i’m not here – the movie about bob dylan. conversation, see?

after seeing all those shows, i took a walk down berwick st, for old-times’ sake, where i grabbed some yoghurt-covered peanuts from the berwick st markets (may favourite sweet thing ever) and a coffee from flat white. flat white was my coffee salvation when i was working in berwick st. i could get a great coffee with a twist of oz, on a daily basis. now, i don’t know what’s happened but the place is now so awful. no australians/kiwis, the decor is scarily bourgeoise and the coffee is treacherous. ok, so there are far more treacherous things in the world, but it tasted like fucking dishwashing detergent. i didn’t even finish it (and i only have an espresso). i was so disappointed. not just in the coffee, but how quickly a place like london changes. and how quickly something that was authentic and true and good became gross and mediocre. presumably because someone tried to “capitalise” on it.

thankfully i headed then to the ever-reliable national gallery to pick up where i had left off in october 2007 (i visited a room a week for the 6 months i lived here). i went to the netherlands, 1700 rooms and checked out a slightly disappointing vermeer and a beautiful pieter der hooch painting, which highlighted the perspective of an interior/exterior plane. it was so beautiful composed and the colours of the sunlight courtyard were do divine. of course i had to draw it to do it a complete injustice.

and then i caught up with my dear friend huw, who is doing a PhD on post WWII german music and we encircled covent garden for a bit (i always get lost around there), before gratefully descending on monmouth – the best coffee place in this part of the world for not only kaffeeklatsch, but to right the previous oh-so-wrongs from my earlier flat white visit.

afterwards, we went back to the gallery, open late on wednesdays and hung about in the rubens room, cooing over the baroque master. i love rubens, so i had no problems with salivating over his pudgy knees, soles of feet, dimply bottoms and gnarly fingers. his compositions are so complex and swirly and dramatic, huw and i were completely drawn in.

i’ve been doing some half-arsed investigations into the idea that we’re currently in a neo-baroque period, so i’ll probably spend some more time researching rubens in the coming year.

after huw left, i spent some time trying to sketch out mars protecting pax, then walked to russell square, via china town, before heading back to brixton the long way home (on the 59 bus).

image credit: jonathan meese, stuart shave website

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

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