The Best Shows at London Gallery Weekend

From Emily Kraus’s big, beguiling canvases at The Sunday Painter to Amanda Moström’s first solo exhibition with Rose Easton

BY Tom Jeffreys in Critic's Guides | 31 MAY 23

Emily Kraus

The Sunday Painter

27 April – 10 June

Close up of an Emily Kraus canvas.
Emily Kraus, Stochastic 17, 2023, oil on canvas, 1.7 × 3 m. Courtesy: the artist and The Sunday Painter, London; photograph: Ollie Hammick

Informed by her engagement with meditative and somatic practices, Emily Kraus makes paintings from within a metal cubic structure, built from scaffolding, which she describes on her website as ‘a shelter, a constraint, a tabernacle and a boundary’. The design was initially a response to the spatial limitations of her studio at London’s Royal College of Art. However, Kraus swiftly realized its creative and conceptual potential: with the canvas looped over rotating bars, the artist can only see a restricted section of the work at any one time, forcing her to rely on her own recollections of previous marks. The resulting canvases are judderingly rhythmic, beguiling and big. For her first solo show at The Sunday Painter, ‘Nest Time’, Kraus has produced canvases almost four metres high that oscillate between the organic and the mechanical, blurring marks like glitchy tide lines through repetition and time.

‘Matter as Actor’

Lisson Gallery 

3 May – 24 June

Dancer between sculptural wells.
Otobong Nkanga, Solid Maneuvers, 2015, various metals, Forex, acrylic, tar, sale, makeup, vermiculite and performance, dimensions variable. Courtesy: © Otobong Nkanga and Lisson Gallery

This large-scale group exhibition, taking place across both of Lisson’s London spaces, unites work by 12 artists for whom materials are not simply resources but active co-producers of meaning. Emphasizing complex networks of relations (over modernist claims to autonomy), ‘Matter as Actor’ traces material histories within and across multiple cultural frameworks. For example, Otobong Nkanga’s installation Solid Maneuvers (2015) beautifully evokes the devastating transformations wrought by extractive mining in Namibia; Lucy Raven created her silver gelatin shadowgram series ‘Socorro!’ (2021–22) by exposing photosensitive paper to ballistics-testing events in New Mexico; and Yelena Popova’s elegant tapestries, such as Keepsafe I (2019), constitute speculative memorials for defunct nuclear power stations. Most evocatively, first nations artist D Harding has filled the gallery’s windows and skylights with politically loaded pigments, including earth gathered from the lands of their grandparents – washes of colour that, in places, have flaked and fallen to the floor.

Amanda Moström

Rose Easton

4 May – 10 June

Photograph of flowers surrounded by a blue boarder.
Amanda Moström, Encore, 13-89 7., 2023, grandmother's photograph, fish tank PVC sheet, artist frame, 30 × 30 × 3 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Rose Easton, London; photograph: Theo Christelis

Amanda Moström’s first solo exhibition with Rose Easton consists of two new bodies of work exploring privacy, desire and the familial. The title ‘itsanosofadog *It’s an arse of a dog’ refers to a YouTube video of a canine mother calming down her excitable litter through feigned biting and assertive stillness. For Moström, the mother’s methods speak to behavioural learning and the (self-) disciplining of emotional overflow. Softly printed stills from the video, viewed more than 80 million times on YouTube, are presented in frames made from alpaca hair collected by the artist while living on her sister’s farm. Shaped like keyholes, the frames gesture towards the erotics of looking and the widespread denial of privacy to more-than-humans. Other works resituate carefully staged photographs of cut flowers taken by the artist’s grandmother, but only discovered after her death. 

Nour Jaouda

Union Pacific

31 May – 8 July

Close up of a canvas with embroidery and cloth.
Nour Jaouda, This Poem Will Never Be Finished, 2022, fabric dye, pigment of canvas and steel, 170 × 80 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Union Pacific, London

A Libyan artist based in Cairo and London, Nour Jaouda unpacks connections between cities, spaces, migration and identity. Jaouda constructs her textiles from found pieces of linen or cotton canvas, which she then rips or cuts and dyes or paints before painstakingly stitching them together into complex, multi-layered works that traverse the languages of painting, sculpture and installation. In her first London solo show, elegant yet precarious installations – rich in texture and lush violet, rust, ochre and olive tones – are supported by steel frames, some made from grand art nouveau gates found in Cairo or ceramics cast in concrete. Titles such as Where, if Not Faraway, Is My Place? (2023) and This Poem Will Never Be Finished (2023) suggest the partial, situated nature of cultural identity as an ongoing process of becoming. 

Niamh O’Malley

Vardaxoglou Gallery

2 June – 14 July

Metal grid on the floor.
Niamh O’Malley, Drain, 2022, limestone, 30 × 155 × 120 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Vardaxoglou Gallery, London

Niamh O’Malley is known for her dextrous use of materials, especially steel and glass, and her sensitive responses to specific spaces. Her Venice Biennale exhibition, ‘Gather’ (2022), which combined sculptural installations with moving images, drew attention to those overlooked structural elements – vents, drains, shelving, canopies – that support, enable or protect. O’Malley pushes these elements towards abstraction, playing with surfaces, layers of opacity and transparency, and the intersection of forms. The occasional violence of the making process – glass scratched by diamond dust or Kilkenny limestone drilled and polished – contrasts the works’ tonal and textural subtlety. A highlight at Vardaxoglou is ‘Fold’ (2023) a delicate series of wall-hung works made from hand-cut pieces of fine picture-framing glass joined together with copper foil – a technique associated with Tiffany lamp shades.

Nour Mobarak


2 June – 23 September

Close up of cupid's face.
Nour Mobarak, Cupid Copy (detail), 2023, trametes versicolor mycelium, glass beads, 32 × 45 × 32 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Rodeo, London and Piraeus

Nour Mobarak’s ‘Gods’ Facsimiles’ is part of a wider project responding to Jacopo Peri and Ottavio Rinuccini’s La Dafne (1598), considered to be the first opera. The inaugural performance took place at the Palazzo Corsi in Florence, where the Hall of Niches was filled with statues that doubled the characters on stage. In 2022, Mobarak produced her own version, Dafne Phono, responding to Ovid’s story of transformation, gendered violence and the origin of music, upon which the original opera was based. At Rodeo Gallery, the niche sculptures take centre stage: Apollo, Cupid, Dafne, Venus and a choir of nine additional forms, slowly grown and moulded from mycelium over the preceding months. Delicately textured with the ochres, dark browns and creamy whites of neglected ancient statuary, these sculptural pieces perform a dizzying entanglement of bodies and materials, life and death, growth and decay.

Avis Newman

Maureen Paley

1 June – 30 July

 Brown and black diptych.
Avis Newman, Strategies of Engagement VI (Thirteen Chapters), 2018/2022, acrylic and chalk on unstretched cotton canvas, dimensions variable. Courtesy: © the artist and Maureen Paley, London

London-based artist Avis Newman is known for making what she calls ‘configurations’: installations combining sculptural and painted elements with stretched and unstretched canvases. Resisting the desire for meaning to be fixed, the artist instead proposes a series of temporary and provisional relations between forms and materials. Despite making her own paints and pigments, Newman has said that colour is less interesting to her than weight, density and temperature. The results are invariably subtle and multi-layered. For her second exhibition at Maureen Paley, Newman draws upon Sun Tzu’s fifth century BCE treatise Art of War and the 20th century poetry of Paul Celan. From tiny to expansive, Newman’s canvases are populated by collectively flowing formations of oblong, circular and triangular marks. Reminiscent of maps, military diagrams and pandemic airflow modelling, works such as Strategies of Engagement VI (Thirteen Chapters) (2018/22) allude to the limits of our attempts to understand the world or to pin down meaning.

Nicole Bachmann, Li Hei Di and Minh Lan Tran

St James’s Church Piccadilly, Peckham Library Square and Hoxton Square

2 – 4 June

Dancer standing at the top of a red canvas.
Le Hei Di, The Opposite of Red is Black, 2018, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and UP Projects

This year, London Gallery Weekend has again teamed up with public art commissioning agency UP Projects for a performance programme in three different London locations: St James’s Church Piccadilly, Peckham Library Square and Hoxton Square. Three artists will present work across the weekend: Nicole Bachmann is performing not a centre, but a mesh (2023), a spoken-word piece exploring connections between oral culture, community and knowledge-transfer in the face of socio-political injustices and climate collapse; Li Hei Di, accompanied by three fellow performers, will traverse layers of rice paper and squirt pigments through hats made from funnels with multiple tubes (The Willow Tree, 2023); and Minh Lan Tran will collaborate with choreographer Lena Hetzel on Heat Generation (prayer) (2023), navigating connections between dance and violence. In addition, Peckham Platform has developed a one-off Saturday performance, Body Arcana (Homebuilding) (2023), with artist Lesley Asare and communities in Southwark.

Main image: Otobong Nkanga, Steel to Rust – Meltdown (detail), 2016, woven textiles mounted on aluminium frames, dimensions variable. Courtesy: © the artist and Lisson Gallery

Tom Jeffreys is a writer based in Edinburgh. He is the author of two books: The White Birch: A Russian Reflection (Little, Brown, 2021) and Signal Failure: London to Birmingham, HS2 on foot (Influx Press, 2017).