BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 16 FEB 24

The Best Shows to See in the UK and Ireland This February

From Paul Mpagi Sepuya's self-reflective portraiture to Jan Gatewood's anthropomorphic rabbits

BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 16 FEB 24

Paul Mpagi Sepuya / Nottingham Contemporary / 27 January – 5 May

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Studio Mirror (_DSF6207), 2023
Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Studio Mirror (_DSF6207), 2023, archival pigment print on dibond on wheeled wooden frame. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Paris

A hand peeks from the upper-left corner of a photograph, holding a dusty black backdrop; at its centre sits a camera on a tripod. The arresting Daylight Studio Mirror (0X5A1511) (2021) is one of many works containing the apparatus of their making in ‘Exposure’, the first European institutional exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Paul Mpagi Sepuya. The piece is an apt starting point for a show that continuously reveals what is usually unseen in the photographic process: the detritus and scenery of the artist’s studio, his image-making factory.  […]

Sepuya’s practice seemingly inserts itself into a lineage of self-reflective portraiture – including Diego Velazquez’s painting Las Meninas (1656) and Jeff Wall’s photograph Picture for Women (1979) – in which the artists and their instruments appear within the scenes they’re creating. Sepuya’s works seem to subvert Susan Sontag’s description in On Photography (1977) of the dominance of the shooter over their subject and the camera as ‘a predatory weapon’. By turning the camera upon itself (and upon himself), to lay bare the workings of the studio, he appears as much at risk as his sitters from what Sontag described as the ‘camera/gun’. – Reuben Esien

Yoko Ono / Tate Modern, London / 15 February – 1 September

Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1964
Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1964, ‘New Works by Yoko Ono’, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: © Minoru Niizuma

Following the US firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945, young Yoko Ono fled with her family to the Karuizawa mountain resort, where food was scarce. For a few months before the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the Second World War, Ono and her brother Keisuke spent their time staring at the sky and picturing their favourite foods. This experience became foundational to Ono’s artistic career, in which the use of the imagination and demands for world peace have been constant – as documented in this comprehensive Tate Modern retrospective that opens just before her 91st birthday. – Juliet Jacques

Shuvinai Ashoona / The Perimeter, London / 24 January – 26 April

Shuvinai Ashoona, Untitled, 2016
Shuvinai Ashoona, Untitled, 2016, coloured pencil and ink. Courtesy: the artist and The Perimeter, London, and Fort Gansevoort, New York

Crawling with tentacled creatures, flipper-footed beasts and beaked hybrids, Shuvinai Ashoona’s colourful pencil drawings are playful and fantastical depictions of Inuit life in the Canadian Arctic. My GG’s Camp (2022) – the first work of her solo show, ‘When I Draw’, at The Perimeter – portrays a family travelling over the ice on a dog sled, an imagined scene drawn from the nomadic past of the Inuit people of Kinngait, where Ashoona lives and works. Consisting of just over a thousand residents, Kinngait sits in the northernmost territory of Nunavut. It is home to Canada’s longest-running print studio, operated by the Inuit-owned West Baffin Cooperative since its formation in 1959. The remote settlement, previously known as Cape Dorset, is considered the most artistic community in Canada and the setting for Ashoona’s uncanny compositions. – Nevan Spier

Siobhán Hapaska / Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin / 1 December – 10 March 

Siobhán Hapaska, Medici Lion, 2023
Siobhán Hapaska, Medici Lion, 2023, polylactic acid, paint, buckles, white marble stone, vinyl print, audio, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist, Douglas Hyde Gallery and Kerlin, Dublin; photograph: Lee Welch

Suspended in mid-air at the heart of the brutalist cavern that is the Douglas Hyde Gallery, the monumental white lion, first viewed from above as you enter the gallery, might almost be sculpted from gravity-defying marble. Closer inspection, however, reveals Medici Lion (all works 2023) to be composed of buckled-together sections of what is, in fact, 3D-printed polylactide. Hovering about half a metre above the concrete floor, this grandiose emblem of compromised majesty is tautly tethered to opposing gallery walls by an extended harness of black military webbing. Absurdly commanding, it looms over the gallery goers circling it in the surrounding gloom. – Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith

Jan Gatewood / Rose Easton, London / 20 January – 2 March 

Jan Gatewood, I Am a Cliché You’ve Seen Before. Thank You Poly Styrene, 2023
Jan Gatewood, I Am a Cliché You’ve Seen Before. Thank You Poly Styrene, 2023, graphite, coloured pencil, glue, salt, fabric dye, bleach, oil pastel and oil stick on paper, 68 × 88 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Rose Easton, London; photograph: Jack Elliot Edwards

In ‘Group Relations’, Jan Gatewood presents images – of animals, memories, cultural artefacts – that refuse simple definition. All the work is done on paper, and Gatewood doesn’t use a brush, refuting a painterly label. However, his citational approach gives the feeling of eclectic collages. Willingness to Try suggests that we might: ‘Rearrange the self as an act of humility.’ Taken in the context of thorny cultural memory, this line carries the idea that we might benefit from somehow altering ourselves in the name of ‘good representation’; here, humility comes as an act of thanks for being given a seat at the table. To Gatewood’s credit, his work does not grapple with this process of rearrangement to simplistic ends. Rather, he creates a vision of the self in flux, changing shape depending on what strange and problematic aspect of history it encounters. – Sam Moore 

Main image: Yoko Ono, Add Colour (Refugee Boat), 2016, installation view. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: © Musacchio, Ianniello & Pasqualini

Contemporary Art and Culture