What to See this London Gallery Weekend

Salena Barry selects her top picks – from Nicola L.’s kinky, penetrable sculptures at Alison Jacques to Jeff Wall’s monumental photographs at White Cube

BY Salena Barry in Critic's Guides , Exhibition Reviews , UK Reviews | 12 MAY 22

This weekend, 150 of London’s galleries come together to offer exhibitions, special events and late-night openings. In the second of our two-part series, Salena Barry selects her top picks. To read Sam Moore’s guide, click here

Claire Baily
Castor
06 May – 11 June 2022

Claire Baily
Claire Baily, The right time and place, 2022, plywood, mdf, brass, household paint, wire, iron powder, 180 × 70 × 60 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Castor, London; photograph: Corey Bartle-Sanderson

Translucent, lilac grey sheets of linen hang from the gallery ceiling like hospital curtains. We are aware of partially obscured objects in the spaces beyond them, the effect amplifying Claire Baily’s investigation into the tension between knowledge and intuition. Her freestanding sculptures have a distinctly medical quality, with clean, functional shapes and diagrammatic components. However, natural elements and processes interrupt and, perhaps, supersede these gestures toward scientific authority. Precious Cargo (2022) resembles a series of interlinking hospital stretchers, each cradling bone-like pieces of rusted metal, bone-like pieces of rusted metal. The show opens and closes with two rectangular wall-based works reminiscent of medical imagery – X-rays or microscopic photography. How Will You Remember Me and How to Build an Ocean (2022) contain murky layers of graphite that confuse as much as they clarify, reminding us that there is a depth of knowledge beneath what we can perceive.

Cynthia Daignault
The Sunday Painter 
04 May – 4 June 2022

Cynthia Daignault
Cynthia Daignault, ‘Xanadu’, 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and The Sunday Painter, London 

Entering ‘Xanadu’ – Cynthia Daignault’s third solo show at The Sunday Painter – is like dropping into a virtual reality space, surrounded by images from a stranger’s internet browsing history. The gallery walls are covered with small and medium-sized paintings, each one a recreation of a digital image either from the artist’s personal collection or found online. Daignault envisages each wall as an individual work, representing the accumulated detritus of a session online. The walls, then, are screens, the flatness of the works on paper heightening this effect. Daignault, who often works serially, includes paintings with similar imagery or themes, allowing for connections to occur and browsing timelines to be imagined. The artist encourages careful reflection on the things we tap and scroll away from, and the larger realities they help us process, rendering in paint images we might see on an Instagram feed, a news app or an advert. 

Jeff Wall
White Cube Mason’s Yard
27 April – 25 June 2022

Jeff Wall
Jeff Wall, Event, 2020, inkjet print, 2.2 × 1.7 m. Courtesy: © the artist and White Cube

An eerie green light shines overhead in a hallway where two tuxedoed men seem to argue. One, photographed from behind, stabs three fingers into the chest of the other, who appears unmoved by his aggressor. His hands are held loosely by his side, one thumb perhaps in a pocket. How do they know each other? Is this confrontation out of the blue or a long time coming? There isn’t anything inherently extraordinary about this image, Event (2020), but Jeff Wall’s billboard scale prints magnify the gravity and emotional charge of the mundane. The other images in this exhibition, including new and old works spanning the last 20 years of the artist’s practice, provoke similar questions about motivations and narrative. Wall’s photographs are twofold invitations, to enter the worlds of the people and places he documents, and to reflect on little moments in our own lives that have left seismic shifts in their wake.

‘Indexing the Nature from Near and Far Away’ 
Gallery Baton, No.9 Cork Street
06 – 23 May

Actaeon
Peter Stichbury, Actaeon, 2022, oil on linen, 120 × 95 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Gallery Baton, Seoul 

Halfway through the first gallery at No.9 Cork Street, you may find yourself caught in a spell. Modest yet idealized paintings of the Greek nature goddess Artemis, and the hunter who chanced upon her bathing naked, Actaeon, stare longingly at each other from opposite walls. Peter Stichbury’s mythological figures accept their sad fates, yet their expressions betray a momentary hope: perhaps there may still be time before Actaeon is transformed into a stag. Seoul-based Gallery Baton’s Mayfair show explores the influence of nature, in works which illustrate the magic and fragility of their muse. Painter Choi Soo Jung underlines nature’s complexity and vastness through her works’ multidimensional, glitched effect. Yet these majestic traits appear tempered by her simple stitches, which mend the canvas at various points, hinting at the necessity of connection and the possibility of repair. 

‘The Territories of Abstraction’ 
Galerie Poggi, No.9 Cork Street
06 – 21 May 

Attah Yoda
Ittah Yoda, Never the same ocean BP #02, 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Gallerie Poggi

Parisian Galerie Poggi’s group exhibition celebrates the diverse possibilities of abstraction while championing its storytelling ability. Ukrainian artist Nikita Kadan’s three vitrines, displaying black and white photography from soviet cultural manuals, elegantly examine the ways we remember, preserve or forget the past. Each case contains chunks of coal from the Donbas region, which will eventually damage the images beneath. Nearby, Ittah Yoda’s floor-standing sculpture Never the same ocean BP #02 (2022) succinctly presents that which the duo deem precious and worthy of protection in their speculative future: organic forms, resembling blades of grass, appear rendered in an opalescent brushed brass, and samples of oxygen-producing phytoplankton are preserved and suspended in mid-air in embellished blown glass vials. Abstraction here allows for a sharp focus on the essence of a matter; a chance to get to the point. 

Nicola L.
Alison Jacques 
13 May – 23 July 2022 

Nicola L.
Nicola L., Flower, 1974. Courtesy: the artist and Alison Jacques, London 

Nicola L.’s ‘Penetrable’ sculptures, initially conceived to be entered or worn by viewers or performers, are creepy, almost kinky, their taut canvas forms like skins, punctuated with spaces for heads, arms, eyes and legs. Adorned with phrases like ‘We want to breathe’ and ‘We don’t want war,’ these wearable artworks embody politically charged messages. Some accommodate multiple bodies – as in the 11-headed Same Skin for Everybody (1975) – and the unisex, one-size-fits-all tailoring suggest universality and the hope of interpersonal connection. These themes run throughout the show at Alison Jacques, Nicola L.’s first in the UK, which represents the diversity of her practice through a range of works created between 1969 and 2018. Meanwhile, her furniture artworks, functional household objects like tables, shelves and drawers crafted into distinctly female forms, offer a bold commentary on domestic labour and the commodification of women’s bodies, and a plea for us to focus on the revolutionary potential of the whole person.

Natalia González Martín
Hannah Barry Gallery  
13 May – 25 June 2022 

Rodeo
Natalia González Martín, Finding Her Nowhere, Thinks She Must Be Nowhere, 2022, oil on wood, 21 × 14 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Hannah Barry Gallery

For her latest body of work at Hannah Barry Gallery, Natalia González Martín draws on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, using paintings to reflect upon its often-horrific treatment of women. Minor imperfections – grey hairs, stretch marks, bruises – take Martín’s women from the exalted status of untarnished mythological beings and return them gently to Earth. While González Martín allows the beauty and grace of her subjects, she does not shy away from the realities they have endured, whether by choice or nature. The works’ simple outdoor backgrounds, set at various times of day, suggest a historical placelessness, or continuity in the treatment of women from Antiquity to the present. 

Main image: Jeff Wall, Band & Crowd, 2011, lightjet print, 2.3 × 4.3 m. Courtesy: © Jeff Wall and White Cube; photograph: Ollie Hammick

Salena Barry is a writer and digital communications professional living in London, UK. She is a 2022 Jerwood Writer in Residence.

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