Adventures of the Black Square, Whitechapel Gallery

‘Adventures of the Black Square’ is a rather ominous, but intriguing title for an exhibition. The Whitechapel Gallery is showcasing an important selection of abstract art from the last 100 years.

The selection of works is varied, giving a thorough overview of this often misunderstood genre. It begins with an example of the renowned Kazimir Malevich black square; a simple statement, the icon of suprematism and an ode to the colour black. The exhibition proceeds chronologically reaching the current day in the final rooms. The works are split into four themes: Utopia, Architectonics, Communication and the Everyday. We see how abstraction is approached differently through a wide range of media including painting, drawing, photography and video.

For me it was exciting to experience a wide range of works which I have never seen before, exhibited together as an effective narrative. I loved the geometric works, a striking colourful composition by Piet Mondrian (with an accompanying film of the artist’s studio), and lesser known works like Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s woven wall hanging, a pattern of shapes carefully sewn from Pearl cotton.

The development of abstraction across the globe indicates the influences that connect the works. The Russian Constructivist ideals in the early 20thcentury works are revisited in later works, for example Zvi Goldstein’s glorified megaphones emphasising the importance of communication in society. David Batchelor’s Monochrome Archive particularly stuck in my head, a series of photographs taken over a 20 year period, capturing square and rectangular panels, all accidentally encountered on walks through cities all over the world. Individually they are plain and uninteresting, but together they present a captivating and serene composition.

My mind was whirling after an hour observing the shapes, colours and textures. An extensive study of the history of abstract art, ‘Adventures of the Black Square’ is about so much more than the title initially suggests.

Exhibition continues until 6 April, more information and book tickets here.

Chris Kenny, 50 Books

Collage artist Chris Kenny has taken over the windows of the cult Hoxton bookshop, the BOOKARTBOOKSHOP, with a collection of miniature book-sculptures constructed from, and inspired by, found titles and images. These poetic little objects touch on themes of love and longing, art and science, mortality and the search for meaning. They range in tone from the jokey to the melancholic to the caustic.

Also on show, inside the shop, is a mini-retrospective of Chris Kenny’s limited editions from the last twenty years (on sale for between £5 and £30) with such titles as The Pocket Book of Phallic Symbols, Eating and Being Eaten, and You are part of a divine pudding.

Opening this evening and running until 4th October.


17 Pitfield Street

12th September to 4th October 2014
Wed-Fri 1-7pm Sat 12-6pm

in conjunction with England & Co

Matisse Cut-Outs, Tate Modern

It is difficult to dislike the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition. This expressive and colourful display of creativity and passion is currently livening up the white walls of Tate Modern.

This show features work from the final chapter of Matisse’s life. When the artist began to get ill in the 1940s, he became unable to paint and so swapped his brush for scissors initiating a new medium of paper cut-outs. After undergoing a crucial and risky operation in 1941, he felt he had been given another chance and a second life, explaining perhaps why his final works are so celebratory and liberated. He depicts subjects of wonder and fascination on both a small and huge scale.Although flat, the energetic shapes and patterns seem to create a magical depth and as you look longer the compositions appear more complex and the patterns become more intriguing.

I have always loved the work of Matisse, reminding me of long summers in the South of France, where I often saw his paintings in Nice or Vence. The collages are something I discovered later, but love equally, simple works but with an amazing ability to capture the imagination.

Every piece in this Tate Modern show exudes happiness… dancing figures and exotic creatures, beautiful shapes and joyful colours. We witness the artist’s studio layout, the decorative Oceania paper scene that covered the walls. The blue nudes are simple and classic, studies of the female form that work in tandem with Matisse’s earlier sculpted nudes, similar in pose and mood. The psychedelic Jazz prints are loud and humorous, depicting scenes from the circus and theatre.

Amazingly as Matisse grew older and his mobility became more limited, his technique seems to loosen and broaden… his final works show a surge in energy with a greater sense of movement and power. Bigger works such as the Snail are emotive and triumphant, he describes it as ‘abstraction rooted in reality’. The roughly torn pieces of paper are arranged in a playful spiral, the giant masterpiece manages to evoke a tiny creature.

Even now the shapes, shades and patterns remain imprinted on my memory. This is a cheerful and life-affirming collection of works, offering a colourful glimpse into the mind of Matisse.

Continues until 7th September 2014, book here.