What to See in South London during Gallery Weekend

Mimi Chu, frieze, June 4, 2021

From Jade Montserrat’s take on Alice Walker’s ‘Gardens’ to Tom Lovelace’s deconstruction of Georges Seurat’s ‘Bathers’, these are the best shows south of the river.


Jade Montserrat
Bosse & Baum
5 June – 24 July


Jade Montserrat’s first show with Bosse & Baum ‘In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens’ features a series of never previously exhibited watercolour and gouache drawings, thematically linked to Alice Walker’s eponymous 1972 essay, with titles deriving from Montserrat’s 2017 performance at DJCAD, Dundee, No need for clothing (2017). In a powerful metaphor for the treatment of Black women in the American South during the 1920s, Walker observes how ‘frail whirlwinds fell, in scattered particles, upon the ground, no one mourned. Instead, men lit candles to celebrate the emptiness that remained, as people do who enter a beautiful but vacant space to resurrect a God.’ For Walker, the garden is a place where creativity can be kept alive, transmitting the spirits of forgotten generations. In Necessarily Pass Through (2016), a scalp explodes into washes of red, the forms of which are echoed in the tree branches sprouting up from a lavender field in She Made her Fall Glorious (2016), its title taken from James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953). Using drawing as a means of releasing that for which, to quote Walker, ‘there was no release’, Montserrat’s works are deceptively complex, combining traces of the artist’s body with iconographies visual and textual, including a votive figurine commemorating a woman’s first communion in 1914 (Notre Dame D’Afrique, 2016) and a 15th-century German woodcut of Noah’s Ark from the Nuremberg Bible (1493).


Haroun Hayward
18 March – 19 June


Haroun Hayward’s oil on panel works depict cultural fragments in latticed frameworks. Geometric shapes with textures worked into the paint combine and repeat like a montage of landscapes viewed through windows. For ‘Too Nice, Play it Twice’, Hayward draws from memories of 1990s pirate radio stations, which he listened to growing up in London, cultivating a nostalgia for the electronic and psychedelic rave scene of the 1980s. Musician and producer A Guy Called Gerald is name-checked in the title of one of these works (all 2020), along with artists Edward Burra, Paul Nash and Anwar Shemza. Hayward begins with a precise carving and preparation process before working into the drawn elements on varying scales in a less inhibited manner. A collector-like fascination pervades these paintings, with the artist drawing on recollections of his childhood home – which was filled with textiles from around the world – and his art-historical knowledge, which spans Indian miniatures to Shemza’s syncretic, postwar abstractions. With their distinctive material sensibility, Hayward’s paintings have a resplendent patina that toys with time.


Jasleen Kaur
4 June – 17 July


Jasleen Kaur’s first solo show in London, ‘Be Like Teflon’, features two key works: the eponymous collection of interviews from 2019 with eight women of Indian heritage living in the UK and Ethnoresidue (2020), a film that draws upon these conversations, predominantly with Kaur’s grandmother. In the gallery, cans of sunflower oil (Oil Drum Stools, 2010–ongoing) also speak to the title, while simultaneously alluding to the recipes included in Kaur’s oral history and the domestic details of the video: tender, humorous, daily absurdities. ‘I’ve been trying to disorient myself on a cellular level; I track backwards to see forwards,’ Kaur explains in the film. A tight crop of glass patterned to look like crumpled silk opens into a detour around ‘the unspeakable things passed down through bloodlines’ – snippets of conversation blacking out as Kaur intermittently recounts her family’s experiences in Pollokshields, Glasgow. The lilt of the artist’s Glaswegian accent is almost inextricable from the content of what she’s saying. For Kaur, intonations of the throat and reverberations of the gut can serve as a means of working through generational trauma. ‘How we talk is [a] survival instinct,’ she explains in the voice-over, but the language of home is fragile; ‘sometimes survival looks or sounds like assimilation’, but we need to appreciate what the voice can carry.


Bronwyn Katz
White Cube, Bermondsey
12 May – 27 June


Steel wool assumes a diaphanous, sea-anemone quality in Bronwyn Katz’s first UK solo show, ‘I turn myself into a star and visit my loved ones in the sky’. Katz has been incorporating materials from mattresses in her practice since her 2016 debut at blank space, ‘Groepunt’. Informed by a process of schematization and abstraction, her work renders palpable negative space. Katz is concerned with the capacity of land and physical matter to retain memory, particularly in the context of Europe’s colonial occupation of modern-day South Africa and the wider continent. The formal eloquence and beauty of these sculptures, each of which is titled after a constellation – !Xankukua (Orion’s Belt) (III) (2020), for instance – are inextricably informed by the history and metaphorical implications of their materials. Katz draws geometries from coiled springs, stretching diversely coloured metal scouring pads over the skeleton forms, whose hues create the optical illusion of varying depth. Carrying processes of labour into futuristic-looking forms, these industrial found objects gesture through the historical intensities of oppression and exploitation for Black and working-class people on occupied lands towards an expansive elsewhere in which Katz’s ancestors resist and reside.


‘The Women’s Century – Female Perspectives in Brazilian Art’
Cecilia Brunson Projects
4 June – 15 July


An ambitious exhibition, ‘The Women’s Century – Female Perspectives in Brazilian Art’ charts the developments of Tropicália and concretism through seven women artists whose careers span the 1920s to the present day. Rooting this history is a series of early landscape drawings, throbbing with life, by Tarsila do Amaral. These works were made around the same time that Do Amaral met the writer Oswald de Andrade, whose influential Anthropophagic Manifesto (1928) advocated for a ‘participant consciousness [...] against all importers of canned consciousness’ and the adoption of cannibalism as a symbolic totem for postcolonial Brazil. Eleonore Koch’s painting of the British seaside (Untitled, 1973) deploys empty space in a way that toys with abstraction, while Lygia Clark’s sculpture Bicho Linear (Linear Critter, 1960) foresees the dialogue, featuring hinged metal pieces on the verge of coming undone.


Tom Lovelace
Sid Motion Gallery
4 – 12 June


Displayed on the floor of Sid Motion gallery, Tom Lovelace’s photographs present portals – ranging from windows to the surfaces of water and abstract curves – that seem to trace movement or anticipate being superseded. Titled ‘Bathers’ (2021), this body of work responds to Georges Seurat’s pointillist piece Bathers at Asinères (1884). Exploring reflective surfaces, both within Seurat’s painting and in our everyday lives, the show is an inquiry into the multiple and conflicting modes of self-absorption. The images will also be woven into performances – scheduled to take place during the course of London Gallery Weekend – in which Lovelace, along with collaborators Clémentine Bedos, Typhaine Delaup and Francesco Migliaccio, will mimic poses from Seurat’s painting, raising the question of how effective photography and painting truly are as forms of representation, and how our perceptions can be altered by the ways in which we encounter them.


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