Last chance: Jaime Gili
Riflemaker Soho Square
This stunning location is given a run for its money by London-based Venezuelan painter Jaime Gili. "We only want Tragedy if it can clench its side-muscles like hands on its belly, and bring to the surface a laugh like a bomb", claimed the Vorticists in their manifesto, and Gili's designer take on the movement's aesthetic appears an equally explosive wrangle with art history. The heat, high colour and energy emanating from these large and small-scale canvases (influenced by his recent travels to Morocco) transform the main upstairs rooms of this former 18th-century hostel into a quasi-modernist salon. Thankfully, Gili's undeniably attractive canvases are a lot less pretty and a lot grittier in situ than online images suggest, else the tension between these very different types of beauty (faded, old world elegance of the site v. shard-like high colour motifs) would simply not exist. The uniform sense of motion frozen, at distance, is offset close to by evidence of the making process. The spattered edges of templated forms defy notion of a single compositional logic and bring to mind the incidental marks and spillages that result during the moment of manufacture.
Ian Breakwell, Episode in a Small Town Library, 1970
It's not so much what we, the unwitting disciples of the information age, receive that bothers the seven artists here, as the means through which it arrives in our lives and how this influences our understanding of it. Much conceptual ground is covered between the fly poster and the news segment by this interesting bunch, which features the late Ian Breakwell, critic Peter Suchin and Bob and Roberta Smith. In the competitive arena of the group exhibition, it's the works that deliver their take on the medium as message through the most easily digestible means that win the initial clamour for our attention. Smith's deliciously bawdy wall piece consisting of torn sections of newspaper and magazine pages, each bearing the artist's signature and a ludicrous label ("twot", "wanker", "fool", "loony") - that effectively levels the status of all public figures and gives notions of author/ownership the finger - captures the humorously derisive curatorial tone.
Peter Campus' rather modestly described role in the history of video art seems positively preposterous after one becomes the subject of his four closed-circuit camera installations here, made in the early seventies. The disorienting effects of Campus' brilliantly simple manipulations of the technology feel both dated and incredibly relevant to the present moment. On the one hand, seeing one's actions repeated and rotated in space brings to mind early recordings of performance art, or the overblown visual effects of the '70s psycho thriller, while the Big Brother implications of this mode of self observation become all the more acute given the ubiquitous nature of camera surveillance in civic spaces. And, on a lighter note, it offers perhaps the only legitimate opportunity to describe one's own image as poetry in motion.
So adept is Inka Essenhigh with the stuff of paint and fantasy that the contemporary issues at the heart of these works slowly descend upon the viewer like a mood or atmospheric condition. In fact, to attach particular hot topics to these amorphous, slickly rendered landscapes, depicting a range of modern-day humanoids in various otherworldly locations, is almost to miss the point. Time and substance are no matches for Essenhigh's elastically surreal application, her characters borrowed from sources as diverse as Greek mythology and the streets of New York. One wonders how scientists and historians might describe the conditions that transformed Pegasus into an equine, intergalactic 'Stretch Armstrong' or late-night bar revellers into a molten, leery carnal mass?
Steve Van den Bosch
Steve Van den Bosch
"An 'End' (the title of this solo show) to all this" is what crosses the mind upon entry to Steve Van den Bosch's super sparse installation. And, as harsh as this may sound, this is a fairly appropriate response given that his barely present drawings, sculptural works and a visually static film have emerged from a period of "intense research into the qualities of boredom". But, after a short time, this evidence of the artist's microscopic engagement with the world becomes mirror to our presumptions apropos minimalism and the tedium of everyday existence. Certain incongruous details or material facets (the satisfying action implied through letter-shaped holes punched into plastic, or the ambient workaday soundtrack accompanying Van den Bosch's film of the last page of a CD booklet that describes the early works of sound pioneer Max Neuhaus) bring virtual moisture to dry conceptual territory. The carefully constructed tension between art historical and existential concerns gets under the skin and whether irritated or inspired, one nonetheless exits the gallery acutely aware of time passing.
Barnaby Furnas, 'Poe', 2008
You Dig the Tunnel, I'll Hide the Soil
White Cube Hoxton Square and Shoreditch Town Hall
To witness a few of the works included here on a single gallery schlep would feel like something of a coup. But this extraordinary selection by some 34 artists (from Anselm Kiefer to George Shaw via Cindy Sherman) leaves one spellbound and reeling from a sense of '90s nostalgia prompted by a truly engaging offsite art experience. Most here (there is the odd piece that just happens to fit the bill) have responded to works by, or the notion of, literary giant Edgar Allan Poe, under the curatorial direction of artist and writer Harland Miller. The Hoxton Square ground floor gallery features a Cerith Wyn Evans chandelier, and a Damien Hirst spin painting-cum-skull and bed installation, but the real treat at the gallery's HQ is Mike Nelson's warren-like colonisation of the upper floor. The exhibition continues in Shoreditch Town Hall's basement, which provides all manner of nooks and crannies and darkened passages that evoke the gothic spirit of the writer's output and legend. The lack of light has prompted several smoke-and-mirrors responses, such as Christian Marclay's spot-lit watch "ticking" in the darkness and Jason Shulman's illusory gas candle 'Halo', but in terms of drama, few can hold a torch to Anselm Kiefer's take on Poe's 1839 short story, 'The Fall of the House of Usher': a physically precarious installation to negotiate, strewn with strips of lead and reels of film.
Paul Morrison digitally manipulates found imagery to create stylistically disparate graphic landscapes that may then be painted, printed or animated into black and white existence. In a recent solo show of wall paintings at Bloomberg, natural forms, derived from botanical reference books, appeared to physically dwarf block-printed European hamlets. Morrison successfully transformed this notoriously tricky corporate space into a theatre-set pastiche of disconcertingly scaled motifs. The spacious interior at Alison Jacques should pose few logistical problems, although Morrison will for the first time show a series of silver-leaf on linen paintings and a large-scale aluminium and steel sculpture. The big draw, though, will likely be his 21-foot botanically inspired wall painting specifically designed for the site.
Pil and Galia Kollectiv
The Institute of Psychoplasmics
Pump House Gallery
Artists have long used the notion of a fake governing body or officially recognised representative through which to analyse existing social systems and processes of institutionalization (recently, for example, Suzanne Triester's pseudo scientist Rosalind Brodsky, or collaborative group-cum-corporate solutions company withyou.co.uk). From the curious conceptual realm of the Pil and Galia Kollectiv comes the group show 'The Institute of Psychoplasmics' - a reference to the fictional institute created by David Cronenberg for his 1979 film 'The Brood'. Where the filmmaker's construct was part of a critique on certain popular psychotherapies of the time, this institute will focus on the ways in which rituals, cults or psychological strategies such as war games - contribute to definitions of society. This potentially dark and difficult brief will be interpreted by a diverse bunch of artists and performers including Insectoid, Diann Bauer, Rod Dickinson and Francis Upritchard.
Ryan Gander, 'Man on a bridge (Study of David Lange)', 2008
South London Gallery
25/4 - 22/5
Scanning the SLG press release, Ryan Gander's self-described "year off" gallery projects sounds creatively fruitful if reassuringly punctured with less certain periods of manufacture. Gander works across media and disciplines to communicate the trembling division between fact and fiction. Through different modes of storytelling he uncovers obscure personal histories and odd cultural nuggets that reveal much about contemporary life. In this major London solo exhibition, the artist is set to pose questions about public space with a map of the area that incorporates thoroughfares pre-1914, reframe utopian variations on the alphabet and turn the complexities of the creative act into a work of art - crystal balls containing a laser-etched image of a blank sheet of paper - alluding to the mental hurdles, perhaps, between nothing and something, concept and form.
23/4 - 15/6
Many dream of having their first London solo show at Matt's. Lucky Paul Rooney. But this film commission is entirely deserved. Rooney is a musician and artist who explores societal hopes, desires and fears through public collaborations that most often result in text and video works. Ordinary peoples' descriptions of life have been set to music or translated into choral works. The two films shown here deal with the selective means through which history is recorded and also how it exists in the public consciousness. Both are based on real events: in 'La Décision Doypack' Rooney visits the streets of Paris, during the May 1968 riots between police and students via the web memoirs of an Australian Food Packaging Company manager, while 'Failing That' is a moment taken from an existing documentary on Chile extended - a boy's speech following the death of his father at the hands of the military.