Revelations | Robert Mason

This summer I had the pleasure of meeting British artist Robert Mason and discovering more about his life and practice from his studio on the Colne Estuary, ahead of his exhibition at the Colour Index Agency in London, organised by writer, editor and curator William Davie. The exhibition continues until 20th July 2019 by appointment. “I’ve always worn a mask, all my life,” Robert Mason explains as we stroll through his home in the small town of Wivenhoe on the Colne Estuary. “It’s just sometimes that mask slips. Small things bring you back.” Mason is an artist long associated with…

Vija Celmins | Reaching for The Stars

“For myself, I declare I don’t know anything…But the sight of the stars always makes me dream.” Vincent van Gogh In an interview with the Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins, and his fellow student from Yale University’s 1961 Summer Programme, Chuck Close suggested that only two people have ever truly been able to handle stars: Vincent van Gogh and Celmins. Throughout history, the celestial vista of the night sky has been a subject filled with reverie, inspiring artists to look heavenwards to the vast unknown. For Celmins, who began her career by painting the mundane objects of her studio, a love…

Taking America by Storm | Marianna Simnett at the New Museum

“Is it going to hurt?” a young girl asks. “It’ll just be a little bit of pressure,” the doctor promises her, “nothing more.” Gruesome, nauseating, grisly – these are just some of the words that have become associated with rising British artist Marianna Simnett in recent years. With tales of clinical procedures, hypodermic needles, disease and infection, it is not surprising that Simnett has earned something of a reputation. Under the watchful eye of curator Helga Christoffersen at the New Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, visitors to Simnett’s first institutional show on American soil would be right to come…

The artist that was too beautiful for feminism | Hannah Wilke

In 1975, the great and the good of the New York art world gathered to see Lynda Benglis’ new exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery. They were expecting an evening of sculptures by the woman who had just taken out a full-page ad in Artforum for a photograph of herself, naked and clasping a double-ended dildo. Instead, they were met by an unexpected striptease by the raven-haired artist Hannah Wilke. Among the trailblazing feminist artists of the 1970s that we have come to know and love, Hannah Wilke cuts a solitary figure. The daughter of Eastern European immigrant parents, Wilke was…

What’s eating art fairs? The rise and fall of the immersive stand

Picture this. It’s 2014. A time before ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ has moved into the White House and even before the word Brexit has been uttered. It’s a warm afternoon in October in Regent’s Park and the great and good of the art world have flocked to the first preview of Frieze Masters – the sister fair of the slightly showier Frieze London that specializes in art made before the year 2000. The doors open and it’s handbags at dawn as heiresses and collectors storm the aisles to get their hands on a masterpiece. Weaving their way through…

Camaraderie, backstabbing and the gallery system

During some recent water-cooler chat, a colleague of mine was lamenting the death-grip of the gallery model. In fact, he was arguing that galleries stop artists from collaborating  altogether and force them to compete with each other instead. As we’ve heard in countless articles, lectures and podcasts on the subject – galleries as we know them are dying. The idea of a program of exhibitions and a roster of artists is fast becoming outdated thanks to a generation who are happy to buy their art straight from Instagram. But have we overlooked another big problem staring us in the face? The…

The artist, the fetish and me | Frida Kahlo at the V&A

There is something troubling happening over at the V&A this summer – and it isn’t just the number tourists taking up space in the cast court. The smash hit of the season, dubbed ‘an extraordinary testimony to suffering and spirit’, is a show dedicated to Frida Kahlo. Nothing surprising there. It’s a familiar format for the V&A by now – fixing on a particular person, group or movement that has changed pop culture and making it seem so sexy it is almost impossible not to visit. From David Bowie to Pink Floyd to Alexander McQueen, the V&A has become a…

Life through a screen | how should we be looking at art?

It struck me when I was rambling through the halls of the National Gallery on Friday night (which – I should point out – is the ideal time to visit because you only have a few stray tourists to jostle with for a view of van Gogh’s sunflowers) how much we filter our viewing experience of art. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear that most of the visitors had a camera phone between them and their masterpiece of choice. Most galleries have argued, debated and cursed the subject of smart phones through the years as the…

The Ghoulish Queen of Transformation | Mary Reid Kelley at Tate Liverpool

“What are you, the Beethoven of organs?” comes the first insult. “I’m the heart of the matter!” comes the searing the reply. “You’re the VP of Gore!” “You’re the Pollock of splatter!” This slanging match is taking place between a churlish liver and a prima donna heart that lie exposed on an operating table. As the pathologist arrives to examine the cadaver, the organs continue to hurl abuse and try to blame each other for the body’s current predicament. It is a strange embodiment of the age-old mantra – head over heart or mind over matter. American artist Mary Reid…

Who put the personality back into art?

When did we all get so self-referential about making art? In fact, when we did all become so concerned with oversharing? A recent trip to Eddie Peake’s exhibition at White Cube in Bermondsey set my mind racing over these questions, wondering – what would Leonardo and Michelangelo have made of all this self-obsessed art-making? If you missed White Cube’s latest offering, Peake’s show was inspired by the bric-a-brac, landmarks and soundtrack to his misspent youth in north London’s leafy Finsbury Park. Snaking through Larry Gagosian’s outpost in Bermondsey was an array of steel tables covered with trays boasting a curious…