David Batchelor Blob (Small Turquoise) (2012) Photograph by Stuart Whipps

David Batchelor Blob (Small Turquoise) (2012) Photograph by Stuart Whipps

David Batchelor Blob Paintings (2011-2012).  Installation view at Spike Island. Photograph by Stuart Whipps

‘Flatlands’ by David Batchelor at Spike Island

David Batchelor’s ‘Flatlands’ Curated by Andrea Schlieker will be showing at Spike Island until 26th January 2014.

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David Batchelor Disco Mécanique (2008) Installation view. Photograph by Stuart Whipps

The use of synthetic colour may be David Batchelor’s striking leitmotif, but in Flatlands questions of dimension usurp even the lurid neons of Batchelor’s famous colour palette. Referenced somewhat misleadingly as the first in-depth showing of David Batchelor’s supposed ‘two-dimensional’ drawings and paintings, this show is arguably far from flat – both in volume and expectation.

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Kara Walker: We at Camden Arts Centre are Exceedingly Proud to Present an Exhibition of Capable Artworks by the Notable Hand of the Celebrated American, Kara Elizabeth Walker, Negress.
Camden Arts Centre, 11 October 2013 - 5 January 2014


The work of Kara Walker, American Negress, consists of two colours: black and white. Her first UK solo show continues her unapologetic, monochromatic exploration into racial and gender tensions, filling Camden Arts Centre with a carnival of cruelty and ridicule of America’s antebellum South.  

The exhibition is split into three bodies of work. In Gallery One, Walker displays a host of large graphite drawings taken from her series Dust Jackets for the Niggerati. Conceived as book covers for unwritten investigations into pivotal transitions in black American history, the drawings are aggressive and chaotic. Often reminiscent of Goya’s Disasters of War, Walker presents darkly comic scenes of violence, converging fact and fiction through the guise of historical tropes. 

Gallery Two showcases Walker’s characteristic silhouettes - black cut-out figures pressed against white walls, and white figures stark against an inky black. The silhouettes are exaggerated to the point of cartoons - ridiculing the lineage of racial profiling with which this form of image-making has long been associated. On each wall both races are rendered in the same colour, thus making them separable only by Walker’s use of grotesque characteristics: her blacks are bulbous and swollen, while her whites are pristine and baroque, ridiculous in their affectedness. Walker’s use of silhouettes negates any sense of individuality, pushing each race further back into their archetypes. There is the black seductress, the black savage, the black mammy, the white colonial and the white beauty. There are illegitimate couplings - the white’s hypocrisy and self-loathing evident in their aggrandised hand gestures, at once terrified and excited to be so close to “the exotic.” 

White hands protrude from black mouths, black mouths surround white dicks; guns project from white arses and black portrait heads float - their angles so amplified that the entire weight of their heads seem to rest in their lips. The carnivalesque in Walker’s simplistic yet intricate imagery is at once monstrous and enticing; the swells of her black women somewhere between extreme maternity and a threat of suffocation, while the forms of her white women are so rigid and closed they are both unspoiled and impossible. 

The final part of the exhibition is a video installation of Walker’s shadow play entitled Fall Frum Grace- Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale. Here, Walker’s silhouettes, mounted onto wire to create crude puppets, which she herself activates, are employed to tell the story of Miss Pipi’s seduction of a black slave, who is subsequently tortured and murdered by her white lover. Both childish and obscene, this is the most explicit and challenging element of the exhibition. 

Although Walker’s pornographic violence finds its roots in the long trajectory of historic racism, she also displaces the fabric of history with her own narcissistic agenda. Her work is simultaneously charged with a meticulous engagement in the context of the antebellum South, while also acting as an expurgation of Walker’s personal fixations with the consequences of her race. It is this dichotomy which results in the viewer’s fundamental feeling of disconcertedness when viewing the work: do Walker’s violent narratives dispel hateful racial fantasies, or perversely celebrate them? 

However, Walker’s works are unmistakably imbued with a impertinent humour. Even the exhibition text, written by novelist Hari Kunzru continues the brazen, insubordinate tone: ‘Sorry, you find what offensive? … Everybody knows there’s no place whiter than a white cube - and now she’s filled it with such inky darkness! … Imagine you’re sitting on the tube and a gang of black boys comes on … moving with that way they have … that makes it hard not to think about what’s between their legs. When you tug down the hem of your dress and clutch your handbag a little tighter, that has nothing to do with history, right?’

The exhibition veers so closely towards contempt that it endangers the righteous notion that art can proactively unearth such ugly truths. However, Walker’s insolence is a challenge - a challenge to the idea that there is one “authentic black story”, one which is progressive and clear, and from which have we all learnt our lesson. Instead, Walker utilises as her subject something which she once considered a constraint, turning over every aspect of her blackness as though it is a critical hypothesis; something to tear apart, ridicule, probe, love, nurture, reassemble and prove. Walker’s narrative of black history is messy, depraved and emphasises the inherent plurality of history. Furthermore, through the convergence of personal and political elements, it emerges as an unflinchingly honest depiction of her country’s racial psychosis. 

Kathryn Lloyd

Kara Walker: We at Camden Arts Centre are Exceedingly Proud to Present an Exhibition of Capable Artworks by the Notable Hand of the Celebrated American, Kara Elizabeth Walker, Negress.
Camden Arts Centre, 11 October 2013 - 5 January 2014


The work of Kara Walker, American Negress, consists of two colours: black and white. Her first UK solo show continues her unapologetic, monochromatic exploration into racial and gender tensions, filling Camden Arts Centre with a carnival of cruelty and ridicule of America’s antebellum South.

The exhibition is split into three bodies of work. In Gallery One, Walker displays a host of large graphite drawings taken from her series Dust Jackets for the Niggerati. Conceived as book covers for unwritten investigations into pivotal transitions in black American history, the drawings are aggressive and chaotic. Often reminiscent of Goya’s Disasters of War, Walker presents darkly comic scenes of violence, converging fact and fiction through the guise of historical tropes.

Gallery Two showcases Walker’s characteristic silhouettes - black cut-out figures pressed against white walls, and white figures stark against an inky black. The silhouettes are exaggerated to the point of cartoons - ridiculing the lineage of racial profiling with which this form of image-making has long been associated. On each wall both races are rendered in the same colour, thus making them separable only by Walker’s use of grotesque characteristics: her blacks are bulbous and swollen, while her whites are pristine and baroque, ridiculous in their affectedness. Walker’s use of silhouettes negates any sense of individuality, pushing each race further back into their archetypes. There is the black seductress, the black savage, the black mammy, the white colonial and the white beauty. There are illegitimate couplings - the white’s hypocrisy and self-loathing evident in their aggrandised hand gestures, at once terrified and excited to be so close to “the exotic.”

White hands protrude from black mouths, black mouths surround white dicks; guns project from white arses and black portrait heads float - their angles so amplified that the entire weight of their heads seem to rest in their lips. The carnivalesque in Walker’s simplistic yet intricate imagery is at once monstrous and enticing; the swells of her black women somewhere between extreme maternity and a threat of suffocation, while the forms of her white women are so rigid and closed they are both unspoiled and impossible.

The final part of the exhibition is a video installation of Walker’s shadow play entitled Fall Frum Grace- Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale. Here, Walker’s silhouettes, mounted onto wire to create crude puppets, which she herself activates, are employed to tell the story of Miss Pipi’s seduction of a black slave, who is subsequently tortured and murdered by her white lover. Both childish and obscene, this is the most explicit and challenging element of the exhibition.

Although Walker’s pornographic violence finds its roots in the long trajectory of historic racism, she also displaces the fabric of history with her own narcissistic agenda. Her work is simultaneously charged with a meticulous engagement in the context of the antebellum South, while also acting as an expurgation of Walker’s personal fixations with the consequences of her race. It is this dichotomy which results in the viewer’s fundamental feeling of disconcertedness when viewing the work: do Walker’s violent narratives dispel hateful racial fantasies, or perversely celebrate them?

However, Walker’s works are unmistakably imbued with a impertinent humour. Even the exhibition text, written by novelist Hari Kunzru continues the brazen, insubordinate tone: ‘Sorry, you find what offensive? … Everybody knows there’s no place whiter than a white cube - and now she’s filled it with such inky darkness! … Imagine you’re sitting on the tube and a gang of black boys comes on … moving with that way they have … that makes it hard not to think about what’s between their legs. When you tug down the hem of your dress and clutch your handbag a little tighter, that has nothing to do with history, right?’

The exhibition veers so closely towards contempt that it endangers the righteous notion that art can proactively unearth such ugly truths. However, Walker’s insolence is a challenge - a challenge to the idea that there is one “authentic black story”, one which is progressive and clear, and from which have we all learnt our lesson. Instead, Walker utilises as her subject something which she once considered a constraint, turning over every aspect of her blackness as though it is a critical hypothesis; something to tear apart, ridicule, probe, love, nurture, reassemble and prove. Walker’s narrative of black history is messy, depraved and emphasises the inherent plurality of history. Furthermore, through the convergence of personal and political elements, it emerges as an unflinchingly honest depiction of her country’s racial psychosis.

Kathryn Lloyd

From the Archive: A 21st Century Portrait

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'Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait’, a collaborative creation by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, is a recording of a full-length, average football match between Real Madrid and Villarreal in 2005. However, the cameras intently follow a single player rather than the game, providing - as the title asserts – a ‘portrait’ of the legendary footballer and iconic figure Zinédine Zidane. This ambitious ninety-minute footage blurs the boundaries of film, art and even entertainment, and pushes the genre of portraiture in a cinematic direction.

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From the Archive: Interview with Artist Tamsyn Challenger on 400 Women

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4th August – 4th September 2011

Canongate Venture, 5 New Street, Edinburgh

First it was the author, then art itself (tricky), then painting, and now even emotions are kicking the art-world bucket. Shame is dead - or so proclaim some recent artistic productions. The argument goes something like: the ruling discourse (consumerism) forbids us to feel shame; profanity is impossible as there has been a leveling out across culture to include the profane. We therefore accept into the sphere of culture with no religious or puritan discernment, pleasure at every opportunity.

Against this claim, however, stands 400 Women: Five years work (mostly in isolation) towards the production of 175 portraits of raped and murdered girls and women from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico by 175 different artists invited to contribute. Its creator, Tamsyn Challenger, attributes all this action to an initial feeling of intense shame which sparked the project. Travelling alone in Mexico, Challenger met Consuelo Valenzuela, a women whose daughter, Julieta, had gone missing at the age of 17: ‘When I was just about to leave her she pushed these postcards with a picture of her daughter on them into my hands. The translator was shouting, “she wants you to give these to anyone, anyone you know, so that she might be found!” It was quite a scene she created, we were in a public place, and I felt very frightened…I didn’t take the postcards. Almost immediately after that I felt a horrible sick, sick sort of a shame at the fact that I had just wanted to get away from this woman.’

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Line likes Aaron Angell and Jack Bilbo in Woman Expecting Triplets Returning Home From the Cinema, running from 9th November - 5th December at SWG3 Gallery, Glasgow.
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“Aaron Angell will present six new paintings made in conjunction with the displaying of archival works on paper from Jack Bilbo, many of which have not been seen for around forty years since being saved from the late artist’s sinking houseboat. 
This show will be the second of the ongoing series Folklore Contemporain exploring how contemporary artists draw their inspiration from legends, popular beliefs, customs and traditions of different cultures to appropriate them and create new myths and new crafts. “

Line likes Aaron Angell and Jack Bilbo in Woman Expecting Triplets Returning Home From the Cinema, running from 9th November - 5th December at SWG3 Gallery, Glasgow.

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Aaron Angell will present six new paintings made in conjunction with the displaying of archival works on paper from Jack Bilbo, many of which have not been seen for around forty years since being saved from the late artist’s sinking houseboat. 


This show will be the second of the ongoing series Folklore Contemporain exploring how contemporary artists draw their inspiration from legends, popular beliefs, customs and traditions of different cultures to appropriate them and create new myths and new crafts. “

Installation views of Matt Welch, Lossy Accent at The Lombard Method

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Image courtesy of The Lombard Method