Critics’ Picks

  • View of “No realm of thought… No field of vision,” 2020.

    View of “No realm of thought… No field of vision,” 2020.

    Cerith Wyn Evans

    White Cube | Bermondsey
    144 – 152 Bermondsey Street
    February 17–April 19, 2020

    Cerith Wyn Evans may be up to his usual tricks—this gallery’s enfilade is filled with his hallmark white neon and musical chandeliers—but these new percepts retain the dazzling intrigue of the artist’s metaphysical readymaking. The first room is dominated by Still life (In course of arrangement)... VI (all works cited, 2020): A pair of tall, potted trees, their branches and leaves spread out on trellises, gently rotate on turntables, illuminated by two adjacent spotlights that project an ever-evolving eclipse onto the gallery wall. This is surrounded by a quartet of monochrome canvases titled “Indeterminate painting,” wispy Franz Kline homages whose lines skitter and flow across the surface like meandering maps or peculiar flight paths. In the gallery’s “9 x 9 x 9” room, a frenzied, incandescent doodle hangs from the ceiling, an electric sketch of Paul Cornu’s 1907 design for the first functional helicopter and a dramatization of its maiden flight (Fig. (0)). Elsewhere, a series of three smashed glass panel sculptures titled Folds…in shade (also light and shade) leaves recalls Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, 1915–23; the latter’s glass was famously damaged in transit from the Brooklyn Museum, the fracture incorporated into the final work. The splintery panes of Wyn Evans’s tribute similarly map a translucent, rhizomatic trajectory across the glass. Such nods can feel distracting or overly deferent, but what this show lacks in conceptual invention, it makes up for in mesmerism.  

  • View of Vivian Suter's “Tintin's Sofa,” 2020.

    View of Vivian Suter's “Tintin's Sofa,” 2020.

    Vivian Suter

    Camden Arts Centre
    Arkwright Road
    January 17–April 5, 2020

    After her studio in Panajachel, Guatemala, was destroyed by Hurricane Stan in 2005, Vivian Suter began adapting her painting practice to her temperamental environment. She started painting large abstract washes of color outdoors, leaving the unstretched canvases to dry in the jungles near Lake Atitlán. Pigment, house paint, fish glue, rainwater, leaves, mud, and errant marks left by plant and animal life combine to form energetic compositions inspired and manipulated by nature.

    For “Tintin’s Sofa,” the Swiss Argentine artist’s latest exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, scores of these paintings hang in an improvised arrangement, obscuring the gallery architecture with dense canopies of canvas. Nearly two hundred untitled works appear overhead, on walls, in clusters at the center of the room, or staggered across entranceways so that visitors must pass through them. Some hang in tight succession from large racks, like outfits in a walk-in closet. Some are buried in piles laid out around the floor. Others hang outside in Camden Arts Centre’s garden. The paintings themselves depict swirling leaf- and shell-like forms in black, orange, and clay red, or hazy pools of blue, beige, and aquamarine. Others verge on the representational: what might be a Matisse-inspired still life or a brushed outline of Suter’s dog (after whom the show is named).

    Despite its blooming excess, the exhibition is rooted in subtle tension. Surrounded by these canvases, one feels their obdurate weight, gravity, and dangling frayed ends (inseparable from the thought of Suter painting them between downpours and dragging them across wet earth). Yet the artist’s splattered, hasty brushwork imbues her forms with a sense of motion. Some rise like vapor, while one swampy color field, thick with teal and grass-green paint, percolates like a petri dish. As a single composition, “Tintin’s Sofa” describes painting as a kind of refuge, an act of shelter-making as the storm rages on.