Wandering and Wondering, 2016 © Stanley Whitney, co. of Lisson Gallery, London.


It has been a wonderful exhibitionStanley Whitney: Radical Times” at the Lisson Gallery, London.

With Radical Times, the painter Stanley Whitney was at its first exhibition in London, promoted by the Lisson Gallery.

Whitney exhibited a series of oil paintings and gouache on paper works made over the last few months and enthused by various sources, including global events, literature and music.

The exhibition name Radical Times comes from one of the new painting on display, which topic is related to the political and social chaos and to the considerable events we are experiencing today.

Another interesting work on show was Deep Water. This painting was made while the artists observed migrants coming to Greece escaping from the dreadful Middle East war zone.

Other works like Wandering and Wondering (2016), Nightlife and Dreamtime (2016) focused on holiday time, contemplation and relax in a contraposition with the hectic nature of life.

According to the personal style of the artist, the paintings on show at the Lisson Gallery of London were made following a repetitive pattern of colours, based on the use of a freely painted grid. His works rely on the visual impact on the value and saturation of colour.

Stanley Whitney uses contrasting colours to bring to mind liaisons, but they can be similar or discordant. It is abstract composition made up of coloured blocks and lines typically in three or more stacks. The juxtaposition between the coloured elements consents to Whitney to play without end. The artist, in fact, has an immeasurable number of options to modify the rectangular shapes by altering dimension, density, transparency and blurring.

However, using the same similar pattern in all his works may brings the eyes of the visitors to disaffection, because spotting the differences is laborious.

The artist has been investigating this approach for almost three decades. His practice of painted tessellation has been constantly refined and he refers to this enhancement process like an athlete training to stay in shape.

Another aspect of the work of Stanley Whitney is its strong connection to music, especially to jazz and African harmonies. He says he practices dance steps before doing canvas. Jazz clubs in Philadelphia and New York pulled him into a multi-ethnic bohemian lifestyle. He also uses a technique called “call and response” to decide which colours set nearby and it is adopted by the musical pattern of the same name.

Considering the rhythm of the works, Whitney quotes the painting Masters together with jazz renowned musicians, such as Charlie Parker or Ornette Coleman. He has often mentioned of the influence that Coleman’s album “The Shape of Jazz to Come” (1959) had on him when still at school.

Stanley Whitney was born in Philadelphia (US) in 1946. He lives and works in New York City and Parma, Italy. He holds a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute as well as an MFA from Yale University and is currently Professor Emeritus of painting and drawing at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia. His major solo exhibition, ‘Dance the Orange’ was at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2015) and he has been included in many group shows such as ‘Nero su Bianco’ at the American Academy in Rome (2015); ‘Outside the Lines: Black in the Abstract’, Contemporary Art Museum of Houston (2014); ‘Reinventing Abstraction: New York Painting in the 1980s’, Cheim & Read, New York (2013) and ‘Utopia Station’ at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003). He has won prizes including the Robert De Niro Sr. Prize in Painting (2011), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Art Award (2010) and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996. Whitney’s work is included in public collections such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.

The exhibition “Stanley Whitney: Radical Times” was at the Lisson Gallery, London, from 20th May until 2nd July 2016. 

Platform for Emerging Arts #11 exhibition at the Leyden Gallery, London.


David Franchi – Wednesday, 21 September 2016

It has been very interesting Platform for Emerging Arts #11 exhibition at the Leyden Gallery, London.

A mixed media exhibition, it displayed six gifted emerging artists for a total of 54 works.

Curators Adriana Cerne & Lindsay Moran personally selected the artists according to their potential and abilities.

The Platform for Emerging Arts series is that it is based upon an open call. The outcome is an exceptional mix of techniques, ideas, knowledge and energy, developing in the distinctive space of the Leyden Gallery, London. Artists on show are at the beginning of their careers. In the past, Leyden Gallery, London, was able to recognise artist who later were critically acclaimed and had commercial success.

Participating artists to Platform for Emerging Arts #11 exhibition were: Rowena Wright; Lottie Murphy; Kaya Tokuhisa; Kit Brown; Liz Bending; and Tina Crawford.

Rowena Wright has an interesting working process, key to understand her sculpture. Although apparently abstract, the artist moves to the figurative and corporeal, by means of the physicality of her work with materials. Her sculptures are the result of her hand- work, while she tries to imprison the abstract form of the body. She said: “If my sheet steel appears fluid and my copper is reminiscent of skin, it indicates to me that my intentions are being realised.” The work ‘Bogman’ (2015) is probably the most interesting piece on display. It is a relevant sculpture of the dead body or a mummy of, possibly, an ancient man found in archaeological researches. It reminds Ötzi, the 5,300 years old mummy of a man, found in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, hence the nickname, near the Similaun Mountain and Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. Although a little spooky, the yellowish mustard colour brings back light perception.

Lottie Murphy is a painter whose inspiration generates from photographs and found images of architecture, landscape and objects. Depicting a bizarre otherworld, she tries to surround with the emerging anxiety. The artist mix urban and rural landscapes into what she describes as ‘edge lands’, free from context and inhabitancy. References are surrealist artists such as Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington. Although she does not depict people, her paintings are loaded with the human symbols of puzzlingly placed chairs, stairs and doorways and other unexplained architectural features where the viewer assumes there is an uncertain human presence.

Reinterpreting the still life genre, Kaya Tokuhisa is a painter with an experience in film-making. Her uncommon work on oil canvases is inspired to conceptual art. The light usage gives back the adequate atmosphere of a particular situation, just as it would on a film set or stage, and her objects take on an anthropomorphic meaning as human characters. Since centuries, pomegranates are a conventional symbol of fertility. However, Kaya Tokuhisa in her ‘Petrified Pomegranates’ alters the significance by giving to them a more physical presence, panicky grouping them together in fear of a knife. 

Experimenting with a new format, Kit Brown displayed work confirmed to be different from his usual installation - sound and video. His new series of tiny wall based pieces may appear ordinary in comparison to his previous work, but nonetheless experimental. The evident straightforwardness of the work is intentional, of course, and it looks at complex thoughts and to incorporate them into a condensed and primary concentrate.

Hosting the political legacy of printmaking, Lizy Bending focused on issues surrounding politics, society, culture and the economy to make them easier to be reached. She mixes print media with the construction of objects. The goal of her work is to provoke debate, using emotive aesthetics that transform socio-political concepts into visually inspiring pieces of art. Inspiring to archive and museum concepts, she makes digital prints that are then altered to be adapted to the displaying physical space.

Tina Crawford uses the sewing machine as her main artistic medium. She depicts outlandish figure s of the skeletal and anatomical forms of both real and mythological creatures. Despite being considered a modest technique, the artist’s potent images give an idea of the possibilities that the sewing machine can have. Sewing machine can be used by an intuitive and skilled artist, like Crawford who has had a successful career in free embroidery illustration, designing pieces for clients such as Shakespeare’s Globe, Kew Gardens and the Museum of London.

The exhibition Platform for Emerging Arts #11 was at the Leyden Gallery, Liverpool Street, London, from 20th until 30th July 2016. 


David Franchi – Saturday, 23th July 2016.

Confessional 2016 © Stephen Newton, co. Art Bermondsey Project Space, London.

Confessional 2016 © Stephen Newton, co. Art Bermondsey Project Space, London.

It has been an involving exhibition “Abstract Realism” by Stephen Newton, at the Art Bermondsey Project Space, London.

Stephen Newton is a revered painter and drawer whose exploration of human psyche connected to art is very interesting.

He is committed to a consistent theoretical position. His approach has been object of academic papers, lectures and publication.

About its work, Stephen Newtonfocuses on the creative process from a point of view that mixes the corporeal and the cerebral parts, exploring the fundamental primitive nature by using primeval images of immense power. His compositions are rarefied, using large fields showing the materiality of colours, on a canvas that has symbolic figures and signs. His skilled technique is quite physical.

Usually, Newton’s works reflect the common contemporary issues of human beings: a sense of isolation, unawareness, scantiness and fragility. The images and symbols of the works, for example a door or a chair, propose a vague salvation.

The work of Stephen Newton is inspired by the cave painting. Therefore, it refers to the archaic meanings, the ancestral human needs that have been lost with the civilisation. Pre-historic humans were not involved in the contemporary life emptiness, but rather tried to build up relationships between individuals themselves, the surrounding environment and the unknown transcendent. The birth of society would bring more rules and less psychological introspection – Roman’s maxim Ubi societas ibi ius gives a clue.

The exhibition “Abstract Realism” was almost on his recent work, with few pieces from way back.

The exhibition “Abstract Realism” at the Art Bermondsey Project Space inLondon, showed Newton’s twenty year long sophisticated investigation on psychoanalysis and psychometric of art.

Connected to primitive manic symbols, “Abstract Realism” evoked subconscious spirituality by absorbing loneliness, disassociation, defeat, panic, degradation, etc. For example, these conditions are represented by a vacant room or an empty chair, however connecting to the visitors through symbolic stairs, or an open door or a window or a mirror. These two spaces were often divided by a dichotomy line which could represent a horizon, or the yin and the yang, or the good and the evil, etc.

Stephen Newton is born in Grimsby in 1948. He holds a number of academic titles, including an MA in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University (1986), an MA in Art and Psychotherapy from the University of Sheffield (1993) and a PhD in the psychoanalysis of the creative process, Department Of Psychiatry, University of Sheffield (1998). In 1998 Newton was appointed Visiting Lecturer, School of Art, University of Sunderland and Visiting Professor, University of Northumbria at Newcastle. In 1999 he was appointed Visiting lecturer, Centre for Psychoanalytical Studies, University of Essex and in 2010 Visiting Lecturer, University of Lincoln.

His work has been exhibited across the UK. He has published two books; ‘Painting, Psychoanalysis, and Spirituality’ published by Cambridge University Press (2001) and ‘Art & Ritual: A Painter’s Journey’ published by Ziggurat Books International (2008).

The exhibition “Abstract Realism”, by Stephen Newton, was at the Art Bermondsey Project Space, London, from 18th May until 26th June 2016.


David Franchi – Thursday, 21 July 2016.

Free as a bird © Alexander Lumsden, ph. co. Orion Contemporary and Fiumano Projects Gallery

Free as a bird © Alexander Lumsden, ph. co. Orion Contemporary and Fiumano Projects Gallery

The interesting exhibition “Responses: Great Tits (Parus Major)” was at the Fiumano Projects gallery, organised by Orion Contemporary, London.

It has been a show made as reply by Sarah Lederman and Alexander Lumsden. The artists were inspired by two 1930s paintings by Swedish artist Mosse Stoopendaal.

They were invited to respond unreservedly to Stoopendaal’s works, unrestrained by curatorial tendencies and with no limits. By keeping in account their individual practices and interpretations, Lederman and Lumsden have created artistic replies to paintings of Magpies examination (Pica Pica) and Great Tits (Parus Major).

Alexander Lumsden proposed sculptures of contemporary immigrants, wrapped in their sleeping bags, representing their isolation, and the incapacity of our society to respond to these crises.

Lumsden referred to the 13th century Persian version of the spiritual ode ‘The Elephant in the Dark Room’ by Maulána Jalálu-d’-Dín Muhammad i Rúmí. The story has a moral for individuals: each person responding individually to a situation inevitably creates conflicts instead of resolving problems.

This reinforces the artistic credo of Lumsden that is “the figures could be anyone, and in a way become everyone.”

The response of Lumsden was mirrored in the juxtaposition to the collaborative birds – magpies and great tits – that are not migratory birds but still are borderless.

This part of his oeuvre showed Lumsden’s concern that “unlike the animal kingdom, our world is filled with defined borders and regulations, which have forever changed the pattern of human migration and ultimately our ability to relate to one another.”

Sarah Lederman mirrored the pure colours of Stoopendaal. She has an artistic practice, which is strongly based in the

Tic Tac Toe © SArah Lederman. ph. co. Orion Contemporary and Fiumano Projects Gallery, London

Tic Tac Toe © SArah Lederman. ph. co. Orion Contemporary and Fiumano Projects Gallery, London

materiality of paint she mostly applies to canvases. Differently from Lumsden, Lederman presented her work has a common thread with Stoopendaal´s artistic output. She also depicted animals in her paintings but as she explains, they are more close to “Small creatures [that] crawl across the body of the paintings looking for something to suckle on”.

In the Lederman paintings, we find the contrasts. Apparently quiet, her paintings are inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts, Japanese ‘shunga’ prints and traditional representations of femininity. She examines the materiality of paint to make compositions where the female body is fluid, liberated, and out of control. She changed her focuses of female body, but for this exhibition made a fine investigation of femininity.

Founded in 2008, Orion Contemporary gallery is run by Swedish Andrés Olow Clase. Recently, it achieved a semi-permanent base within Fiumano Projects space, King´s Cross, London. The gallery programme focuses on promoting young and emerging artists with a strong focus on Nordic art.

Sarah Lederman graduated (BA) from Chelsea College of Art in 2008. She was first shown by Orion Contemporary the same autumn. She has since been awarded the Catlin Art Prize (2009), won various artist residencies and completed her MA in Fine Arts at Goldsmiths College (2014). Her practice is featured in the ‘Mirrors to Windows: The Artist as Woman’ film.  This was screened to sell out audiences at the Freud Museum and National Portrait Gallery in January 2016.

Alexander Lumsden arrived back in the UK in 2011 after four years in Argentina and the Dominican Republic. In 2012, he was the Daler Rowney Artist in Residence whilst 2014 saw him return to his native Gothenburg. The exhibition Responses sees his work elevated into a fully global context.

From 19th until 31st May 2016, the exhibition “Responses: Great Tits (Parus Major)” was at the Fiumano Projects, organised by Orion Contemporary gallery, London.