There’s always a back-to-school feeling when September comes round, no matter how long ago you closed that chapter; it brings a certain feeling of dread and sweaty-palmed anxiety, and the peculiar impulse that you should buy a pencil case. Most gallerists no doubt have the same feeling; after a long summer closure, poor souls are forced back to dust down the artworks and open up their doors.
Autumn in London in terms of shows can by now be loosely divided into two categories, opening BF (“Before Frieze”) and AF (“After Frieze”). You definitely don’t want to be “during Frieze”. The international art fair has had such a catastrophic effect that there is a paucity of interesting shows over the next few months in London, either erring towards the highly conceptual or going the other way and entirely missing the mark. Any wise gallery will surely save their best shows for the New Year. I hope.
Still, having trawled the slim pickings there are some thrills, and a motif of rebellion and bright colours in some of the best shows opening across the city in the next three months. Here are some of them.
Steve Whittle, 'Forest I', Collage on paper; Courtesy of the artist.
For bright Autumnal colours, opening “BF” is Double Vision, a resplendent and kaleidoscopic joint show by two emerging artists whose work is united by their consideration of colour. Brian Parker, who uses acrylic on board, and Steve Whittle, using collage, create graphic-inspired work: expect bold, chromatic pieces inspired by landscapes and multicoloured, abstract visions of the world around us.
I am personally happy that Tatsuo Miyajima returns to the Lisson gallery for a third solo exhibition. Miyajima is one of the artists Lisson has netted that I’m affectionate about; prismatic LED installation and sculptures are just what you want to see as the nights draw in. Entitled I-Model, the show is the result of collaboration with Professor Takashi Ikegami from the University of Tokyo and an expert in artificial life. Three brand new “immersive and interactive” bodies of work will be presented, one of which will fill an entire gallery at 52-54 Bell Street, and is comprised of a domed constellation of lights in a dark purpose-built chamber, for one viewer to enter at a time. Inspired by the artist’s Buddhist philosophies, the installation will encourage a moment of meditation and reflection in the heart of the metropolis. Blurring spirituality, science and art and creating accessible pieces that vibrate with life. Can’t wait.
Tatsuo Miyajima, Life Palace (Tea Room), 2013; Photo by Nobutada Omote / Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.
Past the obvious appeal of bright lights and colour, there’s also an undercurrent of dissidence in this Autumn’s exhibitions – and surprisingly the most rebellious are taking place at the institutions.
East is a new exploration of Psychedelic Art at Raven Row from 26 September, which will attempt to reassess the concerns and outcome of this often-overlooked genre. Reflections from Damaged Life is curated by Lars Bang Larsen, and includes works from Japan, Scandinavia, Europe and Latin America from the 50s to today.
The spirit of rebellious youth is also embodied in Sarah Lucas: Situation, a broad presentation of the riotous artist’s works in photography, installation and sculpture from the 1990s up to more recent works of… flying penises. A comrade of Tracey Emin and well-respected YBA, Lucas’ iconoclastic work continues to fascinate the fleets; it’ll surely be fun and full of "sleb" visitors.
Perhaps the highlight of the whole season opens at the British Museum on 3rd October. One of their most audacious shows to date, Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art comes with an age restriction and will present a fascinating array of "shunga" (Japanese Erotic Art, literally meaning “Spring Picture”, a jovial euphemism indeed) from the mysterious Edo period (1603 to 1867, two and a half centuries in Japanese history when the entire country was sealed off from the outside world). The show, which includes work by seminal artists such as Eisen, Hokusai and Kunisada, is going to be an unmissable chance to see some very rare and important art that has inspired reams of artists from Degas to Picasso to Toulouse-Lautrec. We are almost squealing with delight at the idea of it, and the fact it’s happening at the British Museum just adds to the naughtiness of it all.
[Image on top: Torii Kiyonaga, detail taken from Sode no maki (Handscroll for the Sleeve), c.1785; © The Trustees of the British Museum.]