What's on in London: The house that crashed on Japan and other urban dilemmas

Bacon lithographs at Coskun, Euan Uglow at Browse and Darby and Albers at Waddingtons


Gimpel Fils celebrates the opening of its newly refurbished gallery this month. The space has been completely redesigned by architect Will White, making a much larger upstairs gallery as well as utilising the downstairs space more effectively. The firm gets off to a dynamic start with installation artist Richard Wilson’s “Set North For Japan 74Ý 33’ 2””, on show from 22 March-28 April (see p. 49). This is the title of the sculpture Wilson made for Nakasato Village, Niigata Prefecture, in Western Japan last summer. He created a metal frame reconstruction of his London terraced house and transposed it to the Japanese countryside. He kept the original perpendicular and horizontal orientation of the house so it appears to rise, base first, out of the ground at a crazy angle, or rather to have been lifted into the air and crashed down, roof first, on the other side of the world. For the London show, three large drawings have been mounted on a 12-metre-long industrial pipe, which moves slowly on a roller, and a model of the house is mounted on a pivot.

Jock McFayden, recently signed up by Agnew’s revamped contemporary art department, is the first artist to have a solo exhibition in the new contemporary gallery on Bond Street, until 27 April. This recent work, on a large scale, continues McFadyen’s preoccupation with the gritty urban landscape. Wherever he goes McFayden’s paintings all reflect the same sense of desolation and isolation. In Orkney he paints the deserted landscape; in London, an abandoned council block, and in middle America, a decaying shack beside the highway. The exhibition coincides with the publication of a new book on the artist, Jock McFayden: a book about a painter by David Cohen, published by Lund Humphries (£29.95).

With paintings by Francis Bacon now fetching millions of dollars, there is also strong demand for his lithographs. He made about 20 of these in the late 70s and 80s, all after original paintings. These include such iconic images as “Pope”, “Self-portrait”, “Portrait of John Edwards”, “Bull Fight”, as well as six of his Triptychs, including the “Triptych August 1972” which is in Tate Modern. Coskun Fine Art has organised a comprehensive show of Bacon lithographs from 17 to 30 April, at prices ranging from £3,500 to £9,500.

Ian Welsh’s subject is water and the myriad and complex patterns it makes as it swirls, ebbs and flows. He uses lacquer on aluminium to capture the complex surface of water to great effect. The Chinese and Japanese were the great masters of the art of lacquer and these works have an oriental feel to them. He has abstracted the essence of landscape, the movement of water, echoes of rock surfaces and the reflections of sky. Entitled “Reflections”, his new work is on show at Art First, from 18 April to 17 May.

“Inhabitants of the dream courtyard” is the theme of Irish artist Mark Shield’s latest exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, from 25 April to 24 May. These narrative paintings are moody and reflective, painted in sombre tones as if seen through a mist or veil. The dream sequence describes a series of encounters on a winter journey. Figures seem to be waiting for answers, reflecting on the past and anticipating future events. A dead winter landscape sets the stage for this melancholic, sleepwalker’s world.

Shield’s first exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery concentrated on detailed still lifes influenced by the Old Masters. A move to the country prompted a change to a more narrative style of which this, his third show, is the culmination.

Simon Palmer’s wonderfully eccentric and enigmatic paintings are on show for a week only with James Huntington-Whiteley at Gallery 27, from 23 to 28. Palmer continues the tradition of English Romantic landscape painting, begun by his namesake Samuel Palmer. He paints the landscape of his native Yorkshire, but the geography is adapted and manipulated to exploit the artist’s sense of story-telling. Against towering trees and distant landscapes, filled with the minute details of rural life, Brueghelian figures carry out absurd tasks. Palmer has a wicked sense of humour and all is not what it seems in these fairytale landscapes, as figures gather in a harvest of snow in wicker baskets or build bridges over dried-up rivers.

Another artist who draws her inspiration from the landscape, Carole Berman, shows at Rebecca Hossack Gallery until 7 April. The show is the result of a four-year sojourn in Israel and presents her most powerful work to date. She abstracts the essence of the landscape, rather than recording a place, and is inspired by its light, atmosphere and in the case of Israel, its Biblical history. Entitled “The enclosed tree”, the work is reflective and filled with a strong sense of spiritual yearning.

Before his death in August last year, Euan Uglow had been planning the exhibition, “The night paintings” which takes place at Browse & Darby from 19 April to 31 May. Uglow very rarely painted by artificial light, believing that, “when the light is right by day, you are really conscious of heightens the tension...”. The 17 paintings in this exhibition cover his entire output, spanning 40 years, from “Nude in a corner” of 1961, to his last completed work, the model Nuria kneeling with her torso draped over a bench. This response to Monet’s “Bridge at Giverny” was painted as part of the National Gallery’s exhibition, “Encounters: new art from old”. Obsessed with the structure and mathematics of composition, Uglow was a great admirer of Poussin’s work. He travelled to the Musée Condé in Chantilly to study Poussin’s “Massacre of the Innocents”, even climbing the guard rail to measure it exactly. The exhibition includes his own version of the subject. The distorted postures of the women, and their agony, captivated his imagination. Uglow’s other subjects are more familiar: female nudes in tortured poses against a very structured background. The artificial light, however, adds a harshness and greater contrast to the flesh tones.

Josef Albers fled from the Nazis to America, where he became a major figure in the New York art scene. He applied rigid geometric principles to his work: now, 20 paintings for the “Hommage to the Square” series, for which he is best known, go on show at Waddington, from 28 March to 21 April. The format of these paintings consists of three or four nested squares. With their carefully worked-out colour tones they show how tint changes in relation to the surrounding colour. Despite the paintings’ rigid structure, Albers intended colour to be seen as a metaphor for human relationships and not just as rigidly structured geometric patterns. With the paintings are biographical photographs and photo-collages. They include portraits of Paul Klee and Kandinsky and records of his travels in Europe and Mexico. u Jonathan Clark stages a retrospective exhibition of works by Kenneth Armitage, one of Britain’s leading sculptors, who, at 84, is still making full-scale works with as much vigour and imagination as ever. Trained as a painter, Kenneth Armitage has always seen drawing as an end in itself and not merely as a process of sketching for sculpture. The exhibition shows 20 sculptures, combined with contemporary drawings, which show how he moved between the two media. Armitage’s main subject has always been the human figure, and his drawings have an instantaneous and fluid dynamism to them. In his manipulation of the human form, he can be seen as one of the key figures in British sculpture, providing a link between the figuration of Henry Moore and the pure abstraction of Antony Caro.

In his latest show at Beaux Arts, until 7 April, David Leapman’s painting has moved on substantially. He is still using the same brilliantly coloured industrial paints and hard edged figuration, but has also introduced mirror flakes and diamond dust, giving a textured background to some of the work. The carefully chosen imagery has a new edge to it. Many of the works appear strangely metamorphic, they float on the picture surface and although fully resolved give the impression they could reform in an entirely different way in an instant. There is less humour in this work and more searching, and one wonders quite where Leapman’s artistic journey will finally end.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'The house that crashed on Japan'