The London art world has spent the summer in a slumber and we’re itching for the autumn exhibition season now the curators have recovered from their champagne hangovers. September brings a whole host of arty extravaganza, from volcano ash to psychedelic textile wallhangings, sugar infused oil paintings and bizarre hybrid beasts. Before you hit these up, double check the opening date, or you eager beavers could be left wailing on the gallery doorstep, and that could be awkward.
Emma Stibbon: Volcano at Alan Cristea
A contingent landscape
Feeling sensitive from the weekend’s drinking? Beware: this exhibition may leave you feeling small and insignificant. Stibbon spent some time hanging around active volcanoes in Hawaii, before returning to the UK to work on this collection of monochromatic works, made using ink, watercolour and even volcanic ash to depict these dormant fire breathing monsters.
Stibbon worked from photographic records of eruptions and rivers of molten lava to create these stark and lonely landscapes, capturing the sense of impending doom and momentary beauty. Her monumental woodblock print, ‘Caldera Overlook,’ depicts a lush rainforest glowing under the warmth of a volcanic crater, serving as a positive reminder that it ain’t all that bad. Ish.
Cig Harvey: Holding the Blue at Beetles & Huxley
Mysticism in the mundane
‘I want my photographs to be a jolt. They explore a magic in the world while having one foot very much placed in reality’.
Next time you’re feeling a little swamped by the metropolis, try to channel Harvey who has an uncanny ability to find ‘mysticism in the mundane’. A true visual storyteller, Cig Harvey is an East Coast photographer known for her surreal images of family life in the countryside.
Her raw, heightened awareness of nature translates into mesmerising, ethereal portraits where we see the crushing of scarlet berries, sun dappled skin, and playful interactions with butterflies and violet petals. A sensory experience, this exhibition demonstrates how humans can have a delicate connection with nature without damaging it – bound to inspire some running through wheat fields, or something.
Hybrid at Purdy Hicks
Exploring Human Complexities
We’re all hybrids in our own, special kinda way, but this exhibition goes a little further than that. Recalling stories of half-human, half-animal creatures, this collection of works by female artists explores the complexities of human nature and the many contradictory quirks which have come to define us.
It’s the hybridity between subject and artistic medium which is especially salient here – like Alice Maher’s use of dainty watercolours to depict unnerving monsters, Sally Smart’s use of materials associated with ‘female craft’ to unravel gender roles, or Nilbar Güreş’s collages that investigate the awkward merging of place, gender, and social politics. A varied bunch and a strange mix, but the clue’s in the title really.
Richard Stone: Everywhen at Kristin Hjellegjerde
A call to movement
When we think of sculptures, fluidity might not be the first thing that springs to mind, but Richard Stone has a knack for manipulating movement in rigid bronze and marble. Swirling birds mid-flight, a crumpled flag and figures in flux all add to the sense that we’re witnessing a unique fleeting moment. Stone’s paintings accompany his sculptures, depicting scenes of ‘English dreaming’, from a forest’s rippling light to spitting sea spray, tumbling autumn leaves, winding ivy and solid oak trees.
Our favourite is ‘Holding on to the end of history’; a well thought-out mess comprising two dynamic bird forms clashing beaks but preening feathers, representing love, hate and life all at once. So don’t just stand there looking dumbfounded, off you go.
Suzan Frecon at David Zwirner
The quiet of colour
Have you been zipping around elbowing tourists all day? We have the cure to help you slow down and switch off. Frecon is the master of the slow artistic process and this exhibition invites the visitors to slither from one sleepy piece to the next, treating the whole collection as a meditative experience.
A kind of winey Rothko, Frecon is able to make a booming effect simply with one or two shapes – often arches – and a basic colour palette with natural, soothing tones. Trust us – it works. You can easily spend hours here so we recommend going by yourself so you can zone out and delve deep into the quiet of colour.
From Folkestone to Cornwall at Highgate Contemporary Art
Gritty textual effects
We might associate the English coast with drizzly family holidays and failed camping trips but these artists have drawn huge inspiration from our tepid seas. This exhibition explores how two artists have translated our rugged landscapes into abstract canvases laden thick with paint and texture.
It seems Sam Peacock looks no further than his kitchen cupboard when finding materials as he builds layers upon layers of ground coffee, liquorice and sugar, all blended together with oil paint. Hannah Ivory Baker’s landscapes are also multilayered, awash with loose, frantic marks, creating earthy charcoal vistas full of depth and atmosphere. Both artists produce a gritty textural effect, so you’ll want to go and gawp in person.
Samantha Bittman: Shift at the Ronchini Gallery
Revealing visual phenomena
We love any art that sends our head in a spin, and these textile optical illusions from Samantha Bittman will leave you deliciously dizzy. Through a fascinating creative process, all of Bittman’s pieces are weaved by hand before she embeds acrylic onto each thread, merging textile and paint to create kaleidoscopic wall pieces that will draw you in.
Taking inspiration from the great Agnes Martin, this exhibition asks: ‘How much do we really assimilate everyday?’ Creating a consuming experience, Bittman wants to reveal visual phenomena without gimmicks, using basic shapes, symmetrical layouts, and pared-down colour palettes. A real workout for the old eyeballs, this exhibition tests our ability to really digest what’s in front of us.