diamond geezer

 Friday, October 23, 2015

Week off (Thursday): yellowbluepink (at the Wellcome Collection) (15 Oct -3 Jan)
Have you explored your own inner consciousness recently? Artist Ann Veronica Janssens invites you to do just that with her her latest installation at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road. She's taken an unassuming upper gallery and filled it with white mist, billowing from a vent in the corner of the room. And then she's lit it brightly from above, in yellow and blue and pink, and invited you to step inside. There weren't queues on Thursday morning, but admission is only granted via a limited number of lanyards to ensure that the experience doesn't become overcrowded, so don't always expect to get straight in. Having read all the safety instructions you enter via a pair of double doors, and prepare to discover your inner being.

Initially there's nothing to see but colour, a swirling cloud tinted pink, and the effect is highly disorienting. This is of course the plan, with the artist limiting your senses to an unfamiliar few. Expect to stumble into someone, or to think you're going to, before your eyes and ears learn to make vague sense of what's going on. Beyond the pink is yellow, and if you get to the far end of the room blue - the colours don't appear in the same order as the work's title. Occasionally a misty shadow appears in front of you, probably wielding a mobile phone, because what use is a full-on sensory experience these days if it can't be photographically circulated? On my visit a father had brought his one year-old daughter into the melee to experience the art, and who's to say how her consciousness was affected? In my case I learned quite how many small things are floating in my eye, and to revel in this playground of perception.

Week off (Thursday): The Forever Loop (at the Barbican) (9 Oct - 10 Jan)
The Curve gallery at the Barbican has housed some fairly oddball art - rain control, pendulums, Chinese ephemera, loose finches - but its latest offering is something else. Eddie Peake's installation combines sculpture, video and live action to create an experience that's either uncomfortable or erotic, you decide. Visitors are warned to expect nudity and strong language, which isn't usually available for free in Central London, and the set-up bluntly delivers. I thought there'd be a queue, indeed I thought I'd joined it, but it turned out I was in the line for Hamlet returns (and, alas, didn't end up with a spare Cumberbatch). Instead you'll probably get straight in, past the warnings, to what looks initially like a bit of a maze. Inside the rooms to the right are various small works - Eddie appears to favour acrylic and scrim, and has a penchant for plastic bears. You've seen better, to be frank, but it's not every artist who can get away with combining jelly beans, Lemsip and (ahem) used tissues. There's also a video screen displaying the exhibition's central performance, on 30 minute loop, displayed elsewhere so you need not miss the denouement. It's all relatively normal as modern art goes... until the scantily clad roller skater turns up.

She's on a loop too, a choreographed circuit of the space, weaving in and out of the exhibits and spectators as required. But at least she's wearing something, which is more than can be said for the two other live performers who appear only in a pair of trainers. You might meet them along a corridor, or scampering across the upper scaffolding, but most likely they'll be in the big space down the far end. They strut and pulse, occasionally shouting out in sync with the video, and sometimes give you the eye to see how you'll react to full frontal attention. My experience was four-breasted, but I understand the gender mix isn't always the same and you might be faced by lower hanging fruit. Be warned that should your behaviour be deemed to be making the artistes "uncomfortable" you'll be asked to leave - security asked one old man to follow them out while I was there. Goodness knows what the group of Chinese students made of it all, led into Gomorrah still clutching their presidential flags, but they didn't stay long. I held out for the full half hour, to confirm that the whole audiovisual/theatre loop repeats, and will continue to do so daily until the new year, should you fancy an awkwardly in-your-face performance.

Week off (Thursday): Power Stations (at the Newport Street Gallery) (8 Oct -3 Apr)
If you cut enough dead sheep in half, you can afford to open your own art gallery. Damien Hirst opened his earlier this month in a row of converted scenery workshops in the shadow of a railway viaduct in Vauxhall. It takes some finding, indeed I wandered into completely the wrong gallery on Newport Street to begin with, where I was underwhelmed by a large ball of barbed wire in a mostly empty room. But Hurst's edifice is eminently recognisable once you spot it, a sawtooth repository taking up half the street, with a large exterior electronic billboard that may one day entertain passing commuters. A lot of money's clearly gone into this, but admission will always be free, because Damien has no ulterior motive other than to share his collection of other artists' work.

First up is abstract dauber John Hoyland, born Sheffield 1934, and apparently "one of the most important artists of his generation". His speciality is large geometric canvases, a bit Rothkoesque but with brighter colours and generally a few more shapes. They're not quite once-you've-seen-one-you've-seen-them-all, there is a subtle evolution as the years pass, but I barely lasted ten minutes wandering through. Instead I was much more taken by the building itself, with its lofty white walls and angled skylights, and particularly the stairs. Three spiral staircases link the levels and these are objects of twisted beauty, not least the creamy white brick walls and luscious indented timber handrails. I'd say when you prefer the stairs to the artworks there's something amiss, but the gallery has huge potential, and looks to be an alluring addition to our creative capital.

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