notes and notices

notes and notices are short and curt reviews of exhibitions at (mostly) London galleries.

  • Xie Nanxing, Hello, Portrait! at Thomas Dane ★★★★☆

    Xie Nanxing

    Hello, Portrait!


    On until 16 December 2023

    At the very first glance, Xie’s sizeable canvasses look like the kind of crass abstractions that routinely fill the walls of galleries in need of a cashflow injection. A moment later – and this says nothing of the work’s commercial allure – they reveal a clef, a code by which one finds that they are, in fact, portraits of figures lost between brushstrokes, renders, and planes.

    Looking at these paintings is a little like wearing an augmented reality headset over only one eye: here is the figure, here is the artefact. This one is lost in a canvas within a canvas. Another one you only know from a laptop screen. That one is how you’ll dream when your data plan runs out.

  • Nick Relph, Fils, ta vision! at Herald St ★☆☆☆☆

    Nick Relph

    Fils, ta vision!


    On until 28 October 2023

    There’s joy in geometry. To make his tableaux, Relph poked circular and rectangular holes in packaging cardboard he found in the alley behind a Manhattan Comme de Garçons store. He added to this some stickers and stencils and thus made the perfect wall decoration for a graphic designer’s dining room. But there’s little for the eye to hang on and none of the punk culture of Relph’s earlier practice emerges from the works. Is the clothing brand iconic or ironic? Why is the cardboard so clean? It would be more fun to play with a child’s wooden shapes toy – a close relative of these plates – than to figure this out.

  • Siobhan Liddell, Been and Gone at Hollybush Gardens ★★☆☆☆

    Siobhan Liddell

    Been and Gone


    On until 21 October 2023

    A green mountainside, the white cliffs of Dover, an enchanted forest at night, a cat hiding behind the curtains. A small canvas with a dramatic seascape seen through a sash window has little fabric drapes pinned on it. A ceramic rendering of a human ear dangles over an oil stamped with a brick pattern as though to make a rebus. Teacups, shoe laces, and (of course) mushrooms stick out from other paintings. 

    Liddel mixes perspectives and scales and she tries to measure the permanence of mountains with the length of a cigarette. Her subjects want to be at once grand and mundane. But they aren’t. Add to this some abstractions with titles like Between Worlds and these are very mixed messages. When Liddel applies her material tricks to them indiscriminately, the result is the twee aesthetics native to a grandmother’s mantlepiece collection of tourist souvenirs and devotional figurines. That’s not a bad perspective, but the works neither elevate, nor challenge it.

  • Odoteres Ricardo de Ozias at David Zwirner ★★★☆☆

    Odoteres Ricardo de Ozias


    On until 29 September 2023

    The art world will never run out of ‘outsider’ artists to bring into the fold. The fun is to guess the criteria. Was the artist a natural truth-seer? A village shaman? Or just quirkily crazy?

    With Odoteres Ricardo de Ozias, it could be all the above. The canvases are uniform in size, their colours from that vibrant ‘folk’ pallet, and many depict carnivals or acts of fervent religious worship. Perhaps this is what happens when a Brazilian railway clerk turns evangelical preacher. These images are all perfectly charming even to a viewer possessed of a cold anthropological eye. 

    The troubling part is in realising just how far ‘outside’ these ideas are. Angelic visitations and demonic possessions were daily subjects for Ricardo de Ozias, but so were communal gatherings and celebrations. This is the kind of arte povera that could hardly come out of a 21st century art school. 

  • Mandy El-Sayegh, Interiors at Thaddeus Ropac ★★☆☆☆

    Mandy El-Sayegh



    On until 30 September 2023

    Interiors fly-posts the grand civic forms of the Ropac townhouse with sheets from the Financial Times and the Daily Mail and vast expanses of poured latex. Everything is soft and pastel. A curtain, also dipped in beige latex, isolates an oppressively-filled room. Contours of the continents are discernible underneath the rubber, alongside fragmented of headlines. A cacophonous narrative, an equally discordant video collage. Upstairs, the forms devour the walls, too. Some worn-out carpets compete with another soundtrack. The eye longs for the calmer view outside.

    El-Sayegh says she wanted to replicate Freud’s consulting room and her studio. But for the abundance of material, there simply aren’t enough ideas in the exhibition to go around these Mayfair halls. The show thus looks like a hurried response (all works dated 2023) to a gap (four weeks) in the schedule. Sometimes, access to the resources of a mega-gallery is a curse. By contrast, El-Sayegh’s restrained 2019 Chisenhale exhibition was far more ambitious.

Inspired in form and attitude by Manhattan Art Review.