John Piper, 'Rocks at Capel Curig', c.1950. © The John Piper Estate John Piper: The Mountains of Wales
Whitworth, until 7 April 2013
The University of Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery has just opened a show focused on British artist John Piper’s paintings of North Wales’ landscapes, bringing together the collection’s majestic watercolour The Slopes of Glyder Fawr (1947) – in which one can feel the palpable texture of the rock, the vertiginous height of the ridges – with pieces from a private collection. Previously Piper had painted the lowlands, but sent to Snowdonia in 1943 by the War Artists Advisory Committee, he found an environment that set artistic challenges worthy of his skill.
Institute of Contemporary Arts, until 17 March
A survey of the work of German-born photographer Juergen Teller has just gone on view at the ICA. Teller came to prominence in the 1990s for his ultra-informal photographs that reset the criteria for successful celebrity or fashion photographs; rather than use artificial lights, make-up and careful composition to capture a subject at ‘their best’, he just went ahead and snapped off-the-cuff with his handheld, creating the kind of shot that someone might take of their friend, and giving the viewer that same sense of intimacy.
Juergen Teller, 'Kate Moss, No.12, Gloucestershire', 2010. © Juergen Teller
The anti-aesthetic aesthetic of Teller and his contemporaries became the default for magazines like I-D and The Face, so much so that it soon lost its shock value. Now two decades have past, it will be interesting to reevaluate his early work, and see how his photography has developed in more recent years.
Kurt Schwitters, 'En Morn', 1947. © Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris / DACS 2012. Schwitters in Britain
Tate Britain, 30 January - 12 May 2013
Hanover-born Kurt Schwitters, one of the great artists of the first half of the twentieth century, fled from Nazi Germany to Britain in 1940, spending the last eight years of his life here – Tate Britain stages the first survey of this period in Schwitters’ career from Wednesday.
His work stands close to several avant-gardist art strands: Dada, in idiosyncratic collages of found material; Constructivism, in angular assemblages reminiscent of the work of Russians like El Lissitzky; and site-specific installation art, in his ahead-of-their-time ‘Merzbau’ works, in which interiors were transformed into geometric sculptural environments comprised of wood, cardboard and metal constructions.
Tessa Traeger: Chemistry of Light
Purdy Hicks, until 21 February 2013
Distinguished British photographer Tessa Traeger – who since the 1970s has gained acclaim for her large-format still-lifes, particularly of food – reaches back into the past in her new exhibition at London’s Purdy Hicks gallery.
Tessa Traeger, 'Chemistry of Light No 8', Glass negative c.1890. 12 x 10 in. Silver gelatin emulsion in decay 2012. Edition of 8 gilclee print 42 x 59.4cm.
Traeger has lit and enlarged the decayed, late-nineteenth-century negatives of one of her descendants (her grandmother’s cousin, an amateur photographer) to alluring effect; thanks to fungus and chemical action, a seaside scene, for example, has become heightened by a lush, watery background.
Sadie Coles, until 16 March 2013
Sadie Coles HQ from this week shows an interesting installation of works by British artist Angus Fairhurst, an early and influential member of the YBA scene who died before his time in 2008.
Installation View, Angus Fairhurst, Un-titled, SCHQ, London, 24 January – 16 March 2013 xv Copyright the Estate of Angus Fairhurst, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
The centrepiece of the show is a room wallpapered with black-and-white images of Epping Forest taken from his silkscreen series ‘Underdone/Overdone’ (1998); the woodland is reflected in the mirrored surfaces of three representations of ponds on the floor.
Helen Marten, Plank Salad, exhibition view, Chisenhale Gallery, 2012. Photo: Andy Keate. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery. Last chance: Helen Marten
Chisenhale Gallery, until 27 January 2013
Tastemakers are tipping Macclesfield-born, London-based artist Helen Marten for great things in the future, on the evidence of her exhibition at London’s Chisenhale Gallery, which closes on Sunday. A multidisciplinary artist still in her 20s, Marten has been acclaimed for her ability to weave a rich web of associations between disparate things (and the thoughts they evoke), from assemblages of found objects to paintings, sculptures, printed material and texts.
Richard Wentworth 'South East Spain', 2007, 2013. C print. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery. Richard Wentworth
Lisson Gallery, 30 January - 2 March 2013
Richard Wentworth is one of an older generation of British artists whose attention to the readymade has helped create the climate for the success of younger artists such as Marten.
At Lisson Gallery, a series of photographs spotlight how physical objects can relate in everyday life, from a plank holding up a door in Beijing to a supermarket flyer wedged in a venetian blind in Spain.
A site-specific work in the gallery, involving an undulating steel chain hung from the ceiling, promises to play with the viewer’s perceptions of gravity and space.
Eva Hesse, 'Oomamaboomba', May 1965. Tempera, enamel, rope, cord, metal, modeling compound (glue plaster, wood shavings), particle board, wood. 56 x 65 x 13 cm / 22 x 25 5/8 x 5 1/8 in. Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland. Photo: Abby Robinson, New York. © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Eva Hesse 1965
Hauser & Wirth London, Savile Row, 30 January - 9 March 2013
Another inspiring artist fascinated by objects and the substances that comprise them was Eva Hesse, a German-born American attuned to the expressive, often absurdist character of materials. A show at Savile Row’s Hauser & Wirth examines a pivotal year in her artistic life, when she was artist-in-residence in Kettwig, Germany, thanks to the support of a local industrialist. During this period Hesse movement away from painting and drawing towards collage and sculpture; in Oomamaboomba (1965), in which a curved pink cord comes out from the picture plane, she moves from two to three dimensions in one work.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine