Kevin Francis Gray, Taylor Wessing, and Antony Gormley RA

Our pick of this week's art events

Published 26 January 2014

From photographic portraits to artists’ museums: everything worth seeing this week.

  • Kevin Francis Gray

    Pace London, 20 November - 24 January 2014
    Figurative sculpture takes unexpected twists in the work of the London-based artist Kevin Francis Gray, whose representations of human heads and bodies is the subject of a show at Pace London from Wednesday.

    While his life-size bronzes of twelve boys, Twelve Chambers (2013), echoes to an extent the work of Rodin – the way, for example, The Burghers of Calais (1889) is a portrait of both a connected group and isolated individuals – Gray’s marbles such as Ballerina (2012) point in a new hyper-real direction. Here the drapery that shrouds the figure’s body is almost liquid in appearance, its slickness closer to a computer visualisation than an antique sculpture.

  •  Kevin Francis Gray

    Kevin Francis Gray

  • Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

    National Portrait Gallery, 14 November - 9 February 2014
    The National Portrait Gallery’s photography prize show comes highly recommended by RA Magazine’s art directors, Steve Fenn and Tom Pollard, who visited the annual exhibition the day it opened this week. For general art and photography lovers as much as editorial designers, the show offers a wonderful overview of the finest portrait photography today – unlike many painting awards, the photography prize does attract contributions by some of the very best in the business. This year’s winning image is Spencer Murphy’s portrait of jump jockey Katie Walsh, in which the mud molecules splattered on her clothes and face seem to represent mental and physical scars someone in her profession suffers.

  • Katie Walsh by Spencer Murphy.

    Katie Walsh by Spencer Murphy.

  • Painting Now

    Tate Britain, 12 November 2013 – 9 February 2014
    Tate Britain’s new exhibition ‘Painting Now’, one would think, would be a huge group show that presented many different contemporary painting practices. But cannily Tate has decided to focus in depth on five artists to take the temperature of the medium today: Tomma Abts, Gillian Carnegie, Simon Ling, Lucy McKenzie and Catherine Story.

  • Tomma Abts, Zebe

    Tomma Abts, Zebe, 2010.

  • The geometric abstracts of Abts have already reached a wide audience, partly thanks to her winning the Turner Prize in 2006, but the other four artists may be discoveries for some readers of this blog. Catherine Story is a former RA Schools student whose paintings are very closely linked – almost indivisible – from her sculptural practice; figurative and abstract objects in oil sometimes find themselves represented in clay, plaster or wood, which is often then painted with acrylic.

  • The Artists’ Museum

    Camden Arts Centre
    I listened this morning to sculptor Antony Gormley RA’s fascinating contribution to The Artists’ Museum, a series of podcasts produced by the Camden Arts Centre in which Camden-based artists pick out five objects, places, views or sounds in the borough, as if the city was a museum collection. For example, after a paen to Parliament Hill, Gormley descends into town to St Pancras Old Church, where he discusses the tree under which a young Thomas Hardy – when charged with excavating the churchyard – grouped gravestones, so that they fan out in pairs almost like roots from its base. Other contributors are Siobhan Davies, Laura Ford, Simon Periton and Richard Wentworth. The audio archive will remain online and be added to over time, and is essential listening for any Londoner.

  • Australia: Contemporary Voices

    Fine Art Society, until 21 December 2013
    One of the most interesting shows to coincide with the Academy’s ‘Australia’ exhibition is the Fine Art Society’s overview of contemporary Australian art practice. There was a period during the 1960s where Australian artists such as Brett Whitely were widely admired in London – one art critic recently recalled to me the predictions that ‘the Australians were coming’ and that they would dominate international art for years to come.

  • Del Kathryn Barton, Wilder Grew Her Song

    Del Kathryn Barton, Wilder Grew Her Song, 2011-12.

  • But it is not controversial to say that in more recent years Australian art has remained towards the periphery of the globalised contemporary art world, which makes the Fine Art Society survey at this time particularly welcome. Participants in the group exhibition include artist duo Sean Cordeiro and Clare Healy, who represented their country at the Venice Biennale in 2009 with one of their large-scale site-specific installations comprised of recycled materials – it will be interesting to see their work on a smaller scale in this show.