London, Dec 2011

© Wilhelm Sasnal
© Gerhard Richter
© Oliver Michaels
© Alex Hartley
© Hashem el Madani/Akram Zaatari

The Whitechapel - which recently held a retrospective of Paul Graham's photography - now oddly bemoans the recent 'deluge of photographic images' in presenting the work of painter Wilhelm Sasnal who, they explain, exhibits the 'continuous spellbinding power of painting'. That photography is still spoken of in such a dismissive manner is both a reminder of how out of touch some curators at our key arts establishments are - but even more strangely fails to acknowledge that the work of Sasnal is enriched (and indebted) to a clear photographic sensibility. On the other hand, and to their credit, this is a seriously satisfying and varied exhibition. One highlight being the early 90's 3 minute long 'No Touch' super-8 (video conversion) where an ominous ink drop in water blooms downwards, through double exposure, into a pale suburban sky. There is apocalyptic menace and simple wonderment - with the added bonus of mesmeric grunge backing.

(Until 1st Jan 2012)


Over at Tate Modern the Gerhard Richter retrospective similarly reveals how addressing photography is often fundamental to a contemporary painter's practice, and can be a theme developed throughout decades of work. The early photo-inspired images here are based on the artifacting of photos transmitted at that time over analogue telephone lines whereby they were reduced to a series of faltering horizontal lines on output to print. Richter's resulting painted interpretations find a curious intimacy amid the technical dis-engagement. Similarly, the later colour images still gratefully accept the peculiar limitations that occur when the world is transmuted photographically, going so far as to include the slight odd colour casts that are a consequence of emulsions and chemical processes failing to correctly depict a scene faithfully - the resulting inadequacies now depicted faithfully by the painter.

(Until 8th Jan 2012)


Uncertain States collective have just launched a salon styled exhibition space at the Quarters Cafe, Highgate to go with their quarterly retro-styled publication, with an emphasis on the psychological and theoretical in UK photography. The Four Corners at Bethnal Green with group show 'Closer to Something' covers strikingly similar territory. But that deluge spoken of at Aldgate East has started to sputter out as there isn't such a huge amount of photography on show in London at the moment.

Lens-artist Oliver Michaels at the Cole Gallery revists Michael Snow and various obscure 70's film-makers with the use of cameras set to track (mostly by themselves) through various domestic scenes in the US and UK, traversing gardens and bathrooms and capturing the sense of a place in a satisfyingly slow and detached 50 minute montage of mechanical trajectories.

(Until 17th Dec 2011)


Also combining the homely with the arty, the Victoria Miro actually has artist Alex Hartley shacking up in a tiny geodesic dome in their back yard, while his photo exploration of remote habitats is displayed over two floors in their voluminous gallery space. A thin wisp of blue woodsmoke in the cold winter air outside indicated that he may well have been in, and probably carving a bit of wood. His prints are a nerd-alternative to most of the post-photography around, which depends on the malleability of digitial files to software intervention. Instead he incorporates slight sculptural additions that emerge from (and occasionally burrow into) the print surface.

(Until 21st Jan 2012)


One good thing about the Tate's 21st Century conversion to photography as an art form is their year long ever changing 'look, we have now got photography on all the time' show. At the moment as well as some massive Mitch Epstein colour prints and some more modestly sized (and themed) Boris Mikhailov's there is a re-presenting of Hashem el Madani's Middle East portraiture. Akram Zaatari digs through the archive and finds some thoughtful insights. The story behind those negatives scratched with a pin is that of a possessive husband who arrived to demand they be destroyed when he heard his wife had been to el Madani's studio. Then years later - after her suicide - he returned once more, this time seeking those same images.