Galleries - May 2011

no 2. This elegant, well-estab- lished space on two floors also mixes a broad range of contem- porary craft with imaginatively curated thematic shows. This month it’s ceramicist Claire Curn- een and textile artist Alice Kettle, both of whose essentially figur- ative work sparks intriguing inter- actions. Meanwhile round the corner in Windmill Street, one of the area’s longest established galleries, Curwen & New Acad- emy (Jill Hutchins and late hus- band John, always part of the local community, opened here in the late 70s) pays tribute to an artist who was likewise associated with the area, watercolourist Glynn Boyd Harte. Dashing, boldly con- ceived work, much of that shown here hitherto unseen. Head north up Charlotte Street, stopping at the first of Rebecca Hossack ’s two spaces in the district at no 28, showing Cybele Young’s work (to 21st) and then the intensely colourful and rich art of the remarkable Gond artists of Madhya Pradesh, before diverting into Tottenham Street and the Début Art & Coningsby Gallery . The shows in these ‘for hire’ spaces are always of an excellent standard, one of them this month, given our opening theme, of especial interest. ‘The Secret Life of the Rookery’, new work by Jane Palm-Gold and archaeological finds from the nearby St Giles development (next to Centre Point) explores the life and times of this once notorious slum. Now to our last stop, Rebecca where you will go back a little further into British 20th C. art, as it specialises tightly on the art that is synonymous with the area –the Bloomsbury Group around Roger Fry and the Omega Workshops. Now into Great Russell Street for some much more contem- porary craft at Contemporary Ceramics , the newish, very swish, architect-designed HQ of the Crafts Potters Association which presents solo and small group shows by member-artists along- side a broader display of work by members. This month the focus is on veteran potter Jane Hamlyn, whose work has made a change of direction from salt-glaze dom- estic ware to vividly hued, if less functional leaning cylinders – ‘Empty Vessels’ she may call them but they are full of vibrating life and resonance. A short stroll takes you to a very different gallery, one not quite like any other in London, Abbott & Holder . Well-known to collectors since the 1950s for its monthly lists, it is a three-floor treasure- trove of watercolours, prints and paintings from c1760 to the pre- sent –at hugely affordable prices. Present director Philip Athill has added a new twist by holding occasional shows by living artists –this month James Thistle- thwaite’s remarkable wash and pencil drawings of the ancient oaks in Salcey Forest. A gallery to spend a day in . . . Across Tottenham Court Road and into Percy Street, make for Contemporary Applied Arts at For all the dramatic development that has swept over it in recent years, Central London still retains the sense of being that collection of villages which visitors have always remarked upon. Tribal loy- alties continue to run deep as well –there are ‘Fitzrovia’ galleries here, who really don’t like being mentioned in the same breath as ‘Bloomsbury’, and vice versa. Elegant, academic and restrained vs rackety, commercial and arty – take your pick but, as far as the galleries within them are concern- ed, there is no neat way to cate- gorise their prevailing character. So let’s take refuge in geography and head from south-east to north-west of the Galleries map that pitches them together . . . One of London’s most interest- ing and independently-minded spaces, the October Gallery , is situated just off Queen Square. A charitable foundation dedicated to non-Western and ‘alternative’ con- temporary art, it has (for 32 years) been putting on the kind of shows of African, Middle Eastern and Asian art that have been rarely seen elsewhere. El Anatsui is just one of their regulars to have made it big internationally, and they have hopes that one of his ‘mentorees’, Nigerian-born, USA-based sculp- tress Nnenna Okore, showing this month, will achieve similar recog- nition for her tactile, intensely evocative pieces made from found objects and natural materials. Eastwards towards the British Museum, in the network of streets directly in front of it, is a rich gall- ery mix, two in Pied Bull Yard. Austin/Desmond has been here, in one space or another, since the 1970s, its reputation being for museum-quality explorations of Modern British and European Art, often of a pioneering bent. To this they have added a small stable of contemporaries –Julian Perry, Stephen Buckley and Tim Hyman among them. The focus this mon- th is on their keen eye for British art of the last 80 years or so. Meanwhile across the courtyard, is Bloomsbury Workshop (by appointment, so ring ahead) 10. GALLERIES MAY 11 VILLAGELIFE art in Bloomsbury & Fitzrovia Nicholas Usherwood