Galleries - December 2018

My vote for 'most thought- provokingexhibition of the month' goes to Amy Sharrock's 'only ever almost there' at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, a show which, as its title might indicate, is preoccupied with the ephemeral and the fluid, of the passing moment. With its necessary basis in the material world for its very existence, these qualities have always represented something of a holy grail for visual artists, from the antelopes and horses on prehistoric cave walls and the horses and chariots of the Elgin Marbles, right up to the Impressionists' fascination with light and atmosphere and the Futurists' speeding automobiles and trains and, in more modern times, the walking art of Richard Long and Hamish Fulton. Amy Sharrocks is very much at the cutting edge of its contemporary manifestations, her work over the last 15 years or more covering a fascinating portfolio of artistic activities, events and preoccupations from swimming and walking, water and even falling and stumbling, sometimes combined even, with a huge imaginative inventiveness. Despite her very considerable reputation in what is now termed the 'Live Art' field, she has never had any major survey show of her work – until now. In an exhibition that looks most closely at her fascination with water and swimming, Leamington Spa represents a peculiarly apt venue, a place famous for its mineral springs and spa, the Leam River running through it and situated on an ancient prehistoric seabed. Sharrocks is taking her brief as the location itself as a site of water with new live works spread out across the town and sonic works bringing the river and river words into the gallery itself, not to mention a re- hang of its artworks to bring out the often unnoticed traces of water present in them. My personal favourite among her own pieces here and very typical too of her approach in its active engagement with the public, is the ongoing project entitled 'Museum of Water'. Nominated for the European Museum of the Year in 2016, it consists of some 1000 plus bottles of water donated by members of the public along with their accompanying stories, a collection which will continue to be added to over the course of this exhibition. As with so much of her work, the taken for granted and everyday suddenly become the absolute focus of our attention; art has been defined as a process of paying attention. A recent and distinctly smart addition to Mayfair’s galleries – it opened in June this year – J D Malat, run by the eponymous, Parisian dealer, is offering an intriguing programme of exhibitions by younger international artists, for the most part, not previously shown in this country. Their current exhibition, 'Rising Action' by the Colombian painter Santiago Parra, is an excellent example; his first solo show in this country consists of some 14 large scale black and white canvases, painted in a powerful gestural style that references both the automatic painting of the Surrealists and the Abstract Expressionism of Franz Kline. Parra, a student of Surrealist literature, while acknowledging these influences, hopes to add another layer of dynamic immediacy to his work by completing each of the canvases as a single continuum of painted calligraphic gestures, and thereby making the work even more immediately expressive of his powerful internal state of mind. Meanwhile, in a very generous gesture, J D Malat is offering the proceeds of the sale of the first 50 prints of Parra's work, at £250 each, to Macmillan Cancer Support. For decades now the continuing London-centric focus of contemporary visual art has presented a real challenge for artists and museum/gallery curators alike – critical attention, funding and sponsorship all becoming increasingly impossible obstacles to the health and welfare of regional arts. However for a wide R OUND-UP 12 GALLERIES DECEMBER 2018 M ostly water One sweep Shining light