Ten art exhibitions to see this month: May 2014

By Ben Miller | 06 May 2014

Diving squads and porridge in our ten to see this month

A photo of various stuffed, toy like items scattered around the floor of a white walled art gallery
The Soft Machine at Chapter in Cardiff© Jonathan Baldock, courtesy Chapter
Alan Phelan – But what End?, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, from May 8

Although Alan Phelan is motivated by a circle of misery, violence and fear - specifically the one mentioned by Sherlock Holmes to Watson in a short Arthur Conan Doyle story of 1892 - his recontextualisations of imagery by other artists should add up to a stylish, humourous whodunit. The central characters are modelled on a photo of a French art critic.

Snail Porridge, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, from May 9

Bob and Roberta Smith has curated these contemporary artworks from the Koestler Awards – a competition open to prisoners and those in secure establishments, run by a trust of the same name. Smith’s themes include memories of life outside, wellbeing, escapism through art and the productivity incarceration may or may not provide.

Dryden Goodwin: Poised, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, from May 10

Coinciding with the Grand Départ, when the 2014 Tour de France visits Yorkshire, this exhibition in the accompanying arts festival sees Goodwin – perhaps best-known for his drawing – follow a group of young female divers during their intense physical and mental preparations for a dive off the sporting abyss. A poetic ode to determination, it’s also testament to the hard slog behind their apparent grace and beauty.

Otto Dix – Der Kreig (The War), De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, from May 17

Reflecting Goya’s The Disasters of War, which plunged the horrors of the Napoleonic invasion, Dix’s Der Kreig was a monumental 50-piece series, of which 19 will be shown in Bexhill. Dix – a “degenerate” artist, sacked from his art teacher post in Dresden when the Nazis prevailed – made these uncompromising wartime images part-cathartically. Counterpoint photos shot by a doctor during the early stages of the war accompany the display.

Kenneth Clark: Looking for Civilisation, Tate Britain, London, from May 20

Having been, among other achievements, a curator at the Ashmolean in Oxford, the National Gallery’s youngest Director and a pioneer of documentary television, Kenneth Clark’s finest legacy might remain the art he promoted, using his money (he came from a wealthy textiles family) to support British art during the 1930s and 1940s. Aiming to give them freedom, he favoured the Bloomsbury Group, Henry Moore, Victor Pasmore, John Piper and Graham Sutherland.

Richard Grayson: Nothing Can Stop Us Now, Dilston Grove, London from May 23

For the first off-site project between Matt’s Gallery and the Grove, Grayson – a recent participant in The First Kyiv International Biennale of Contemporary Art in Ukraine, as well as the deviser of voice-language installation His Master’s Voice, in Dortmund – creates a multiscreen sound and video work in which a virtual flashmob ghosts through the socio-cultural infrastructure of capitalist London. Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’, originally written by Willie Johnson to celebrate the Soviet stand against Hitler’s invasion, is the key part of the soundtrack.

Mondrian and Colour, Turner Contemporary, Margate, from May 24

The first of two major Piet Mondrian exhibitions this year (the second, Mondrian and his Studios, opens at Tate Liverpool next month), Turner Contemporary suggests a search for harmony as well as form during Mondrian’s early career, pursuing his use of colour between figuration and early abstraction. The paintings come from Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and collections in Europe and the US.

Jonathan Baldock: The Soft Machine, Chapter, Cardiff

From pagan ritual to cinema and the carnivalesque, Jonathan Baldock’s meticulous sculptures are chiefly concerned with reinvention: echoing the sentiments of Oscar Wilde, he sees the mask as the veil behind which people can most be themselves, with nests and shells offering refuge to the mysterious. This is the first solo show in Wales for the artist last seen in A Strange mix Between a Butcher’s Shop and a Nightclub, at Cambridge’s Wysing Arts Centre last year.

The Power of the Sea, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol

The latest major exhibition to contemplate artists and the sea is a coast through two centuries of creative responses, filtered through Romanticism and experiments in light, movement, geometry and the panoramic. John Brett, Turner, Constable, Henry Moore and Constable all feature.

Pigdog and Monkeyfestos, AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Variously described as tragi-comic, clownish, odorously delightful, akin to a landfill and an encapsulation of the “half-baked ideas, dead ends and prejudiced rants” of artist manifestos, curators Shaun Doyle and Molly Mallinson’s exhibition features the likes of Sarah Lucas, David Blandy, Jessica Voorsanger, Billy Childish and Harry Adams. Visual arts group The Cultural Sisters run printmaking workshops throughout, both inside and beyond the artist-led host gallery.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

  • Museums at Night has events and exhibitions taking place across the three-day festival between May 15-17 2014 and beyond. Visit museumsatnight.org.uk to find out what's on near you.
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