OneHundredSpaces, Rachel Whiteread, Tate Gallery. Credit: Tate Britain

16. november 2017

Let’s go inside: Review of new UK exhibitions Winter 2017/18

Here in London, Autumn has arrived and as we turn to more hygge spaces and places, here are the exhibitions we’re looking forward to most both here in the city and across the UK. These artists’ works remind us of the places where art and architecture meet to form something informed, interesting and imaginative.

The gallery spaces inside Tate Britain have been opened up to their largest and most cavernous configuration to celebrate one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists, Rachel Whiteread, with a retrospective from the days around her Turner Prize win in 1993 to present day.

Whiteread takes materials we know and use in abundance in architecture and uses them to form poignant and site-specific installations, from casting the entire interior – every nook and cranny – of a terraced house in concrete (House, 1993-94) to casting the underside of 100 found chairs in different colours of resin (One Hundred Spaces, 1995).

In Whiteread’s work, we find what Alain de Botton otherwise describes as a ‘frozen benevolence’; the object as a result of painstaking time and labour. In this instance, less a process of ornament, Whiteread aims to “Give authority to some of the more forgotten things, stopping it in time and casting it in something more solid.” This is a must-see for any architect, along with the landmark extension to Tate Britain by James Stirling (c. 1987) and more recent refurbishments by Caruso St John Architects. Just look for the solid concrete chicken shed (Chicken Shed, 2017) on the museum lawn along Millbank.

Rachel Whiteread, Tate Britain
12.09.17 – 21.01.18

Shonky by John Walter. Credit: Jonathan Bassett


John Walter brings together an eclectic mix of artists and architects, including Hundertwasser, Plastique Fantastique and Arakawa and Gins, to probe our relationship with all things visually awkward, with works from across a range of aesthetic and cultural contexts.

Walter’s exhibition has a maverick feel about it, reminding us that the awkward aesthetic of the artists’ works comes from somewhere natural, rather than novel, and that each are responding to very real issues of identity that we all share. Shared issues don’t always have common design solutions and this exhibition celebrates the eccentric souls that know a considered design process needn’t result in a precedent of perfect proportions.

This is a Hayward Touring exhibition that will move on to DCA Dundee, then Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Centre next year, but for this season it’s just another excuse to visit Belfast’s highly-acclaimed The MAC, completed in 2012 by award-winning local architecture practice Hall McKnight.

Shonky, The Aesthetics of Awkwardness curated by John Walter, The MAC
20.10.17 – 14.01.18

A Single Voice by Susan Philipsz
A Single Voice by Susan Philipsz. Credit: BALTIC Centre of Contemporary Arts

A single voice

Susan Philipsz has spent much of her career focused on how sound both responds to and defines space around us. Her work uses recordings of instruments, narrative and singing, with the latter including all the imperfections of an untrained voice.

Each piece is site-specific, with this particular work for the BALTIC Centre of Contemporary Arts filling the heavy voids of this looming former industrial mill, renovated in 2002 by Ellis Williams Architects. Beyond the highly-specialised and isolated interiors of our concert halls and cinemas, sound is often one of the trickiest materials to design with, being so difficult to accurately predict and model in a proposed design – acoustic performance, yes, but sound experience, less so.

But it is of huge significance, according to Philipsz:

“Sound is materially invisible but very visceral and emotive. It can define a space at the same time as it triggers a memory.”

While much has been discovered and discussed through architectural theory, from Rietveld on how we can shape space “merely with physical forces” to Raban’s “soft city, as we imagine it”, here we find that Philipsz uses sound to materialise very real emotions in a very real space. You can also find Philipsz exhibiting as part of a group exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art around the same time.

A Single Voice by Susan Philipsz, BALTIC Centre of Contemporary Arts
20.10.17 – 04.03.18

Sosnowska. Credit: The Modern Institute
Sosnowska. Credit: The Modern Institute

Structural Exercises

I can think of few parts of London to better exhibit and juxtapose Sosnowska’s work than in the polished, established, dense streets around Savile Row. Sosnowska’s site-specific installations take their subject and contort, twist, bend and almost break them into objects anew, to the point where you can simultaneously recognise what the subject was originally – a fire escape stair, a bench – share in its original ambition, whilst at the same time witness its demise.

It’s almost like finding a wreckage after an accident. Sosnowska’s work quite literally and brutally brings new perspectives to otherwise generic objects through form-finding, beautifully undermining the original use of these otherwise efficient pieces of infrastructure.

And yet to see the focus of such work as some form of demolishing would be misguided, as her work is a process of carefully dismantling the object in order to understand it. Sosnowska dedicates much of her time and research efforts on critiquing 1960s and 70s Polish modernist architecture. She considers the monuments and mass-housing to be a vital part of Poland’s architectural heritage that is often misunderstood through the lens of the Polish People’s Republic.

Structural Excercises by Monika Sosnowska, Hauser and Wirth
1.12.17 – 10.02.18