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Lygia Pape’s fragile threads

Plus: The final painting of Francis West; Yinka Shonibare without his trademark fabric; and Paula Rego's first tapestry

24 September 2016

As Frieze week approaches, there are hundreds of new exhibitions and events vying for attention across London. Which should you see? We’ve put together a series of highlights: for the full selection, click here.

Lygia Pape at Hauser & Wirth (23 September–19 November)

Hauser & Wirth took over worldwide representation of Brazilian artist Lygia Pape (1927–2004) earlier this year, and present her work for the first time here. On display are examples of drawings and prints from the 1950s – beautiful exercises in abstraction – as well as one of the iconic ‘Ttéia’ installations that she developed from the late 1970s using metallic threads stretched across an empty space. Taking up the entire back room, it’s startling to watch Ttéia 1C seemingly transform under the light as you walk round it. Pape’s style developed from concrete abstraction, to the less rigid neo-concretism, to an experimental, interactive approach, but this display is striking for the recurrence of those thin, fragile lines – woven like so many threads through her entire career.

Tecelar (1955), Lygia Pape.

Tecelar (1955), Lygia Pape. © Projeto Lygia Pape; courtesy Projeto Lygia Pape and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Paula Pape

‘Francis West: Orion Stumbles’ at Megan Piper, 67 Jermyn Street (15 September–11 November; ‘Mediterranean Paintings’ 3–9 October)

There’s a lot going on under the surface of Francis West’s work. The painter, who died last year, was inspired by poetry, myth, and the Mediterranean, and his vibrant figurative works are invariably charged with evasive symbolism. This display of late works includes a series of busy Nocturnes cloaked in shadow (up close, you can see traces of colourful brushstrokes that have been obscured by black overpaint), as well as his powerful final work, Death of a Poet. This large canvas was completed on his deathbed with the aid of his wife, and yet, of all the paintings in this display, it seems one of the lightest: the airy expanse of lavender that dominates the top half of the composition is unseen in his other creations.

‘Orion Stumbles’ is housed in Megan Piper’s new space, downstairs from antiques specialists Harris Lindsay. For Frieze week only, she will also take over one of the ground floor rooms to display West’s ‘Mediterranean paintings’. Infused with sunny seaside blues, they’re an interesting counterpoint to his nocturnes.

Death of a Poet (2015), Francis West. Courtesy and © the estate of Francis West

Death of a Poet (2015), Francis West. Courtesy and © the estate of Francis West

‘Yinka Shonibare MBE: “…and the wall fell away”’ at Stephen Friedman Gallery (28 September–5 November)

This is Shonibare’s sixth show with Stephen Friedman but it’s a first for him in one important way – there won’t be a single piece of his trademark Dutch wax Batik fabric in sight. That’s not to say he’s abandoning the motif. The familiar batik designs will appear in different media throughout the show: painted onto reproductions of Myron’s discus thrower and Michelangelo’s David; screen-printed on canvas; drawn on the wall. The exhibition is arranged in two parts, the first responding classical art, the second examining religious imagery and beliefs. As ever, this promises to be a lively mash-up of subverted references, that challenges you to think again about the colonialist or otherwise oppressive histories that western art helped to write.

Myron Discus Thrower (after .....) (detail; 2016), Yinka Shonibare MBE

Myron Discus Thrower (after …..) (2016), Yinka Shonibare MBE. © Yinka Shonibare MBE, courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo: Mark Blower

Paula Rego at Marlborough (28 September–12 November)

Paula Rego’s series of pastel drawings, Dancing Ostriches from Disney’s ‘Fantasia’, is 20 years old now. Originally commissioned for the Hayward Gallery exhibition, ‘Spellbound’, which marked a century of cinema in Britain, Rego was inspired by the hallucinatory dance sequences of the famous Disney film – but her works are surely also a homage to Degas’ dancers. Rather than quoting directly from Fantasia, Rego depicted a group of women trying out poses and motions in their ballet kit. They look stocky, awkward, clumsy and very much alive. Upstairs, you can see other examples of the artist’s lithographs and etchings, and one of her latest works – her first tapestry, depicting strange and sinister characters inspired by a 16th-century folk tale.

Dancing Ostriches from Disney's Fantasia (1995), Paula Rego. © Paula Rego, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art, London

Dancing Ostriches from Disney’s Fantasia (1995), Paula Rego. © Paula Rego, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art, London

More London highlights…

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