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Saudi Arabia’s lost railway in Fitzroy Square

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.

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg at Tristan Hoare (until 21 October)

My picks, to be honest, share precious little in common – but if it’s continuity you’re looking for, Frieze week probably isn’t for you. I’m much taken with German photographer Ursula Schulz-Dornburg’s intoxicatingly bleak images at Tristan Hoare’s new gallery in Fitzroy Square (shown alongside works by the ceramicist Taizo Kuroda). Schulz-Dornburg concentrates on abandoned spaces, captured in spectrally grainy monochrome. We see the desolate traces of the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos, jerry-built bus stops marooned in the Armenian wilderness and, most fascinatingly of all, the stations of the defunct Hejaz railway line in the Saudi Arabian desert, looking for all the world like ancient mausolea or charnel houses.

From Medina to Jordan Border, Saudi Arabia (2003), Ursula Schulz-Dornburg

From Medina to Jordan Border, Saudi Arabia Image courtesy Tristan Hoare


‘Virginia Chihota: Come Forth as Gold’ at Tiwani Contemporary (until 29 October)

More lively is Zimbabwean artist Virginia Chihota’s show at Tiwani Contemporary, a claustrophobic blast of colour. Chihota’s vertiginous screenprints are fascinating in that they build bitty art historical references – to 16th-century German woodcuts, throbbing abstract expressionist multiforms, even, I think, 1970s Polish film poster art – into an explosive abstract whole. If you’re not already familiar with Chihota’s work, get to this show pronto.

Kuzvirwisa (2016), Virginia Chihota. Courtesy Tiwani Contemporary

Kuzvirwisa (2016), Virginia Chihota. Courtesy Tiwani Contemporary


‘James Richards: Requests and Antisongs’ at the ICA (until 13 November)

I’ve always had my reservations about James Richards’s tricksy, academic video art, but his film Radio at Night, now playing at the ICA, feels like something genuinely special. As with so much of his work, it is composed of found footage, much of it from the ICA’s archives. (Other sources apparently include medical documentaries and, er, French erotica.) But the sourcing, for once, doesn’t feel terribly important: this is all about spectacle. Eyes pulsate, swarms of birds appear to spontaneously combust and fish flop off conveyer belts to their doom. Sure, the work has its longueurs, but the overall effect is a little like watching a movie adaptation of the Comte de Lautréamont’s proto-surrealist masterpiece Les Chants de Maldoror.

Radio at Night (2015), James Richards

Radio at Night (2015), James Richards.

‘Suzanne Treister: HFT The Gardener’ at Annely Juda Fine Art (until 29 October)

At the time of writing, Suzanne Treister’s new exhibition at Annely Juda Fine Art has yet to open, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect. But given the excitement of her last London show, I think it’s unlikely that I’ll be disappointed. For that extravaganza, she piloted a drone equipped with a film camera around the private view and subsequently displayed the footage as an exhibit commenting on surveillance culture. I’ve written about this before, but I can’t think of another living artist exploring our sinister relationship with technology quite so eloquently.

More London highlights…