Mao Jianhua – The Spirit of the Valley

“When you paint, you should feel empty and calm and the painting will come out automatically, full of energy, full of life.” So says 64-year-old Chinese artist Mao Jianhua whose first UK exhibition, The Spirit of the Valley has opened at London’s Saatchi Gallery.

The exhibition comprises a series of 48 landscapes in ink on paper rooted very much in the ancient Chinese tradition of Shan Shui. They reflect the  philosophy of universal harmony and immortality.  

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Paula Rego – Obedience and Defiance

There’s a scene in her son Nick Willing’s BBC documentary, timed to coincide with the opening of this exhibition, in which Paula Rego tells that the first thing her future husband said to her at a party in the 1950s was to ask her to take her knickers off. She complied. It seemed to encapsulate so much of the essence of this remarkable show at MK Gallery – explicit, sexually charged and compliant.

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Caught in the Net – Erub Arts

You will have to have been stranded on a remote desert island over the past couple of years not to be aware of the danger to our planet and to our wildlife of plastic pollution. TV programmes such as Blue Planet have regaled us with shocking images of how plastic is choking the life out of sea creatures, and the food industry is almost falling over itself now to reduce plastic bags and packaging to help reduce our dependence on the material.

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Lis Rhodes – Dissident Lines

Inequality, social injustice, corruption, statelessness, discrimination, over-surveillance – these are the kind of topics that have consumed Lis Rhodes’s art for five decades. Her passion and conviction shine through in the first-ever major survey exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary. Dissident Lines traces her development from the 1970s to her new work Ambiguous Journeys, created specially for the show. 

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Enrique Martinez Celaya – The Mariner’s Meadow

Enrique Martinez Celaya is a most unusual artist. Unusual, not just in the sense of being of high quality, nor as one steeped also in literature and philosophy, but because he began his career as a scientist. And not just any old science but quantum physics to boot. His particular niche was laser technology in which he holds a PhD. It might seem a complete change of direction when switching to Fine Art but, as his first exhibition at Blain Southern illustrates, he is addressing complex questions relevant to both.

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Jake Wood-Evans – Legacy and Disorder

Strewn around the floor of his Hastings studio are paper images, torn out of books, of many Old Master paintings from which British painter Jake Wood-Evans takes inspiration. It might be Turner, Stubbs, Landseer, Gainsborough or Constable. Over a period of time, the pages have become creased, torn and splattered with paint, which the artist admits, makes them more interesting.

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Esther Teichmann – On Sleeping and Drowning

Esther Teichmann’s world is a mystical one of caves, swamps and underground lakes that exist somewhere between the real and the imagined, between autobiography and fiction. They are fragments of memory informed by the landscape of the Rhine Valley and the valleys of the Black Forest where she grew up and reimagined as mysterious, womb-like spaces where women sometimes sleep and dream. 

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