Autumn exhibitions at the White Cube, London: Harmony Hammond, Mona Hatoum, Dóra Maurer and Damien Hirst.

A quick look at the Autumn exhibitions at the White Cube Bermondsey and White Cube Mason’s Yard.

Running currently at the White Cube Bermondsey are three one-woman shows: Harmony Hammond, Mona Hatoum and Dóra Maurer.

Harmony Hammond Bandaged Quilt#1 (2014)
Harmony Hammond – Bandaged Quilt #1 (2014)

Inside the White Cube Harmony Hammond exhibition is the smallest of the three, and it consists of six works by this acclaimed American artist. White walls inside the gallery increase the austere appearance of the display, which is dominated by four large off-white abstract canvases. This overwhelming near-whiteness is interrupted by two works dating to the 1970s (Bag VI, 1971, and Anniversary, 1976). Bag VI was made using scraps of materials donated by Hammond’s female artist friends. The artist (b. 1944 in Chicago) was one of the leading figures of the feminist art movement in New York during the 1970s. Feminist references are a recurring element in her art, but the more abstract artworks are open to interpretation.

Hammond’s works are somewhere between sculpture and painting. The artist is interested in qualities and textures of different kinds of materials. What appears as flat painting from the distance, is in fact build from layers of fabric strips and other media. The choice of colour is important. In Bandaged Quilt #1 (2014) a single red accent in the centre of the canvas resembles a wound, which might be a reference to female body. The works need to be viewed closely as it is often the detail, like the tiny patch of colour that adds a new layer of meaning.

Mona Hatoum - Map (mobile) 2019
Mona Hatoum – Map (mobile) (2019) installation view

As Mona Hatoum pointed out in her 2015 interview (Mona Hatoum au Centre Pompidou filmed by Alyssa Verbizh), people came to expect her work to be serious because of her Palestinian heritage. The artist was born in 1952 in Lebanon to Palestinian parents and has been living and working in the UK since 1975. Her current exhibition titled Remains to be Seen cannot be denied seriousness, but there is a great dose of irony too. Suspended from the ceiling in the 9x9x9 gallery space is the Map (mobile) (2019) made of transparent glass. This kinetic installation shows the continents and several larger islands in constant motion. Their shapes are simplified for practical reasons. Interestingly, Great Britain and Ireland are fused together and keep shifting, either moving away or towards the continental Europe (as part of the Eurasia), which can be seen as referencing the current political climate in the UK.

In the South Gallery II the main part of Hatoum’s exhibition opens with the large installation Remains to be Seen (2019), which lends its title to the whole exhibition (see the featured image). Lumps of concrete attached to steel reinforcement bars are suspended from the ceiling and resemble a grid. The grid is a common motif in Hatoum’s works, she has been exploring themes such as invigilation and oppression, for example in Quarters (2017) which is an installation resembling skeletons of bunkbeds in some correctional facility. Another striking work consists of other kinds of remains – furniture made of charred wood and mesh wire – a cabinet, play space, and a dining set. Remains to be seen is a wordplay that could equally apply to the Map mentioned above, and to the red neon globe model titled Hot Spot (stand) (2018). Our future on this planet, no matter where we live, remains to be seen.


Dora Maurer IXEK 10 (2013, acrylic on canvas and wood)
Dora Maurer – IXEK 10 (2013, acrylic on canvas and wood)

Dóra Maurer’s exhibition focuses solely on her paintings, featuring works from three series: IXEK, Quod Libet and the most recent Overlappings. Although the artist has worked with a range of different media over the years, the paintings selected for this show best demonstrate her original achievement resulting from her artistic experimentation with colour, light and motion.

Born in 1937 in Budapest Maurer is considered as one of the most important artists of the Hungarian avant-garde of the 1970s. She has been also very influential as a teacher and art curator. Her artistic research was heavily influenced by mathematical theories. Maurer’s conceptual works often feature multicoloured grids and geometric figures, these are often distorted in order to achieve a specific effect. Irregularly shaped canvases confuse our brains giving an impression that the lines and planes of colour are in motion as we walk around the room. Although completely flat, the paintings appear three-dimensional. We are faced with works of illusion, which seem to float on the surface of the walls. Viewed from different angles the paintings are shapeshifting in front our eyes.

*(Also worth seeing is Maurer’s retrospective at Tate Modern, which is a much more comprehensive exhibition, as it charts her 50-year career and includes graphic works, film, photography and installations in addition to painting.)

Damien Hirst Gnosis (2018) butterflies and household gloss on canvas
Damien Hirst – Gnosis (2018) butterflies and household gloss on canvas

Finally, White Cube Mason’s Yard presents Mandalas – recent works by the notorious British artist Damien Hirst. Surprisingly, this time Hirst made something that you might actually want to hang on your wall at home. He is the artist behind the controversial The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) (also known as the Shark), or the diamond-studded human skull (For the Love of God, 2007). The artist’s fascination with dead things is still present, but his most recent creations are much easier to digest. In Mandalas the wings of colourful butterflies embedded in household gloss paint form concentring circles. The composition observes the principle of the radial balance, as the circular design extends from a single bodiless butterfly positioned in the centre of the canvas.

The majority of works are colour-coordinated, with one or two colours dominating the whole image. Visual experience is largely influenced by the colour of the background, often repeated in the frame – blue pulls you in, while orange jumps at you. A number of works incorporate wings of blue fluorescent Morpho butterflies, native to South America, which reflect light beautifully and add an element of stained-glass luminosity. Mandalas are associated with several Eastern religions and traditions. Used in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Shintoism, they often represent the universe, and can be used in meditation. The circular shape of the artworks also resembles stained-glass rose windows found in Gothic cathedrals (this impression is reinforced by their size, they span from just under one meter to over three metres in diameter). The titles are not descriptive and seem arbitrary. Most of them have religious connotations, and refer either to a specific religion, such as Baptist (Christian) and Noble Path (Buddhist), or are more universal, for example Deity, or the Creator. Overall this is a very impressive display, whether you like Hirst’s earlier works or not.


Exhibitions: Harmony Hammond, Mona Hatoum and Dóra Maurer run at the White Cube Bermondsey 12 Sep – 3 Nov 2019

Exhibition Damien Hirst: Mandalas runs at the White Cube Mason’s Yard 20 Sep – 2 Nov 2019

All exhibitions admission free.


White Cube website:

Link to an extract from Alyssa Verbizh film Mona Hatoum au Centre Pompidou:




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