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Polly Penrose
Photography Polly Penrose

The unmissable events in London this month

The vagina as a weapon in the Ukrainian conflict, strangers in the street and the zine scene’s place in a digital age: these are the eye-opening shows, fairs and pop-ups that you must see

May is a month for rebirth, and from the art world springs forth a season full of exhilaratingly fresh new work. From Maria Eichhorn’s bold challenge to the idea of art work as labour, the zine-lover’s haven DIY Cultures Fair and Polly Penrose’s delicate exploration of London’s abandoned spaces with her naked body, we’re spoilt for choice. Check out some of the most evocative, eye-opening exhibitions hitting this month.

ANGEL ROSE

Angel Rose hits the Residence Gallery with her first solo show, elevating the DIY counter cultures presence within the realm of contemporary art consciousness. Rose examines the radical position of zines and the print form within a digital age, using photography, illustration and text to showcase the creative practice. The Sick Bag show, which comes with its own zine populated by an army of “sick chicks”, follows one particular cartoon protagonist as she navigates the punk subcultures she’s inspired by, and its burgeoning relationship with traditional gallery space.

Sick Bag runs from 29 April – 29 May at The Residence Gallery

MATHIEU AJAN

This solo exhibition peels back the layers of photographer Mathieu Ajan’s vulnerability, as well as his stranger subjects. Capturing sporadic images of people he comes across, what would seem like a colourful mismatch of personalities curiously melds together to become a stark narrative, driven by a yearning to belong and struggle to accept personal identity. It’s a series that offers spectators a chance to look deep within Ajan as he faces societal stereotypes head-on, and then connect with themselves, however uncomfortable that experience might be.

Mathieu Ajan's solo show runs 4 May – 5 June at Rich Mix

PANIC BUY

Mushpit was birthed from the fiery frustration that comes from reading fashion magazines that lie and sell you shit. It’s a witty, no bullshit alternative to glossy fashion mags, and they’re physically manifesting this in the form of a secondhand clothing sale hosted by progressive publishers Ditto Press. London’s coolest stylists, designers and girls-always-on-your-IG-explore-page will be there to open up their wardrobes to you for cheap. Featuring Claire Barrow, Ashley Williams, Reba Maybury and more, be ready to grab your cash and get thrifting.

Panic Buy: Fashion Bonanza is 7 May at Ditto, 4 Benyon Road, London

POLLY PENROSE

Draping her naked body over lilos, under a staircase and wrapped up in a curtain, Polly Penrose uses herself as a prop to explore her body’s relationship with abandoned spaces she finds online. “My body is a prop. I go into these spaces and I use it to get the best picture that I can in that space, the most interesting, dynamic, she told us. “It was more documenting a performance of a body within a space and what it can (do in that space).” Testing the waters of censorship and her own body consciousness, Penrose takes her evocative show 10 Seconds to London’s Hoxton Gallery.

Check out 10 Seconds at the Hoxton Gallery, 6-8 May

DIY CULTURES

This radical festival celebrates the cut and paste subculture, with talks, workshops, screenings, stalls and exhibits. Themes this year cover radical mental health, decolonialising libraries, DIY sci-fi, DIY remembrance and the history of black arts magazines. It’s organized by the women behind PoC powerhouse zine OOMK, and you’ll find more of our favourites setting up shop on the day: Polyester, Typical Girls and Diaspora Drama Zine are just a few making an appearance.

DIY Cultures is at Rich Mix 29 May

FLOWERS OF DEMOCRACY

This show was inspired by the violent conflict permeating Ukraine, Maria Kulikovska’s home state. The artist explores her use of art as her own warfare, capturing the imposing, abusive discourse’s effect on her body and mental wellbeing. It’s in two parts – the first opened last Sunday – and aims to start a dialogue beyond borders about the plight of Ukranian women in crossfire. Using the vagina as a motif, Flowers of Democracy uses the oppressed body part to highlight the nuances of being a woman, which for many, means being a second class citizen.

Flowers of Democracy begins 9 May – 1 June at Art Represent

PHOTO LONDON

Photo London is the annual amalgamation of 80 of the world’s top galleries, bringing together the work of evocative artists from Beirut, Tokyo, Berlin and more. Magnum recently tapped into ten curators and editors from across the UK’s art scene in order to name 100 nominees for the Graduate Photographers Award, which pools together young and emerging talent. Dazed’s Art  names Sophie Wedgewood, Francesca Allen, Maisie Cousins and Megan Doherty all populate the shortlist.

Somerset House, 19-22 May

MARIA EICHHORN

5 weeks, 25 days, 175 hours is a large-scale project examining contemporary labour conditions, challenging the imposition of institutional structures and its effect on its workers. Eichhorn has called upon gallery staff to “withdraw their labour” for the last five weeks of the show, so Chisenhale Gallery’s staff with be using ‘free time’ within their place of work. It’s a conceptual idea exploring the reasoning of artwork as actual work, and the laborious process of an artist. Eichhorn challenges what spectators expect from an artist and their work and our idea of the ‘artistic space’, as staff choose to do what they wish with the pieces.

23 April – 29 May at Chisenhale Gallery

ZHANG HUAN

Zhang Huan is the radical artist molding the landscape of the Chinese art world. His “post-performance” oeuvre tackles his themes of memory, nationalization, Buddhism and mortality, inspired by his travels in Tibet and China. Huan’s use of steel and copper sculptures is reminiscent of the sacred Buddhist monuments destroyed and discarded during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The multi-faceted show also features his “1/2 (Meat + Text) performance from Beijing, challenging the political climate that imposes itself on Chinese art, and the complex identity it shapes.

Catch Zhang Huan at 10 Hanover Square, London

Got a show or event coming up in June? Contact ashleigh.kane@dazedmedia.com to let us know