Fikayo Adebajo, String figures — a thousand tethered knots between you and me, 2022, photograph, Courtesy the artist.
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The best exhibitions in East London to visit this Autumn

We take a look at the East End’s finest and lesser-known exhibitions for those seeking a quiet moment of artistic reflection.

It’s been a great summer of art in London this year. As well as the RA’s Summer exhibition, the National Portrait Gallery reopened after extensive refurbishment.

Thankfully, the journey doesn’t end there. Tower Hamlets is home to many renowned galleries, from the Cell Project Space to the established Whitechapel Gallery. 

This autumn’s offering includes all manner of artistic creations from installation pieces, to paintings, and dance performances.

This season’s themes touch on the fragility of life reflecting the challenges we face in society in a post-pandemic world from the threads that connect people, to illnesses we face and gender identity.

It All Started with a Thread at Whitechapel Gallery

Installation photographs by Jane Ross.

It All Started With a Thread not only showcases the significance of thread as a central motif but also embraces the diverse interpretations and connections people have with the concept of ‘thread.’ Through a series of engaging interactive workshops and performances, visitors are invited to explore the rich tapestry of meanings and associations associated with this humble yet versatile material.

‘A thread is both a connecting force leading us from one thing to the next and a material from which something is yet to be made. It can help us re-imagine and reconfigure our relationships with one another and the time and space we inhabit’ – MA Student, MA in Curating Art and Public Programmes. 

Running until the 31st of December, you can explore this free exhibition curated by the 2023 cohort of Whitechapel Gallery and London South Bank University’s MA in Curating Art and Public Programmes.

Visit Whitechapel Gallery at 77-82 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QX.

Nunnery Gallery

Stop Panicking!

Courtesy of Gabriella Marsh

Studio 10 presents a new exhibition, Stop Panicking!, at the Nunnery Cafe. Four artists are presenting their artwork, produced in the intimacy of their shared studio. The exhibition focuses on finding beauty and abundance in everyday life, inviting you into their tender and calming space. With its compelling use of vacant landscapes and striking, bold colours, this exhibition encourages you to delve deeper into the realm of nostalgia and the profound moments captured within the subjects of the paintings.

The exhibition has just begun and ends on 30 November so if things get a little grey this autumn, find a warm place within the new exhibition. 

Visit Nunnery Cafe at 181 Bow Rd, Bow, London E3 2SJ.

Chisenhale Gallery

Benoît Piéron

Benoit Pieron at Chisenhale Gallery
Benoît Piéron, Production image (2023). Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London. Courtesy of the artist.

Piéron’s art delves into themes of life, death, immunity, and the body’s boundaries, shaped by his personal experiences with illness, including meningitis, leukaemia, myopathy, and HIV. Despite his challenges, Piéron reimagines illness as a source of potential, influenced by Donna Haraway’s concept of ‘compostable energy.’ He transforms hospital materials and moments into art, rejecting conventional illness binaries. Piéron employs patchwork, existential gardening, and wallpaper design in his practice. 

At Chisenhale, Piéron will present a new body of work exploring illness and hallucination as realms of possibility and abundance. The exhibition starts on 15 September and ends on 12 November.  

Visit Chisenhale Gallery at 64 Chisenhale Rd, Old Ford, E3 5RG.

Victoria Miro

Paula Rego

Paula Rego Victoria Miro East London
© Ostrich Arts Ltd. Courtesy Ostrich Arts Ltd and Victoria Miro.

Paula Rego, a pioneering British-Portuguese artist, garnered critical acclaim in both the United States and Britain during the 1980s, building on her recognition in Portugal since the 1960s. Titled Letting Loose, this exhibition focuses on Rego’s artistic journey throughout the 1980s, marking a significant shift in her approach to paintings during this period. She began inventing and portraying a diverse cast of characters, which included animals and hybrid creatures featuring human-like traits. These characters became a vehicle for Rego to explore complex thoughts and convey narratives, such as female agency, sexual desire, suffering, and survival.

Victoria Miro Gallery in Hoxton is set to host an exhibition featuring the renowned artist from September 22 to November 11.

Visit the Victoria Miro at 16 Wharf Rd, N1 7RW.

The Approach Gallery

John Mclean New painting at approach gallery
Courtesy of the artist.

John Maclean

John Maclean’s latest exhibition at the Approach Gallery builds upon the foundation laid by his Annexe show earlier this year. In this collection, Maclean embraces a more intimate scale, employing watercolour as his medium of choice to infuse vintage postcard landscapes with an added layer of authenticity. Through the vibrant hues he employs, these artworks come alive, imbuing a profound sense of depth and presence into the scenes. Maclean meticulously highlights the elements that resonate with him most – trees, rivers, and the captivating facets of the landscapes that he is drawn to. 

Having spent his formative years in the majestic Scottish Highlands, Maclean’s artistic expression reverberates with a romanticised connection to the environment that surrounds him. His narratives, though filled with ambiguity, remain unburdened, inviting viewers to partake in the ethereal stories woven within each piece.

The exhibition is due to begin on the 14 September until 21 October. 

Visit Approach Gallery at 1st Floor, 47 Approach Rd, Bethnal Green, London E2 9LY.

Public Gallery

The last train after the last train

The last train after the last train at the public gallery
Aline Bouvy, Potential for Shame, detail, 2021. © Aline Bouvy. Courtesy the artist and Public Gallery, London.

Public Gallery presents The last train after the last train, a group exhibition featuring nine international artists. The exhibition takes inspiration from the Shakespearean phrase ‘time is out of joint’, later used in Jacques Derrida’s Injunctions of Marx to describe his theory on hauntology. The works in the exhibition capture a sense of anticipation and ambiguity, hinting at something yet to be revealed. Collectively, they invite us to contemplate the intangible nature of memory and the potential distortions of time. They also shine a spotlight on the mounting consequences of waste and the erosion of individual liberties that accompany life in these uncertain times, as we stand on the precipice of an unknown future.

Visit the Public Gallery at 91 Middlesex St, London E1 7DA.

Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives

Everything Is Different, Nothing Has Changed Exhibition

The first ever sound art exhibition at the Archives, influenced by oral history and archival audio collections spanning back to 1962, emerges as a collaborative effort between researchers from Queen Mary, University of London, and Birkbeck, University of London. This unique exhibition showcases the East End, shedding light on its significance to countless generations of migrants, with a particular emphasis on the experiences of Jewish and Bengali/Bangladeshi residents. Within this exhibition, three artists have creatively drawn from the archives, with each of them meandering through themes of home, memory, displacement, and protest, which resound throughout their respective works.

The exhibition is running until 23 November and is not to be missed.
Visit the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives at 277 Bancroft Rd, Bethnal Green, E1 4DQ.

The Brady Centre Art Gallery

Rhythm of Images

This exhibition pays homage to the heritage of Indian Classical dance, the artists rendering the dancers and their clothing as the subject of their paintings. The exhibition visualises the emotional depth of traditional South Asian dance forms and reaches its grand finale with a dance performance at the Brady Arts Centre on Saturday 30 September. The performance features all nine forms of Indian Classical dance heritage, serving as the crowning event of the broader Rhythm of Images multi-disciplinary festival. It unites performers from Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani diasporas to celebrate the common threads that weave through their heritage and culture.

Running until 30 September, the exhibition is a great display of national identity and a deeper insight into South  Asian heritage. 

Visit the Brady Centre Art Gallery at 192-196 Hanbury Street, E1 5HU.

If you enjoyed reading this, you may like This is Home: Born and Bred in Mile End.

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