Visual arts: Stocking fillers for the soul

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Indy Lifestyle Online
What to buy for Christmas? You could look for a work of art, and while you're shopping, nibble on a mince pie, warm yourself by the fire, and contemplate death

"Sex and Death", according to WB Yeats, "are the only subjects worthy of a serious man's conversation." Or was it concentration, I can't quite remember, but either way, he would have approved of recent goings on in Hackney, where Flowers East have just opened "Small is Beautiful", their 15th annual Christmas exhibition of small works on a given theme.

Last year the theme of sex brought a cheeky and predominantly cheerful mixture from an extraordinary range of artists. This year they've gone for death, the other side of the Yeatsian equation, promising an altogether more sombre selection.

As previously, there are 100 or so contributors and from a list of names that includes the likes of Maggie Hambling and Stephen Chambers. It looks like being an intriguing show despite the unseasonable theme.

An altogether more jolly atmosphere is on the cards at Wiseman Originals in Kennington, a gallery set in a small Georgian house on one of South London's leafier squares. The house is also home to the Wiseman family, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays from now until Christmas (otherwise by appointment) they are promising mulled wine, mince pies, log fires, and even presents. Very enticing.

The Wisemans specialise in modern prints by famous names, so expect plenty of Picasso and Braque and Chagall. To my mind, though, the best of their very varied selection are Howard Hodgkin's coloured etchings. They lack the deeply evocative mood that marks his paintings, and the colouring is done by a hand other than his own, but they are nonetheless wonderful pictures and very reasonably priced. It all sounds like a civilised and enjoyable way of buying a picture for Christmas.

Small is Beautiful, Flowers East, 199/205 Richmond Road E8 (0181-985 3333). The Christmas Show, Wiseman Originals, 34 West Square SE11 (0171- 587 0747)


For a broader choice, albeit in less conducive surroundings, you could do worse than the 6th Annual Cork Street Fair - an open weekend in the capital's most famous art street. Rather unsportingly, the doors of some of the more fashionable venues will remain shut, but 14 galleries will be open until 6pm today and tomorrow.