top of page


Soanyway Reviews


These will be published on a rolling basis, in between our issues.


Reviews of exhibitions, books, poetry, translation, music, theatre, opera, architecture, design, ceramics etc.


We interpret the review form broadly, and we would like to publish work that experiments with the idea. This means it can incorporate commentary, interview, conversation, comparison and other forms of response.


These reviews can be from any time, place, discipline. If you have reviewed an exhibition that happened 2 years, 10 years or a 50 years ago, we would like to see it. If you went to a concert last week, or watched a performance yesterday, we would like to hear about it. If you think there is a book from a 100 years ago, or a film or piece of music, that you think missed its chance or you've had further thoughts about, send us your review of it.


We ask that they are no longer than 1,500 words, unless you contact us to ask otherwise. Please include a 50-100 word description of your review. If you are not sure whether your idea fits, please read our magazine description on the homepage, browse our contents and email us your query.

A Stone’s Throw is an artist’s book comprising 64 gelatin silver photographs made between February 2019 and March 2020 on Robben Island, Western Cape, South Africa. Bookending Roger Palmer’s photographs are two essays, the first by the former Robben Island prisoner and tour guide, Lionel Davis, and the other by the Cape Town based writer, editor and curator, Sean O’Toole.

The title, A Stone’s Throw, refers literally to the proximity of Robben Island to Cape Town, but it also recalls a history of political prisoners held there being forced to quarry and crush stone, and further references the so-called ‘klipgooiers’ (‘stone throwers’), dissidents who were imprisoned on the island in 1976.

Following the Rivonia trial, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in 1964 and spent 18 years incarcerated on Robben Island, before being transferred to Pollsmoor Prison, then Victor Verster Prison, from where he was finally released in 1990 after 27 years in jail. After he became President of South Africa in 1994, Mandela saw national reconciliation as his primary task. One result of this was that immediately after its closure in 1996, Robben Island was re-opened in January 1997 as a museum and visitor attraction and intended as a sanctuary of healing, and it employed both former prisoners and their guards as tour guides and in other roles. In his essay in the book, the former prisoner Lionel Davis describes how the reconciliation between these groups of employees was understandably challenging and hard won: “A few of the ex-prison personnel found it hard to let go of the authority they had previously wielded; the black staff were assertive in standing up for themselves; and angry exchanges were not unusual. The museum community proved to be a microcosm of life in South Africa with its ongoing racial tension.”

All of the book’s photographs were made facing south, looking from the small, flat island towards Cape Town across Table Bay, so that the iconic silhouette of Table Mountain forms a constant backdrop to various aspects of Robben Island’s harsh landscape and leftover infrastructure. As Sean O’Toole points out, this recurrent motif, “consciously quotes Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai’s method of describing varied and fleeting human action against the immutable geological backdrop of Mount Fuji.” O’Toole’s essay eruditely interweaves a survey of Palmer’s most important photographic work from the 1970s onwards with historical and environmental information about Robben Island and a detailed analysis of the philosophical intentions, aesthetic strategies and ideological intentions of Palmer’s work in A Stone’s Throw.

Both textual essays though, whilst providing helpful context, are very much secondary to Palmer’s central visual ‘essay’ in the form of its 64 carefully edited and sequenced photographs. They are arranged in groups of eight, each suggesting a notional day that begins with an exposure made soon after sunrise and progressing to one made shortly before dusk. A black page separates each group or day from the next. This repeated daily structure implies a potentially endlessly repetition that might suggest the experience of incarceration with its constant limitations against a backdrop changed only by the light conditions and the daily cycle of time passing.

Whilst none of the photographs are captioned, they clearly convey a sense of the island’s history not just as a penal colony but also at different times a wartime bunker and a medical asylum, and most recently as a site of tourism. Every single photograph evidences the significant human intervention in the landscape that these uses involve, and many bear witness to the consequent disruption, degradation and neglect of the land and its influence on the flora and fauna. Despite this, there is no actual human presence in any of the photographs – people are noticeably absent from view, whilst their material impact on the landscape is powerfully present in every image. The equally ubiquitous presence of Table Mountain in the background sets up a tension between the extreme slowness of geological time and the rapid rate of social change and human history evidenced by the layers of decay in the foreground. Yet we are reminded also of how painfully slow social change must have seemed to those opponents of apartheid incarcerated here for decades, emphasised in several of the photographs by the rapid and free flight of birds.

Roger Palmer, A Stone’s Throw, Fotohof edition, Salzburg, 2022, soft-bound, 160pp.

The book is available in the UK from Roger Palmer For further information, including a Special Edition, visit

I entered the V&A with the resistance I associate with having to pay to see an exhibition and the subsequent question of will it be good value, an ominous starting point for engaging with any art. The £12 ticket gives you a timeslot and you queue to gain access on a one-in, one-out system to avoid overcrowding.

You first enter through a narrow dark corridor that feels and serves as a bottleneck. This space is used to exhibit a series of black and white photos of Frida Kahlo as a child, young woman, adult. The public jostled cattle-like for space and air; to assert your stance in front of any one image took bravura and I found myself unwilling and disengaged. I opted to move on quickly and was glad as each subsequent room gave physical and emotional expansion to my experience.

Kahlo’s personal belongings, displayed bright and bold in glass cases, gave pathos and depth to her work. A greater part of the exhibition is given over to the items of clothing that both served as a purposeful self-fashioning on her part, and as a means of obscuring and accommodating her physical disability and the surgical structures she relied on daily: corsets, false shoes and boots, metal braces. As these items amassed, the artist persona receded against the physical reality of Kahlo’s short life, the disability and extreme pain she lived with, the multiple operations, periods spent bedbound. No wonder she painted herself, constructed her art around her own form.

Kahlo’s art does feature in the exhibition, it’s fitting that it is hung on the peripheries of the spaces you walk through with the artist’s clothing taking centre stage. The tomb-like network of chambers offers an apt, non-linear passage through her life. Separated from my party I explored the space half-lost, disorientated, increasingly anchored to Frida’s world. The exhibition mirrors the ornate threads in the outfits she wore, the viewer’s gaze weaves back and forth between artwork; artist; photo; pain; artwork; husband; artist; letter; pain; artwork — and so on. It is a complex tapestry with each viewer having agency over which part they work; I left knowing that I had experienced something acutely personal, un-replicable, profoundly moving.

Oddly, those images that I had barely glanced at in the bottleneck flashed sharp in negative as I walked through the kaleidoscopic spaces: Frida in a suit; Frida as a girl; Frida at a party. I cannot think this an accident. The curators crafted a visually purposeful, visceral experience for the audience with the first photo gallery acting like a zoetrope of image imprint in preparation for the most astounding onslaught of colour and pain that follows.

You exit into a gallery shop adorned by Kahlo-colour and consumables ranging from £2 tat to £200 shawls. It’s a shame. After the exhibits you don’t need any more colour and you don’t need to take anything home. And there’s distaste at commodifying the clothing synonymous with Kahlo and her physical pain — which we’ve just seen. As the V&A kitsched its own good work I pushed past the till into direct sun, eyes reeling in magnesium light. Those images flashed up again. Frida in a suit. Frida in a mirror. Frida: in black and white.

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up ran at the V&A, London, UK, from 16 June to 18 November 2018.

Jasleen Kaur’s latest exhibition, Flesh ‘n’ Blood, shakes our understanding of memory and the body. Searching deep within her family history to interrogate notions of healing and the internal, Kaur presents her most recent sculptural works, carrying us along on a winding journey of seeing the body in a new light. “I’m thinking of—” Kaur says to us as we sit listening to an ‘In Conversation’ between her and collaborator Priya Jay. “I’m thinking of the body as storage for memory. What we digest — the cultural and personal memories.” A placid pink colon stretches and curls across the gallery floor, its colour sharply contrasted against the grey floor of the gallery. Atop it sits a collection of objects: a string of plastic aubergines linked together like sausages; a pair of flip flops sit orphaned from the feet that once filled them, replaced by peanuts cast in resin; musical instruments and a wooden palm-hands-shaped bookstand opens up to reveal a manifesto for meditation. Flesh ‘n’ Blood is a guttural reflection on family, religion, and cultural history that sends the viewer down a sentimental path, with Kaur inviting us into her inner sanctum without letting us get too close. The gallery becomes a place where closely-held memories and emotions are exposed to us, whether plastered across the wall or delicately placed along the ground. Kaur questions identity thoroughly: both her own and the culturally shared identity, often conflicting, coming from part-Indian and part-Scottish heritage. A litre bottle of Irn Bru — a cultural signifier of Scottishness — is contrasted on the plinth by a milk bottle containing healing oil and reeds. In Kaur’s universe, Irn Bru is as much a medicine as healing oils. These are objects that hold a saccharine significance for Kaur. We are left adrift of the intimate stories stored in these supermarket-shelf items.

Grief / Sanctuary / Memory / Loss / Language

For good reason too. This is a deeply personal exhibition, in which our admittance by the artist is in good-faith; look, touch, feel — but don’t get too close. Each reflection is rooted in the body, both that of the artist and the viewer. Within the Body, God, a flat, wooden carving of a deity is interrupted by the presence of worship bells, sitting as if they were physically within the body. Kaur doesn’t rely solely on metaphor, though. Instead, she transgresses the idea of sculpture as a dormant and unmoving — untouched — art medium. Objects are here to be ingested, to be touched and felt physically. Etched jugs of water, accompanied by drinking glasses, are interspersed along the gut-shaped plinth, daring the viewer to break conventional behaviour and interact with the exhibition in a way that transcends mere viewership. Two of the gallery walls are covered in photo-album pictures, pixelated blow-ups taken from Kaur’s family archives. Photos of women, headless, faceless, their presence emits a sense of temporal existence. We don’t know who they are, only that they are of immense importance to Kaur; they are women who have shaped her existence. In Freedom Massi, Kaur contemplates names and naming; the anglo-centric word aunty is fractured into multiple words in Kaur’s language, relative to the shared relation and family connection.

Colon, or Colonised Intestine, or Internalised Ritual, or Ritualised

The centrepiece of the exhibition, An Infinity of Traces, a four-metre double-ended kameez which hangs from the ceiling, draping onto the plinth below, reflects the importance of a narrative told by and for women. The kameez is stained with turmeric and imprinted with drawings of bodily internals; repeated impressions of kirpans, a ceremonial Sikh dagger, slink their way down the garment. The words “Mart-Her” sit on the upper back of the dress as if recognising a player in a football match, instead reflecting identities of the feminine and matriarchal histories Kaur is so enamoured by. To ingest is to invoke all that we encounter. To digest is to eat the cultural things we’ve grown up with, an action in which they become part of us. Kaur’s use of language, which lies buried within the works themselves, is key to unlocking this exhibition. Colon is, likely, a stand-in for colonial/colonised, a reflection on British-Indian history, a history shrouded in the cloak of colonisation. Kaur’s use of the colon is bodily, certainly; on the kameez reads the phrase “colonial ingestion”, suggesting a taking in of colonial words and beliefs, likely unwillingly. Reading her use of language as a reclaiming of history, however, leads to a more powerful conclusion; through the colon as a surface upon which personal and private stories are told, Kaur reclaims the power of being the one who tells her own story. She refuses to relinquish that control amidst dominating political and social forces, succeeding in becoming the keeper of her history. ​ Jasleen Kaur's exhibition Flesh ‘n’ Blood ran at Humber Street Gallery, Hull, UK, between September 22 - December 24 2021.

bottom of page