Peter Blake: Under Milk Wood, Waddington Custot until 23 July
Under Milk Wood tells the surreal story of the dreams and thoughts of the inhabitants of a mythical Welsh seaside town where all is ‘strangely simple and simply strange’ as dawn breaks. We are introduced to characters through their dreams, and then follow them around over the course of one day. There are three short videos by the National Museum of Wales where Blake talks about creating each part of the series: I was enthralled by the one where he explains the process behind the images for the dreams but they are all a delight to watch and available on YouTube.
Peter Blake, Under Milk Wood, runs until 23 July at Waddington Custot, 11 Cork Street, London W1S 3LT. Free entry.
The Countess of Castiglione: The Creation of a Legend, James Hyman until 29 July
I had never heard of Virginia Oldoini, the Countess of Castiglione, but was intrigued enough by her photograph to visit this show. She was well ahead of her time -we can now see her as the original selfie queen- and I found this selection of over fifty rare portraits from the 1850s to the 1890s utterly fascinating.
The Countess, as one of the most radical figures of the nineteenth century, pioneered a new concept in photography: autofiction. In hundreds of portraits produced over decades, she did what so many celebrities and influencers do today: by staging scenarios and performing different roles, she presented a wide range of characters and personalities that reflected multiple identities. At a time when women had very little input in their portraits, she exerted complete control over her image and art directed all her shots, dictating the pose, costumes, props, lighting, and of course what she wanted to say.
The Countess of Castiglione: the creation of a legend, runs until 29 July at James Hyman Gallery, 48 Maddox Street, London W1S 1AY. Free entry.
Angela Santana, Saatchi Yates until 31 August
Meanwhile at Saatchi Yates, the new Angela Santana exhibition brings together over 14 paintings in an exploration and rejection of the male fantasy. Drawing inspiration in the vast amount of illicit images of the female body that are available on the internet, the artist transforms these from object to subject in her huge oil canvasses.
Angela Santana dismantles and reinterprets each image, composing each artwork digitally through hundreds of layers of fragments, clustering them together into a cubist, abstract representation of the female form. These large works of re-imagined female figures are demanding rather than pleasing: powerful antagonists to all those illicit online pictures created by and for men.
The exhibition runs until 31 August at Saatchi Yates, 6 Cork Street, London W1S 3NX. Free entry.