Sunday, 29 December 2013
Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900, The National Gallery, London (9 October 2013-12 January 2014)
Saturday, 21 December 2013
Starring Vivien Leigh: A Cetenary Celebration, National Portrait Gallery, London (30 November 2013-20 July 2014)
Leigh was more than her looks though, and despite an extremely privileged upbringing and glamorous lifestyle, including the infamous affair and marriage to Laurence Olivier, she was an incredibly talented actress. She was also haunted by her own demons, suffering from returning episodes of depression throughout her life and was also dogged by ill heath for much of her adult life.
Sunday, 10 November 2013
The name of Pauline Boty will not be familiar to many people and despite being a founder member of the British Pop movement and contemporary of Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and David Hockney, art history has not been kind to the artist. Boty’s work fell into obscurity after the artist’s untimely death at the age of 28 in 1966 and her name was almost obliterated from narratives on British Pop Art until as recently as the late 1990s, when David Mellor rescued her canvases from rotting in her brother’s barn. Since then, Mellor along with Sue Watling and Sue Tate have worked tirelessly to rehabilitate her name and the importance on her work within the movement. Her name is increasingly included in art historical surveys of British Pop Art yet astonishingly despite their efforts, only two monographs of Boty’s work have been published and this relatively low key exhibition at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery is the first survey of her work held in a public gallery and in fact the first solo exhibition since 1998.
In a relatively small triangular room, rather annoyingly lit with changing colour lighting, twenty eight pieces of Boty’s work, including ten large scale canvases and six early collage works, chart the artist’s development from her time at the Wimbledon School of Art between 1954-58 and then the Royal College of Art to her most productive and successful years between 1961 and 1966. Her early self portrait of 1995, painted when she was just 17 is an early indicator of just how talented this young woman was. Collages such as A Big Hand (1960-61) and Untitled (hand, secateurs and children) of the same year evidence Boty’s skill at the delicate balance of composition and juxtaposition of imagery which can make or break a collage.
The exhibition is transferring to Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex from 30 November to 16 February 2014 and I would urge people to visit and discover one of the most important female artists this country has produced and which we have still yet to fully embrace as it has, for example, Barbara Hepworth or Sarah Lucas.
Sunday, 3 November 2013
This exhibition will delight lovers of the unexpected, the whimsical and the unusual. It is the first to be held in the United Kingdom to offer a major examination of Victorian revivalism and includes twenty eight contemporary artists whose work (either in its entirety, or specifically for this exhibition) has looked back to the nineteenth century with very post-modern twenty first century eyes. Recognised names such as Yinka Shonibare, Grayson Perry and Mat Collishaw appear alongside (among others) the wonderfully sounding Neo-Victorian Kitty Valentine, Miss Pokeno and Otto von Beach. Photography, film, textiles, kinetics, taxidermy and drawing are all included in this multi-media, multi-sensory gem.
Although a haunting beauty emanates from much of the art, this is soon followed by a sense of unease and even Barnaby Barford’s animated film Damaged Goods, a love story played out by porcelain figurines on the back shelves of a bric-a-brac shop, contains a Gothic sensibility within it. This mix of the contemporary and the Gothic is also wonderfully captured in the mechanical objects of Collishaw’s Magic Lantern and Paul St George’s Geislich Tube. Along with Simon Venus’s mechanized theatre set In Two Minds, these beautifully crafted pieces could have been created in an alchemist’s workshop. Behind the thin veneer of nostalgia and fantasy, irony and politics can also be read in the work a number of artists featured, particularly in Shonibare’s Dorian Gray photographs looking at his identity as a black British man and Jane Hoodless’s commentary on the changing role of women in Victorian society in Shorn Out of Wedlock.
Nightingale's Rest (detail), Chantal Powell
Nightingale's Rest (detail), Chantal Powell
Saturday, 26 October 2013
For Mendieta, blood was a magical, powerful thing both metaphorically and materially. She is perhaps best known for her earth-body sculptures that combined ritual with metaphors of life, death, rebirth and spiritual transformation and has been firmly placed within art history narratives essentialist feminists of the early 1970s such as Judy Chicago, Carolee Schneemann, Hannah Wilke and Valie Export and she was a member of the AIR Gallery, the first all-female cooperative art gallery formed in New York in 1972.
Saturday, 22 June 2013
Tucked away in two galleries on the third floor within the behemoth which is the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, seventy-one drawings from the museum’s collection of works on paper which include artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Holbein to name but four, are guaranteed to take your breath away. I have visited many, many exhibitions over the years and I have to say that this is the first one which I can, in complete truth and without any embarrassment say, was as close to a spiritual experience I have ever had. It really is a feast for the eyes and it also reminded me how much I love drawing as a medium. The immediacy of the line from a pencil or piece of charcoal or chalk on paper can convey as much emotion and power as any over-sized oil painting. Drawing also seems to allow the viewer an instant connection and insight into the mind of the artist. Who could not failed to be moved when faced with the exquisite skill contained in drawings such as Michelangelo’s Ideal Head or Rembrandt’s Head Study of an Old Man. With some of the unfinished sketches on display, such as Ingres’ Portrait of Jean-François-Antoine Forest, it felt as it both artist and model had just left the room a few moments before. The sense of history and legacy was also very humbling to experience in this exhibition, with the earliest drawing dating back to the late fifteenth century it proved how fundamental drawing was, and continues to be, for artistic practice. Holbein’s simple, yet exquisite A Young Englishwoman is a fashion plate of its day and gives us a glimpse into an almost unimaginable ere. Given its Pre-raphaelite connections, surprisingly the exhibition only contained one example from the group, Rossetti’s sumptuous Beatrice Meeting Dante at a Wedding Feast. I was disappointed to see only one female artist represented here, Gwen John, and given her prolific drawing output and skill, it would have been nice to see more examples of her work if the museum had more in its collection. For any real lover of art and history I cannot recommend this exhibition enough, it really is one not to be missed.