Reviews of exhibitions in London and beyond, as well as books and performances related to the visual arts.
It would be a mistake to interpret ‘Waste Not’ as a straightforward critique of the materialist ethos of consumer culture, or as drawing a parallel between the drab uniformity of the Maoist era and the homogeneity of globalised consumerism. More profoundly, it hints at the possibility that material abundance can free us from the kind of tyranny that possessions have over us in times of scarcity.
Freud’s grandfather, Sigmund, attempted to examine and explain the workings of the human mind and helped to expand our understanding of them, including their more disturbing aspects. In a sense, his grandson followed in his footsteps. But instead of using the consulting room and couch, the younger Freud employed the studio and the paintbrush.
‘Three Trees near Thixendale, Summer 2007’, shows bulging trees leaping out towards us like boxers’ gloved fists punching towards their opponents, while ‘Hawthorn Blossom near Rudston, 2000’, shows these vast shrubs lining the approach to an arch, giving it an air of mystery.
The aim of Culture Beyond Oil, a book produced by the arts and activist organisations Platform, Art Not Oil and Liberate Tate, is to draw attention to cultural sponsorship by the oil industry. The book is a type of intervention that questions the status quo – just like the scenario described above, which was carried out by Liberate Tate in June 2010. What does oil sponsorship reflect of the culture it supports? What does culture do, for oil money? What does oil money do to culture?
The link between science, manufacturing, and the production and development of the day-to-day technology we take for granted, and whose loss we would note very quickly, is not widely recognised. Conran, with his reputation for artistic and profitable practicality as his calling-card, has a vital role in combating two centuries of neglect.
A key characteristic of the exhibition is the lack of colour photos used by Don McCullin during his career. McCullin said himself, ‘I thought that black and white images in war were much more powerful,’ and his photos reinforce this statement.
The difference between seeing a manuscript illustration in a book and seeing the real thing is almost absolute. Medieval manuscripts are immensely tactile: the smoothness of the parchment (usually calfskin) on which the hair follicles can sometimes be made out, the richness and vibrancy of the colours based on rare pigments such as lapis lazuli, and above all the astonishing glow of gold leaf.
What they did share was a love of representational work and, one suspects, a bloody-minded determination to plough their artistic furrows however unfashionable - or unsettling - they might be. The unique nature of the contributions of each individual artist should be rigorously respected.
Tower Hamlets didn’t suffer so badly from the riots compared to other areas of London, probably because of this tight-knit community of which Bayjoo’s young men are part.
We see Leonardo constantly striving to depict the world more perfectly, by doing things noone had thought possible. Some of the drawings show his fecund imagination in overdrive: he drew and re-drew the same composition, sometimes side by side, sometimes one on top of another. But while Leonardo is well known as scientist and as draftsman, here above all we see him as painter.
Towers are monuments to our uncertainties. When Johnson talks with hopeful vagueness of the ‘mythic’ nature of towers, the word he is really after is ‘magic.’ The Orbit was designed to make the Olympic Park a ‘must see’ destination; the Orbit, that is to say, is a coercion; all towers are. Towers attempt to convince us that they, and by extension we, stand at the centre of things.
All the artists who spoke treated sound as something other. As a musician, I was surprised by this - perhaps just because I am used to putting sound first, but also perhaps because the visual element of musical performance is and always has been a firmly established part of music: any musical experience always involves seeing things. But the reverse is not the case.
‘These are living and breathing social documents that talk of human beings speaking to other human beings. The language and mode of expression is radical, bold and strident. And I think it relates to what we’ve already discussed…that artists saw themselves as part of a much bigger change that some sections of society were attempting to bring about.’
Degas was aware of - and took an interest in – the scientific study of the human body which was in progress during his lifetime. The works in this exhibition show Degas’ attempts to try and capture the workings of the skin and bone which are the raw material of human movement.
In the discussion which followed the concert, it was refreshing to hear Philip Thomas and Anton Lukoszevieze (the founder of Apartment House, as well as its cellist) strongly defend Cage as a composer, not just an ideas man, as he is sometimes viewed.