Visual Arts

Reviews of exhibitions in London and beyond, as well as books and performances related to the visual arts. 

Friday 23 September 2011

‘Jesus Christ was the first celebrity’

An interview with artist Christian Jankowski about his work, 'Casting Jesus'

‘It is like the TV show, The X Factor, it is the same casting format. It is not true communication. You are part of the jury when you are judging Jesus. The art provokes the viewer to reflect upon their inner view of the image of Jesus from the historical perspective of art history or visits to churches and to be aware of the multiple narratives at work.’

Rediscovering forgotten pleasures

An interview with artist Richard T Scott

‘I see art in its simplest form as the means for refining and exploring human communication. Every language has its limitations and what I try to do in my work, is develop the visual means of intuitively conveying emotional and conceptual content.’

Wednesday 31 August 2011

From silver screen to uncertain flickers

Glamour of the Gods: Hollywood Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London

The word ‘Gods’ in the exhibition’s title is - possibly - the giveaway clue here. Although golden-era Hollywood was part of mass entertainment, its stars benefitted from working within an era when established hierarchies - church, state, parents, judiciary, politicians, academics - still dominated Western thought and behaviour: their power was taken for granted. Stars of stage and screen shared in this stratified system of authority: hence the almost ethereal glamour that the photographs here show.

From water spouts to rockets

Out of This World, British Library, London

If science fiction writers have been right about the future before, what are more contemporary authors saying and could they really come true as well. Some may argue they already are! George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ or indeed Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Both predict dystopias dominated by mind control and surveillance? Chime any chords?

Friday 15 July 2011

Coldness and hostility

‘Hortus Conclusus’, by Peter Zumthor, Serpentine Gallery, London

The simple black exterior evokes no sense of intrigue, no yearning to discover what lies within. Moreover, it is a blot on the landscape, stark and unadorned. It does not invite you in, it is not welcoming, and, in fact, it verges on blandness.

Alight, Attack

The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World, Tate Britain, London

Mechanical shapes of peachy human flesh extend from the canvas appearing like counterparts of a weapon emerging from the depths of a white void. The slow agony of trench warfare soldiers and a creeping sense of death provides a cutting contrast to scenes reminiscent of the powerful resurrection of Christ in painting and drawings titled ‘Returning to the Trenches’ by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson.

The edge of the coffee table

In Search of a Masterpiece: An Art Lover's Guide to Great Britain and Ireland, by Christopher Lloyd (Thames & Hudson, 2011)

Lloyd’s tastes, while not cutting-edge, are not cosy. Yes, there are the striking but standard offerings we might expect. But there is also work which suddenly pulls us up short.

Friday 8 July 2011

Belfast: Exposed

Where are the people? Contemporary photographs of Belfast 2002-2010, edited by Karen Downey

Ethical concerns can just as easily be motivated by an evasion of responsibility, as they can by a desire to capture the displacement of people from history-making. The absence of people in documentary photography can be an accurate picture of the position of the people in contemporary society, but this absence can also amount to an attempt to evade the question Where are the people?

2LDK

At Home in Japan – beyond the minimal house, Geffrye Museum of the Home, London

The facts to be learned range from the curious (we learn that towels are ‘very popular generic gifts’ in Japan, and most people therefore have far too many) to the crazy (‘It is also common to eat a bean for every year of your age’), and they document everything from rubbish collection etiquette to gardening habits.

Chance meetings of camera with character

London Street Photography, Museum of London, London

The depth of emotion conveyed in Ben Hardy’s ‘East End Boy’, in which a wailing child hangs fearfully in his mother’s arms, terrified after a bombing raid on 28 September 1940, is perfectly mirrored in the mournful embrace of John Chase’s ‘Old Compton Street, Soho, 1999’, following David Copeland’s nail bomb attack on the Admiral Duncan pub.

Thursday 30 June 2011

‘Tox,Tox,Tox’

Street art or vandalism?

Can graffiti, something associated predominantly with teenagers who are labelled antisocial, be called art, and is the spraying of a tag really street art? What does graffiti really represent apart from the artist?

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Man-size cats, toilet threesomes and talking washing machines

Realism, Soho Theatre, London

At the end of Realism, protagonist Stuart’s girlfriend asks: ‘And what did you do today?’ ‘Fuck all,’ replies Stuart. Well, these pictures, scribbled frantically in the dark, tell a different story…

Friday 27 May 2011

Into

Tracey Emin: Love Is What You Want, Hayward Gallery, London

My lines, my drawings, my sweethearts, wispy-haired and still blue
From an unfortunate birth that was quite dangerous
I am still here watching you

Friday 20 May 2011

Using art to nudge the public

Culture and Class, by John Holden (Counterpoint 2010) / Arts Funding, Austerity and the Big Society: Remaking the case for the arts, by John Knell and Matthew Taylor (RSA 2011)

Today, Voltaire’s Enlightenment optimism has deteriorated into a deep pessimism about humanity and its place in the world.  In Britain, art is no longer seen by the elite as a way of dragging the lower orders up by their bootlaces, but as a sort of Valium to stop us getting any worse.

Joyful filth

Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life, Wellcome Collection, London

A startling illustration, a stipple engraving, of a cholera victim, created in 1831 and owned by the Wellcome Library, presents the monstrous presence of the disease. The diptych presents the transformation a neatly coiffed, nubile twenty three year old Venetian woman, into a gnarled, green-lipped hag.

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Resources

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