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