The title refers to inches: two and a quarter inches (stop sniggering at the back). Medium-format cameras use 2.25-inch square negatives. You can blow them up real big, and the quality is amazing. US photography legend William Eggleston isn’t usually associated with this format, but these pictures, taken in 1977 are as glowingly, troubling beautiful as any of his work, doused in a light that’s sweet and sickly as barbecue glaze.
Chloe Wise paints beautiful images of absolute dickheads. The young Canadian artist’s lush, detailed images are filled with aloof, snooty, art school layabouts. The real dregs of creative society; blue rinse beauties and hip young things in vintage sportswear with wanky haircuts and tiny moustaches. It’s like being at the worst party in Camberwell ever. But they are really good paintings. Wise has an incredible skill, and a wonderful compositional eye. All these soft young faces are surrounded by bodies; lost, isolated in seas of humans. All around them are reaching, caressing hands. Each figure is somehow totally alone despite the humanity and affection they’re engulfed in. Most of the images feature some incongruous element: a box of Kleenex, hand sanitiser, antibacterial soap. What’s Wise saying? That these people are locked in a world that wants to sanitise, cleanse and purify them? If so, it’s hard to feel any sympathy. And for some reason, there are benches dotted throughout the space with built-in Kleenex dispensers. What are you meant to do, cry or…? It’s a bit of an unnecessary affectation. But on the other hand, Wise really does manage to capture a modern sense of disaffection and ennui, a contemporary boredom and loneliness, in a world where that shouldn’t even be possible. I’m torn, really. Wise is a very good painter who paints slightly annoying things. Every time you start getting a feel for the works, something pops up to push you away. Just like any cool
You know a gallery is clutching at straws when they bring Freud into the mix. ‘How are we going to explain why we’ve put all these paintings in a room?’ ‘Errr, can we just say it’s because of Freud? No one’s actually read anything by him, they’ll never know we’re just trying to flog a load of self-portraits.’ That’s what’s happened here.
As hypoallergenic environments go, there are few places more meticulously grime-free than the average art gallery and the items inside it. Not so with this small collection of Derek Jarman artworks. Go nose-to-nose with the sculptural canvases and you’ll start to notice a thin, perfect layer of… dust.
You’ve got two options with Sean Scully’s abstract paintings. You can either try to read a bunch of hefty conceptual meaning into their lines and colours, or you can take them for what they are: big bloody stripy paintings.
With laser-cut precision, Gerwald Rockenschaub dances between abstraction and decoration. What I mean is that his glistening acrylic constructions are as much works of art as they are decorative objects: halfway between paintings and a Bakelite telephone.
In the opening scene of ‘Superman’ (1978), Krypton’s sun explodes, destroying the planet. The cave of crystals that the Superfamily calls home shatters, the planet is blown to smithereens. It’s not far off what’s happening in Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo’s big abstract works here.
Loneliness, anxiety, jealousy, fear and torment: Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) probably wasn’t much fun at parties, but he sure had a knack for art. This exhibition doesn’t make for easy viewing: it’s heavy, dour stuff that’ll hang over you like a dark cloud.
Joan Snyder’s heavily textured, wall-based artworks, exhibited at Blain Southern in the artist’s first ever solo UK show, are dripping with ‘feminine’ juices: thick clots of fuchsia, rows of roses, a random velvet bra strap and, yes, glitter. Lots of glitter.
Glistening skyscrapers loom over a serene Welsh lake while a monotone voice tells surreal tales about how this gleaming metropolis got plonked in the Valleys. Architects, builders, engineers: for some reason, they all conspired to build this city, right here.
Christian Marclay’s most famous artwork, ‘The Clock’, makes viewers contemplate the passage of time. The artist’s latest exhibition, featuring two new video works, performs a similar function. But instead of getting you to tune into the hourglass in the sky, these pieces make you look again at looking.
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida has slipped through the cracks. Art history can be a cruel bastard, and it’s hard to figure out where he fits in all of it: behind the Spanish painter are the waves of innovation of the French Impressionists, ahead of him is the birth of modernism, and hanging over it all are the imposing shadows of the Spanish greats, Velázquez and Goya. Bad timing, really.
Chances are you haven’t heard of Dave Heath. The American photographer, who quietly documented post-WWII US society, has flown under the radar. This is his first major UK show, and despite only being two rooms, ‘Dialogues with Solitudes’ packs a big emotional punch. Striving to capture people’s ‘inner landscapes’, Heath’s black-and-white portraits focus on quiet moments of solitary contemplation. As a soldier in Korea, he beautifully documented his fellow soldiers lost in thought, looking exhausted and haunted. Once he went back, moving to New York, he continued to seek out lost souls in private moments of self-reflection, longing, pain and ennui. Heath photographed strangers off in their own worlds, disconnected from those around them, isolated by their internal monologues. Like so many other great street photographers, Heath manages to capture people seemingly unnoticed. The subjects appear like ghostly characters in a film, made more intriguing by the lack of any back-story. With Heath’s photos, you’re left to make up your own. It’s only when you see the way they were paired and curated for the layout of his 1965 book ‘A Dialogue with Solitude’ that you can start to glimpse the meaning he attached to them. Although these snatched moments look like simple candid shots, Heath was a skilful printer and photo manipulator, subtly directing the narrative through canny crops, cuts and highlights. Heath definitely erred towards the darker side of the human condition: from mela
Down in the bowels of The Wallace Collection lies an armoury, filled to the brim with countless items of historical brutality. Dullards like me and you might walk through and just see weapons and armour. Very pretty weapons and armour, sure, but still, little more than tools of war. But the great Henry Moore saw something else in the helmets displayed in those dusty glass cabinets.
In the 1985 film adaptation of EM Forster’s ‘A Room with a View’, Daniel Day-Lewis plays Cecil Vyse, a supercilious slimeball Helena Bonham Carter’s Lucy Honeychurch is engaged to before she sees sense and elopes with sexy socialist George Emerson. Anthea Hamilton’s new exhibition, ‘The Prude’, takes the buttoned-up Edwardian dweeb Day-Lewis got so right as its inspiration.
As Britain’s Self-Loathing Olympics head towards their Closing Ceremony, the country’s favourite documenter of our endlessly conflicted national identity lands at the NPG. This is not a coincidence. Since the referendum result in 2016, photographer Martin Parr has been pointing his lens at various aspects of the nation to investigate, in his word, ‘Brexitness’.
On the one hand, David Salle’s new paintings look like he’s taken some 1940s cartoon imagery and splodged it willy-nilly on some canvases. But on the other hand, there’s something else going on in these paintings.
Louis-Léopold Boilly was a businessman. He saw that there was a bob or two to be made in creating bawdy, naughty paintings for the turn of the nineteenth century bourgeoisie, and he went in hard. The result here in this small free display is a funny, kinky, silly vision of posh Parisian life, like ‘Made in Chelsea’ for revolutionary France.
Before smartphones, sending a nude was seriously hard work. There were no quick pics in the bathroom mirror in renaissance Europe; instead, they had to rely on good old-fashioned pen and ink. This neat little show – dedicated largely to drawings, engravings and woodcuts from the time – explores the different ways that the nude was used back in the middle of the last millennium.
Visiting the Royal Academy can make a person feel small. That naked Grecian sculpture? It’s massive. Those ceilings? They’re towering. The staircase? Gargantuan! And you, tiny insignificant creature, are worthy only of cowering in the corridors of this prodigious Palace of Art. You’re small and it’s big. But the bigness of the RA just got even bigger, thanks to Phyllida Barlow’s new exhibition ‘cul-de-sac’.
Big isn’t always better. Not here, anyway, because this is a show full of tiny, tiny, tiny paintings, and they are gorgeous; achingly small and stunningly intricate portraits of Elizabethan royals, courtiers and poshos by the masters of the form, Isaac Oliver and Nicholas Hilliard.
Franz West took all the stuffy, conservative formality of the art world and told everyone where to shove it. The austere reverence of the gallery, the contemplative deification of the artist: West just couldn’t be arsed with it. Instead, the anarchic Austrian artist (1947-2012) created a body of work that’s playful and ludicrous, that feels like one drink too many in a Viennese bar, the art equivalent of a hangover you somehow don’t regret.
Diane Arbus was the original people-watcher. Some lads larking around by the coast, a glamorous receptionist at her desk, two women shooting evils at the universe: nothing escaped her notice. The Hayward Gallery’s exhibition of photographs from the first seven years of her career (1956-1962) is sleekly arranged with each small print attached to one side of a tall white rectangle.
There’s an episode in Matthew Weiner’s series, ‘The Romanoffs’, where descendants of Russia’s last royal family get together on a cruise ship and re-enact the glory days of grand balls and staged entertainment. Those with Romanov DNA lap it up, while two married-in relations find the entire event slightly perplexing. Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs, a new exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, has the potential to inspire a similar division of response.
In 1855, Roger Fenton arrived in the Crimea on a commission from publisher Thomas Agnew & Sons to photograph scenes and figures from the ongoing Crimean War. After he returned to London, the images were exhibited at four venues in the capital and… that was it. There hasn’t been a London show of Fenton’s creations since 1856.
American artist Jenny Holzer’s work is decades’ worth of statements, aphorisms, quotes and poetry. She takes words and sentences and plasters them over the streets, prints them on cups and condoms, engraves them into marble, and sends them stuttering at lightspeed along LED columns.
Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff wanted to do more than just prove their parents wrong,they wanted to use their work to explore childhood trauma and how it manifests throughout life. Pailthorpe was a surgeon and Mednikoff was an artist, together they embarked on a career of drawing, painting and mutual psychoanalysis.
Countless accusations have been lobbed at Jews over the millennia. Stereotypes prevail, and the Jewish Museum is trying to tackle the big one: money. The show starts with the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of ‘jew’ as a verb. It makes for unpleasant reading. And the show doesn’t get much nicer.
In April 2018, the media flocked to a historic meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea. Part-way through, the two men requested privacy. As they went to chat, the remaining journalists kept their recording equipment whirring. This is what it picked up: birdsong. This alternative version of political tweeting is now chirruping out of speakers at the South London Gallery as part of Haegue Yang’s ‘Tracing Movement’.
While the world was patting New York, LA and London on the back for inventing pop art and conceptualism back in the late ’60s, a group of artists in Chicago were too busy having the time of their lives to care.
Everyday life can be a nightmare, and Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) created art that was like a dream diary of domestic horror. Her images ripple with gothic, fantastical paranoia, tearing at the fabric of living: the dinner table, the chores, the sex, the food, the very tedium of existence. This major show makes a strong case for her being one of the greats of surrealism, overshadowed throughout history by the macho men of the genre.
Pop quiz: who’s the national painter of Norway? The guy who painted ‘The Scream’, right? Wrong, the actual owner of that title is Harald Sohlberg. But if that’s art historical news to you, don’t feel ashamed. This retrospective at Dulwich Picture Gallery is the first major show of the artist’s paintings and drawings ever in the UK.
Robert Burton’s ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ was first published in 1621. The extensive handbook to misery was an unlikely seventeenth-century bestseller and has continued to provide inspiration to gloriously gloomy souls ever since, including Nick Cave, the crown prince of melancholia. This small exhibition at the Museum of the Mind is made up of paintings relating to Burton’s six categories.
Some paintings seem to shimmer with light, but Pierre Bonnard’s breath-taking images of landscapes, domestic scenes, crowds and bathing women absolutely shake with it. And not just light. They hum with sexuality, vibrate with tension, pulsate with melancholy and almost strobe with colour, colour, colour.
Like half-forgotten crushes, some lost spaces might be sweeter to remember than they ever were at the time. Whitechapel Gallery’s glance into the spaces where London’s queer communities flirted and campaigned serves up heavy doses of nostalgia.
In a world of mindful affirmations and positive reinforcement, Spanish artist Joan Cornellá is the negative kick in the shins we deserve, and probably need. This little show finds him flexing his art muscles, rather than the cartoon strips he’s known for, with a series of drawings, paintings and a ridiculous sculpture.
Sex sells, but a lack of sex can kill. There are currently four mass murders attributed to ‘incels’, or ‘involuntary celibates’, an online subculture of virulently angry men whose inability to find girlfriends fills their lives with hateful resentment of women. It’s shocking, terrifying, depressing. And it’s the inspiration for English artist Ed Fornieles’ latest work.
Back in the 1950s, the Whitechapel put on a collaborative artists-and-architects exhibition called ‘This Is Tomorrow’. It introduced the world to the very first inklings of pop art and brought names like Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton and Alison and Peter Smithson smack dab into the public eye. It was seriously groundbreaking, and genuinely seminal. So much so that the Whitechapel has now decided to see, almost 70 years later, if it can repeat the trick.
Art can be a weapon. And what at first seems like some unintelligibly complicated and dense neutron bomb in this exhibition by German artist Hito Steyerl eventually reveals itself to be as powerfully direct and brutally effective as a club to the head.
Emma Kunz was a visionary of the old-fashioned kind. Not a ‘visionary’ in the way we now bandy around the term to mean an artist who’s particularly good at being an artist, but a visionary whose brain filtered, systematised and comprehended the world in a fundamentally different way to those around her.
This show is great if you want to see a bunch of artists rip off Vincent Van Gogh. If you’re hoping to be immersed in Vince’s swirling night visions or undulating sunflowers and landscapes, you’ll get a bit of it, but only a nibble. The main gist of the show is to look at the British artists that influenced young Vinnie, and the British artists who in turn took inspiration from him.
Tate Britain is filled with the corpses of British industry, the long dead, rotting remains of this country itself. Strewn across the massive central Duveen Galleries are chunks of enormous abandoned machinery: presses, clamps, welders, cutters. Some have been left untouched, others have been piled on top of each other.
Heads up: this is a difficult show. Over his career, Don McCullin has photographed things most people don’t want to think about, never mind see. Bloody, foul, repellent conflicts in The Congo, Cyprus, Cambodia, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Vietnam and Beirut. Many of his images are iconic: his ‘Shell-shocked US Marine, Battle of Hué’ (1968) is a defining image of twentieth-century warfare, not just of Vietnam.
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