The Scottish independence referendum of 2014 was a nexus point where all of our bizarre inter-national consternation came to the fore. Its fraught lead-up was also the inspiration for Scottish artist Rachel Maclean’s 2012 film, ‘The Lion and the Unicorn' and the series of images on display here. The whole show is a beautifully costumed, perfectly surreal and ultra-sardonic takedown of the Anglo-Scottish relationship.
Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was a man of a million ideas. He managed to be at the forefront of pop, conceptualism, performance art, and any other important twentieth century movement you can think of – and he became one of the most important artists of the past hundred years in the process. Sure makes you think about how proud you were of yourself for filling in that budget spreadsheet on time this month, huh?
Some paintings become bigger than themselves. Not many, admittedly. But a tiny minority slip out of the frame, drip off the canvas and enter public consciousness. Most paintings are things you see on a wall somewhere, and that’s all they are. But paintings like Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, the ‘Mona Lisa’ or Warhol’s ‘Soup Cans’ end up on tea towels and pencil cases, they get used in films, referenced in poetry, worn on T-shirts and they becoming cultural commodities way beyond works of art.
Blood is thicker than water; paint is thicker than both. The point being, however deep your family relationships, the real artist will probe away at them for what lies underneath. This is something which we’re used to in contemporary art, but it was not the norm in the eighteenth century. Ho no.
It’s hard to say if art can make a difference in a divided society. Are LaBeouf, Rönkkö and Turner going any way towards stopping Trump with their flag work? Did Jeremy Deller’s T-shirt campaign have any impact on Brexit? Well, you can be a cynic about it, or you can be an optimist. German painter Jörg Immendorff (1945-2007) was more the latter, and seemed to think that art and artists could genuinely shape political discourse.
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.
The history of art is just the history of men with paintbrushes and erections, and no one had more boners than Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. There must have been something in the air in turn-of-the-century Vienna, because think of these two and you think of non-stop, boobs-out, full-frontal erotic action. And this show of rarely seen and truly stunning drawings that have been dug out from the attic of Vienna’s Albertina Museum isn’t going to prove any of that wrong.
Anxiety, despair, dread, depression, fear, misery, alienation: a pretty standard Friday night, but an unusual recipe for a kids’ comic strip. ‘Peanuts’ is special, though. Over his tens of thousands of strips – syndicated the world over and read by millions of adoring fans – Charles M Schulz combined simple line drawings and emotional non-sequiturs into little bundles of pure, heart-wrenching modern truth.
There’s a part of you that wonders if the British Library has designed an entire exhibition as an ‘up yours’ to Brexit. Because the first thing you see, as you walk around this heady exploration of Anglo-Saxon treasures and literature, is an explanation of a worryingly continental fact: we’re all bloody German. Or Danish.
Usually when you say an art show is ‘challenging’, you mean it’s got a stuff in it you don’t want to look at. And, yeah, ‘Mantegna and Bellini’ contains scenes of torture, execution, religious fanaticism, totalitarian regimes, disturbing hybrid animals and child nudity. That’s the Bible for you. But this survey of the work and relationship of two giants of the Italian Renaissance is challenging in another way.
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.
‘I dreamt my daughter had become a fried egg…’ explains one of the interviewees in ‘Deux Soeurs Qui Ne Sont Pas Soeurs’, a new film by British artist Beatrice Gibson. The dream-recounting segment is typical of a work that, like a half-remembered scene snatched from the land of nod, both makes sense and doesn’t make sense. Or rather, it makes sense but mainly in the way that a feeling ‘makes sense’.
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.
Kris Lemsalu has converted this gallery into a little shop of psychedelic horrors. It’s filled with bodies caught in the middle of mutating, metamorphosing and transmogrifiying into bizarre, twisted new shapes. The Estonian artist combines glistening ceramics and intricate fabrics into shocking tableaux.
‘The Oscar Wilde Temple’ by McDermott & McGough is one of those artworks that’s difficult to ‘review’. Not because it isn’t beautiful, wonderfully detailed, clever in its use of art history or politically poignant. It is all of those things. But because this entirely immersive installation isn’t really intended to just be art.
Despite its name, modernism sure had some old school failings. When Anni Albers got through her first year at experimental German art school the Bauhaus in 1923, she was kept away from disciplines like painting and sculpture and was shoved roughly towards something more suitable for a woman: weaving. But Albers took her shitty stick and ran with it.
Flayed skin and dislocated shoulders are two recurring themes of Jusepe de Ribera’s art. The first, normally inflicted on Christian saints as part of their martyrdoms, and the second, the result of a foul seventeenth-century torture device known as the ‘strappado’.
If you get the feeling that you’ve just walked into a mega-high-end toilet showroom as you enter Nicolas Deshayes’s new exhibition, you’re not that wide of the mark. The French artist is seriously into plumbing, and the collection of glistening ceramic sculptures here is inspired by the twisting shapes and undulating curves of… bogs.
A beautiful young man lounges on a zebra-skin sofa, reading books on performance theory and aesthetics. Lines of poetry cover the walls around him alongside gorgeous assemblages of flowers, photos of black bodies and a small collection of colourful, complex shrines. No, it’s not a real life perfume ad. This is the aesthetic world of young English designer Grace Wales Bonner.
Mud, glorious mud. The dank, sodden environment of the trenches is so instilled into public memories of WWI you’d be forgiven for imagining the only colour a 1914-18 war artist needed in their paintbox was brown. But Alfred Munnings’s oil paintings from the final year of the war make use of the entire rainbow and then some.
I like the Pre-Raphaelites the same way I like pumpkin spice lattes despite 85% of people telling me they’re repulsive. Because these medieval-loving Victorians are the pumpkin spice lattes of British art. They’re syrupy sweet gloop often tinted a strange orange colour and always topped with unnecessary frothy swirls.
The Serpentine Gallery stinks. There’s something in the air, some intensely chemical stench, half way between bleach and rotting meat. Flies buzz around or lie dead on the ground, the paint on the walls has been sanded back, the floor is caked in dust. Dotted throughout the space, screens spin through ceaselessly strobing and mutating images that your eyes just can’t grasp.
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