= The Crawford Arts Review: 2018

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Art diaries out

UK (London)

Pierre Bonnard             Tate Modern       23 Jan to 06 May
Dorothea Tanning         Tate Modern       27 Feb to 09 Jun

Vincent van Gogh         Tate Britain         27 Mar to 11 Aug

Netherlands (Amsterdam)

All the Rembrandts         Rijksmuseum   15 Feb to 10 Jun
350th anniversary
of the artist's death

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Until Wednesday 28 November

A detail from the small ante-chapel.
The Fitzrovia Chapel was once part of the Middlesex Hospital in Central London (a hospital now incorporated into University College Hospital). The chapel was built for hospital staff, patients and visitors and formally opened in 1929.
       The exterior is of a comely red brick. The interior almost defies description - or at least brief description (but do not fear, someone is cataloguing in detail every building stone used and hopefully a book will result). The architect, John Loughborough Pearson (1817-1897), one of the Victorian era's most celebrated, is
now commemorated by the naming of this relatively new West End square, opened in 2015, after him. 
       Just as Sir Christopher Wren showed us in St Paul's Cathedral and St Stephen Walbrook what happens when an architect uses clear glass to let in natural light to bathe the heavy building stones of his interiors, John Loughborough Pearson creates a delicate and uplifting lightness by covering his interior with a layer of coloured building stones and light-reflecting mosaic. No Ancient Roman villa was ever so sumptiously decorated.

The chapel is open daily from 11am to 4pm until 28 November for the exhibition Dwelling, 'an exhibition of beauty and attachment in Fitzrovia residencies'. Please note: after the exhibition closes Fitzrovia Chapel will return to its usual weekly opening: Wednesdays between 11:00 and 16:00.

Fitzrovia Chapel 
2 Pearson Square
(off Mortimer Street)
London W1

Friday, 23 November 2018

Minjun Kim, Installation view,
courtesy of the gallery
Minjun Kim, graduate of Hongik University, Seoul, the London College of Fashion (BA Hons), and Camberwell College of Arts (Distinction) is an artist to watch. Be quick. Her show at Gallery Different, Percy Street closes tomorrow, the 24th. She calls it Anatomy of Desire. It's her first solo show in the UK. The work has big presence and, trust me, bargain prices. Here's the exhibition catalogue to help you make a choice. 

Saturday 11-5
14 Percy Street
London W1T 1DR
+44(0)207 637 3775

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Until Friday 21 December

Ilse D'Hollander at Victoria Miro Mayfair

Ilse D'Hollander, Untitled, 1996, © The Estate of Ilse D'Hollander
Ilse D'Hollander's work shows a lyrical line that is architectural, even geological, in its deep reading of landscape. Had she lived (she died in 1997 at the age of 28) she would, possibly with the right advice and support, to have worked on a larger scale perhaps, have become the equivalent of, say, a Rothko - abstractor, colourist, shape shifter, master narrator. Her work achieves minimalist perfection. Well, go and see her. 

Ilse D'Hollander, Descent, 1996, © The Estate of Ilse D'Hollander
D'Hollander trained at Antwerp's Institute of Fine Art and in Ghent. That heritage shows. Indeed, I can't do better than to quote David Anfam from the book, Ilse D'Hollander, on sale now at the gallery.

'She upheld a lineage as venerable as Dutch landscape painting of the Golden Age and as modern as Piet Mondrian's sparse compositions . . .'.

Victoria Miro Mayfair
14 St George Street 
London W1S 1FE
t: 44 (0)20 3205 8910
Tuesday - Saturday: 10am - 6pm 
Monday: By appointment

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Nature's autumn palette that, in conjunction with nature's ally the landscape gardener, he/she uses to paint these pictures everywhere you look

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Until Sunday 23 September

An intrepid family set sail to visit The London Mastaba by Christo and the late Jeanne-Claude on the Serpentine. People in boats are asked not to get too close of course. The temporary sculpture is 40 metres long, 30 metres at its widest point and 20 metres high, so massive that it can practically be seen from the edge of the park. It coincides with an exhibition of the artists' work at the Serpentine Gallery.
       During the summer, Hyde Park is open daily from 5am– midnight and the Serpentine Galleries are open 10am6pm daily. Entry is free.  

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Until Saturday 15 September: Moshekwa Langa's 'Relatives'

A double first for the UK and the Blain|Southern gallery. 

The works of Limpopo-born* Moshekwa Langa are shown here for the first time. 

These works are sumptious, texturally and spatially rich, and instantly engaging. I trust they have not gone unnoticed by acquisition personnel. 

Moshekwa Langa, Sunlight,
© the artist and
Sumptious seems the appropriate term to describe surfaces that are masterfully collaged with such throwaway items as a cutout from a box the artist might have found in his mother's backyard; the inner cardboard rings of rolls of sellotape; strips of tape or bin bag. In handling these elements with such confidence, the artist defines what can be done using the material to hand.  
     In addition, there is no way we can fail to see how an upbringing in a remote South African township has trained this particular artist's eye in how to observe the natural and reproduce its endless array of colour, texture, patterning and depth.

Moshekwa Langa, Fightback,
© the artist and
Blain|Southern is a gallery that chooses its artists well, knows what it wants from them (all 29 works shown here were made between 2014 and 2018), how to get it, and perhaps most of all how to curate it. This is an exhibition of big, bold, white-framed beauties. Moshekwa Langa has an inborn feel for visual placement. Indeed, on a 2-dimensional surface, he exhibits a spatial mastery architects might envy. 
     Nothing less than metamorphosis has taken place here: the patterning of sunlight through forest, the fine reticularity of the surface patterning of creatures from amphibious to land- and tree-dwelling - images we normally only see reproduced in the artefacts and gadgets we surround ourselves with, from TVs and computer screens to fabrics and coffee cups, here metamorphose back to original nature, original life. Every colour, textural and rheological placement speaks to the organic. The wonder is that an area, say, that seems to evoke the spiny shape of leaf veins possibly comes from the repurposing of an old net curtain. It is a narrative structure takes the eye on a symphonic journey through the artist's life and what he has made of it thus far. In this reviewer's opinion, Langa's work is already worthy of its own Artist Room.

* Moshekwa Langa now lives in the Netherlands. During his early years in the South African nativelands of Limpopa under apartheid, the area wasn't even given the dignity of appearing on maps.

Moshekwa Langa
at Blain|Southern
4 Hanover Square
London W1

Monday, 20 August 2018

Chance occurrences? They happen. Life-changing chance occurrences? They happen too. Listening to a performance of Bach's Chaconne and later seeing Lucas Cranach the Elder's Cupid complaining to Venus in Room 4 of the National Gallery quite possibly did it for me last Friday.

Music first: It was the video* of members of the New York based Limón Dance Company** dancing to the Bach Chaconne played live in their studio by violinist Johnny Gandelsman that seized my ears. Apologies if I have not managed to upload it here in a playable form: I will go on trying. Or go direct to @stradmag on Twitter and scroll down to Friday 17. I wonder if you can imagine this music before your ears open to it, this highest of high art. 

Bach was writing the Partita of which the Chaconne is the final part between 1717-20. Cranach was painting Cupid and Venus, the painting that seized my eyes, around 1526-7, two centuries earlier. Yet the sources seem similar, at least in artistic terms, the solemn, celebratory or seasonal dances dating from before the Renaissance: gigues, gavottes, sarabandes, allemandes, all of them gradually becoming formalised and standardised through the Baroque period and beyond and taken to the highest state of art by Bach in his Suites. What melodies Cranach had heard while he painted we know not. But the way he depicts Venus is dance-like in her graceful, balletically attenuated descent, called to earth by her lovable little imp, her face a study of maternal forbearance.

Cupid has stolen a honeycomb and been well stung by the angry bees. Cranach painted the subject many times. The inspiration was a poem by Theocritus. The version in the National Gallery (acquired by purchase in 1963) is for my money the best of the lot. In it Venus wears the kind of a-la-mode hat with ostrich plumes that Cranach had earlier used for his depictions of royal hunting parties. Sheer painterly panache.

In the poem, Cupid does have a question for his mother. Look at these tiny insects he exclaims. How can they make these great big painful wounds? Well, look at you she says, ask yourself how can such a little boy make such a big, painful wound every time you shoot one of your arrows. Room 4, German works, is filled with such wonders. Have a look at them before your visit at this link.

*   From WQXR via Twitter
** Choreography by José Limón

The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
London WC2

Friday, 3 August 2018

Until Saturday 18 August

At Sadie Coles, 62 Kingly Street W1
Urs Fischer 'soft'

The artist and their gallerist represent a productive dyad, the latter providing motivation and the former earning a regular pay cheque and reputation boost for work sold. 

Friday, 13 July 2018

When a workplace resembles an atelier . . .

I imagine people are happy to work
here, a street-facing creative space. 
I hope so anyway. The builders by
the way, by a trick of light, are sitting 
across the street. This is Wells Street,
more and more becoming its very own

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

I love the way Soho continues to reinvent itself.

This is the entrance to Soho Parish Primary School - an extension (with larger, particularly inventive and safe play areas) built by Erect Architecture that opened a few years ago. Walk down Great Windmill Street, turn right into Ham Yard, retrace your steps, cross Brewer Street and walk up Lexington Street to discover the glam that high quality design can contribute while preserving the original street pattern and the useful local shops that people living in or near the area rely on.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

The British Museum's blockbuster

Is one visit to an exhibition ever enough? Well, not if it's Rodin and the art of ancient Greece. For £64 for a year's membership (one adult only, by Direct Debit) you can go as many times as you like. Each time you will discover more.

I've shot this Parthenon sculpture (Ilissos, the river god (about 438432BC), figure A from the corner of the west pediment), from the back to show the way the sculptor has transformed a massive chunk of marble into rippling water eddies at the base, then flesh as Ilissos rises from the watery depths to rest on the river bank.
     The British Museum, scholarly to a fault, does not give a sculptor's name to any of these figures. They were carved 'in the time of' Pheidias.

Pheidias is thought to have designed both the Parthenon itself, as its architect, as well as its sculptures. The matter of who did the carving is not resolved. Sculptors, in ancient and modern times, often made sculptural drawings, clay casts or small models. Their assistants then did the actual carving. Rodin did this; Pheidias almost certainly did this. The image left is of a 'flying' sculpture, always on the move. It's Iris, messenger of the gods (about 438432BC, figure N from the corner of the west pediment). As the legend will tell you, the sculptor not only shows her in flight but captures the air rushing against her diaphanous tunic.

Iris' right side showing some of the flowing drapery carved in marble. Over the 2500 years she has been in existence, her head, arms and lower legs have disappeared. As will be made plain by the rest of this exhibition, the energy, power and emotion invested in even such incomplete figures are what captivated and inspired Rodin when he first saw them during his visit to the British Museum in 1881.

Iris from the backthis view shows the drilled out slots where once her bronze wings (which she needed to give her the power of flight) would have fitted. The wings are missing, plunder being an ancient practice.
The British Museum
Great Russell Street
London WC1
Enquiries about Membership+44 (0)20 7323 8195friends@britishmuseum.orgMembership pageaMembership FAQs

Friday, 15 June 2018

Until Sunday 29 July

Rodin and the art of ancient Greece
The best exhibition of sculpture I have ever seen
First, allow this new building to work upon you.*  The minimalist aesthetic of the anteroom is there precisely to allow your mind to declutter and let go.

Then enter the great room. Stand near the entrance (not blocking the entrance obviously). Pause. Still your phone perhaps. And you might like to take advantage of the long bench running to your left and sit down.  

Your eyes may never see a greater piece of dramatic sculptural art than this: Rodin's 1st millennium AD genius partnered with that of Pheidias, in the 1st millennium BC. It's certainly the best exhibition of sculpture I have ever seen.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

The Art of the Netherlands: Mauritshuis: Rembrandt and Vermeer

In The Hague's Mauritshuis, the hushed atmosphere that builds up in front of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is akin to that in one of the world's great concert halls when they're playing Beethoven. We know we're in the presence of greatness.

As any reader of this blog should know, I am neither art historian nor much more than part-time artist. I'm a journalist, possessed of a good eye, a lifelong appreciation of fine art and design, and, after a recent visit to the Mauritshuis, an intriguing new theory.

Friday, 1 June 2018

The Art of the Netherlands: Modern and Contemporary Art, The Hague

As well as the Dutch state galleriesThe Hague is full of thriving commercial galleries.

The streets to explore include Toussaintkade, Tasmanstraat, Denneweg, Westeinde and Noordeinde. T
ype the street name and 'art gallery' into Google to find them. Check the opening times before you go.

The venerable De Rijk Fine Art is at Noordeinde 95. It specialises in art concret with a roster of artists inspired by the Dutch ZERO/NUL (1958-1966) movement. Art bought here is likely to keep and appreciate its value as art. 

Jeff Beer "Portret van een vriend",
no date, courtesy of the gallery

Shown above is the sculpture "Portret van een vriend" (Portrait of a friend)) by Jeff Beer and, below, "T62-99", 1962. an ink on paper drawing by Jan J Schoonhoven.

Jan J Schoonhoven "T62-99",
1962, courtesy of the gallery

There is much to see and enjoy in this gallery, not least the way the works are displayed in a minimalist but semi-domestic setting.  

Galerie De Rijk
Noordeinde, 95
2514 GD Den Haag

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The Art of the Netherlands: The Hague

We travel northwest of Hague Centre today and visit the Gemeentemuseum, the famous modern art building built in the 1930s by the celebrated architect HP Berlage. The Gemeentemuseum (literally the museum of The Hague Municipality) itself has been called a modern palace of the arts. Here you'll find Art Nouveau of the Netherlands, Mondrian and de Stijl, and a continually changing display of modern art, including Delftware. See also this link to the permanent collection. 

Sunday, 6 May 2018

The Art of the Netherlands: Mauritshuis, The Hague

Mauritshuis: some paintings from the permanent collection

In discussing some of the paintings held in this unique collection of Dutch 'Golden Age' art, let's keep for a moment to our 'posh ladies getting tipsy' theme. 

Once again, as with the Jan Steen work shown below, the artist whose work is shown here, Frans van Mieris the Elder, has played with our sense of decorum. It's a seduction scene. Aha, but the subjects are none other than Mr and Mrs Van Mieris themselves.

  • Plein 29
  • 2511 CS Den Haag

Until Sunday 13 May 
(check the Mauritshuis website for any extensions)
Jan Steen's Histories

Jan Steen, The Banquet
of Antony and Cleopatra
, 1667
courtesy of the Mauritshuis

Netherlands' artists of the Dutch Golden Age are rightly celebrated for their genre paintings - scenes from everyday life. Jan Steen (1626-1679), the artist discussed here, painted scenes not only of domestic order but also of disorder. He frequently depicts drunkenness and is sometimes moralising (The Effects of Intemperance) but not always (Man blowing Smoke at a Drunken Woman). This exhibition in the Mauritshuis temporary exhibition galleries shows the artist's mastery of biblical, mythological and historical subjects. He seems to take particular delight in portraying posh ladies either with their maids getting dolled up or with some gallant getting tipsy. The example I've chosen here, a history painting (the subject of this exhibition and a genre on its own), is a case in point. Here the painter is taking on the Ptolemaic Kingdom's famous Queen, Cleopatra. Look at the way the artist shows us her loosening limbs, the relaxation of her queenly pose. She's dining with Mark Antony by the way, whom she eventually married; here she's shown literally letting her hair down.

In a forthcoming post we'll get on to some of the paintings in the Mauritshuis permanent collection. You might know some of the works already? Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft; The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius . . ..


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Until Saturday 05 May

Polaroids were a happy way of framing a scene and instantly printing it out to check that the  composition had all of the desired features. In this Wim Wenders' show at Blain|Southern, Early Works: 19641984, the filmmaker and photographer took that little camera everywhere. Whether filming or touring, together, they visited France, Iceland, Australia, Algeria, Bali, Germany, and all across America. 

Friday, 30 March 2018

Until Saturday 28 April

Neon / Light: Sarah Lucas, Cerith Wyn Evans, Damien Hirst, Brian Eno, Peter Saville
Paul Stolper Gallery, Museum Street, WC1

Until Saturday 05 May Wim Wenders: Early Works, 1964-1984
Blain|Southern, Hanover Square, W1

Wim Wenders, In Brittany,  1964
Silver gelatin on Baryt paper, glazed,
on Alu Dibond, courtesy of
the artist and Blain|Southern

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Until Saturday 28 April

The work of no fewer than 5 art heavyweights is currently gathered in one smallish room at the Paul Stolper Gallery in Museum Street in an exhibition called Neon / Light.

Sarah Lucas, very much not the token woman in a group of four males, is showing New Religion (Orange), 2013, the outline of a  coffin (see pic below). Her gallerist, Paul, has neatly counterpointed 

Friday, 16 March 2018

Paintings by page numbers

I praised Modigliani's sculptured 'Heads' (some 12 are shown in this exhibition) in a previous post, so what do I think of his paintings? A wide variety of opinions circulate about them, at least in London  My advice is to make plans to visit this exhibition immediately before it closes in just over a fortnight. Otherwise, again in my opinion, you will miss something strikingly beautiful and, in terms of nudes, strikingly unusual. This is a man who paints a seemly nude. In a pure sense, they are academic nudes, the model's integrity intact. Modigliani was a great deal ahead of his time. And still is.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

David Batchelor's Spectrum of Brick Lane 22007, at Tate Modern (Blavatnik Building (the Extension) Level 4 Concourse)

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Until Monday 02 April (Easter Monday)

Go for the sculpture (and the sculptural drawings) not just the nudes

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani made sculpture as well as paintings and drawings. And fine ones. Tate Modern's Modigliani: A Portrait exhibition, showing 11 roomsful of his work, puts his sculpture at the back. If you make your way from the entrance straight to the back (room 5) you'll find the calm and well wrought 'Heads', limestone, sandstone and other building stones carved by the artist from about 1908 onwards and particularly in a 2-year burst of creative energy in the years 1911 to 1913 between the ages of 26 and 28. They come, like the sculptural drawings and paintings, from generous lenders from Walsall (the Garman Ryan Collection) to Washington. 

Modigliani's sculptures were inspired by the time he and many of his fellow artists, living in (of course) Paris, paid visits to the Ethnographic Museum (now the Musée de l'Homme). As the reader will know, the first time any artistic sensibility sees work originally created in unknown lands - Africa, Asia, Cambodia, Côte d'Ivoire - not to mention from the Ancients of Egypt, Greece and Rome - many doors in the mind open. 

Woman's Head (With Chignon)
1911-12 Sandstone
572 x 219 x 235 mm
Merzbacher Kunststiftung
The many sculptures - the room is full - are well presented, each in a vitrine set on a well-spaced plinth. Too many people seem to walk unseeingly past them, thinking only of the paintings and missing Modigliani's fine interpretation of the early work he saw that inspired them, as well as the polish and precision of his practice. In one, a limestone 'Head', limestone being a natural, although non-living, material, there is a small cavité, where perhaps a larger fossil once rested. Within this hole, the sculptor has placed an even smaller head, classical in feel and carved from a white stone, probably marble. See also the Tate's wall poster in the sculpture room which relates the delightful story of Jacob Epstein's visits to Modigliani's studio and his reaction to the newly made sculptures. 

Head c.1911
Medium Stone
394 x 311 x 187 mm
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg 
Museum, Gift of Lois Orswell
© President 
and Fellows of Harvard College
You cannot see and appreciate this exhibition in a single visit. Nor should you try. Single membership of all 4 of the Tate Galleries costs £76 for a year, enabling you to visit as often as you like. Indeed, I intend to take my own advice here since I would like to spend a little more time with the paintings. Just outside the sculpture room you will find some delightful and more than competently drawn sculptural drawings, many of caryatids. I particularly liked 'Caryatid with Pointed Breast', c 1913-14. And for a work based on an ancient architectural device, the woman's body as weight-supporting column, it is truly modern.

And of course there are painted nudes aplenty, many gazing towards the viewer, and, deliberately so for the time, to the potential male buyer. This may be unworthy but I write this on International Women's Day: Modigliani's portraits of his friends, fellow artists and acquaintances also reward study - none of them, being men, are portrayed nude of course. Particularly interesting is his portrait of his first dealer, Paul Guillaume, smoking a cigarette. Modigliani has angled the face so that the nose and mouth appear bright and lively, gradually recessing the cheeks in a series of shadowy triangles, a stubbly effect that seems to suggest the way the sitter draws the cigarette smoke into himself.

Modigliani died of substance abuse and the tuberculosis that had dogged him since the age of 16 at the age of 35. His partner, the artist Jeanne Hébuterne with whom he had a child, pregnant with a second child, killed herself a few days after his death. She was 21. In the Tate shop, for £20, you can buy a Jeanne Hébuterne cushion cover. You can sit on her. In this reviewer's opinion, a little more decorum might have been exercised here. Again, this effect might have been mitigated by a partner cushion portraying the artist in one of his self-portraits.

Forthcoming: comments on the paintings

London SE1 

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