In her new solo show at the National Portrait Gallery in London, New York artist Elizabeth Peyton offers a procession of glistening vignettes, portraits of famous and not-so-famous faces, whose cool freshness leaves the visitor with an excited, if slightly outmoded sense of pursuit. Many of her male subjects carry a melancholy, morning-after expression that signals an unabashed adoption of the female gaze. Peyton has painted Kurt Cobain and David Bowie, David Hockney and scenes from the Twilight films, as well as personal friends and lovers. Her eye tends towards the sheen of beauty, where cheekbones are elevated and noses are streamlined. [Read more…]
With Peter Doig – who has a collection of new paintings on show at the Michael Werner Gallery, London – corrosion is paramount. His paintings seek to overturn themselves from within, alluding to altered states, to dreams and hallucinations. His paint has become increasingly loose, curdled, and his lurid colour palette is intentionally sour. This is a vinegary type of beauty. [Read more…]
Sometimes a retrospective can abbreviate an artistic life into a series of airless high-peaks without taking notice of the lower-lying ground. Lee Krasner’s exceptional exhibition, Living Colour, at the Barbican Centre in London, achieves the exact opposite. The 100 or so works on display flesh out a life with all the territory – high and low – accounted for, so that every piece lends itself towards a greater whole. In doing so, the exhibition reveals why Krasner is rightly regarded as an artist of pioneering significance, whose development from cubist collage to expressionistic vigour accounts for an important story in 20th century American art. [Read more…]
Judging from the crowds and the advanced ticket sales, the magnetism of Vincent Van Gogh shows no sign of diminishing. It’s hardly a surprise. We come to empathise with the optimism of a man whose dreams of an art colony in the south would come to nothing. We respond to him because he kept on painting, his canvases getting brighter and brighter as his days got darker. [Read more…]
Hew Locke makes art to discover things. This is the sense you get. It explains why there is so much texture and variety throughout his work. For the viewer, being with an artist who seems to be in the act of turning over a dozen stones at once, it is a rewarding experience.
Open-eyed, critical but not dogmatic, Locke comes across as an artist who is happy to reveal his anxieties. Much of his work is a personal response to the history of European colonialism and especially to Guyana, a country with a long history of colonial subjugation. First from Dutch imperialism and then under the British Empire in the late 18th century, Guyana finally gained its independence in 1966. [Read more…]
Some artists use their art to put up a facade for the world; others seek to bear themselves whole. The art of Tracey Emin – who has a remarkable exhibition of new work at the White Cube Bermondsey, London – undoubtedly falls into the latter category. The title, A Fortnight of Tears, has apparently been rolling around in the artist’s head for fifteen years, distilled by the recent death of her mother, but first kindled by a relationship breakup in her thirties when, she explains, “I was crying for the loss of my future. Then when my mum died, I was crying for my past.” [Read more…]
To say that a work of art holds up a mirror to the world is to recognise an attempt by the artist at portraying the truth. “See what the world really looks like” is the message. Art like this – that seeks to show us the reality of things – does so by parodying, exposing, lampooning and taunting. It invites you to peer into the fracture it has opened up, and when you do so, it’s like standing beside the artist and peering in together. With Jeff Koons it’s always a bit trickier. You sense that he too is holding up a mirror, but what kind of fracture is he asking you to peer into? One that, when the light reaches the depths, you see Koons’ own smile gleaming back at you? [Read more…]
Atsuko Tanaka was a pioneering Japanese artist. She was born in Osaka in 1932, and lived until the age of 74. She died in 2005 in the historic city of Nara.
Tanaka may claim a place among the forerunners of performance art. Before Alan Kaprow organized any “happenings” in New York, Tanaka was taking part in the Gutai group, an experimental postwar Japanese art movement founded by a group of young artists in Ashiya in 1954. The aims of the Gutai group were to reinvent the art-scene in post-war Japan, seeking new and radical means to sever links with the recent past. The art historian Yve-Alain Bois has said that “the activities of the Gutai group in the mid 1950s constitute one of the most important moments of post-war Japanese culture”. [Read more…]