fri 05/03/2021

Visual Arts Reviews

Pioneering Women, Oxford Ceramics Gallery online review - domestic pleasures

Marina Vaizey

Pioneering is an attractive adjective in this context, alerting the spectator to what has been, over the past half century, an extraordinary body of contemporary ceramics produced by women.

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Best of 2020: Visual Arts

theartsdesk

Unhappy as it is to be ending the year with museums and galleries closed, 2020 has had its triumphs, and there is plenty to look forward to in 2021.

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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Tate Britain review - enigmatic figures full of life

Sarah Kent

A person in a brown polo neck turns away, looking down (pictured below right). The encounter feels really intimate; we are almost breathing down this beautiful neck and exquisitely painted ear. Yet the subject retains their privacy; you can’t even be sure if this is a man or a woman.

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Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch, Royal Academy review - juxtapositions that confuse rather than clarify

Sarah Kent

Even before going to art school, Tracey Emin discovered the work of the Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch. And even though he was born 100 years before her, she embraced him as a kindred spirit. One can see why.

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Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern review - photography as protest

Sarah Kent

Hail the Dark Lioness (Somnyama Ngonyama in Zulu) is a powerful celebration of black identity. These dramatic assertions of selfhood are more than just striking self portraits, though.

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Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, Barbican Art Gallery review - mould-breaker, ground-shaker

Jenny Gilbert

It must be tough being Michael Clark, subject of one the largest retrospectives ever dedicated to a choreographer still living. Post-punk’s poster boy is that curious thing, a creative figurehead who defined a very particular anti-establishment strand in Britain’s recent history but who is virtually unknown to today’s under-40s. Michael who?

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Sin, National Gallery review - great subject, modest show

Sarah Kent

Sin, what a wonderful theme for a show – so wonderful, in fact, that it merits a major exhibition. The National Gallery’s modest gathering of 14 pictures, mainly from the collection, can’t possibly do it justice; yet it’s worth a visit if only to remind oneself of the disastrous concept of original sin that weaves guilt into our very DNA by arguing that we are conceived in sin.

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Bruce Nauman, Tate Modern review - the human condition writ large in neon

Sarah Kent

"The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths” reads the neon sign (pictured below right) welcoming you to Bruce Nauman’s Tate Modern retrospective. The message is tongue-in-cheek, of course. How on earth could an artist cope with such a ludicrously unrealistic expectation? 

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Artemisia, National Gallery review - worth the wait

Florence Hallett

It takes nerve to throw a shadow across the face of your heroine, still more to banish to the margins the severed head that might so easily dominate the painting’s centre ground. Instead, in imagining the aftermath of Judith’s beheading of Holofernes, Artemisia Gentileschi wrings out the excruciating tension of a moment, and concentrates it in a candle flame.

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Hold Still, National Portrait Gallery review - snapshots from lockdown

Marina Vaizey

A digital exhibition for digital times – and just right: as a reproductive medium, photographs can work brilliantly when reproduced again.

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