fri 13/12/2019

Visual Arts Reviews

Pitzhanger Manor review - letting the light back in

Katherine Waters

When in 1800 the architect Sir John Soane bought Pitzhanger Manor for £4,500, he did so under the spell of optimism, energy and hope.

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At Eternity's Gate review - Willem Dafoe excels in hyperactive biopic

Matt Wolf

It's all go – no, make that Van Gogh –  when it comes to the Dutch post-Impressionist of late.

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Van Gogh and Britain, Tate Britain review - tenuous but still persuasive

Florence Hallett

Soon after his death, Van Gogh’s reputation as a tragic genius was secured. Little has changed in the meantime, and he has continued to be understood as fatally unbalanced, ruled by instinct not intellect.

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Mike Nelson, The Asset Strippers, Tate Britain review – exhilarating reminder of industrial might

Sarah Kent

Mike Nelson has turned the Duveen Galleries into a museum commemorating Britain’s industrial past (pictured below right). Scruffy workbenches, dilapidated metal cabinets and stacks of old drawers are pressed into service as plinths for the display of heavy duty machines.

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Only Human: Martin Parr, National Portrait Gallery review - relentlessly feelgood

Marina Vaizey

The Magnum photographer Martin Parr has spent decades observing contemporary human activity world-wide as – perhaps – a mesmerised observer, an anthropologist, a tourist, addicted to the vagaries of the human condition.

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Kader Attia / Diane Arbus, Hayward Gallery review - views from the margins

Marina Vaizey

Feelings run high at the Hayward Gallery in a fascinating pairing of two artists from widely differing backgrounds. Kader Attia muses on unhappy, conflicted relationships between cultures in visual meditations on variations of colonialism.

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Louise Bourgeois, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge review - a slender but choice selection

Florence Hallett

Pink walls, slightly dusky in the subdued light of a room shielded from the wintry sun, suggest the bodily concerns of this show, which through the touring collection Artists' Rooms, boldly reviews Louise Bourgeois’s career in a single, modestly sized, exhibition space at Kettle’s Yard.

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Dorothea Tanning, Tate Modern review – an absolute revelation

Sarah Kent

Tate Modern’s retrospective of Dorothea Tanning is a revelation. Here the American artist is known as a latter day Surrealist, but as the show demonstrates, this is only part of the story. Tanning’s career spanned an impressive 70 years – she died in 2012 aged 101 – but as so often happens, she was eclipsed by her famous husband, German Surrealist Max Ernst. 

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Franz West, Tate Modern review - absurdly exhilarating

Sarah Kent

Franz West must have been a right pain in the arse. He left school at 16, went travelling, got hooked on hard drugs which he later replaced with heavy drinking, got into endless arguments and fights, was obsessed with sex and, above all, wanted to be an artist but hadn’t been to art school. His life reads like a bad novel or Hollywood’s idea of the tortured genius struggling to make his mark in a world indifferent to his talents.

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Phyllida Barlow: Cul-de-sac, Royal Academy review - unadulterated delight

Sarah Kent

It doesn’t get better than this! Phyllida Barlow has transformed the Royal Academy’s Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries into a euphoric delight. Entering the space, you have to turn right and process through the three galleries; but by closing the end door to create the cul-de-sac of the title, Barlow has turned this somewhat prescriptive lay-out into a theatrical experience.

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