sun 09/08/2020

Visual Arts Reviews

The Painter, Arcola Theatre

Sheila Johnston

Joseph Mallord William Turner - Billy to his intimates, such as he had - is the notional centre of The Painter, a snapshot of the great British landscape artist as a young iceberg. Toby Jones is the main draw in this world premiere of Rebecca Lenkiewicz's new play, and he emanates quiet charisma and sardonic...

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The Urethra Postcard Art of Gilbert & George

Fisun Güner '4 Views on Flag', 2009: Postcard of a London landmark arranged as angularised symbols of the urethra

Radio interviewer: “Are you Royalists?” George: “Of course! We’re not weird.” Gilbert & George may have been accused in the past of being coprophiliac pederast fascists (owing to their love of turds, anuses, young men with cropped hair and bovver boots and the Union Jack), but this art duo can certainly make you smile. In fact, Gilbert & George can often be quite irrepressibly funny – definitely "ha ha" as well as peculiar. And since they and their art seem as one, one senses they’d...

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Cindy Sherman, Sprüth Magers London

Judith Flanders Cindy Sherman, 'Untitled', 2010

One of the best things about a Cindy Sherman show is you never know what you’re going to get. And in this exhibition, of a new series of "Untitled" images, what you get is very surprising indeed. Sherman's photographs are not about her, but they are always her. Sherman has always used herself – or "herself", a manipulated, redacted representation – as the canvas on which she works. This time, however, the canvas itself has changed.

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Manon de Boer, South London Gallery

Fisun Güner Unlike Warhol's Superstars, Sylvia Kristel remains coolly composed in front of the camera

A well-groomed, middle-aged woman walks into view and lights a cigarette. She stands, she smokes, the camera gives us a steady close-up of her face. As she appears to reminisce, her face subtly registers a range of emotions. Is she agitated, sad, irritated? She takes long drags of her cigarette. The film ends and she walks out of view. A second film begins. Same woman, same duration. A cigarette is smoked, the camera lingers on her face. She’s lost in recollection, but wait, there...

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Ben Johnson: Modern Perspectives, National Gallery

Judith Flanders Johnson working on 'Looking Back to Richmond House'

Oh dearie, dearie me. Modern Perspectives sounded like it had such promise. Running alongside the big Canaletto show in the Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery, two finished works and one work in progress by Ben Johnson are on show in Room One. The idea is to look at a contemporary artist who, like Canaletto and his coevals, produces panoramic views of cities. Johnson, despite his quasi-illustrative, photo-realist style, says he produces not "topographical representations...

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Never the Same River (Possible Futures, Probable Pasts), Camden Arts Centre

Sarah Kent

Simon Starling’s wonderfully eccentric exhibition Never the Same River (Possible Futures, Probable Pasts) will inevitably mean more to those who have visited the Camden Arts Centre regularly over the years. Places gradually acquire a patina of memories that accumulate layer on layer and infiltrate one’s perceptions in the present moment. Travelling round London, I encounter my past at every corner – the Slade where I spent many hours drinking coffee before being gripped with...

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Norman Rockwell's America, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Fisun Güner 'Tender Years - Treating a Cold', 1957 is typical of Norman Rockwell's gentle humour

Norman Rockwell’s America. What did it look like? At the height of Rockwell’s incredible fame as an illustrator, you might say it looked a lot like a movie still. Think of the films of Frank Capra, for instance: heartwarming scenes of family life shot through with poignancy as well as humour. This vision came with an instinctive appreciation that the most precious things we have in life are also the most transient and fragile. It’s a vision that clearly comes with a sense of empathy for the...

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Bloomberg New Contemporaries, ICA

Sarah Kent Johann Arens ('Untitled', above) 'steals the show with a video installation'

As I wandered round this year’s New Contemporaries at the ICA, a few yards away in Trafalgar Square, thousands of students braved the cold for the third time to protest against the Government’s proposed spending cuts on education. How many art students joined the rally is impossible to tell, since most London art schools have been swallowed up by universities and lost their individual identities in the process. Whereas the high-profile sit-ins of 1968 were orchestrated by students...

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Peter Lanyon, Tate St Ives

Mark Hudson

A retrospective at Tate St Ives can be a poisoned chalice for the major artist. It postpones his or her prospect of a showing at Tate Britain by a couple of decades, and can appear to consign them to the comfort zone of "Cornish Art": the heritage Modernism of Barbara and Ben, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron et al, stuff we love (well, most of us) because it reminds us of being on holiday, but may feel, in our heart of hearts, to be more than a touch minor. On the positive side, Peter Lanyon...

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Carlos Zuniga, Edel Assanti Gallery

sue Steward 'Falkland Islands, Portrait 5' by Carlos Zuniga: Evoking memories of war

The thin line between Art and Craft gets slimmer as artists like Carlos Zuniga ignore the borders and delve into hands-on production processes. This Chilean photographer, architect and graphic designer works compulsively on large, imposing portraits and landscapes using intensely obsessive techniques.

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