sat 15/08/2020

Visual Arts Reviews

Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde: Constructing a New World, Tate Modern

Fisun Güner

Modernist art movements are a lot like totalitarian regimes. They produce their declaratory manifestos, send forth their declamatory edicts, and, before you know it, a Year Zero mentality prevails: the past must be declared null and void.

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Michael Landy: Art Bin, South London Gallery

Fisun Güner Assistants despatch works into the Art Bin

Michael Landy, the artist who destroyed literally everything he owned in his 2001 Artangel project Break Down - birth certificate, Saab, treasured family photos, shirt off his back - finally followed that project up with another exercise in destruction, this time resulting in headlines too tempting, and way too satisfying, to resist: Modern Art is Rubbish.

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Chris Ofili, Tate Britain

sue Steward

Dazzling and surprising, this Tate Britain retrospective by the 1998 Turner Prizewinner Chris Ofili should erase memories of the media sniping about him making money from using the so-called "gimmick" of incorporating elephant turds in his paintings. It will also confirm his status as one of the greatest contemporary British artists.

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The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner

This exhibition may claim to reveal the real Van Gogh through his letters, but what of the Sunflowers, the Self-Portrait With Bandaged Ear, oh, and Starry Night, with its roiling night sky and dark, mysterious cypress tree? What even of the dizzying Night Café, with its migraine-inducing electric lamps, its violent clash of reds and greens and the walls that threaten to collapse inwards, as if the painter had been hitting the absinthe all night?

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On the Move: Visualising Action, Estorick Collection

Fisun Güner Eadweard Muybridge: 'Annie G galloping', c. 1887

When we look at still images of moving figures what we see is not exclusively determined by what is in front of our eyes but what we already know about the world. If we stopped to think about this, it would seem obvious. We would know, for instance, that the putti who are so joyously leaping, dancing and bounding about in Donatello’s static frieze Cantoria would make little sense to us if we didn’t already know what such static postures implied: still images of moving figures can...

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Princes William and Harry Portrait, National Portrait Gallery

Fisun Güner

The latest official royal portrait, and the first painted portrait featuring the Princes William and Harry, hangs in a small room at the National Portrait Gallery among a selection of royal portraits of the Windsors. There’s the rather quirky one of the Queen Mother, painted in 1989 by Alison Watt, an artist who sought to capture her sitter “as ordinary as possible”. What our attention seems most drawn to is the china cup turned upside down on the arm of the Queen Mother’s armchair. Eh?

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Art 2009: Best and Worst

Fisun Güner Mark Wallinger instals his stainless steel 'Time and Relative Dimensions in Space' at the Hayward

2009 hasn’t been a vintage year for art, exactly - no queue-round-the-block showstoppers, if that’s your type of thing. Nonetheless the year was nicely topped and tailed by some memorable, and quietly seductive shows. My top five are Picasso, Mark Wallinger, Gerhard Richter, Sophie Calle and The Sacred Made Real.

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Earth: Art of the Changing World, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner Antony Gormley's 'Amazonian Field' (1992)

There was a time, not long ago in fact, when contemporary art could seem all too wrapped up in its own juvenile cleverness. It was all about being ironic and irreverent. Certainly a lot of it was achingly self-referential. But we eventually got fed up with all that. What’s more, we now live in less frivolous, more fearful times: recession has hit and the sea waters are rising, ready to flood us out and turn our congested cities into swampy, primitive marshland, like an apocalyptic J G Ballard...

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Miroslav Balka, Tate Modern & Modern Art Oxford

Fisun Güner

Walk into the gaping mouth of the metal container featured in Miroslaw Balka’s installation at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and you are plunged into a disorientating darkness. Unnerved, you shuffle forward, passing and perhaps finding comfort in the ghostly presence of other limbs, other bodies which are also shuffling uncertainly, all awareness of...

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Identity, The Wellcome Collection

Fisun Güner

Perhaps we think we’ve got the whole thing more or less sewn up in the nurture versus nature debate. DNA profiling, gene studies, twin studies, inherited traits - this is the stuff we read about almost daily and it is all meant to tell us who we are. At any rate we seem to live in a culture obsessed with genealogy, which is perhaps as much to do with living as atomised units as it to do with the latest research about genes, or what used to be called heredity.

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