thu 13/05/2021

Visual Arts Reviews

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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The Art of Russia, BBC Four

Josh Spero

If Andrew Graham-Dixon's arts career ever goes belly-up, there is surely a microphone with his name on it at Radio 4, so warm and confident and trustworthy is his voice. Judging, however, by his new three-part programme on BBC Four, The Art of Russia, there is no chance of this happening soon.

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Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, V&A

Fisun Güner Detail of the 's-Hertogenbosch choir screen from the V&A's new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries

From the façades of whole buildings to rosary beads intricately carved in ivory to depict the minuscule forms of ghouls and corpses, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Medieval and Renaissance Galleries tell the extraordinary story of 1,300 years of European art, design and architecture.

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Pictures Reframed: Leif Ove Andsnes & Robin Rhode, QEH

ismene Brown

We watch and listen simultaneously so much today that it hardly seems blasphemous for a superlative pianist to decide to conceive an evening of piano music plus video installation. Leif Ove Andsnes has doubts about the transmittability of classical music to a general audience today - he calls the status quo into question, and he may be right.

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Candy Gothic: Tim Burton, MoMA, New York

Graham Fuller

Though he has yet to make a perfect film, the director Tim Burton’s choice of Gothic and fantasy subjects and his deadpan, post-expressionist approach to them rightfully designate him an auteur of considerable genius. His 14 movies to date have earned him a cohesive retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

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Mutate Britain: One Foot in the Grove

joe Muggs The site by night

A 15ft aardvark constructed from raw timber with a light-up robotic face and gigantic hands is climbing up one of the support pillars of the Westway, next to the body of a full-sized helicopter the front of which has been shaped into a grinning skull. Life-size rearing horse torsos made of white marble-like resin, with real horse skulls instead of heads, are mounted on the wheels of Victorian perambulators, while a man rides a clanking, hissing, fire-spitting motorised beast with stamping...

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