Reviewing Tate’s David Hockney exhibition for The British Art Journal

In the Spring 2017 issue of The British Art Journal you can find my review of Tate Britain’s David Hockney exhibition and accompanying catalogue. I attended the Tate’s Press View in order to write this review.




What’s in an image? – Marlene Dumas at the Tate

Tate Modern handout for their Marlene Dumas exhibitionMarlene Dumas, ‘Naomi’, 1995, oil on canvas, 130 x 110cm

The title Naomi doesn’t determine the identity of the face in the painting, but it does invite a certain intimacy with the viewer. Naomi. Is this Naomi Campbell, one of the supermodels of our century? If so, this is our chance to really see her up close and even to be offered her full, sensual lips. However, there could be scorn in her narrowed eyes, emphasised by the sharply arched eyebrows. She could be rising defiantly out of the shadows away from our mundane world, although, equally, they could be consuming her. Like many of Dumas’s paintings, it is not clear and we are left to experience this uncomfortable position of not knowing or being able to confidently react to an image, even an image of a person whose form we know so well.

The purposeful lack of clarity to many of Dumas’s paintings partly stems from the fact that she often paints from second hand images, particularly those from the media. This makes her work similar to the result of Chinese whispers; the subjects evolve every time they are captured and communicated through an image that is not their original. Does this allow Dumas – and the viewer – to think about the image rather than the person and the emotions that surround them? This would certainly allow for a more critical engagement with the work.

Naomi seems to be a disturbing cross between a fashion illustration, a fashion photograph and an abstract figurative painting. The conflation of these different types of visual communication suggests that this painting is as much about how we construct and present images, particularly those of women, as it is about what the images themselves represent. It does prompt us to consider what sort of image of ourselves we present to the world each day.


Tate Modern currently displays the most significant exhibition of Marlene Dumas’s work ever to be held in Europe, open until 10 May 2015.



British Folk Art at Tate Britain

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine.

Bellamy Quilt, 1890-1, by Herbert Bellamy and Charlotte Alice Springall

Bellamy Quilt, 1890-1, by Herbert Bellamy and Charlotte Alice Springall

Gathering together the 200 items, including paintings, textiles and sculptures, for this British Folk Art exhibition took the curators to more galleries across the country than normal, Penelope Curtis admitted at the Press View. The staggering range of geographical locations adds to the spectacular diversity of artworks and objects on display, indicating the broad spectrum of art objects that make up ‘folk art’.

This genre is particularly undefined in Britain – indeed it is much more of a discipline in America – but instead of attempting to corner off definitions, the curators are keen for this show to be seen more as a “proposition” of folk art that is made up of objects that have histories in galleries. Thus, there are also particular viewing histories acknowledged by the exhibition; Curtis claimed that having the British Folk Art show on at the same time as the Kenneth Clark exhibition is appropriate because they both have a lot to do with taste. Notions of class and gender therefore echo throughout these two summer shows and introduce other important themes: that of surplus time and surplus materials, which together, point towards the making context as an ultimate concern.  Continue reading

Matisse Live: Tate Modern

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine

The Parakeet and the Mermaid

The Parakeet and the Mermaid

On Tuesday 3rd June, Tate achieved its first live broadcast to cinemas across the country with Tate Modern’s Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition. This was definitely an evening of experimentation and the start of a new way of experiencing art at the Tate. There were high expectations, excitement and some nerves for those participating in the event and members of the public eagerly awaiting it in the cinemas.

Virtually led through sections of the exhibition, the audience was taken on an intimate private view. The exhibition rooms seemed uncanny without their normal heaving crowds, and the format was an ideal way to take in the cut-outs – artworks that demand lots of space in which to be viewed, as well as inviting movements from the spectator within that space. Neither the art nor the film encourages you to stay still.  Continue reading

Cutting his Way to Freedom: Henri Matisse at Tate Modern

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine after I attended the Tate’s press view for the Matisse exhibition 

Venice, The Studio - Room 5This exhibition, originally proposed for 2009 and so long awaited by those in London and far beyond, is more beautiful and uplifting than could be imagined. It has been such a momentous project that the Tate joined forces with MoMA, where the show will tour from 14 October to 9 February 2015. Many cut-outs have been lent from France such as from the Matisse Museum in Nice and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The curators described the press view alone as a “monumental day”.

Blue NudeHenri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is a must-see for so many different reasons. The Tate director, Nicholas Serota, claims it will be “the most evocative and compelling show that London has ever seen”. A main attraction is that this is the first time many of the works, of which there are about 130, have been seen together and displayed in the UK. Just think of the four The Blue Nudes, 1952. Their forms seductively follow you round the room, enchantingly entwining electric blue hues with negative spaces in a repetitive, meditative dance before our eyes. The life and vigour in this room, and the exhibition as a whole, never fails to surprise. This is especially considering that these cut-outs were created in the last years of Matisse’s life, from 1937 to 1954.  Continue reading

Late Turner: Painting Set Free

This article is published in Trebuchet magazine. I wrote it after attending the Tate’s Press launch at the Athenaeum Club, London. 

‘Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus’ exhibited 1839. Oil paint on canvas support: 914 x 1219

‘Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus’ exhibited 1839. Oil paint on canvas support: 914 x 1219. Tate. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Turner. An artist that has inspired or angered many art historians, critics, journalists and art lovers from his day to ours. An artist who prompts firm and possessive statements about his life and work. Opinions of his character, art and styles rage – and range – radically. It is, then, a big deal that Tate Britain has decided to present a major exhibition on Turner, a new Turner.

One of the aims of this exhibition will be to dismantle the myths that still perpetuate around Turner today. Thus, the exhibition is appropriately entitled Late Turner: Painting Set Free. In light of this, the joy of this artist is that he inspires so much intrigue and the possibility for his art to be re-thought and re-investigated. He will never get old.  Continue reading

A-way with words: Mira Schendel retrospective at Tate Modern

This article was published in HART Magazine, the UCL History of Art magazine pp.16-17. 

25 September 2013 – 19 January 2014

The current exhibition at Tate Modern traces Brazilian artist Mira Schendel’s increasing obsession with words, letters, prose and poetry in her experiments with abstraction and installation. Geometric sketchbook drawings, spray-painted slogans, abstract still-lifes in oil, words executed on rice paper, and bold prints and collages are included in the exhibition, indicating the diversity of the artist’s practice.

Schendel uses literary influences to both guide the structure and themes of her work. This creates a playful interaction between words and images, function and form, sound and silence, and art and life itself. In this way, the artist inquires into the very fabric and seams of human life and explores philosophical questions of being, believing and voids. This focus is reflected in the types of literature she draws upon, as it is mostly philosophical being by the British theologian John Henry Newman, and the philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jean Gebser.  Continue reading