tue 04/08/2015

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

An Open Book: Quentin Blake

Fisun Güner

Quentin Blake, illustrator, cartoonist and children’s author, has, to date, illustrated over 300 books. He is most famously associated with Roald Dahl, but he’s worked with a number of children’s writers, most recently David Walliams, illustrating the actor's debut novel The Boy in the Dress. He is a patron of The Big Draw which aims to get people of all ages drawing throughout the UK, and of The Nightingale Project, a charity that puts art into hospitals. Since 2006, he's produced work for...

Shirley Baker, Photographers' Gallery

Florence Hallett

When a photographer is as little known as Shirley Baker, it is probably only natural that we scour her work for clues to the personality behind the camera. Certainly, Baker’s photographs of inner city Salford and Manchester, taken over a period of 20 years, seem to offer as full and intriguing a picture of Baker herself as of the disappearing communities she was committed to recording. Her knack of making eye contact with the people she photographs makes her an active, if invisible participant...

Alice Anderson, Wellcome Collection

Sarah Kent

A flight of golden stairs gleams seductively under the spot lights; free of architectural constraints, it serves no practical purpose other than to...

theartsdesk in Oslo: From heritage to art now

Fisun Güner

Things you might know about Oslo: it’s expensive and the cost of a beer, wine, dinner for two – whatever your tourist yardstick – might make your...

Out of Chaos: Ben Uri - 100 Years in London,...

Marina Vaizey

The exhibition Out of Chaos is a powerful dose of specific human experience, here presented almost exclusively in the form of portraits and group...

Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner

The beguiling tone poems of an American artist

Six of the best: Art


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top exhibitions

Linneaus Tripe, Victoria & Albert Museum

Marina Vaizey

Pioneer photographer who had an empathetic understanding of the Indian subcontinent

Imagine... Jeff Koons: Diary of a Seducer, BBC One

Fisun Güner

Just what is it that makes the kitsch-meister American artist so different, so appealing?

Gallery: Philip Jones Griffiths' Vietnam


The reportage of the Welsh photojournalist is being celebrated in a new exhibition

Richard Dadd: The Art of Bedlam, Watts Gallery

Mark Sheerin

The Victorian artist who created an unforgettable world of fairies

Barbara Hepworth, Tate Britain

Florence Hallett

Long-awaited retrospective liberates the sculptor from Henry Moore association

Imagine... Frank Gehry: The Architect Says Why Can't I?, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

Portrait of the artist with a passion for questioning everything

Philip Guston, Timothy Taylor Gallery

Fisun Güner

Small but powerful survey of the American artist's late figurative paintings

Gallery: Christina Broom's Soldiers and Suffragettes


Images from a new exhibition and book celebrate the unsung pioneer of UK press photography

Bridget Riley: The Curve Paintings 1961-2014, De La Warr Pavilion

Mark Sheerin

Later works offer calmer, more sensual pleasures, but Riley remains an optical magician

Fighting History, Tate Britain

Florence Hallett

A desperate effort to prove that history painting is alive and well only saps what life is left

Carsten Höller: Decisions, Hayward Gallery

Sarah Kent

Disappear down the endless walkway and, like Alice, enter another world

James Turrell: Lightscape, Houghton Hall

Marina Vaizey

The American artist plays with perception in a mind-altering display of his light sculptures

Agnes Martin, Tate Modern

Sarah Kent

Ravishing paintings perfectly poised between conceptual clarity and sensuousness

Grayson Perry: Provincial Punk, Turner Contemporary

Fisun Güner

The overexposed artist with pots, frocks and comforting clichés about Britain

Perspectives: War Art with Eddie Redmayne, ITV

Marina Vaizey

Oscar-winning actor proves that he did learn something as a Cambridge art history student

Corin Sworn: Max Mara Art Prize for Women, Whitechapel Gallery

Sarah Kent

Impostors and stolen identities explored in an installation inspired by the Commedia dell’Arte

Edmund de Waal: I Placed a Jar, Brighton Festival

Florence Hallett

The ceramic artist and author talks about pots, words and the burden of memory

Tough & Tender: Sheila Rock's English Seascapes

Sheila Rock

Best known for her punk portraits, the American photographer introduces a gallery of images from a very different love letter to England

Rachel Kneebone, Brighton Festival

Mark Sheerin

The artist's porcelain sculptures are both lyrical and macabre

DVD: National Gallery

Jasper Rees

Frederick Wiseman's masterful portrait of an institution is made for piecemeal consumption

Modigliani, Estorick Collection

Florence Hallett

A trailblazer of the avant-garde captivated by the art of the past

Nathan Coley, Brighton

Mark Sheerin

Questions of faith and the Brighton bombing preoccupy the Scottish artist

Footnote: A brief history of british art

The National Gallery, the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Collection - Britain's art galleries and museums are world-renowned, not only for the finest of British visual arts but core collections of antiquities and artworks from great world civilisations.

Holbein_Ambasssadors_1533The glory of British medieval art lay first in her magnificent cathedrals and manuscripts, but kings, aristocrats, scientists and explorers became the vital forces in British art, commissioning Holbein or Gainsborough portraits, founding museums of science or photography, or building palatial country mansions where architecture, craft and art united in a luxuriously cultured way of life (pictured, Holbein's The Ambassadors, 1533 © National Gallery). A rich physician Sir Hans Sloane launched the British Museum with his collection in 1753, and private collections were the basis in the 19th century for the National Gallery, the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, the original Tate gallery and the Wallace Collections.

British art tendencies have long passionately divided between romantic abstraction and a deep-rooted love of narrative and reality. While 19th-century movements such as the Pre-Raphaelite painters and Victorian Gothic architects paid homage to decorative medieval traditions, individualists such as George Stubbs, William Hogarth, John Constable, J M W Turner and William Blake were radicals in their time.

In the 20th century sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, architects Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers embody the contrasts between fantasy and observation. More recently another key patron, Charles Saatchi, championed the sensational Britart conceptual art explosion, typified by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. The Arts Desk reviews all the major exhibitions of art and photography as well as interviewing leading creative figures in depth about their careers and working practices. Our writers include Fisun Guner, Judith Flanders, Sarah Kent, Mark Hudson, Sue Steward and Josh Spero.

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