sun 23/01/2022

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Paula Rego: The Forgotten, Victoria Miro review - relentless focus

Jack Barron

It might be said that Paula Rego’s subject is light: but rather than painting it, she gives it. She paints deep into social corners, affording generous and often unnerving representation to worlds forgotten or forced out of sight.  This isn’t always a comfortable experience, and her figures are frequently refracted or distorted, bent out of shape in a desperate need to be seen.

Best of 2021: Visual Arts


Despite its much delayed start, 2021 was a great year for the visual arts, and institutions and artists alike showed their resilience in agile and sensitive responses to unprecedented conditions. The plastic arts took on a new significance as people adjusted to life without human touch; equally, the experience of viewing art online revealed the extent to which tactile qualities are experienced through looking. Here are some of our thoughts on the best of the year just gone.*

Anselm Kiefer Pour Paul Celan, Grand Palais...

Mark Kidel

The exhibitions of the German artist Anselm Kiefer have always been spectacular: large works with a numinous presence, often breath-taking and always...

Kehinde Wiley, National Gallery review - more...

Sarah Kent

American artist Kehinde Wiley may be best known for his photo-realist portrait of Barack Obama, but painting powerful black men is not the norm. More...

The Courtauld Gallery - the old place, just better

Florence Hallett

The Courtauld Gallery’s dark corners have gone, and with them a certain apt melancholy, that effortlessly summoned the ghosts of Gauguin’s Nevermore...

Lubaina Himid, Tate Modern review – more explication please

Sarah Kent

A carnival of characters looking forwards as well as backwards

The Danish Collector: Delacroix to Gauguin review - fabulous art, not sure about the framing

Jenny Gilbert

Exhibition on Screen offers a catch-up for those who missed the RA show

Paris Photo 2021 review - a moveable feast

Bill Knight

Paris Photo returns, in a new temporary home

'A nun destroyed my tent': artist Kate Daudy talks about NFTs, refugees, and having her work thrown out with the trash

Jessica Baldwin

The artist's first 'Non-Fungible Token' goes live as part of a new online exhibition

Waste Age, Design Museum review - too little too lame

Sarah Kent

How to create a false sense of security

'Of course art doesn't change the world': Situationist artist Jacqueline de Jong on violence, eroticism and the importance of humour

Mark Sheerin

The Dutch veteran's first UK retrospective has opened at MOSTYN in Wales

Documenting the unimaginable: photographer Sebastião Salgado talks about climate change, dodging caimans and changing perspectives

Rachel Halliburton

How does Western behaviour risk turning the Amazonian paradise into a hell?

Yoko Ono, Mend Piece, Whitechapel Gallery review – funny and sad in equal measure

Sarah Kent

A sign of the times in broken crockery

Theaster Gates - A Clay Sermon, Whitechapel Gallery review - mud, mud, glorious mud

Sarah Kent

Ceramics as a religion and a way of life

Isamu Noguchi, Barbican review – the most elegant exhibition in town

Sarah Kent

A restless spirit who infiltrated many of our lives

Gerhard Richter: Drawings, Hayward Gallery review - exquisite ruminations

Sarah Kent

Subtle traces of the artist’s hand

Mixing it Up, Hayward Gallery review - a glorious celebration of diversity

Sarah Kent

Anything goes, from paint on canvas to toothpaste and hair gel under plexiglass

Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty, Dulwich Picture Gallery review - adventures in print

Florence Hallett

A fresh look at the American painter's reimagining of woodcut

The Lost Leonardo review - an incredible tale as gripping as any thriller

Sarah Kent

The machinations of the art market laid bare

Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Tate Modern review - a creative talent that knew no bounds

Sarah Kent

Jack of all trades and master of every one

Paula Rego, Tate Britain review - the artist's inner landscape like never before

Dora Neill

A magnificent retrospective celebrates one of the outstanding artists of her generation

Karla Black, Fruitmarket, Edinburgh review - airy free-for-all

Mark Sheerin

A retrospective of the abstract sculptor highlights her idiosyncracies

Ben Nicholson: From the Studio, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester review - domestic bliss

Simon O'Hagan

Still life takes the foreground in a long-awaited survey of the painter's career

Afterness, Orford Ness review - a breath of fresh air, literally

Sarah Kent

Art on the island of secrets

Pre-Raphaelites: Drawings & Watercolours, Ashmolean Museum review - a rich array

Dora Neill

Some of Britain's most popular artists highlight the importance and beauty of drawing

Dark Days, Luminous Nights, Manchester Collective, The White Hotel, Salford review - a sense of Hades

Robert Beale

Musicians and artists find out where the bodies are buried

The Making of Rodin, Tate Modern review - surrealist tendencies

Florence Hallett

The sculptor is recast as a proto-modernist in a show focused on works in plaster

Matthew Barney: Redoubt, Hayward Gallery review - the wild west revisited

Sarah Kent

A fusion of classical and modern mythology

David Hockney / Michael Armitage, Royal Academy review - painting with an iPad vs brushes and paint

Sarah Kent

Scenes from France and Kenya - an old dog learns new digital tricks, glorious paintings on bark

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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