tue 25/06/2024

Visual Arts Reviews

Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent online review - capturing the unrepeatable

Florence Hallett

Newly conserved and restored, the eight exterior panels of Jan Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece, 1432, are the focus of an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, cut short by Covid-19, but now available to view via an online tour.

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Rebuilding Notre-Dame: Inside the Great Cathedral Rescue, BBC Four review - a race against time

Florence Hallett

One year on the world is drastically altered, but footage of Notre Dame’s stricken spire collapsing in flames is no less shocking. That this event, endlessly replayed, has not paled against the new reality of daily death tolls is testament to the scale of the loss.

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Léon Spilliaert, Royal Academy review - a maudlin exploration of solitude

Sarah Kent

What a spooky exhibition! Léon Spilliaert suffered from crippling insomnia and often spent the nocturnal hours in the conservatory of his parents’ house in Ostend drawing his haggard features (pictured below right: Self-portrait, 1907).

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Among the Trees, Hayward Gallery review - a mixture of euphoria and dismay

Sarah Kent

Paradise, according to German artist Thomas Struth, is to be found in the tropical rain forests of Yunnan Province, China. His gorgeous photograph Paradise 11 is the first thing I saw on entering the Hayward Gallery and, immediately it had a soothing effect on my frazzled urban psyche.

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Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age, National Gallery review – beautifully observed vignettes

Sarah Kent

A young woman sits sewing (pictured below right: Young Woman Sewing,1655). She is totally immersed in her task, and our attention is similarly focused on her and every detail of her environment. The cool light pouring though the window illuminates her work and also gives us a clear view.

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Bill Brandt/Henry Moore, The Hepworth Wakefield review - a matter of perception

Katherine Waters

Bill Brandt’s photographs and Henry Moore’s studies of people sheltering underground during the Blitz (September 1940 to May 1941) offer glimpses of a world that is, thankfully, lost to us.

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David Hockney: Drawing from Life, National Portrait Gallery review - an anatomy of love

Florence Hallett

For David Hockney, drawing is born out of familiarity: his portraits both express and fulfil the urge to know someone deeply and well.

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Masculinities: Liberation through Photography, Barbican review – a must-see exhibition

Sarah Kent

The exhibition starts on the Barbican’s lift doors, which are emblazoned with photographs from the show. They include one of my all-time favourites: Herb Ritts’s Fred with Tyres 1984 (pictured below right), a fashion shoot of a young body builder posing as a garage mechanic, in greasy overalls. Despite his powerful muscles, he looks tired and petulant.

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Steve McQueen, Tate Modern review – films that stick in the mind

Sarah Kent

The screen is filled with the head and shoulders of a man lying on his back; he could be dead in the morgue or lying on the analyst’s couch. He doesn’t move (it’s a still), but we hear his voice recounting the terrible story of the day he accidentally killed his brother. 

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Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium, Whitechapel review - ten distinctive voices

Sarah Kent

“From today, painting is dead.” These melodramatic words were uttered by French painter, Paul Delaroche on seeing a photograph for the first time. That was in 1840 and, since then, painting has been declared dead many times over, yet it refuses to give up the ghost.

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