wed 28/02/2024

Visual Arts Reviews

Berthe Morisot: Shaping Impressionism, Dulwich Picture Gallery review - lightning speed brushwork by an Impressionist maestro

Sarah Kent

When Berthe Morisot organised the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, along with Monet, Degas, Renoir and co, she’d already exhibited at the Paris Salon for a decade – since she was 23. That’s not bad for someone refused entry to art school because she was a woman!

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After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art, National Gallery review - an impressive tour de force

Sarah Kent

What a feast! Congratulations are due to the National Gallery for its latest blockbuster After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art. Such a superb collection of modern masters is unlikely to be assembled again under one roof, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime, must-see exhibition.

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Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: Paths to Abstraction, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle review - secret worlds revealed

Hannah Hutching

A small cottage vanishes into a surrounding bay, its walls apparitional against pale waters. In the background, a pier juts out into the ocean, equidistant to sea-green hills and a brown strip of land. The tide gently meets the shoreline, white on blue-grey wash. All is quiet, all is still, as nature slowly erodes every last trace of man.

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The Ugly Duchess: Beauty and Satire in the Renaissance, National Gallery review - put in context, a much-loved picture reveals its complexity

Sarah Kent

Despite the fact that it’s a cruel depiction of an aging woman, I have always loved Quinten Massys’ The Ugly Duchess (pictured below, left). The Flemish artist invites us to laugh at an old dear who, in the hope of attracting a suitor, has tucked her hair into a horned headdress and decked herself in a décolleté gown that exposes her wrinkled cleavage.

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Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons, Hayward Gallery review - spooky installations by a master of detail

Sarah Kent

Entry to Mike Nelson’s Hayward Gallery exhibition is through what feels like the store room of a reclamation yard. Row upon row of Dexion shelving is piled high with salvaged building materials including old doors, ancient floorboards and wrought iron gates, while even more gates and doors are leant against the walls.

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Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way, Turner Contemporary review - a feedback loop of musical union

Hannah Hutching

It’s 1986, and a young Sonia Boyce (main picture) speaks to poet and sculptor, Pitika Ntuli, about the "perpetual struggle to be heard and appreciated" as a Black woman who is an artist. "I’m here, you can’t wish me away," she responds with characteristic verve and fight.

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Peter Doig, Courtauld Gallery review - the good, the bad and the unfinished

Sarah Kent

I once gave Peter Doig a tutorial, when he was a student at Chelsea College of Art. He had little to say about his strange images and I came away feeling I’d seen something unique, but was unable to tell if he was a very good painter or a very bad one. 

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Action Gesture Paint, Whitechapel Gallery review - a revelation and an inspiration

Sarah Kent

It’s not often that an exhibition makes me cry, but then it’s not often that a show reveals the degree to which we have been duped. Action Gesture Paint includes the work of some 80 women, half of whom I’d never heard of. Given that I’ve been a critic for over 40 years and consider myself well-informed, that’s pretty mind-boggling.

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Les Rencontres de Bamako, Mali review - imagining another future

Andy Morgan

During morning and evening rush hour, Bamako seizes up under the pressure of all the cars, motorbikes, trucks and buses, bringing the three bridges over the Niger River to a standstill and testing Mali’s reputation for patience and humour to its limits. From a mere 130,000 at independence in 1960, the population of the city has now ballooned to over three million.

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Fabienne Verdier, The Song of the Stars (Le chant des étoiles), Musée Unterlinden, Colmar review - sacred and contemporary art in dialogue

mark Kidel

I have wanted to visit the Musée Unterlinden in Colmar for many years: the home of Matthias Grünewald’s masterpiece, the Isenheim Altarpiece (1512-1516), one of the great works of North European religious art. The opportunity finally arose in an oblique way, as the museum has been hosting a major exhibition by the French painter Fabienne Verdier.

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