REVIEW: RA Summer Exhibition

Art Aesthetics goes for an impromptu game of ‘The Price Is Right’ at the RA Summer Exhibition, 2018. Pavan Chaggar suggests £12,000 on approaching Ben Johnson’s Dome of the Rock, Façade (2017). I’d already flicked through the ‘List of Works’ and found the price tag. ‘Good guess, but you’re a zero off... Actually, £12,000 wouldn’t even get you close to the ‘deposit payable today’ of £36,000.’ We craned our necks to look up at the artwork that was hung as befits its price: damnably high. I’d been reluctant to share my own estimate of £30,000 regarding the Johnson. Our other reviewer, Daniel, who, rather unfairly, saw Johnson’s works at the Mall Galleries last year, tutted despairingly. It goes to show that a degree in the History of Art isn’t worth tuppence when it comes to playing ‘The Price is Right’ in the topsy-turvy world of the art market. And yet, this is all part of the fun of the RA Summer Exhibition.

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Ellen Charlesworth
Clarity in the Midst of Colour: the Paintings of J. Louis

Women as subjects for admiration, representation and decoration, assume a prominent position in the art of J. Louis. Specific models seem to typify Louis’ style, lending inspiration to the artist. Their slight figures are elongated and sometimes placed horizontally within a tall, narrow format, which aesthetically enriches the composition and catches the beholder off guard. His women are often found reclining in languor, with flushed cheeks and gazes that are alternatively piercing and hazed by ecstasy.

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REVIEW: All Too Human at the Tate Britain

Disjointed, but with some show stoppers. You can’t miss seeing Bacon and Freud supported by Kossof, Spencer, Saville, Paul (and one lonesome Giacometti) at the Tate Britain. Curator Elena Crippa has got some marvellous paintings, but arranged rather oddly—might that be the point?

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D.S. Graham
REVIEW: Petra Cortright: Pale Coil Cold Angel at Nahmad Projects

We have fallen out of love with the internet. These days, journalistic allusions to the online world tend, more often than not, to be couched in terms of a vast and dangerous wasteland, where shadowy syndicates traffic private information and tub-thumping populists recruit at large. As David Patrikarakos wrote in the Times Literary Supplement this week, ‘The dream of a connected, transnational world – the information utopia – has given way to a more muddled web of mendacity, conflict and the anger of the mob.’[1]

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William Edwards
Ali Nedaei's Silent Myths

Ali Nedaei, whose works have already graced galleries in Tokyo, Paris, and Venice, is preparing for his first solo-exhibition in the UK at CAMA Gallery, London. He’s already appeared in the gallery’s inaugural exhibition which showcased some twenty-one Iranian artists, Sensation (5 Apr. – 25 Jun., 2018). Replete with poetic allusions but masterfully executed, Nedaei’s works are surprisingly accessible—even for those who are unfamiliar with Iranian culture.

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Ellen Charlesworth
Interesting Artworks: The Visitation by Ali Cavanaugh

The works of Ali Cavanaugh, an American painter internationally renowned for her depictions of the human form, are characterised by an innovative technique referred to by the artist as ‘modern fresco’.  Cavanaugh layers watercolours over a surface of wet kaolin clay, a process which allows her to create a powerful sense of depth by juxtaposing luminous whites with darker regions of black and grey. But much of Cavanaugh’s work is less about technique than it is about the philosophy of portraiture. 

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Stefani Georgieva
Rembrandt & Cinema in the Paintings of Vincent Kamp

You’re always caught by the undercurrent of the ‘story’ in these paintings. You’re aware that you’re just the spectator, but one who’s caught the narrative’s protagonists at an important moment. In Next Time, You Pick up a Card (2017) the foreground is dominated by two mysterious men sitting around a pub table. They’re well dressed, but sporting tattoos above their collars and below the hems of their cuffs. Between them, a deck of undealt cards is neatly stacked. We’ve caught them in a dangerous lull between hands. 

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Andorela Marra
REVIEW: Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame, Tragedy at the Tate Modern

The Tate Modern’s PR team write that the ‘myths around Picasso will be stripped away to reveal the man and the artist in his full complexity and richness. You will see him as never before.’ And yet, you don’t see so much of Picasso ‘stripped away’ than his young lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, who was only 17 when she met Picasso, then aged 46. For Aistè Ga, my gallery partner for the day, this turned Picasso into less of a genius and more of a flailing, finite man

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D.S. Graham
REVIEW: John Copeland's Your Heaven Looks Just Like My Hell

The Times' Waldemar Januszczak notes that Hirst is playing the kingmaker. Copeland, then, is one of the first to be coronated. His works featured alongside the likes of Tracey Emin, Jeff Koons, and Richard Hamilton in Selected works from the Muderme collection in Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery. He has returned to the venue for his first solo UK exhibition, Your Heaven Looks Just Like My Hell which explores the ‘act of looking’ through obstruction, tricks of perspective, and hidden imagery. It is a natural starting point for an artist who views realistic painting as ‘too straight’. 

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Barney Trimble
Matthew Small: Material Humanism through Benjamin

Matthew Small isn’t so much a flâneur as a magpie: ‘that oven door, that shelving unit, that piece of trash to someone…’ He crafts persons’ portraits from these ‘found’ scrap-pieces. Often, they’re overlaid with riotous layers of colourful paint. How to respond? ‘We’re always more than the sum of our parts,’ might say the humanists. ‘For there is always something special about the person, who, qua person/individual, transcends their environment and therefore the junk on which their portrait is painted.’ Alternatively, the strict determinists might say that ‘we’re but products of the (urban) environment,’ and the junk-canvas conveys something of late-twentieth century life in the modern metropolis…

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D.S. Graham
Gregory Mason: Paradoxes in the Paint

Opening Thursday, 5th April and running through 28th April in London, Greg Mason’s solo show of luscious oil paintings at Cass Art Islington, “After Shock”, explores the paradox of aftermath and rebuilding embedded within the paradox of his technical approach. The work in this exhibition focuses on the small town of Farindola in central Italy, which experienced a severe earthquake which, in turn, triggered an avalanche that killed twenty-nine people. In 2017, Mason resided and worked in a home damaged by the tragedy as part of an artist residency in Farindola, providing a cherished insight into the town, its inhabitants, and their altered lives.

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Lauren Amalia Redding
Stella Kapezanou through Adorno: Real People in the Palms of their Holiday.

We’re entitled to twenty-eight days of it a year. More, once we’re retired. Who doesn’t want to ‘recharge the batteries’ or get some ‘rest and relaxation’ before the long slog of work (the other two-hundred-and-sixty-one working days of the year) begin again? Kapezanou, who won the Clyde and Co., Emerging Star Award in 2017, paints people worshipping the deities of Sun, Sand, and Sea. For they’re the new ‘holy’ trinity of the ‘holiday’

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Interesting Artworks: Spotlight Fish Dance by Victoria Horkan

hickly painted canvasses are not a new phenomenon, think of Frank Auerbach, Anselm Keifer, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Laden with paint and metal and sand and bright specks of diamond, works like Keifer’s Starfall from 1995 carry the weight of impressions and gestures that seek meaning free from representational convention. Impasto seems too timid an adjective to describe the layers of paint and debris these artists heap onto their canvasses.

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Hana Nihill
The Calligraphy of Mostafa Nourbakhsh

This April, the Contemporary and Modern Art Gallery (CAMA Gallery) will be opening their new premises in London. A welcome addition to London’s renowned international art scene, the new site in St James’ will showcase an array of the finest talent from the Middle East. Already an established presence in Tehran, the CAMA Gallery aims to revolutionise the Iranian art world and open up the market for collectors. With a long roster of talented artists, London based art lovers will finally have the opportunity to view works that have yet to be seen in Britain.

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Ellen Charlesworth
Soulscapes and Success: The Extraordinary Art of Taha Afshar

Taha Afshar’s previous series, Garden of Mystery (2015) and Swedish Landscapes (2015) enjoyed considerable success. In Letting Light In (2016) Afshar returns to the original inspiration for the figurative works of the Garden of Mystery, Mahmud Shabistari’s Gulshan-I Raz (c., 1311) but via the abstraction of Swedish Landscapes. Afshar’s ‘take’ on Shabistari’s poetry interacts and comments upon a Sufi-Western canon stretching from Homer, Plato, and Plotinus contra Ibn Rushd and with Al-‘Arabi and Shabistari all the way to Sigmund Freud, André Breton, and Jacques Lacan. It’s heady, enlightening stuff. Afshar’s Letting Light In doesn’t shy away from the deepest questions that characterise our otherwise inane ‘being’ here, the otherwise absurdity of our life in this cosmos. He’s unafraid to explore that once, there was a command: ‘Let there be Light!’ We’d do well to follow Afshar in Letting Light In.

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D.S. Graham
Interesting Artworks: Laura Footes' The Hunt

Laura Footes’ large-scale pastel drawing, The Hunt (2014), depicts the moment in which a massive hunting party catches a fox. The line of the hunting party surges from the upper right towards the bottom left of the drawing, where the hounds rip apart the fox with such ferocity that only a pit of crimson identifies the prey. In the background, a Brontëan country house hunkers amidst rolling fields. The drawing is deliriously chromatic and abstract in its rendering. Footes’ pastel lines read like neon signs, and she arrays the cool white of the hounds’ coats around the fox like the petals of a carrion blossom. The long line of huntsmen—again, ominously clad in red—leap towards the carnage. This compositional movement prevents the drama from existing in one frozen moment, but rather emphasizes its crescendo. The panoply of colour and energy does not depict triumph, but rather a fever pitch.

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Lauren Amalia Redding
The Global Fine Art Awards, 2018

This year will mark the fourth annual award ceremony and gala of the Global Fine Art Awards. Founded to celebrate the best in curated exhibitions from all over the world, the entries are judged on exhibition design, historical context, educational value and public appeal. The fifteen awards cover a range of categories, from ‘Ancient Art’ to ‘Photography’, and this year the GFAA’s reaffirms its commitment to the international with the new ‘Global Planet’ and ‘Global Humanity’ awards.

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Ellen Charlesworth
At the Violet Hour: Reanimating T.S. Eliot's 'Inviolable Voices'

October 1921. The British poet T. S. Eliot travelled down to Margate to recuperate after suffering a nervous breakdown, buckling under the weight of his failing marriage and the pressure of completing The Waste Land (1922). He’s thought to have drafted ‘The Fire Sermon’, the third section of this work – which would come to represent one of the defining poetic compositions of the Modernist era – in a Victorian seaside shelter, an open timber structure that still stands today, overlooking Nayland Rock. Nearly a century later, an exhibition has opened in the Nayland Rock Hotel (now a Grade II listed building) assembling national and international artists, inspired by the poem and the ‘inviolable voices’ that invest its text, the myriad faces, the stories, the ‘heap of broken images’ that emerge from Eliot’s ‘unreal city’.

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Calum Cockburn
The Rise Art Prize

Rise Art offers the public the opportunity to vote for the winner of the Rise Art People's Choice Award, 2018. They’ve just announced the finalists. We’ve picked out our favourite five—or rather, six—artists from the shortlist. The finalists have been chosen by a team of ‘insiders’ from all over the art world. They include curators such as Rachael Thomas of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and Sarah Martin of the Turner Contemporary in Margate; journalists and editors such as Emily Tobin of House and Garden and Beatrice Hodgkin of The Financial Times’ How to Spend It supplement; academics like Jean Wainwright of the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) and, of course, artists such as Anthony Micallef and Bruce Mclean.

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D.S. Graham
‘Heroes vs Villains’ is the Mask: Sandra Chevrier’s Cage Series

Sandra Chevrier burst onto the art scene in 2013. She’s now exhibited—and importantly, sold—as far and wide as Copenhagen, Tokyo, New York, and London. In part, her burgeoning popularity rests upon our contemporary fascination with super-heroes and the renaissance in comic-culture. And yet, there’s more to her work than first meets the eye.

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D.S. Graham