Art / Exhibitions

Alasdair Gray: From the Personal to the Universal

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Alasdair Gray

Alasdair Gray is under-appreciated outside Scotland, although his novels, especially Lanark and Poor Things, have been deservedly and broadly praised. Even in Scotland no one loves Alasdair Gray like Glaswegians. After visiting this retrospective of his art it is easy to imagine that no one loves Glasgow like Alasdair Gray.

William Blake: Apprentice and Master

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William Blake

The poet and engraver William Blake was one of the great revolutionary artists. Some of his best works were inspired by the French Revolution. He courageously donned the famous symbol of liberty and equality — the “bonnet rougein”. In 1780 he took part in a riot in which the notorious Newgate Gaol was burnt to the ground and its prisoners freed. In 1803 he stood trial for sedition.

Throughout his working life he used all his talents to wage war on the institutions of the state and the church, which he passionately believed were instruments of repression and corruption.

Conscience and Conflict

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Many will be familiar with writers such as George Orwell, who wrote about the Spanish Civil War. Less well known is the response of British visual artists. They are splendidly surveyed in this ground-breaking exhibition which marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the war.

This multimedia show includes many fascinating paintings, sculpture, photography, posters, banners of International Brigade battalions and even billboards that encouraged people to contribute food supplies to Spain.

Anarchy & Beauty

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At the centre of his understanding of art, William Morris saw an inseparable connection between the imagination of the worker and his or her labour.

His concept of art was not simply making art objects to place in galleries or hang on rich people’s walls, but the human labour involved in making all the objects of our lives. He argued ideas of beauty were integral to us as human beings. Art was a result of the pleasure gained in the process of making something beautiful.

Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art

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Woman with a Rake

Tate Modern, London, until 26 October
The curators at Tate Modern have assembled, quite simply, a magnificent exhibition. Kazimir Malevich was born near Kiev in 1879. He died in 1935 after being diagnosed with cancer while imprisoned in one of Stalin’s camps. Throughout his adult life he was a revolutionary artist, an innovator and teacher.

British Folk Art

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British Folk Art

Tate Britain, London, until 31 August

Policing the borders of art is a tricky business. They’re porous, and they’re constantly shifting. What passes as “art” today may no longer pass tomorrow. It’s like nailing jelly to a tree.

This is not a question that torments most of us. But the movers and shakers in the art world are obsessed with it. Either they’ve got millions riding on their favourites or else they’ve erected palaces of high culture around them.

Digital Revolution

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Digital Revolution

Barbican, London, until 14 September

Digital Revolution opens onto a darkened room lit by code that drops Matrix-style towards the floor, the flashing of video games and the blinking of computer screens. Clips of music repeat over and over, competing with the 8-bit bleeps and bursts from early video games. It’s immediately loud, exciting, daunting and disorientating.

Mondrian and Colour

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Turner Contemporary, Margate. Until 21 September

Piet Mondrian declared that he was not interested in painting pictures, but that his art was about "seeking truth".

For him, this search came to mean reducing images of the things he saw around him to their most objective essence - to remove the subjective and thereby achieve clarity.

Mondrian's most famous works, the grids, use simple horizontal and vertical lines to separate the bright primary colours of red, yellow and blue to create a "universal harmony". It is easy to see the effect Mondrian's abstraction has had on areas of graphic design and architecture.

Exhibitions: Ai Weiwei in the Chapel

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Until 2 November

Some 25 years after the Tiananmen Square democracy protests, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is staging an exhibition by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. In his words, "Freedom of speech...is the very essence of human rights", and his work explores freedom and its restriction in capitalist societies.

The park is in the grounds of Bretton Hall, and this exhibition is showing in its newly restored 18th century chapel.

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