Art / Exhibitions

Barbara Hepworth

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It is impossible to separate Barbara Hepworth’s work from its method. Although she was far from the first artist to choose carving over other methods of sculpture, it remained a less popular and prestige method, and her choice remains significant.

Carving a sculpture begins with something pre-existing—the wood or stone it is carved from — and consists of changing this thing rather than creating something anew, so the art can never be seen as entirely man made.

Grayson Perry: Provincial Punk

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The new exhibition at the Turner Contemporary in Margate covers the work of the current great success story of British art. It is a success seen and heard on radio and television on a daily basis. The happily married father, holder of an MBE, soon to be installed Chancellor of the University of the Arts, and national treasure beloved by all, is Grayson Perry.

Sonia Delaunay

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Sonia Delaunay was no socialist, but she was a revolutionary. An early companion wrote to her from Moscow in 1906 “beware of ideology”. There were those who sought to change the world through social relations and those who revolutionised the way we perceive the world. Delaunay was a pioneer of modernism and this exhibition is a comprehensive survey of an original and prolific artist who lived and worked at the centre of 20th century art and design. At the end of her long life Delaunay said that she had in fact lived three lives.

Indigenous Australia: Unfinished business

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The Indigenous Australia exhibition at the British Museum sits uncomfortably between the past and present. It is a powerful combination of art and artefacts from the history of the hundreds of indigenous peoples in what is now known as Australia. The British Museum has been studiously self-conscious in acquiring and exhibiting these objects. It has taken seriously its role of representing people whose voices have largely been written out of their own histories. The exhibition has been curated in discussion with Aboriginal artists, historians and anthropologists.

Leon Golub

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If you stand really close to Leon Golub’s painting Gigantomachy II, the colours and brushwork are perversely reminiscent of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. Step back and what come into view are not the lyrical gardens of Giverny, but a writhing mass of bodies on a raw canvas stripped of framing conventions, punched through with metal and nailed straight into the neat white walls of the Serpentine Gallery.

History is Now

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This DIY history of post-war Britain exhibition ranges from Mrs Thatcher’s handbag to a section on mad cow disease. The gallery has invited seven contemporary artists to become curators, creating installations of objects they have selected to define a period in ways we are not used to seeing.

The intention is that, by reassessing our past, we may find new ways of articulating our expectations for the future, in the lead up to May’s general election.

Who invented impressionism?

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Mass-produced prints of works by impressionist artists are so readily available that some people now see the art as bland with little to say about modern life. But when it was created it was seen as shocking and dangerously avant garde. The artists used experimental techniques and new media — such as ready mixed paint in tubes — bright colours, quick, obvious brush strokes and layers of texture.

Cornelia Parker

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This exhibition is also the occasion of the reopening of Manchester’s Whitworth gallery following a major expansion and refurbishment. he gallery’s director Maria Balshaw is a fervent advocate of the public space, saying, “This is everybody’s art,” and referring in particular to the large local Muslim community.

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.

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