Art / Exhibitions

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life

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If you are brought up in the North like me, you tend to be force-fed Lowry as a symbol of Northern grit and working class art in contract to the fancy art of the London establishment.

His work is seen as straight talking stuff and "much loved" - no art school rubbish here. I naturally grew up loathing him.

This exhibition shows him in a wider context. In fact, nearly all I thought about him was wrong. He was not working class but brought up very upper middle class and only fell into the lower middle when he was in his 20s. He was not self taught and based his art on late French impressionism - until the 1940s he was shown more in Paris than in Britain.

The Power of Print: Leonard Beaumont Rediscovered

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By day Leonard Beaumont was a newspaper printer - by night an artist who caught the mood of the times. Beaumont, who worked in the art department of the Sheffield Telegraph in the early part of the last century, spent his evenings making art. The self-taught prolific artist's skilful etchings and vibrant modernist linocuts have rarely been seen.

But now an exhibition in his home city belatedly shows off the best of his graphic and dynamic prints and etchings.

It is his prints, influenced by Futurism and the Vorticists, which are by far the most exciting.

A fine example is the 1932 lino print called Grinders, a striking monochrome image of two men sharpening knives which is clearly symbolic of Sheffield's steel industry.

The work has a real sense of rhythm typical of movements that revelled in the speed of modern life and the triumph of mechanisation.

Saloua Raouda Choucair

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Although recognised in Lebanon today, this is the first major international showing of paintings and sculpture by the 97-year-old Choucair. She was one of the first to interpret Arabic aesthetics through the medium of Western abstraction as strands of modernism developed post-war.

Comprising 120 works, many of which have never been seen before, this exhibition brings together paintings and sculpture made by the artist over six decades.

Two experiences seem to have had a great influence on Choucair's work. The first was a visit to Egypt in 1943 where she developed a profound love of Islamic design and architecture. The second was a few years in France in the 1940s, where she embraced modernism and joined the studio of the great painter Fernand Leger before returning to Beirut. She also drew influence from the celebrated modernist architect Corbusier.

Paris 1901: Becoming Picasso

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In 1901, a 19-year-old Picasso, his self-confidence so clearly displayed in the self-portrait Yo Picasso, broke into the Paris art scene. This was the capital of the art world in Western Europe and the place where any aspiring artist had to make it. It was the home of the avant garde, with whom Picasso identified at Els Quatre Gats cafe in Barcelona, and among whom he was already making a mark.

It was also the political reference point for many Catalans, who looked north to the more exciting, progressive and forward looking Paris rather than the artistically and politically conservative world in Madrid.

In an exhibition at the Galerie Vollard - from which several exhibits are on display here - Picasso showed works revising many of the themes of Post-Impressionism. He also echoed the styles of great painters before him, from Manet and Renoir through Degas, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Souzou: Outsider Art From Japan

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Souzou presents works that are often of a very personal nature, not always intended for exhibition or the art market. This is a collection of drawings, paintings and sculptures produced by people using art therapy as part of their treatment for "a variety of different cognitive, behavioural and developmental disorders". But it is much more than that, and a hugely enjoyable show in its own right.

The exhibition is arranged into three groupings: "Language and Making", "Representation and Relationships" and "Culture and Possibility". The boundaries of these categories are fairly loose, and a lot of effort has gone into creating a continuity of themes throughout the exhibition.

FABRIC-ATION

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Combining sculpture, painting, collage and film, this is the first major exhibition of London-born Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare.

Presented in the indoor galleries and open air of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Shonibare's work here follows pieces on Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth and at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. His work, at once vibrant and varied, fits well into these differing spaces.

As well as producing beautiful and dramatic pieces, Shonibare references themes from environmental destruction to the Arab Spring. Stand out works include the playful collage Climate Shit and intricate sculpture Alien Man on Flying Machine.

David Bowie Is

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Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The new "David Bowie Is" exhibition at the V&A Museum is a fascinating insight into one of one of the most contradictory figures in popular culture over the last 50 years.

For some on the left, the start and end point of David Bowie's story is his mid-1970s flirtation with far-right iconography and symbolism: his cocaine-addled statements about believing "strongly in fascism" or calling Hitler "one of the first rock stars". But Bowie's story - from Ziggy Stardust to elder statesman of eclectic pop - is one that parallels many social changes in post-war Britain.

Dancing with Duchamps

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Marcel Duchamp was one of the most influential artists of the last century. Associated with the Dadaist movement, Duchamps managed to playfully and provocatively affect the course of modernism by challenging received wisdom about what art should be.

At the Barbican, London, until 9 June

Producing works like Bicycle Wheel and Fountain (which was a signed urinal) he blurred the boundaries between art and life, embracing humour and experimenting with apparently random methods for producing art.

The Barbican in east London is currently running a major celebration of Duchamps's work, along with theatre, dance, music, film and lectures that encapsulates the various modernist trends upon which Duchamp had such an effect.

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