Thursday, 14 February 2019

Interview with Christine Lindey

Interview: Christine Lindey

Christine Lindey’s recent publication, Art for All. British Socially Committed Art from the 1930s to the Cold War, looks at a mid-century era of artists deeply committed to their political beliefs and prepared to voice these unabashedly through their work. During eight years of research, Lindey uncovered many new or little-known names and her finished book reveals this untold story of 20th-century British art history, presenting 30 artists and looking not only at their work and activism, but at their background, education, means of patronage and struggles to make ends meet.

I spoke to Lindey by email and telephone to discuss some of this fascinating and inspiring history and to pull out contemporary resonances and lessons that might be learned. 

Read the full interview here

Friday, 8 February 2019

Harald Sohlberg: A National Treasure

Harald Sohlberg: Painting Norway
Dulwich Picture Gallery
13 February - 2 June

An Yves Kleinian blue is pierced by the bright, white light of the Evening Star. Beneath it, a range of white mountains rise and fall, like drapery, almost as if breathing, or foaming like the peaks of waves. In the foreground, eerie, bare and broken trees pierce the silent serenity, forming crosses and grave markers, as if amidst the rubble of a battlefield. A vivid expression of the sublime – although, perhaps equally a precursor of the uncanny shivers of the surreal – Winter Night in the Mountains (1914) is arguably the most ambitious work of Norwegian artist Harald Sohlberg (1869-1935), and is widely considered to be the ‘national painting of Norway’. It remained his obsession for 14 years, and he produced many versions in his attempts to capture exactly what he wanted.

Although less well known outside of his home country than his contemporary Edvard Munch, Sohlberg is nevertheless being described by Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, as ‘one of the greatest masters of landscape painting in the history of Norwegian art’. Denying the influence of other artists on his work, and attributing the origins of his ‘artistic awakening’ to his own psyche, his oeuvre unites elements of Romanticism, Naturalism and Symbolism, always drawing on the Nordic landscape and its vast potential to depict both the earthly and the infinite. As Dario Gamboni describes in his catalogue essay to accompany the gallery’s forthcoming exhibition, ‘Harald Sohlberg: Painting Norway’ (13 February to 2 June), whereas Munch chose to foreground the human figure, treating the landscape as an additional expression of ‘a state of the soul’, Sohlberg focused primarily on the landscape, with the merest hint of human presence. This exhibition, which is travelling from the Nasjonal Museet, Oslo, marks the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth and will be the first solo exhibition of his work outside of Norway. 

Read the full feature for Norwegian Arts here

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Review of Painter. Mentor. Magician. Otto Mueller and his Network in Wrocław at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin

Painter. Mentor. Magician. Otto Mueller and his Network in Wrocław
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin
12 October 2018 – 3 March 2019 
Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu
8 April – 30 June 2019

Otto Mueller was born in 1874 in Silesia – then a part of Germany, now a part of Poland. From 1907 to 1919, he lived in Berlin, where, from 1910 until its dissolution in 1913, he was a member of the group of expressionist artists known as Die Brücke. In 1919, Mueller moved to Wrocław (then Breslau), where he taught at the State Academy of Fine Arts and Crafts – deemed to be “the liveliest in Germany” in the 1920s – for more than a decade, until his death in 1930. This exhibition, which shows first at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin before travelling to the Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu, is the outcome of a German-Polish research project, and explores the life and work of Mueller, considering him in the roles of painter, mentor and magician, but it simultaneously celebrates the lively exchange between the two cities up to the end of the second world war – and, indeed, beyond. This is done in part through the contextualising of Mueller’s work alongside that of his contemporaries – from the Bauhaus, der Sturm, and the myriad other movements and schools thriving in the early 1900s – but also by the inclusion of so-called “guest exhibits”, spotlighting works of Polish expressionism and neo-impressionism.

Read the full review here

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Interview: Elmgreen & Dragset

Interview with Elmgreen & Dragset 

Since unveiling a decaying public swimming pool as part of their major overview exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery back in September, Elmgreen & Dragset – the Berlin-based, Scandi artistic duo comprising Michael Elmgreen (b1961, Copenhagen) and Ingar Dragset (b1969, Trondheim) – have been the talk of the town. Their often parodic and playful work, of course, was already familiar to Londoners and tourists alike (even if the artists’ names remained unknown), as their 4.1-metre golden sculpture of a boy on a rocking horse, Powerless Structures, Fig 101, had regally crowned Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth for 18 months from February 2012 – throughout the London Olympic Games – attracting largely positive responses, including from British actress Joanna Lumley, who unveiled the piece, describing herself as ‘thrilled’ to be revealing such a ‘completely unthreatening and adorable creature’ to the public.

Read the full interview here

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Review of Klimt/Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Klimt/Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna
Royal Academy of Arts, London
4 November 2018 – 3 February 2019

The year 2018 marked the centenary of the deaths of two of Austria’s best-known and best-loved modernist artists – Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and Egon Schiele (1890-1918). Although Klimt never formally taught Schiele, the younger man was widely thought of as his protégé, and, by the time of Klimt’s death from pneumonia, following a stroke, in February 1918, Schiele was acknowledged as his successor. Tragically, he, too, was to die, eight months later, in the flu pandemic. Although both artists left behind a great number of paintings, the core of each of their practices was drawing, which constituted a fundamental daily activity for them. Klimt left more than 4,000 drawings – most devoted to women; Schiele, in his short life, created 3,000 drawings and watercolours. The Graphic Art Collection of the Albertina Museum in Vienna, founded in 1776 by Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen, holds a large number of works on paper by both men, and, for this centennial collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts – one of many international anniversary exhibitions – 100 drawings have travelled to London, where they are displayed in largely chronological thematic rooms, interweaving the stories and progress of each artist.

Read the full review here