The Easel

19th June 2018

Tomma Abts @ Serpentine Sackler Gallery

Tomma Abst’s paintings – abstract, with just a hint of representation – have brought her acclaim and a Turner Prize. Modest in size, they are pure combinations of colour and line. Or, in the writer’s words, “[each] a distinct and powerful colour world … an image of nothing but the creative process itself.” A good video (3 min) of the artist is here.

Make America decay again – Thomas Cole and Ed Ruscha review

Cole’s five paintings, The Courses of Empire, are a highlight of 19th century American art. They depict the rise and fall of a grand empire, telling a story of transience. In the same exhibition is a contemporary homage to these works by Ed Ruscha. “The doomed empire Cole imagined inevitably looks like the USA … Ruscha [has] a colder eye. [He] shrugs and walks on”.

12th June 2018

Prized Possessions: Dutch Masterpieces from National Trust Houses at the Holburne Museum, Bath

Having expelled the (Catholic) Spanish, seventeenth century Holland was keen on non-traditional, secular paintings. The Dutch Golden Age resulted, rightly celebrated in this show. It is also a celebration of the million object collection of England’s National Trust, an astonishing inheritance from the era of the grand country house.

Giuseppe Penone, Sculpture Park review: these trees really are worth hugging

Not everyone loves this show. Penone has a preoccupation, trees. In his view, they eloquently express the work of time. Some like the works presented but not the above reviewer. “When his weighty philosophical inferences don’t quite connect with the subject they can feel ponderous … [pieces] of rather corny ecological illustration”.