The Easel

26th February 2019

Don McCullin talks war and peace

Few exhibitions get called ‘magnificent’. McCullin modestly doesn’t think himself an artist, even though Henri Cartier-Bresson likened his work to Goya.  The curator has no doubt. “[McCullin] was always doing things that you wouldn’t consider photojournalism. If you take the most historic notion of genres in art, [portraiture, landscapes] he was always engaged in that”. A good video (4 min) is here.

Sarah Lucas discusses the work of revolutionary sculptor Franz West

West’s art might look simple but explanations don’t come easily. He grew up in fraught, post-war Austria and saw the nihilistic work of the Viennese Actionists. So serious! In contrast his work is “ludicrously playful”, joyous, the antithesis of pompous. Still, it does convey a serious endeavor – perhaps to capture “where clumsiness becomes elegance”. A short intro video (3 min) here.

Is Modernity Destined To Destroy Beauty?

Britain’s Building Commission wants developments that foster a sense of community. Modernist design, says the Commission’s head, gives us “structures [that] remake somewhere as anywhere, and therefore as nowhere.” Although this might be viewed as “nostalgia” we seem to have “completely forgotten the merits of aesthetics. [T]he vast majority of us are living in the midst of the non-beautiful.”

19th February 2019

Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion

Don’t expect Attia’s “post-colonial” art to fixate on power politics. He is more interested in the emotional differences between cultures. One of his preoccupations is with what it means to repair. The Western ideal is to erase all signs of injury whereas traditional cultures make no attempt at concealment. “One acknowledges the passing of time, and the other one aims to deny the effects of time.”

The Duel: Has modern architecture ruined Britain?

Can modern architecture improve the aesthetics of heritage-rich towns? No, says one writer; modern design “reduce[s] the infinitely adaptable languages of real architecture to an impoverished vocabulary of monosyllabic grunts.” Protests another – “skyscrapers change the skyline, as … did Victorian town halls. Any language sounds like “grunts” until you listen.”

Diane Arbus: In the Beginning, Hayward Gallery

Is Arbus’s photography sympathetic or voyeuristic? Her friends thought her “hugely empathetic”, an impression also conveyed by a show of her early work. Sentimental, though, she was not. Just like her celebrated later work, her early images support the view that Arbus is among the greatest of twentieth century photographers, “prescient [for her] acceptance of difference.”