The Easel

26th February 2019

What Ghosts Haunt Jasper Johns’s New Skeleton Paintings? We May Never Know (and That’s the Point)

Reviewers of Johns’ new show approach it as a puzzle to be solved, undeterred by his long-standing reluctance to help with interpretation. Mortality seems a preoccupation of the octogenarian artist (no surprise) but is that it? “What is the meaning of all this meaning? You mainly end up finding symbols that are symbols of other symbols.”  A good bio piece is here.

19th February 2019

Joan Semmel

A career recapitulation, of sorts. Early on, Semmel decided to paint “images that were erotic for women … reimagining the nude without objectifying the person”. For decades she has done just that, mostly painting herself, undaunted by the visible impact of ageing. She is a “rapturous colourist”, adept at showing “the carnal nature of paint. She is the anti-muse.”

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.”