The Easel

Archives: The Guardian

7th June 2015

Julian Barnes: “art doesn’t just capture the thrill of life… sometimes it is that thrill”

While obviously written as a promo for Barnes’ new book, this essay is still a gem. Barnes shares his personal experience of looking at art and his love of modernism. Puzzlingly, Barnes, a major literary figure and art critic, seems to hope for unanimity: “Braque thought the ideal state would be reached when we said nothing at all in front of a painting. But we are very far from reaching that state.”

Stroke of genius: Peter Doig’s eerie art whisks the mind to enchanted places

With a highly regarded exhibition running in Venice and his work claiming record prices at auction last week, Peter Doig’s reputation grows ever more illustrious. This essay gives some background to the British//Trinidadian artist and the symbolism of canoes. He is “the painter of the global age, a traveller without a destination, between cultures, between jobs, looking for paradise and finding a prison on the horizon.”

David Hockney: ‘Just because I’m cheeky doesn’t mean I am not serious’

Even at 77, Hockney is prolific. In London for the opening of his new show, he gave an interesting and candid interview, contemplating himself and his work. Hockney comes across as thoroughly English, even after living in Los Angeles for long periods of time. “He lights a fag and dunks a biscuit. It’s funny, I say, despite that gloomy demeanor you are a force of nature.”

Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation review – a fabulous beast

Recognition of Aboriginal art has been slow coming – this is the British Museum’s first such major exhibition.The reviewer ascribes this to the all too familiar catalogue of sins committed against Aboriginal artists. However, indigenous art does use an entirely different visual vocabulary.  It was only the emergence of abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock that “created new visual assumptions that have enabled outsiders to at last see the power of Australia’s ancient art forms.”

6th June 2015

The Man Who Made Monet: How Impressionism was Saved from Obscurity

A story of the ‘art dealer as hero’. Impressionist painting in the 1870’s was mostly the object of derision. As luck would have it, Monet, Renoir and other Impressionists, received decades-long support from Paul Durand-Ruel, a conservative dealer on London’s New Bond St.  Durand-Ruel risked bankruptcy on more than one occasion but after finally gaining critical acclaim (initially in the US) sold Impressionist paintings seemingly by the truck load. “Without him, said Monet, we wouldn’t have survived”.

Why Magritte was Like a Stand Up Comedian

Magritte was a master of image and, in particular, puzzling images. This nice essay (by a comedy writer) draws out the parallels between Magritte’s art and comedy. The argument is not that his paintings are necessarily funny but rather that the contradictions they portray are similar to the way a joke is structured. “It was Magritte’s genius to construct images that are awkwardly resilient to straightforward resolution”