The Easel

11th February 2020

British Baroque — Power and Illusion review: The magnificent emergence of a new political era

After the austerity of Cromwell, Britain opted to restore the monarchy. Welcome the extravagant Baroque! From there opinions diverge. Some critics are not bothered by paintings awash with satin and silk and “outrageous pomp”. Others definitely are bothered: “the art of power, dominance and shagging your cousins. Pompous, over-the-top, ridiculous. Call it royalty, call it parliament, it’s all power, and it’s all ugly.”

What Do We Want History to Do to Us?

More on Kara Walker’s monumental fountain, currently in London. What do we want from public art? “To memorialise”. Yes, but memorialise whom, whose history and which memories? “Public art claiming to represent our collective memory is just as often a work of historical erasure and political manipulation. Monuments are complacent; they put a seal upon the past, they release us from dread.”

4th February 2020

From the ‘Unknown Lady’ to Beyoncé, 500 years of pregnancy portraits

Art about motherhood is common. However, until very recently there has been reticence about pregnancy. Why? Pregnancy denotes female sexual activity which has been “hugely problematic” for some. And then there is the view that when pregnant, women do not ‘look their best’. And then there is the spectre of miscarriage or death. Even with modern medicine, “the pregnancy portrait is the space “where death and life intersect.”