The Easel

24th May 2022

Cornelia Parker exposes the hidden meanings of everyday objects

Parker, a conceptual artist, is nothing if not resourceful. One work comprises the fragments of a garden shed, reassembled after being blown up by the military. There’s silverware flattened by a steamroller. A tapestry made in part by lawyers and criminals. These are objects each of which has a back story that changes their meaning. Parker describes it as “sympathetic magic”. The reviewer says its “a kind of alchemy, turning mundanity into profundity”.

Seen as They Are

Paul, a British portraitist, discusses the genre. “Rembrandt depicts himself in old age as he is—the squashy nose and sagging jowls—but it is clear that he accepts himself. Lucian’s [Freud] and Rodin’s main subject is ‘flesh’ [but their] emotion is sometimes overblown and theatrical. Old age has always been my subject matter. I often think of those old women [subjects]… and I wonder at their inner reserves … riven as they all must be by memories and fear of the approaching dark.”

Gainsborough’s ‘Blue Boy’

When Gainsborough painted this famous work, the “fancy picture” was fashionable. These were pictures intended for public viewing, sentimental and often featuring children. Blue Boy was intended as one of these but isn’t entirely successful. It is “rather brown” which, in reproductions, makes the blue stand out. This masks the “shortcomings of [Gainsborough’s] colour management … the fabric never really shines, it just tells us it does.”

Radical Landscapes review – ‘Is loving green fields really wicked?’

The Brits love their damp landscape. A show suggests that traditional “conservative” landscapes – think Constable – are better represented as places of “trespass, land use and the climate emergency”. Why make this the predominant way to view the great outdoors?  “Love of landscape not only has radical and conservative sides but they coexist in the same work of art, the same experience of nature. If loving green fields is wicked, why go there?”

17th May 2022

Bringing The Procession to life

London’s Tate – founded on a Caribbean sugar fortune – must have seen this coming when awarding its annual installation commission to Locke, an artist of Caribbean heritage. Locke’s vast, “extraordinary” work contains over 100 cardboard and fabric figures, arranged in a flamboyant procession. A more careful look reveals colonialist icons and symbols everywhere, giving the colourful work a slightly sinister edge. “It’s about history, but it’s about sugar, you’re dealing with Tate, you have to deal with that.