The Easel

26th September 2023

Marina Abramović’s catalogue of self-harm

Abramović’s most critically acclaimed work was Rhythm 0 in 1973 when audience members nearly assaulted her. Wider recognition, though, came from a 2010 work where she sat in a New York museum for 700 hours. Her works, especially when done by hired performers for a London show, don’t persuade this writer. “Abramović needs buy-in from the viewer. Her catalogue of self-harm provokes a reaction, but to what end is less than clear.” A review of her key works is here.

Bernard Cohen: Things Seen

Is Cohen an abstract artist? He says no, claiming that his paintings have a “storytelling capacity”. Finding those stories, however, is a challenge. For decades he has produced labyrinthine works, variously colourful “tangled spaghetti” or shards of glass interspersed with patches of colour. Cohen’s paintings are “a series of diagrams about painting”, is one suggestion. Less ambitiously, perhaps they simply reflect “the visual cacophony of everyday life”. A video (4 min) is here.

19th September 2023

Why is Frans Hals still not considered the equal of Rembrandt?

In advance of a major London retrospective, an enquiry into the artist. Hals portraits are acclaimed, argues a curator, for how well they characterize people – less psychological depth but tremendous relatability. So why is he usually ranked below Rembrandt? Hals specialised in “the group portrait. You have to look carefully to see their brilliant naturalness, [but] the spontaneous becomes habitual … you need variety of subject to be a great painter.”