The Easel

28th January 2020

On Having No Skin: Nan Goldin’s Sirens

Goldin’s new video works are about addiction and memory. Photography, she has said, is her way of remembering. Her new work is characteristically candid – blurry self portraits, scattered pill bottles, images of friends, dead and alive. Besides documenting “where all the time went” there also perhaps is a bigger point: “What a person is looking for in addiction … is totally sane, totally desirable, totally human”.

Hogarth: Place and Progress. Sir John Soane’s Museum, London

Hogarth was not a moralising scold. His celebrated narratives depicted London street life but not in a way that made poverty itself a moral failing. Having invented the (highly remunerative) concept of a narrative series, he documented life in this great city, without judgment. As one critic notes, “Charles Dickens is Hogarth’s only rival as a chronicler of London”.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years is a portrait of the artist as priapic provocateur

Since winning the Turner Prize, Perry has delighted in promoting himself as Britain’s leading transvestite potter. Pottery’s “nice domestic associations” contrast sharply with his commentary on sexuality, class and gender. All of which he delivers without earnestness. “Decorativeness, sensuousness, laughter, joy, vibrancy, vitality, they are just as important [as] all that misery-making, pseudo-political, woke bollocks.”

24th December 2019

An unlikely ‘collaboration’

By the late eighteenth century, the East India Company was hugely profitable. Prosperous executives commissioned paintings by Indian artists to send back home. These anonymous “company paintings” were stylistically distinct from the Mughal court style but, in their own way, “very, very beautiful”. The challenge now is to identify those artists, give them their due and promote their work as “Indian art, not colonial art”.