The Easel

3rd October 2023

Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas, Tate Britain, review: Toilets, dildos, fags and boobs – the YBA is still perverse

Lucas has been around for decades, but her bawdy humour still has some critics calling her a joker. To be fair, there are tits and penises everywhere, making for “blokey, off-colour” jokes. For one writer this is 1990’s feminism all over again, making it “as rebellious as paper doilies”. In contrast, this writer calls some of Lucas’s work “brutal”. Her figures made with stuffed tights “look as though they’re waiting for us like working girls in the world’s loneliest brothel.”

‘Rubens & Women’ at Dulwich Picture Gallery: who’s afraid of Peter Paul Rubens?

Think Rubens, think fleshy, buxom beauties? Well, perhaps we shouldn’t. Yes, he painted nudes, but a curator argues that he didn’t objectify women. If so, that explains why he had numerous female patrons. Rubens was a devoted family man whose mother was a role model for the strong females that appear throughout Rubens’s work.” Says one critic, “He paints what he admires, in a way that respects and empowers”.

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.