The Easel

26th May 2020

The Provocations of Kent Monkman

Kent Monkman, a Cree Nation / Canadian citizen, has had two of his paintings hung in New York’s Met. Good, one might think – recognition of an artist and of the terrible treatment of indigenous peoples. Some think otherwise, worrying that mainstream artworld success compromises art advocacy of indigenous causes. Frets this writer, can indigenous art avoid being “overwhelmed by the historical context”?

19th May 2020

Winning Hand

New York Interior (1921) is Hopper par excellence – calm, focused on the commonplace. What makes it a favourite of the writer? “It’s a painting that … takes great bother to extend the tradition of Velazquez and Vermeer – oil painting as a portal to serenity and stillness, to inner life. It has something to do, I think, with the absent needle and thread and with an idea of repair. And it has to do, I feel sure, with people … unseen… unknown.”

The Burning Purity of Zarina Hashmi

Zarina’s family was ravaged by the partition of India and Pakistan. That anguished process gave her oeuvre its focus – a contemplation of home and “in-betweenness”. Memory, she wrote “is the only lasting possession we have”. Her austere monochromatic aesthetic resembles minimalist abstraction, but is “resolutely rooted in the Indo-Persian tradition … step wells, niches and arches”. Images are here.