The Easel

7th December 2021

“We Carry Our Younger Selves Around”: Gillian Wearing on Life, Art and Time

Well before social media arrived, Wearing was making performative portraits – photographs of people in masks or holding cue cards that describe their thoughts. All addressed her core fascination – who are you? Given her view that people tend to live “in their dreams”, is the image we project who we really are or the person we wish we were – or both? The possibility that her approach will appear forensic is moderated by an evident empathy. Ultimately, she says “everyone is interesting”. Images are here.

Fabric of impulse: fiber artist Olga De Amaral melds artistic spontaneity with slow craft

One might expect Amaral, “a weaver”, to be methodical and structured. Instead, her long career has involved the pursuit of intuitive abstraction. This journey has yielded large, sculptural, fibre works that “hang freely in space”. By also incorporating diverse materials – plastics, gold leaf, paint – her distinctive works have brought renown in her native Latin America and beyond. Amaral’s aspirations though, sound just like those of a weaver: “I wanted to make the thread and the knot more visible”.

Fine Prints

Vast social changes unfolding in the early decades of the 20th century produced some distinctive art. In Britain, the Vorticists celebrated the onrushing modernism of life. Their favoured medium was the humble print, which “exists somewhere between art object and art product”. Being inexpensive, printmaking opened up new possibilities for showing art: “The art galleries of the People are not in Bond Street but are to be found in every railway station.”

30th November 2021

An architectural survey in search of America

Since the 1930’s, the Library of Congress has maintained a photographic survey of ‘historic’ buildings. A book drawn from this collection chooses mostly vernacular buildings – “urban row-houses, suburban and rural homes”. They are restrained images, “the style of no style” and “unmoored from a particular time”. Yet they “anticipate virtually all contemporary photography of the man-made environment”, conveying a uniquely American sense of emptiness [and] possibility”. Images are here.

‘Van Gogh And The Olive Groves’ Opens At Dallas Museum Of Art

Van Gogh made about 15 olive tree paintings, yet despite being from his peak period, they have never been exhibited as a group Completed while he was struggling with his mental health, these are “focused paintings, just earth, trees and a touch of azure sky”. The seasonal changes reflected in the foliage of the trees show the artist’s optimism that he too would find renewal. When viewed as a group, they are “one treasure after another [but sadly], van Gogh in his prime was only a two-year enterprise.”