A round-up of the week’s reviews…
The gallery at Roche Court – a small glass box looking out onto an expansive sculpture park in the Wiltshire countryside – must be an inspiring and intimidating place to exhibit. How do you compete with the Michael Craig-Martins doodling colourfully on the lawn outside; the cartwheeling Flanagan hares; the Gormley weathering solitary in the woods? Bill Woodrow and Richard Deacon are no strangers to such work…can turn out successful sculptures of their own on a scale to match…But the collaborative pieces of glassware that make up ‘On the Rocks. Again’, are improbable exercises in small, breakable baroque.
These are works that bewitch, with a mimesis of female beauty…It is female beauty, however, of a peculiarly languid sort, the beauty of the muse who reigns through submission, the languor of the models – Elizabeth Siddal comes to mind – intensified, all too often, by laudanum or chloral. Her sovereignty arises through acquiescence, a majestic suspense of self in the service of myth.
The best works here are those Clark collected for himself. Sometimes dismissed as a reactionary, he was a surprisingly diverse and progressive patron. Works by British modernists, such as Vanessa Bell’s Self-Portrait (c. 1958) or David Jones’ Petra im Rosenhag (1931) hung alongside Cézanne, Sidney Nolan and Giovanni Bellini at Saltwood, Clark’s Norman castle on the south coast.
Anaemic green and sickly sweet red dominate and connect the paintings, which are gathered in uneven groups around the gallery. Like shadows projected onto sun-baked ground, menacing silhouettes of venomous plants with prying tendrils fall over sculptural canvases, ragged with exaggerated cracklure. The deep fissures reveal blood coloured interiors, which seem to seep through the surfaces, soaking the edges of several, and saturating one, Carnivorous Red, with a rich intensity.