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Muse Reviews: 25 May

25 May 2014

A round-up of the week’s reviews…

(detail; 2012–14), Tania Kovats. Installation view at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh.

All the Sea (detail; 2012–14), Tania Kovats. Installation view at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Ruth Clark

 Tania Kovats’ bottled oceans at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (Catherine Spencer)

The sea, to paraphrase Walt Whitman, is large; it contains multitudes. Tania Kovats’ ‘Oceans’ exhibition, at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery, is particularly impressive for its ability to keep in play the multitudinous issues and ideas encompassed by the sea – from geopolitics to global warming – without losing a granular, micro-level engagement with the specificities of form and materials.

(1859), Francis Danby

The Shipwreck (1859), Francis Danby © wave Wolverhampton Art Gallery

‘The Power of the Sea’ at the Royal West of England Academy (Melanie Vandenbrouck)

‘The Power of the Sea: Making Waves in British Art, 1790–2014′ (Royal West of England Academy, Bristol), explores the enduring fascination for the sea over three centuries, demonstrating at once a continuity of expression – the attraction for the beauty and vastness of the oceans – and an evolving artistic gaze.

(1963), Sergio Larrain

Bar. Valparaiso, Chile (1963), Sergio Larrain © Sergio Larrain/Magnum Photos

Homecoming: Sergio Larrain’s photographs on display in Chile (Crystal Bennes)

While the retrospective at Santiago’s Museo Nacional de Bellas Arte is a touring version of a similar exhibition originally shown at the Arles photography festival in 2013, it is particularly poignant for Chileans as it marks the first time Larrain’s photographs have been shown in his own country since the 1960s.

(2014), Ben Johnson

Fatherland Room (2014), Ben Johnson © courtesy of the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery

Ben Johnson ‘Time Past Time Present’ at Alan Cristea Gallery (Lowenna Waters)

In his current exhibition, ‘Time Past Time Present’ at the Alan Cristea Gallery on Cork Street, instead of pristine modernist interiors, Johnson has painted five large-scale canvases of rooms that bear the scars of violence. Walls are pocked with bullet holes, upholstery savaged by gunfire, and genteel neoclassical interiors tarnished by peeling paint.

(2014), Bill Viola.

Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) (2014), Bill Viola. St Paul’s Cathedral. Photo: Peter Mallet

Bill Viola’s ‘Martyrs’ at St Paul’s Cathedral (Digby Warde-Aldam) 

Viola is one of a tiny number of people who can make great art devoid of irony, which is perhaps why his work is often exhibited in religious buildings (this is the third time he’s shown work at St Paul’s). Martyrs, which is to be joined by a second commission titled Mary later in the year, is intended to be a work of both contemporary and sacred art. It’s a great idea, and a beautiful series of videos. I just don’t think it works here.

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