A round-up of the week’s reviews and interviews
There is something inherently melancholic about the V&A’s exhibition…Forged in the furnaces of war and enflamed by the 1917 revolution, the sense of creative urgency over the 20-year period inspired a synthesis of art, design and performance, blending narratives from the folk to the futuristic…We all know how the show will end: the rise of Stalin, the dominance of Socialist Realism, the persecution of the avant-garde.
Seven months after he added a Best Film Oscar to his Turner Prize, Steve McQueen returns with a new film and sculptural installation spread across two sites at Thomas Dane Gallery. That these works went on display while the London Film Festival and the Frieze Art Fair were taking place seems apt, as no-one else currently straddles the worlds of cinema and contemporary art as successfully as McQueen.
The exhibition opens, naturally, to a room of self portraits. Rembrandt produced more than 80 over the course of his life: here, a group of them sit looking at each other as visitors stream past in droves…At this point in his life, Rembrandt was bankrupt, his wife Saskia buried and his lover, Hendrickje Stoffels (so frequently his subject) scorned from her church because of their relationship. Self-reflective, honest and expressionistic, the man’s weary life-worn wisdom is carried through into every painting, etching and sketch on display.
I first visited Jonas Burgert’s exhibition at Blain|Southern on the opening night. The gallery crawled with people, while the monumental paintings on the walls seemed just as crowded – with ghosts. Ghosts of the traditionally nightmarish sort…but also art-historical ones. Lost characters that could be from Goya or Daumier, from Velazquez or Bacon, stray into domestic interiors and nondescript landscapes in odd ensembles. If the artist meant them to sneak in there, he doesn’t acknowledge it when I speak to him a few days later.
We are fond of Bruegel’s paintings, not because they speak to our own age, or pre-figure modern attitudes, but because they are so deeply rooted in their own time. Odd, therefore, that Christie’s should seek to set up a dialogue between Bruegel and the art of today. But the recently opened exhibition at Christie’s Mayfair…is largely a success, offering some novel juxtapositions that illuminate both sides in the encounter.
Paul Rego…latest exhibition, at Marlborough Fine Art, is a triple bill: pastels inspired by Manuel II, a series based on The Relic, the 1887 novel by José Maria Eça de Queirós…and a set of watercolours for a new version of the folk story Stone Soup by her daughter, Caroline Willing…The pictures are a surprise. Rego’s familiar tropes are still evident – strong women, emasculated men, structures of power and humiliation, fairy tales and animals – but the style is less stylised, more playful and daring.