Large Weston Room
Hung by Stephen Farthing, this gallery is haunted above all by Anselm Kiefer’s enormous and sinister Aurora. Forever meditating on the aftermath of the Second World War, Kiefer here shows a submarine-like form floating in a mass of water. Stained, splashed and battered, it hangs down from the thinnest of wire supports. Yet it looks lethal as well.
Installation view of Large Weston Room, Summer Exhibition 2011, featuring Anselm Kiefer's 'Aurora'. Photo: John Bodkin/DawkinsColour
Frank Auerbach escaped from Nazi Germany as a child. But his family did not evade persecution, and a sense of underlying tragedy can be detected in Auerbach’s head of a man. Nearby, Tony Bevan’s incisive Self-portrait after Messerschmidt, executed in acrylic and charcoal, has a similar brooding power.
Not everything in this room is ominous, though. Edmund de Waal’s cabinet shelves are punctuated by cool, minimal forms guaranteed to calm us down. Mimmo Paladino’s large painting Fuga in Egitto is filled with bleached vitality. And James Hugonin’s deft painting consists of close-toned colours inspired, perhaps, by the luminosity of Britain’s northeast coast, near Lindisfarne. Adrian Berg’s landscape is soothing, while Stephen Chambers’s sensual and pellucid paintings celebrate the infinite fascination of still-life.
Even so, one big canvas points us in a far more disturbing direction. Executed by Stephen Farthing, Gaddafi’s Tent is a very timely painting. While a group of fighter planes are poised for take-off outside, the hardware inside the tent testifies to the Colonel’s appetite for incessant, devious planning. The overall mood is summed up by the words from the song ‘Strange Fruit’, made famous by Billie Holiday. Floating through the tent, they include the line ‘the bulging eyes and twisted mouth’.