Installation view of Gallery VIII, Summer Exhibition 2011. Photo: John Bodkin/DawkinsColour Arranged by Michael Sandle, this room vividly reflects the concerns of an artist who explains that ‘War is my subject. I tend to loathe art that refers only to itself.’
War is dramatised at its most horrific in Tim Shaw’s wax sculpture of a man on fire, running for his life in Iraq. Equally alarming is Brian Taylor’s Rodinesque naked figure of The Executioner, while Paul Wager has made a requiem sculpture with swords and driftwood on a marble base.
This gallery is not wholly without abstract art. The vitality of abstraction is asserted in Phillip King’s Blue Slicer, in which segments of different colours cut through each other at will. Stephen Cox challenges us to discover the human form in his otherwise mysteriously simplified carvings called Oracle, but Anthony Caro provides an openly figurative image in his life-drawing of a woman, pared down yet full of movement.
One of the largest and most spectacular exhibits is a painting by Frank Bowling, an explosive image handled with great freedom and reminiscent of a massive sunburst. ‘It reminds me of Monet’s water-lilies,’ says Sandle, who has also included Norman Toynton’s abstract painting executed on a slab of real pegboard.
In the end, though, this room does not let us forget the darker side of life. Simon Brundret has contributed a kinetic sculpture called Dog in Bin, a desperately greedy animal devouring rubbish with frantic eagerness.