RA Magazine Autumn 2011
Issue Number: 112
Preview: Art around Britain
Our tour takes in a Scottish Colourist in Edinburgh, two RAs in Cumbria, Edward Burra in Chichester and a maverick Bulgarian artist in Birmingham. By Peter Murray
R.B. Kitaj, 'K Enters the Castle at Last', 2004, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Lakeland Arts Trust /© R.B. Kitaj Estate. CUMBRIA Abbot Hall Art Gallery
R.B. Kitaj: Portraits and Reflections Until 8 October
Artist Rooms: Richard Long
21 October–17 December
Set in the idyllic surroundings of the Lake District, this show of 50 paintings and works on paper by R.B. Kitaj allows visitors to form their own opinion about an uncompromising and individual artist. Born in Ohio in 1932, Kitaj studied in New York and Vienna, eventually settling in Britain in 1957. At the Royal College of Art he developed his expressive figurative work, which ran counter to the abstraction and minimalism prevalent at the time. He became an RA in 1991. However, in 1997, three years after his controversial retrospective at the Tate, and disillusioned by critics in Britain, Kitaj returned to the US, where he died in 2007. This show is a chance to reappraise his career. The focus is on portraits – notable examples are
Richard Long RA, 'Cornish Slate Ellipse', 2009, © Richard Long. David Hockney RA and the philosopher Isaiah Berlin – as well as several self-portraits. In later life his paintings were often inspired by historical or literary themes: K Enters the Castle at Last refers to Kafka’s novel The Castle. Following on from Kitaj, the gallery hosts the ‘Artist Rooms’ touring collection with work by Richard Long RA. Long’s last show here was in 1985, so this is a welcome return of an artist who works in the landscape and is very much at home in Kendal and its environs.
CHICHESTER Pallant House
22 October–19 February, 2012
01243 774557, www.pallant.org.uk
Edward Burra, 'Market Day', 1926 ©Estate of the Artist c/o Lefevre Fine Art Ltd, London. Although often described as a Surrealist, Edward Burra (1905-71) forged his own highly original style. He is a major contributor to that eccentric strand of British art that goes back to figures such as Henry Fuseli RA in the Romantic era, and included Stanley Spencer RA in Burra’s own time. In the first full-scale exhibition of Burra for 25 years, Pallant House Gallery is introducing his sharply observed and sometimes alarming art to a new generation. Burra’s quirky, incisive vision is seen at its best in his paintings of edgy urban street scenes, or of bars and nightclubs inhabited by pimps, prostitutes and sailors. However, Pallant House is also showing his stage designs for several ballets and his watercolours of the English landscape. Burra spent the 1920s flitting around Europe, as well as visiting America. In Barcelona he haunted the notorious red light district of the Barrio Chino. In New York in the early 1930s he hung out in Harlem. At his death in 1971 he seemed a marginal figure. This show will enable us to see him afresh as the outstanding, if bizarre, artist that he was.
EDINBURGH Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
The Scottish Colourist Series:
22 October–18 March, 2012
0131 624 6200,
Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, 'Portrait of a Lady in Black', c.1921 Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Bequeathed by Mr and Mrs G.D. Robinson through the Art Fund 1988. The recent death of the Glasgow-born artist William Crozier, a painter of landscapes in vivid hues, brings to mind the group of early twentieth-century painters known as the Scottish Colourists, who are being celebrated in a series of exhibitions at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. First up in the series is Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937), who was noted for his elegant portrayals of 1920s Edinburgh society in portraits, paintings of stylish interiors and vibrantly coloured still-lifes. The Scottish Colourists were determinedly modern and proud to have created a cultural identity distinct from that of London. They influenced Scottish art into the late twentieth century. The enigmatic, formally daring Portrait of a Lady in Black could well have been painted yesterday. Watch out for Cadell’s Colourist compatriots, Samuel Peploe, John Duncan Fergusson and Leslie Hunter as this series of exhibitions unfolds.
BIRMINGHAM Ikon Gallery
Nedko Solakov: All in Order, with Exceptions
21 September–20 November
0121 248 0708,
Nedko Solakov, 'A Very Sad Self-Portrait', 1984 Courtesy of Nedko Solakov A retrospective of maverick Bulgarian-born artist Nedko Solakov brings a welcome dash of Central European melancholic humour to a British art scene that is often in danger of taking itself too seriously. Dividing his work into ‘simple’ and ‘complicated’, Solakov uses real-life situations to spring his anarchic interventions upon an unsuspecting public. An example of a ‘simple’ work is a message written in marker pen on the wing of an aircraft, visible only to passengers sitting in the window seats. His ‘complicated’ art works maintain this same quality in pithy, one-line sentences and tiny sketches on the gallery walls that engage viewers in a game of hide-and-seek. Underlying Solakov’s work however, there is a serious intention to raise questions about the self – as seen in his paintings from the mid-1980s – identity, and the individual’s relationship to the state.
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