National Gallery, 25 January – 27 April 2014
Rarely does an exhibition of two paintings register as one of the highlights of the London art calendar. But so iconic have Vincent van Gogh’s seminal paintings of sunflowers become (and I use the word iconic only rarely, knowing its common abuses that the reunion of the National Gallery’s 'Sunflowers' with that of the Van Gogh Museum is sure to attract crowds. The canvases were two of a series the Dutchman painted in 1888 for the bedroom of his friend Paul Gauguin while the artists worked together in the South of France – before their famous falling out and the breakdown that overwhelmed Van Gogh.
Vincent van Gogh, 'Sunflowers', 1889-01. Arles. Oil on canvas. 95 x 73 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation). © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).
Maurice Cockrill RA
DLI Museum and Art Gallery, until 30 March 2014
I have just been editing a very poignant tribute to the late Maurice Cockrill RA written by Richard Kirwan, an artist who worked with Cockrill at the RA Schools while the Academician was Keeper – the Schools’ head – between 2005 and 2011. The piece, to be published in the next issue of RA Magazine, makes clear that the painter’s warm, sensitive and supportive approach to his students was complemented by a restless artistic energy, made manifest in his late, highly layered abstractions that appeared like palimpsests in paint. This week a survey show of the County Durham-born artist’s work has gone on view at Durham’s DLI Museum and Art Gallery, complemented by major monograph from RA Publications.
White Cube Mason’s Yard, 29 January – 15 March 2014
Visitors to the Academy’s exhibition Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined may be interested to walk down Duke Street St James’s afterwards to visit a new show at White Cube by Liu Wei. Known for representing cities in sculptures in unlikely materials from pulped books to edible dog chews, the artist has of late responded to the architecture of his native China by reconstructing it: discarded elements from building sites – pipes, doors, panels of wood, window frames – are rearranged in sculptures and installations, carrying with them the symbolism of a country undergoing radical urban change.
Liu Wei, 'Density', White Cube Mason's Yard, London. 29 January - 15 March 2014. © Liu Wei. Courtsy the artist and White Cube.
Greengrassi, until 24 February
The Los Angeles-based artist Pae White is another artist whose installations, often architectural in scale, tend to be constructed from uncommon materials. In her exhibition at the Kennington-based art gallery Greengrassi, she presents ‘Genau or Never’, a take on what was an unrealised project for a London underground station – an arrangement of around 5,000 neon light tubes. More than 700 of the tubes are configured in the gallery space, illuminated to a tone designed to chase away those winter blues.
Camden Art Centre, until 30 March 2014
Camden Art Centre’s exhibition of haunting paintings by the German-born artist Silke Otto-Knapp has gained praise in the press this week. But anyone planning to visit the Camden Art Centre should make sure they also see a concurrent show at the gallery by Nina Canell. In the words of critic Sally O’Reilly, the Swedish artist “liberates man-made objects from the drudgery of service”; the subtle sculptures that result combine electrical and industrial elements in unexpected ways, and have even incorporated gaseous elements, which help fuel a critical mass of associations for the viewer.
Silke Otto-Knapp at the Camden Art Centre. Photo: Marcus J Leith.
Nina Canell at the Camden Art Centre. Photo: Marcus J Leith.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and Editor of RA Magazine