RA Magazine Autumn 2013
Issue Number: 120
Art around the nation
Our tour takes in a Birmingham painter with Caribbean roots, Roger Hiorns in Wakefield, Allan Ramsay in Glasgow and how art turned left in Liverpool
Allan Ramsay, 'Anne Countess Temple', 1760. Private Collection. This year marks the tercentenary of the birth of Allan Ramsay (1713-84), best but misleadingly known as George III’s principal painter, responsible for the dozens of versions of the full-length portraits of the young King and his consort, Queen Charlotte, that were sent around the world in the 1760s and 1770s. Ramsay’s role as court painter is one of the many facets of a much more complex artistic persona examined afresh in the Hunterian’s
new exhibition in Glasgow (13 Sep–5 Jan 2014).
Combining a choice selection of paintings with drawings, prints, and a group of the political and philosophical writings which came increasingly to preoccupy him, the exhibition places Ramsay’s art in the context of his wider creativity and its reception by contemporaries. Ramsay is well-known to specialists, but despite the magical beauty of many of his paintings, such as Anne Countess Temple of 1760, he has defied popularisation. He enjoyed his boom period as a society portraitist just before the dawn of the Golden Age of the British School, which obscured the fundamental modernity of his work. Later, as a Scot in London who avoided the cut and thrust of metropolitan art politics, and art societies (such as the Royal Academy), he seems consciously to have positioned himself on the periphery of the art world, with ambitions for a European rather than a national reputation. – Alex Kidson
Hepworth Wakefield’s new contemporary art space, the Calder,
has opened with the first major UK survey of the work of Roger Hiorns (until 3 November). For one untitled performance work Hiorns has found benches from the streets of Wakefield and asked local art students to undress, fold their clothes, then light a fire and sit on the bench watching the fire burn. The work questions people’s relationship to their architectural surroundings, as well as evoking the spiritual action of the lighting of a candle in a church.
Roger Hiorns, 'Untitled'. Photo Gert Jan van Rooij/courtesy the artist and Cori-Mova, London.
Hiorns will broadcast sounds from inside Wakefield Cathedral live into the gallery to highlight this spirituality. Hiorns’s other works similarly breathe life into urban objects and architecture, such as Untitled (Seizure) (2008), in which the artist grew copper sulphate crystals throughout the interior of an ex-council flat in London. In this work, recently relocated to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Hiorns has created a cavernous, blue crystalline interior, which transports the viewer to a mysterious world. – Eleanor Mills
Art for the people
An intriguing show at Tate Liverpool, ‘Art Turning Left’
(8 November-2 February 2014), looks at how left-leaning political values have influenced the processes of making art. This wide-ranging survey takes in subjects such as David’s Death of Marat (1793) – copies of which the artist commissioned so that they could be paraded through the streets of Paris – as well as Rodchenko’s advertising posters for state-run industries following the Russian Revolution, and the Hackney Flashers’ photographs documenting women’s working lives in the 1970s. The exhibition reveals how increased democratization stimulated new production techniques, allowed works to reach ever wider audiences and created collective voices.
Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane, 'Folk Archive', 2005. © The artists/courtesy the British Council Collection.
The embarrassment of riches in this show includes one of Pinot-Gallizio’s 1958 ‘Industrial Paintings’, which were created on rolls of canvas, then sold by the metre in an inventive attempt to debunk the values of the art market and the sanctity of the art object. Humphrey Spender’s photographs and Julian Trevelyan RA’s collages represent life in the industrial north before the Second World War, while in Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane’s Folk Archive from 2005, the people become the makers, creating an alternative vision for art. And in David Medalla’s Stitch in Time, first conceived in 1968, viewers are invited to sew directly onto a canvas in the gallery, with instructions from Medalla’s original banner displayed alongside. – Gill Crabbe
Hurvin Anderson, 'Peter’s 1', 2007. Government Art Collection. At the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, Hurvin Anderson’s show ‘Reporting Back’ (25 September–10 November), captures a sense of the displacement of a second-generation immigrant – his parents were originally from Jamaica and Anderson was raised in the Midlands. He often depicts contrasting sites of luxury and poverty, from an exclusive Caribbean tennis court in his Country Club Series: Chicken Wire (2008) to a makeshift barber shop established by immigrants in postwar Britain, as seen in Peter’s 1 of 2007. Anderson is interested in barriers designed to block physical access or sightlines – recurring motifs include wire fences, security grilles and dense hedge-like foliage. Such subjects become the cue for the kind of exploration of the hazy area between abstraction and figuration that has also preoccupied Peter Doig, who was Anderson’s tutor at the Royal College of Art in the late 1990s. Anderson’s works are filled with tangles of bottle-green vegetation, blocks of washed-out teal and electric cerise – they are, as much as anything, a joyous celebration of painting, colour and form. – Colin Perry
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