RA Magazine Summer 2013
Issue Number: 119
Art around the nation
This summer’s art attractions take us to the Lake District, Liverpool, Gateshead and Scotland. Ben Luke reports
Graham Sutherland, 'Entrance to a Lane', 1939. © Tate. Sutherland’s Land
Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal provides an ideal venue to see 'Graham Sutherland: Landscapes', not only because of the Lake District setting, but also because landscape art – classical, sublime and modern – dominates the gallery’s collection.
Sutherland’s lyrical works, initially inspired by the romanticism of Samuel Palmer and William Blake, are a fusion of experience and experimentation. ‘The word that he always used was “paraphrasing”,’ says the show’s curator Nick Rogers. ‘It was never a direct response to the landscape – it was mediated and filtered through his imagination back in the studio.’ Sutherland based his paintings on what he called ‘accidental encounters’ on walks, most often on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales. ‘Something would resonate within him, and often that would be an object like a tree root or a stone, or it might be a border landscape scene,’ Rogers says.
Despite veering close to abstraction in works such as his 1939 painting Entrance to a Lane, Sutherland never entirely lost sight of first-hand engagement with the elements. ‘For him, it was a step too far to work directly from the unconscious,’ Rogers says. ‘He was always observing nature and using that as the basis for the paintings.’
Thomas Scheibitz, 'Henry Stand', 2012. © VG Bild-Kunst 2013. Scheibitz in code
Thomas Scheibitz works on the cusp of figuration and abstraction in both sculpture and paintings, such as Henry Stand from 2012, with its striking palette of acid hues next to neutral tones. The title of his exhibition, 'One-Time Pad' at Baltic in Gateshead, refers to ‘a particular form of code that can’t be cracked which was used in both world wars,’ says Baltic curator Emma Dean, ‘so the show is a playful take on this.’
Scheibitz ‘wants to work outside ideas of figuration and abstraction, or to work around them,’ Dean says, in order to create a new language of painting and sculpture. Alongside more than 200 of his works from the past five years, the show also presents the artist’s archive, with magazine clippings, drawings and objects such as toy racing cars.
François Clouet, Miniature portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, 1558. © Royal Collections Trust. Great Scot
More than 400 years after her death, Mary Queen of Scots still excites controversy. ‘Was she a martyr to the Catholic cause or a murderess, complicit in the death of her second husband, Henry, Lord Darnley?’ asks George Dalgleish, curator of 'Mary Queen of Scots', a major show at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. Darnley’s murder remains an unsolved mystery – he was found dead in 1567 after an explosion at Kirk o’ Field, a house in Edinburgh.
It is this event that provides ‘the pivotal point of the exhibition’ says Dalgleish. ‘The show then goes on to explain Elizabeth I’s sanctioning of Mary’s capture and execution in 1587.’ But alongside the gruesome details of this period of her life, there are exquisite paintings, including a portrait miniature by François Clouet depicting Mary placing a ring on her third finger of her right hand, a symbolic gesture thought to allude to her first marriage to the French Dauphin François II. The 200 objects in the show will include ornate jewellery and relics, such as the Holy Thorn Reliquary from Stonyhurst College, which was given to Mary by her father-in-law, Henry II of France and is said to include one of the thorns from Christ’s crown of thorns. Dalgleish hopes the exhibition will ‘give people a greater insight into the complexities of her life and the fact that she was a true Renaissance monarch.’
Chagall’s Parisian spring
Tate Liverpool takes a fresh look at Marc Chagall’s response to Modernism in the years following his arrival in Paris in 1911 in its exhibition 'Chagall: Modern Master'. ‘The earlier paintings he made in Russia are darker, with a narrative and naturalistic side to them,’ says Simonetta Fraquelli, the show’s curator. After he moved to Paris, Chagall’s ‘compositions and colours changed quite dramatically,’ as seen in Paris Through the Window (1913), which reflects a distinct Cubist influence.
Marc Chagall, 'Introduction to the Jewish Theatre', 1920. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Events across Europe affected Chagall’s activities profoundly – he was marooned in Russia when war broke out in 1914, and after the 1917 Russian Revolution he became arts commissar in Vitebsk in Belarus, near where he grew up. ‘But as things developed he realised it wasn’t for him,’ Fraquelli explains. He left for Berlin in 1922, having completed seven murals for Moscow’s State Yiddish Chamber Theatre, including Introduction to the Jewish Theatre, from 1920. These form the centrepiece of the Tate exhibition, and reflect Chagall’s personal response to Russian Suprematism and Constructivism. Combining folkish figuration and angular abstraction, the murals remain distinctly characteristic of Chagall’s oeuvre.
- Graham Sutherland: Landscapes Abbot Hall Art Gallery, 29 June–5 September
- One-Time Pad Baltic in Gateshead, 26 July–3 November
- Mary Queen of Scots National Museums of Scotland, 28 June–17 November
- Chagall: Modern Master Tate Liverpool, 8 June–6 October
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