Archive for category Subject: Art Appreciation
This is about as timely as it gets and is certainly woke. Alice Procter’s Uncomfortable Art Tours around museums in London were born out of a sense of frustration at a lack of acknowledgment of colonial history in art galleries.
This is only partly true, as any historian worth their salt knows about the role of colonialism in mainly the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. I would like to think that an image such as The East Offering Its Riches to Britannia, painted for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, could not fail to make any viewer feel at least a little uncomfortable. Images of kangaroos, however, perhaps more simply educate a willing public about the fauna of distant lands – even if they were invaded and their indigenous populations subjugated. Dürer, of course, famously drew a rhinoceros probably only from a description. It would not be unfair, I think, to say that George Stubbs was not quite so well-informed. And then we have the famous Tipu’s Tiger, an automaton that mauls an unfortunate British soldier. The point that Procter makes rather eloquently here is that while the original is in London, only a rather poor plastic copy exists in the original location.
This, of course, raises the perennial question of whether all art should remain where it was created, or whether it can be moved about the world. It is inevitable that such moves will involve a degree of plunder and this is not limited to a single place or civilisation. Sometimes, the very movement becomes the story itself and history can lend an awful lot of perspective – we can marvel at a Roman statue of a legionary dominating a subjugated Celt without feeling the need to ask for the whole of modern Italy to be cancelled.
To be fair to this book, and its author in particular, this is neither preaching nor a rant, but rather an examination of a subject that is very much to the fore. Should we pull down statues of slave traders or let them stand and tell the story of how they came to be there? Which one illuminates history and which consigns it even further to the dark recesses of memory than it already is? If you want information that will help you think, it’s here.
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Having relatively little in the way of critical or appreciative analysis, this is mainly a showcase of contemporary work. It is none the worse for that and, lacking an academic tone, is free to concentrate and, more importantly, allow the reader to concentrate on the art itself.
To establish some sort of order, there are general chapter headings – Realism & Beyond, Post-Pop Landscapes, New Romanticism, Constructed Realities, Abstracted Topographies and Complicated Vistas. These are, it should be said, largely curatorial constructs, but they provide a nice framework within which to order a wide variety of material. Within each section, works are arranged by artist and with a short introduction to each – handy especially for those who are less familiar.
The whole thing is substantial, both in extent and format, and conveys a sense of completeness that won’t leave you questioning whether more, or different, works should have been included. The market isn’t immediately obvious, although I suspect that anyone interested in contemporary art would be able to find a convincing reason for wanting it, and parting which what seems a relatively modest forty quid.
If nothing else, it proves that landscape painting is alive and well in the Twenty-First century.
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