Art Travelling Roundup

in London and Hastings

The Menagerie Within

Beth Carter and Ray Caesar at the James Freeman Gallery

I thought it was high time I did a roundup of some of the work that I’ve been seeing around and about over the last few months because I’m getting ready to re-launch The Art Traveller next month, with a whole bunch of new stuff – yet I have still got some goodies that I’ve been holding back!

In March, I visited the James Freeman Gallery on Upper Street in Islington and saw some really beautiful work. The gallery is well known for interesting, unusual and highly skilled art pieces. The show featuring Beth Carter’s sculptures and Ray Caesar’s images was no exception.

James Freeman Gallery

The gallery describes ‘The Menagerie Within’ as an exhibition of contemporary surrealism

The digital images of Canadian artist Ray Caesar depict fairytale characters resembling dolls in dreamlike spaces. The pictures are not illustrations to stories, they are stories in themselves, tales that are obscure, uncertain and a little dark. Caesar’s pieces are digitally generated yet have a dense tactile materiality. A pioneer in the area of digital imaging, Caésar makes deeply striking and slightly disturbing images.

In Persona, above, Caesar’s digitally-generated figure wears a sleep mask that may or may not actually be part of her organic body. It contrasts with the thick, textured warmth of her coat. The non-gender-specific figure is the picture of elegance and sophistication, but from where – from what exclusive milieu do they hail?

Beth Carter’s (below) human-animal hybrid sculptures evoke zoomorphic and therianthrophic gods and legendary animals. Such characters usually lurk in our subconscious. Her figures, reminiscent of ancient deities but translated to modern everyday life, appear a little deflated, resigned to simply fitting in with modern life rather than being worshipped in elaborate temples.

Both artists astonished and delighted me with their work. I admired Caesar’s use of colours and his interest in art history and fairy tales. I was smitten by Carter’s melancholy figures and felt obliged to spend as much time as I could with them. The show made me think of one of my idols, Paula Rego. I hope to see more from these artists in the future.

I popped into the National Gallery to see what was on and caught After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art. To be honest, I did not find the show itself very stimulating, but I did see some great pieces I had never seen before, like this portrait by Spanish painter Santiago Rusinol.

After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art

I will write a bit more about this show later as I want to discuss it alongside the other show at the National Gallery, Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different – so watch this space!

Zine Workshop – Art History Conference

In April, I gave a paper at the annual meeting of the Association For Art History. This is Europe’s largest art history conference, attracting researchers from all around the world. It is always a challenging and exciting environment to learn about fresh approaches to art studies, discover new artists, learn about new books, meet with publishers, and so on. I had a great day, and my paper was well received. I did a zine creation workshop, and you can see my attempts above. It reminded me that THE ART TRAVELLER was going to be a Zine until I understood that with the amount of art travelling I do, I would never be able to keep up with Zine production. As a result, a blog would have to suffice. However, I believe I will continue to produce the occasional Zine. This one, Art and Magic, has a lot of potential, so – once again! – keep an eye open!

Finally, I had a weekend in beautiful Hastings and among other activities visited Hastings Contemporary where they had. a show of Chaim Soutine and Leo Kossoff.

Art Travelling Hastings: Soutine|Kossoff

Soutine | Kossoff pairs two major figures of 20th century painting: one a master of the School of Paris, the other a master of the School of London.Undertaken with the full support of the Kossoff estate, it brings together 39 important loans from public and private collections in the UK, USA and beyond. Aside from Soutine Portraits (Courtauld, 2017) at around 20 works, this is the largest group of Soutines shown together in the UK since 1982, and the first since then to show both portraits and landscapes, providing a fascinating follow-up to The Barnes Foundation’s 2021 show Soutine / De Kooning.

The discovery of Soutine’s paintings in the early 1950s was a significant moment for Kossoff, who was already finding his way towards the kind of direct and expressive use of paint he saw in his predecessor’s work. Soutine | Kossoff is the first ever museum exhibition to explore the artistic relationship between British artist Leon Kossoff (1926-2019) and Belarus-born painter Chaim Soutine (1893-1943).

-Hastings Contemporary

I personally resonated more with Kossoff’s work, so much of it about London – though I have always been a fan of Soutine. Kossoff’s work is very sculptural, he carves his paintings, gouges them out of thick layers of oil paint. They are heavy and brooding and rather tragic. I definitely recommend the trip to Hastings, it’s an absolute must for any Art Traveller in the UK.

Soutine|Kossoff 1 April 2023 – 24 September 2023