1. Truth and Memory 8 March 2015
In the wake of Remembrance Day, I urge you to visit the Imperial War Museum to see a collection of First World War art not seen on this scale for almost 100 years. The Imperial War Museum re-opened in July this year and has attracted great attention since. Aptly marking the centenary of the start of the war, this exhibition displays how painting was both a propaganda tool and a means of exposing the atrocities of warfare.
Among the collection are works by the eminent Paul Nash, such as We are making a new world, 1918. In this hauntingly beautiful landscape Nash depicts the sun rising, emitting eerie white beams of light over thick brown clouds. Devoid of any figures, a barren landscape extends into the distance, the uneven ground resembling rows of graves, and dying trees whose branches seem to have been violently wrenched off.
There is no shortage of figurative painting. Gilbert Rogers’s Gassed. In Arduis Fidelis, 1919, is a particularly poignant depiction of a dead soldier, his limp, arched body filling the space and giving the composition the immediacy of a close up photograph. With his body covered in mud, we are given a sinister invitation to consider the soldier’s imminent fate, his entry into the earth.
2. Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery
This successful photography exhibition has been running at the National Portrait Gallery for twelve years. The collection on display includes 60 works selected from a total of 4,000 submissions.
These portraits are capable of inspiring a range of reactions. I loved Lawrence Cartwright’s Dog and Boy, and David Titlow’s Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow which also puts a dog in the limelight. Perhaps not exactly a portrait, I love the dramatic lighting cast across the photograph, recalling the subtle drama of 17th century Dutch painting.
3. The Nakeds at The Drawing Room, 25 September 2014 – 29 November 2014
The Nakeds is an exhibition of modern to contemporary drawings of the bare body. The naked body has always been a fertile site for the exploration of sentiment, its vulnerability and honesty providing a starting point for expressions of human desires, hopes and fears.
The exhibition begins with the expressive, angular nudes of Egon Schiele, which continue to shock to this day. His provocative work invites us to question the difference between ‘the nude’ and ‘the naked’, and whether these can really be considered separately. What makes a body a ‘nude’ rather than simply naked? Can we determine when a nude becomes pornographic? Does this diminish its status as ‘art’?
In addition to modern and post-war artists, the exhibition includes work made specifically, by Enrico David, Chantal Joffe, Nicola Tyson and Stewart Helm.
4. A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón collection at Leighton House
This is a rare opportunity to see a Victorian collection of 19th century academic painters from Alma-Tadema to the former owner of the house, Frederic, Lord Leighton. The 50 paintings on display belong to the Mexican businessman Juan Antonio Pérez Simón who through this loan offers an opportunity to see works last seen in the UK in the 1890s at the Royal Academy, and some even on the walls of Leighton House.
Leighton, Crenaia the Nymph of the Dargle
Several of the paintings include Leighton’s famous muse, Dorothy Dene, who was a frequent visitor to the house. The artist portrayed the beauty as the nymph Crenaia, standing languidly, her thin white dress covering only part of her pale skin. Another sumptuous work is The Roses of Heliogabalus, an appropriately grandiloquent title for this monumental painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. The youthful emperor Heliogabalus surveys his luxuriant dinner party where predominantly female guests roll and recline on a thick blanket of roses. The artist was so intent on faithfully reproducing the roses petals that he ordered flowers to be shipped from the French Riviera every week!
This style of art has not been fashionable for a while, but who would dare miss a collection rife with beauty, some of which will be seen back in its original setting!? And who knows, as Jackie Wullschlager discusses in the Financial Times, top these works with a bit of irony and maybe you’ll get somewhere close to Jeff Koons. Next, selling for sky-high prices at Sotheby’s..? We’ll keep you posted.
5. Bar Story, Peckham
Looking for a new bar? This Peckham hotspot is located just by the train station and is a favourite among locals. To those new to London, you could say Peckham is the new Shoreditch, though best not to say that too loud or the bird’s nest-beards might glare at you for questioning the authenticity of their hipsterdom. Its industrial design is home to classic cocktails, fresh pizzas and solid DJ sets. What more could you want? Oh, its also happy hour from 6-7pm on weekdays. AND 2 pizzas for £10 on Tuesdays. #winning