The Critical List
- Kader Attia: Museum of Emotion, Hayward Gallery until 6 May, 2019
Kader Attia is a French-Algerian artist who also calls himself an activist and he uses a variety of means and methods to explore the continuing legacy of colonialism in the West. From museology to the design of social housing in the Paris suburbs, Attia powerfully explores the ways racialised thinking and social control continue to shape how white society represents and engages with non-white cultures – and how it continues to enact violence on brown, black and marginalised bodies. Provocative, thoughtful and sometimes angry this is an exhibition that’s meant to be experienced like an extended pictorial essay. And it makes a perfect complement to the beautifully curated exhibition of Diana Arbus, who was also fascinated by the marginalised, in the upper galleries.
- Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory , Tate Modern until 6 May, 2019
If you know Bonnard mostly through his paintings of his ageless wife Martha lying stiffly in the bath (mildly disquieting paintings in cool silvery-lavender tones that possess a sarcophagal air) then Tate Modern’s wonderful survey will take you on a far more sensual journey though bold, colour-infused landscapes in which the still summer air seems as thick as treacle and interiors full of quiet tension. Bonnard’s colours dissolve and reconfigure form so that everything is just that bit disorientating.
- Dorothea Tanning, Tate Modern until 9 June, 2019
Tanning was an American Surrealist, a painter, a printmaker, an illustrator, a creator of uncanny fabric sculptures and eerie installations, and a novelist and poet. She died in 2012 aged 101 and this full-career retrospective shows the powerful influence of the brilliant French illustrator Gustave Doré and of the English Gothic novel on her febrile and impressively fecund imagination. In short, she was so tremendously talented that you wonder what took Tate so long.
- Don McCullin, Tate Britain until 6 May, 2019
Don McCullin is one of the great photographers of war and humanity-in-extremis and this retrospective delves into a career that has covered imperial and colonial wars from Vietnam to Northern Ireland to the first Gulf War, as well as social deprivation closer to home. To say his gaze is unflinching would be to fall back on clichè, but his gaze is that and more – it takes nothing away from the humanity of his subjects.
- Harald Sohlberg: Painting Norway, Dulwich Picture Gallery until 2 June, 2019
I love that Scandi painting is getting the attention it deserves at last, and the Dulwich Picture Gallery is undoubtedly a fan, having staged the intriguing Nikolai Astrup exhibition (watch my Astrup video here) a couple of years ago. Not that Sohlberg, an early 20th-century contemporary (older than Astrup and a few years younger than Munch) who predominately painted landscapes, is well-known here, though you’d have seen his chillingly atmospheric paintings if you’ve ever been to the Museum of Norway in Oslo. Sohlberg landscapes and townscapes hold you with the satisfying precision of their line and he especially loved painting the marvellously creeping silhouettes of trees against a dense midnight sky.
- John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing , Two Temple Place until 22 April, 2019
John Ruskin, the great English polymath and radical Christian socialist, most noted as a champion of Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites, was born 200 years ago this year, and it’s certainly time for a reevaluation of his extraordinary life. Much traduced in film and literature (most recently in Mike Leigh’s film of Turner), this intelligent survey looks at the breadth of his achievements – as a writer on art and architecture, as a painter, as a geologist, as a social thinker (he was an influence on Gandhi who translated Ruskin’s Unto This Last in Gujarati) and, not least, as a philanthropist for great social causes.
- All the Rembrandts, Rijksmuseum until 10 June, 2019
OK, so you need to go to Amsterdam for this one but let me say it’s worth it. All 22 paintings in the Rijksmuseum’s collection are on display (though The Night Watch remains in the Museum’s Gallery of Honour, until until restoration begins in July). The prints will knock you out – there are about 300 in the exhibition. Dutch Golden Age artists usually stuck to a specialist genre, but Rembrandt covered everything from History painting biblical narratives and portraits and comical genre scenes. You’ll get the full scope of it here. And if you really can’t make it, try not to at least miss the British Museum’s free display of Rembrandt’s etchings and drawings in print room. Read my feature Why Rembrandt’s The Night Watch remains a mystery here.
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- Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory , Tate Modern until 6 May, 2019