Friday, 16 March 2012


If you can get in … the RA can rarely have been more crowded ( altho not in this image)

The initial impression is bright and jolly in seaside holiday manner, which certainly lifts the spirits. Compare the authentically grey tones of one Yorkshire landscape from the 1950s with the purple, viridian, orange and lime views of today. To begin with my eyes did not much like the rough, crude brushwork which, combined with the violent fauviste hues, felt rather brutal.  But it quickly wins one over, through sheer exuberance and rapid energy: whole walls with multiple swift oil sketches of similar locations, done apparently on site  - presumably in an hour or so, all year round.  These are captivating en masse and in some ways preferable to composite walls of one scene which need more viewing distance. 

One is reminded of Turner’s compulsive sketching and Constable’s cloud studies, and of course Van Gogh’s urgent vividly-coloured strokes.   The familiar, repeated motif is of a road leading centrally into the distance.  Perhaps there are too many trees, however: apart from the desire to fill ALL the RA galleries, one wonders why every one of these compulsive works must be displayed, and the Yorkshire woods rather dominate over the fields, hedgerows, Yosemite and Grand Canyon, though the triffid-like hawthorn blossom pictures more than hold their own.   But despite or maybe because of the picture density [ and one should add the room of 'copies' or daubs after Claude which on first viewing seem mainly embarrassing ] the overall effect is exhilarating.
Then there are the videos, which capture tossing bushes and branches in strong wind, eclipsing the illusionary movement of the oil sketches, and also surprising indoor sequences – five professional dancers on an oil-seed yellow floor, which as the curators say of another work is both ravishing in colour and hypnotic in slowish motion.  Quite different but as comparably compelling as Bill Viola’s works.

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