The latest shows seen this month and are defiantly worth a visit are Tate Britain with the Turner Prize and Paul Nash. Non of these shows are cheap £16.50 for Paul Nash and £12. for the Turner Prize, ( which kinda defeats the object of one of the exhibits)
The official war paintings are among his greatest works and my favourites of his work . But they represent just two short periods of a 40 year career of work now at Tate Britain.
Nash tapped into a peculiarly English poetic and visionary tradition while embracing the upheavals in European art. Creating surrealist work, juxtaposing forms and shapes within landscape settings.
As a young man, in inky drawings, he found inspiration in the copses and clumps around his Buckinghamshire home. They represent a nocturnal idyll that is abruptly destroyed by Nash’s First World War experiences. In those shattered and shattering images Nash brought an almost hallucinogenic palette of colours together with a knack for graphically distilling the horror of the killing fields.
Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Nash could never look at the British landscape in the same way again. The Twenties were all about painterly experiments. Interesting but flawed work as he tries his hand at European modernism. But as he hit his Thirties, a better lot of work emerges shows Nash’s experiments with found objects and photography alongside his artist lover Eileen Agar and this opens everything up.
None the less, this is one of the strongest Turner Prize shows in ages. Helen Marten, at 30, the youngest, but best known of the four, sets the tone with meticulous but inscrutable assemblages in which organic, industrial, architectural and domestic objects come together to baffling effect.
The Turner Prize,
This was a show I wouldn’t normally go see, but I felt I needed to after have a personal tutorial at uni with Anthea Hamilton.
Anthea Hamilton, 37, has provided the exhibition’s most-publicised work, a 20ft-high pair of male buttocks in moulded polystyrene, grasped by a pair of male hands. Based on an unrealised proposal for an apartment block doorway by Italian designer Gaetano Pesce, this overbearing bottom does create an impact especially for the person taking the selfie. I did expect them to be slightly bigger, but still made an impression.
The surrounding installation immediately brings to mind the Belgian surrealist René Magritte, with a brick-patterned suit hanging in front of brick-patterned wallpaper, and a collection of plastic and metal chastity-belts seen against walls painted with Magritte’s trademark blue sky and clouds.
Josephine Pryde, sent up the notion of gallery-going as a form of infantile tourism by sending visitors round her 2015 exhibition in Philadelphia on a miniature train. Presenting the train in a static form, however, as it is here, rather defeats the object. The best things in her exhibition are lengths of Ikea worktops whose paper surfaces have been allowed to fade at varying rates to create fugitive abstract images with the flavour of early 20th-century photograms – images crated by placing real objects on to light-sensitive paper. Anyone who has struggled to put an Ikea kitchen together or has to wipe one of these surfaces down will find a wry pathos in these ingenious works.
The room devoted to Michael Dean, the only male contender, looks at first like some devastated builders’ yard, with concrete casts of bits of corrugated iron standing upended like enigmatic monuments among a wreckage of clay and plaster. In the centre lies a vast mound of pennies and twopenny pieces totalling £20,436, which is, the government-designated annual minimum on which a couple with two children can survive in Britain today.
If this stark reminder of everyday realities (and Dean, it might be added, has two children and was until recently strapped for cash) feels welcome amid the ivory-tower atmosphere of the Turner Prize, it remains ambiguous: some will think this amount insultingly low others unachievable high, but then to even be there to see this show you have to fork out?
But it is only one aspect of a work whose real underpinning is Dean’s writing, which is everywhere. What look like huge upended paper-clips appear to be trying to twist themselves into some sort of writing, while stickers designed like cab-firm business cards, but bearing Dean’s poetry, adhere to surfaces in random clusters.
I think there’s a fantastic vitality, humour and raw inventiveness to this work, a sense, all too rare in contemporary art, that there’s more than can be taken in in one viewing.
Dean,is the strongest contender, dealing in a kind of post-internet surrealism in which the meaning and veracity of every object and image is ambiguous. Dean’s work has a sense of gutsy connectedness to a world beyond the gallery and the messy realities the rest of us live in.