Sunday, 1 August 2021

Yinka Shonibare CBE: African Spirits of Modernism

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA - Hybrid Mask (Fang), 2020-2021
This show is an attempt to understand the legacy of African aesthetics and to connect my own ancestry to contemporary culture. In my view, the African contribution to modernism has never really been celebrated in the way it ought to be. I decided to trace back the story of modernism; how Picasso’s first experience of African art changed the trajectory of his career and how the avant-garde period was incredibly inspired by African objects.

I feel the moment we are in now – with Black Lives Matter and attention to the works of many artists from the African diaspora – is similar to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and ‘30s. After the Depression, interest and support of Black culture reduced dramatically. Did that first interest do anything to improve the lives of Africans? Is it a fad? Is it fashion? It is a very important question to ask.
” – Yinka Shonibare CBE RA
To Stephen Friedman Gallery once more to experience the latest works of Yinka Shonibare CBE, having enjoyed their previous shows here and their great collaboration with the House of Modernity at the historic 14 Cavendish Square which featured Shonibare's works here. This exhibition described as "Picasso in reverse" by the artist, sees Shonibare turning the tables and appropriating aspects of European culture in much the same way that Picasso did with his personal collection of African artefacts to create a new visual language with his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907. The three main sculptures by Shonibare in this exhibition are hybrids from classical European mythology given heads which are replicas of African tribal masks. The bodies are covered in Shonibare's signature colourfully patterned batik fabrics which hint at trade between the two cultures. In the back room an army of masks covered in vibrant batik designs are lined up to confront visitors whilst a slide show of images reflecting the interest in African art in Paris during the 1920s plays in the background. Across the road are some new quilts by Shonibare which were a revelation. I really enjoyed the loose hanging threads of the embroidery and the patterned batik fabrics appliqu├ęd into the mix. They reminded me in part of those wonderful African Asafo flags of the Fante people with their strong fabric outlines of African masks and statuary. The diamond shapes which form the backdrop of many of the designs again allude to Picasso in the diamond motifs found in his Harlequin paintings.


Hybrid Sculptures - Installation view
Hybrid Sculpture - Pan, 2021

Hybrid Sculpture - Sphinx, 2021

Hybrid Sculpture - Centaur, 2021

Installation view
Hybrid Mask (Banda), 2020-2021
Hybrid Mask (K'peliye'e), 2020-2021
Hybrid Mask (Ntomo), 2020-2021
Hybrid Mask (Fang Ngil), 2020-2021
Hybrid Mask (Fang), 2020-2021
Modern Magic (Studies of African Art from Picasso’s Collection) IV, 2020 - 2021
Installation view featuring Hybrid Mask (Nwenka), 2021
Modern Magic (Studies of African Art from Picasso’s Collection) VI, 2020 - 2021

Modern Magic (Studies of African Art from Picasso’s Collection) IV, 2020 - 2021

Modern Magic (Studies of African Art from Picasso’s Collection) VII, 2020 - 2021
Modern Magic (Studies of African Art from Picasso’s Collection) I, 2020 - 2021
Modern Magic (Studies of African Art from Picasso’s Collection) V, 2020 - 2021
Modern Magic (Studies of African Art from Picasso’s Collection) II, 2020 - 2021
Modern Magic (Studies of African Art from Picasso’s Collection) VIII, 2020 - 2021
Modern Magic (Studies of African Art from Picasso’s Collection) III, 2020 - 2021
Yinka Shonibare CBE: African Spirits of Modernism
until 31st July
Stephen Friedman Gallery
11 & 25-28 Old Burlington Street

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Prunella Clough and Alan Reynolds

Alan Reynolds - Winter Image, 1958
"Prunella Clough and Alan Reynolds were largely influenced by the major developments in twentieth century art.  Both with roots in figuration - Reynolds in landscape and Clough in the urban environment - their work becomes increasingly concerned with the formal qualities of painting. Whilst Reynolds’ practice steers into complete abstraction, it could be said that Clough’s paintings retain elements of the ‘real’ world.  Both artists were, through their teaching, highly influential to an entire generation of artists that followed them and their impact continues to be felt today."  - Annely Juda.

Prunella Clough and Alan Reynolds installation view

As interesting as Prunella Clough's work is I specifically wanted to catch this exhibition as I was interested in learning more about Alan Reynolds' transformation from representational artist to abstract artist. I had witnessed a similar transformation in May at Marlborough gallery's Victor Pasmore show (here). That show was revelatory but gave no indications of Pasmore's path into total abstraction, as it strictly separated Pasmore's abstract and representational oeuvres. Here at Annely Juda, Reynolds' journey from the representational to that of pure abstraction is writ large chronologically across their gallery walls, and makes for fascinating viewing. Reynolds's earliest figurative, colour works, to the stark, all-white, minimalism of his last pieces where he plays with geometric shapes within the picture plane are well documented here. Reynolds (1926-2014), was active as a painter in a period of 20th C. art which has come to be of real interest to me since last year's pandemic lockdowns. I particularly admire the abstract works created by other artists as well as Reynolds in this time frame, and they have become very influential on my own works of late. With Reynolds I particularly like the period in which his works verge on the abstract, but still remain partly representational. There is a particular tension in these images, and the fact that they are in transition and haven't quite reached a resolution into a totally abstract conclusion really intrigues me. You can see the process of the artist's brain wrestling with the puzzles of the formal pictoral elements, and trying to solve the problems he has set himself, and then wondering how he can best resolve them, reconciling his art with his own personal concepts of abstraction. I really enjoyed the colours and shapes created in Reynolds's paintings. My favourite in this show was Winter Image, 1958, a glorious little concoction of harmonious, muted colours and close tonal variations, criss-crossed by a tissue of spidery web-like fine lines, reminiscent of some of Georgia O' Keeffe's finest flower paintings.
Alan Reynolds Installation view
Prunella Clough -
Factory Interior (Wool Carding Shop), 1954

Prunella Clough - Man With Printing Press, 1953
Prunella Clough - Waterweed 6, 1988
Prunella Clough - Waterweed 6, 1988 (detail)

Prunella Clough - White 1, 1970
Prunella Clough - White 1, 1970 (detail)
Prunella Clough - Garden, 1998
Prunella Clough - Mesh With Glove I, 1980
Prunella Clough - Gadget 1, 1997
Prunella Clough - Ears, c.1990

Prunella Clough - Left Over, 1991
Prunella Clough - Trinket 2, 1994
Prunella Clough - T-Shirt, 1994
 Prunella Clough - Red Gate, 1981
Alan Reynolds Installation view

Alan Reynolds - The Poet Goes Poaching, 1951
 Alan Reynolds - The Village Fair, 1952
  Alan Reynolds - Abstract: Green, Black and Grey, 1959
  Alan Reynolds - Yellow, Green and Black Forms, 1959
 Alan Reynolds - Forms Red, Green and Orange, 1960
Alan Reynolds - Winter Image, 1958

Alan Reynolds - Lyric Abstract, 1958-59

 Alan Reynolds - Structure - Ovoid Ground, 1962
Alan Reynolds - Study Rotation 28, 2005
Alan Reynolds - Ascending, 1970
Alan Reynolds - Cosmic (mini), 1972

Alan Reynolds - Poised forms (mini), 1972
 Alan Reynolds - Quartet, 1974
Alan Reynolds - Small Structure III, 1975

Alan Reynolds - Structures - Group II, 1981

Prunella Clough and Alan Reynolds
until 31st July
Annely Juda Fine Art
23 Dering Street