Galleries - January 2011

bucolic pictures of rural Scotland, or exotic fantasies from faraway Japan which Glaswegian indust- rialists might enjoy without ever beingreminded of the economic source and social consequence of their wealth. As Matisse sugg- ested about his own art, the Glasgow Boys provided “for the businessman . . . a soothing, calminginfluence on the mind, somethinglike a good armchair that provides relaxation from fatigue.” What’s wrong with that, if over a century later, such paint- ings can now delight thousands of people? Bill Hare FASHIONISTAS As the blistering yellows scorched through Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar winning film, The Last Empero r, the Imperial Chinese dress enthralled me. Fast forward 23 years and the original robes are unveiled at the Victoria & Albert – with two thirds never before seen outside China. Hang- ing in their Forbidden City ward- robes, these magnificent pieces have surprisingly survived civil wars, Mao’s Cultural Revolution and other turmoils. The silky, shimmering yellows, reds, blues, greens and other colours, cuffs in the shape of a horse’s hoof and accessories from exotic head- dresses with rare lapis lazuli stones to shoes with the edgiest platforms, bring alive the court hierarchies, rituals and beliefs. Even the exquisite embroidery tells exciting mythical tales of BUCOLIC BALM The current London showing of early modern Scottish painting at the Royal Academy will surely attract hordes of first time visitors, who will certainly be enthralled by a plethora of visual delights, but may also be a little mystified as to how the ‘Glasgow Boys’ ever ac- quired such a title. For unlike their older French contemporaries the Barbizon School – or, for that matter, the New Glasgow Boys of the 1980s – there is little or no apparent visual connection be- tween the subject matter of their technically innovative pictures and their group name. In the 1880s, when the Glasgow Boys forged themselves into the first recog- nisable modern movement in British art, their metropolitan namesake had by then become the great industrial centre of the British Empire. Yet the visual tropes which one might expect to find in Victorian images of the “world’s workshop” – such as hammering shipyards, belching factories and grinding poverty – are conspicuous by their absence from their work, many would say, and this response certainly would have included their early patrons, such as the Scottish shipping magnet and major collector, William Burrell. For it was mainly with this kind of patronage that the Glasgow connection was made with the ‘Boys’. Through the pro- motion of the City’s most cele- brated dealer, Alexander Reid, the Glasgow Boys could serve up writhing dragons, flying phoenixes and the most delicate fluttering butterfles. In sharp contrast, monochrome colours and distressed fabrics define today’s Japanese fashion designers, led by Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yama- moto at the Barbican Art Gallery . Their avant garde aesthetic shook the 1980s fashion world – then applauding the skin-tight look of Azzedine Alaia, Thierry Mugler’s big shoulders and the sophis- ticated tailoring of Giorgio Armani à la Richard Gere in American Gigolo . Innovative techniques and materials stun – notably Junya Watanabe’s honeycomb construc- tions or his blue nylon polyure- thane dress – East meets West with oversized Elizabethan ruffs, pannier-like skirts and Kawakubo’s tube-like bustles. Interestingly, trad- itions are given a modern twist as Yamamoto updates the kimono and Tao Kurihara is inspired by origami for her intricate kraft-paper skirt. As GSK Contemporary turns fashion into art at the Royal Acad- emy , Hussein Chalayan uses the 300 year old Japanese Bunraku puppet theatre to show fashion’s influence on all of us – today, and yesterday. Melanie Abrams H elen McKie ‘Waterloo – War’ poster Watercolours & Works on Paper Fair Serena Thirkell ‘Phantom’. Hastings Arts Forum E.A. Walton ‘Seaside Cottages with Dovecote’.c.1883. Glasgow Museums at the RA Flower Pot Shoes, China, (1875-1908) © The Palace Museum, Beijing at the V&A Yohji Yamamoto. Barbican Art Gallery PUBLICEYE 7. GALLERIES JANUARY 11