Galleries - January 2013

Nolan and Ned Although rarely seen outside their native Australia – about once every two decades – there is a strong case for saying that Sidney Nolan’s ‘Ned Kelly’ paintings of 1946, currently at Irish Museum of Modern Art , Dublin, are among the most significant and daringly original landscape and narrative paintings in 20th C. Art. Painted when he was only 29, everything about them was not only against the grain of their times but his personal circumstances also. Conceived at the end of the war when he was living under cover as a deserter from the conflict with Japan and when every other Aust- ralian Modernist of his generation was painting in an abstract or social realist vein, Nolan’s genius was to see how such legend could give meaning to place and time, not only triggering potent mem- ories of childhood myth but come to embody a wider Australian mythology. Influenced by child- ren’s art, their apparent naivete of appearance is deceptive – Nolan knew more about recent 20th C. Art than any of his Australian contemporaries and the paintings are peppered with references to it, most notably Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ which makes regular app- earances here as Kelly’s makeshift iron helmet. Above all, these 26, comparatively small paintings, (c. 3 x 4ft each) contain some of the most heartbreakingly tender evocations of man in his land- scape in the history of art. moves the traditional ‘hand of the master’ and, working at such a large scale, the works avoid the nostalgia of intimacy, offering an alternative to the sentimental keep-sake photograph associated with past times, especially during war when loved ones are separat- ed. With original presentation and creative reconstruction, Grand- mother reinvents the concept of the memorial. Nicola McCartney Norwich and Normandy The John Sell Cotman that every- one tends to love best is the precociously gifted young water- colour artist who trained and work- ed in London at the turn of the 19th C. – the limpid, beautiful and astonishingly modern-looking ser- ies of drawings he did of Greta Bridge and the North Yorkshire landscape were painted between the ages of 21 and 23. The return he was then forced to make, for financial reasons, to his native Norwich a year or so afterwards to become a teacher, in 1806, are often seen as some kind of defeat, the work somehow never quite the same again. However, as this ex- cellent show at Dulwich Picture Gallery , focusing on the extensive outcome of a trip to Normandy in 1817 with his friend and patron the antiquary Dawson Turner, makes plain, it wasn’t that straightforward. He may, by this stage, have mov- ed from painting landscape to architecture, but the clarity of vision is still there with, in many of them, a grandeur of formal Multiple Exposure Independent charity Landmark Arts Centre begins its New Year programme with an innovative ex- hibition by Vaughan Grylls. Entitl- ed ‘Heaven’s Above’, it features a number of experimental photo- graphic works, each constructed by pasting and piecing together fragments drawn from the artist’s life onto a variety of different media and into new shapes and figurations, thereby challenging traditional methods of display and the practice of photomontage generally. Taking centre stage is Grandmother (2011), an epic, provocative installation compris- ing thousands of photographs that have been arranged into the shape of a life-size Dornier 217 bomber across a series of bed sheets (see ill.) In juxtaposing domestic materials, such as clo- thes pegs, washing lines and a 1943 pram, which sits in front of the Dornier montage, with the backdrop and overall composition of war, Grylls’ Grandmother poses the following binaries: home- away, male-female and, ultimately, birth-death. Mortality is inherent in the title of the piece and its name- sake implies a level of intimacy, emphasized by the fact the artist was born the same year as the focal work’s pram was made. Yet Grylls also maintains distance from what is clearly personal subject matter, allowing viewers to project their own histories onto Grandmother . In manipulating mul- tiple, reproducible images he re- 8. GALLERIES JANUARY 13 PUBLICEYE