Galleries - January 2013

De Morgan at the Watts Gallery makes thrillingly clear; William De Morgan in particular lays claim to be among the most innovative and influential ceramicists of his age. Trained as a painter at the RA, but mentored by Morris, De Morgan also turned to the decor- ative arts and ceramics in parti- cular. His great ‘moment’ was his discovery of the rich tradition of Turkish Iznik pottery and tiles and the technique of lustreware pott- ery. To this De Morgan brought a rich array of visual imagery, much of it drawn from his knowledge and understanding of medieval manuscripts, especially bestiaries, then transforming them, as his friend Halsey Ricardo once obser- ved, by means “of pools of colour into which one can dive and scarce plumb the full depth.” They are eye-dazzlers indeed but don’t let them distract you from the paintings of his wife Evelyn who has claims to be at least the equal of the far more famous Edward Burne-Jones. Sumptuous colour in the grey of deep winter. Art, Culture & Empire On August 30,1659 Dara Shikoh, the ‘poster boy’ for the British Library’s Mughal exhibition, was taken from his prison – stripped of his finery, mounted on a dirty old elephant and paraded through the streets of Delhi; it is said that the people wept and that their tears helped seal his fate. His triumph- ant younger brother had him executed and presented the head structure and richness of colour quite new and no less remarkable. And there are some beautiful early works for comparison too . . . Chicago and London Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party was a sensation of feminist art here in 1985but, curiously, her richly inventive body of work has not been seen in this country since, which makes this mini- survey at the Ben Uri, alongside three other key figures in femi- nism’s continuing Anglo-American development – Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick and Tracey Emin – distinctly intriguing. However, while Chadwick’s work seems to get stronger every time you see it and Bourgeois’ always goes strai- ght for the jugular, I am not yet convinced by Tracey Emin whose drawings still come across as decidedly thin, both philosophi- cally and artistically. But make your own mind up – the rare opportunity to see at least three considerable women artists from the last 40 years is not one lightly to be passed up. Winter Colour What an extraordinary moment those last decades of 19th C. British design and architecture were, with William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh briefly way ahead of anything happening in Europe. But they were by no means alone as this splendid exhibition of William and Evelyn 9. GALLERIES JANUARY 13 to their father Shah Jahan on a plate. Dara’s misfortune – apart from being the heir to the Mughal Empire – was an intellectual in- terest in harmonious coexistence of religions, but to his muslim brother, the more zealous Auran- gzeb, Dara was a heretic. In the years of war that followed the once total dominance of the Mughals slowly began to decline. Persian in origin and descen- dants of Ghengis Khan, they ruled the northern part of the Indian subcontinent from c.1526 until the British exiled the last Emperor in 1859. Artistic and hugely culti- vated, this show (strangely pre- sented on unpainted pine scaf- folding) takes you on a journey through their history via a large collection of intricate miniature paintings and books. With bright jewel like colours the tiny cartoons depict in exquisite detail the life of the rulers – marriages and meet- ings, battles and buildings along with miniature portraits which, despite a 2-D flattened form, are lit with a lifelike sensitivity. Young Dara in his richly embroidered scarlet coat with jewelled belt and pearl earing is a beautiful ex- ample: despite the side-on stance he is real and captivating. CM From left: S idney Nolan ‘The Trial’ 1947 at IMMA courtesy National Gall Australia. William De Morgan ‘Ferocious Lion Dish’ 1888-1907 at the Watts Gallery © The De Morgan Foundation. Vaughan Grylls ‘Grandmother’ installation at Landmark Arts Centre. J ohn Sell Cotman ‘Domfront, from the rock of Tertre Grisière’ at Dulwich PG © Samuel Courtauld Trust. Faith W ilding 'Immolation IV’ © Judy Chicago at Ben Uri. Attrib. M urar ‘Dara Shikoh’ at the British Library