Galleries - March 2018

The 60th anniversary of David Bomberg’s death has seen a resurgence of curatorial and market interest in his work, his reputation as one of the most significant and influential artists of early 20th century British art now hopefully secured by Pallant House’s recent retrospective. There was however, to my mind at least, not quite enough exploration of Bomberg’s relation to the wider strands of European art and ideas, so the splendid smaller (circa 30 pieces) show of paintings, watercolours and drawings at Beaux Arts this month, originating from the Harry Fischer (of Marlborough Fine Art) collection first formed just after Bomberg’s death in 1957, makes for a fascinatingand useful coda. Austrian-born Fischer’s particular passion and expertise was for German Expressionism so when he was approached, on critic David Sylvester’s recommendation, by the artist’s widow Lilian, to take on the artist’s estate, it was just this still surprisingly little remarked on aspect (in the UK) of Bomberg’s later work that would seem to have particularly attracted him to the idea. Bombergcertainly had close friendships with emigré German Expressionist painters, in particular LudwigMeidner, from the late 30s on, while his well rehearsed ideas about the ‘Spirit in the Mass’, which emerged out of his polarisingexperiences in the Spanish mountains, of the weight and mass of the rocks and the radiant, dissolvingvolumes of light that fell upon them are, essentially, Expressionist in character. While it was certainly this quality in his work which made his art hard for the British to take to for so long(Expressionism was not, for many years, ‘our thing’) it now helps to define his greatness. There are plenty of examples in this show too – the late ‘Double Self-Portrait’ in particular, one of the artist’s great paintings. Modern Indian artists of the late 20th century workingin this country have often enjoyed a curiously erratic time of it both critically and commercially. One or two, like Anish Kapoor, Balraj Khanna and even, finally, F N Souza, have achieved significant reputations while others, like Souza’s half brother Lancelot Ribeiro for example, after a bright start in the 60s, seemed largely to disappear from general view. Luckily Ribeiro has had some very active championingover recent years by London’s leading gallery for Indian contemporary art Grosvenor Gallery , and this has led to two important new exhibitions of his work. The first is a splendid retrospective (some seven years after his death) at the New Walk Museum, Leicester, themselves the only public gallery in the country to mount (in 1987) a major show of his work duringhis lifetime. The other, commercial show, is co-organised by Grosvenor with the Oberon Gallery, also in Leicester. With its vigorous inventiveness of form and extravagant colour, Ribeiro’s paintingis at least the equal of his now hugely sought after half brother, and in many ways more original in conception too. Recognition at last, it is to be hoped, and not before time. As both a painter and a printmaker, Dutch-born Marcelle Hanselaar has evolved a savage, darkly (very) humorous vision of the contemporary human condition quite unlike any other artist currently at work in Britain. This has become particularly apparent in her etchings and drawings where the jagged, dark line with which she depicts her cruel, monstrous, somehow depraved figures seems to positively quiver with anger and outrage, their very lack of colour forcingus to concentrate even more on the terrible subjects at hand. She has, quite rightly, achieved huge success with them in recent years, sets of work enteringour major national collections of prints at the British R OUND-UP 8 GALLERIES MARCH 2018 D avid Bomberg Lancelot Ribeiro Marcelle Hanselaar