Missing links in chain of canvas
reviewed by Nigel CAMERON
Cries and Whispers, British Painting in the 1980s, The Arts Centre, until Sunday THE return from the 60s and 70s sojourn in the wilderness of Op and Pop and Conceptualist art began to happen in Britain rather than in other countries.
This exhibition was apparently put together to demonstrate and perhaps to celebrate the fact. You can't say it exactly fails to do so, but the demonstration might have been carried through with more force and completeness.
The return from any wilderness is by its very nature a disjointing experience. In post-World War II art the violence of the shift from the ordinary values of 20th century art made it all the more difficult for painters to get their bearings in the floodof natural light that met them when they emerged from the forest.
There was, and still is, a great deal of floundering about. But some fairly strong pointers to the future have emerged.
The paintings of the much-vaunted Paula Rego with their enigmatic depiction of relationships and re-working of late 19th century Alice in Wonderland illustration, and the muddy sadness and weariness of Ansell Krut in Children on the Sands are two such pointers.
Another, more acceptable, more hopeful, may be discerned in Steven Campbell's Painting on a Darwininan Theme, and in wonderful style in Christopher Le Brun's Heartland. Here we see once again the possibilities of oil and acrylic on canvas exploited withintelligence and respect for the greatness of the medium.
But where are the profoundly 80s canvases of John Bellamy and the important paintings of Maggie Hamblin? Without these and some others' works no picture of the decade is anywhere near to being a valid one.
The British Council with its large resources could surely have done better - the 80s was a deeply significant decade and that is not really well conveyed in this exhibition.