Paul's ART STUFF on a train # 39: ‘Mid-Century Fair’ - FAD Magazine

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Paul’s ART STUFF on a train # 39: ‘Mid-Century Fair’

Paul Nash: River, 1932
Paul Nash: River, 1932

The London Art Fair has improved a little each year recently, with more adventurous and fewer dire galleries in the mix and a good curated photo exhibition. The 2014 edition (14-19 Jan) also saw some stimulating match-ups in the project section, for which young galleries were invited to share a stand. All the same, its USP remains as an enjoyable, if unrevelatory, place to find the leading British artists of the last century: plenty of Nicholson, Hepworth, Lanyon, Heron, Riley, Hitchens… Yet there are always less familiar examples mixed in with the more predictable fare. This year my favourites were a Paul Nash at Piano Nobile and the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham retrospective at Art First. Nash’s unique chord is strummed when an aspect of the surreal insinuates itself into the landscape without going the whole ham-fisted hog. Just so, the watercolour River foregrounds an oddly-placed and potentially symbolic pair of empty swings, hinting at childhood trauma or political uncertainty. Barns-Graham (1912-2004),the pre-eminent female painter among the St Ives group, outlived all the men and enjoyed a particularly late phase. Emerald and Cadmium Green is from a lesser-known stream of her richly varied oeuvre, one which merges abstraction and landscape by equating the scientific waves of particle physics with natural waves – here of the sea, perhaps, or of wind in the grass. The result is a buzzy study in dot dynamics which forms some sort of event horizon.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: Emerald and Cadmium Green, 1971
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: Emerald and Cadmium Green, 1971



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