Time and place were right last week for Paula MacArthur’s paintings of diamonds (Infinitely Precious Things at VJB Arts / 60 Threadneedle Street to 2 May). The time: just ahead of Valentine’s Day, with an opening freebie package including a heart-shaped balloon and packet of love hearts – designed, in MacArthur’s words, ‘to save you a last minute trip to the cornershop’. The place: the archetypal impress-the-client foyer of a City office block, for which art consultant Vanessa Brady has organised shows since it opened in 2009. What better than the flashy and often morally dubious stones (think blood diamonds) to smuggle a critique into the capitalist heartland under the cover of romance. And to suggest that art can belong in the same category as the biggest and most vulgar of jewels? For these are certainly big: MacArthur’s smallest diamonds are four feet wide. The three with the most impact, partly due fluorescent paint, more than double that. ‘Are they painted from life?’ I asked jestingly, observing the comparative modesty of her own ring. MacArthur’s main source is her own photographs of geological displays in museums. As for style, for all their initial glamour, up close they’re mainly excuses for abstract mark-making. Add that cut diamonds are ideal vehicles for the exploration of light and cubist surfaces, and they prove a rich and multi-faceted subject.
Paula MacArthur: Who’s To Say That I’m Unhappy