Art review: Patrick Caulfield, Tate Britain, London
The Independent’s former comment editor, Adrian Hamilton writes a weekly column largely on international affairs with particular focus on the Middle East, Iran and foreign policy issues. Before joining the paper he was deputy editor of the Observer newspaper.
Tuesday 11 June 2013
For no good reason, Tate Britain has decided to show a retrospective of Patrick Caulfield alongside a general review of the work of Gary Hume. It’s a comparison that does neither artist much favour.
Caulfield, who died in 2005, was part of the “New Generation” of artists who came to the fore in the Sixties and was a quite different artist than the YBAs such as Hume who followed him. True, he used gloss paint and he went for big and bold imagery in his pictures. But, though his interiors were contemporary in feel, his artistic concerns were always traditional. What he wanted, and achieved, was to use space and plotted line to express the urban world around him.
Go into a room of Caulfield’s canvases, as you do in the Tate, and you are immediately taken up by the bright lights, synthetic colours and shiny surfaces of the modern world. But it is a world, in its empty rooms and geometric shapes, a lonely one. Caulfield only made one major figurative painter and it’s a remarkable one. Portrait of Juan Gris is of the Surrealist Spanish painter, and indicates the extent to which he looked to the previous generation, Fernand Léger and the Americans Edward Hopper and Stuart Davis, as his models.
What interested him was the way that they used space and light to capture and freeze place and time. By sharply delineating objects by black lines or sharp colour change, you could make them all the more still and, in their way, meaningful. It was an approach that set him apart from the Pop artists, with whom he is often associated, with their concerns with the rhythms and actual materials of the contemporary world.
In many ways, Caulfield remained the theatrical set designer of his childhood games. His canvases work best when they set a scene, as in Inner Office of 1973, Office Party of 1977, and seem to work less where he becomes most complex, adding photographically realistic touches to the composition and conflicting balances of shapes.
The Tate has examples of both, although to understand fully the painstaking craftsman Caulfield was, you need to go to parallel exhibitions being held at his old gallery, Waddington Custot, which is showing both his preparatory drawings and finished works, and Alan Cristea, which is exhibiting his silk screen prints, of which he was a real master.
To 1 September (020 7887 8888)
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
- 3 35,000 walrus gather on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
- 4 Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Ed Sheeran dedicates song to David Cameron
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon
Great British Bake Off semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'
Former Tory donor Arron Banks ups his Ukip donation to £1million following William Hague 'nobody' comment
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
- < Previous
- Next >