Christopher Le Brun, New Art Gallery, Walsall

2.00

From the fourth floor of the New Art Gallery, you get a view of the architectural mix and match of this Midlands city: mosque, parish churches, multi-storey car park, Next, Powerhouse, Asda... Inside, as you examine this 30-year retrospective of the paintings, sculptures and etchings of Christopher Le Brun, you seem to have shifted back in time to a world more familiar to Tennyson, Browning and other 19th-century medievalists. And perhaps even further back, to Malory himself. You spot a plaster disc of a winged horse, a painting of a horseman in plumed helmet entering a city gate. There's Gothic Revivalism in the air. Romanticism, too. It all feels curiously anachronistic.

Le Brun left art school in the 1970s, his head full of the recent past: Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, more native abstraction. None of it was for him.

The aim here is to show us Le Brun, the man as maker, from start to finish. There is a display of his notebooks. The top floor is about life at his studios in London and Suffolk. There is a sense of the clutter, the indecision of making: maquettes on shelves, watercolours hung hugger-mugger on the walls.

All are points of reference, points of departure. Le Brun is going back to the same motif again and again: the tower, the horseman. Scenes of chivalry. And horses; the nobility, the sleek beauty, of horses. Horse and rider as symbol of – what? The painter's spiritual quest of a subject worthy of his gifts? The painter himself in pursuit of the Grail of artistic perfection? It feels lofty, high-minded stuff.

But Picasso the sculptor is coming through too, in knobbly organic forms. And sometimes Le Brun rather awkwardly fuses the two – see the large sculpture, monstrously tall, called Statue with Shield and Shadow. The plinth is a soaring steel girder, topped by a figure of a woman who looks like a society dame. She casts a giant shadow, and that shadow, the shape so jarringly inappropriate, reminds us of Picasso the sculptor.

Other large works are often yearningly symbolic. Childe Roland trit-trots towards the Dark Tower, and waits for the significance of his quest to be revealed. And that is the problem; so much of this work yearns to mean so much. It's like that giant chest in the attic, full of ancient lumber and always labelled Highly Significant.



To 6 April (01922 654400)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum