‘My body shall be all yours’: the startling sex letters of Joyce, Kahlo and O’Keeffe

Published in The Guardian on May 2, 2017

“I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter.” He might be celebrated for his epic and allusive novels, but James Joyce came straight to the point when writing to his partner, Nora Barnacle. This was the opening salvo of a letter from 1908 and is just one of scores of explicit missives he sent her. Continue reading “‘My body shall be all yours’: the startling sex letters of Joyce, Kahlo and O’Keeffe”

Simeon Solomon and the Victorian view of same-sex desire

Published in BBC Culture on April 5, 2017

Starting in 1861, with the abolition of the death penalty for sodomy, and ending in 1967, when the act between consenting men was decriminalised in England and Wales, the new exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain in London offers just over a century of works exploring fluid gender identities and same-sex desire. Continue reading “Simeon Solomon and the Victorian view of same-sex desire”

Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Published in The Independent on February 13, 2017

Being a member of the Bloomsbury Group doesn’t always help your reputation. Now remembered as much for their tangled love lives as their experimental work, Bloomsburies can inspire a degree of hostility for their perceived snobby elitism. Certainly, it’s hard to credit the fact that the painter Vanessa Bell – sister of Virginia Woolf – has never had a major solo show till now. Continue reading “Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith, Dulwich Picture Gallery”

Abstract Expressionism: what do we gain from seeing these works as a group?

Published in The Independent on September 22, 2016

In 1959, New York’s Museum of Modern Art sent an exhibition to eight European cities – concluding at London’s Tate gallery – with the calmly self-assured title of The New American Painting. It featured 17 artists, most of whom were associated with Abstract Expressionism, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still. Continue reading “Abstract Expressionism: what do we gain from seeing these works as a group?”

Art for Instagram – is social media ruining art?

Published in The Independent on July 14, 2016

Turning the corner in the London’s Newport Street Gallery, Damien Hirst’s latest venture, I’m met by a large, blue, shiny metal sculpture, a Jeff Koons balloon monkey. I’m also met by a bevy of cameras: the young couple comparing shots on their phones, the hipster dude with a SLR slung round his neck, a girl sorting her hair before snapping a selfie. Continue reading “Art for Instagram – is social media ruining art?”

Georgia O’Keeffe: the painter who captured America

Published in BBC Culture on July 6, 2016

To look at a Georgia O’Keeffe painting is to see America. Throughout her career, from her first show in 1916 to the late 1970s, the indomitable artist was concerned with what it meant to paint her country – and she became captivated by the wide plains, rocky outcrops and bold blue skies of New Mexico, her adopted home. Continue reading “Georgia O’Keeffe: the painter who captured America”

Jamie Hewlett on the return of the Gorillaz and his Saatchi Gallery exhibition

Published in The Independent on Sunday on November 15, 2015

No one could accuse Jamie Hewlett of resting on his laurels. The artist – who created the cartoon pop band Gorillaz with Damon Albarn, and who first found fame with the Tank Girl comic strip – has never been content with any one pigeonhole. Continue reading “Jamie Hewlett on the return of the Gorillaz and his Saatchi Gallery exhibition”

Alexander Calder: the artist’s grandson explains why his mobiles are more than just toys

Published in The Independent on November 2, 2015

With their bright colours, delicate motion, and abstract playfulness, Alexander Calder’s mobiles ignite a childish delight in the viewer; many of the American sculptor’s other famous works – a performable model circus, wire sculptures of acrobats, dancers or animals – have also given rise to the perception of a particularly jolly artist. His studio, one imagines, would have been a treasure trove for a child. Continue reading “Alexander Calder: the artist’s grandson explains why his mobiles are more than just toys”