The artist who triumphed over her shocking rape and torture

Published in BBC Culture on August 27, 2018

“The works shall speak for themselves.” So wrote Artemisia Gentileschi in 1649, in a letter to a patron acknowledging her rare position in the art world at that time: a painter, and a woman. Although all too aware that she had a harder job being taken seriously, she had faith in her talent, her work. Continue reading “The artist who triumphed over her shocking rape and torture”

Frida Kahlo at the V&A: Forget the £245 flower crowns and lipsticks and look at the work

Published in The i on June 13, 2018

Could there be a better time for a show about Frida Kahlo? The vision presented at the V&A is a female icon who documented her self, and her suffering. A third of her paintings were self-portraits; she posed for her father’s camera from a young age. An art star for the selfie age. Continue reading “Frida Kahlo at the V&A: Forget the £245 flower crowns and lipsticks and look at the work”

Review: The Lost Words, The Foundling Museum

Published in Time Out on January 16, 2018

The heart can’t help but sink when you learn that this show was inspired by research revealing that British schoolkids are better at identifying Pokémon than our native wildlife. Adults aren’t much better: only a quarter of us can spot an ash tree. I’m surprised it’s that high. Continue reading “Review: The Lost Words, The Foundling Museum”

Dali and Duchamp: these mischievous mavericks shaped the 21st century

Published in BBC Culture on November 20, 2017

Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dalí: two titans of modern art who might appear to have little in common. One is the father of conceptual art, who turned his back on the commercialisation of that world in favour of playing chess; the other is famous as a painter – and just as famous for embracing fame, a dandyish personality who knew how to sell himself. Continue reading “Dali and Duchamp: these mischievous mavericks shaped the 21st century”

The ‘most painted woman in the world’

Published in BBC Culture on November 13, 2017

She is known as ‘the most painted woman in the world’: around 225 artists have captured the captivating likeness of Suzy Solidor, including Tamara de Lempicka, Jean Cocteau, Francis Bacon, Man Ray and Francis Picabia. A French cabaret star, she was a major mainstream recording artist in the 1930s – even though she sang really rather explicit songs of lesbian desire. Today, however, the chanteuse is hardly a familiar face. Continue reading “The ‘most painted woman in the world’”

Review: Martin Creed’s Words and Music, EIF

Published in Fest on August 7, 2017

Artist Martin Creed’s show defies easy categorisation. He shares some thoughts, from the problem with trousers to the inadequacies of language to explanations of his sculptures. He plays some songs: some illustrate his musings, some are aural non-sequiturs. Continue reading “Review: Martin Creed’s Words and Music, EIF”

Maria Balshaw: Tate’s northern powerhouse set for the challenge

Published in The Observer on July 2, 2017

The new Tate director, Maria Balshaw, can pinpoint the explosive moment that started her journey to the job: visiting a blown-up shed. In 1991, a Cornelia Parker installation, Cold Dark Matter, saw the artist hang pieces of a detonated garden shed from the ceiling. Continue reading “Maria Balshaw: Tate’s northern powerhouse set for the challenge”

‘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”