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Work of the Week

Francis Bacon

Head of a Man , 1960 © Estate of Francis Bacon. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2022
Courtesy Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia

Discover Francis Bacon, Head of a Man, 1960

Francis Bacon, Head of a Man, 1960

The 1960s saw Francis Bacon focus on portraiture. He painted close friends and lovers including Henrietta Moraes, Isabel Rawsthorne, Lucian Freud and George Dyer. Unlike Freud, however, Bacon did not like to paint from life, explaining that ‘I very much prefer working from the photographs than from them.’ This painting from 1960 is thought to be a self-portrait. He is seated, as in earlier self-portraits, but his facial expression here ‘combines a slightly wary wistfulness with an almost jaunty nonchalance.’ The artist’s relationship with self-portraiture was, it turns out, a complex one. ‘I loathe my own face, but I go on painting it only because I haven’t got any other people to do,’ he told the art critic David Sylvester. Head of a Man is on display in Friends and Relations at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill until 28 January 2023.

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The Wick - Chantal Joffe, Brunette in a Car, 2013

Discover Chantal Joffe, Brunette in a Car, 2013

Models, porn actresses, mothers and children, loved ones and literary heroines populate the emotionally probing paintings of Chantal Joffe. Her female subjects are painted in a loosely gestural and expressive style and are influenced by a diverse range of sources, from Impressionism to fashion photography. As important as her subject, however, is the paint itself: Joffe’s drips, marks and broad, fluid brushstrokes imbue her protagonists with a captivating dynamism that make it hard to look away. Then there’s her experimentations with scale. Her intimate and large-scale canvases such as Brunette in a Car heighten complex narratives about intimacy, connection, perception and representation, prompting us to question the relationship between artist and subject, subject and viewer.
The Wick - Hernan Bas, The party is over, 2016

Discover Hernan Bas, The party is over, 2016

Although Hernan Bas draws on a range of art historical references, from the supernatural to classical poetry, mythology and 19th-century Romanticism, his visual language is distinctly his own. For the past two decades, he has constructed vast otherworldly landscapes and captivating interior scenes brimming with colourful objects, curiosities and oddities that make his waifish male protagonists feel ponderous and alone.

His pictures, spanning a wide range of time periods and subjects, address themes of queerness, masculinity and desire as well as politics, news and the occult. ‘I like to put a spotlight on the obscure,’ he once told Artsy. In this 2016 painting, Bas depicts two young men unsure how best to confront the morning after the party. Despite their physical proximity to one another, there’s a distance and tension between them. As they gaze in opposite directions, a sense of awkwardness pervades the canvas, prompting the viewer to wonder what's next.
The Wick - Jenny Saville, Odysseus I, 2020-21

Discover Jenny Saville, Odysseus I, 2020-21

Coming to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jenny Saville is internationally respected for her sumptuous portraits of fleshy bodies, female nudes and studies of motherhood. She has been captivated by the ‘imperfections’ of human flesh since childhood and has explored its potential in paint for more than twenty years. Though progressive in form and outlook, her work reveals a deep understanding of how the body has been represented in the past, from Renaissance drawing and painting to the work of modern artists such as Henri Matisse, Willem de Kooning and Picasso. In a recent series of large-scale faces executed in dense layers of jewel coloured paint, young men and women with intense gazes look at us from unattainable heights. But these faces, which include Odysseus I, are far more than their physicality. They radiate, says Sergio Risaliti, director of the Museo Novecento in Florence, ‘a pure solar energy, convincing us of the idea that we are infinite.’
The Wick - Discover Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column, 1944

Discover Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column, 1944

Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits thrum with pain. In this painting Kahlo’s nude torso is split in two. In place of her spine is a crumbling Ionic column. Her broken body is held together by a polio support. Nails pierce her skin; tears run down her face. Kahlo painted The Broken Column in 1944 shortly after undergoing spinal surgery to correct on-going problems which had resulted from a tram accident when she was 18. Unlike many of her other self-portraits, Frida is alone in a bleak and fractured landscape. Despite her evident physical suffering, her gaze is steadfast, symbolic of her strength within.
The Wick - Al-Wei-Wei  © Credit Francesco Allegretto

Discover Ai Weiwei, La Commedia Umana 

In August 2022 Ai Weiwei unveiled his first-ever body of work in glass for a new solo show at the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. The centrepiece of the exhibition, which explores themes of spirituality, freedom, life and death, is La Commedia Umana, a monumental chandelier featuring over 2,000 pieces of black glass made in collaboration with craftsmen in the Berengo Studio in Murano.

A closer look at the twisted hanging sculpture, measuring more than six metres wide and almost nine metres high, reveals a cascade of bones, organs, skulls and surveillance cameras — a poignant plea for us to fight for our freedom before we die. When sunbeams fall from the church’s windows, it casts angular, eerie shadows around the space. ‘It is a work that stirs emotions, that forces us to come to terms not only with our own mortality, but with the part our lives have to play in the greater theatre of human history,’ says Adriano Berengo, Founder of Berengo Studio. Catch it in Venice until 27 November.
The Wick - Alice Neel, Marxist Girl (Irene Peslikis), 1972
Oil on canvas
151.8 x 106.7 cm
59 3/4 x 42 in
© The Estate of Alice Neel
Courtesy The Estate of Alice Neel and Victoria Miro

Discover Alice Neel, Marxist Girl, Irene Peslikis, 1972

Little known during her lifetime, Alice Neel is now regarded as one of the most radical painters of the twentieth century. A champion of social justice, she painted still lifes, cityscapes, landscapes and the people she encountered on the streets of New York, from her family and friends to Puerto Rican immigrants, homosexual couples, single mothers and African American writers. ‘For me, people come first,’ Neel once said. ‘I have tried to assert the dignity and eternal importance of the human being.’ Devoid of any sentimentality, this striking portrait of the American feminist, activist and artist Irene Peslikis is evidence of Neel’s unflinching approach to her subjects. See it at the Centre Pompidou this autumn in the first monographic exhibition in France dedicated to the artist.
The Wick - Frank Bowling, Turmoil, 2022.

Discover Frank Bowling, Turmoil, 2022

With a career spanning over 60 years, Frank Bowling is one of the most exciting living artists in Britain. Like his changing environments - from the town of Bartica in colonial British Guinia where he was born, to his childhood spent in New Amsterdam, then to London in 1953 to pursue art, to New York for a decade and then back to London where he currently lives and works – Bowling's artwork is constantly shifting and provoking new sensations for spectators.

Turmoil is one of Bowling’s newest paintings in which he experiments with the physicality of the canvas, textures, colour, and the methods of applying of paint. For Bowling, material practice has always come before intellectual strategy. Dripping, pouring, playing, spraying, scraping – these are all in Bowling’s abstract artistic vocabulary through which he creates such sensual and deep visions of colour. Like works by Cy Twombly or James Turell, one cannot help but engage their senses and endeavour on a journey of looking when being confronted with Bowling’s bold paintings.
The Wick - embellishment on canvas 30 x 30 cm

Discover Tia-Thuy Nguyen, Shimmering surrounds (Muôn nơi lấp lánh) 2022.

Discover a world seen through the sequinned canvases of Hanoi-born multidisciplinary artist Tia-Thuy Nguyen. Local traditions, folklore, rituals and beliefs from Vietnam punctuate her contemporary artistic practice to create visually arresting works of art that have shaped her distinctive ethereal aesthetic.

In this new series of work entitled Floating into Nothingness, which are now on display in her first solo exhibition in Europe at Château La Coste, she has transformed the canvas into a visual diary that documents sights from the sky during numerous trips between Asian and Europe. Clouds – once ephemeral and delicate – have become tangible and textured through the intricate practice of sewing beads and sequins directly onto the canvas, offering a unique perspective on an all too familiar view.
The Wick - Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence, 2022

Discover Marina Abramović, Presence and Absence, 2022

Marina Abramović puts her audience centre stage. Over the past 50 years, she has tested the limits of her own physical and mental endurance in her work — and pushed audiences to question their own responses and emotions. Gates and Portals, her new site-specific performance-based exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, is no exception. Rather than just viewing artworks in front of you, you will be invited to respond to the artist’s structures, objects and instructions. For Abramović, this participation will prompt visitors to experience heightened bodily awareness and transitional states of being. ‘Their experience with the object is the artwork itself, without that experience the objects are empty,’ she says. In true Abramović style, it offers an intense, physical encounter that will stay with you long after you’ve left the building.