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Work of the Week

Frank Bowling

The Wick - Frank Bowling, Dan & Them, 1972

Discover Frank Bowling, Dan & Them

Dan & Them,

Sir Frank Bowling OBE RA is one of Britain’s foremost colourists. ‘My art is not about politics,’ he once said. ‘It’s about paint — the way that colour washes, spreads, bleeds and runs across the canvas, and the way that paint-colour emits light.’

Over the course of his six-decade career, divided between London and New York, Bowling has moved from figuration to abstraction, experimented with the materiality of paint, colour and geometry, and explored autobiographical, symbolic and socio-political concerns on canvas. He’s also been elected to the Royal Academy, enjoyed solo shows around the world and been knighted by the Queen.

Dan and Them was produced shortly after the completion of his celebrated Map Paintings in 1972. Ablaze with brilliant layers of magenta, pink and orange, it features repeated imagery of Bowling’s eldest son Dan, who died suddenly in 2001. It is a beautiful example of his works from the early 70s: still abstract but now marked with personal memories.

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The Wick - The Raising of Lazarus, Chris Ofili (2007)

Discover Chris Ofili, The Raising of Lazarus

Chris Ofili gained celebrity in the 90s for such bold and controversial works as No Woman, No Cry (his homage to murdered London teenager Stephen Lawrence) and his black Virgin Mary, featuring elephant dung and angels shaped from porn magazine clippings.

There is a huge variety and range in his work, but nearly all of it explores Black culture and Black experience. The artist draws on everything from political, biblical and cultural references to hip hop, jazz, exoticism and racism.

In 2005 he left London for Trinidad, where his art took a bold, new direction. He abandoned the things that had made him famous — the glitter, the dung, the dots of paint, for instance — in favour of simple, pared-down forms that are arguably harder to read. The Raising of Lazarus (2007), now held in the MoMa collection in New York, exemplifies this radical creative shift. ‘I liked the idea of having only paint and a surface,’ he told The Guardian in 2017. ‘And I think it is working for me.’
The Wick - Jim Naughten 'The Gibbons'

Discover Jim Naughten, The Gibbons

This enchanting image forms part of the Jim Naughten’s ‘Eremozoic’ series, which will be exhibited at Grove Square Galleries in support of Fauna & Flora International. The collection name is inspired by biologist E.O. Wilson, who suggested that we are now entering the Earth’s Eremozoic period — an age of loneliness following the mass extinctions caused by human activity. With these images, the artist explores the inextricable relationship between humankind and nature, examining how humans have attempted to capture and contain the natural world and simultaneously proven incapable of understanding its full power and complexities.

Trained in both photography and painting, this ‘Gibbons’ image — as with all in the series — extrapolates photographs of dioramas of animals from natural history museums and digitally reimagines them in saturated colours and unnatural palates. By seeing the natural world through this artificial lens, Naughten manifests our rose-tinted view of the future of the natural world and our tendency to think of the environment that we have put at risk as a distant fantasy land. Through his medium of digital painting, Naughten challenges our sense of illusion, evoking a magical realism style to question the view of nature we are given through these dioramas, and the consequential blurring of our much-needed sense of responsibility to the world.
The Wick - Yinka Shonibare, Robot Painting, by Rob and Nick Carter (2020)

Discover Rob and Nick Carter, Yinka Shonibare, Robot Painting

This AI portrait of Royal Academy Summer Exhibition curator Yinka Shonibare was painted by a bright orange robotic arm called Heidi. Programmed by artists Rob and Nick Carter, the six-axis Kuka Robot ‘feels very life like as she moves,’ they said. ‘Our robot has no eyes and the idea that she can paint so beautifully without seeing anything is remarkable.’ It took Heidi just over 46 hours to complete the work, with 11,404 strokes of acrylic paint.

The work, which is part of the artists’ Dark Factory Portraits series, is inspired by the rise of ‘lights-out manufacturing’ where factories can operate in darkness as robotic systems don’t require light to function. ‘We would like people to embrace robotics and not be afraid,’ the artists added. ‘We are proud to have managed to bring this technology into the context of the art world.’

Yinka Shonibare, Robot Painting is currently on display at the Royal Academy, and is the first painting by a robot in the Summer Exhibition’s more than 250-year history.
The Wick - Tim Walker

Discover Tim Walker

Flowers are a constant presence in the fashion photography of Tim Walker, by turns evoking whimsy, fantasy, romance and lust. Existing in a surreal realm somewhere between a dream and a nightmare, Walker’s storied images invite you on a journey of imaginative discovery. Nothing is ever quite what it seems.

Walker says inspiration for his compositions comes from ‘anything that any one of us has seen – high, low, mid – and then I mix it all up.’ This celebrated image of model Siobhan Finnigan holding a fulsome bouquet of flowers was taken in London in 1998. As with many of Walker’s images, we are drawn into a meticulously crafted scene that prompts as many questions as it answers.
The Wick - Discover Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Antennae to the Ancestors, 2018

Discover Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Antennae to the Ancestors, 2018

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami is one of the hottest artists in London right now. The young Zimbabwean held her first solo show at London’s Tyburn Gallery in 2017. In 2019, at just 26 years old, she represented Zimbabwe at the 58th Venice Biennale, and in December last year she made her auction debut, with her psychedelic mushroom trip portrait Eve on Psilocybin selling for $252,000, more than six times the high estimate.

Now she’s enjoying her first solo exhibition at Victoria Miro London. On display are a selection of her bright, energetic canvases celebrating the complexities of diasporic identities, gender and sexuality. Among them is this painting, Antennae to the Ancestors (2018), which features Shona sculptures behind a digitally manipulated plant. ‘There was a spiritual meaning behind that painting,’ the artist once said. ‘Plants have become symbolic gateways.’
The Wick - Discover Thandiwe Muriu

Discover Thandiwe Muriu

Thandiwe Muriu’s playful work is impossible to ignore. A witty celebration of the young Kenyan’s culture, her Camo series is characterised by bold, brilliant colours and exuberant patterns ‘with an almost psychedelic quality’ that confuse the eye. Thandiwe trademarks feature throughout, among them architectural hairstyles, ebony skin and fabrics and accessories from everyday life.

But a barbed critique simmers beneath each glossy surface. The series is ‘a personal reflection on how I felt I can disappear into the background of my culture,’ she has said. Camo also challenges standards of beauty in Kenya — notably the culture of skin bleaching and hair straightening. She wants Kenyan girls to see these images of dark-skinned models with natural hair wearing recognisably African fabrics fashioned in modern, funky ways and say: ‘That’s me’.
The Wick - Lubaina Himid, Navigation Charts 
Spike Island, 2017

Discover Naming the Money, Lubaina Himid

'Naming the Money' is the largest installation to make use of her signature ‘cut-outs’ — paintings made on freestanding, shaped board allowing viewers to walk amongst them — and it tells the story of not only the eighteenth-century slave but also the emigre and the asylum seeker of the present day. Each figure has a real name and a soundtrack gives them a voice, speaking of their fluid identities that shift between their original African names and trades and the new ones imposed on them in Europe. Himid has explained that the work was not about money, but about how the monied classes spent their wealth and flaunted their power. The work has been exhibited several times; at Hatton Gallery, Newcastle in 2004, and again in 2007 at the V&A and Harris Art gallery, Preston. In 2017 Naming the Money was shown in a solo exhibition at Spike Island, Bristol. Himid won the Turner Prize in the same year.

Born in 1954 in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Turner Prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon College of Art before undertaking an MA in Cultural History at the Royal College of Art. Tackling questions of race, gender and class, her work is politically critical, considering issues of labour, migration and creativity through both painting and installation. Himid is also Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire.
The Wick - Discover Matthew Wong, River at Dusk

Discover Matthew Wong, River at Dusk

Matthew Wong was one of 2020’s breakout stars at auction. Twenty-three works by the late Canadian artist were offered in sale rooms from New York to Hong Kong, raking in a whopping $24.7 million. And for good reason. His first solo show at New York’s Karma gallery in 2018 drew rave reviews, with The New York Times describing him as ‘one of the most talented painters of his generation’.

Painted mostly from his imagination, Wong’s vibrant, stylized landscapes, forest scenes and still lifes call to mind the works of Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse and David Hockney. But their ebullient palette frequently belies undercurrents of loneliness and what the art critic Eric Sutphin describes as a ‘melancholic yearning’. River at Dusk (2018) is no exception. Flanked by lush, luminous foliage, the river flows towards a golden sky descending into darkness — perhaps a reflection of Wong’s life-long struggles with depression.
The Wick - Dream Vincent van Gogh, Café Terrace at Night, 1888

Dream Vincent van Gogh, Café Terrace at Night, 1888

Ablaze with brilliant oranges, yellows, greens and deep, dark blues, Café Terrace at Night captures the warm energy of an alfresco evening in Arles. The funnel-like perspective draws the eye along the cobbled street to the populated terrace, the shadowy tower of a former church and beyond to the star-filled sky.

Executed in September 1888, it’s the first painting in which Van Gogh experimented with bewitching starry backgrounds. Interestingly, for some, it also references Da Vinci’s Last Supper. (Look closer and you’ll see multiple cross-like shapes and a long-haired figure surrounded by 12 individuals.)

This religious allusion is not uncharacteristic. Born to a Protestant minister, Van Gogh would always struggle with the fervency of his faith. ‘When I have a tremendous need for — shall I say the word —religion’, he wrote to his brother, Theo van Gogh, in the autumn of 1888, ‘I go out and paint the stars.’