Page 8, 21st July 1989

21st July 1989
Page 8
Page 8, 21st July 1989 — Mixing with the grand masters

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Locations: Campinas, Leeds, Rome


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Mixing with the grand masters


by Leigh Hatts

A BRIDGET Riley exhibition featuring only one of her works may do much to win her new admirers.

Many still find her paintings difficult to appreciate and any attempt at appreciation can bring on a bout of migraine. In The Artist's Eye: Bridget Riley at the National Gallery (daily until 31 August; free) seven of her eight choices are by the great masters. It is not only the selection of work by Titian, Veronese, El Greco, Rubens, Poussin and Cezanne (which have never before hung alongside each other) that the public will appreciate but her enthusiastic commentary on the use of colour in the accompanying film and catalogue.

Veronese's Adoration of The Kings should have been viewed in Rome's San Silvestro before its 19th-century restoration. Now the painting's permanent home is within walking distance of the Westminster residence of San Silvestro's own cardinal. Bridget Riley sees interlocked diagonals zig-zagging across the pervasive grey which would have matched the church's stone.

The silken cord of light picking out Mother and Child marks also the climax of an important arc of colour. The reds deepen as they pass over the kneeling king but become subdued in the distant but still important figure of Joseph. Then we are shown the sky where turquoise blue travels down the angels' wings to arrive in Mary's cloak before splitting into blue and green to travel along the line of kings.

In El Greco's Expulsion of the Traders From The Temple Bridget Riley secs rhythm with a balance between the agitated stall-holders and the onlookers concerned. The balancing yellow and green garment colours are reversed on each side of Christ and there is a clear distinction beween the strong colours and the grey background. But she concedes that although the work is more powerful for colour it cannot be appreciated by concentrating on the colour alone.

The leading picture in another show Images of Paradise is Bridget Riley's gentle, undulating and less dazzling Three Colour Twist Yellow, Violet and Green. Over sixty leading artists were asked to present their interpretation of Paradise for this exhibition in the new Terrace Gallery at Harewood House near Leeds (daily until 19 September; f1.75). This is the first major contemporary art exhibition to

be held at the House, seat of Lord Harewood, this century although the permanent furnishings include an Epstein among the El Greco, Reynolds and Turner.

The show's works are to be auctioned in aid of Survival International, the charity working for the rights of threatened peoples in rain forests. Maybe it is this cause that has deflected so many of the artists from tackling the difficult brief convincingly or at all.

However, they may claim that the overwhelming choice of flowers, trees and plants is their idea of Paradise. Certainly John Piper's Flowers is this year's work as is Patrick Hughes tree called Perfect Chaos.

An image of the Resurrection at Breakfast on the Train by Mario Groveni Borges is probably the best attempt. Resurrection is seen as a reunion of spiritual values with traditions of everyday life. There is harmony between the Brazilian cathedral of Campinas, the railway, forest, rivers, multiracial man and architecture.

Architecture expressing order is one of the ingredients for the physical appearances of Paradise which is not an alluring prospect for Hugh Casson. In two water colours he takes an island and a stone facade. The lonely island is the mystery and the location; the horizon is the limitless boundary and changing light represents the unpredictability.

An interesting contributor to Paradise would have been David Jones who died in 1974. Some of his works landscapes. flowers and chalices have gone on show at Oriel Mostyn in Llandudno (daily except Sundays until 19 August; free).

Ile became a Catholic in 1921 at the age of 26 and joined Eric Gill at Ditchling. There Jones learnt wood-engraving and, when they moved to Wales, painted landscapes and became attached to the Caldy Island community. The works have been selected by Nicolete Gray who was a friend and shared his Catholic viewpoint.

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