Celia Paul @ Victoria Miro

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

Celia Paul @ Victoria Miro

Postby CAP » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:58 pm

A strange addition for Miro, I would have thought. Paul is a fairly dour, traditional painter for a gallery frequently in the thrall of New York and a general splashy presence.

But look, roving the London galleries and getting depressed by the options, this at least held up. The crowded group show at Friedman – meh – the Gursky’s at White Cube and Spruth – okay-ish - the early works at Spruth, maybe by a whisker… Bernard Frize at Simon Lee – they weren’t bad actually – incredibly slick, technically, but on that large scale they worked for me. But in general not a lot to really stop you in your tracks and say “Wow, what’s this?” Given the sheer volume of galleries around – a depressing amount of same old same old.

So then I get to Miro and find Paul, of all people. I was only vaguely aware of her work – I think some seascapes or something unremarkable – and gleaned she was a bit of an insider from somewhere. Maybe she knew Paula Rego - was that a Miro connection? Rego, Portuguese, not Spanish of course. Anyway I didn’t know Paul had been a model for Lucien Freud for quite some years and given that, it’s surprising how little her work is like his. There is that dogged observational thing, of course, sittings that go on until either the artist or sitter drop from exhaustion. I never did get into any of that. I did it at art school as drill and never looked back really.

But unlike Freud, Paul brings a surprising dignity to portraits – even when most of them are self portraits. They could easily be goofy, John Currin-like pastiches of that dogged observational thing, but they’re too subtle for that. The light, the expressions, the slugging facture; I was reminded a bit of Stephan Campbell, if you could detach the kooky visionary landscape side of him. I don’t suppose there will ever be enough scope there to wildly excite me. The stuff is always going to just be the sitter at their most relaxed or sustained, but there will always be a place for that, maybe not a big or important place, but it is something only paintings can picture.
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