Monday, 16 May 2011


Empire of Lights Rene Magritte
There is something about images of houses with lighted windows  which I cannot resist. (If the red spots marking sales at the Royal Academy Summer Show are anything to go by, nudes and cats are far more popular).  Above my desk I have a print of the enigmatic The Empire of Lights by Magritte. On another wall is a black and silver poster showing one of Gilbert Fastenaekens’ unsettling nocturnal images. You gaze down on an empty courtyard overlooked by windows, one of which is lit. Washing is still on the line, broom propped againt the wall, a watering can abandoned. It’s like a silent empty stage set from which actors have been banished.

Jupiter Rising by Judith Green
oil and graphite on linen laid on panel 38.5 x
25.5 cm

Jupiter Rising is a beautifully proportioned picture, a juxtaposition of ordinary houses in an unusual context, austere yet luminous, with a limited but enchanting palette of colours. There’s no narrative to rattle around in your head. You are silent, waiting, listening to its calm beauty. 

But what does Judith Green’s painting mean?
‘It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable’, says Magritte...’for me the world is a defiance of common sense.’
 John Berger opens his seminal book Ways of Seeing with ’Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak,...We explain  (our)  world with words ...yet  the knowledge, the explanation never quite fits the sight‘.

Living Under Blue Skies XI - oil and graphite on linen laid on panel, 20.5 x 41.5cm

And here in the Medici Gallery is one of Green's landscapes: Living Under Blue Skies XI. Every 21C artist has a dilemma. What does she do following on from centuries of exquisite quintessentially British landscape painting? Green simplifies, declutters, calms us down. She edits what she sees for the sake of inviting us into a meditation on time and place.

I noticed some puzzling titles around here.  Jupiter Rising can have many resonances. And in several of Green's series of Living Under Blue Skies paintings, there isn't a great deal of blue sky around. On the contrary  the land seems to press the sky almost out of the picture. And I haven’t even mentioned that Green is one of four artist invited to show in an exhibition entitled The Geometry of Painting. Does this mean we should foreswear shock and horror and ambiguity, and be reassured by a sense of things in their rightful place? If that sounds dull, in the Medici Gallery it isn't.

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