The Art Diary June 2024 – Revd Jonathan Evens

The Art Diary June 2024

The June diary includes exhibitions by Judy Chicago, Belinda De Bruyckere, Isa Genzken, Nan Goldin, Dora Maar, Susie Hamilton, Samuel Walsh, Richard Kenton Webb, Caspar David Friedrich, Michael Takeo Magruder, as well as exhibitions exploring the influences of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, An Túr Gloine, art and faith, art and nature, art and space.

A pioneer of the Feminist art movement, Judy Chicago has undertaken extensive research into goddess worship and women’s history, and through ‘Revelations’ – an unpublished illuminated manuscript she penned in the early 1970s while creating her best-known work ‘The Dinner Party’ – offers readers a radical retelling of mythological creation whilst also sharing her lifelong vision of a just and equitable world.

For her exhibition at Serpentine North Gallery, this manuscript has been updated, supplemented with new drawings and published for the first time. Her dense figurative drawings and collages envision a confrontational apocalyptic scene between men and women, leading to profound revelations where all “life’s creatures [can live] in harmony with each other and the Earth.” ‘Revelations’ presents a vision of creation that centres on women and the goddess figure, which can also be found in Chicago’s ‘The Female Divine’.

She grew up in a liberal Jewish household, where her parents nurtured and instilled in her a lifelong passion for art, culture, and social justice. In the late 1960s, she gained prominence for making work from a woman-centred perspective. By charting the lives and contributions of women and working with early feminist iconography, she challenged the male-dominated landscape of the art world.

Organised thematically around the manuscript’s five chapters, the exhibition focuses on drawing – a medium that is foundational to Chicago’s practice. Moving counterclockwise around the gallery, ‘Revelations traces the arc of the artist’s career and brings together new, archival and never-before-seen artworks that address themes of birth and creation, the construct of masculinity, notions of power, extinction, and longstanding concern for environmental justice. These intimate works on paper are amplified by multidisciplinary and participatory elements, including an audio recording by the artist, previously unseen video footage, personal testimonies, an AR app, a video recording booth and collaborative projects that allow visitors to uncover the breadth of Chicago’s practice.

The Art Diary June 2024
Judy Chicago And God Created Life (detail), 2023 Prismacolor on paper 30 x 22.25 in. (76.2 x 56.52 cm) © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Donald Woodman/ARS, NY Courtesy of the artist

The exhibition includes early colour studies of banners and sketchbooks that reveal the working process and components that led to ‘The Dinner Party’, which celebrates the achievements of 1038 women and is now permanently on display at the Centre for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, New York. ‘The Dinner Party’ takes the form of a ceremonial banquet – a reinterpretation of the Last Supper – and is a symbolic history of women predominantly from Western civilisation. Organised chronologically and divided into three wings: ‘From Prehistory to the Roman Empire’, ‘From the Beginnings of Christianity to the Reformation’ and ‘From the American to the Women’s Revolution’; the multi-media work comprises 39 place settings dedicated to a specific woman or goddess. Each setting includes porcelain painted plates placed on embroidered runners, a chalice, a napkin and cutlery. 999 additional names are inscribed in gold on the ‘Heritage Floor’. These names are grouped around the place settings to represent the long histories of women’s achievements that remain largely unknown.

Amplified by never-before-seen interviews with members of the studio, documentary footage and a film that takes visitors on a tour led by Chicago, the works in this section of the exhibition trace the collaborative environment Chicago forged with nearly 400 participants and demonstrates how the research for ‘The Dinner Party’ provided her with the foundations of ‘Revelations’.

Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere is another who reinterprets aspects of our religious and mythological history. Her latest exhibition, ‘City of Refuge III,’ is composed of new works specifically conceived for the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th-century Benedictine church located on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. The exhibition has been realised in collaboration with the Benedicti Claustra Onlus, the non-profit branch of the Benedictine Community.

Taking its title from a Nick Cave song of the same name, ‘City of Refuge III’ is the third in a series of exhibitions by the artist thematising art as a place of sanctuary and shelter, reinforced here by the venue’s spiritual intensity. The exhibition is based on three new groups of works, each responding to the church’s monumental architecture, function, symbolism, and history.

The first group is an installation of Arcangeli sculptures in the nave and side aisles. These highlight the archetype of the archangel appearing as a veiled, hybrid figure, juxtaposing the human with the divine, the earthly with the celestial, and the temporal with the eternal. Each of the Arcangeli emerges from a modular sculptural cluster composed of an irregular, pillar-like pedestal with a silver patina, a tilted mirrored screen multiplying the figure of the archangel and the surroundings, and a monumental banner deepening the ritualistic aspect of the setting and the works.

In the Sacristy, De Bruyckere displays a large-scale installation of metal welding tables with felled or dead tree trunks cast in wax on and around them. This installation creates a post-apocalyptic scenario in which fragments of dead nature further congeal while opening up a redemptive horizon of rejuvenation and rebirth. The installation provides a new environment in which to view the painting on the altar by Giuseppe Porta (Salviati) of Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem and thereby see it differently.

The third group of new works is a group of sculpture wall-vitrine works in the hallway of the Monastery’s Gallery. These respond to exceptional carvings by the 16th-century Flemish woodcarver Albert van den Brulle, who decorated the Basilica’s Choir with walnut bas-reliefs portraying the life of Saint Benedict. De Bruyckere’s wall-vitrines revive motifs from van den Brulle’s bas-reliefs, giving them a present-day context.

Lastly, the exhibition includes recent works from the artist’s oeuvre, including the sculptural series ‘Anderlecht’ and collages from the ‘It Almost Seemed a Lily’ series. These give further context to the new works produced for this exhibition by showing how De Bruyckere draws from the legacies of European Old Masters, the Flemish Renaissance, Christian iconography, as well as mythology and cultural lore, to layer existing histories with new narratives suggested by current events thereby creating psychological terrains of pathos, tenderness and unease.

Isa Genzken’s expansive installation ‘Wasserspeier and Angels’, originally shown by Hauser & Wirth in 2004, has been revived to reveal the way in which she explores the relationships between different media and social, political and urban spaces, with references to everyday lived experience as these intrude on her formal experiments.

The first presentation of this work captured a specific moment in time. Working in Berlin and in New York at the turn of the century, the artist witnessed the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent changing landscape of the city, as well as the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York City. In parallel, from the late 1990s on, the artist’s sculptural works moved towards assembled installations that borrowed their aesthetic from collages, combining objects with variations in scale. ‘Wasserspeier and Angels’ exemplified this new artistic language, characterised by its engagement with architectural form and its social dimension.

The installation’s starting point came from the artist’s fascination with the ‘Wasserspeier’ (gargoyles) on Cologne Cathedral, encountering their restoration in the building’s masonry shop. Genzken created her own gargoyles, setting them in dialogue with winged, angelic figures. The duality between the earthbound and the heavenly has permeated Genzken’s career, reflected in materials associated with engineering and heaviness, such as electric cables, aluminium panels and trollies, in addition to objects evoking the sky, light and wind, from blue sheets to bright lamps and umbrellas.

Historically, carved gargoyles were provisions for preservation, designed to direct rainwater away from the building, as well as for protection, banishing demons by holding up a mirror to evil. Bringing them from the roof to eye level, Genzken’s gargoyles, instead, confront viewers and humanity at large. In the same way that some gargoyles depict a hybrid of animals with human features, the artist imparts an anthropomorphic quality to her figures by giving them heads and body-like frames. Two figures even wear Genzken’s own clothing, a jacket and cap, lending the work an autobiographical undertone whilst also offering a reminder of civilisation.

Totemic columns and pedestals recur throughout Genzken’s work and are seen here cloaked in blue plastic that alludes to the wings of angels and is reminiscent of the way in which gowns are draped in Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings. Other objects, such as the sacrificial lamb or twigs and broken umbrellas, evoking the power of wind and nature, allow the viewer to relate to the work’s inherently human qualities of fragility and vulnerability. The artist’s interplay of objects conjures a place that is free and ethereal whilst making viewers aware of the restrictions and limitations of the real world.

Nan Goldin’s ‘Sisters, Saints, Sibyls’ is another work that is specifically shown in a church, in this case, the former Welsh chapel at 83 Charing Cross Road, London. Goldin chose this deconsecrated church in Soho because her installation is a visceral, immersive environment, referencing nineteenth-century operating theatres, which was originally conceived in 2004 for the chapel of the Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Paris. Salpêtrière was founded as an asylum in 1656, where Jean-Martin Charcot practised his experiments on “hysteric” women. Goldin’s life’s work has always been about fighting the stigma embedded in our society, addressing issues that include mental illness, addiction, and sexuality.

Goldin begins ‘Sisters, Saints, Sibyls’ with the myth of Saint Barbara, presenting the story of the early Christian martyr as a three-channel projection that echoes the triptych format of classical religious painting. Images of Saint Barbara accompany a voiceover that describes her defiance of her parents’ beliefs, a transgression for which they tortured her. This is analogous to the real subject of Goldin’s film and underpins its visual narrative.

In 1958, Goldin’s elder sister, Barbara Holly Goldin, was sent to a psychiatric detention centre at age twelve. She spent time in and out of such facilities for the next six years. Barbara was accused of “acting out, open defiance, sexually provocative behaviour, association with undesirable friends, [and being] loud and coarse in speech.” Reports state that she went on dates with an older Black man, appeared to be confused about her sexual identity, and refused to shave her legs. Barbara stirred up a perfect storm of middle-class, mid-century fears around race, sexuality, and gender roles.

Goldin was a witness to the physical and psychic abuse that Barbara suffered and that her family tried to conceal. Barbara’s death by suicide in 1965, at the age of eighteen, was a defining event in Goldin’s life, prompting her to rebel against and run away from her living situation at the time. The remainder of ‘Sisters, Saints, Sibyls’ describes how she found her tribe of fellow rebels. She shows us her own experience with addiction, confinement, and self-harm and that with living comes not only maturity and change but also loss and pain.

Dora Maar also experienced mental distress, which led to hospitalisation and electro-shock therapy. ‘Dora Maar: Behind the Lens’ is a celebration of Maar’s life and is held in conjunction with the upcoming release of Louisa Treger’s book, ‘The Paris Muse’, based on Maar’s affair with Pablo Picasso, and the theatrical production ‘Maar, Dora’ which is at Camden Fringe in August. Treger states, “Dora Maar is mostly known for being Picasso’s Weeping Woman as though tears are the only interesting thing about her. Amar Gallery and my novel put her at the heart of the story and give her the recognition she deserves.”

The exhibition presents the surrealist works of Maar as well as photographs of Picasso and ‘Guernica’, the celebrated anti-war painting for which Maar was the only official photographer. The exhibition also revisits Maar’s erasure throughout art history. Maar established herself as a prominent photographer associated with surrealism, exhibiting at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London alongside Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Eileen Agar, and Paul Eluard. As a photographer, she was a pioneer, admired by the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Man Ray. Her position as Picasso’s lover obscured her artistic talent, which extended far beyond photography and included poetry and painting.

In late 1935 or early 1936, she met Picasso. They became lovers soon afterwards. Their relationship had a huge effect on both their careers. Maar documented the creation of Picasso’s most political work, ‘Guernica’, encouraged his political awareness and educated him in photography. Specifically, she taught him the cliché verre technique – a complex method combining photography and printmaking. As Time Magazine wrote in 2022, Maar’s anti-fascist worldview influenced Picasso’s art: “Like many surrealist artists, philosophers and poets during the 1930s, Maar had converted to left-wing politics. In fact, she became one of the Left’s most involved activists—a radical move for a woman at a time when women were still largely excluded from politics in France; they only gained the right to vote in 1944.”

After their break-up in the early 1940s, Maar turned to Catholicism and bought a house in Ménerbes, in the south of France. The Provençal countryside inspired her to paint many landscapes, which come close to abstraction.

London-based artist Susie Hamilton has worked with the arts team at Imperial Health Charity on an exhibition in three London hospitals of works inspired by her love of literature. ‘Art in Focus: Susie Hamilton Paintings from Poetry’, which is currently at Charing Cross Hospital, displays works inspired by ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ and Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘The Tempest’.

Much of Hamilton’s painting is based on literature, especially writing in which the supernatural intrudes on the life of its characters. She explores ideas of wilderness in her work, either physical or metaphorical – and the possibility of transformation this setting can present. Drawing on subjects as diverse as creative writing, poetry, animals or polar exploration, she works with oils and acrylics as well as drawing in pastel and chalks to create powerful gestural glimpses of a moment in time or sometimes subtle dreamlike scenes in washes of thinly built-up colour.

The Art Diary June 2024
Jean Arp, Sculpture to be Lost in the Forest, Bronze, circa 1932, cast circa 1953-8

Peggy Guggenheim built one of the most impressive modern art collections of the 20th century, and works from that collection will be displayed in Petersfield this summer, marking the return to Hampshire of one of art’s most famous names. Although synonymous with great cities such as New York, Bilbao and Venice, the Guggenheim name is also connected to the historic market town of Petersfield, where Peggy Guggenheim lived for five years just before the Second World War.

‘Peggy Guggenheim: Petersfield to Palazzo’ includes 15 works and archival material from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and other UK collections that chart the range of modern paintings, drawings and sculptures that the self-styled “art addict” either once owned or by artists she collected or showed. Showcasing artists such as Henry Moore, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Jean Arp and John Tunnard, alongside fashion and photographs, including those by Lee Miller, the exhibition will give visitors an extraordinary insight into a life lived in pursuit and celebration of art.

Exploring the literary, artistic, and intellectual figures with whom Guggenheim interacted, the fascinating untold story of her life in the town and neighbouring West Sussex will be revealed, detailing this early chapter in her career to discover and champion so many world-renowned artists. She settled in Hampshire and bought Yew Tree Cottage on the road between South Harting and Petersfield, partly because of a love affair with publisher Douglas Garman. In her own words, these were her most “domestic years” when her children attended local schools, and they prompted a search for a new sense of purpose as an art patron, gallerist, and collector that would define the rest of her life. This exhibition thus adds a new chapter to a remarkable life, a life and career that incorporates the greatest artists of the 20th century and resulted in one of the finest collections of modern art, which will continue to be enjoyed by present and future generations.

Among the artists she championed was the Abstract Expressionist William Congdon, who decided to move to Venice in the 1950s, where he and Guggenheim met. The city strongly influenced his painting, as did trips to the Sahara Desert, Algeria, Santorini and Guatemala. In 1959, he converted to Catholicism, moved to Assisi, and for several years painted primarily religious subjects. Several of his works are in the Peggy Guggenheim collection, including ‘The Beatitudes’ and views of both Venice and Cambodia. However, the most significant collection of his work in the UK is found at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. Curator Jim Ede befriended Congdon in America, supporting him through his conversion to Roman Catholicism, following which Congdon relocated to Italy, focused on religious imagery, and thereby lost his dealers and reputation. Through their friendship, Ede amassed the most significant collection of works by Congdon in Britain, many of which have holy sites as their central focus.

A recent brief trip to Ireland enabled a visit to St Eunan’s Cathedral in Letterkenny, which may have the finest collection of An Túr Gloine Stained Glass windows in Ireland, as well as windows and murals by the exceptional stained-glass artist Harry Clarke. ‘An Túr Gloine: Artists and the Collective’ at the National Gallery of Ireland is the first exhibition dedicated to the pioneering stained-glass studio An Túr Gloine (The Tower of Glass), founded in 1903 by Sarah Purser.

An Túr Gloine’s collective model, together with the skills and creativity of its imaginative members, set the studio apart from rivals in Ireland and abroad, and advanced the international reputation of Irish stained glass as the foremost achievement of the Irish Arts & Crafts movement. Focusing on the studio’s history, archives and artworks, the exhibition explores An Túr Gloine’s co-operative practice and the rich variety and individuality of its stained-glass designs. Featured artists include Wilhelmina Geddes, Michael Healy, Catherine O’Brien, Alfred E. Child, Hubert McGoldrick, Ethel Rhind and Evie Hone, the work of some of whom can also be found in Letterkenny.

One result of Ireland’s varied spiritual heritage is that exhibitions exploring aspects of art and faith are commonplace. ‘Mysterious Ways: Art, faith and transcendence’ at The Glucksman explores how ritual and religion inform contemporary artistic practices. Through performative ceremonies, totemic objects, and meditative environments, the works invite viewers to transcend the every day, experience art as a moment of spiritual awakening, and reflect upon how art and belief continually respond to and reflect upon one another.

The exhibition initiates viewers with a ‘leap of faith,’ that moment where thinking suspends doubt and aspires towards pure, uncritical belief. This notion informs several works in ‘Mysterious Ways’, with art proposed as a ritual of submission or surrender, giving oneself over to an unfamiliar system of obscure beliefs and arcane customs. Jonathas de Andrade’s film ‘O Peixe’ resembles an anthropological documentary of village fishermen in Northeast Brazil gently whispering to dying fish, a respectful ceremonial custom that has, nevertheless, been staged by the artist. A similarly contemplative spirit is found in Shirazeh Houshiary’s series ‘Resonance’, which employs forms determined by logical rules and Sufi cosmology’s numerical and geometrical symbolism. Samir Mahmood’s work specifically questions whether aesthetic experience is relatable to the spiritual encounter while infusing traditional Sufi and Christian symbology with a queer sensibility.

Hermann Nitsch was a pioneer of Vienna’s avant-garde scene in the 1960s and 70s, staging radical and controversial performances as part of the Viennese Actionism movement. The artist’s work in performance and painting, which included blood, flesh, and other materials, became a religious practice. Jennifer Tee’s work across diverse media—sculpture, performance, installation, printmaking—explores the notion of “the soul in limbo,” the liminal state between reality and idealism, perpetually on the cusp of transcendence. In six sequential photographs of burning embers and white smoke erupting from the void of a human-shaped outline dug into packed earth, Ana Mendieta’s ‘Volcán’ captures the artist’s engagement with nature and the body. Concerns around the occupation of Ireland by the Roman Catholic Church are at the heart of Austin Hearne’s practice. Playing with fact and fiction, Hearne creates worlds, characters, and scenarios to satirise, demonise and embellish his subject matter. In 2012, Grace Ndiritu began creating a new body of work under the title’ Healing The Museum’, which sets out to re-introduce non-rational healing methodologies to reactivate the “sacredness” of art spaces.

Samuel Walsh’s ‘The Divine Comedy’ is shortly to be shown in the Bourn Vincent Gallery before being permanently displayed as an endowment by the artist on three floors of the Glucksman Library from 2024. In 2002, Walsh spent two months in Pont-Aven, Brittany, as a resident artist at the Musée de Pont-Aven. While there, he began work on paintings based on ‘The Divine Comedy’ by Dante Alighieri, beginning with ‘The Inferno’. ‘The Inferno’ consists of 34 Cantos (sections), and Walsh made 24 paintings based on the first 24 Cantos. On his return to Ireland, he made 10 more and then began the work of repainting all 34. These were finished in 2005. He subsequently completed seven large paintings based on the seven cornices of ‘Purgatorio’, the second book of ‘The Divine Comedy’, and one multi-part painting based on the third and final book: ‘Paradiso’. He also made a number of drawings and studies on the same theme.

Richard Kenton Webb has, for several years, been in a visual dialogue with a later poet, John Milton. He has said that “Milton has been a companion like Virgil to Dante guiding me through the narrative of my own life”. In 2021, he completed a 10-year project dedicated to ‘A Conversation with Milton’s Paradise Lost’ – 128 drawings, 40 paintings and 12 relief prints. This led to a commission of 12 drawings in response to Milton’s pastoral elegy, ‘Lycidas’, for the Milton Society of America, and a chapter in ‘Milton Across Borders and Media’, published by Oxford University Press. Now, his exhibition ‘A Conversation with Paradise Regain’d and Samson Agonistes’ will be displayed throughout the historic rooms of Milton’s Cottage in Chalfont St Giles, the only surviving home of the visionary poet and parliamentarian. The exhibition commemorates the 350th anniversary of Milton’s death, which is being celebrated this year.

Shown alongside a first edition of Milton’s final poems, published together in 1671, Webb’s drawings speak to the place where Milton sought refuge from the Great Plague of 1665 to complete his epic masterpiece, ‘Paradise Lost’, and was inspired to write ‘Paradise Regain’d’. In both ‘Paradise Regain’d’ and ‘Samson Agonistes’ Milton reflects on the Restoration of the Monarchy and the loss of the English republic, for which he had put aside his first love, poetry, to serve as Cromwell’s spin doctor.  Milton’s rich verses, his vision of spirituality, and the forces of good and evil provide a framework for Webb’s own visual meditations into the act of creation. His Milton-related works respond to Milton’s universal themes of creation, destruction, temptation, love and loss and help new audiences find fresh ways to engage with Milton’s legacy.

To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Caspar David Friedrich, the Alte Nationalgalerie is presenting its first major exhibition of the work of the most important painter of German Romanticism. A central theme of the exhibition is the role of the Nationalgalerie in the rediscovery of Friedrich’s art in the early 20th century. The Nationalgalerie is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Friedrich’s paintings, and numerous acquisitions and public presentations in the Prussian capital contributed to the artist’s early fame during his lifetime. After Friedrich had fallen into disregard during the second half of the nineteenth century, the Nationalgalerie honoured him in 1906 as never before in the legendary ‘Jahrhundertausstellung’, an exhibition dedicated to a century of German art. On show were ninety-three paintings and drawings, celebrating Friedrich as an exquisite painter of light and atmosphere and a pioneer of modern art.

The current exhibition brings to life the rediscovery of the Romantic painter in the ‘Jahrhundertausstellung’ by showing almost half of the masterpieces that were on display there, such as ‘The Monk by the Sea’, ‘The Sea of Ice’, ‘The Stages of Life’, ‘The Lonely Tree’, ‘Cairn in Snow’ and ‘Two Men Contemplating the Moon’. The exhibition begins with a section devoted to Friedrich’s pendant paintings. In these companion pieces, the artist expressed different perspectives and the idea of change, posing still-relevant questions about life’s journey and the cycles of nature. Friedrich’s artistic creation was crucially informed by his hikes along the coast and in the mountains. His life oscillated between his birth town of coastal Greifswald and Dresden, the city of his choosing, where he died. Accordingly, the exhibition pays close attention to Friedrich’s depictions of coasts and mountains as the central pictorial subjects of his oeuvre.

A further focus is his creative process. Taking his drawings as a starting point, a section of the exhibition is devoted to his artistic training and the most recent scientific findings on the artist’s painting techniques. The history of Friedrich’s painting in the collection of the Nationalgalerie is also a history of loss. Four of his works have been considered lost since the Second World War. The exhibition concludes with contemporary photo montages by Hiroyuki Masuyama, which recreate and interpret Friedrich’s paintings, including works held by the Nationalgalerie.

As ‘William Blake’s Universe’ at the Fitzwilliam Museum demonstrated recently, Friedrich was one of a group of Romantic artists spread across Europe, which included William Blake, Samuel Palmer and Philipp Otto Runge, who shared an unwavering belief in the power of art to redeem a society in crisis. Many metaphors of divinity, subsequently used by later artists, were first invented in the visionary works of those artists. Friedrich stated that his aim was not simply “the faithful representation of air, water, rocks, and trees . . . but the reflection of [the artist’s] soul and emotion in these objects”. For him, landscape paintings were expressions of religious feeling and personal symbolism. As he said, “The artist should paint not only what he has in front of him but also what he sees inside himself.”

‘Grounded’ is an exhibition with a similar connection to nature as its subtitle reveals – ‘Restoring our world through a Sacred Harmony with the earth and each other’. The exhibition features 15 contemporary artists from Indigenous American tribes traditionally based in and around the Great Plains region of the USA. These artists seek to inspire our imaginations about our need to be “grounded” in our relationship with all of creation: the earth and its wildlife, each other and ourselves.

The exhibition’s description states: “It is critical for the health and survival of our planet that we acknowledge and honour our intricate connection to the earth as our sustainer, to the wisdom of our ancestors, and humanity’s need of each other. Our world is calling for a realignment of a sacred harmony and an awareness of a new balance between ourselves and the earth, with all of life upon it. As such, we have much to learn from the Indigenous cultures of our Native American sisters and brothers about being grounded in the interconnectedness of the sacred, the natural world, and one another. Native American traditional beliefs see everything on the earth as living in relationship. Seeing the interconnectedness of all things, they understand today’s environmental and humanitarian crises as affecting everyone and everything – geologically, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The artistic practices of this inspiring group of 15 Native American artists are a unique blend of their heritage and creative expression. Their work serves as a visual representation of the worldview, wisdom and learnings of their forebears, which is urgently needed today as we reimagine the way we live in order to heal our world. Their spiritual wisdom is therefore essential toward developing a “sacred harmony” between all peoples and with the earth. This unique contemporary art exhibition seeks to enable them to share their culture, heritage and sacred traditions to help us restore our world and foster wholeness among all peoples.”

By contrast, I end with two exhibitions exploring aspects of art and science. ‘Un/familiar Terrain{s}’ is a new exhibition by British-American visual artist Michael Takeo Magruder that has been created through a sophisticated partnership between the artist and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This creative ‘collaboration’ transforms personal footage captured on first-generation AI-enabled smartphones into three otherworldly installations, each rooted in specific places of renowned natural beauty. In the works, every single frame of the source material is revised, reworked, and rebuilt into digital prints and algorithmic videos which recast these captured moments as uncanny encounters. In this way, like painters, photographers, and cinematographers who have harnessed technology to transform terrains into expressive landscapes, the invisible work of the AI allows people to experience more than there ever was, expanding both time and space.

Magruder is a visual artist and researcher whose practice utilises Information Age technologies and systems to examine our networked, media-rich world. He is presently MDI Biological Laboratory’s inaugural artist-in-residence. He is developing a new body of artwork in dialogue with the institute’s world-class research community for its Arts Meets Science programme. ‘Un/familiar Terrain{s}’ infuses leading-edge AI systems with traditional artistic practices to reimagine the world anew and, in doing so, pushes visitors to question the organic nature of their own memories and the unsettling notions of automatic processing, misattribution, and reconstruction.

‘Lunar Lullabies’ at Firstsite commemorates the 200th anniversary of the death of Colchester’s Jane Taylor’s by exploring the fascinating legacy of her timeless nursery rhyme “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. The exhibition traces the artistic journey of Taylor’s nursery rhyme, and its profound influence on contemporary media, including comics, video games, and pop culture hits like Will Smith’s ‘I’m Not a Star’ and Nicki Minaj’s ‘Starships’. The exhibition has a wide array of multimedia projects on display, all connecting space with the imagination. These include fantastical futuristic spaceship animation rooms by Mark Garlick, paintings of space rockets that move when viewed, and a ceramic work by British icon Grayson Perry with Alien Baby inspired by a maternity ward that he likened to a spaceship.

The work of Colchester-based Peter Elson, an illustrator who spent a career bridging childhood wonder of space with explorations of the future, features prominently. Decades of science fiction paperbacks from the 20th century have Elson’s renderings on the cover, featuring planets, spaceships and star systems. Hugely influential on a new generation of sci-fi depicters, with brightly coloured backgrounds and sleek designs, he has been widely credited for providing the visual aesthetic to early video game productions in the 1990s.

Contemporary artists also show how the artistic obsession with what lies beyond the Earth’s sky continues today. Essex-based artist Jackie Burns is a Fellow of the International Association for Astronomical Artists; her earlier works include science fiction book cover designs, and throughout her career, she has created work based on the scientific reality of space travel, such as through portraits of astronaut Tim Peake, as well as popular culture imagery such as characters from Star Wars. Burns led some of the workshops to develop the exhibition, and her depiction of one of the most iconic spaceships in human history will feature: the one that fulfilled Blake’s dreaming and took humankind onto the moon. The acrylic work ‘Saturn V, Apollo 11, on Crawler to Launchpad 39A’ consists of different-sized circles of various colours that slowly reveal the image the longer you look.

In the 21st century, artists can now be found alongside scientists working towards space exploration, and the exhibition includes a number of paintings produced by British artist Matthew Turner during his residency at NASA.

The exhibition transforms Firstsite into an immersive playscape of imagination and discovery, featuring interactive space objects, immersive extraterrestrial landscapes, and robot sculptures. Visitors can touch and discover objects ranging from meteorites and asteroid rocks to Lego Star Wars sets and bring their own cosmic creations to life. Firstsite Director Sally Shaw says, “Lunar Lullabies shows the true power of art and creativity—charting the journey from Jane Taylor’s imagination in 1806 to the realities of scientific exploration today. By combining art and science, the exhibition brings STEAM to the heart of Colchester, using art as a method of learning and discovery to help us connect with the science of space exploration in a meaningful way.”

‘Judy Chicago: Revelations’, 23 May – 1 September 2024, Serpentine North – Visit Here

‘Berlinde De Bruckyere “City of Refuge III”’, 20 April – 24 November 2024, Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice – Visit Here

‘Isa Genzken. Wasserspeier and Angels’, 9 May – 27 July 2024, Hauser & Wirth London  Visit Here

‘Nan Goldin: Sisters, Saints, Sibyls’, 30 May – 23 June 2024, Welsh Chapel, 83 Charing Cross Road, London – Visit Here

‘Dora Maar: Behind the Lens’, 16 June – 18 August 2024, Amar Gallery – Visit Here

‘Susie Hamilton: Paintings From Poetry’, April – August 2024, Charing Cross Hospital – Visit Here

‘Peggy Guggenheim: Petersfield to Palazzo’, 15 June – 5 October 2024, Petersfield Museum and Art Gallery – Visit Here

‘An Túr Gloine: Artists and the Collective’, 30 March 2024 – 12 January 2025, National Gallery of Ireland – Visit Here

‘Mysterious Ways: Art, faith and transcendence’, 29 March – 7 July 2024, The Glucksman, University College Cork – Visit Here

‘The Divine Comedy’, July – September 2024, Bourn Vincent Gallery, University of Limerick – Visit Here 

‘A Conversation with Paradise Regain’d & Samson Agonistes’, 3 July – 8 September 2024, Milton’s Cottage, Chalfont St Giles –

Visit Here

Caspar David Friedrich: Infinite Landscapes’, 19 April – 4 August 2024, Alte Nationalgalerie – Visit Here

‘Grounded’, 14 June – 11 August 2024, American University Museum, Washington, D.C. – Visit Here

‘Un/familiar Terrain{s}’, 30 May – 18 September 2024, Henry Luce III Center for the Arts & Religion –

Visit Here

‘Lunar Lullabies’, 8 June – 6 October 2024, Firstsite – Visit Here

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