the cleverest artist in britain?

19 July 2010 § Leave a comment

Further to the last post on Alexander’s Red Mannheim I bumped in to the man himself the other day as I strolled down Piccadilly. Over a very pleasant cappuchino at Laduree (I hadn’t saved up long enough to buy any macaroons to accompany the coffee) we discussed life, art and the beautiful leggy models that  seemed to stride past much too frequently.

I mentioned in the last post that Mark has actually only produced a couple of dozen works over an almost 20 year career. He was worried that he was perceived as somewhat ‘lazy’ – an understandable concern perhaps given that it threatens rain in the Atacama more often than the latest ‘Alexander’ arrives at the Haunch of Venison. Those works that have appeared however have been quite remarkable – his early acceptance by one of the finest galleries in London bearing witness to the fact. I wont review the works here but ‘A Darker Gachet’, ‘Via Negativa’ and the ‘Shield of Achilles’ (illustrated here) are examples of his fascinating and impressive recent works.

Having been a contemporary of the yBa’s in the nineties his conventional approach – such as using paint (aaagggh) on canvas and drawing on the techniques of the masters – was deeply unfashionable and led to his slow production. The result was a deliberate approach – he ‘wanted to get it right’.

I cant help feeling he got it spot on. He is not lazy of course – what would be the use in producing large quantities of unfashionable work, to be sold cheaply or indeed be left on the gallery wall? The result is that he is now highly regarded, successful (ish) and he has limited back catalogue of rare and desirable work that can only increase in value for those far-sighted enough to have stumped up the cash.

Future works are planned to appear more frequently. I can not reveal the next on pain of instant death, but keep your eyes peeled –it  looks stunning – and very, VERY expensive!!! Alexander is a name for the future.

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mark alexander at st paul’s cathedral

18 July 2010 § Leave a comment

St Paul’s Cathedral is not the usual location to be supping a glass of (rather nice) wine whilst attending an opening. However it is where I recently found myself whilst viewing Mark Alexander’s Red Mannheim after its transfer from its more conventional hang at the Haunch of Venison.

Queen Victoria famously complained in the mid 19th century that St Paul’s was ‘most dreary, dingy and undevotional’.  Indeed Wren’s baroque monument remains a sober environment, the largely grey interior only relieved by the occasional golden glow of gilt ceilings. For a while however, part of the nave will vibrate red with two works by Mark Alexander – transferred from The Haunch of Venison.

 Red Mannheim is Alexander’s re-interpretation of the Mannheim Altarpiece, an 18th century rococo masterwork, damaged in Allied bombing and removed by the Russians. Returned sans cross, Virgin Mary and other embellishments there remains uncertainty over their fate. This fragmentary piece of history intrigued Alexander, not only as wartime survivor but a monument to loss, a shadowy remnant.

Alexander is an enigmatic figure who looks at memory via his own likeness or re-imagined icons. In the photo-realist Baby Paintings (1966), he questions persistence of memory whilst lamenting the passing of time, whilst in Darker Gachet (2005) Van Gogh’s masterpiece is multiplied in black questioning collective memory and representing public absence. He works painstakingly only having produced twenty-two works since 1993, each immaculate, Red Mannheim no exception, being eight years in gestation and subject to repeated experiment. Ambitions for quality are only matched by breadth of ambition – with the Shield of Achilles (2003) he, quite seriously, aimed to paint the ‘greatest picture ever’. « Read the rest of this entry »

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