Art talk: In conversation with the American artist Leonardo Drew

Leonardo Drew with his “Number 360” (2023) taken from the Chapel balcony at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo ©Nargess Banks

Last Friday I visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park to meet with the American artist Leonardo Drew as he unveiled his latest commission, Number 360 for the YSP’s eighteenth-century Chapel (on until October 2023).

In his abstract work Drew avoids working with found material, instead treating objects to appear found, and with the material almost acting as instruments making symphonies, in the case of Number 360 creating tension and turbulence but also this lovely sense of peace. It really looks special in the meditative Chapel and surrounded by early spring park life.

Drew’s work carries weight and meaning, yet he purposely numbers his work, instead of naming, so to encourage the viewer to make up their own mind, for the artwork to become a mirror, and for it to continually evolve with each interaction. 

There’s a lovely sense of freedom to this. Of letting go. 

Our conversation went from the process of art making, to the meaning of art, politics, religion and what it means to be human. 

Read the full interview published in Forbes here.

Exhibition: ‘Alice Neel: Hot off the Griddle’ at the Barbican Gallery, London

Alice Neel at the age of 29, 1929 © The Estate of Alice Neel. Courtesy The Estate of Alice Neel

Alice Neel, activist, feminist, humanist, warm and passionately non-conformist, is one of the leading painters of our time. Working predominantly in New York, where she lived most of her life, and in the intimate surroundings of her home rather than a studio, from the start of her long career Neel was drawn to raw moments of intimacy, painting neighbours, artists, activists, labour leaders, Black intellectuals, queer couples — often painting those excluded from portraiture. “I’m a collector of souls,” she wrote. “I paint my time using the people as evidence.”

‘Alice Neel: Hot off the Griddle’ at the Barbican gallery captures the spirit of this remarkable painter of the 20th century who, despite her figurative work being so unfashionable, refused to conform to the art movements of her time.

Andy Warhol, 1970 © The Estate of Alice Neel. Courtesy The Estate of Alice Neel.

And she was a gifted portraitist; her gaze penetrates deep inside each of her subjects, all of whom are treated with respect, compassion, humour and equal attention, be it her fellow artist Andy Warhol caught at his most vulnerable (1970), the youthful poet and writer John Perreault (1972), head of the US Communist Party Gus Hall (1981), a couple of privileged Wellesley College girls (1967), her neighbour Carmen and child (1972), or indeed herself, painted in 1980 at a ripe age of 80. 

As a side note, it’s interesting to compare Neel’s self-portrait with Lucian Freud’s ‘Painter Working, Reflections’ (1993), also his only full-figure naked self-portrait, painted as the artist turned 70. Whereas Neel reveals a touch of vulnerability in her pose, seated in an armchair, paintbrush in hand, cheeks flushed, Freud stands arrogant, full of ego, tough – yet both artist appear triumphant.

The Barbican’s gorgeous exhibition, with its warm colours and textures, offers an intimate encounter with the artist. Neel’s work is as fresh and relevant and powerful today as it was then. And, as the exhibition catalogue nicely points out, it speaks of our concerns and struggles, who is represented and why, highlighting the political nature of how we look at others, and what it is to feel seen.

‘Alice Neel: Hot off the Griddle’ is at the Barbican gallery in London until May 21, 2023.

Self-Portrait, 1980 © The Estate of Alice Neel. Courtesy The Estate of Alice Neel. 

Peter Doig opens at The Courtauld as a lively and lyrical exhibition of the artist’s new work

Peter Doig. Courtesy The Courtauld. Photo credit Fergus Carmichael

“I never try to create real spaces – only painted spaces. That’s all I am interested in. That may be why there is never really any specific time or place in my painting.” The quote is by Peter Doig, one of today’s most exciting painters.

And it perfectly encapsulates the work of an artist who refuses to be settled within the constraints of time, a particular place, and the framework of art history with its movements and fleeting trends. His is the art of storytelling – a continuous, lively, lyrical and at times witty dialogue between the real and the imaginary. It is a colourful painterly layered journey in time and place.

A major new exhibition perfectly captures the spirit of the Scottish artist. “Peter Doig” at The Courtauld Gallery in London presents an exciting new chapter in his career with 12 paintings and 19 works on paper, including a selection of significant canvases created since the artist moved back from Trinidad to London in 2021.

Read the full review here

All photography: “The Morgan Stanley Exhibition Peter Doig” at The Courtauld. Photo Fergus Carmichael, 2023