29 September 2014

Frans Widerberg: The Art of Re-Enchantment at Kings Place Gallery

I had not heard of Frans Widerberg before visiting this exhibition of his works at Kings Place Gallery, but that is true of almost all of the exhibitions that I have been to there.

The lure is the gallery, not the painter, and that is because the gallery is conveniently situated in the same building as my office.

The gallery space feels like something of an add-on to the corporate spaces above and the concert spaces below as it is little more that the wall around the atrium. That does have one advantage in that the entry down the steps from the ground floor can be quite dramatic.

The entrance was dramatic this time with the name of the exhibition displayed quietly above a large colourful picture called Rider: Northern Lights. This set the tone of the exhibition with its bold primary colours, fantastical theme and rough drawing style that eschewed detail.

Most of the lower ground floor was in the same vein with large pictures of simple figures in plain landscapes painted in unnatural colours.

A lot of the pictures had even simpler colour schemes using mostly just two of the primary colours, e.g. the centre one here is mainly red and yellow and the one on the right is mainly blue and yellow.

Several were of static single people, like the ones on the left and right here, and in these I found the subject matter almost irrelevant (as there was so little of it) and the pleasure that I got was from the use of colour. There is a very broad line between representative and abstract art and I often like pictures that play in this space.

The other characters to appear were centaurs, reinforcing the fantastical tone, and there was one in my favourite of the painting in this section.



This is Centaur Wedding and I love it.

The ad hoc nature of the gallery meant that the exhibition continued to the floor below. This can be a problem as corporate events are often held on that floor and so I chose to go down on a day when it was free.

With the change of level came an unexpected change of mood.

Having got accustomed to large fantastical paintings I had to readjust to small landscapes. This adjustment was helped a little by the these paintings also relying heavily on the primary colours and a simplicity of construction.

These pictures had less immediate impact because of their smaller scale, subtler colours and traditional subjects but they held up to closer scrutiny and had some noticeable charm. That said, their normalness and pleasantness were not enough to make up for a lack of noticeably artistic flair and these reminded me of the sort of pictures that I buy on holiday from street vendors.



It was easy to forgive the slight landscapes hidden in a corner of the lower level because the large fantastical paintings boldy strutting their stuff on the main floor of the gallery were so striking.

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