Art on show in Brighton and Hove & East and West Sussex
Verbatim, a collection of paintings by Ansel Krut, opens today 3 May 2014 at Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, in time for the town’s Mayday celebrations this weekend. Fresh, joyful colours and deceptively tranquil subjects lend a cloak of bright cheeriness to this collection – but Krut’s better known dark side, subversive humour and arty references are soon revealed.
Preview by Russell Honeyman
Abstracted flowers and reclining figures in bright colours create a lyrical atmosphere in the light and airy showrooms of the Jerwood – but closer examination reveals sex organs which smoke and prickle, the double meaning of ‘Arse Flowers in Bloom’ and the pun in ‘Mussels’.
Mr Krut may be the master of the cartoon noire, but he also has a mischievous sense of humour and is an experienced lover of paint.
The curators of this collection have selected works that emphasise Krut’s painterly credentials – beautifully simple compositions of colour complements and harmonies. Some of the paintings have rarely been seen public, being tucked away in the Saatchi and Stuart Shave collections.
I asked Mr Krut if the bright and cheerful outlook is a new direction for him. “If you think that, you’d better take a look at my other show in London,” he retorted ominously. [His other show at the Stuart Shave Modern Art Gallery].
This collection at Hastings has more in common with the lyrical phases of Picasso or Matisse (bright, abstracted shapes bounded by dark contour lines) than with the dark dismembered dolls of Krut’s 2004 shows “Be still my beating heart” and “It could be suicide”.
I asked Mr Krut if the references to vintage abstract art were intentional. He said: “The show is called Verbatim. [an exact transcription]. It’s not so much about my words, but me quoting paintings. Paintings are to some extent in dialogue with each other, with themselves, with history, with some other person in the room: in a kind of conversation, throwing in quotes, building a complex of interweaving sources.”
At first, Krut says, he painted in an academic style. “Then, at a certain point, partly through having kids, partly through hanging around the National Gallery a lot, I realised that real paintings are always surprising, always subversive, and that’s what makes them great – not that they look like something but that they have qualities of turning the world on its head. And that was more important.”
This led him to figurative painting and working around the figure. He asked himself: ‘how to paint a figure that isn’t a figure?’ and it led him into painting fantasy dolls which gave him freedom to break a figure up.
I asked if Mr Krut’s visions of a tortured dystopia had been affected by his childhood growing up in the land of apartheid. I guess this question has been asked before and Krut suppressed a wince of boredom. He told me he had lived in England most of his life. He lives in Hackney with an English wife, who is also a successful artist. He says “I don’t have an axe to grind”, but his art is a composite of influences in his life which he hopes will resonate with all kinds of people.