Janet Wells’ quarterly review of the Arts, Gallery and Museum scene.

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty

Until 18th April 2022

Helen Frankenthaler’s mantra appears to be “one rule is no rules”.

Helen Frankenthaler (1928 -2011) belongs to the second generation of American Abstract Expressionists.  There are five Helen Frankenthaler paintings hanging in a gallery on the first floor of Tate Modern:  Four of these are the color field, soak-stain paintings that she is known for: Unprimed canvas spread on the floor (inspired by Jackson Pollock) and working in pigment – heavily diluted with turpentine – her palate soft, her style is free and fluid. 

Even so, I was surprised by the woodcuts:  These are far from the expected -when the desired image is carved sharply into wood; so that when it is printed, it stands out in relief.                                                                                              

Helen Frankenthaler’s woodcuts – showing at the Dulwich Picture Gallery – are miles away from that:   Frankenthaler certainly scratched, (her name is guzzying) onto the wood; occasionally added pulp paper on the surface, and the grain of the timber is revealed through the fluid washes of ink stain – the images appear to be spontaneous. She prints onto Japanese paper from the painted wood blocks; the process of trial and error is long, methodical, and labour intensive. The results ae fluid painterly colorings’ that are also characterized in her canvas paintings. 

It is interesting to note that at first sight that it is difficult to work out the process of how these images have been achieved:  However, it took twelve different colours and 21 wooden blocks to bring about the mesmerizing density of colour for Freefall – the image that that faces you as you enter. 

Freefall (1993) by Helen Frankenthaler


There is a video that shows that her wood cuts were a collaborative process (she worked with master printmaker Kenneth Tyler) and highly experimental.  A slow journey before she could be happy with the final decision.

Coinciding with this event the Dulwich has displayed two seminal works: One by Claud Monet and the other by Helen Frankenthaler – in order to reveal similarities in the artists’ ambition and approach.

Tickets £16.50 – Friends/under 18 free – Concessions £8 – Unemployed/students/Art Fund £5

Tate Modern

Lubaina Himid

Until 3 July 2022

A theatrical exhibition by the Turner Prize winning artist and cultural activist,  is Lubaina Himid’s largest solo exhibition to date: It brings together new paintings and significant highlights from across her career.  Himid, a British painter, daughter of a textile designer, was born in Zanzibar in 1954,: She trained in Theatre design at Wimbledon School of Art and went on to  receive an MA in Cultural History from the Royal College of Art. 

The main inspiration for this exhibition comes from the artists interest in theatre design and opera: This show aims to unfold across a sequence of scenes, which put the visitor centre-stage.  Through a series of questions placed throughout the exhibition, Himid asks us to consider how the built environment, history, personal relationships, and conflict, shape the lives we lead.      

Between the Two My Heart is Balanced by Lubaina Himid

A Major highlight of the exhibition will be the presence of sound installations, including BlueGrid Test 2020, created by Himid in collaboration with artist Magda Stawarska-Beavan.

Lubaina Himid has dedicated her career to uncovering marginalized and silenced histories, figures, and cultural movements.  She describes herself as “A painter and a Cultural Activist.”    “Black women painters, back in the 1980’s were invisible; they were never a solid group – as in the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood “.  She has been pivotal in the UK since the 1980s for her contributions to the British Black arts movement, making space for the expression and recognition of Black experience and women’s creativity. 

Ticket £16. Free for Members

Science Museum Kensington


Until March 2022

Writing this on the week of COP 26:

A friend had recommended this exhibition:  The photos are the work of Brazilian photographer, Sebastian Salagado who is famous for documenting the social and environmental issues facing the planet.  He worked in the Amazon for six years with 12 different indigenous communities to create this project of 200 very large black and white images – several that have never been seen before in the UK – which present his view of the indigenous people, forests, and rivers of Amazonia.  

Mont Romaima by Amazonia

In this exhibition there is an absence of the photographs of forest clearance; this is a forest still intact, a part that the loggers, haven’t ravaged.

As we enter the galleries we are enveloped by a soundtrack  – the work of the composer Jean-Michel Jarre and confronted by the incredible dramatic landscapes taken from river boats; of aerial shots of immense waterfalls; of the “flying rivers” – winds that carry water from the Amazonia to other parts of the urban, Southeast and South Brazil – that would become deserts if the forest disappeared.

Within the gallery spaces are structures built to resemble the traditional indigenous dwellings: In this section we are allowed a glimpse into the lives of 12 communities on video and photography.   We listen the leaders of each of the communities as they discuss the major threats posed by deforestation and  hear what can and is being done to prevent reaching tipping point – which would have devastating impacts across the world 

The exhibition was curated and designed by Lelia Wanick Salgado

Amazonia is part of an international exhibition tour that began at the Philharmonie in Paris and includes MAXXI in Rome, SESC in Sao Paulo and the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro.

The exhibition is supported by Zurich Insurance Company Ltd (Principal Sponsor) and Natura & Co (Major Sponsor)

A few other things to catch

Museum of London Santa’s Grotto until 23 Dec £12.00 (includes gift)                            

Barbican Conservatory x Akari Cloud until 9 Jan. Free: but ticketed and times differ. Explore the Conservatory under a magical cloud of Akari light sculptures.

Dennis Severs’ House (18 Folgate St) gets a Christmas makeover until 9 Jan. Tickets must be booked in advance.

Guildhall Art Gallery.  Noel Coward: Art and Style. Until 23 Dec – free – booking required; Mon – Sun 10.30 – 4pm   

Somerset House:   Beano “The exhibition traces Beano’s creative legacy in modern and contemporary art” until 6 Mar 2022  £16/£12.50  Embarkment Galleries South Wing.