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I must have been distracted of late – we seem to be almost half way through the first month of a new year and I’m just posting my first for 2015…

A few days back I managed to catch up on a show that was in danger of passing me by…especially irritating as it is on my doorstep. Following on from the ‘all things German’ theme back before Xmas the ‘Artist Rooms’ project brought Georg Baselitz to Leicester and pitted his work against some of heavyweights of twentieth century German art in the Museum and Art Gallery, reminding one of how extraordinarily fortunate we are to have that material so readily to hand.  Baselitz seems to be a bit of a ‘Marmite’ painter amongst other artists, you either love him or hate him.  Personally I’ve always thought of his slash n’ splash approach rather fondly and particularly enjoy the rumbustious, irreverent and, latterly, plum crazy imagery and content.  In Leicester the selection is modest in size – 48 etchings, drypoint and aquatints plus four canvases drawn from across his career – but sufficient to give a distinctive flavour of what he’s about as an artist. Indeed nowadays I find myself increasingly drawn to displays of this kind where the scale of whats on offer affords one the opportunity to concentrate a little harder on a selection of pieces and properly interrogate them (so much harder to do in a big blockbuster show).

One of the trump cards here is the fluidity of his handling and the assuredness of the colour relationships and tonal values. The latter more often than not closely bunched, crowding the space in the picture plane.  Something similar goes on in the suite of etchings (titled Gothic Maidens and you can see several of the suite on the Tate website), though their relative simplicity and the intimacy of the plate gives him further opportunity to riff off of a few simple motifs – which he does exceptionally well.  In the next room one of the most striking parallels is to be found with the tiny Paul Klee etching that pulls off a similar crowded flat space and decorative motif idea.  I can’t locate an image of that exact print but this one is a bit similar…

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The four paintings are fairly weighty, though two of them are shown in less than ideal spaces.  But of them it was the ‘in yer face’ motif and handling of Where is the Yellow Milkjug, Mrs Bird? that is most striking in its rawness…a quality that you meet in spades in the Expressionist gallery…and that characterises the Baselitz and that he recaptures so well.

And in thinking of tiny things like the Klee reminds me that I’ve handed out (and am about to do so again) several more little ‘Place’ pictures to friends and colleagues (see my post from four months back).  The one above to my wife for her show a few months back and the one below to a friend for a show just before Xmas.

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