The Buck Stopped Here: Romance rules at the Redfern Gallery
Normally I’d strenuously avoid any romance-themed show opening just before Valentine’s Day, but the range and sheer quality of works brought together by curator Ian Massey transcend the cheesiness of its timing. Boys, ballets and bosky landscapes span fr om stage designs for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, made by Christopher Wood in 1927, up to Alexander Raho’s portrait of a young boy in a Moschino red heart T-shirt, painted just a couple of years ago. Hearts and flowers are countered by Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s melancholic screen prints, while a pair of tarry memento mori tableaux, by the late Derek Jarman, are a more savage reminder of the cruel prices paid for love.
Pure Romance (1968) is the slightly sardonic title of a deft, delicate painting of palely wilting blooms by Patrick Procktor. The work of this now largely forgotten figure—especially his luminous watercolours of effetely lolling youths—is one of the highpoints of this show. A friend and contemporary of David Hockney, R.B. Kitaj, and Peter Blake, Proctor knew, painted and swung with pretty much everyone in 1960s London. But by his death in 2003 he had sunk into relative obscurity. His work is now appreciated by the likes of Raho and his generation of younger painters, including Silke Otto-Knapp and Kaye Donachie, who are also on show here and who confirm that a romantic sensibility—albeit often of a bittersweet kind—continues to thrive in today’s art world.