Opportunity the Rapper, Brixton Academy, London — assessment

Hip-hop has reached peak ego. Kanye West’s onstage meltdowns during his US tour last week mark the tipping point, boos ringing out as he declared his assistance for Donald Trump amid rambling speeches, with one show curtailed right after 3 songs.

On the evening he cancelled a concert in Los Angeles, a prelude to the cancellation of the entire tour, a younger act from West’s property city of Chicago pointed a way forward. Opportunity the Rapper, 23, may possibly revere Kanye as a mentor (the pair have spoken of making an album with each other) but he does not share the older man’s rampant narcissism. The thousands chanting along to every word of his verses in a sold-out Brixton Academy underlined the shift in emphasis.

Opportunity, real name Chancellor Bennett, was backed by drummer Greg Landfair Jr, trumpeter Nico Segal and keyboardist Peter Cottontale the 4 contact themselves the Social Experiment. In contrast to the concentrate on the individual star at most rap gigs, right here the efficiency had an organic, collaborative good quality.

Cottontale’s organ licks and Segal’s trumpet solos supplied a mellow, jazzy backdrop for lyrics that went from addressing Chicago’s gun violence (“Angels”) to jokey nonsense rhymes (“Brain Cells”). Landfair Jr’s drumming and laptop-generated beats triggered by Cottontale came to the fore in livelier tracks such as “All Night” or “Juke Jam”, beefed up tonight from sultry R&ampB to party tune.

Despite a gruff edge to his voice, Chance’s rapping flowed easily, varying in volume with the swells and ebbs of his bandmates’ perform. An anti-Trump speech — his father is a Chicago Democrat who once worked for Barack Obama — ended with him claiming music as essential sustenance in black US culture. The sentiment was produced literal by the gospel influences in his own songs, a strain of religiosity neatly worked into the secular rap setting.

“Sunday Candy” was a warm, soulful tribute to household churchgoing. “Finish Line/Drown” had the sampled backing voices of a gospel choir, while the final quantity, “Blessings”, located him entering testifying mode with arms raised, chanting about being transported to the promised land. Post-peak-ego rap is about summoning a greater force, not becoming it.


Section: Arts

PJ Harvey, Brixton Academy, London — overview

The first of PJ Harvey’s two nights at Brixton Academy opened with the Dorset singer-songwriter and her nine-powerful band emerging from backstage gloom in a file wearing funereally dark garments. Two drummers led the way with a military tattoo as the musicians arranged themselves in an oval shape, a gothic encampment. The 1st notes they struck up were a grave blast of noise, fuelled by three horn players like Harvey on saxophone.

When she started singing, her voice rose higher above the ominous musical reverberations, telling the story of an old woman living in a deserted Balkan village. The song was “Chain of Keys” from her most current album The Hope Six Demolition Project, whose tracks had been inspired by Harvey’s visits to Kosovo, Afghanistan and the US. “Imagine what her eyes have observed,” she sang of the elderly villager she saw throughout the Kosovo trip. “We ask but she won’t let us in.”

Harvey is playing an unusual hand in The Hope Six Demolition Project. Created as a functionality art piece in which she and her musicians could be watched recording its songs in the studio, it addresses war, poverty and pollution, a world out of kilter. But Harvey is a reluctant agitpopper. Shouts from the audience at the Academy met with implacable silence, only broken at the end when she introduced her band. Like the lady in “Chain of Keys”, Harvey prefers to keep her public at a distance, even when she desires to engage them in wider problems.

Her all-male backing band played their role as retainers with formidable discipline: a saxophonist’s superbly wild solo at the end of “The Ministry of Social Affairs” was a rare moment of peacockery. Otherwise the theatricality was left to Harvey, front of stage in an artfully revealing black outfit, unencumbered by her usual guitar. The sound mix was completely judged, from the immense bass saxophone wailing like the dawning of an awful thought in “The Ministry of Defence” to the numbed subtleties of the ambient lament “Dollar, Dollar”, which ended with a wonderfully mournful tenor sax solo.

Harvey’s vocals have been dramatic, varying notes and tones expertly. At occasions she got carried away with performing, or becoming seen to be performing: the way she palmed her cheeks like Munch’s “The Scream” throughout “Dollar, Dollar” was pure ham. But largely her movements were expressive, as when her imploring gesture at the finish of “Rid of Me” was cast into darkness by an extinguished spotlight. She is a class act.


Section: Arts

Giorgione at the Royal Academy

Handful of of the Venetian painter’s works are identified to survive, however fascinating insights emerge at the RA’s new show

Giorgione’s ‘Virgin and Child in a Landscape’ (1500-05)©Alamy

Giorgione’s ‘Virgin and Child in a Landscape’ (1500-05)

For Gabriele D’Annunzio, Giorgione was “more myth than man”. For Bernard Berenson, he was a figment of our collective imagination: “Everyone has their own private Giorgione.”

The Venetian painter is the glamorous mystery man of the Renaissance. Lauded by Giorgio Vasari for his “physical functions and greatness of spirit”, a man who loved to play the lute and “sang divinely”, his star burnt bright and he died young. Born in the Veneto town of Castelfranco about 1478, by the age of 32 he was dead of the plague he had caught from a lover in Venice.

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In his wake he left a body of function that awed his contemporaries. Vasari mentioned his “talent and excellence” surpassed that of the Bellinis and even rivalled the Tuscans as they moved towards the “modern manner” — accurate to nature but classically right — which would define the Higher Renaissance.

His untimely passing may possibly account for the muddle of attributions that rapidly entangled his oeuvre. Right now only a handful of operates are agreed to be by his hand and most of these — “The Tempest” (in Venice’s Accademia), “The Sleeping Venus” (completed by Titian, at the moment in Dresden) and Vienna’s “Laura” — are not permitted to travel.

But the Royal Academy shows that, with sincere curation, it is feasible to create an exhibition around the memory of an artist whose paintings are frequently as enigmatic as his biography. With the couple of Giorgiones surrounded by operates by artists of the exact same or similar era — Giovanni Bellini, Dürer, Sebastiano del Piombo, Titian, Lorenzo Lotto — what emerges is a thoughtful, unpredictable, sometimes scintillating exhibition that illuminates one particular of the most imaginative moments in the history of art.

For any talented painter, late 15th-century Venice was a quite great location to be. Regardless of encroachments by the Ottoman Turks, the empire was still enormously wealthy. Nearby society was catching up with the sophisticated Florentines who had embraced classical humanism many decades earlier. A flourishing publishing business saw texts from Aristotle to Ovid suddenly accessible to a wider public than ever ahead of. The result was a wealthy, “nouveau cultured” elite who preferred painting that would reflect the complex new texture of their globe.

A stupendous clutch of portraits in the initial area include Dürer’s 1506 painting of Burkhard of Speyer, a German resident in Venice when the painter was himself passing via the lagoon city. With each flaw and shadow moulded in the full-wattage optics that were Dürer’s signature, its unflinching realism speaks of an age no longer frightened of psychological depth.

But Dürer’s crystalline gaze is less powerful than the far more impressionistic strategy Giorgione takes with his “Portrait of a Man” (often identified as the Terris portrait), on loan from San Diego. In 3-quarter profile, the sitter’s hooded, sideways gaze is simultaneously piercing however inward, his cheekbones softened by a Leonardesque sfumato — Giorgione utilised a grisaille undercoat — so that they melt into his gauzy grey locks and powder-soft black collar.

The lack of sharp contours heightens his air of vulnerability. No touch-me-not patrician, this is a man acutely aware of fortune’s slings and arrows. There’s no better proof that Vasari was correct when he says Giorgione could “reproduce the freshness of living flesh much better than any other artist who had ever painted . . . anywhere”.

The portraits of young males in the next room all boast an elusive dreaminess that typifies an age when poetry and music, especially courtly ballads sung by enjoy-struck young lute-players, have been considerably in vogue. That all of these had been regarded as to be by Giorgione at a single time or yet another tells us how thorny the issue of attribution can be.

Giorgione’s ‘Portrait of a Man’ (c1506)©San Diego Museum of Art

Giorgione’s ‘Portrait of a Man’ (c1506)

Assuming the attributions given here are right, the painter who shines is Giovanni Cariani. Slightly younger than Giorgione, Cariani — who shuttled in between Venice and Bergamo — is rarely regarded in the identical breath as his renowned Venetian peers. However the delicacy of the rose flush that colours the sitter’s pale complexion in “Portrait of a Young Man with a Green Book” (c1510-15) suggests the author was inspired by Giorgione’s gift for verisimilitude.

On the far side of the room, a drawing of a young man (1512) in coloured chalks, also attributed to Cariani, employs equally achieved shading. His grey-blue eyes boring into the viewer’s thoughts, this wary youth epitomises an era that saw portraiture evolve from an art that kept the audience at a distance to one that tugged them into intimacy.

This was when all manner of boundaries have been loosened. Sacred and secular, topic and viewer, object and background, all shaded into one particular another with far more fluidity than preceding generations could have imagined. Nowhere is this clearer than in the vogue for landscape painting.

Giorgione’s “The Tempest”, a mysterious encounter in between a man and woman in a storm-lit wilderness, is the fulcrum about which the bucolic style turns. Unable to borrow the real point, why did the curators not proffer a life-size reproduction rather than the diminutive replica on show right here?

Alternatively, pride of spot goes to Giorgione’s second string, “Il Tramonto” (1506-10), usually in London’s National Gallery. Even just before misguided restorers added in St George and the Dragon in the 1930s, this was a baffling painting. Untouched by the sulphur-rimmed sunset, its powdery dun-coloured rocks produce a Delphic stage for two males, a single fiddling with the leg of the other their presence may signal that Giorgione had read Sophocles’s play about Philoctetes (who was bitten by a snake en route to Troy), which had been published in Venice by 1502.

The printing boom that swept across the Veneto is the secret to this genre’s glory. From Petrarch to Ovid and Virgil, by way of contemporary literature such as Jacopo Sannazaro’s poem “Arcadia” and Pietro Bembo’s “Gli Asolani”, Giorgione and his peers suddenly had a tsunami of adore-in-a-landscape literature on which to draw.

Cariani’s ‘Portrait of a Young Woman’ (c1508-10)©Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Cariani’s ‘Portrait of a Young Woman’ (c1508-10)

They thrilled to the challenge. Representing the vogue for Ovidian mischief, two scenes by Sebastiano del Piombo — “Birth of Adonis” and “Death of Adonis” (c1505-08) — clasp the figures inside a fecund, frothy canopy of oaks as if nature rather than God was in handle.

That whisper of paganism offers such paintings their allure. Attributed to Titian, a gorgeous ink more than chalk drawing of a man and lady creating music in an Arcadian glade, her robe slipped down to reveal her fleshy, naked back, is a sheer celebration of sensory pleasure.

When artists are this excited by the concept of wilderness, even a Christian topic such as Lorenzo Lotto’s “St Jerome” (possibly 1506) seems in danger significantly less of divine punishment than of animistic spirits lurking in the light-splashed rocks and trees that loom above him.

What happens when such heathen pastorals encounter spiritual feeling? In the case of Giorgione’s “Virgin and Child in a Landscape” (1500-05), on loan from the Hermitage, the answer is pure magic. Despite the fact that produced for a private client’s domestic sanctuary, this little painting dominates the religious functions that are the penultimate chapter of this show. The Virgin presides more than a grassy valley with a village nestling in its kernel. From her tender milkmaid’s cheeks to the honey-stoned church tower, Giorgione has modelled colour and light into a visual praise-song for a planet where humanity, God and nature are as 1.

The final room is devoted to allegorical portraits, a style in which Giorgione had no equal. (His most touching diary of mortal flesh, “The Three Ages of Man”, was anticipated in London and may possibly still arrive from Florence’s Pitti Palace.) Happily, the presence of “La Vecchia” (1508-10), from the Accademia Gallery, satisfies all demands. As realistic a depiction of old age as any ever painted, Giorgione has utilised his mastery of sfumato to bleach all bloom from the old woman’s parchment skin and smoke-grey wisps of hair. With her eyes devoid of light and toothless mouth, she does not require the written message — “With Time” — in her hand for us to shiver with the expertise that such indignity is our destiny, as well.

The handsome “Zorzi” at least escaped that fate. Despite a scarcity of performs by him, this exhibition underlines the tragedy of such early loss.

‘In the Age of Giorgione’, Royal Academy, London, to June five. royalacademy.org.uk

Photographs: Alamy San Diego Museum of Art Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

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Section: Arts

‘Painting the Modern day Garden’ at the Royal Academy

A spectacular new exhibition shows how the 19th-century garden became the perfect topic for Impressionist experiment

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The garden is the man,” declared Arsène Alexandre on going to Monet in Giverny in 1904. “When the sunlight plays upon the water, it resembles — damascened as it is with the water lilies’ excellent round leaves, and encrusted with the valuable stones of their flowers — the masterwork of a goldsmith . . . Here is a painter who in our personal time has gone as far as one particular person can into the subtlety, opulence and resonance of colour.”

Critics nonetheless mocked Monet, he added, but “when one particular owns such a stunning garden, one particular can afford to laugh at such trivialities. I believe that this is the moral of Candide.”

Voltaire addressed Candide’s concl­usion — “il faut cultiver notre jardin” — to an aristocratic, ancien régime audience, but by the mid-19th century the garden was a democratic emblem: of the leisure and privacy afforded the newly affluent middle class. Combining nature and the spectacle of modern day life, it became the ideal subject for Impressionist experiment, and Monet specially pushed the motif to formal extremes reaching far into the 20th century.

The Royal Academy’s Painting the Modern day Garden: Monet to Matisse tells this story brilliantly. It starts with the higher artifice of Monet’s silhouetted white figure against a vast screen of greenery in sunlight in the Hermitage’s iconic “Lady in the Garden” (1867), and ends with the fantastic 12-metre violet-blue triptych “Water Lilies (Agapanthus)” (1915-26), its 3 components reunited for the first time in Europe considering that they left Monet’s studio. The first perform radically appropriates the flatness and bold colour of Japanese prints in the second the swirls and dabs describing the giant African lilies in Monet’s water garden take on a tremulous, agitated abstract life of their personal.

‘Murnau Garden II’ (1910) by Kandinsky©Merzbacher kunststiftung

‘Murnau Garden II’ (1910) by Kandinsky

The impact of each, and of Monet’s long innovations reconceptualising pictorial space, ripple across and unify a rich, diverse exhibition. With a touchstone of some 40 Monets, augmented by operates spanning the Impressionist and Modernist canon — from Renoir and Sargent to Dufy and Klimt — the show dovetails art, social and horticultural history in a stunning mise-en-scène far more pleasurable than any I have ever encountered at Burlington Property.

Playing on illusions of inner and outer space, greenhouses and garden chairs stand alongside huge decorative panels: Bonnard’s drowsy frieze “Resting in the Garden”, painted on the eve of the 1st world war and fraught with a sense of unreality Vuillard’s monumental/delicate glue-primarily based distemper “Woman Reading on a Bench” and “Woman Seated in an Armchair” (both 1898), the sinuous figures rhyming with curling foliage and ironwork, unseen considering that the 1950s.

Close up, botanical journals, catalogues, letters, add intriguing insights into painterly motifs: the craze for chrysanthemums, for example, imported in the 18th century from China and now crossbred in fin-de-siècle hues of “old gold, old pink, Havana cigar, carob, otter-skin, copper cauldron”, is traced in paintings by James Tissot, Dennis Miller Bunker and, a uncommon private loan from Los Angeles, a dizzying close-up of the heads of the flowers by Monet.

Throughout, individual worlds of gardener-painters are deliciously evoked in focused tiny displays: impoverished Pissarro’s open, gentle harmonies of light in “Spring, Plum Trees in Blossom” and “The Artist’s Garden at Eragny” wealthy Gustave Caillebotte, who experimented with raking light, tilting grounds and queasy perspectives as in “The Wall of the Vegetable Garden, Yerres” and “Dahlias: The Garden at Petit-Gennevilliers” Henri Le Sidaner’s hazy, shut-in depictions of his Gerberoy retreat “The Table in the White Garden”, “The Steps” and the late, foreboding “The Rose Pavilion” (1936-38), where blossoms swamp the house.

‘Nymphéas’ (1914-15) by Monet©Portland Art Museum

‘Nymphéas’ (1914-15) by Monet

Though there are celebrity gardens painted with panache — Joaquín Sorolla’s “Louis Comfort Tiffany”, from 1911, posed against yellow and white flowers in his garden providing on to the deep blue of Lengthy Island Sound, is a star loan — progressively figures disappear, and the show’s passage from Impressionist to Symbolist to Modernist garden is towards withdrawal and introspection.

Monet, who staked his early profession on painting figures in nature, eliminated them completely by 1895: the Bührle Collection’s “Monet’s Garden at Giverny” is a connoisseur’s image where his stepdaughter Suzanne, currently ill, posed a final time she is decreased to a schematic shape amongst irises, peonies, roses. Right here the composition points straight to the 1900s “Murnau Garden” series by Kandinsky, who acknowledged Monet as the catalyst for his understanding of colour.

By 1900, Monet, almost entirely absorbed in his water garden, was increasing at four to observe barely perceptible chromatic nuances glimpsed at initial light, the heat rising from the misty pond, changing reflections of clouds. He was now wealthy adequate to commit a fortune on exotic plants — to the suspicion of Giverny’s villagers, who believed new breeds were poisoning local streams — and on seven gardeners, a single operating by boat to dust the water lilies daily. “These landscapes of water and reflected light have turn into an obsession. It is beyond my old man’s strength, nonetheless, I want to express what I feel,” Monet said.

‘Claude Monet, Giverny’ (1905)©Hulton Archive

‘Claude Monet, Giverny’ (1905)

Of all the Impressionists, he alone followed the implications of painting quick, transitory sensation to its inevitable conclusion: modern art’s subjectivity, relativity, fragmentation and ultimately abstraction. All that is held inside the “Nymphéas” and “Weeping Willows” canvases — a dozen outstanding examples are right here — painted now from memory not nature, in tenebrous harmonies, or thickly encrusted with burning colours, or dissolving in blurry, uncertain outlines. He worked on these from 1914 to 1926, right after the death of his wife and son, below threat of blindness, and in mourning for France’s wartime losses.

Electrifyingly, these are shown in the business of vibrant “avant-gardeners” responding in their own way to war: Matisse’s harsh, distorted “The Rose Marble Table” (1917) from MoMA, Klee’s “Picture of a Garden in Dark Colours” (1923), Emil Nolde’s blood-red “Flower Gardens” (1922). The association demonstrates Monet’s resolute modernity in an art about interiority and the ravages of time as revolutionary as Proust’s: À la recherche du temps perdu was published in this period, 1913-27.

Yet Monet remained in thrall to nature as well, and melancholy coexists right here with the gardener’s belief in eternal renewal. His best friend the statesman Georges Clemenceau, visiting the artist in his final weeks, arrived to uncover him ecstatic about a box of lily bulbs from Japan that “would generate beautifully coloured blossoms. ‘You will see all this in the spring’, he told me. ‘I will no longer be here’. But 1 could tell that he did not really believe it, and he was really hoping to be there in Could to rejoice at the spectacle.”

To April 20, royalacademy.org.uk

Sponsored by BNY Mellon

Photographs: The Hispanic Society of America, New York Merzbacher kunststiftung Portland Art Museum Hulton Archive

Slideshow photographs: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford The Hispanic Society of America, New York Portland Art Museum, Portland Merzbacher Kunststiftung, Küsnacht The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design and style, Oslo/ADAGP, Paris &amp DACS, London MOMA, New York/Scala, Florence/Succession H. Matisse/DACS 2015 Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg Private collection, LA Getty

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Section: Arts