T.J. Clark and Anne M. Wagner last year curated a major Tate show reviewing the career of English painter L.S. Lowry (1887-1976) who set the majority of his urban landscapes in and around Manchester. I have just experienced the high fun of reading the exhibition text, Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life. Here is a passage near the end of T.J. Clark's splendid essay –
"Ugliness was a subject, a reality; but also a cliche. Lowry was all too aware of the 'modern' fascination with the grotesque and deformed – and eventually succumbed to it. But what is strongest and most characteristic in his art, it seems to me, is something else: a feeling for aspects of the urban scene that constantly edge towards the ugly – even the Ugly with a capital 'U' – but never quite get there: drab colours, confined spaces, cheap fabrics, dilapidation, stiff movements, heartbreaking (but essentially innocent, 'business-like') non-architecture. The ugliness of such a world is 'the way things are': it is built into experience: human beings cannot afford to see it as they go about their daily rounds. The artist who does not understand this – that the an-aesthetic was a condition of survival – understands nothing."
|Football Match |
|Hillside in Wales|
|Lowry at Tate |