Dilettante's Diary

Apr 18/13

Who Do I Think I Am?
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Favourite Works: 2004-2013
Two Novels by BARBARA PYM
Sabbath's Theater by PHILIP ROTH
July 18/13
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La Traviata: Met's Live HD Version
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How Fiction Works
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Sex for Saints
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The Jesus Sayings
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Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 08
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Head to Head
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Me In Manhattan
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About Me
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OTHER STUFF: Art Exhibitions, Concerts, etc.

The date that appears above is the date of the most recent reviews. As new reviews are added, the date will change accordingly. The new reviews will appear towards the top of the page and the older ones will move further down. When the page is closed, the items will be archived according to the final date on the page.

Reviewed here: Ruby Sparks, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Keep the Lights On, Bernie, Habemus Papam, August (DVDs);   Music Heals (Concert) Toronto Art Expo 2013 (Exhibition)

Given the dearth of watchable movies out there, this seemed like a good time to catch up on the DVD versions of some that we'd missed in the theatres.

Ruby Sparks written by Zoe Kazan; directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris; starring Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Elliot Gould, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan, Alia Shawkat

The real-life couple of Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan team up in this quirky fling.

You get the feeling right from the start that there’s something right about it when you see the Dano character complaining to his shrink (affably played by Elliot Gould) that he has problem with the fact that his male dog pees like a girl dog. Turns out that Mr. Dano’s character, Calvin, tossed off a hugely successful novel when he was a highschool dropout. He’s a literary sensation now but he hasn’t been able to write another novel. He isn’t having much luck with women either; the ones who throw themselves at him are only interested in the idea of him as a writer, not the real person. On the suggestion of his shrink, Calvin starts writing about an imaginary girl named Ruby Sparks, the kind of girlfriend he’d like to have. Guess what! She shows up in his apartment, exactly as he’s written her. He discovers that anything he writes about her turns out to be true.

Lots of good shtick ensues. For instance, the scenes where Calvin’s trying to explain to his incredulous brother (Chris Messina) about Ruby, then introducing her to him. And to their hippie-dippie parents (Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas). Some great ideas are burbling under the surface, mostly about whether or not we can control the people in our lives and whether they live up to our images of them. This idea of a creator’s having control over someone’s character isn’t exactly new, of course. I’m thinking Pygmalion and Svengali, just for starters. But there’s a very fresh approach to the theme here, what with the contemporary singles’ scene that Calvin and Ruby frequent. Another question that comes up is the one about how the public thinks of writers.

The character that Paul Dano plays is pretty much the same sort of sidelined nerd that we usually get from him but here the type is explored in much greater depth and range, which makes for a significant accomplishment in terms of Mr. Dano’s acting credits. Zoe Kazan, the author of the script, has the perfect gamin-like quality for the kooky Ruby.

Generally, I don’t like movies that have a strong sci fi or fantasy element. This one came close to testing my patience on that score but it never tipped me over into an actual funk. I think that’s because the whole thing is handled so lightly and charmingly. There’s more truth about life and people in the whimsy served up here than in many of the pretentious, solemn things I’ve seen lately. Best of all, there’s no attempt to provide a solution or an explanation to the mystery of what’s going on. You’re left to make your own sense of it.

CC: a quirky cutie.


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen written by Simon Beaufoy; based on the novel by Paul Torday; directed by Lasse Hallstrm; starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Kristin Scott Thomas, Rachel Stirling, Tom Mison.

Ewan McGregor plays a tight-assed Scottish scientist who’s an expert on fish and who works in some government department dealing with the environment. Emily Blunt’s character comes to him for advice because she works for some big financial firm that represents a fabulously wealth Sheikh (Amr Waked). He wants the British government to help him establish a salmon fishery in a river in the Yemen that he’s creating by means of a big dam. Mr. McGregor’s character is having none of it; it’s the stupidest scheme he’s ever heard of. But the government – as represented here mainly by Kristin Scott Thomas as an obnoxious press officer to a minister – thinks it would be a great public relations coup to showcase a project that has Britain cooperating with an Arab country. Mr. McGregor is forced to get on board or lose his job.

Apart from the fact that the premise – involving science, government, politics and geography – is somewhat unusual, this is just your classic, formulaic movie that throws an unlikely couple together, then sits back and asks us: Do you think there’s any chance that a little romance might be stirring here? Everything’s perfectly contrived according to the genre. It’s the kind of movie that shrieks novelistic-saga-adapted-to-the-screen. Large portions of it fall back on the predictable structure: thirty seconds of so of gorgeous scenery followed by dialogue for a minute or two, followed by more scenic vistas. In order to clear the decks for the expected developments, current partners must be got rid of as expeditiously as possible. The dust-up between Ewan McGregor and his wife (Rachel Stirling) is particularly shallow and perfunctory. And there’s no reason to see why the McGregor and the Blunt characters would be drawn to each other, except that they’re in the kind of movie where that’s gotta happen. Maybe the music, the constant, swelling epic quality of it, is supposed to do it for them – and us.

Just in case, you don't appreciate that this is a really arty movie, one shot shows an aerial view of Mr. McGregor leaving work in a throng of pedestrians but then he suddenly changes his mind, turns and starts making his way through the crowd in the opposite direction. Get it? He's swimming against the stream! The movie does contain some elements of conflict and danger that could have provided some genuine drama. The sport fisher folk in Britain are furious about the proposal to transport thousands of salmon to the Yemen and tribal groups there are enraged that this scheme is an offence against God’s plan. But both of these issues are treated so cursorily and superficially that they fail to provide the kind of serious ballast that probably made the novel worth reading.

The only interesting aspect of the movie, for me, was watching Mr. McGregor fall back on his native Scottish burrr and draw on his inner geek to present a character quite unlike the cool, with-it heroes he usually gives us. It can be amusing to watch this guy’s awkward attempts to show a sense of humour. (There’s some suggestion that he has Asperger’s.) I couldn’t see anything special about Emily Blunt’s presence except for her requisite beauty. The one thing you can say about Kristin Scott Thomas’s performance is that this bitch who stomps around blowing clouds of smoke and issuing orders is certainly the least sympathetic character she’s ever played. The Sheikh, Amr Waked, is not only impossibly rich, but incredibly noble and high-minded too. This salmon thing is supposed to be a gift to the local community’s economy. He even tries to convince the non-believing Mr. McGregor that faith is like fishing, i.e. lots of waiting. In fact, if you’re looking for a flawless Sheikh, you need look no further than this guy. (He does have an awfully big nose, though).

CC: A formulaic romantic yawn.


Keep the Lights On written by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias; directed by Ira Sachs; starring Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth

I was sorry to miss this one when it was playing locally, some time in the past year. The previews made it look very dramatic, in an artsy way. And the title seemed rather portentous. I gathered the movie was getting very good reviews.

It’s about two guys in Manhattan, Erik and Paul, who meet, fall in love and move in together. The movie follows the changes in their relationship, starting in 1998 up to about 2008. Erik makes documentary films and Paul works in publishing. Erik’s a sweet, loving, needy guy. Paul’s, something of a pretty boy but he’s unreliable and he has a drug problem. That’s the main crux of the story: can the relationship survive the vicissitudes of his addiction?

I find it hard to see what all the fuss was about. For the most part, the story’s boring and banal. Because we get no insight into the characters, there’s no resonance to the love story. In the "Making Of" documentary, director Ira Sachs explains that the movie’s based on a past relationship of his. Maybe, then, this is a warning to auteurs not to fall in love too much with their own story; it may not read that well to other people.

The dialogue is strictly run-of-the-mill. Whenever Erik tries to talk about their problems, Paul’s standard rebuttal is the all-purpose: "Don’t start!" One of the actors, in the documentary, says that it was the naturalism of the dialogue that attracted him to the movie. Natural is fine but it should include something worth hearing. Mind you, there could have been some interesting tidbits of chatter that I missed. This appears to be another entry into the "mumblecore" genre.

The best that I could say for the movie is that, in the spirit of a kitchen-sink mood piece, it may present an accurate, if dreary, picture of the New York singles scene. Some of Paul’s and Erik’s women friends appear, not because they have anything to do with the story, but apparently because they help to round out the demographics. Oh...one other thing: I loved the plaintive honky-tonk music through the opening credits.

CC: dreary realism


Bernie written by Skip Hollandsworth and Richard Linklater; based on the magazine article by Skip Hollandsworth; directed by Richard Linklater; starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey, Brady Coleman, Richard Robichaux, Rick Dial, Brandon Smith, Larry Jack Dotson, Merrilee McCommas

Because this movie’s based on a magazine article about a real-life happening, I don’t have to stick to the Dilettante’s Diary policy of not revealing plot. In this case, the plot’s already out there.

In 1997, Bernie Tiede, a very nice man, was accused of killing Marjorie Nugent, a rich elderly widow who had become his close friend in the small town of Carthage, in east Texas. Everybody in town was shocked. Bernie was very well liked and was famous for being kind to everybody, especially little old ladies. But he’d confessed to the crime. His defence was that Marjorie had driven him to desperation with her possessive, jealous demands on him. And why had he kept her body in a freezer for nine months? Because, he said, he was waiting for a chance to give her a proper burial. He was, you see, an assistant funeral director at one of the local mortuaries.

Certainly great material there for a movie. But director Richard Linklater and his co-writer Skip Hollandsworth, have chosen a very odd way of presenting it.

The style is semi-documentary, with various townspeople – actual citizens of Carthage – commenting on the events, giving their opinions of Bernie, their speculations on his guilt, their impressions of the victim. Those commentaries take up about a third of the movie, turning it, in some respects, into a morality play about guilt, innocence, good and evil. The townspeople are fascinating with their colourful comments. One of these townies, Kay Epperson, is a real find as a character actor.

But one problem with the citizens’ comments is that they slow things down. You never get much of a chance to become engaged with the other two-thirds of the movie, the scenes showing Bernie’s story: his arrival in town, the development of his friendship with Marjorie, the shooting, the trial and the aftermath. Whenever things get rolling, the momentum is stopped by the interjections of the Greek choristers. Also, the gossipy comments from these people create an underlying feeling of satire about life in a small town. Stephen Leacock transplanted to east Texas. Why the snarkey tone? A real person was killed here, after all.

The acting from the professionals further complicates things. Jack Black is interesting as Bernie. (It’s a special pleasure to hear him sing the old gospel songs at church gatherings.) But there’s a preening quality to his niceness. He never seems like a real person. It’s as if he’s putting on an act, playing a joke. There’s nothing sincere about his sincerity. At the end of the movie – and in the "Making Of" documentary – you see clips of the real Bernie and you realize that he couldn’t have been anything like the Jack Black version. Nobody would have fallen for him. The Marjorie character, as played by Shirley MacLaine, is even less believable. She comes across as nothing but a shrewish harridan. There’s no hint of anything like the real affection that must have developed between her and Bernie.

The only authentic note in the major roles comes in the person of Danny Buck, the town’s prosecutor, as played by Matthew McConaughey. The courtroom scene where he’s grilling Bernie is a marvel of fine acting. At one point, Danny mispronounces the name of a show that Bernie and Marjorie had seen in New York, "Les Miserables." When Bernie corrects Danny’s pronunciation, Danny steps back, as though he has been slapped, but you know that his being put down by Bernie, his being shown as a rube compared to the sophisticated Bernie, is exactly what’s needed to turn the jury against Bernie. And the brilliance – subtle as it is – of Mr. McConaughey’s acting is that he shows us that he knows that this moment of disgrace is a triumph for him.

With such potentially fascinating avenues to explore, it’s hard to see why the Mr. Linklater and Mr. Hollandsworth opted for a mostly farcical take on the story. One joke that we so don’t need is the appearance of a hooded figure of death, with scythe, in the background of a fatal car accident that leaves several multilated teenage bodies in the road.

CC: an intriguing tale told in a discordantly jokey way. 

Habemus Papam written by Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo and Federica Pontremoli; directed by Nanni Moretti; starring Michel Piccoli, Nanni Moretti, Margherita Buy

Given the events at the Vatican in the last few months, everybody has been talking about this one. Made in 2011, there’s a remarkably prophetic aspect to it. An old pope has died, the conclave chooses a new pope but, when the time comes to make the ceremonial announcement to the crowds – "Habemus Papam" ("We Have A Pope") – the cardinal chosen has skedaddled. Seems he suddenly feels he can’t bear the burden. What follows appears to be a kind of nervous breakdown on his part.

Somebody cites a rule saying that the cardinals can’t leave their seclusion in the Vatican until the new pope has been presented to the world. That can’t be done because he’s now in hiding. Some of the attempts by the Vatican bureaucracy to deal with this are very entertaining. How would you like to be a shrink (played here by the film’s director, Nanni Moretti) brought in to deal with such an illustrious patient and have to try to conduct psychotherapy while a hundred cardinals are standing around the room, telling you whether or not you can grill your patient about things like dreams and mammas?

The setup is so good that I kept wondering if the movie could maintain such a high level of inventive comedy. Alas, it can’t. It devolves into some pretty silly stuff. Like a prolonged sequence about a volleyball tournament for the cardinals as a means of whiling away the time. I think we’re supposed to be amused at the sight of these old guys flapping around in their robes on the court. The only satisfaction I took from the scene is that it was nice to think of so many elderly actors getting the work.

By way of contrast to such nonsense, there seems to be some attempt to deal with the plight of the pope – very sympathetically played by the kindly-faced Michel Piccoli – in terms of exisential angst or something along that line. There’s some intrigue about his sister who acted in Chekhov and his love of theatre. Maybe this would have been a very good movie if the pope’s problems had been explored with some consistency but they’re only hinted at in an enigmatic way. A couple of sudden plot developments, for lack of explanation, don’t make any sense. The ending feels unresolved. Maybe it’s an Italian thing. Maybe we’re not supposed to ask for coherence as long as we’re having fun.

CC: a great premise that’s unfulfilled.


August written and directed by Eldar Rapaport; starring Murray Bartlett, Daniel Dugan, Adrian Gonzales, Hillary Banks

This one (or a shorter version) has played at several film festivals but, as far as I can tell, it hasn’t had a general theatrical release.

Troy (Murray Bartlett), a guy in his forties, has been living in Spain for several years. He comes back to L.A. and looks up his old boyfriend, Jonathan (Daniel Dugan), who’s just turning thirty. Jonathan’s now in a relationship with Raul (Adrian Gonzales). Do you think things might to sizzle again between Jonathan and Troy? Do you think this might cause problems vis a vis Raul? If you’ve seen any movies, you can probably supply the answers to those questions. As for the question of whether or not the subsequent developments include anything interesting, the answer is: No.

CC: a dud.


Music Heals (Piano Concert) Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto; April 13

For his Music Heals event this spring, Ricker Choi invited fourteen-year-old Anson Hui to appear as guest performer. Master Hui has won an incredible number of piano competitions, most notably the 2010 American Protg International String and Piano Competition, which led to his Carnegie Hall debut in New York City.

For Torontonians who haven’t had a chance to catch his winning performances in music festivals around the GTA, it was a treat to hear this pridigious young pianist. His digital dexterity is flawless and phenomenal. What struck me most, though, was the musical intelligence in his playing of J.S. Bach’s Italian Concerto. The different voices could be heard very distinctly, especially in the quieter passages. At times, I wondered if perhaps Master Hui was letting himself get carried away with the urge to play too quickly – a tendency that many young pianists are prone to – almost for the thrill of making the playing look so easy. A slightly slower pace might have allowed a little more breathing space between the phrases. In the third momement, it did seem that a couple of phrases ran away from the pianist. Master Hui also played some Chopin tudes and the Nocturne in E Flat major. Did the nocturne have the depth of feeling, the emotional range, that an adult pianist would bring to it? No. But Master Hui’s touch on the piece was exquisite to the point of perfection.

Ricker Choi, the concert’s organizer, has won distinction by ranking among the top winners in several international competitions for amateur pianists. He now works in the financial industry but he dedicates the gift of his musicianship to the benefit of the community. In the case of this concert, for example, the net proceeds will go to SickKids Foundation.

But the charitable groups he favours aren’t the only beneficiaries. His audiences also reap great rewards in that every piece he plays is a revelation. Take his performance of the two Debussy pieces, Arabesque No 1 and "Clair de Lune" (from "Suite Bergamasque"). Both of these works sometimes sound to me like bits and pieces of disparate fragments but Mr. Choi’s musical mind is so all-encompassing that he melds each work into one coherent whole. In the case of the Arabesque, which I’ve heard many times, Mr. Choi showed that it’s all about rubato. That made it flow convincingly. His tone, meanwhile, was meltingly ravishing. And yet, Mr. Choi never imposed his own personality on the work in a schmaltzy or a sentimental way. You might say that he entered so fully into the composer’s space that he made it seem like his own.

Mr. Choi’s playing of his own arrangement of the third movement from Yin Chengzong’s Yellow River Piano Concerto brought great drama from the piano: stormy passages alternating with sweetly singing melodies. But perhaps it was the performance of Beethoven’s Opus 27, No 2 that showed Mr.Choi’s artistry at its most insightful. In introducing the piece, host Abby Zhang, a music student at the University of Toronto, made much of its popular label as the "Moonlight Sonata," a tag that has nothing to do with Beethoven’s intentions. However, that theme gave Mr. Zhang a way of showing various links between the three movements.

When it came to the playing of the piece, however, Mr. Choi – to my great relief – completely shed the cloying associations of the moonlight clich. It sounded like quite another piece, almost a study on the effect of changing key signatures: spooky, dark sections shot through with rays of light here and there. The second movement had a light, dance-like quality that I’ve not often heard in those repeated chords that often sound heavy and dull. In the rumbustious third movement, I was particularly struck by the bouncy rhythms that Mr. Choi brought out, making the movement seem not nearly as sombre as it often does. This movement was another demonstration of Mr. Choi’s mastery in shaping the arc of a piece. Beethoven’s works, because he gives such short snippets of ideas before breaking away from them, sometimes seem to me like disparate bits flying off in all directions but Mr. Choi entered so fully into the spirit of the piece that he made it seamless and logical.

In the final piece on the program – Adolf Schulz-Evler’s Arabesque Variations on Johann Strauss Jr.’s Blue Danube waltz – Mr. Choi settled in for some fun and let fly with some of the most joyful sounds that a piano is capable of producting. www.rickerchoi.com



Toronto Art Expo 2013 Metro Toronto Convention Centre; April 11 to 14.

For the past few years, this show appears to have been on a steady decline in terms of quanity and quality. There are less than two hundred artists participating this year and I’d say, at a rough estimate, that not more than fifty percent of them are showing good work.

What are the chances of attracting buyers when the organizers accept so much inferior art into the show? Does it do the serious artists any good to be seen in association with the not-so-good ones? I get the impression that some of them – especially the ones from other countries – are drawn to this show by the hoop-la that the organizers lay on to try to make it look like a major art event. When these people arrive, they may find that it isn't. Which is not to blame the organizers; this their living and they deserve to make a profit the same as anybody else. That’s why the artists pay substantial fees to appear in the show. But what are the prospects of profit for the artists themselves?

So many questions tend to make you wonder whether this can be a happy experience for anybody.

Fortunately, however, some of the most beautiful art in the show greets you as you step off the escalator. The enormous paintings (about 10 ft by 6 ft) by Ross Mendes hang on the front wall of the hall, just below the lofty windows. There’s an airy, floating quality about these asbstracts that makes me think they may be sky-inspired. The colours, though, are in tones of oranges, pinks and yellows, with some touches of blues and, occasionally, little accents of red. The swirl of the predominant colours has a very uplifting effect. (The show doesn’t seem to provide any biographical info about this artist and I haven’t been able to find any.)

One of the most distinctive voices in this show is that of Greg Kirch. His paintings could be described as landscapes from an aerial view, except that the perspective is somewhat skewed: occasionally you see a horizon. The subject matter is mostly rivers, parks and pools but the style of execution is very simplified, almost diagrammatic, tending towards the abstract. Rapids and rocks in a blue river, for instance, might be conveyed by some slashes of white and daubs of red. In their bright, primary colours, the works have something of the feel of delightful illustrations from a kids’ book.

You can always count on Gordon Harrison for vigorous Canadian landscapes, usually showing a strong influence of the Group of Seven, but the works that excite me most in his collection this year are the ones that render brilliant autumn woods with less reverential realism, and with more panache, tending almost to abstract.  www.gordonharrisongallery.com

Regular readers of this website will know that I’m a fan of the abstracts by James Lane. It surprised me, this year, to discover that his palette has changed to subtler, softer hues. There’s a lot of pink , mauve and grey in them. As ever, though, he creates a tremendous sense of depth by layering the pigments. Unlike abstracts that seem to lie flat on the wall, these invite you to peer into their enthralling inner worlds until you feel like you're losing yourself in them. www.jameslaneabstracts.viewbook.com

In the booth of the Callanish Contemporary gallery, Paul Roorda’s works (crushed stone, gold leaf, rust, beeswax, on paper on board) convey a very attractive serenity by means of compositions using mostly rectangular elements in beiges, browns and golds.

Something that struck me as rather new in the still life department was a large work by Donald Ian McCaw entitled "Bedside." Executed in very fine drawing (I gather it’s tracing from photographs), with large, flat blocks of colour, it shows a man’s glasses, watch and cufflinks just as he might roll over and see them on the table beside him in the morning. I particularly like it when artists make us see these humdrum things in a new way. www.mbafabrications.com

I don’t know whether to call them sculptures or paintings but the works of James Kennedy certainly have an original quality. Consisting of black sheets of steel that stand out about two or three inches from the wall, they have shapes cut out of them that you might not recognize at first. Then you realize they’re the outlines of certain countries as they appear on a typical world map. What gives them their unusual look is that lighting from overhead casts shadows through the cutout sections onto the wall behind. It could be that the resulting blur of the outlines of the countries puts into question some of our assumptions about geography. www.jameskennedy.ca

The landscapes of Katrina Schaman demonstrate a strong personal style: one that’s based on solid drawing skills while branching out into more expressive statements. www.katrinaschaman.com  It was a landscape as well that appealed to me most in the works of Mark Gleberzon. Usually it’s his wild and crazy city motifs, in almost a pop art style, that attract one’s attention but this time I was entranced by a depiction of trees beside water – very simplified, in lovely shapes of blue and green. ("MJG Gallery" on Facebook)

Not much of the portrait work or life study in this show made a good impression on me but Anya Droug’s paintings of people, often in somewhat strained circumstances, are very well done.  www.facebook.com/AnyaDroug  I like the lively, jumbled groups of classical musicians by Marina Feldman www.keytoart.com  There’s a very evocative feeling to the somewhat indistinct human figures in the paintings by Nihal Kececi www.nihalart.com  Aurelie Bauer, whose work appears in the Bruno Massa gallery from Paris, catches fleeting but mysterious glimpses of people in parks, by rivers and bridges www.galeriebrunomassa.com  Yvonne Opalinski’s way of using line to shatter and fragment people says something, perhaps, about our hectic world www.yvonneopalinski.com  The paintings by Ginette Gibeault aren’t of people, but there’s almost a human character to the birds grouped together in her compositions www.gibeaultstudio.com  

Most of the work that struck me as worthy of special attention turned out to be in the abstract genre. Myron Swistun is showing a series of works on backgrounds of various hues of intense green, with small but intriguing squiggles and blobs in blacks and reds. www.myronswistun.com  There’s a similarly fascinating appeal to Nadine Prada’s works in acrylic and mixed media on paper: greyish-white cloud-like shapes pooling on pinkish backgrounds www.thepradagallery.com  Anthony Agnelli’s abstracts, constructed with acrylic and matte gel on masonite, feature large, vaguely organic shapes in pleasingly varied compositions, with a somewhat understated effect, thanks to the use mostly of secondary colours like purple and green www.anthonyagnelli.com  Many of the abstract works in the show fail (in my opinion) to use geometric figures to make good compositions but Carole Beauvais manges to do so very effectively, with repetitions of rectangles in bright, bold colours www.carolebeauvais.com  The booth of the Bruno Massa gallery from Paris shows particularly good abstracts by three artists: Isabelle Sarian, Philippe Pelissier and Valerie Salem www.galeriebrunomassa.com  

Most of the rest of the good work in the show is by artists who have often been mentioned in reviews on this website, although some of them are new to me:

  • Andrea Maguire’s human shapes emerging from earth-toned backgrounds www.andreamaguire.com  
  • Eduard Gurevich’s vibrant landscapes www.eduardgurevich.com  
  • Youssef Rami’s abstracts consisting of small rectangular shapes that suggest cityscapes www.artbyrami.com  
  • Dragan Sekaric Shek’s people struggling through misty surroundings www.shexart.com  
  • Lilian Crum’s eloquent networks of fine, drooping lines
  • Sylvie Moncion’s beautifully lit corner of an old building and her stately painting of an elderly man sitting under a tree www.sylviemoncion.com  
  • The gorgeous photographic "paintings" of flowers in close-up by Denise and Pieter Mayer www.framingdreams.com  
  • Unlike many glass works that are too florid for my taste, Wesley Neal Rasko's very pleasing abstract compositions in glass use simple geometric shapes www.wnrglass.com  

Of course, it’s possible that even the most diligent reviewer will miss some good work. I probably did. But most of the work that’s not mentioned here has been omitted for one or more reasons. Much of the abstract painting struck me as the kind of thing wherein the artist throws paint around with great enthusiasm for colour but little sense of composition. Some work that was executed competently was kitschy and sentimental. And then there’s the kind of painting that I simply don’t like. Works that are fantastical and allegorical in theme don’t appeal to me. Nor does the impasto style that layers on paint so thickly that it’s almost three-dimensional.

However, it may be that these are the kinds of things that some visitors to the show are looking to buy. For the sake of the artists, I hope so.

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com