“Narrative Paintings”

Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, and I.C.A., London

“It is the idea that painting might again bear more subject-matter, might accommodate more of human life, that this exhibition sets out partly to explore,” writes Timothy Hyman in the catalogue for “Narrative Paintings,” an exhibition of figurative paintings by 21 artists which he has selected, and which attempts to identify a particular strain in current British figurative painting. The show spans two decades, from the Pop paintings of David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj to the present, including works by well-known painters like Howard Hodgkin and Anthony Green as well as many virtual unknowns. The catalogue reads as a crusade for high ideals, an elevation of those painters who “speak convincingly of our time,” who are “fully engaged” and who, spurning fashion, “elevate subject-matter over and above any formal concern. ”We are warned, too, that the show might seem “garrulous and oppressive,”

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