By IRIS CONLAY
APUBLISHER (who shall he nameless) went into a bookshop and heard an assistant, with such an edge to his voice it would have cut through a block of granite, say to a customer, "It's the kind of book you have read to appreciate, sir."
Some exhibitions, but not all, say I, with edge, have to be seen to be appreciated. But others needn't.
This week, see the Contemporary Yugoslav Painting and Sculpture at the Tate. Look at Annigoni at the R.B.A. and the Academy at Burlington House.
Looking at Annigoni is the equivalent of turning over the pages of the best glossies. His world is not our world. Nor anyone else's either. If before a party he painted the dinner table your mouth would water at the sight of the food as it does before the coloured advertisements. His women are flawless, too—illustrations to romantic stories, And his gardens. if he painted them, would be weedless.
In the magazine mood engendered by the warmth of a hair dryer. this aspect of Annigoni gives pleasure, but when he is nostalgic for a lost sense of religion and paints a moral tract about good and evil, then he exasperates with a pretentiousness beyond all endurance.
Thank goodness, the Royal Academy this year is quite unconcerned with good or evil or any other of the eternal verities. If looking at Annigoni can be paralleled with a session among the magazines, a visit to the Academy is like reading lendinglibrary fiction. The work is admirable only when well constructed, because imaginatively and intellectually it isn't there. How careful it is not to be disturbing, not to stimulate, not to upset an order which was overthrown fifty years ago. It would never do to be different—each year's exhibition looks like the last and only changes imperceptibly over decades. When it picks up
anything new it puts it down where no one else will ever find it again. Once seen, the Academy is always forgotten, and this year's is no exception at all.
The exhibition which must he seen is the Yugoslavian, Away with the magazine and the library book, you have to see, not just look, to appreciate this one. You cannot even rely on well-known names to help you through—most of them begin with Pet or Pop or Pic and you can't pronounce or remember any.
Spend a few minutes, with the engine of your imagination running, before a bronze of infinite subtlety like " Inhabitants of an Exotic City " (Trsar) or a sophisticated painting of strange presences like " In the Doorway " (Srhinovie), and try to discover Byzantine influences in the contrasting childlike works like "The Hunter ", "The Lamb " and "The Peacock" (Vujakilja) or "The Beggar" (Pregelj) and "A Siena Motive" (Protic). Enjoy the lucious quality of the " Watching" series of abstracts (Milosavljevic), the exact observation of " In the Elevator" (Balk), the wit of " Quartet " (Mihelic) and all these things will give your own vision a new dimension. You may find some aspect of your world enhanced and heightened for ever after,
'Fhis is what art is for.