By IRIS CONLAY
Many will not like these . .
IF only most of the pictures in the London Group, now hanging in those desolate galleries of the R.B.A. in Suffolk-street, were to be transferred to Burlington House there to join a small selection of London Group-ish pictures from the Academy exhibition, we should have a single interesting and encom passable show of current British art to enliven the London summer scene and to take our visitors round without having to depretate large areas of talented mediocrity.
As it is there is very little in the present show of the London Group which is really dull, but in those sad premises nothing shows to its best advantage.
Anyway the exhibition is off this week, whereas the Academy blazes away all the summer months, has much more limelight and displays a great deal that would be better hidden in boardroom, bedroom and sometimes lumber room.
THERE are 1.542 exhibits in the a Academy this year. How can one expect to find the needle of genius in such a haystack? Could any country .maintain quality in such quantity? Halve the size — lookirig at pictures is not a marathon race—and the level would be raised automatically. Effectively encourage our best artists to send work and there will be less room for the mediocre.
Something of this kind is already beginning to happen. hut the mills of the Academy grind exceeding slow. The "rebel" element. for some years creeping up from the end galleries, this year achieved the central gallery, and on one of those hallowed walls banes a John Bratby I How brazen can you get.
But just to keep everyone guessing. the quotation on the titlepage of the catalogue this year. which gives the clue to the Academy's mood, is from James Thurber — "You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backwards." The viewer will decide. each for himself, which way the Academy is falling this time.
TAKING up central positions in
the same gallery are two challenging religious pictures with modern settings by Card l Weight; a Crucifixion observed from behind the three crosses and visualised as a kind of circus for the masses who. gape at what is there displayed high above on a prometheus-like rock. The crowd shows no compassion, but no ardmosity either, only blatant curiosity.
On the opposite wall Mrs Weight's "Entry Into Jerusalem" tells the same kind of story—curiosity not hostility towards Christ. which is perhaps the key to the ordinary man in the street's atfilude to religion today.
In this picture, a working class man. cloth capped. is being conducted on a donkey along a narrow. typically English street. He gestures quietly in an accepting way with his hands. hut is an ineffectual figure without authority, without presence.
Is this. too, the milky-watery conception of Christ, that originally the churches have been guilty of inventing, now served up with a veneer of socialism? Along the way to this Jerusalem heads pop over the garden gates In see Him pass. Apathetically taking no action, they watch the procession. but there is an atmosphere of underlying tension here that makes this work more affecting than the dramatic Crucifixion.
Many people will not like the ideas that Mr. Weight has expressed, but these pictures have a great deal to tell us about Christianity in the Market Place,