News
Georg Baselitz: 1977-1992
Time Out
Chris Waywell
14 March 2017

We’re used to going to big shows in big galleries to see big paintings by big artists. Big queues and big knots of people in front of every big work help convince us that bigger is better (and worth £20 and three hours). This show of superstar German painter/provocateur Georg Baselitz has got some big paintings in it, but it’s a small show, and a moving experience for it. For a start, you can get really close to the works. I mean, nose-touching close. Baselitz is famous for his theatrical gestures and motifs of upside-down eagles and landscapes, which simultaneously place him in a grand tradition of figurative painting and crack and distort it in his attempts to escape it. Here, you can see that struggle in every brushstroke. In ‘Birnbaum I’ (‘Peartree I’), the tree (inverted, natürlich) reappears across four large canvases, in palettes from bright reds and greens to sombre earth tones and sooty blacks. Crowded into a square room, they overwhelm you with questions, the same questions that Baselitz is trying to answer: why paint? How should you paint? What should you paint? In the next room, the diptych ‘Akt und Flasche’ (‘Nude and Bottle’) turns two of art history’s perennial motifs – the nude and the still life – on their heads, creating ominous, glowering canvases. Downstairs, the ‘portraits’ ‘Serge’ and ‘Nest’ are barely legible as such, the former overpainted with fierce black squares, like a kind of disruptive camouflage. There’s not a lot of Baselitz’s humour in this show, none of his weird feral wood sculptures, or ‘remixes’ of his own work, but there is a whole lot of his strange Teutonic soul, in a space where you can feel the unfiltered power of his paintings. And that feels like a big thing.