Every Angel has a Dark Side: a Julian Schnabel Exhibition Review at the Dairy Art Centre

I went along to the Dairy Art Centre, a sparkling new art gallery that has not long opened, just behind Russell Square to check out a new exhibition that has opened in London. ‘Every Angel has a Dark Side’ showcases Julian Schnabel’s latest and lesser-known work from the past ten years.

This is an exhibition any contemporary art lover would appreciate finding. The paintings on display are playful, critical, and colourful and make you think. The collection, chosen by the gallery founders Frank Cohen, Nicolai Frahm and Schnabel himself, is the product of four years in the making and many trips between London to New York.

It is not unusual for the viewer to have to really focus and find any message the artist intended deliver in a painting. In some ways art is there to challenge and stop you in your tracks for a while. Being a newcomer to Schnabel’s work it was refreshing to be able to look at a painting and easily pick up on the message it was attempting to portray.

There are a few reasons I felt Schnabel’s messages seem to be easier to pick up: Schnabel has a unique way of painting that I believe makes it easier for him to bring a message to life. For one, Schnabel’s use of colour and light (especially in Untitled, Chinese: 2011) is almost extraordinary. I also noticed, whether intentional or not, Schnabel doesn’t seem to be able to mix two colours together. This sounds like a snobbish comment, however, the unmixed colour gives Schnabel’s paintings a raw texture that you don’t find today. Keep on not mixing those colours Schnabel!

Schnabel has a very delicate touch when he paints and very dexterous. So much so, when you look at some of his paintings (The Unknown Painter and the Muse He Will Never Meet: 2010) you can almost see the character’s emotion and longing jumping out as words. He does that too, in ‘I Always Thought of Myself as Taller’ (2002).

Julian Schnabel's Grotto, 2013
Julian Schnabel’s Grotto, 2013 at the Dairy Art Project

Even though the exhibition only incorporates ten years of work, you can clearly see how Schnabel has assimilated more and more of his filmography in his art. It is Interesting to see how much an artist can develop over just ten years. To take Schnabel’s self portraits for example, in 2004 (Untitled (Self Portrait) 2004) it seems Schnabel saw himself as a serious, established artist and dressed himself in a demure brown suit. In 2014 (Untitled (Self Portrait) 2014), he paints himself as a young artist, full of life, colour and vibrancy.

Whether Schnabel was going through a midlife crisis, or his film work made him feel younger, his recent work seems brighter and more colourful, has more meaning. I wouldn’t say Schnabel’s work has got better or worse over the years, but his work has matured with him and incorporates new influences in his life.

The only criticism I can offer is that I feel the exhibition could have been laid out better. The Dairy Art Centre is a fantastic space to exhibit art and crafts but I feel the space was not utilised to its maximum potential. It would have been nice to see certain paintings together in the same room and I’m sure there was a method to Cohen and Frahms madness, I however did not see it.

All that aside, the new Dairy Art Centre is a fantastic new creative art venture in London and I hope more will pop up. If you’re looking to catch a little contemporary art in your spare time, head to Russell Square and see Schnabel’s exhibit until 27th July. The best of all? It’s free so no excuse not to poke your nose inside.

The next exhibit at the Dairy Art Centre is rumoured to showcase Yoshitomo Nara in the fall so watch this space for more info.

Have you been to the Dairy Art Centre? What do think of Schnabel’s recent work?

Let us know in the comments below.

Over and Out!

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