I went to see Christopher Le Brun’s new exhibition, a solo at one of the branches of the Lisson Gallery. It was a busy Saturday – the nearby Little Cairo on the Edgware Road, with its bustling supermarkets inscribed in Arabic script, was full of people, but the gallery was deserted. I thought it was a pity: the ladies in burkas were missing something good.
I enjoyed every moment I spent in the company of these paintings – ELS
I’ve known Le Brun’s work since the beginning of his career. I included him in a big show I curated for the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in the 1980s. Since then he’s gone on developing. The paintings now are large, but also delicate, refined abstractions that you can, if you insist, sometimes read as landscapes, or even as panoramic cityscapes. Some of them even reminded me of the late Colour Beginnings painted by JMW Turner. He is very much an Establishment grandee now – President of the Royal Academy since 2011, and the youngest to be elected to that position since Lord Leighton in 1878.
What struck me as ironic about the current event was the fact that the Lisson has, during the whole of its long existence – it was founded by Nicolas Logsdail in 1967 – been the champion of a rather puritanical, doctrinaire kind of avant-gardism. In earlier incarnations, it pioneered the acceptance of work by leading Minimal and Conceptual artists: Art & Language, Daniel Buren, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long.
That it should now be representing the work of a PRA indicates just how much times have changed. The Cultural Establishment and the (supposedly) avant-garde are now one and the same thing. If you want genuine disruptors, you’d better forget the established myths of supposed avant-gardism and look elsewhere.
In saying this, I mean no disrespect to Le Brun himself. This is a beautiful, tranquil, elegant show. I enjoyed every moment I spent in the company of these paintings.
Christopher Le Brun: New Painting 4 July – 18 August 2018 – Lisson Gallery London