From Anarchy to Abstraction
Mn. WYNDHAM LEWIS is in a state. There is no denying that ; and his state is keenly expressed in his paintings, of which about. fifty are to be seen at the Leicester Galleries. But, on the other hand, he still seems to be in the same state that he was in during the War. He is still terrified, apparently, of the mechanisation of modern life and of the general chaos in which the world stands. Moreover, he still uses much the
same methods to express his horror that he invented over
twenty years ago and which he has used ever since. The condition of puppets to which men are reduced by the inferno of the world is the theme of many of the new paintings ; and Mr. Lewis makes his robots jump woodenly about the stage. But they are the same robots, with almost the same features which hopped about in his pictures fifteen years ago. The dream element is now stronger than it was ; and the symbols are for that reason more obscure and the feeling of nightmare more intense. But that is the only change which has taken place. Whereas in the world which so much terrifies Mr. Lewis things have changed more fundamentally. The forces of evil are not now those of mere decay and chaos ; they are organised against the forces of progress on a far grander scale than ten or fifteen years ago. In the face of Fascism it is no use just throwing up one's hands and crying horror ; the only hope is to organise defence against the enemy. And therefore the anarchical attitude of Mr. Lewis is not of much use. In some of these paintings he tackles tangible problems of general concern, as in the Siege of Barcelona, though even here the symbolism seems to be unnecessarily obscure ; in others, as in the Departure of a Princess from Chaos, he gives form to a purely personal dream. Many of the portraits, on the other hand, apart from showing an astonishing mastery of draughtsmanship, are successful as far more simple state- ments about human beings.
Mr. Stanley Spencer, whose two new paintings, Adoration of Girls and Adoration of Old Men, form the centre of the exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery, seems also incapable of shaking off the remains of his negative spirit. In these new pictures he seems rather to have fallen back more deeply into satire, and though they display, like all his works, an astonishing observation of manners and physical character- istics they have nearly reached the point of pure caricature.
The Redfern Gallery have a collection of early paintings
by Sickert which will delight all his admirers. There is no denying Sickert's immense talents, but somehow the effect of a large number of his paintings all of the same type brought together in one room is slightly depressing. They are so subtle that one has to take them very carefully and individually. in order to enjoy them, and to be in the right frame of mind to do this one has to get over the monotonous impression which is produced when one first comes into the room. Per- sonally I enjoyed Mr. Frederick Gore's paintings at the same gallery ; but for reasons which my highbrow friends will regard as deplorable. First of all I have the same taste in landscape as Mr. Gore—represented, roughly speaking, by Provence and Dorset ; and secondly it seems to me that Mr. Gore renders the peculiar qualities of these- laildscapes with singular directness and vigour. I should suggest that he gets more of the feeling of Provence when he paints thin, as in From the Rocks, than when he paints thick, as in Mas de la Fontaine: and that he is exceptionally successful in giving the deserted quality of southern French streets, for instance in Tarascon. But then, I shall be told, this is all literature, and has nothing to do with painting.
The Mayor Gallery should be visited not because it contains
any great works of art, but because it has a series of toys of the greatest ingenuity. They are by Calder and are called Mobiles. They consist of complicated mechanisms of wires on which are suspended balls and discs of every kind, so finely balanced that when shaken or started off in any way they perform gyrations of which it can be said, if ever the words have any application, that their movements are beautiful. Tile rhythmic swing of the flexible wires and the dancing of the balls are as complicated and as finely executed as the steps in any ballet. Those who are disturbed by the content of the various kinds of painting discussed above will be quickly
s3othed by this flight of four-dimensional abstraction. '