Simplifying the iconic

Johannes Vermeer, The Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665

There are some images that stick in the mind. Johannes Vermeer’s The Girl with a Pearl Earring is surely one such. There is something haunting about the way the girl looks out at the viewer; it’s mostly about the eyes, but the slightly open mouth adds to the mood of the piece. The girl is caught in the moment rather than formally posing for a portrait. Though the girl is painted with beautiful detail, the painting as a whole is quite simple. The background is dark and lacking in detail, so it’s all about the girl and that earring that catches the light.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that a painting that has inspired first a novel and then a film should also have become the subject for another painting.

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Glossy indifference

Gary Hume, Bad Tooth, 2011

Gary Hume’s exhibition The Indifferent Owl is as slick and polished as one might expect from an artist who paints with gloss paint and exhibits at White Cube, but for me, though I generally like Hume’s work a lot, there is something missing. Quite what that something is I don’t know but maybe it’s the indifference in the exhibition’s title seeping out and affecting the way I see the work.

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