CAE Reading and Use of English Part 6
You are going to read four reviews of an art exhibition. For questions 37-40, choose from the reviews A-D. The extracts may be chosen more than once.
An art exhibition by Lowry
Four reviewers comment on an exhibition of paintings by Lowry.
There is a painting at the start of this riveting exhibition that stays in mind and it typifies the effect Lowry’s work has had on our sense of what he called ‘the northern industrial scene’. No other artist has painted factories and chimneys stretching far into the distance like stage sets so insistently and so recognisably. However, what belongs to Lowry’s imagination and what belongs to the actual world he observed is a question that runs through this exhibition. The pictures are a combination of observation and memory, patched together with elements taken from different cities, but this is part of their strength. They are not narrowly specific, limited to one place, yet they are deeply familiar to people who grew up in these places. Their sameness is their greatest attribute.
A good exhibition may enhance or deepen our understanding of an artist, but very few transform our perception of an already well-known name. However, this is the most radical and exciting re-evaluation of a British artist I have ever encountered, and a thrilling display of how paint conveys ideas, time and place; the paintings show a self-contained world at once fascinating and convincing in its relation to the artist’s own experiences. The initial impression as you walk into a room of his paintings is sameness; you have to look for difference, which is there. The curators of this exhibition have produced a display that demonstrates both why such repetition was important and how Lowry developed beyond it. The exhibition traces the evolution of Lowry’s work, which he described as ‘to put the industrial scene on the map, because no one had done it’. This is a modest aim for such an achievement. In these unique paintings there is darkness and light, while fictional scenes and true representation can be found side by side.
This is an interesting exhibition, although it has several flaws; paintings are not hung chronologically and visitors must work hard to see stylistic and technical developments over the artist’s working life of more than sixty years. Because most of his work has the same focus, there are too many similar paintings hanging close together; his last works drew heavily on both habit and memory. Ironically these are weaker than some of those produced by his many imitators, and his lesser-known but equally worthy portraits and late seascapes are unrepresented. Because of this it seems to reinforce the mistaken idea that Lowry was the only artist painting industrial scenes. There were many examples of industrial and urban subjects in the nineteenth century and Lowry was aware of his near contemporaries in London and their interest in modern life. Their influence cannot be ignored.
This noteworthy exhibition is guaranteed to polarise opinions, which is why it is so important to see it for yourself. It is extraordinarily hard to catch the tone of Lowry’s paintings in the gallery, however well they are shown. My sense is that this comes directly from the curious absence of feeling at the heart of Lowry’s art. He painted his own small world and once he established his style, it never really changed. He repeated himself, shuffling the scenery in picture after picture just as life repeats itself, the crowds he painted going to and fro among the same dark buildings day after day. His people were faceless, with sticks for limbs, small in stature and generally remote. Movement was implied, though never achieved. Strangely, for me it is his deserted scenes – haunting seascapes, the hillsides with houses piercing the sky like broken teeth – that are considered his best work. Yet it is his figures that most ordinary people will recognise instantly and which are a central feature of this exhibition.
37 has a different opinion from the others about whether the paintings in the exhibition
38 has the same view as Reviewer C about the value of Lowry’s less famous works?
39 has a different opinion from the others about the value of the exhibition?
40 has the same opinion as Reviewer В about the importance of Lowry as an artist?