Culture notes

Do critics make good artists? Come and judge ours

The Spectator's Andrew Lambirth is on show with Maggi Hambling

1 March 2014

9:00 AM

1 March 2014

9:00 AM

Artists make good critics, but do critics make good artists? It’s hard to tell, when most are too chicken to try.

For over 20 years, Spectator critic Andrew Lambirth has been making collages. He caught the habit from the British Surrealist Eileen Agar in the late 1980s and kept it private, until forced to go public last year when Eileen Hogan selected six of his works for The Discerning Eye. Now 20 are going on show at the Minories in Colchester in a joint exhibition with his friend and fellow Suffolk resident Maggi Hambling (8–14 March, closed Sundays).

Hambling’s contribution to the show is a new five-day series of paintings grappling with her old adversary, the ‘raging beast’ that is the North Sea. Captured at dawn in winter, Hambling’s seascapes pick up where Courbet’s left off, chucking a load of Suffolk sand into the mix to turn the water that familiar English grey.

Lambirth’s collages are, by contrast, full of colour. There is nothing raging or bestial about them: true to their Surrealist roots, whatever churning they do is in the mind. Some, like ‘Music in the Head’, are purely abstract; others are artistic tokens of friendship. There are several homages to artist friends such as Craigie Aitchison (above). The most recent, dedicated to Hambling, features a small black scallop shell and a postcard of a crashing wave. The artist’s verdict on the critic’s work? ‘Rather good.’

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  • allymax bruce

    Laura, Art is subjective to everyone; and objective to the Artist. Take professional writers for instance, some are moved into prominent & glorified positions by their media political/social allegiances/agendas, but cannot write to save themselves. There’s ‘popular’ writers ‘out there’ that really are only famous for being famous; not because their writing is good, but because their publisher has pushed them forward because of their political/social allegiances/agendas. I would say, invariably, journalists that think they can ‘write’, can’t!

  • laurence

    Good criticism is itself art. Think of Hazlitt, Pater, Wilde, Cardinal Newman, Beckett and so on.