It’s disorienting when cities lose their gray zones—the undefined plots of fallow land that used to line the banks on the Brooklyn side of the East River, for instance, the nineteenth-century warehouses, docks, and quietly deteriorating, decommissioned refineries. Crumbling cement made porous by weather and weeds, the whole of it replaced now by faceless, blue-hued high-rise towers of glass and steel that sprang up like mutant mushrooms over the past decade and a half to block the path of the evening sun along the waterfront, erase the sharp glint of silvery light that once illuminated defunct railroad tracks at sundown, their perfectly parallel lines momentarily ablaze with the recollection of past importance. In Berlin, wasteland terrains could be found nearly everywhere before the Wall came down: the long stretch of a discontinued S-Bahn line that led from Monumentenstrasse and over the bridges at Yorckstrasse up to the former railway terminus Anhalter Bahnhof, now a ruin consisting of no more than a fragment of the once-massive building’s façade, where a semicircular set of overgrown train tracks opened onto the remains of a round loading dock. A decade and a half after Allied bombs had obliterated much of Germany, its division into two countries produced a haphazard border that sliced through the massive reconstruction project underway, blocking streets and cutting through buildings and canals and occasionally giving rise to little pockets of land connected to West Berlin by long roads flanked on either side by the Wall. Read more »
From the young painter who, in July 1948, sold his canvases from the pavement in the LCC ‘Open-Air Exhibition' on the Embankment Gardens, Frank Auerbach has become one of the most important and challenging painters on the British landscape. Despite his great friendship with the priapic and party loving Freud, Auerbach has, by comparison, lead the life of an aesthete; a monk to his chosen calling. He hardly socialises, preferring the company of those he knows well. He drinks moderately, wears his clothes till they fall apart and paints 365 days a year.
Though he rarely gives interviews and does not like to talk about his work, he has said of painting: “The whole thing is about struggle”. As Alberto Giacometti contended it is “analogous to the gesture of a man groping his way in the darkness”…”the more one works on a picture, the more impossible it becomes to finish it”.
It is out of this creative darkness, this complexity and unknowability of the world and the self that Auerbach has conjured his series of extraordinary heads, nudes and landscapes. Whilst the past for him may be a foreign country where they do things differently, one that he doesn't choose to revisit – “I think I [do] this thing which psychiatrists frown on: I am in total denial” – it's hard to walk around this current exhibition at Tate Britain and not feel that his dramatic early years had a profound influence on his work.