This interesting and concise exhibition blends attitudes of how we saw London in the past to the present perfectly.
Designed as a celebration of the artists who have captured London through painting, The Big City showcases not only the way in which the London landscape has changed over the years, but also how each artist managed to capture a different aspect of the city – whether it is grand celebrations or urban life.
While the exhibition itself might be concise, the works that have been selected are all on a huge and grand scale that is very impressive and shows just how ambitious each artist (some better known than others) was in creating these works.
In terms of the artwork on display, there are plenty which show an impressive amount of detail – including Andrew Carrick Gow’s take on Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Service and Terence Cuneo’s two paintings of Guildhall dinners which are filled with grandeur and life. These sit nicely in contrast with the more modern artworks by artists such as David Hepher which are edgy – if a little bit bleak to look at.
Each section offers a different perspective of London, highlighting the changes in society – as seen particularly through Hepher and David R. Thomas’s work. Thomas’s work has such a wonderful clarity to it that makes you feel as though you are right in that part of London at the moment of viewing it.
There is real range and depth on display here and I feel like if there was a bit more room to breathe and to explore it in further detail it would be even more fascinating. It is clear that the Guildhall Art Gallery has an extensive collection that could be used even more effectively in the way in which it is presented. In fact, I did feel in places that the size of some of the paintings made the overall feel of the exhibition feel slightly too overwhelming.
However, this being said it is still an exhibition that is well worth exploring for those who love London and are fascinated with its past and present as seen through art.
By Emma Clarendon
The Big City is on display at the Guildhall Art Gallery until the 23rd April.