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.’