Art Review: Memory & Imagination @ Mall Galleries

Dulwich Picture Gallery is closed while undergoing a re-design for the much-anticipated Murillo show, offering a chance for the permanent collection to visit other galleries. Teaming up with the Mall Galleries, DPG has produced an exhibition of its Dutch Italianate paintings — as the name suggests, these are 17th century Dutch artists who were inspired by the Italian Renaissance.

Several excellent works are on display, from Herman Saftleven’s misty view along the course of the Rhine to Nicolaes Berchem’s ‘road through a wood’ where the detailing of individual leaves as they catch the sunlight is exquisite.

Interspersed within these old masters are contemporary works by artists who’ve clearly been inspired by these and other famous landscape artists. We’re big fans of the apocalyptic landscapes by John Stark, but the one on display is not one of his best. It’s clearly been selected for its colour palette, which matches the theme of the exhibition, but it doesn’t have the same impact as his darker works.

Emily Allchurch is an artist who impressed us at the recent London Art Fair, and she does so again at this show. Her landscape appears to be a photo of the English countryside until your eyes start to pick up anomalies — why are there protest placards on that hill? and why is there a TfL low carbon emissions sign on a country lane? It’s an excellent photo-collage that is deliberately contrary to drive home its surreal nature.

We were also impressed by the contrast of Tom Hunter’s bright white swans against their dark background at twilight. Our only criticism of the display is that the classical works outnumber the contemporary works three to one; we would have preferred a more even split. Despite this, the two sets of works complement each other well and make for a fascinating visit.

Memory & Imagination: Dutch Italianate and Contemporary Landscapes is on display at Mall Galleries, The Mall, SW1 until 1 March. Admission is £4.

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