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Paint Like The Swallow Sings Calypso, Kettle’s Yard, review: A curiously joyless celebration of carnival

On the opening of Kettle’s Yard’s newest exhibition, Andrew Nairne, the director of this historic home and up to date gallery, recited the present’s unwieldy title and joked that he’d check these in attendance on how effectively they’d managed to recollect it.

As titles go, Paint Just like the Swallow Sings Calypso– Impressions of carnival by Paul Sprint, Errol Lloyd & John Lyons in dialogue with works from The Fitzwilliam Museum & Kettle’s Yard – taxes the reminiscence. The bagginess of that moniker is symptomatic of this exhibition’s flaws: it’s basically missing in route, making an attempt to do far an excessive amount of directly.

You are reading: Paint Like The Swallow Sings Calypso, Kettle’s Yard, review: A curiously joyless celebration of carnival

Three venerable Caribbean-born artists have chosen works loosely related to the theme of carnival from the collections at Kettle’s Yard and the Fitzwilliam Museum. In a single gallery, Paul Sprint explores the historical past of carnival, together with Roman Bacchanalia (festivals of Bacchus), Italian commedia dell’arte performances, and European Mardi Gras occasions.

Paint Like the Swallow Sings Calypso: Impressions of Carnival by Paul Dash, Errol Lloyd & John Lyons in dialogue with works from The Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle?s Yard Kettle?s Yard John Lyons, Mama Look A Mas Passin, 1990. Oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist Provided by hsd29@cam.ac.uk All images are for the promotion of the above exhibition only. Images should not be cropped, overprinted, tinted or subject to any form of treatment without the prior approval of the copyright owner
Mama Look A Mas Passin, 1990, by John Lyons (Courtesy the artist)

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Errol Lloyd and John Lyons have dipped into the collections to assemble a pictorial procession evoking the religious and symbolic essence of carnival. In each shows, the artists present their very own carnival-themed works alongside the historic items.

There are some large names flying round (Picasso, Hepworth, Goya) however all are represented in very minor methods. The extra thrilling works are by much less acquainted names, notably two drawings by Avinash Chandra that evoke thronged our bodies and motion.

Sprint’s choice is especially of prints. The one giant canvas (by Pieter Brueghel the Youthful) stands proud jarringly. I can perceive Sprint selecting works of subdued tone – his personal work and prints within the present are largely composed of rhythmic strokes of black ink that in locations coalesce into thronged figures however elsewhere counsel a mass of motion. They’re the spotlight of an exhibition wherein the artwork is in any other case of patchy high quality.

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Why have been the collections of Kettle’s Yard and the Fitzwilliam Museum chosen? On the power of the work proven right here, they didn’t yield wealthy pickings. As an idea, this present feels ill-suited to its associate venues. There may be a lot thrilling work elsewhere on the topic that this feels a missed alternative to claim the cultural significance and complexity of carnival.

To my thoughts, the carnivalesque ­suggests misrule and the (short-term) inversion of dominant energy constructions – facets little explored right here. For a celebration of dance, music and masquerade, it’s curiously joyless.

To 19 Feb (01223 748 100, kettlesyard.co.uk)

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