If you could just see the beauty

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Graham Sutherland: An Unfinished World

George Shaw

Modern Art Oxford, 9781901352535, £19.95

Anyone who begins an essay with not one but two quotes from Joy Division connecting the ineffable Curtis’s dystopian Mancunian vision with the gnarled and twisted organisms that are birthed in Sutherland’s Pembroke landscapes is bound to get my attention. Even though artist and exhibition curator Shaw does let the side down a little later with a naff quote from the Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’, his, and the other essays in this catalogue, are excellent pointers towards the pre-religious animism that seems to infect every tree root, hedge, standing stone, mechanical crane and bombed out building in the 2012 Sutherland exhibition at the Oxford Museum of Modern Art. Every one of the 85 exhibits is well-illustrated here although in small-scale and without the impact of the show. If you didn’t get the chance to visit, well, shame – it was an exhibition with the power of both exquisite artistry and the vital spark of a fresh view on a strange world. However, even if you couldn’t get there, this book is a fascinating and energising window into the developing iconography of one our great artists.

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