Perhaps the most distinctive and insightful painter of the urban landscape in the last years of the 20th century was Prunella Clough, a niece of Eileen Gray. In the new rehang of Tate Britain's collection there are three rooms devoted to Clough (who died in 1999), and they offer an excellent overview of her work. The show ranges from the harbour scenes, cooling towers and mines she depicted in the 1950s, to the more abstract later pieces in which colour and texture are key, though often with an element you recognise embedded in them - perhaps a drawing of some tangled wire or other discarded fragment that caught her eye.
'I am not interested in fields and woods, even though they are man-made. I prefer to look at the urban or industrial scene, or any unconsidered piece of ground, ' said Clough. 'The problem is finding a form for the urban chaos, because visually any scene in a fully urbanised context is overloaded.
It is a problem of reduction.' One thing that the Tate's selection proves is how resourcefully Clough dealt with that problem of reduction, seldom lapsing into a formula for making these evocative works. With its weathered grey and brown oblongs, By the Canal looks a lot like a Rothko, until you register a few cursory details that return it to the world of its title. The accompanying catalogue profits from a vivid, perceptive essay by Patrick Heron ( www. tate. org. uk).
Until 27 April, another scavenger of industrial wastelands has a show at Austin Desmond Fine Art, in Pied Bull Yard near the British Museum - Harry Thubron, who died in 1985, and whose preferred medium in his later years was collage. In an interview in the Tate catalogue, Clough worried, perhaps unnecessarily, that her paintings weren't quite raw enough to really capture the essence of her urban scenes. This isn't an issue with Thubron. However harmonious the compositions of his collages are (see above), there's no disguising the rawness of the material scraps they're made from - their creases, stains, abrasions and ragged edges. Some of the works have Spanish titles but all their constituents could have come from, say, a walk in the Lower Lea Valley before its Olympics makoever began ( www. austindesmond. com).
For forthcoming events visit www. ajplus. co. uk/diary