Friday, June 26, 2015

Full bloom

A cascade of blossom: our Félicitéet perpétue rose is magnificent this year.  I just have to lean back from my desk, look right, and there it is.  There are nests in there too: a blackbird earlier in the year - now singing to our delight.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


An intriguing sculpture greets the visitor on entering the RA Summer Exhibition.  It takes the damaged classical Greek model into a plastic corrugated sheet reproduction.  We found that it works, and pleased us.
Matthew Darbyshire: Captcha No.11 (Doryphoros)
Sometimes the paintings with the most powerful effect on me were ones where the figures were an element in something larger.  Mick Moon's work has often attracted me, but never so much as in the two paintings Noon Fishing, and Dawn Fishing, the first with people, the second with birds.
Mick Moon: Dawn Fishing
Mick Moon: Noon Fishing
Jock McFadyen's Inverleith Gardens I liked best of all his submissions to the exhibition this year(scroll down in the link), the others empty of people.  But his paintings usually have people in their spirit, if not actually pictured.
There were several prints which drew me across the room: all of Peter Freeth's (scroll down this link) including Mr Parkinson ventures down Oxford Street, below.
In the same mood is Celia Paul's Self Portrait in front of the Museum.
I love the trace of colour in this overwhelmingly grey and shadowy print by Barbara Jackson: Transience 3.
And the slight touch of almost the same colour in this delightful piece by Andrew Pavitt: The Coppice Man.
There is fun in Dame Elizabeth Blackadder's Two Snapper
and back to the thought-provoking with Susan Aldworth's Enlightened.
My favourite linocut was Eileen Cooper's Diana and Actaeon.
And I was not disappointed when looking for Stephen Chambers' new work.  It was the group of etchings entitled My Shitty Sisters which delighted me.
A couple of pieces gave me passing pleasure, such as Simon Kirk's Claude
and Denton Corker Marshall's small drawing

But, of all the pieces in the whole exhibition, the work which attracted and inspired me the most was a drawing and watercolour by David Remfry
I love it.  I was delighted by the trees tangled with the woman's hair, and the birds which are all frequent visitors to our garden.  It has inspired me to return to a doodle I made a wee while back, prompted by seeing again a reproduction of a painting by Dorothea Tanning.  I shall now get on with turning it into a lino print.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Although my own self-expression comes through the figurative, I am both inspired by and attracted to landscape art.  How it filters through I'm not sure, and frankly it is not something I now spend too much time thinking about.  As with the abstracts, I just enjoy the art.  It's all a question of emotional triggers and recognitions, and perhaps a more relaxed appreciation because there is no element of competition.
Vanessa Gardiner's work has attracted me before, so I was immediately drawn to the familiarity of her Harbour Coast.  But I find that although the attraction renews itself on initial impact, it does fade relatively soon, and it is only when I have not come across her work for a while that I am drawn to it.  I really greatly prefer her drawings to her paintings.
In a different way, I find that Norman Ackroyd's etchings appeal to me most when seen in groups.  So I was delighted to find his Galapagos series hung together in a grid of images. 

Prints constituted the majority of the landscapes which appealed to me at the Summer Exhibition, including those of Jason Hicklin, Rora Head, Hoy seen below
and Barbara Rae's Feasgar
and Emma Stibbon's Lead II, and her other pieces which can be seen by scrolling down on the link
and Jeremy Gardiner's Worbow Bay, Isle of Purbeck, April
and Iona Howard's Goonhilly Downs - I was beginning to notice a repeated attraction to the effects of carborundum.
Charlie Waite's Orgiva, Spain from a distance looked a pleasant arrangement of trees, but a closer examination showed what a wondrous photograph it is, the trees sculptural with a kind of patterned background of distant scrub, and the dancing blossoms all over, bringing lightness above a glorious curve of earth.
Merlyn Chesterman's Atlantic Roller brought together my love of waves/the sea, woodcuts, and that horizontal format when so obviously appropriate. I am sorry that I've been unable to find a larger image.  Here is her website.
Another horizontal woodcut is Julian Meredith's Itchen River System.  This appealed to me also because the Itchen is not far from us, and a late very good friend and former colleague had her office magically and memorably right on the banks of that river. 
A strangely wondrous print, made more intriguing by being hung high in such a way that it is not immediately obvious that it is not just landscape is Catherine Greenwood's Silbury Treasure.

One work which is both print and book not only attracted me, but once more frustrated my curiosity.  I always want to turn those pages, and am not wholly content to settle for the double page spread shown. 
Hilary Powell's Legend: An A-Z of the Lea Valley looks beautiful open at P (although pictured here at D - perhaps they turn the page every day), and I found my curiosity more than simply satisfied on her website.  There is a vimeo film which shows each page beautifully.  A quote on the web page sums it up beautifully: "It's an amazing archive as well as an exquisite object." 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


This year the Summer Exhibition was curated by the artist Michael Craig-Martin whose own work involves the use of what I think of as intellectual clean pastel colours.  He used these colours on the walls of four galleries with great success, we thought.  One effect was that the paintings somehow retained their own space much more than against white.
Ian McKeever: Portrait of a Woman
Ian McKeever's work certainly benefited - his work seems to disappear when crowded by others against white.  This year his painting glowed against the pink wall.  I also very much like the other three pieces he has in the show, in different rooms, and on white walls - thus somewhat 'hidden'.  The link in the title of the piece above shows the other three if you scroll down, and you can click on the pix to find info on each.
Most of the work which appealed to me this year seemed to be abstracts or landscapes.  In this post I shall cover the abstracts.  I can usually define, or at least rationalise what attracts me about most work that I like, but with this little piece below by Mary Malenoir I cannot really pin down what it was that drew me across the room.
With Paul Furneaux I know that the intriguing combination of print and sculpture, the muted colours, the quiet presence which induces contemplation is what attracts me to his wall-mounted pieces of printed paper on wood. City trees (below) was able to create for itself a distinctive space in the blue-painted room somewhat cacophonously filled with sculpture.
It is such a boon this year that every piece of work in the exhibition is illustrated on the RA Summer Exhibition website.  It so aids memory, and is great for those who cannot visit to get an idea of what the show contains.  All the images in my posts about the exhibition are from that site.  The RA permitted photography except in a few particular cases, but a) my camera skills, the glass, the angle, etc. are impediments to a good reproduction, and b) the pix on the site are the ones submitted by the artists themselves, I imagine, and so as good as possible (and also explains why they are not seen against the coloured background).
Jasper Johns, as an Honorary RA, has one piece in the exhibition, and I found it fascinating.  Inspired by a photograph of Lucian Freud which had been found folded in Francis Bacon's studio, Johns worked on several pieces entitled Regrets.  I had not seen the exhibition, but was enthralled by the catalogue and especially by the idea - so it was with great delight that I saw one of the series in the Summer Exhibition (image above).  It also is against a pink wall, and works really well.
I enjoyed Philippa Stjernsward's Drift
and Sam Hodge's Watershed
and Siw Lura's Organisme 10
and Rose Hilton's Red Studio
and I loved Jo Gerner's print Scission 2
and Susanna Heron's Drawing 3 for a Still Point, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
and Ann Christopher's Floating Shadow 1 (and 2, which you can see if you scroll down on this link)
These are the pieces which particularly attracted my attention.  As ever with the Summer Exhibition, I'm sure I miss gems, but there is only so much one can take in.  These are the artists whose work I already know, and these examples reinforce a liking, or they are artists about whom I shall try to find out more.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The first of the summer visits - the special rooms

We make few visits to London in the summer, and these mostly regular ones.  The first this year was yesterday, to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  We very much enjoyed this year's show, starting with Conrad Shawcross's glorious sculpture in the courtyard: The Dappled Light of Sun (illustrated above - all images from the RA site), and then the welcoming staircase.
This work is by Jim Lambie, and makes a perfect introduction to the colourful presentation of the exhibition.  There were several pieces of work which attracted me in the body of the exhibition, but first I want to describe three displays.  Two are within the Summer Exhibition, and one is in a suite of rooms alongside.
In the past few years I have become an ardent admirer of the work of William Kentridge, and one room is set aside completely for several trees of his.  The one above is Composite Tree, The Sympathetic Tree.  His drawings are on found pages, and co-incidentally the other particular display is of discovered pages.
Tom Phillips wanted to find a book that would provide him with a basis for work as rework.  He has twice altered the pages of A Human Document in the project now called A Humament.  I first encountered the initial alteration, and am always thoroughly delighted to see the individual gems that are each and every page.

Tom Phillips: A Humument P.41 Piccadilly Girl

Tom Phillips: A Humument P.154 Our Excellent Exodus
Tom Phillips: A Humument P.6 The Man as Photograph
Eileen Cooper: Trapeze II
The third display, Hide and Seek, is a separate collection of drawings by Eileen Cooper in three side rooms.  There are also works by Cooper in the Summer Exhibition.  I have enjoyed Cooper's figures for several years, and so I was delighted to find another (!) book to add to my reading list: Eileen Cooper, Between the Lines.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Art, part 2

Bacon: Three studies for a portrait of Isobel Rawsthorn (image from here)
It was my third visit to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art on the campus of the University of East Anglia.  It is such an attractive place - the whole campus - every time I have wanted to come to live here, to be surrounded by such an invigorating atmosphere.
The Sainsbury Centre (image above from here) is essentially a huge warehouse dug into the hillside - but what a warehouse!  and what contents!  The permanent collection alone is one I would happily visit on a regular basis.
This time it was Francis Bacon, and my great appreciation of his work which was the attraction.  I thought it would be fascinating to see some of Bacon's work alongside that of the artists he appreciated - perhaps to glimpse some of the decisions he made.  We were not at all put off by the outburst review by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian newspaper; I was still excited at the prospect as we had our pre-exhibition coffee, and I came away afterward with even more than I had expected. (Here is a more positive review.) 
It was just wondrous to see works which attracted, interested, influenced Bacon, a wide range, eclectic, and so many coinciding with my own taste, as well as being of outstanding quality.  It was good to see a range of quality in Bacon's pieces, some with obvious influence, others not so much.  In the best artists, influence is internalised: it is part of general input, sometimes specifically acted upon, but still part of that input when not seen in the output.
Image above from this BBC film about the exhibition
The examples of work from artists from whom Bacon drew in this case were taken from the Hermitage collection in St Petersburg.  It was great to have such a range: Egyptian death masks, Michelangelo sculpture, Picasso, Van Gogh, two wondrous Rembrandt portraits, ....
(both images from here)
So often Bacon's work is taken to be a perversion of beauty, an ugly distortion of the body, and yet, the broken and missing limbs of ancient Greek sculpture are somehow accepted as a pinnacle, the epitome of beauty.
Bacon: Studies of the Human Body (image from here)
For me Bacon shows the inner complexity of human relationships, with themselves perhaps more than with others.  The paradox is that the complex, chaotic is presented within such clear clean ordered attractive compositions - derived from, but not anything like any classical examples.
At the desk, when I bought the catalogue, the assistant asked me if I had enjoyed the exhibition.  Mostly, she said, the visitors had fallen into two camps: the Bacon aficionados and those who ignored the Bacon but had come to see the Hermitage works.  Both had been satisfied by the exhibition.  I found it to be one of those memorable exhibitions which takes over a large part of my brain, and which will be thought about and digested for years to come.
Matisse: four bronze sculptures jointly known as The Backs
Immediately after having seen Bacon and the Masters it was difficult to think of adding more, so I restricted myself to Matisse, ceramics, and walking through the permanent collection, stopping only here and there.  Memorable were prints by Eduardo Chillida, a large head by Thomas Houseago, and a case full of ceramics by Rupert Spira - all already favourites.