This handsome devil (above) is Mike Nelson who could quite easily pass as a relative of Willy Nelson. In the central hall of Tate Britain is his installation the Asset Strippers. The concept is simple enough. Nelson has bought old and second hand industrial machinery and fittings from auctions and scrap yards and them arranged them, either on their own, or in combination, inside Tate Britain's vaulted central hall.
I can hear the voice of someone I know saying "this isn't art, this is just old machinery in a room". Yes yes, but I have two main qualifications for good art and they are 1) is it a good idea and 2) is it done well?
The answer to both of these questions is yes. An effective starter is the whole exhibition is section of by these large wooden structures. You have to push your way in through these swing doors and some of the arches are blocked of entirely which makes you feel a bit like you are in a 1930's factory floor which is presumably the intention.
pneumatic drill heads and digger troughs like the one you can see above, rusting hulking things. Other machinery is more intricate and I found myself specifically drawn to various loom contraptions or in the case of the one above right ink stained printing machines.
Other lumbering machines lurk around the place, still with their auction labels on them, placed on large cabinets or metal tables. Fly wheels. I spent an enjoyable few minutes wandering around after two elderly men one of whom was explaining the machines to his friend and thus I learnt the word metricated. The machines still have metal shavings caught in the guards and guttering.
Agricultural and construction paraphernalia is also in evidence. Folded over caterpillar tracks are folded over themselves in a large tarnished rectangular metal box (above left) they look like over-sized liquorish. Standing in the centre of the room are four large roundels, some kind of threshing device that you towed behind a tractor. It is raised out on two trestle tables so it come to resemble enormous dream-catchers or wind turbines. I like the way the spikes are in some cases distorted and bent.
Near the northern end of the hall (I entered in from the south), are more assembled, constructed semi rooms if you like (above left and right), mini abandoned workshops. Scattered tools and half empty draws on battered, broken wooden boards. Empty spaces, reminded me of Helen Marten who does something similar but in a more constructed (and in my view more interesting) way. I like the way the two scales peer over everything like two enormous eyes.
Larger devices and constructions appear. Felled telephone polls (above left) on this multi-coloured tarpaulin braced down with this great circular piece of concrete. It takes up pretty much the whole width of the gallery. You can just see to the left the wooden wall which tunnels of a walkway between the two gallery wings.
Other objects loom above you, deliberately elevated presumably to give them more presences like the cement mixer you can just see (above right) and the double electric drills.
It is a boon for photographers this show you can take all kinds of interesting shots of machinery from specific angles, so you can have the multi-tooled head of the lathe looming above you (above left) or the indecipherable control panel of the same machine (above right). This for me was one of the most interesting part of the show, being able to zoom in and out if you like to get the whole but then these odd specific views.
Incidentally I have re-vamped my gallery page. Have a look and tell me what you think. That will do for now. Next week Van Gogh, until then, William Mackenzie signing ...
And those pictures tell you pretty much all you need to know about the Affordable Art Fair. You will see quirky art, colourful art, graphicy art, occasionally good art, and you will see a dog who is better and more expensively dressed than you are (a real dog that is not one of the fine people above). Joyously one of the dogs pooed on the floor. This was apparently not art, it was just a poo. If you have been before (to the show that is, not for a poo) then you will also see people you have seen before. I will try and avoid those in this blog, a rule I shall now immediately break.
Charlie Macpherson (above left) is an oft lusted after favourite whom I'm sure I've blogged about in previous years. I like the concentric nature of his glass, those smaller pieces with the gem like glass set within the smoked glass. What I really covert though is the curved triangular turquoise number in the bottom right. He is represented by the Marine House at Beer (above right) which is always one of the best most attractive stand in the show.
I do like my misty autumnal landscape, and Anna Boss' triumvirate of pictures (above left) with their bleak sincerity really appealed to me. A road leading you in is always a good shout. I think the one in the bottom left is my favourite with it sort of tunnel effect, with the spindly trees reaching to each other.
Antoine Gaussin's "Escape" is a large rectangular piece. What is it? Is it a landscape, some wooden posts rising out of a misty lake? Or is it a series of pots, stacked on an invisible surface. I am not even sure what the medium is, the title did not say but a brief google indicates photography. Any way you have to drop over £5,000 for this evocative, peaceful piece.
Stefan Mas Persson (above left) is another perennial favourite with his raised slightly 3d pieces. The one on the right is a slight departure from what his previous work with its series of different squares. It is interesting and allows your imagination to run riot. Particularly the little white figure walking along the wooden bar.
Completely different is Bui Trong Du's stylised portrait (above right). They are lacquer on wood, these sumptuously clad women on the patterned background. Always with these flowers in different stages of opening. I like the bottom one best with her slightly louche pose on that rich green background.
Glass, sculpture and pottery will occupy the next few entries. I have a weakness for glass and they are often of a high standard in the Affordable Art show. Toni Fairhead (above left) makes the pieces out of recycled glass and copper. It has a sort of crazed glass, almost fan like, shell like organic effect. The triangular wedge is the best of them.
Eryka Issak's glass and metal sculptures (above right) have attracted me before and have caused me to break my now shattered role again. They have a sort of toenail like structure but have good tone, structure and sympathetic colouring. The tear drop void in the blue/turqouise (I like turquoise) works very well.
There are two artists' work on display in the photo above left but it is only one of them, Lindsey Walsh, who drew my attention. If you double click on the picture so as to enlarge it you can see in better detail but basically what you have here is ceramics decorated with slightly abstracted, slightly mythical landscapes or scenes. The shape often echos the scene like the sail shape one on the right depicts a sailing scene. The curved one behind the bowl, which has a seaside townscape particularly appeals. I didn't buy anything this year by Walsh made my shortlist but now, as I write this, I regret not having done so.
Dancing Penguins (above right). Who doesn't like dancing penguins? Well if you don't then the work of Noor Brandt who does a line in cute animals in bronze is not for you. His groups of animals are the best, and the penguins are the stand out stars. Joyous and happy.
Another purchase I regret not making is some of Phil Atrill's glass (Above left). I saw him years ago at the Origin Arts fair in Somerset house. I couldn't quite afford him then but I could now. They are big pieces. Swirling glass coming to a point, stained with strong colour. They are substantial pieces and so it is difficult to see where they would live without the prospect of their inevitable destruction hanging over them.
Paul Jackson (above right) presents us with what I suppose might be considered fairly classic ceramics. Vase shapes decorated in abstract colour. However they are very attractive, very well done and conceived. The soft pastel colours all work well with each other and somehow compliment the shape of the vase. The abstract designs or all interesting and again work well on the shape they inhabit. Restraint is an under-praised quality in an artist. This is an example of someone who knows where to stop.
There is no doubt though the presence of 15 pieces arranged in a grid really enhance each other. They make for a more powerful golden glow. Individual pieces are very attractive in themselves and I suspect they sell very well but the grouping is even more enticing.
A example of a similar thing at work is the column of Volker Kuhn's work (above left). Little 3d scenes set within a frame. Some of them are quite amusing when you exam them up close but again there is no doubt their collective appeal is greater.
Last up we have some scratch abstract work. I found the above left leafing through a folder of work. I recently brought something for such a foray so I do it more now. I like the two blocks of red colour and the barbed wire/tree like line that balances it. I took a photograph of the handwritten label on the back but unfortunately it is unreadable so the artist must remain a mystery to us all.
A similar style but much more figurative are Laura Boswell's linocut (above right). Again it is the scratchy nature of it that appeals to me, and those two balancing fields of colour, the gold and the black. It is a strong piece and again I can see these selling well.
That's it for this week. For the next couple of weeks it will all be about Tate Brtain. In the meantime I have slightly revamped my gallery page. Have a look. Tell me what you think. Buy things. TTFN
Do you like Henry Moore? Do you like Helmets? Do you like Heads? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then you would struggle to do better than the current exhibition at the Wallace Collection. It is on until 23rd June I would recommend you go. It is quite a small show so if you find yourself caught in a bout of tedious shopping in Oxford circus you can always escape to the quite of Manchester Square and go see this. The exhibition is centred, as the name would suggest around a number of bronze Helmet Heads that Henry Moore produced. It is housed in the Wallace collection basement exhibition space, below their atrium tea rooms.
Not only the helmet heads though, and some of the helmet heads like this one above left are much more yonic in there feel, a gestating something in side a womb like space. Some of it reminded me of H.R Giger but much less aggressive. I wonder if Moore was one of his influences.
In addition to this there are a number of other small works on display, some of them properly tiny. I really liked these two harp like constructions (above left). It shows one of the other revelations of this show the different textures, sheens and colours you can coax out of bronze. This like Barbara Hepworth's work (who uses the string trick to great effect also) really appeals to me. Your eyes travel up and across the strings.
However the central theme of this exhibition is the inspiration that Moore took from actual Helmets in coming to his final designs. There is convincing evidence that Moore came to the Wallace Collection and literally drew from their considerable accumulation of European armour. What this allows the curators to do is show an actual Helmet from their collection (above left), Moore's preparatory sketches (above centre) and then the final finished Head (above right). It is a smart decision and gives the exhibition an extra dimension. You get some history with your culture and get to see the genesis of an artistic idea.
They do this several times and the comparison is made early and explicitly in one of the first exhibits you come across (above left). Of course apart from the shape, this slighted twisted shape with upwards looking eye holds, the tone of the bronze what adds most of the time to these Helmet Heads is an internal shape, like an abstract spice. Sometimes they are separate and sometime they are integral. They provide more personality than the actual helmets.
Others are more explicitly helmet like (above right), a modernist all encompassing head covering. This is a good example of different bronze. One (left) is dark, while the other (right) is bright and shining.
The first main room though contains things other than Helmet Heads as intimated previously. There is a large over human size plaster statue, that looks like a large version of this odd cocoon like structure that you can see above right. You can see the forms here that develop and morph into the Helmet heads. And then a very shiny bronze sculpture which has resonances of some of the internal structures. Again marvel at the different finishes bronze can achieve.
They are surprisingly complex often using multiple media and show what a good draftsman Moore was. Some of them are just riffs on a motifs like the mummy like structures over a coloured washed background above left). Others are more polished renditions of what Moore envisaged as the final structure and make for excellent pieces of art in themselves (above right).
The show then opens up and ends on a collection of all the Helmet Heads arranged together (above). You can just about see from this photo some of different finishes, in both the external and internal pieces. This central placing of the podiums allows you to circle the sculptures and admire them from all angels. This is one major advantage that sculpture has over painting, it allows for different view points. You can never see the whole thing, only different aspects of it. Smart curators (and the Wallace Collection curators are smart) take full advantage of this.
It is an excellent show. it is a happy and uplifting show. I enjoyed it very much and I think you would too. I will leave you thought with a picture of what I think is my favourite piece from the show. He (I project onto it as a he) is a cheeky little chappy and I've glad I met him. Until next week then....
Some painters their work is much better in person than it is in photographic reproduction, Turner, Dorothea Tanning to name but two. Other painters are much better in reproduction and are frankly disappointing in person. Hockney is a prime example of this, and to this I would add Pierre Bonnard. There is a show of his work at the Tate Modern but attending in person is both expensive (£20!) and a little disappointing. Of the three shows on at the Tate Modern I would recommend you go to 1) Dorothea Tanning and the 2) Franz West, 3) Magical Realism (its free), 4) The viewing platform and look into those flats that lost that privacy case, 5) the currently empty turbine hall and then 6) Bonnard.
He is one of the lesser known impressionists and while his paintings can be a riot of colour I think I can see why and I will attempt to justify this assertion in a few badly chosen and ill reasoned phrases. Here we go.
Take this picture of a tree in blossom. From a distance it is a riot of colour, with a wonderful sense of place and time. Up close though and the edges are blurred, there is no definition and I find it a bit of a mush. You don't even have to get that close. From a distance then Bonnard's picture pack quite an impact but this rapidly depletes as you get closer. What this means for me is that they don't reward contemplation. Once your senses has recovered from the assault of colour there is not much left. It is not quite the dream like quality of Monet, or the crisp violence of Van Gogh. Bonnard sits in some unfortunate halfway house.
Where I think Bonnard is better is in inside contained or restricted. Like for example this red and purple number (above right). It is also with these types of picture that you can play spot the animal. There is often a cheeky dog or cat (or both) hidden somewhere in the scene. It is the fields of colour that are the most effective here, the purple of the table cloth, contrasting the red on the right, the orange on the left, and the blue through the window. The white crockery adds to it to. It is slightly let down by that odd ghostly figure and the scratchy child like foliage.
So basically what I'm saying is outside, weirdly childish with some nice colours (above left)k compared with his more accomplished indoors painting. Probably my favourite in the show is this bath scene. The colours on the wall, the way colours morph from blue to purple with that golden crackle running through it. The patterned floor is also good. The central figure is strange but that works in this context.
Having identified those of his paintings that I prefer I will focus on those. However this leads me onto another general problem I have with Bonnard (listen I just don't like Bonnard much, if you don't agree with that, keep reading while I painfully explain how wrong you are), is that he never really picks a side with colour. He is almost striking, almost pastel, never quite one or the other and like in the nude above left, often the central elements are too similar to the background and it doesn't stand out. All becomes a bit of a mess. There are some nice elements though, the composition is good, and I like the mirror and the green square coming on, stage right.
I also like these almost Victorian indoor scene (above right), the fireplace being my favourite element.
Credit to the curators though, they made a very smart move, and took some paintings out of their frames (above left). They are greatly improved by this, have more of an immediacy to them and Bonnard's more subtle (confused) colour scheme limited by the scene is much more effective. Likewise this picture of the lady in red in front of a red cake (above right). Again the limited colour pallet and again almost Victorian restrained feel makes for a more effective and interesting painting.
Tate have called the show, the colour of Memory. I am not sure why but I will leave you with two paintings that demonstrate and support my biased and selective opinion. They are initially very striking. The mottled red on the picture on the left, and the yellow wall paper on the right are very good. On the picture on the right the greenery contrasts excellent with the yellow. However when you look closely though, its all a bit messy, bit incomplete.
So there you go. Bonnard. Demolished.
this post is likely to be on the brief and nonsensical side. The idea originated with my friend Emily who lives just across the road from said gallery. She attended one of my previous shows back in early 2018 and suggested that I exhibit here. I didn't think much of it at the time but the idea gained traction and was taken up in full force in my father.
The booking went in then in November 2018 and at the same time I embarked on a series of paintings of local scenes especially for the show. These have pretty much occupied my painting time from then until a couple of weeks ago. We claimed the keys on Wednesday night and with the help of Millie, an A level art student who lives next doors to my parents (and has been acting as my Curator) hung up the show. She was very useful. Always have someone with a good eye who is not personally invested in your work to help with such things.
We went for having a large painting in the window to attract people in and immediately the two largest paintings on either side (above left). These were also the most expensive to anchor people's price point. Then paintings were arranged by subject matter. London on the right and Henley on the left. At the back (above right) a quartet of paintings from the north of England, the flower still lives and then off camera the rock still lives.
The gallery is an excellent space as you can see from above. It is light and airy, lit both from windows at the front and back and by skylights. There are also well positioned skylights. There is plenty of hanging space and a pre-installed hanging system with adjustable wires and hooks that simplifies the whole process enormously. There is also a little kitchen with fridge and kettle, and a decent loo. It comes with plenty of furniture.
Its main downfall, and this is often the case with municipal galleries, is its location. It is situation behind the town hall, away from the main foot traffic. You do not then get much in the way of passing trade. This is common and inevitable with such galleries though. If they were well located they would have long been sold as shops. Advertising then is key. I have been promoting this extensively and we have also been using the event as an excuse to reunite with family and friends. Ensuring then a fair flow through of people.
I also contacted the Henley Standard. They seemed interested and asked for a few pictures and there was also a telephone interview. i was expecting perhaps a small mention and was both gratified and pleased to get a near full page spread (see above and the link). This caused at least a few more people to attend.
I was one-upped in fairly short order when my wife was mentioned in the Financial Times, a day later.
My other cunning plan was to have a red dot in place right from the start. So I told my Curator to choose a painting that she could then keep. She choose the one above left. Turns out she drew up in East London and always liked the gas holders. The co-incidences mounted when her dad came in to see the show and said that her mum had proposed to him in the white building at the right near the bridge. An excellent story.
The Thursday was, well nearly dead. Few people came in and we sold nothing. Friday was allot quieter and-we had many visitors including a few dogs (above right). Sold 4 paintings on that day.
My favourite painting and the first to sell was Regent's Canal at Dusk (above left). It is always the way at shows that there are a few paintings you could sell many times over and this was one.
My first painting to sell to someone I didn't already know was the approach to Henley (above right). A gentleman appeared on the bench outside the gallery. I chatted to him and stroked his dog. He re-appeared on the Saturday so I offered him a glass of prosseco. As a result of this he came into the gallery. So did his wife. They had been married in Henley church so they bought the painting. They were lovely paintings.
I have learnt a few things thought. 1) opening on Thursday was pointless we could have hired the gallery a day later and set up on Thursday. 2) Staying open until 1800 is pointless. It pretty much dries up after 1600 - 16:30. It's a long day and exhausting so we have closed at 17:00 everyday. This means we did miss one couple who turned up at 17:10 on Saturday so the lesson here- be more realistic in your opening hours. 3) More big posters, preferably in stand alone form to lead people up from the town.
This means that we will probably start taking down the show at 14:00 on Tuesday. If then you want to see it, come before then. It's been a lot of fun though and I got to meet some lovely people. The best people come either on motor-bikes or with dogs.
Franz West is a funny sex obsessed genius and I think I love him. There is a show of his work at the Tate Modern until 2nd June and a joyous experience but as you can see from some of the figures captured in the above vitrines there are elements of it that are not safe for work. There are several pieces that are either very phallic or just explicit depictions of sex. It is so absurdly presented though as to not have any sexual charge, but just to highlight how ludicrous the whole exercise can be. It is a shame he is dead. I would like to have met him.
There are at various junctures throughout the show what appear to be posters from past exhibitions of Mr West as you can see in both the above pictures. They often have a sexual theme, as indeed do his collage like pictures with figures stuck on odd backgrounds in an often child like way, that clashes viscerally with the subject matter.
Long worm like tubular things are another feature. Indeed there is a selection of inflatable ones outside the museum itself, by the South Entrance. Others like the bright blue one above right appear to be made of plaster, and resemble some anemic bowl, or enormous worm. West has at various times done installations and some of these are displayed by photographs, in the case of the one above left very large photographs with these beguiling crystalline type structures arrange on what appear to be school tables in front of it. I really liked them. The pigment was deeper than you might expect and they had a distinct amethyst like quality.
Much of the work on display made me smile but one work, these four enormous plaster heads (above left) actually made me laugh out loud. The curator has worked well here in that you round that concrete like divider you can see behind them, and suddenly there they are, like some Easter Island barber shop quartet. They do seem to be singing.
Arranged in the large space in front of them are a series of sofas draped in rugs and bolsters from which you can sit, and regard a very large photo of an egg like object while two tv screens, which flank the egg, play strange and baffling videos at you. West's video art is the weakest of his elements to me, but I have a low tolerance for that particular medium.
I have mentioned previously the cement textured partitions. The normal white temporary walls have been stripped away so you have quite a large cavernous space, divided up by the cement partitions. They really complement the style of the work, and make more intimate yet open, yet yeti like spaces. Good decision. It also means that like with the heads not everything can be seen from any one point allowing you to stumble on, and discover the various artefacts. Like for example the metal furniture (above left), with the hammered together love seat being a particular favourite.
Or these painted lumps of concrete or third eye like pieces of wood (above right).
The overwhelming sensation is of fun though, quite well typified by the over-large golden paperclip (above left). Others like the collection of seemingly random collection of assemblage which are one of the main focal points of the show (above right) provoke more mixed emotions of which bafflement is among the most prevalent. What is that? Well I don't think it matters frankly.
At one end of room is a series, of well they look like cells. Arranged in a quadrant The details are different but the general set up is the same, a chair (of uncertain construction, a sculpture of differing levels of phallicness and an innocuous and incongruous picture (above left).
In one corner is what looks like a distressed, ney even alarmed, makeup table (above right). The hole in the middle I think is for your head. This is the great shame of art once it reaches a certain stage of "importance". This pieces was supposed to be used but is now to fragile to be used. I had the same feeling with some of Alexander Calder's immobile mobiles. These thing are made to be used even to destruction. Things have to end. That's my view anyway.
On closer inspection that row of sculptures pictured previously has more of the crusty mineralaty of the other works, or you know, is a banana. I am working backwards through the show. In the corridor on the way in a three what look like changing rooms. The curators have produced copies of some of West's pieces and you can go into these booths and interact with them. I am of course far to British to do so. The faux privacy of it all made it seem shameful and weird, not that I would have done it anyway. I slightly regret that.
Opposite those booths are a selection of cabinets with the original objects, or if not those then ones very similar to them (above right). You see the beginnings of that graininess, that becomes encrusted in the later sculptures. There are also a number odd paintings, wash textured colours with figures in odd poses. Often pasted over the top (above left)
I like these paintings there are some odd things going on, I am still not sure what this guy in this adobe looking surrounding is doing (above left). They also feature the artist and his friends messing about with the odd, organic objects (above right).
Which leads us right back to the original room. This show starts strong. On the right hand road as you come in is a grid of small charcoal paintings. They are amusing intriguing and even sweet (above).
Some of them are just sweeping shapes like this curved piano keyboard (above left), or lonely figures like this lonely man walking through a brick lined tunnel (above centre), or poignant or silly depending on how you look at it like this figure dancing with the rows (above right). Masterful simplicity.
Opposite these are these almost cartoonish drawings either in colour (above left) or black on an orange background (above red). Again you have the absurdist coupled with the sexual. Its a fun show, there is a lot of space there and not many people. You can hang out there quietly and just enjoy yourself.
Speaking of enjoying yourself, I have my own small show running over the Easter weekend in Henley-on-Thames. Come along.
Herald Sohlberg is a new name to me or was until, at the recommendation of colleague, I journeyed down to the Dulwich Picture Gallery to see the exhibition. Sohlberg was a Norwegian painter and although he could was a fair dab hand at the old portrait but landscapes where his specialty, especially landscapes of Norway. This exhibition celebrates his 150th birthday (although he is of course dead) and runs until 2nd June 2019.
Sohlberg was a contemporary of the impressionists but eschewed France and studied in Germany but there is a definite impressionist feel to his work, but there is more of mystical air to them. Indeed some of them particularly a fine one of a fishermans shack by moonlight remind me strongly of Peter Doig. I wonder if Sohlberg is one of Doig's inspiration. Mind you I like Doig and tend to see him everyone. You get a feel for that in the picture above right, which is a view from his balcony in summer, with that lovely graded sky, contrasted by the flowery fence and the orange of the wood. What is more difficult to see in the photograph (bit not in the original) is the detail of the setting on the table. The contents of the bottles glow with that lovely deep amber that some booze have. Sohlberg here showing, off combining still life and landscape.
In some of his work there is a glyph like quality as in the piece above left. The patches of sunshine are reminiscent of dancing shapes, of cave paintings. This it appears is deliberate. It does add something to a painting. I do like his trees do, his tall looming pine trees.
In comparison his rural scenes are much quieter, like the Country Path (above right, it is its name) which leads you off into the distance. There are a number of Country Path's on display of which the best is the largest but you will have to go there to see it and I recommend you do. Here, as in the first picture on the blog you see the development of a Sohlberg painting tick. Green foreground, blue or purple hills and burnished orange sky. If there is water, which usually sits in the middle of the composition this is usually also Orange.
Trees on the right. Trees on the right is another common compositional element and those trees, where they are deciduous trees tend to be bare, the pines and the firs of course keep there leaves. I do like the lack of people though, it give an empty lonely feel to the landscapes which suits the general setting. On the right hand picture the few remaining leaves are made of just wispy brushes of paints. It is very effective technique and one I intend to ruthlessly steal.
The final room though is a symphony of blue. Large sweeping blue gorgeous blue paintings. One wall dominated by a snowy mountain vista. By far the best painting though, possibly the best painting in the whole show is call the Night and there is an appalling photo that I took does it no just it at all. You have this looming church slap bang in the centre, with soft focus town dwarfed by it, the dark grave yard all set off by the red poppies in the foreground. It is a masterpiece I think and I'm glad and see it. Go and see them before they go back to Norway.
After you have seen them, come and see my show. Upstream and Downstream’ at The Old Fire Station Gallery, Henley-on-Thames, 52 Market Pl, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AG 9.30am to 6pm: Daily from Thursday 18th to Tuesday 23rd April 2019- Easter Weekend to see delights like the painting below.
Brace yourself people, this one is going to be a long one, about the surprisingly brilliant National Museum Cardiff. Specifically the art gallery. It is located on the upper floor of the museum (the ground floor is a natural history museum, which unfortunately I didn't have time for). You ascend these quite grand steps (above) to a balcony and then into the gallery. I only had an hour or so, which was a shame, and I deliberately missed out the Leonardo exhibition, I am saving that until it comes to London.
Scatted around the gallery, including in a little room of their own are various pottery and glassware. You would be wondering around the picture gallery and suddenly there would be pottery. Including hidden off in a side room was some Asian pottery. I was drawn to this collection of four pastel burners (above left) with the hand like structures rising up and cupping the burner, with the different muted colours.
There is also glassware and in particular this vitrine of glass by Maurice Marinot (above right) which are these quite solid quite thick inscribed glasses. They seem very solid and satisfying.
Right next to it, is this large Francis Bacon picture (above right), a self portrait I believe. I have seen another version where the back wall is coloured green like the surface of a snooker table. The white background though makes this very stark, particularly with the t shirt and cushions. Feels like he's in a doctor's surgery or something. Then of course you have this twisted body and face. I like Bacon allot but I could never have it in the house.
Philip Lanyon also appears with his characteristic fields of pastel colour, in this case a mainly pink and brown swirling number. One of those pieces that invites you to insert your own conscious onto the picture. Unsurprisingly it being the National Museum Cardiff (the National Museum has several branches such as the Coal Museum and they are scattered around the country) there are a number of welsh artist, some of which were new to me. One of the ones I had heard of but not seen before is Ceri Richards with Cycle of Nature (about right). I see it is as a panoply of armoured knights thundering across the landscape. Lots of energy.
Another name who had crossed both my brain and my eyes is Ivor Hitchens (above) who has some similarity to Philip Lanyon in some respects with the fields of colour, but Hitchens is more vegetative. He is also on occasion more figurative as you can see from the top painting which you can see is a cottage with trees. There is a loose and flowing and have a speed about them.
This display is housed in a couple of galleries and starts, at least for me with Walter Sickert (above) who like everyone feels they have to paint Venice. Sometimes I get sick of Venice but I can see why people paint it. I am drawn to canals and buildings. They work well together and you have this allot in Venice after all. Sickert is more muted and his buildings have a battered and dilapidated quality and the water murky and thick.
You will get to see here British impressionist painters you don't often see elsewhere, at least not very often. Having said that Harold Gilman (above left) with his painting of Mornington Crescent. These similar red/pink building with this large yellowish building holiding up the side of the building and the trees sitting in front. Spencer Gore (above right) is a name I do know but you don't see him that often. He also paints Mornington Crescent but a very different view. The buildings mainly just colour the background (I wonder if the yellow building you can see through the trees is the same as the tower in Gilman's painting). Gore's painting appeals to me more to me. I like the skeletal tree, and the grass with the shafts of sunshine across the grass.
I'm sure they do exist. This painting is nice, has a quality that speaks to you across the room and doesn't come across well in the photograph. Has a nice sense of the place.
The gender balance is better in this gallery than most (although of course men still dominate particularly in the more historic section) and there are women artists (life for example Gwen John) that you don't often see. Above right is Dorothea Sharp with At the Seaside. It is a delightful piece, very intimate with a good sense of place and time. The clothing has been very well done. As has the water texture and I particularly like the circles emanating from the main girls feet.
I'm a big fan of Laura Knight (above). Her self portrait in the National Portrait Gallery is one of my favourite paintings. It is also one of the sexiest paintings you are likely to see. Go and have a look and you will see what I mean. Again you don't often see her elsewhere so it was nice to see her work. I particularly like the dog and the textures on the rocks.
It is his landscapes though that I very much enjoy. It is not easy to see from these photographs but he paints in these large slabs of paint. He manages somehow to give the paint this oily sheen that makes the paint look wet and glow slightly. Given how damp Wales is it gives the landscape a wintery storm drenched look. The painting above right is a good example.
This technique is perfectly pitched to rendering the Welsh landscape. The way he uses this to make the building especially the shacks is particularly effective (above left) but it can also be turned to depict the rocky sides of Welsh mountains (above right). Earth tones is what we are seeing here and I like it.
Onto the Impressionist proper and we open with two Alfred Sisley. They are both of the Welsh coast (at least I think so) with that lovely impressionist purple flecked sea and sky. I particularly like the gnarly bulbous rock on the right hand painting with its shadow and flecks of light. They set the scene for the room.
And then Boom! Van Gogh (above) and a Van Gogh I had never seen before anywhere. I have also never seen a Van Gog where it is raining before. The strikes slanting down the painting make a very impressive rain effect, you feel wet and cold just looking at it. Compositionaly the division of yellow field on the left, green on the right with this line leading to the blue and green trees. The inclusion of the crow in the middle is a stroke of genius. More muted than his usual work and interesting for that.
Monet, there are at about 5 of them, hanging there in there glorious colours. My two favourites are of course of Venice (although there is one of London) one in the soft pastel murkiness that Monet as famous for, contrasted with this much more bold and striking piece with its burnt oranges and blue. I particularly like the purple and moave horizon. There are more impressionist on display including others like Pissaro. I like Pissaro.
I left the room and was admiring this enormous organ (above) when the man you can just see wandering off round the corner informed me that the gallery was closing and 15 minutes and perhaps sir would like to see the Turners that we have.
Sir would like to. And so sir did so and very impressive they were too. All glorious swirling stormy seas and sky, crashing boats and in the one on the right a burning beacon. I of course like this very much. I won't show them all go and see them. In the same gallery was a fine Rossetti.
The final gallery I went round was dedicated to Welsh Landscapes. There was a number of fine pieces and again a surprising his in a Lowry (above left). It is called SIx Bells, Abertillery south Wales with his leaning stick figures scampering around, and across the railway lines!
The other picture I really liked was by a name I hadn't heard before, called John Piper with Ebbw Vale at Night with these lovely blues and greens and this strange segmented yellow sun. I really like it. Other people on display include Graham Southerland and Ceri Richards.
And I shall leave you with a self serving announcement. I have another show coming up: ‘Upstream and Downstream’
The Old Fire Station Gallery, Henley-on-Thames, 52 Market Pl, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AG
9.30am to 6pm: Daily from Thursday 18th to Tuesday 23rd April 2019- Easter Weekend.
Come if you can.
Over the weekend 22nd - 24th March at Central St Martins in Kings Cross (what I still think of as the new development but has been there at least 6 years now) has been the rather fabulous Ceramic Art London. So of course I went and of course I bought thing. In this blog I have gathered together the people I liked. The photos, where they are any good I got from the Ceramic Art London website. Those that are rubbish I took myself. There were various activities and lectures and if you timed your visit right, which of course I did not, you could observe various kiln firings. If not there is still all the exhibitors to see, of which there were 80.
Actually there were slightly more than that because off the main concourse in a side room was what they had charmingly termed "Future Masters". These were students in their final year of the ceramics degree. There were I think about 8 of them but the one I liked the most and was instantly drawn to were by Georgia Davis (above). The pink ones are presumably bisque fired (that means have been fired once, ready for glazing and the final firing). Davis has some nice shapes going on there but it is the lustre on the finished products I really like. There are 2 elements that particularly appeal to me and that is the blue tones in the small bowl sitting on top of the plate on the left, and the turquoise veins on the bowl on the right. Davis might indeed be a future master and it was only a shame that none of her work is for sale. I will try to remember to go the degree show later and the year and maybe they will be then.
Back to, as it where the main event. There were lots of high quality things on display. Some of it was well done and well executed but not to my taste for various reasons. This is a personal take and so I have included things here that appealed to me or caught my eye for some reason. To begin with we have some long vases that look like legs of Dalmatians who have been let out in the rain before their spots have dried (above left). It is fact the work of Karin Bablok. I like both the dripping black patterning, slightly Rosharc test like and the tapered shape with the squared mouth.
Next to this we have the work of Richard Phethean (above right) has a colour scheme that works very well, this combination of black, blue, yellow and pink. It is the pink that works well, sitting there as a back ground on which the other colours sit. I also like the curling ends to the teapot, a feature that occurs on other pieces as well.
One of the stars of the show was Kristy Macrae (above left and right). Her work is sculpture, paintings on ceramics, rather than functional objects but they are glorious. I was very drawn to them but she was having a good show and my favourite pieces (the large one at the back on the left, and the one nearest one on the right), had already been sold. The stripes and streaks of black, yellow, pink on a background of white and grey. The more successful ones suggest figurative elements, flowers and trees, that kind of thing. I shall keep an eye on Macrae.
Another stand out for me and who made my nearly bought list is the augustly titled Richard St John Heeley (above left). Indeed he might have made a sale if his stand wasn't abandoned for such a long period. It has a Japanese feeling. The ones that most appeal to me are of the type you can see in the picture. These subtle blue shades on white. The darker blues really hit.
Adam Frew (above right) makes slim jugs with soft blue scrubbing on the surface. The light green base sets it off well and the geometric lines particularly the red right angle on the left.
Peter Beard (above left) produces very finely wrought, beautiful quite delicate pieces, with this bubbled patterned surfaces. They are very nice but expensive. He has these fluted vases which were among my favourite.
Another start, and in fact someone who made my buy list is Daniel Boyle (above right). The patternation is produced by a salt glaze apparently. The containers that you see here are very nice and tactile and there was a piece of stacked containers that appealed to me greatly. Deep blue really works for me. I went away with a lovely mug.
Jack Doherty's (above) work is like washed stone, or burnished if you will. The combinations of black and orange that orbits the bottom of two of the pots set up the piece well. The variation of the surfaces make each piece individual as does the scratches indentation, those feathery marks in the middle piece for example, and the bumps and lumps make them stand out.
Akiko Hirai was the one of only two people in the show that I had seen before. Indeed I have a small beautifully turquoise blue interior (that I brought from her at a studio sale), which is what is inside the bowls that are picture here (above left).
I do have a preference for abstract decoration on my pottery but every so often figurative works do catch my eye. One example of this is the work of Raewyn Harrison (above right). I like the way they work as set and the square serrated tops. An oldy timey scene of ships in a busy port (is it London) fits the general ascetic. Reminds me of Turner.
Nested! A smart way to display your wares, particularly if they match or grade in colour i the way Juliet MacLeod does (above right). There is more detail to each one than you might expect, you can just about make out the hatching on the centre piece in the photo. If you want to really spoil your dog maybe get them a large one to sup out of. Of course you really do want to get a set and they certainly benefit from the cheerleader effect.
Rhian Malin produces mainly vases, both cylindrical and more bulbous like the ones depicted above right. It is these bulbous ones that I prefer particulars where you have the contrast between the blue caps and white body. It is also very clever how the line colour change your perception of the whole piece, so for example the ones with the red lines have a very different feel and look to the blue ones. I like also the way the lines take you round the piece.
More substantial and earthy and scored with claw like slashes is the work of Matthew Blakely (above left). Firm and solid, with drip like decorations and smudges that are reminiscent of paleolithic hand prints. The vases feel like they have been unearthed from an ancient archaeological site.
Another stand out artists for me is Martin Mindermann (above right), and made my almost bought list, and indeed might have gone further if the budget hadn't been spent elsewhere. They have a luminescent quality, often gold flecked, or with gold plated interiors. My favourite of these are like the one depicted above have an undersea feeling, like waving seaweeds. Very nice. Maybe at some point in the future.
Blues in this segment. Starting with the small square vases by Miju Kurihara (above left, although not all blue). They are simple almost stark object and where they are decorated with repeating geometric shapes. An example where simplicity works well, and again they work well in a set.
Arabic styled are the sweeping curved crescented blue pieces. Sometimes they can be a bit spikey but I prefer the more curved elements, even if they are quite sharply curved. The rising darkening blue emphasises the shapes of the pieces.
I knew when I walked by Alison Thomson's stand (top of the blog and above right). Simple, plain shape, decorated either with blurred edged fields of colours or simple brush strokes of colour across the pieces. They look better I think against the grey background in which she displayed them. After strolling around the fair I returned, and after much erring and an interesting discussion with the lady herself, I came away with three small slim vases (below), which are my favourite of her works. I also as you can see got myself a small Daniel Boyle cup.
I shall leave it there. There were many fine people there who I haven't mentioned. In the event that you are reading this on 24th and still have time then I recommend going along. There are other events going on as I mentioned.
Also if you are interested in seeing a chubby middle-aged white man and his art come and see my show ‘Upstream and Downstream’ The Old Fire Station Gallery, Henley-on-Thames, 52 Market Pl, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AG
9.30am to 6pm: Daily from Thursday 18th to Tuesday 23rd April 2019-
I like Dorothea Tanning, as does my wife. The sunflower (above) is one of her favourite pictures, one that we have both admired in the permanent connection in the Tate along we went to the Tanning show at the Tate Modern. We were not disappointed. Its a great picture, with the weird skinny elfin figures and the enormous sunflower. The picture itself is quite small, but still packs a punch.
The best surrealist painting packs a strong visual image and also reminds you and feels like a dream. Birthday (above right) was one of my favourite paintings in the whole show. This is a self portrait of Tanning and although she is bare breasted it is not a sexual image but exudes strength, with the signature foliage draping down her back. This painting really spoke to me. I have had dreams in which I am confronted by a myriad of doors. Tanning too by the look of it. Also the small flying creature has more than a striking resemblance to my cat. Not only does it strike all these cords but the technical ability on display is fairly astounding. I like this painting very much.
The almost photorealistic dreamscape (if that isn't too much of a contradiction) continue for the first couple of rooms. I shall not show them all here but the Philosophers is worth looking out for. Tanning (or versions of her) feature in a number of them. So for instance you have these self portrait (above left) of this lonely figure in what appears to be nigh attire looking out a landscape that reminds me of Yellowstone national park. The misty lake floor and the hazy horizon make it a lonely place. I like the contrast between the grey and brown rocks.
Twists on a classic theme is something that happens in art a lot with varying degrees of success. Tanning pulls it of rather well with her take on a still life (above right) where all the flowers are dead and you have this odd and disturbing insect thing sitting on the table. I love the detail of the table cloth with its bumps and creases lovingly depicted. I also like the dead black rose rising above the rear of the table.
Doors. There are frequent doors in Tanning's paintings. Maternity is a theme she explored both in odd fabric sculptures (of which more later) but also in paintings in which a stunning example is above left. The construction is in some ways quite simple, figures, doors, sand and sky. Of course that is irritatingly reductive. Like her other paintings it brings about this odd sense of deja-vu, like you have experienced something strikingly similar. In the background, through the rear door is this assemblage of items looking like female undergarments. Then you have this trio of figures, the barefoot woman holding a baby and then this dog, with a human face (the dog appears in various paintings also). What particularly struck me is the ripped, almost ghoulish shroud-like feel to the woman's clothing. Its almost like the baby has ripped through it you know, like that scene in Alien.
Probably the high point of disturbing, more nightmarish than dreamlike is the Guest Bedroom (above right). Again beautifully rendered. There is allot going on here, the person in bed with their arm around a manikin, the naked elfin girl, the horrific dwarfish figure, their head obscured by what looks like a gas mask covering their head, then this looming death like apparition in the shadows in the background. It is somewhat striking. She is good a fabric is Tanning and shows this off with black, grey and beige coverings. I imagine there are reams written about the meanings in this painting. I prefer just to look at it and wonder.
Tanning lived for a long time. She die age 101. Later in her career she moved away from the realistic style to a more swirling and abstract style. The first one of these to great you is this flame coloured number (above left). It is very large and the central door is in fact a piece of wood, stuck to the middle of the canvas. The swirling yellow and orange is very eye catching and gives a dynamism to the piece. The message appears to be left is trying to get in and right is trying to keep her out. The style is so different it would not be difficult to believe it was by a completely different artists. To be honest I prefer the realist style but these more swirling pieces have something to offer.
Much more hellish is this swirling grey number (above right). Figures emerge from the mists including the dog previously mentioned and various odd people. It is one of those paintings where the more you look at it the more things and people you see.
You still get in these later works that same quality of reminiscent and dreams one has had. One of my favourite of these works is the one above left. Most of the painting is nearly black with swirls of misty red. Then emerging from the darkness is the zombie like hand scrapping the floor. The arm changes from vague to photorealistic. The blues and greens of the limb appeal to me.
Very different in tone at least but still recognisably the same tone is a sort of legs and eye combo. The eye seems to be one of a cat. Seems to be a number of sensual female forms. This becomes a trope of Tanning's later work, there is quite allot that is vaginal, occasionally quite explicitly so.
At the end of the last room is a large predominately green painting. Naked figures cavorting (are they cavorting) with their faces obscured by these swirling lights or possibly flower heads. The deep green colours greatly appeals to me and gives the impression that you are looking down into a pool, to see the nymphs therein among the reeds.
The exhibition was slightly oddly laid out in that in the Tate you usually enter one door, and through the various rooms, and out of the different. This time the last room was showing a tedious art film which I did not watch and so to escape you had to go back through the exhibition. I didn't mind this because I nearly always do this anyway. On my way out I looked at these well nearly pornographic entwined naked figures. I prefer the one on the right where there is the keyhole shape. The black lines striking up and across the scene lift it for me. They are a strong addition.
The other figure I really liked is a, well it's a figure. It is made of intertwining fabrics forming this hunched sad, monkish figure, chained to a pole. It is spooky and quite moving but a bit at odds with the rest of the show, which I found mostly joyful and uplifting, in you know quite a disturbing way.
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.