As you can't have helped but notice and I have blogged about before here and here, I have an exhibition coming up on 19th August and preparations are coming along at speed. I spent earlier this week putting posters and fliers up around Stoke Newington, more of that later.
For now a preview of the works I've had framed. So above is one of my Palette knife paintings, it is called Pinta. There are three more below Migrations patterns, The Tree, and Train Journey in the Rain.
Switching media are these patterns done with gouache patterns done on watercolour paper. I have lots of these. I do them as a sort of therapy and relaxation in the evening and I have loads of the. I have chosen the best of them to be framed to go in the show.
Plants, I like plants, I like looking at them and painting at them, particularly the unusual ones and these two, the Fungus and the Carnivorous Plant. Do you like the frames? My Dad got them for me.
I've only been painting for about 3 years and yet there are already paintings I had forgotten I'd done, like this night street scene which my Dad liked and took home with him and has returned for the exhibition. It is better than I remember. You may also recognise the Vase of Flowers from the fliers.
Roads and Canals, a frequent theme in my present work. The left had one is a semi abstract picture of the Regent's Canal and the right hand picture a lane in Cornwall, just outside Newlyn.
One of the main purposes of the show is to see what of my work people prefer so I have also thrown in some more random pieces such as the paintings of soldiers (the title will have to remain a secret for now) and the watercolour still life and ink flowers. Ink is a recent discovery and one I have yet to master.
Finally there is a grid of 9 smaller paintings. I think the pen (top left) looks best in its shiny new frame closely followed by the centre tiger moth.
Finally I have a bit of a challenge if anyone is reading and lives in Stoke Newington. I have put up three posters on Stoke Newington Church Street. They are all inside various establishments. If you post on social media a selfie of you in front of one of them you can get £5 off any purchase. Manage all 3 and you can have free unframed pattern gouache picture. Don't forget to tag me in somehow so I know
I have a strong interest bordering on an obsession with pottery and ceramics but it is not something I have ever tried make. That is I wandered past on Blackstock Road, Clay Time.
It's a good name which always help. Basically there are three parts to the store. First you can just buy pottery and they have some pretty nice stuff.
Secondly you can drop in, pretty much whenever you want, and either make ceramics or decorate ready made ceramics. The thing that most interested me though is that they do pottery making courses, so I signed up for five weeks beginners course on wheel throwing.
Our instructor was Mitra Mahmoodi. She was very good and over 5 weeks took us through the basics of wheel throwing. It is very difficult. It requires both patience and a lightness of touch. Neither of these are my strong point.
The first two weeks we were being taught how to knead the clay to get rid of all the air bubbles, and then centre it on the wheel. This is the scene from ghost bit where you cover yourself in water and massage the clay up and down. What they don't tell you is all this is actually quite phyiscally tough and tricky to do.
Once the clay is centred you can then open it up and pinch up the side of the pots. This is the very tricky part and the pile of ruined half pot strewn around my wheel was testament to my lack of skill in this regard. After three weeks I had three wobbly efforts below.
The next stage is turning the pot so that it changes into something actually bowl or cup shaped. It is at this stage you really appreciate having centered the whole thing properly for doing so makes thing easier. Or rather not having centered them properly makes it much more difficult and one my pots didn't make it through this process and I had to use one the instructor made.
Then they are fired, bisque firing it is called. I only fired three and they came out like this.
Finally, decorating by the application of glazes, of which they are three types. There is dip glazes, which is exactly as it sounds, you dip the whole pot in a glaze, of which there are various colours. I chose to dip one in Turkish Turquoise.
Then there are is normal glaze, which you can paint into various patterns onto the pot.
Both of the above two cannot be applied on top of each other or they will interact, but the final type, underglaze can and you can use this to paint pretty much as you would with oils. Painting around a curve is difficult. This is the stage, I have to say that I enjoyed most.
Finally they are glaze fired. 10 days later I had the final results. I was quite pleased with two them but one looks like it was made by a crazed child. I am really glad I did it though, it was a lot of fun and I recommend it. I shall probably go again.
The people there are super friendly and were kind enough to let me put up a poster for my upcoming exhibition.
If you want to show the lie to the common modern myth that the millennial generation are feckless and lack focus then pop down to Free Range at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. You don’t have long as the last day is 17th July so chances are you are reading this blog after it has finished. I didn’t know about this show, I stumbled on it by chance as I was wandering down Brick lane, saw an advert saying free exhibition so in I went.
What they are showing, and have been for the last few weeks, is an enormous graduate show from various universities. There are a number of them there and they send their best students to show at this fair. This week, the last week is the turn of the architecture student.
It is an enormous show, occupying all of the gallery space in the Truman Brewery. It is a little overwhelming when you first arrive met with as you are by a myriad of stands and, at least when I went, hordes of people wandering around.
I confess, I don’t have much interest in architecture. I’m not sure I can tell what is good architecture and what is bad so I was more drawn to those stands that appealed to my artistic sensibility which is basically, imaginative, colourful and funny.
There are basically five elements to each stand. The model, the concept drawings, the plan drawings, the materials tray and then a load of words setting out how they had approached the whole thing, the philosophy etc. I didn’t read the words. Interestingly, or interesting to me at any rate, the exhibitors were predominately women.
The materials tray was something I hadn’t encountered before and I found them quite intriguing. Some people had put a real effort into making them a work of art in themselves. One exhibitor whose name I have mislaid had instead of putting in gold, had put in gold cutlery to her artfully arranged board and it really draws you into her stand. Good work
Others had deliberately set out to arrange interesting boards.
There was some sensationally detailed models, ranging from the ecologically inspired pieces with curvey lines, to the starkly industrial.
As well as the frankly bizarre (but very funny)
Each university had their own patch and one of the element that interested me was how they made it a cohesive display UAL (below left) had done well with their polkadot foam thing but the best one was by Nottingham Trent University (below right, sorry for the poor photo).
Top of the class, at least I thought was Sanna Ali with The Teatotaler’s Tavern (below). This works on many levels because it is a tearooms you see. Extra points therefore for having a pun in the title. The model and the design was good but what was truly excellent and my appalling photograph entirely fails to capture was her stall, brightly coloured engaging, and with teapots with teabags in them which you could take away and a brilliant same saying “Please take one, and only one :-)” . I had a brief chat with Sanna and she was entirely baffled as to why I found her sign so amusing, but gave some interesting insights into her design.
Sara Kliczka who managed to eclipse the hilarious (but rather good) Horse Sanctuary (See above) with what I thought was a lovely but simple bridge design. I like the rising structure. Look at all that detail (below)
Cansu Bal (below) had designed this laboratory complex and I really like the organic brain like structures framed by a more formal building. I also think it works really well having the model in front of some of the drawings.
Sean Hungwe produced this flowing arching structures as a garden pavilion. I like the lines (and have to say the trees below).
Finally the excellently name Chantelle Flunt who was the only one that I saw attempting the tower block. It looks actually good but also functional. I really like the way she has shown both one standing alone and in situ.
All very interesting and has given me some ideas that I think will difuse into my painting. Speaking of which, I have a show on 19th August
As you hopefully know I am having my first solo exhibition on Saturday 19th August in Stoke Newington. Today's post is part plug, part update on where everything is.
The publicity drive is in its first stages with twitter, instagram, facebook and linkedin, all corralled into pumping up enthusiasm for this hopefully ego massaging event. I have also had fliers, designed and produced for me by the excellent Owen Smith, printed and I think they look really good. I have already begun to distribute them.
I am getting and have got a number of pictures framed, but I for the larger paintings I have decided not to have them framed. I think if I did they would be enormous and potentially overwhelm everything else as well as being heavy and cumbersome. I thought I'd give you a sneak preview of some of them. One thing I do is create patterns using Gouache and pen. Using one of these I created a much bigger, oil and canvas version (below). I call it fire place.
Cornwall is often an inspiration for artists and thus it proved to me. I think there will be at least 5 paintings either take from or inspired by the landscape there in the exhibition. 3 are below. The two abstract ones (below left and below top right) were inspired by cockles and mussels attached to shiny wet rocks on the beach of St Ives. The roadscape (below bottom right) was a magical headgebound road that we walked down on one gorgeous summer day.
Continuing the theme of views inspired by holidays this canopy view (below) was inspired by a sweltering holiday in St Lucia and the blessed relief of a lovely day spent wandering around the inland rainforest. I was captivated by the light filtering through the tall trees and tried to replicate this when I got home.
Sometimes you have just got to go nuts. I have had for a while a couple of squares of cooper lying around. I have tried to paint on them with no notable success. So utilising that well known painting aid, no-more-nails, I stuck it to a large canvas and then slapped on thick solid lines of colour (below). It is one of more left field pieces and I will be interested to see what people think of it.
Finally, I am currently working on a number of scenes from around London, most of them focusing on the Regent's Canal and specifically the part that runs through Islington and Hackney. Many of these works are still in progress. Hugh Mendes is away and has left me his studio keys so they are the main things and I am working furiously on over the next month. The picture that kicked off this obsession and will, I think, end up being the lynchpin of the whole show is a view of the basin by the Kingsland Road Bridge (below).
There will no doubt be more. Come along on 19th August to see them all in person.
There is an exhibition on at Tate Britain until September called Queer British Art. I wasn’t planning to go to this. The posters put me off I’m afraid with this awful sneering portrait by Gluck which I hate (above). The advertising for the show was well odd. Queer British Art, an exhibition presumably of Queer British Artist or art on Queer subjects, but who is in the show? It was strangely difficult to find out.
I am always slightly skeptical of these themed shows. They have in the past been quite week and just place fillers to stock up the calendar. However this one got good reports so go I did.
There are some very good paintings (and sculpture) in the show and some very good and well known artists. Like all good shows it also introduces you to people you had not heard of before but come out glad that you have met them. Also, be warned, the show has explicit sexual content.
We kick off in the Victorian era. This slightly surprised me. There must have been queer British artists prior to this but maybe we don’t know who they were. More realistically I suppose you want to focus your exhibition on people who are good.
Simeon Solomon is one of these people who is good. You encounter his sketches just as you enter. Beautifully rendered, subtle and sympathetic pencil portraits they lead you along one wall to a large oil painting of Sappho and Erinna
In the middle of the room is a sensuous male statue by Fredrick Leighton. However this is eclipsed by a painting of Icarus and Deadelus, Icarus almost entirely naked apart from strategically placed orange cloth. I have written about Leighton before having been to his house. He is a fan of that orange gaussy cloth, it appearing in flaming June.
This room is all about high Victorian era, Walter Crane (below right) an excellent William Blake Richards a long picture called the Bowlers, all of whom are in various stages of undress either bowling or lying langerously around.
Then there is Henry Tulke (below left) with his very impressionistic pictures of handsome young men, naked (or nearly so) by the sea. It is all heavy brush strokes and turquoise sea.
The star of the first room though is Evelyn de Morgan Aurura Triumphans these three strident female trumpeters standing almost as though they were part of the scenery with vivid scarlet wings and beneath them two female figures, one almost naked by strategically bejewelled and the other covered in gray clothing with her back to us.
Then onwards into the next room and the late 19th and early 20th century. The door to Oscar Wilde’s cell is here, as is a full length portrait of the man himself (below) by Robert Goodloe. Roger Fry is represented by an excellent portrait of Edward Carpenter presented as tall and taught, lonely in mournful but with a sort of core of power in mainly brown.
Next to this was a small case with some Charles Richards jewellery which I liked immensely. If you like enormous penises (and who doesn’t) then you will be please by Audrey Beardsley explicit cartoons done in pen and ink.
Time rumbles on and brings with it some Cecil Beaton photographs which lead you into the next room the favourite object of which was (closely followed by Noel Coward’s dressing gown) an angular bust by Una Troubridge. Done in marble it has angular cheekbones, stark eyebrows and thick curled hair. I like this very much
Setting you up for the next room, framed by the doorway is a massive Duncan Grant painting called bathing. It is one of several in the next room but bar far the best. These almost manikin like male figures, naked but strategically posed, dive into a semi abstract sea made up of wavey lines, of blues and purples. The sky is composed of dots.
This room also has the Gluck above (I hate that painting, such a disdainful look) but of much more interest is a very good portrait by Edward Wolfe of Pat Nelson. A solid flowing figure with very sensuous eyes all against a swirling green background. He is reclining topless and fires sexual lust out of the picture at you. It is also refreshing to see a black person pictured in art. It is rare, and even rarer that it is done sympathetically and well.
This exhibition in fact has two, the other one being a portrait of Henry Thomas by Glyn Warren Philpot which has Thomas in profile, solid against a background of red and gold.
In a softer more impressionistic style is Ethel Sands’ Tea With Sickert. All lose colours and flowing lines with the figures almost lost amongst the furniture. For me thought the standout piece was by Ethel Wake and called The Exclusion of Nausicaa. It is a gathering of naked women bathing but they are not presented as sexual objects but rather as power people. The fact that there are no men there emphasises this. My favourite figure was a woman scooping up water in a cupped hand.
Again the curators have done a good job with the standout picture in the next room (and indeed my favourite in the show) framed by the door. It is Laura Knight’s self portrait. It is a large painting. The artist presents herself mainly from the back and in slight profile. She is painting the nude woman in front of us who is also facing away from her. It is a very sexy painting of a nude woman it has to be said. The red backdrop to it all matches the red cardigan that Knight is wearing, which Is well textured by small brush strokes of various colours.
There are a number of good portraits in this room, one by John Singer Sargent of Vernan Lee (below left). One by Alano Guerro of Dame Edith Sitwell and between these a striking portrait by William Strang called Woman in a Hat. The hat is a vivid red, drawing your eye and contrasting well with the green dress. The woman, with her strong gaze is in fact Vera Sackville-West (below right).
This is the peak of the exhibition for me and after this it goes down hill as far as I’m concerned. There is Keith Vaughan who is good at what he does but it has a violence to it that I find very off putting. The sketches like the one below are the best of it.
There are others there such as Jack Mirton and a series of tedious photographs. The exhibition finishes with early Hockney (which to my mind is the best Hockney but did not compare well to the stellar pieces that I had just scene and a couple of Frances Bacon. Bacon is all self loathing and disgust. They are powerful pieces to look at but you wouldn’t want to do so often. There were two pictures, a self portrait (below) and Figures in a Landscape. The later had two figures in it crouching doing something, you are not sure what but Bacon both despises and desires it, at least that was my impression.
It is a very charged show and has to be said credit to the curators for putting together something of such high quality and so coherent. The only thing that was missing is that it would have been nice to see more works (apart from Hockney) by queer british artists who are currently working. Lack of space I supposed and you have to stop somewhere.
Anyway if you have got this far in this post maybe you'd like to come to my exhibition on 19th August.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.