Summer/Autumn Roundup

IMG_1111

Claire Morris-Wright in the Wallner Gallery at Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham

The back half of this year has been somewhat chaotic so I’ve had little time to reflect.  Along the way I made brief notes so here, for anyone following this!, is a brief round up of some of what’s been seen.  One or two shows have also been mentioned in my personal blog Plainly Painting so cut along there if you haven’t already.

See Here at the old Neale’s Auction House, in Nottingham way back in late June was a very welcome event.  Not least as it was good to see old friends still working away and a host of other artists not previously known to me.  Bill Ming and Nadia Nagual are amongst the best that the region has to offer. Bill showed his sculpture in the context of installation and alongside collage, an interesting and exciting development.  Nadia has always shown great sensitivity in her work and this was very much on display here.  There were solid outings from artists I’ve admired over the years, Carole Hawthorne and Roy Pickering, the guiding hand behind the show.  Not known to me was Mwini Mutuku, but whose work showed both sensitivity and energy nor Jim Jack, whose cultural pieces I’d like to see more of.

IMG_0997

Whispers Of Commercial Greed & Nature Balance by Sardul Gill, See Here, Neale’s Auction House, Nottingham

Also good to see artists willing to experiment in public…Roy himself in collaboration with Sardul Gill, Richard Perry with his daughter Josie, and several artists working outside their comfort zone, experimenting with the available spaces. Roy and everyone associated with this show are to be applauded. 

In the Henderson Gallery buried in the bowels of the Malt Cross in Nottingham, one of our best kept secrets here in the Midlands, Pamela Clarkson was showing her Mariam and Waleria & other prints.  One of, if not the, premier printmaker in the region…she exhibits a range of techniques, not in itself especially important, but put to really great effect in a very satisfying show.

IMG_1008

Miriam & Waleria, by Pamela Clarkson, Henderson Gallery, Nottingham

Early autumn saw a trip into the city to Lakeside. Ostensibly to see Rena Begum’s Space Light Colour, highly recommended by some this was something of a disappointment to me.  These were too slick, and seemed gewgaws for the rich (Dubai seemed to be, naturally enough, home for many of them), had little to say to me beyond retreading old modernist tropes – I felt it was faux Art as sophisticated interior design drawing on such hard working talent such as Yaacov Agam who has thoroughly mined this territory starting nearly half a century back (and still going at 90!)…still everyone to their own I’ve seen quite a few rave reviews of it.  

Luckily the Angear provided a little more meat with a selection of Steffie Richards recent paintings.  I’ve written about these before (though there were interesting new developments) so suffice to say one of the new works on the back wall was an absolute cracker.  Over in the Wallner Gallery Claire Morris-Wright showed her Hedge project – as its past now I’m not going to write extensively about this but I think its the best, most rewarding and meaningful encounter with quality I’ve seen over the late summer/autumn.  Luckily delay in posting this round up means I’m able to recommend the unabridged version of this show – on at Kettering’s Alfred East until 5th Jan. 2019.

Trix & Robert Haussman are architects, but are more often found in the design magazines on the continent where their playful ‘interventions’ have, particularly in the past twenty years or so, struck a chord with fellow professionals and public alike.  The show at Nottingham Contemporary was rather a delight bringing together a wide range of their work from conceptual art documentation through adaptations of modernist classics and onto shop fittings.  In the other two galleries an artist previously unknown to me Pia Camil presented a stylish and original installation that brought together textiles, ceramics and performance, through effective video presentation.  Her interests reflect aspects of mass consumerism, interactions between workers as producers and the audience as consumers, references to prior artworks and epochs and trans gender issues.  It might sound a bit scattergun but the artist had woven the elements together with some elan.  Both shows were full of interest and humour – and one imagines they reflect the new management at the venue…in which case things are looking up.

Coming into autumn proper it was up to the Walker, Liverpool to view the latest John Moores.  Actually this was rather refreshing with many painters I’d not seen before (and hardly any big names). I struggled to find much of merit in the first prize-winner but overall there were plenty of things that spoke of painting’s persistence in the face of institutional indifference. I especially enjoyed Black Star by Virginia Verran, from those I knew of and Kos Town Paradise Hotel Front Terrace by Gary Lawrence from those I didn’t.

And talking of really good painting a short while back we ventured into the New Art Gallery, Walsall to see the real tour de force that Elizabeth Magill has assembled of mainly recent, larger canvases but also encompassing a selection of her sublime small canvases over the past decade.  Magill is a quite exceptional painter, no doubt about it.  And her productivity over these past few years is impressive.  If I have a criticism of sorts it might be that the scaling up of the pictures could become formulaic, but it hasn’t yet and, given her pedigree, I doubt she’ll let it.

IMG_1533

Elizabeth Magill at the New Art Gallery, Walsall

A necessary trip up north, saw me visiting the gallery in the Creative Arts faculty at the University of Central Lancashire where Nottingham based Laine Tomkinson is showing prints and other works on paper in a solo show – Wiggle Whoogie til Dec. 6th.  These new works suggest the artist is pushing forward with both structure and, significantly, the sophisticated use of colour.  Where earlier work I’ve seen was vibrant and exuberant the palette seems to be cooling a little encouraging more ambiguous shifts in the register and reading of the imagery.  This aspect of the work intrigues the viewer, where seemingly form is often inverted by use of elements that are by products of the making  process.  The extensive use of layering of colour and form adds to their elusive qualities.  A most satisfying show from an artist who is maturing into a very distinctive voice.

IMG_1560

White Lines & Mr. Soft, by Laine Tomkinson, PR1 Gallery, Preston

And finally, back to a regular haunt over the years…Harrington Mill in Long Eaton.  Here Sheila Ravnkilde is showing the results of a three month residency Poured Lengths.  As always there is directness to the work, the titles that rarely brook any ambiguity being especially appropriate to the nine (as I recall) lengths of – what? – three by three timbers that have been subjected to repeated pourings of pure pigmented paint of a single colour each.  Where previous works rarely betrayed the hand of the artist recent offerings have made a feature of it, albeit in the form of process rather than signature.  A key, perhaps the key, aspect of the work is the interaction between the space and the interventions in it and as always this had been meticulously considered, especially with regard to the colour relationships.  This kind of minimalist work has to be well executed as it was here.  A fitting finale to shows at the Mill that is regrettably closing this December, a loss in an area where exhibiting opportunities (not to mention highly affordable studios) are at a premium.

IMG_1586.JPG

Poured Lengths, Sheila Ravnkilde, Harrington Mill

 

Advertisements

On the sublime…

IMG_0338

It’s a simple enough trope…superimposition of one scale upon another…though I suspect quite a bit harder to pull off than one might imagine.  In Richard T. Walker’s video piece its used to quite powerful effect – regular readers will know I’m quite a lot harder own video – but the poetic narrative at work here is pretty mesmerising.  It lives up to the promise of the exhibitions title.  Sadly much else here doesn’t.  Mariella Neidecker’s piece here buries her characteristic vignette into a clumsy mis en scene that proves to be a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.  The other work in the space crowded out by this bombast.  Elsewhere nothing much lives up to the billing.

IMG_0336.JPG

Luckily outside the main galleries in the Angear space there is something of exceptional and exquisite quality.  The Nottinghamshire based artist Robert Hart has been given the opportunity to display some the exceptional work he has been engaged in over the past few years.  It is an astonishing display – perhaps a little overcrowded – of the drawings, prints and paintings he has produced over recent times.

IMG_0333

He has focussed a deal of his creative ambition on the Suffolk coastline – specifically the wastelands of Orfordness and, whilst many artists have chosen this unique landscape since it was released from the Ministry of Defence a few decades back, fewer still have done so to such exceptional effect.  Anyone who has visited this location (and if you haven’t I strongly advise you do) will testify to its unique character – an ambience that Rob has captured to perfection.  His forensic visual intelligence is coupled with a poetic imagination and has resulted in a wealth of material.  His show is a triumph – catch it in the few days you have left – it ends on May 6th.

IMG_0334

 

Re- Appraisals…

DVcnI_VXUAADbaG

Aspects of Print, work by Roy Bizley occupies the relatively small but lovely light and airy exhibition space at the front of Leicester’s Print Workshop and yet it’s a show that delights and deserves more attention than one supposes it may well be getting. It is accompanied by an even smaller display at the nearby LCB Depot that sadly we weren’t able to access on our visit. Roy was a long term contributor to the Fine Art teaching team at the nearby Leicester Poly (now De Montfort University) and was a modest and unassuming character, pretty much loved by all who knew him, and focussed much of his teaching on developing printing talent, a deal of it associated at one time or another with LPW.  This show concentrates on prints made in response to visits to Iceland and have a suitably cool palette, offset by small hot colour highlights that gives the images real punch – and show off the printmaker’s consummate abilities in the medium. In fact these prints have quite astonishingly technical competences given that woodcut and lino are integrated to achieve the results. But of course technique is only of value if allied to something to say and images that say it. Here the artist scores top marks, not least in terms of unerring drafting skills and compositional alertness.

Roy Bizlet=y blue cropped square

Roy Bizley is part of a big story yet to be written about the talent that lurked in provincial art schools through the period from roughly the late fifties to around the turn of the millennium. As the art schools expanded they embraced young talent and a generation of really top class artists like Roy came into them. At 34 when he began work in Leicester Roy was older than some colleagues in both his institution and others (many came in quite fresh from their art school post grad training) but his time there was spent in teaching and also making so that on his death in 1999 he left a large body of compelling work, much of it rarely seen outside (or even inside) the academic realm. Like many of his colleagues (and I could mention many around the country) exhibition opportunities were rare in a time when the premium for official institutions was on young, new artists, when to be visible you needed regular access to the capital and – to be fair – lecturers with long term full time tenure were less compelled to need to ‘hustle’ for shows and thus sales. This show is simply the tip of a very large iceberg, with a vast amount of excellent work sitting beneath, Roy’s other work, his paintings and political prints especially but then a huge volume of other equally exciting artists – I might mention David Willetts in Nottingham or Norman Rowe in Wolverhampton, Martin Rogers in Derby or Doug Kemp in Loughborough…the list is extensive and might be repeated across the North, or the South West as much as the Midlands. Whether much of it is still extant (particularly as regards those artists who have sadly passed) I do not know but if it is it deserves to be seen – and celebrated.

Ribeiro, Lancelot, 1933-2010; Purple Still Life

Lancelot Ribeiro, Purple Still Life, 1965

Curiously enough the theme of appraisals, whether they be ‘re-‘ or not was writ large at Leicester’s New Walk Museum & Art Gallery too. Firstly the Lancelot Ribeiro: A Voyage Of Discovery show suggests that he has been criminally neglected over the years. His omission from The Other Story, the Hayward Gallery survey show of British based ‘Afro Asian’ artists in 1989 is odd…was it self exclusion or not? (several other notable artists, Anish Kapoor, Veronica Ryan and Dhruva Mistry amongst them were also absent). But then again his half brother F.N.Souza was included.  Leicester has, to its credit, championed his work over the years (with long time Director Patrick Boylan a key supporter) but elsewhere in the UK he achieved relatively little recognition (indeed in later years he fared better in Germany).  Whatever – the show here suggests that his output was astonishingly varied with little hints of quite startlingly arresting individuality.  A small sculpture from the mid sixties explores the way in which paint can be pushed into three dimensions , late collaged work that looks as if it might have come from a particularly innovative student from last summer’s degree shows given how fresh they are. Overall the strengths of the main bodies of paintings are a surety in line and structure and an exuberant confidence in handling strong, often hot colour in subtle ways.

Ribeiro, Lancelot, 1933-2010; Accented Landscape, Series 1

Lancelot Ribeiro, Accented Landscape Series 1, 1979

Across the New Walk Museum as a whole there are plenty of treats in store if you like quality painting. Of course the highlight is the marvellous German Expressionist gallery augmented presently by three wonderful Egon Schiele drawings on loan ahead of a showing at Tate Liverpool. But the display of works by ‘global’ artists includes a canvas by the excellent, sometimes resident of Loughborough, Ghanaian painter Atta Kwami – more fantastic colour exuberance locked into solid structures – and in the recent acquisitions room another equally striking colour canvas by another favourite of mine William Gear. In this latter room one comes full circle with two fine canvasses by Roy Bizley as well. With a new entrance Leicester is leading the pack at a time when many regional museum spaces are under financial and even existential threat. Get there and see some terrific work and lend it support!

IMG_0253

Global Artists display, with Atta Kwami painting centre right, next to the Francis Bacon.

The Ribeiro runs till May 6th…

The Bizley till 12th May…