Local Colour

Reviews

This season’s south coast artfest is well under way: in May, Brighton & Hove Open Houses gave us the fab and funky experience we’ve come to expect; and Worthing will be consolidating its artistic renaissance with Artists Open Houses from mid-June to early July. What of Adur Art Trail? It’s the jewel in the crown, the cultured pearl between Brighton’s Bohemia and Worthing’s retro charm – but there’s no Trail this year. In 2018 there will be an Adur Art Trail to look forward to. However, lovers of the Shoreham art scene won’t be disappointed this year with Adur Art Collective’s first Summer Exhibition at Skyway Gallery. More than 60 members of the collective are currently showing a selection of work in a variety of media: paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture, textiles, jewellery, paper craft, mosaic and film.

The show offers a chance to enjoy memories of last year’s trail, with Maddie Zayeet’s movie Trekking the Adur Art Trail 2016. And there’s another brilliant film not to be missed: Shoreham by Sea – An Aerial Perspective by Scott Wright (still image at the start of this post). It’s a mesmerizing film offering a drone’s-eye view of the local landscape. You feel like you’re flying high over fields, roads, chalk cliffs and shoreline, looking down on well-loved landmarks – the River Adur and the Ferry Bridge, the power station, the lighthouse and Lancing College – in a stunning new way.

Creating a coherent display from such diverse exhibits is an achievement in itself, and the standard of the presentation as well as the art is high. As a venue, Skyway Gallery at the Shoreham Centre has a lot going for it: bright and modern, it’s at the heart of the community so it’s an ideal place to bring art to the people. And the people are being asked to get involved in this exhibition, to give their comments and to nominate their favourite exhibit as the people’s choice, with prize giving on the show’s closing day. AAC patron and expert watercolourist Shirley Trevena will also present an award for the most innovative use of colour.

What the public have been saying:

“A great eclectic mix, wonderful”
“So much local talent”
“I love seeing all the different media used”
“A lovely exhibition”
“A thoroughly enjoyable feast of art”
“Super exhibition – well done to all the artists”

 

The Summer Exhibition at Skyway Gallery in Shoreham-by-Sea continues until Sunday 18 June.

A Quest for Identity

Reviews

I didn’t know anything about Victor Pasmore before I went to the exhibition of his work currently on at Pallant House Gallery, although I was familiar with one of his paintings without knowing it was by him. During years of drooling over pictures in art books and magazines, I must have seen reproductions of his Coast of the Inland Sea, and it made a lasting impression on me: it’s a bold image of swirling lines, graphic marks and a sophisticated simplicity. It’s a lyrical abstract landscape, and I love it.

So, it was a bit of a shock to walk into the first gallery in this exhibition, and see Pasmore’s early paintings. The young Victor was obviously inspired by Sickert’s impressionistic scenes of everyday life, and the pastel drawings by Degas of women washing themselves. In 1937, Pasmore was involved in setting up the Euston Road School, which was dedicated to realism, the traditions of figurative painting and disciplined observation. It was all very British and turned its back on wild, expressive avant-garde art across the Channel. But the war brought an end to the school and – after a short stint in the army, followed by imprisonment for desertion and being a conscientious objector – Victor painted a series of views of the Thames, very much in the manner of Whistler’s subtle and luminous paintings of the same subject, with a touch of the Turneresque. In the mid-1940s, Victor seems to have taken a sudden interest in Post-Impressionism, taking inspiration from the work of Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Seurat and exploring new ways of painting using shifting viewpoints and pointillist dots; he also experimented with Cubism, and studied the writings of Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian and Arp. Embracing the European modern art he had previously shunned, Pasmore developed a distinctive way of painting with patterning, stylisation and abstract shapes.

In the 1950s, Victor turned his attention to creating relief constructions, an art form between paintings and sculptures: the first ones were made of painted plywood and have a rough-and-ready handmade character; the later pieces incorporate Perspex, and look machine made.

When he returned to painting, he produced a series of abstracts dominated by simple shapes in a strong colour, edged with minimalist black lines, and integral frame. In his later years, Pasmore set up his studio in Malta, where he painted big, bold, colourful abstracts and continued to create relief constructions.

This exhibition shows the amazing variety of Victor Pasmore’s work as it traces his story from realism to abstraction. Was he a restless spirit constantly seeking an ever-elusive answer to his own personal artistic questions? Or did he simply enjoy chopping and changing? Did he thrive on novelty? Or just get bored with his own work? Who knows?

Victor Pasmore: Towards a New Reality at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, is on until 11 June.

Material Matters

Features

I met Shoreham-based sculptor Neil Wilkinson at this month’s Creative Buzz at West Street Loft. He’s a member of the Adur Art Collective, and has exhibited across East and West Sussex. 2016 has been a busy year for him, with shows at Brighton Open Houses, the Adur Art Trail and the Arundel Gallery Trail. We had a brief chat and I wanted to find out more about him. I’m always interested to see what other artists are doing, where and how they work, so I wangled an invitation to Neil’s house.

After a warm welcome, Neil showed me some of the finished pieces around his house. His figurative sculptures are on an intimate scale and remind me of Rodin’s moody men and cavorting women from the Gates of Hell. Neil’s female figures are sensual, liberated and ecstatic; his male figures are angst-ridden or blank faced, fragmented, in torment. It’s not surprising that people are buying.

Neil is a chatty man, overflowing with ideas. They just tumble out of him in a rush of enthusiasm. He’s passionate about his work, refreshingly vocal and keen to communicate. He told me about his love of materials – resin, wood, cement and metal. He’s particularly fond of lead, and he showed me the book he’d made with faded family photographs on pages of lead, which he’d exhibited at this year’s Adur Art Trail: it’s a very poignant piece about the weight of the past, the fragility of individual lives and the inevitable disappearance of personalities of loved ones, along with images of their faces.

I had a look inside Neil’s workshop (ok, his garden shed) which was full of materials, equipment and works in progress. His latest projects feature: the skull of a small antlered animal; a balloon in a mould like a large Easter egg; a section of tree trunk waiting for the figures within to be revealed by a chainsaw; and a 3D metal frame, inside which he plans to suspend one of his figures. All this should keep Neil busy for quite a while, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. As some point, Neil plans to create work on a larger scale, so I guess a bigger shed is on the cards.

Find out more: Neil Wilkinson Sculpture

Quality Crafts

Reviews

The first things that caught my eye at this exhibition at Worthing Museum & Art Gallery were some large and dramatic wood cuts of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and a scene from the Trooping the Colour by Jackie Field. At the other end of the gallery, I was drawn to a series of small-scale black and white wood engravings by printmakers Sue Scullard and Rosamund Fowler. Their images are stunning, in the intricacy of the workmanship and in the beauty of their themes. Both are inspired by the natural world: Sue’s prints feature landscape, woodland and the sea; and Rosamund’s images of wild and domestic animals and birds are truly delightful.

Rosie Jones creates sculptures of dynamic nudes: their smooth, sensual bodies emerge from rough-hewn blocks of white Carrara marble, like Michelangelo’s Awakening Slave. Her expertly-sculpted Basking Nude has the erotic charge of a work by Rodin, which is saying something. Moving on, I found the work of silk textile artist Diane Rogers strange and compelling. With photographs as reference points, she uses dyes to paint or print images onto silk, and develops textures and details with embroidery by hand or free-machine stitching through a quilted layer. Textures found in tree bark, beach pebbles, tangles of nets and rock pools inspire her to create close-up abstractions that appear to be flat, graphic images and three-dimensional objects simultaneously.

Rosi Robinson is a painter, but her method of working is totally new to me. Her large figurative works initially look like watercolours, but she actually uses the technique of batik to make her art, applying layers of wax and dyes onto the surface of the fabric. With great skill, she has taken batik from its pattern-making origins in the Far East and turned it into her own Western way of painting.

It would be an injustice to call John Plater’s creations merely wooden bowls: they are objects that reveal the intense beauty of a natural material that we usually take for granted. Often made with timber that would otherwise be used as firewood, John’s work highlights the essential nature of British-grown hard and soft woods like walnut, yew, chestnut, ash and oak: polished, grained surfaces contrast with roughened edges and raw bark. Jonathan Chiswell Jones is a modern alchemist who makes lustreware ceramics using a process developed in the Islamic Empire over a thousand years ago. Metallic salts are mixed with clay and painted onto the surface of the glazed pot: some kind of magic then happens in the next firing, which results in the surface becoming light reflective, creating iridescent colours and a golden sheen.

Members of The Sussex Guild are professional designers, artists and makers, and this exhibition of their work shows just how skilled they are. There are brilliant examples of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design, and exhibits range from large, colourful prints and delicate engravings, to marble sculptures, creative textiles and exotic ceramics.If you’re interested in seeing stunning works of art and craft by talented, professional makers, you really must come along to this show.

The Sussex Guild Exhibition at Worthing Museum continues until Saturday 13 August 2016.

From Elegance to Urban Decay

Features

I managed to catch the final weekend of this year’s Open Houses event. With 14 different trails showing work by over a thousand artists across Brighton, Hove, Ditchling, Rottingdean and Newhaven, I needed to decide which area to visit, and how far my feet would be able to carry me. I chose the Brunswick Town trail: I’d always wanted to see inside the swanky white stucco houses lining the Regency squares and crescents of Hove, so my first visit was to a spacious ground-floor apartment in Adelaide Crescent, home to artist Julie Devine and exhibition space to a variety of her artist friends.

After climbing the black-and-white tiled steps and walking into the house, I found myself in the darkness of the hallway. It was a dramatic setting for work by Dijon Hierlehy, who creates paintings with light – lots of tiny dots of light shine through a black layer, and the result is quite magical, like a picture made of sparkling diamonds. Leaving the darkness behind, I went into the front room of the flat, and my expectations of Regency elegance were not disappointed. There was a mile-high ceiling with decorative cornice and chandelier, an enormous window with painted wooden shutters, and a grand fireplace. A wonderfully bohemian atmosphere was created by an animal-print sofa, extravagantly-patterned wallpaper on the chimney breast and by the paintings, drawings, photographs, ceramics, sculpture and textiles on display here and all through the house. I particularly liked the vividly colourful images of mother and child by Kristin Watt-Bonar, who also makes beautiful ceramic pieces; and Colin Chetwood’s sculptural light, made of copper and fuchsia-pink tissue paper.

Julie invited me to explore the garden, so I went out the back door, down the staircase and into a delightful little town garden, its lush and well-grown plants making it feel very secluded and other-worldly. I followed the gravel path around the trees and shrubs, enjoyed the sculptures by Milly Welby, and then had a look inside the summer-house, which was furnished with comfy chairs, a curtained divan and an oriental carpet. It was lovely, the garden was lovely and the house was lovely.

Lansdowne Mews was the next stop on my trail, to see Adrian Walker’s latest work. I’d come across him in Brighton’s Arty Magazine a couple of years ago and I really like his paintings: they’re very Turneresque, and I’m a big fan of Turner’s later work. Adrian is an established artist who’s had loads of exhibitions in the UK and elsewhere. His studio is in a dilapidated courtyard reached by an alleyway down the side of a pub – a far cry from the comforts of Adelaide Crescent. This looks like the kind of place where you might have to suffer for your art.Going into Adrian’s studio was like going into another world: it was full of light, not bright or harsh, but hazy and soft, just like the light in his oil paintings. It was visually peaceful, the collection of his work creating a sense of clarity and unity. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. There was no one else in the studio so I was able to have a long chat with Adrian, who seemed like a really nice guy. A brilliant painter and a bit of a hunk. For my next visit, Adrian suggested I see Dion Salvador Lloyd, another abstract painter who won last year’s Best Artist Open House Award. Eventually, I had to tear myself away from Adrian and his gorgeous paintings, and set off on a long trudge through the rain.

Bedraggled and wet, I arrived at the Hove home of painter Dion Salvador Lloyd, but there was a warm welcome from him and Emma, who made me a lovely cup of tea, which I enjoyed while looking around. This was a professional exhibition of brilliant work in a delightful house. Dion’s wonderful abstract paintings were displayed alongside a fascinating collection of objects: ceramics, sculptures, animal skulls, dried flowers, shells, pebbles, tin toys. Everything was perfectly placed, creating a contrast to the dramatic turbulence of Dion’s large oil paintings. His work is full of elemental nature, its power and chaos suggested through thickly-textured painted surfaces, and in this open house domestic setting, I felt I’d had an immersive artistic experience.

By the time I reached my last open house at 9A Hove Place, the sun was shining. I followed the signs through a front garden/vegetable patch, went down some steps and round a corner, into the basement of a grand Victorian villa. Mike Daniels and his wife Tamar were the hosts, and their passion for ceramics was obvious from the quantity of beautiful pieces displayed throughout their spacious flat. There were shelves and cabinets of tiny miniature pots, large ceramic sculptures, wavy teapots, all sorts of jugs, mugs, dishes and vases, in muted earth tones or bold Bloomsbury-style colours, or with iridescent glazes. I later found out that many of the potters showing here sell their work through Miar Arts, an online gallery and shop run by Mike. As well as ceramics, this open house offered some unusual items, including quirky little wooden wind-up automata, featuring a dancing skeleton and a chorus line of OXO cubes. Brilliant.

Body Parts

Reviews

In another gallery I discovered the permanent exhibition Medicine Now, which presents a range of exhibits and art works exploring ideas about the body, genomes, obesity and living with medical science. As well as anatomical models revealing neatly-place internal organs and a plastinated body slice, à la Gunther von Hagens, there’s a shocking sculpture of a gruesomely bulbous human creature called I Can Not Help the Way I Feel by John Isaacs, and a see-through woman whose insides light up when you press a button. But the best for me was the slide show of brilliantly-coloured scanning electron micrographs – hypnotisingly beautiful.

An Idiosyncratic A to Z of the Human Condition continues at the Wellcome Collection until 12 October.

Books About Town

Reviews

I did the City Trail last Saturday with my literary friend Lucinda. We met at St Paul’s tube station and set off to find the first bench on the trail, which was Bridget Jones’s Diary in Paternoster Square. We were pretty underwhelmed by the bench and couldn’t work out why Ms Jones should be in this particular spot, but it was good to see Temple Bar back in a place of prominence, all sparkling white stone.

Lucinda, in charge of the map, lead the way to the next bench, painted with Jacqueline Wilson characters. It was in front of St Paul’s cathedral – a building that never fails to astonish me, especially now it looks so clean and fresh. Lucinda and I both remember when all the old buildings in London were filthy. 

Next, we found the bench for Charles Dickens in a small hedged area on the corner of Cheapside. There were some young men sitting on it, so Lucinda turfed them off. ‘It’s a piece of art,’ she said, ‘not for sitting on!’  At first sight, the bench was decorated with what looked to us like terrible daubs. But after reading the info panel, we discovered the painting had been done by school kids, so we did a complete U-turn and decided it was lovely.

We walked towards the river, found the meerkat and the panda, and then went back to St Paul’s, to the gardens by the churchyard, and saw the benches for Peter Pan, Mary Poppins and Fever Pitch. Lucinda did her ‘it’s a piece of art not for sitting on’ again to a couple on Peter Pan – the bloke didn’t quite believe her so I backed her up by quoting part of the label where it said ‘do not climb on the artwork’. That got rid of him.

Our tour took us to the Guildhall, Postman’s Park, Cornhill and Fenchurch Street, and the big finale was at the Tower of London. We found the Katie’s London bench, decorated with a lion, and then discovered some more lions – wire sculptures made as part of a show about the Tower menagerie. We then fought our way through the zillions of tourists to view Paul Cummins’ ceramic poppies in the moat, and enjoyed the sight while the bells of All Hallows by the Tower rang out for a wedding.

It was about 4 o’clock and my feet were aching, so we decided to head home. We made our weary way to Tower Hill tube station but it was closed (annoying but not surprising). We had to go all the way back to Bank.

Crazy, Erotic & Fun

Reviews

I went to the Chelsea College of Art Postgraduate Show last week and even though it was September, it felt very much like a summer evening: it was warm enough to hang around in the outside spaces, and there was a lovely party atmosphere. In the middle of the parade ground, Anna Nelson-Daniel’s display of white ceramic roses apparently growing out of a square of turf struck me at first as a pretty piece. But its meaning was revealed as I read the label nearby: One Hundred and Two is an installation created to honour 102 non-Serb children from Prijedor, who were killed in the 1992-95 conflict. Commemorating the dead with flowers has a long tradition, of course, and it’s good to see it has a place in contemporary art – I recently saw the installation of ceramic poppies by Paul Cummins at the Tower of London. Laying a wreath on Remembrance Day or flowers at a funeral says something beyond words.

With so much work to see inside the college, I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, my painter friend Julie was there and we made a beeline for two of her friends who were in the show. I say beeline but it was more like wandering through a labyrinth, as the college is a baffling warren of corridors, studios and fire doors. We were looking for the studio of Rebecca Molloy, on the ground floor, but only found it after going upstairs. Becca’s work has a wildness about it, like something on the loose with no boundaries to restrict it. No picture frame to contain the content – it just grows like a rampant fungus over the walls and spills out onto the floor.  She calls it Expanded Painting. The main installation, called Hue Hefner, is a joyful mess, with sculptural forms and surfaces splashed with paint. It looked to me like a home decoration project gone wrong – maybe it was handed over to a bunch of 6-year-olds who just had a wonderful time making a glorious mess. But those paint bags are disturbing. 

In another part of the building, we stepped into the crazy, exhibitionist world of Joshua Raffell. It was a hilarious and chaotic space, full of rag-doll constructions and rude messages stencilled on the walls. I asked him what the hell was going on here, and Josh said it was all about Clusterfucked Aesthetics. I’d never heard of that, so I Googled it and the Urban Dictionary says ‘clusterfucked’ was originally a military term for an operation in which multiple things have gone wrong, and it’s related to SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up) and FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair). In NATO-speak, it’s more politely referred to as Charlie Foxtrot. The whole thing was a piece of inspired lunacy and I had added some marvellous new words to my vocabulary.

Julie’s other MA friend in the show, Xiamiao Wu, is a textile designer with eco-friendly credentials. Her work is all restraint, control, muted tones and exquisite craftsmanship. Her raw material is rubbish, a particular kind of rubbish. Something most of us use hundreds of and chuck away, day after day, without a second thought. Used teabags. Mia collects them (the college canteen has an endless supply), takes the tea leaves out and turns what remains into hand-made paper, which is then cut into strips and woven into organic-shaped baskets. I think Mia should be in the government, heading up a department for transforming waste products into artwork through traditional craft.

Back to the crazy stuff. A massive multi-media drawing by Tezz Kamoen could be described as awesome (in the true sense of that much-misused word). It’s a seething mass of confusing shapes, colours and lines in pencil, pastel, ink and crayon, like a school jotter doodle that got badly out of control. It verges on madness with its discord, chaos and a feeling of being all over the place. It started to frighten me so I walked away.

 

Alberto Torres Hernandez is a superb painter, and his fab pictures of naked men follow in the art historical tradition of fab pictures of naked men. But his men aren’t heroic or magnificent, they’re just blokes at home, sitting on a chair or coming down the stairs. They have beautiful bodies and seem to be quite at ease without their clothes, and that makes them very attractive.