Month: July 2015

Excellent Nancy Upshall exhibition puts Deasil gallery on the map

Adrift

A Coventry-based artist is holding a retrospective of her work with paintings and drawings going back to the 1960s.

Nancy Upshall moved to the city from Dorset to teach art at the then Barkers Butts School in the 1950s.

She said: “I left my first job very easily – I was teaching art and they had a polished floor in the art room and the caretaker would grumble (about it getting dirty) so I gave my notice in. After about two months I thought I better get another job and when I applied for Coventry I thought that’s the furthest north I am going to go. It was a secondary modern school, and they had been told by an inspector their art and music was useless. They wanted to get a graduate in and I thought when I was being shown round, this job is mine!

“I came from a small town in Dorset and coming to Coventry it was so industrial … I couldn’t believe people lived like that, it was a real eye opener for me.”

Nancy thought she might stay in Coventry for a couple of years, but then, as she put it, “love struck” and she has been in the city ever since.

A few of the works in the exhibition are from the early years. Nancy said: “Some of them go back quite a time, and some of the early ones are from when I was first married and living in Coventry.”

She recalled going out on a Sunday morning when she only had her first daughter, Jane, and Nancy would draw and Jane took her drawing book along too, but it got too complicated by the time her second daughter came along.

The post-war reconstruction was going on in earnest. She said: “I remember being on the roof of Broadgate House and painting – there’s one in the Herbert in Coventry which I did of Smithford Street.

“There were car parks which for me were ready made abstracts, you got a space and beyond it another space.”

Now retired but still painting in Earlsdon, Coventry, Nancy taught for many years at Coventry Technical College, a Lanchester Polytechnic annex, Rugby School of Art and until recently on open studies classes at the University of Warwick.

This exhibition at the recently-opened Deasil Art Gallery in The Warehouse in Oxford Street, Leamington, has around 50 paintings, prints and drawings on the walls, plus 70 prints in racks.

The early works include a pen and ink drawing of the Owen Owen building being constructed, with the old stone of Holy Trinity also visible, from 1962, and a painting of the rebuilding made of lots of bright squares from 1964. Portrait of Greta, a delicate close up of a woman with a beehive hairdo is also an early work from 1962.

Later works develop her familiar wide palette of colours, usually including purples. Some works are entirely abstract, others more figurative but in the same colour-filled style. Others stand out as very different.

Mind the Gap from 2004 has what looks like a large cut-away bit of earth so you can see what’s below ground, while the words ‘mind the gap’ are repeated and fall into a hole. Not Waving but Drowning of 1976 is a rather symbolic pencil drawing showing a small hand waving from behind a curtain in a house, which in front of it has a hedge and two fences. Green Belt of 1981 is a larger-than-normal work with a green bit in the middle, dividing many overlapping pencil-drawn houses.

Le Plongeur

There are also a few works inspired by a visit to Ayers Rock in Australia in the 1990s, including Tree Ancestors, a delicate screenprint of strange-faced creatures.

Geranium from 1980 is an identifiable plant, and Inkwells from 1983 uses what is now a flaking orange paint as the background colour, with three inkwells painted on. Other more abstract works feature brightly coloured shapes and swathes of colour, some in series like the Division series of 2007, or the large Rift from 2004. And it’s good to see Nancy’s still working, as the Poseidon’s Kingdom, with what look like watery bubbles, from 2015.

It’s a wide-ranging exhibition from an interesting and popular artist which shows the variety of her work from over the decades, in a pleasant, fresh-looking space which plans to show new exhibitions every three weeks.

The retrospective is the third exhibition at Deasil Art Gallery, a pleasant, clean-looking space on the ground floor of what was Oceans nightclub, and is now occupied by creative businesses,a design company and social media firm.

Deasil is run by Kate Livingston and Kate Bramwell, and the name Deasil apparently comes from the meaning of the direction of the sun’s movement clockwise, moving forward, to tie in with the Kates’ aim of being an Art Agency and displaying art in different venues across the Midlands – moving art forward. I look forward to hearing more from them, and seeing what other exhibitions they put on in the future.

 

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Koans take centre stage in St Ives summer exhibition

An exhibition at the Tate St Ives will have a familiar feel for anyone who’s ever visited the University of Warwick’s Warwick Arts Centre – and another piece in the show may well ring bells for those who’ve visited The Herbert in Coventry.

The Tate’s summer exhibition, Images Moving Out Into Space, takes its name from a series of kinetic sculptures that Bryan Wynter began to make in the 1960s – this is the Cornwall-based artist’s centenary year. The exhibition leaflet says the exhibition uses the series, which Wynter called Imoos, to “consider how abstraction can move us”.

Gallery 1 though features a series of koans by Liliane Lijn – a large one of which has stood outside the Arts Centre for decades, ready to feature in student sci-fi fantasies and be the backdrop to graduation pictures. They are apparently so named because of the similarity to cone, which they look like, and the Japanese word pronounced koan, which means question without an answer. The room full of differently-named, differently sized, but similarly-shaped spinning koans certainly brought on a sense of déjà vu.

The exhibition includes other works linked to the theme, though it’s not always obvious how.

The fascinating Dan Flavin’s work “monument” for V Tatlin from 1969-70 features white fluorescent tubes, and there’s a further room of his work, all in T shapes made up of different coloured fluorescent tubes, and a quote from Flavin: “it’s important to me that I don’t get my hands dirty….it’s a declaration: art is thought.”

John Divola’s Zuma project involves photographs of a derelict house by the sea, each one showing changes in it or developments brought about by him or others, and a number of sculptures including works by big-name artists including Elizabeth Frink, but casually laid out on tables created by Nicholas Deshayes so they are easy to almost disregard.

There are also lots of typical paintings by Bridget Riley, and by Bryan Wynter, including Saja of 1969, and Green Confluence and Red River; lots are concerned with the flow of water, as suited a keen canoeist. There’s also one Imoo, number VI, from 1965, hanging between rooms where you can linger to see yourself reflected, then not, in the slowly moving shapes.

It’s not a perfect exhibition but fun and interesting, and with those déjà vu moments for anyone who’s familiar with the koan at least.

 

Gosford Books is interesting venue for Sight Reading performance film installation

eye2

An installation in Coventry second hand bookshop Gosford Books is a feature of a conference being held in the city this weekend.

The Dance and Somatic Practices Conference 2015 has a free events programme running alongside it. One of the items is the installation Sight Reading from 2007 which can be seen in Gosford Books from mid-day until late tomorrow, Saturday, July 11, and from late morning until 2pm on Sunday, July 12.

Shop owner Robert Gill, who has run Gosford Books for 38 years, doesn’t possess either a computer or a TV so it’s a bit unusual to see the flat screen TV propped on top of a bookshelf, with the nine-minute film playing on DVD. But there are two stools – of vastly differing heights – where you can perch to watch the film.

Sight Reading, made with an Artsadmin bursary, was apparently inspired by artist Lucy Cash’s chance finding of a second-hand book, which led her to explore how particular forms of somatic skills might destabilize our relationship to the world around us.

The information leaflet explains it: “As a film Sight Reading offers the viewer a cycle of performative gestures which deliberately evoke a strange, dreamlike sensation of synthesia through collaging re-enactments of ‘eyeless sight’ experiments with a choreographed exploration of an eclipse. The soundtrack includes a partial rendition of Eric Satie’s Vexations by Finnish pianist Timor Fredriksson.”

Sitting amidst the shelves, watching the screen and listening to the soundtrack through headphones it’s certainly unnerving to see people in the film, their eyes covered, but ‘reading’ through their arms. It’s certainly likely to be the strangest art event in Coventry this weekend……

* There are also glass photographic slides and writing on show at Drapers Bar, and limited edition posters available from the Rising Café from the Rubble at the Cathedral.

TV