Month: September 2016

New exhibition tells of life on the front line for Warwickshire woman


A drawing of Lady Dorothie Feilding by General Hely d’Oissel (Warwickshire County Record Office, CR2017/c582/81)

A new exhibition at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum tells the story of a brave local woman who left behind a life of privilege to help save people on the frontline of the First World War.
Lady Dorothie Feilding was the daughter of the Earl of Denbigh and grew up on the family estate at Newnham Paddox, near Rugby, with six sisters and three brothers, two of whom were killed fighting in the war.
In 1914, when she was 24, she travelled to France as a member of the Munro Ambulance Corps after completing her training at the Hospital of St Cross in Rugby. Belgium was the only country to allow women to work on the front line, so she was soon in Flanders. Dorothie’s aristocratic background also helped in gaining her this dangerous but obviously wanted job; she had three patrons, including a general whose daughter she had been with at a Paris boarding school, and another whose son had married one of her school friends.
Her daily round of picking up the wounded is detailed, and there are pictures of Dorothie, sometimes casually in the background, and other times obviously feted as someone important. In one photo she was next to a shell, in another lounging in a chair in a bomb-damaged house, and another with her little dog, who she returned to at night for a cuddle to escape the horrors of war.

Letters and photographs relating to the First World War by Dorothy Feilding.

Letters and photographs relating to the First World War by Dorothy Feilding.

This is more of a historical exhibition than an art show, with photos, letters, maps, drawings and information boards, though there are some attractive drawings friends and admirers drew of Dorothie at work.
She was on the front line from 1914-17, and was awarded the French military honour of the Croix du Guerre, and was made a Knight of the Order of Leopold I in Belgium, finally being awarded the Military Medal by the British Army.
Dorothie became engaged to an Irish captain in 1917, her engagement recorded on the front page of the Daily Sketch with a reference to her as “our Joan of Arc”, and photos of her.
After all her bravery during the war, it’s then rather sad to read that she did not live a long life; Dorothie married, lived in Ireland and had five children, before dying of heart failure aged only 46. She was brought back to Monks Kirby for burial in the Roman Catholic cemetery there.
*The exhibition is on until October 29, 2016.


High standard of works are on show in first Coventry University MA Painting exhibition

The inaugural exhibition of the MA Painting course at Coventry University has ended on a high with an exhibition of works by the first graduating students – and they have set the bar high for those that follow.

The top floor of the Graham Sutherland building on the corner of Cox Street in the city centre is the venue for the show, open Saturday, September 10 and Monday-Wednesday 12-14, and it is worth detouring to see (if you can get in the building). There are works by just three full-time and two part-time students.

The works that drew me in most were by Zhen Zhai, who also calls herself Dakota Zuch, and who comes from the south of China. She has created a number of paintings of life in China for two very different groups of people. Some of the works are ‘normal’ painting-size, but there are also dozens of small postcard-sized ones with an extraordinary amount of detail.

The whole collection is called They Don’t Want to Live With Grandparents. Some paintings feature the glamour and wealth of the big city, where a bright highway cuts through dark sky scrapers, and contrasts with village scenes of poor homes and pylons, trucks in quarries, and people gathering berries or selling fruit by the roadside. Zhen Zai told me they were about the children left behind with grandparents when parents went off to the cities for work. They stayed poor, whereas the children that grew up in the cities were rich – shown in these images of university graduation, glamorous hotels and schools. She had been to the rural north to meet the children left behind, some of whom didn’t even know what the glasses on her face were. The poignant story has created some confident, skilled paintings; Zhen is returning to China to complete another MA there.

Matthew Morrison Macaulay’s work is familiar from previous exhibitions in the city, but studying for the MA has led him to rethink and look anew at paintings, and he said this collection is “paintings about paintings”. In particular he had become interested in Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus from the Ashmolean in Oxford. Some of his works feature lines bisecting them, and this comes from the balcony and shutters in the picture, and there’s also more blurring of colours and seemingly smudging over “in a Richter-esque way”. It’s interesting to see where his works will go in his future studies.

Susa Lee works with textiles and paintings; some, which she said come from her imagination, showed cats in colourful, abstract scenes, plus one which brought back nightclub memories. The textile works involve cutting, painting and arranging in flag-like ways. She said the MA had been all she hoped it would be, and said she has realised she has to see other people’s artworks ‘live’ to be inspired by them.

Part-time MA student Andy Farr has just finished showing his work at the Deasil Gallery in Leamington, but they focused on movement and speed and the three here are very different. They are large, and more concerned with social issues, The Third of January 2015 links to Goya’s The Third of May 1808 which is shown on one wall of a room, seemingly looking over New York, and featuring an image from an IS killing on the table. Ideal Home is clearly anything but, a chair laying on its side in another room, and trails of red streaking down the painting. In the third painting, children’s toys merge with more adult videos to draw attention to the loss of innocence. They are accomplished and show his versatility.

Doris Tissington is also part-time so half way through her studies; her paintings are extremely colourful, involving lots of bright circles and patterns, one seeming almost like a mandala.

Graham Chorlton thanked the students for their commitment to the course and each other, their hard work and spirit of adventure, but he has also clearly brought out the best in them, and it will be interesting to see those who follow.