Author: Julie Chamberlain

I'm a freelance journalist and PR writer living, writing and working in Coventry. One of my interests is art, and this is my blog about the art world of Coventry, Warwickshire and beyond - and occasionally the other good things in life. Follow me on Twitter @JulieinCov

Idea of rural idyll is thoroughly explored in excellent Compton Verney show

A Farmer and his Prize Heifer, artist unknown, c.1844 -® Compton Verney, photo by Jamie Woodley

A Farmer and His Prize Heifer (unknown artist), c.1844, Compton Verney, photo Jamie Woodley

Lying as it does in its own “rural idyll”, it is fitting that Compton Verney art gallery has opened its year with an exhibition examining the truths and myths behind those words.

Entitled Creating the Countryside: Thomas Gainsborough to Today it looks at how artists have depicted the country over the space of four centuries. Often throughout the exhibition older and newer works are placed together to throw in elements of realism to an attractive glossing over of the truth.

The exhibition begins by looking at the idea of the countryside as a place of escape, an idea that has obviously been around for a long time as seen in Claude Lorrain’s image of Youth Playing a Pipe in a Pastoral Landscape from 1645, showing the boy as peaceful animals graze and the scene looks lovely.

Nearby, there’s a Henshall and Company of Longport platter showing Compton Verney, a vision of an idealised landscape created by Capability Brown, showing two men in the foreground with their hunting dogs and pheasants, and the artificially-made lake.

John Constable’s Willy Lott’s House, 1816, shows a simple but attractive house next to water, with a comment that it transformed landscape painting. Next to it is a Paul Reas photo of Constable Country – people being moved into position to view the scene of one of his famous paintings, turning the rural idyll into a tourist business.

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Helen Allingham, A Surrey Cottage, 1880, watercolour Couresy of Burgh House and Hampstead Museum

 

The next room features other country images not quite as they seem; Helen Allingham’s A Surrey Cottage 1880 is a watercolour of a delightful scene, but the cottage in question was under threat of destruction from the coming of the railways.

Grayson Perry’s 2006 ceramic Fantasy Village also looks at the reality behind the image – a village where single mothers were cast out, and where now there are ugly convenience shops and litter.

A room entitled Working the Land, focuses on other issues and there’s a big altar-like display of corn dollies made by Raymond Bush for harvest festival; the delicate and attractive work contrasts with the photograph by Andy Sewell from 2014 showing plastic carrier bags of food as a church centrepiece.

There are works by a number of artists including John Nash, George Stubbs, Harry Becker and Constable showing countryfolk at their honest toil, and then another photo by Paul Reas entitled Harvest of a Bygone Age, Home Farm Museum, Hampshire, showing people from 1993 watching a host of others in period costume gathering in hay; the performers have mostly paused to look at their audience, creating a strange multi-focused scene but again with the past and the countryside as tourism.

Sigrid Holmwood’s Museum Girl with Doll, painted with mushroom and other natural plant pigments, also shows a scene of acting from a country museum.

A section entitled The Dark Pastoral examines mysticism, turmoil and death. Hilary Jacks’s Turqoise Bag looms over it, a tree with a plastic bag caught in its branches, symbolising the impact on the environment of modern living. John Piper’s Derelict Cottage shows a former home, now lost, and covered in scribbled marks. Graham Sutherland’s Number Forty Nine, from 1924, also creates beauty in a detailed drawing of a thatched cottage which has lost most of its roof.

Anna Fox and Alison Goldfrapp in an untitled work create a sinister tone with a photograph of a woman’s legs laying on bluebells, red shoes on, raising ideas of a violent act having taken place.

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Anna Fox and Alison Goldfrapp, Untitled, from Country Girls, 1996, C-Type colour print
© The Artists, courtesy of the Hyman Collection, London

Evelyn Mary Dunbar’s A 1944 Pastoral: Land Girls Pruning at East Malling is an oil painting of women at work in a bleak wood, reflecting the time, surrounded by images of cutting, with a saw, pliers and secateurs.

The Great Escape section looks at holidays, including Paul Hill’s photo Legs Over High Tor, Matlock, a girl’s legs hanging off the natural feature as cars go by on the road below, and a colourful Shell poster of Faringdon Folly, 1936,considered a worthy destination.

The village is looked at too, with a long work by Sir Stanley Spencer designed to hang in Cookham.

A 1971 photo by Homer Sykes of the Burry Man, a depiction of a strange village tradition, plus the Allendale folk walking with burning barrels on their heads shows the stranger side of village life.

It’s a well put together exhibition, not being fooled by the chocolate box image of the countryside and showing that mythologizing and sentimentalising it is not just a recent thing.

BURRYMAN  SCOTLAND SOUTH QUEENSFERRYThe Burry Man by Homer Sykes, 1971, courtesy of the Hyman Collection

Prize-winning artist’s realist paintings veer towards the ‘downright disconcerting’

Tear

It was a first for the Deasil Gallery when a celebrity collector officially opened an exhibition of works by the artist he admires.

The show at the gallery in Leamington was the first solo exhibition by Neil Moore since 2008 and his first in the town for 10 years, though he has participated in Warwickshire Open Studios and group shows.

Moore, who was born in 1950 in Leicester, also won the Leamington Open in 2015, and his photo realist oil paintings and charcoal works are instantly recognizable.  The introduction to this exhibition claims he “explores the complex psychology of modern-day society”, and that some people find answers in his work, and others questions.

His celebrity collector, writer of screenplays, TV adaptations and novels Andrew Davies, who lives in Kenilworth, described Moore’s paintings in his opening speech as “tender, ruthless, sometimes downright disconcerting but always beautiful.” He said he owned half a dozen already but felt drawn towards another one in this exhibition – Disorientation, which appeared to show two attractive blonde women about to kiss – or is it one woman with a mirror image?

Baptism of Fire

Neil himself claims to not know where the ideas for his works come from; though a coracle that appears in some of these recent works was a real item made by a friend that he has incorporated into the work. Quite why a slim, attractive, naked woman is carrying it in Underside I don’t know.

In Tenebrae a woman in a white robe sits in the coracle in water, a crown of candles on her head. Does it relate to a real story or myth? Neil is vague on the subject, just saying all his works are about people. In Baptism of Fire the same woman is in the water, her robe falling off and her head lowered, in what looks like some sort of sacrificial scene.

Wasted

In Tear (top) a woman looks out at the viewer as she tears some black material which at the moment is shielding her naked top. In Wasted, a young woman in a boobtube top, her eye make up worryingly blurred and her hair tumbling looks a bit disturbed and it’s one of the “downright disturbing” ones Andrew Davies mentioned.

Underside

Deliverance, in which a topless woman with a wide, hooped petticoat on looks down at a baby girl on the floor below her is equally disturbing. Others such as Air Chrysalis where a woman lays in bed beneath a sheet are less so.

Air Chrysalis

Moore is clearly highly admired and a talented artist. Some of his works though, concentrating as this collection seems to anyway, on slim, attractive women, often partially clothed, and in a couple of cases with babies or dolls, do create anxieties, and raise questions but for me not in a good way.

The exhibition, entitled The Answer?, is on until March 30

 

Environmental theme at gallery in the park for this year’s New Art West Midlands exhibitors

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New Art West Midlands has opened its doors again to shine light on some of the stars of the region’s art colleges – with one of the exhibitions having a particular theme this year.

The exhibition is held across four venues and shows works by artists who have graduated from the region’s six art schools – Coventry University, Birmingham City University, University of Wolverhampton, University of Worcester, Staffordshire University and Hereford College of Arts – in the past four years.

More than 180 people entered and just 31 were chosen to show their work across this year’s galleries: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, mac Birmingham, Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

NAWM was launched this year with a private view at mac, and it was soon clear there was a thematic choice to the works. The mac exhibition had been curated by Jessica Litherland who moved there from Rugby Art Gallery and Museum last year. She said she noticed a lot of artists were working with environmental themes, and she thought this would link in with the gallery being in a park, and wanting to get more involved in its setting.

I could only find one Coventry University graduate showing at the mac, and she is Renata Juroszva, whose works explore the “relationship between femininity and domesticity” and are based on her photographs of domestic spaces filled with female models. Domestic Routine is a set of nine monochrome drawings showing women doing small tasks such as taking a bath or going upstairs, creating ideas of privacy and intrusion.

Jade Hamilton (ex University of Wolverhampton) has combined (above) various found objects around the idea of a post-apocalyptic future where humans have used up the earth’s resources to such an extent they have created an environment where it’s virtually impossible to breath normally. Mannequins wear gas masks attached to small ‘microcosm planted biomes’, glass domes full of greenery. They are impressive if sobering.

Some of the other works on show at the mac are not easy to look at.

Megan Evans (ex BCU), is showing Natural Collection, a selection of works made from pastel, and cosmetics, looking at people’s ideas of self presentation through deciding to change their appearance. There are some slightly gruesome images of faces cut open for facelifts, dental work and other facial surgery. They make their point about the ugliness and unpleasantness gone through in the search for beauty.

Halina Dominska’s work is quite fun. It looked at first like a big pink canopy, with flesh picky bits hanging from it; it relates to the skin, to senses and reactions. Called Bound to, it is made of soft silicone, fishing wire and pressure sensors, with bits that start pulsing in a triffid-like manor if you stand close to them.

Sarah Zacharek (ex University of Wolverhampton), is interested in travel, and also inspired by the work of Hamish Fulton. In Re:Discovery she traced a route determined by photographic negatives of her late father’s journey to Torun, his home town in Poland, although she had no first-hand memories of him and no connection to his heritage. She has combined his photographs with ones taken where he had stood, also photographing the street she stood on, together with sounds from the journeys.

Hair stitched on hand.

Natalie Ramus (ex Hereford College of Arts) has produced large photographs of hands that at a distance look as though they are painted with henna; but no, it’s a hand stitched lightly with human hairs. Hand Stitched is apparently about using shock to prompt the spectator to reconnect with their body. It’s certainly quick shocking.

 

Jenna Naylor (ex Staffordshire University), has created some charcoal and marker pen drawings, one bravely on tracing paper reaching across the room and others on the wall, called Botanical Hybrids, which show her interest in classificatory systems and taxonomy, and “use the space between fact and fiction”. They look like a mix of under sea life and plants.

All four exhibitions of NAWM are on until May 14. Looking at the exhibition catalogue other works I’d like to track down (both by Coventry University graduates) are some colourful mixed-media anti-capitalist, anti-austerity landscapes created by Coventry University graduate Daniel Smart, and Natalie Seymour’s digital photo collages of an empty college building in Smethwick which fuse images of the interior and exterior to create monumental images.

 

 

 

Come face to face with images from Coventry and the country’s past

by Unknown artist, oil on panel, 1590-1610

by Unknown artist, oil on panel, 1590-1610

A new exhibition at The Herbert in Coventry brings together some paintings from the gallery’s collection that are not regularly seen, and some loaned from major collections in London.

In Face-to-Face – Portraits Through Time it’s fascinating to see paintings in particular of figures from the city’s historical past. The exhibition is organised into groups under headings, though many works could really fit in several sections.

In status there is a portrait of Simon Norton, dyer and former mayor of Coventry was dated 1641, the year he died and left money to Bond’s Hospital in the city, as the caption explains, and also I’ve read elsewhere to pay for a C of E minister at St John’s Church if it ever became a parish church; at the time it had been handed over to the council to administer. Amazing to see him in his rich red robes.

There is also John Rotherham of the watch making family, painted with a horse and dog in 1832 by locally-based painter David Gee, really in the pose of a country gent, showing the class his family’s work and wealth meant he now aspired to.

The Waters family of Coventry, behind the well-known wine business, are also depicted.

Alfred Herbert, industrialist and head of the Coventry business, was painted by Leonard Boden at the age of about 90, showing confidence and self assuredness and also nonchalantly smoking a cigarette. By contrast, also from the Herbert’s own collection is Peter Howson’s Man With Cigarette, a non-realistic depiction of a hard-done-by looking man with downtrodden eyes, dragging on the cigarette, with most of the colours different shades of red.
Another Arthur Gee painting shows the children of Arthur Gregory of Styvechale Hall in Coventry playing with their old dog Nelson from 1838, an idealised image of well-off people at leisure.

In contrast, a Christine Vogle photograph from 1975 shows a family group in a women’s hostel, their bags still packed in a cramped room.

Masterji, Coventry’s recently much-celebrated portrait photographer has a work included, Mr and Mrs Khan, a couple posing smartly before the camera.

A section on commissions includes Miss Newark, but David Gee again, a young woman painted in 1859 with her hands on a book, showing her studiousness, and a Stanley Spencer portrait showing Priscilla, a young woman from Cookham depicted at home, complete with roadworks visible through the window. It was a commission from her family, painted while the teenager was undergoing cancer treatment, and died soon afterwards.

In the power section there is Bearded Man with a Falcon from 1500, on loan from the Courtauld, and showing the strong-looking central figure painted in rich colours, attributed to Lazzano Bastiani. The National Portrait Gallery has loaned a typically-tough looking Henrvy VIII, and the Herbert’s own more than life sized portrait of Queen Mary II dominates that wall of the gallery, not a very human image but showing the richness of her powerful position.

Bryan Organ’s 1981 painting of Diana, Princess of Wales, painted the year of her marriage to Charles shows her seated, central amongst well-decorated surroundings, and we are reminded it was a very different image at the time as she was seated casually and wearing trousers, representative of what she brought fresh to the royal family.

The “Recognised” section features portraits of people done because the artist wanted to depict them, rather than anyone commissioning the work. It includes Giant Head of Gbenga, painted by Naham Shoa, a huge 2001-2, a large close-up portrait with the light falling on one side of his face. Coventry-based Jason Scott Tilley’s 2012 photograph of a graceful dancer in Jaipur is also included.

Self portraits include Sarah Lucas’s Self Portrait with Mug of Tea from 1993, an image showing her in more traditional male pose, legs apart and dressed in masculine style. Thomas Gainsborough’s 1758-9 self portrait was painted probably while he was looking for work after moving to Bath and wanted to show off his skills at accurate representation. Victoria, a photo by Lisa Gunn, challenges images of disability and sexuality, the artist pictured from behind in her wheelchair, wearing a half-open corset.

The Fame section includes an 1806 mezzotint image of Horatio Nelson on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, a picture showing him looking heroic, and distributed on his death. The Creative area includes a photo of author Jacqueline Wilson by Maud Sulter, her large silver jewellery showing her independence, and a great Germaine Greer painted by Paula Rego from 1995, traditional images of graceful or regal portraiture going out the window, with the academic in a comfortable shapeless dress, her legs splayed as she things of more intellectual things than what she looks like.

The exhibition seeks to explore an apparent age-old obsession with the human image, showing some interesting locally-held paintings which most people are unlikely to have seen before, and asking questions about why people are depicted as they are, why at all and what messages are being conveyed.

The exhibition is on until June 4.

by Bryan Organ, acrylic on canvas, 1981

by Bryan Organ, acrylic on canvas, 1981

Colourful landscapes star in David Howell’s return to exhibiting

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Eyes of Slate, oil on canvas 2015

Coventry-based artist David Howell could not be accused of rushing into having an exhibition, as it’s 23 years since his last one – however it has been worth the wait.

Black Mountain Red River captures David’s interest in investigating ideas of landscape. The large to very large colourful paintings work very well in the open white spaces of the Lewis Gallery at Rugby School.

As he explains in his artist’s statement: “I’m interested in how perceptions of both nature and landscape have been shaped through time, how we experience landscape in its physical sense, how we record it visually through maps, photography and the painted image, and the resulting affect this has on our psyche.”

David’s colour use has changed over the years, with brighter hues now filling the canvas. Mineral Memory from 1996 shows this, a large mainly dark green painting with a lozenge-shaped block in the middle. Other older works are also generally darker in colour.

The painting style involves what looks like a confident application of the paint, generally in thick lines. Falling Water features green, blue, purple and orange paint streaming down the canvas to the bottom. Palimpest features a line across the canvas with brighter colours across the top.

Some of the paintings have the look of lines of different strata in rocks or cliff faces. One work has a grey background with a blue river running through it, and Above the Shivver features yellows towards the base and thickly-applied broad swathes of coloured paint with more greys and purples up top. You can imagine fields, or vistas opening up, with various skies and weather conditions.

David, who took a Fine Art degree at the then Lanchester Polyechnic in the 1980s and who was a prizewinner in John Moores 18 at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 1993, said his influences are broad, “ranging from a fascination with geology and deep time, the scientific understanding of the ongoing processes that have shaped and continue to shape the land around us.” Influences include maps, satellite images, historic paintings and mineral samples.

It feels a lifetime ago since David’s works have been seen in public, and at the busy opening a lot of people were glad they had been brought out of his studio at the Canal Basin in Coventry. Don’t miss the chance to see them at the gallery, which is open Monday to Friday afternoons until March 2 (half term excepted).

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Tidal Pink oil on canvas 2014

Nash and Rauschenberg exhibitions fascinating contrast for day out

A trip to London meant a chance to catch up on two exhibitions which began last year and are worth seeing before they end in the next couple of months. Coincidentally the ones that caught my eye are at both the Tates.

At Tate Britain, there’s a large Paul Nash exhibition. Nash, who lived from 1889-1946, was involved in various artistic groupings in the 1930s and a leading figure in British surrealism, though his war paintings were what I knew him for, and after seeing the exhibition still seem to be his most powerful works.

Early works such as The Pyramid in the Sea and Night Landscape saw him influenced by the symbolists and exploring dream-like, often moonlit landscapes.

His First World War paintings and his own experiences made his works bigger, bolder and more dramatically coloured. We Are Making A New World from 1918 has a brave sun peeking over blood-red mountains, a churned up foreground and trees with only the trunks remaining. Ypres Salient at Night is a geometric painting, with light flooding from a sky alight with explosions. The Menin Road has a landscape of destroyed trees, toxic pools of water, a few struggling figures, smoke and light flooding through the devastated sky in straight lines. Spring in the Trenches, Wood Hill 1917 depicts new growth and sun shining over soldiers stuck in a trench. In these paintings dramatic colours not true to life and angular shapes are stunning and spectacular.

After the war, Nash became obsessed with certain places, such as Dymchurch, where he painted The Shore as long straight concrete lines, huge patches of yellow sand and a floaty sky. Other works included still lifes, such as Dead Spring, a plant’s dying greenery soft and twirling against harsh straight lines in the background.

Later works included compositions of objects such as driftwood and stones, and then landscape paintings including objects such as the Avebury stones, or objects representing them.

The Second World War brought along starkness to his work again, including Totes Meer (Dead Sea), inspired by the piles of metal from crashed planes he saw at the Cowley Dump in Oxford, making it into a new shiny sea full of waves.

His final paintings were a return to landscapes involving the moon or sun, and flowers in the sky as precursors of death. It’s a fascinating exhibition and if like me you knew Nash mainly for his war paintings its eye opening.

At Tate Modern, the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition couldn’t be more of a contrast. The artist lived from 1925-2008, and began his career in the 1950s. He came from Texas and only went to an art gallery for the first time after being drafted into the navy.

His first works included a car tyre coated in paint driven over a long strip of paper. Works developed into paintings incorporating found items, and then larger free-standing collages and some works he created live on stage.

There is also the infamous stuffed goad he acquired, and was initially unsure how to evolve it into an art work; eventually it became wrapped in a tyre and stood over a painting. Another work shows a single bed, sheet pulled enticingly back, but the whole coated in paint.

He also worked across art forms, creating sets for more than a decade for the Merce Cunningham dance group, who performed to compositions by John Cage.

Later works included silkscreens consisting of photos enlarged on to canvas, including the recently assassinated President Kennedy, and images from space, science and sport. Another departure was to create Mud Muse, a large tank of clay and water which pops and bubbles as air is released.

Later works took on a political hue, involving influences from countries with repressive governments, and also sculptures made from discarded scarp metal from his home state of Texas, then suffering after an oil crisis.

It’s a hugely varied exhibition and again a learning experience for someone only familiar with a few aspects of his work.

* Nash at Tate Britain continues until March 5, and Rauschenberg at Tate Modern until April 2.

Journey Through Japan is attractive but not without confusion

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The Children, a hand coloured glass lantern slide 1903

A Japanese-themed exhibition in Warwickshire takes a look at life in the country more than a century ago.

It does though seem a bit confusing. Journey Through Japan is a touring exhibition on loan from Horniman Museum & Gardens in London, complemented with some work from Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum’s own collection, for the show at the gallery.

It is described in the press release as a selection of “intricate and beautiful lantern slide photographs taken in the early 1900s which allow you to experience the stunning landscape of Japan during that era”, taken by Marjorie Bell and her cousin Leslie, when they travelled around the country in 1903 for two months. They had left Marjorie’s home on a sheep station in Victoria, Australia, to travel with her mother Hester.

The information in the gallery said Marjorie, who was only 13 at the time, had her photos processed in Japanese studios. She wrote a detailed diary, and the pictures in the exhibition have her interesting descriptive captions alongside them relating to the image.

What causes confusion however is that some of the photos were clearly not taken by Marjorie and her cousin, which raises the question of whether any of them were, and why this isn’t specified. (See bottom and the helpful comment below). There is even one illustrating people in Japanese costume of the day in snow, when Marjorie wasn’t there.

There is one attractive picture of a young family, the oldest child carrying a baby on her back, and Marjorie’s comment is that this was something they saw frequently amongst young children. Some other young children are featured and after Marjorie’s diary quote about children, there is a comment that she may not have seen children this poor which raises the issue that she couldn’t have taken that photo.

She travelled to the popular island of Miyajima and there is a photograph of people at work, with hand-pulled carts, big straw hats to keep off the sun, and young children accompanying them. The famous entrance gate to the Itsu-kushima shrine, which appears to float on the water when the tide is in also featured.

Some dancers in a hotel are shown, and there are a number of attractive countryside photographs; a huge lake, and some gushing waterfalls in very green and tree-filled countryside, a part of Japan not so often pictured. An avenue of enormously-high bamboo trees has a couple of people wandering down the middle to show the scale, and in Nara small deer wander around waiting to be fed, the same as today. In this image a brightly-coloured patch of orange leaves on a tree catches the eye. Nagoya Castle stands proud and attractive, five storeys high, and some streets capture people, shops (with huge signs outside showing what they sold) at this period.

A photo of Tokyo is very different from today, with lots of low-level buildings and fields, but a sumo wrestling match looks similar.

In Nikko, Marjorie’s diary commented that she wished she’d been able to see the attractive red bridge which had been washed away in high waters – so the picture of the red bridge intact was clearly taken by someone else.

In one of the last ones, Mount Fuji is artistically reflected in a lake where there is a solitary fisherman.

The confusion over how many or whether any of these photos are taken by the young Marjorie detracts from simply being able to enjoy these attractive moments from this period in the country’s history.

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The gallery has added some of its own Japanese-related items to the exhibition too. These include some dolls, an Oriental-building shaped box, and a Satsuma jar, with an attractive picture on top of a bird taking flight.

There are also a number of woodblock prints, including several by Kikugawa Eizan, on showing what is described as a tipsy girl dropping her drinking cup, and also a couple by Kitagawa Utamomo II depicting a high-class courtesan being escorted through a crowd by a servant and her apprentices. They are all worth seeing and it’s good they have been given a chance to come out of the stores.

oriental-box*It has since become clear none of the photographs were by Marjorie but from the Horniman Museum’s own collection of lantern slides,  taken by Frederick Horniman himself.

Subodh Gupta’s vision turns village mementoes into works of art

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Subodh Gupta, Chanda Mama door ke (From Far Away Uncle Moon Calls), 2015, found aluminium utensils, fish strings, steel. Photo Ken Adlard, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Once on holiday in San Gimignano, I wandered down the crowded, sweltering hot street, and caught a glimpse that made me stop, and slip into a cool, unknown space. Hundreds of silver cooking pans and tiffin pots were arranged in a beautiful, tumbling art work. On the floor were rows of low metal stools arranged as if ready to seat 45 for a traditional Indian meal in front of round silver trays full of bowls.

There were other items too, but it was those two which took my breath away.

I made a note of the name of the artist and felt entranced by the contrast between the shiny but utilitarian Indian utensils turned into art works, and the expensive designer shops in the Tuscan tourist mecca outside. It was 2008 and I didn’t think I’d ever see his works again

Since then I’ve accidentally come across an enormous nuclear explosion of his stainless steel utensils filling a huge space at the Tate in London – and now he has a solo exhibition in Coventry until March.

Subodh Gupta – the name copied down several years ago – even visited the Mead Gallery at the University of Warwick for an In Conversation with Curator of the Mead Sarah Shalgosky before the official opening.

The exhibition itself shows relatively few pieces in the large space. One of the larger pieces, which I had seen in Italy, is School, a work showing five rows of nine low stools, with a table in front set with a sparkling thali dish ready for a meal. Each brass stool is cast from that of the artist’s father, with patterns and initials clear to see on it.

This combination of homely items and mass-produced pieces is typical of Gupta’s work. In the In Conversation he ran through more of his art works from over the years that reflect that.

He showed an image of 29 Mornings, from 1996, which consisted of wooden stools with items from everyday life placed on top; they were memories of life in the village he grew up in, when he had moved away to the city. Similarly, small bundles of sticks used to brush teeth in the village, then discarded, are turned into an artwork. He said: “When it’s been cast in aluminium it becomes closer to me and further away from the people who are now not going to use it.”

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Subodh Gupta, There is always cinema (v), 2008, Three elements – found object, (wood, cement, paint), brass casting nickel painted, brass casting coated. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photograph Zurich. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

There Is Always Cinema (V), which was also made specially for the show I saw at Galleria Continua in San Gamignano, consists of three ‘sack trolleys’ used to transport goods around. One is in its natural state, one cast in bronze and one nickel plated apparently suggest the idea of worn items being able to move things around to a brighter part of the city.

Another piece that is in the Mead show is Two Cows, a pair of bicycles cast in bronze and hung with chrome milk pails. As he said before the opening, in the village he would get milk from the cow, but in the city it was carried in pails on bikes, hence the name.

The attention-grabbing work is clearly Chanda Mama door ke, or Far Away Uncle Moon Calls, which is a reference to a Hindi children’s nursery rhyme in which the child is talking to the moon as though her uncle. The work consists of dozens of used cooking pots, some very used, burned and bent, hanging from the ceiling on fishing line, looking from some distance like a re-imagined moon. It’s spectacular but in a way simple too.

Gupta trained as a painter and there are three paintings in the show, close ups of used pans or plates.

One of his themes in his work he explained is the cosmic and the everyday, and “I can see the universe in my plate.”

Some of his new works include two Pressed for Space exhibits, consisting of old cooking pots crushed into rectangles, with bits of cloth mixed in with them.

He explained that in some larger pieces eyes look out at the unexpected viewer; was he trying to shock Sarah asked. No, he said, he didn’t want to do that, but he liked to mix performance and sculpture and had a strong sense of the audience looking at his works: “We live in shock, we don’t know where we are going.”

Other topics and works covered in the talk included God Hungry, a huge work in Lille featuring cooking pots seemingly cascading through three windows of the church, and This Is Not a Fountain, a mixture of pans with taps poking through, focusing on, Gupta said, the big issue of taps being left running in India parks.

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Subodh Gupta, Two Cows, 2003-2008, bronze, chrome. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photograph Zurich. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

He has also been a performer, and showed a clip from a video which was engrossing and also gross; he was he said “showering in cow shit”, and he’s last seen in it, naked and coated in the brown stuff walking out of a room. He said it related to the importance in India of cow dung, used wet for painting and rituals, and dried and used as fuel or for building. His work My Mother and Me from 1997 was a creation of a cow dung tiled house.

There was some discussion too about the relationship between his works and that of Duchamp, though he reiterated there was no connection, as he said Duchamp made an object into an art work, but he, Gupta, made an object into a material and in that form becomes the art work. It was an interesting discussion and one that could go on.

It felt like there could have been more at this exhibition, but I have been spoilt by seeing some of his largest, most spectacular works before. The exhibition – on until March 11 – is still definitely worth seeing and a breath of fresh air in he 2017 exhibition scene.

 

Deasil decides to Begin with Beauty

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Machir Storm by Rachel Weston

In the bleakness of January, Deasil gallery in Leamington is trying to cheer us all up with an exhibition called Begin with Beauty.

It consists of work by a number of their regular artists, plus the back room is taken over for the first exhibition there held by Rachel Weston, who lives near Leamington.

Rachel explained: “It’s the first time for a long time I’ve shown my work. I did a fine art degree at Exeter School of Art and carried on painting for a while and then got into the games industry for a long time, and carried on with the art as a sideline.”

All her works on show are land or seascapes, some local, such as Great Alne, with beautiful browns and earthy colours in an autumn view, and others featuring the dramatic countryside and skies of Scotland, which Rachel visited last year

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Sligo Bay by Rachel Weston

She said: “I do photos and sketches and I have to have been somewhere. I used to be far more abstract and I am now looking for primary symbols within a landscape.”

Her pastel works include Machir Storm, with dark skies heavy over some small white cottages, and a large sweep of beach, and Saligo Bay, a beach with dramatic sharp rocks, and a different cloudy sky.

Other artists featured in the exhibition include Cult Zero, who had his own show last year. There are several large digital prints of his strange creatures, and some smaller animal-focused one.

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Spectrum by Caitlin Burton, Minds Eye by Sonia Bublaitis and Poseidon’s Kingdom by Nancy Upshall.

Sonia Bublaitis is showing several brightly-coloured paint on Perspex pieces including Serendipity and Blue Waves, and Coventry-based Nancy Upshall has some of her familiar colourful abstract paintings such as Poseidon’s Kingdom, a look into an underwater world.

Jenny Clark has several mixed media works featured, including The Joy of Farthingstone, an attractive if rather idealised-looking village, and Hakeshead, churches and houses on a hill.

It’s a colourful, cheering exhibition to start the new year, and a good introduction to Rachel Weston’s work.

The exhibition is on until January 26.

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Cupid by Caitlin Burton  

Rugby Open provides showcase for local talent in lots of media

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Graham Grimmett’s Tread Lightly, Walk True (Nature Morte)

The Rugby Open exhibition is on again, showing an interesting diversity of works.

Apparently 236 items were entered, and 97 have made it through to the exhibition, with a few artists showing two or three pieces. Paintings not surprisingly dominate, but there is a good variety of style and content, plus works in other mediums.

Tony Baker’s We Are Sailing is one of the few photographs, and taken from an interesting angle, looking down at a selection of balconies on a cruise boat, and the people on them. Another photograph is Jean Sutton’s Patterns of Birmingham, showing swirly reflections in metal.

Linda Cavan’s The Red Speck is strangely compelling, a small red speck on an inkpen drawing of what looks like some sort of bag or container.

Lilly Martina Gardener, a former winner of the Rugby Open, has two works on show, Winter Snows over Weedon, showing people walking along in a snowy scene at her home village, and Blackbirds and Tea. Both are in her distinctive style, which appears to be influenced by Henri Rousseau, with every bit of the canvas covered in activity and colour, with dense fronds of greenery.

Julie Bett’s Reflections is a landscape in mixed media, a bit Piper-esque. Nancy Upshall has two colourful abstract paintings in the show including The Bridge, a collection of small shaped colours creating a path across the canvas.

Eric Gaskell is another familiar name at Rugby Opens, and he has three linocuts featured, including one which called Boxed Boundaries – a linocut slider game, which is unusual. Helena Godwins’s sculpture Cat & Mice is made out of a breeze block so has a strange, holey, texture to it.

Roger Griffiths is also a known name from Rugby exhibitions, and his Rugby Cement from King’s Newnham watercolour shows a well-known Rugby site too, the huge building towering over colourful out-of-perspective landscapes. Val Hunt’s sculptures made from drink can metal are familiar and the one on show here is particularly charming, entitled “A conference of endangered birds discussing their future. Nightingale, lapwing, barn owl, cuckoo and house sparrow”, with the birds, looking very knowing, sitting on a branch together.

I’ve seen Bryan B Kelly’s work in Leamington before and The Folly is in his usual exuberant style, with lots of colour, the paint applied in dots, and a regular pattern to the scene.

Linda Keller has created Coventry Cathedral out of acrylic paint and mixed media, and Susan Moreton’s In the Footsteps of Monks is also a mixed media of what looks like a monastery or cloister.

Helen McChesney’s three oil painted landscapes are very pleasant to view, with pale colours, entitled Summer, The Wheat Field and The Ploughed Field. Neil Moore, former Leamington Open winner, is exhibiting The Lightness of Darkness, an oil painting of a person lying down in his highly realistic style.

Gérard Mermoz, a former winner of both Rugby and Coventry Opens, is showing Interior, two classic old paintings of women in domestic scenes becoming one by being placed on top of each other.

Teresa Wells’s Hashtag Tragedy Take 2 is an unusual sculptural installation of several small naked models on the floor, some enacting a boat capsizing tragedy and others watching it or filming it. Graham Grimmett’s Tread Lightly, Walk True (Nature More) is a plastic resin creation, sticking out from the wall full of colourful bright flowers.

It’s an interesting variety of work with something for all to enjoy, and is on until January 14.

  • The exhibition winner was David Broadfield, for his charcoal work Lime, Newnham Paddox. David Kearney won the World Rugby award for his watercolour and pen and ink work Winter Trees, Val Hunt’s drink can metal sculpture mentioned above won the Rugby Decorative and Fine Art Society award and Roger Griffiths won the Brethertons LLP award for Newton Rugby.
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Nina Cashmore’s Lisa