Leamington Spa

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.

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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

 

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Blurred lines and bold colours shape Hichmough retrospective

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Colin Hitchmough, Dictionary of Silences (Aurora Bognorealis), 2015, acrylic on canvas

A display of bold and sometimes baffling works fills a Warwickshire gallery, showing many work’s from an artist’s long career.
Dictionary of Silences is a retrospective of paintings by Colin Hichmough, who lived in Leamington for many years, and whose works are now being shown in the Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum until January 8.

Hitchmough studied fine art at Liverpool College of Art in the late 1960s, and then Birmingham College of Art. He then worked in Rugby for three years, before moving to Leamington where he lived until 2009, most of the time teaching at Warwickshire College. He also taught on the Fine Art Degree Course at Leamington Warwickshire College and the University of Central England. He is married with two sons, and now lives with his wife on the West Sussex coast.

This exhibition shows works dating from the 1970s to the present day.

In a well-written and attractive brochure to go with the exhibition, senior curator Chloe Johnson writes that “the ideas underpinning Hitchmough’s works are varied, but they deal with one single, complex concern: the notion of painting”.

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Colin Hitchmough, Flag, 1982, acrylic on canvas, collection: Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum

He was also exploring the physical materials used in painting, and began to suspend canvases like banners or flags rather than stretching them. In the 1980s the focus switched apparently to the surface of paintings and fluid brush work, and in the 1990s to box-like shapes, or “containers for ideas”.

The People’s Flag from 1982 is a big mostly black canvas with white stripes, and another from 1972 is blue and textured, looking like denim, with an almost tie-dye look to it. Untitled from 1971 is the earliest work in this show, and takes up one wall of the gallery, a T-shaped work with bits pulled up and held there, subverting the idea of the flat canvas.

New York House from 2001 is very different, mostly black with a six dark grey and white, sharp-sided rectangles painted in the bottom.

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Colin Hitchmough, NY House, 2001, acrylic on canvas

Terrapins and some similar works combine wood and canvas with sticky substances to create things that look organic and wholly fake at the same time.

Small silences from 2014 is a series of small works with parallel hand-drawn black lines stacked up like papers, or further apart to change the unity of the work. This is one of the works inspired by a holiday visit where Hitchmough misheard a guide talking about what he thought was a Dictionary of Silences, and the lines represent piled up canvases. The Dictionary of Silences painting is large and black, with imposing white blurred lines across it.

It’s an interesting exhibition which in many ways I struggled with at face value, but Chloe’s writing and the useful information on the gallery walls brought more knowledge and understanding to what is a large body of work, in more ways than one.

Op Art from across the decades continues to confuse and educate

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Op Art may not be new, but there are some new names to savour from across the decades in Op Art Past and Present, on show into the new year at The White Room gallery in Leamington.

Gallery boss John Gilks is a fan of op art so much of what is on show has been in his possession for some time, and he has provides short biographies of the artists to further inform us.

Ivan Picelj was a Croatian artist and a particular favourite of John’s, so much so he once nearly visited Zagreb to track him down – them bitterly regretted not making the trip when the artist died in 2011. At one end of the gallery are three of his untitled works, large colourful circles, made up of coloured circles within (pictured above).

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Described as the grandfather of op art, Victor Vasarely is represented by a strange work that seems to warp and move, with net-like circles and squares (above).

Genevieve Claisse was born in 1935 in Quiévy, France, the great niece of abstract painter Auguste Herbin. Her prints on show here are large, overlapping circles.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, who was born in 1923 in Caracas, creates metallic works and there are circles and squares here in different colours which look different as you move around in front of them.

There is a swirly purple and green print by Bridget Riley, and going down the age range somewhat, Damien Hirst is represented by one of his dot paintings.

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The very present is represented in the exhibition by Carl Cashman (one work, Chanel, above), with several of his works included. Cashman is more of a street artist who is inspired by Op Art and created a long mural on a wall at the Glastonbury festival. Here there is Peace Hurts, the CND symbol hidden amongst blue and white stripes. Jam Hot and Hot are more like street art, small but with glitzy paint. Love Hurts has the letters for Love in different colours in a square.

It’s an interesting exhibition, introducing some older artists who are still not that well known except to op art aficionados.

Wartime works show different side to secret camouflage artists

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Colin Moss, Camouflaged Factory Buildings, c.1939-1941, pencil and watercolour on paper, LSAG&M (Courtesy of the artist’s estate)

 

The wartime paintings of a secret group of artists drafted in to help keep the military mission safe during the Second World War are on show at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum.

Concealment and Deception: The Art of the Camofleurs of Leamington Spa 1939-1945 tells how during the war many artists were brought to the town to work on developing camouflage for strategically important installations. The works in the exhibition are a mixture of their depictions of this work, and paintings and drawings they did on their down time, presumably to keep themselves busy while away from home. Some of the latter depict the local scenery, and others the area under attack.

Evelyn Dunbar’s Convalescing Nurses Making Camouflage shows the women working hard on table and floor to put together khaki-coloured cloth.

Dorothy Annan’s The Parade, Leamington Spa, 1944, shows the area just up from the Pump Room Gardens and is instantly recognisable, though it’s notable the streets are full of walking people and cyclists rather than cars. Stephen Bone’s Clarendon Street from 1940 shows the attractive street covered in snow, and Christopher Ironside (father of renowned agony aunt Virginia) did a watercolour of Lansdowne Circus, the attractive houses sporting taped-up windows to guard against blasts. Janey Ironside drew evacuees in Leamington, a sad looking boy and girl in outsize clothes.

Some works give hints of what has been lost. There is a sketch by Dorothy Annan of a panel for the British Restaurant in Leamington, which was to be one of six by different artists. It is drawn with a strange perspective, showing familiar sights such as the Jephson Gardens and the Parade, but sadly the mural is lost. Mary Adshead’s Grace at the Sausage Hatch depicted a woman serving some unidentifiable food at the British Restaurant in Coventry, as two gaunt and desperate looking men queued.

There are a lot of works by Colin Moss, who had studied under Oskar Kokoshka, including Camouflaged Factory Building, 1939-41, depicting the building painted to try to blend in with the ground from above. But he also did more landscape works, including House Seen From Picket Fence, and a cabbage field. They are in varied styles, influenced by colourful expressionism and his lifelong interest in depicting ordinary life. Danger Deep Water shows a wonky sign around a pool and bare trees, with a bombed out shed behind. The Big Tower shows a tower he painted in camouflage paint – and then painted in this picture.

Rodney Burn did watercolour cartoons often pointing out ironies of war; in one a group gather around a tiny cabbage, saying it’s just the start, a reference to the Dig for Victory idea. Robin Darwin, who went on to lead the Royal College of Art, painted the spraying of an airfield to disguise it as a field, and Edwin La Dell painted The Camouflage Workshop itself, a dark room with men peering at designs on desks.

Yunge-Btaeman Viewing TankJames Yunge-Bateman, The Outside Viewing Tank: Directorate of Camouflage, Naval Section, 1943, oil on canvas © Imperial War Museums

Unbelievably, Leamington also became the base for the naval camouflage unit, with a pool to test things – a slightly surreal painting by James Yunge-Bateman shows The Outside Viewing Tank, with what looks like a giant woman wrist-deep in the water with a tiny boat next to her.

It’s an excellent and fascinating exhibition, showing works by artists who went on to bright careers but who left behind these wonderful artistic reminders of their war time life in Leamington.

*On until October 16.

Summer is here for artists at Deasil gallery in Leamington, anyway

Sea Moon

The Summer Exhibition at Deasil in Leamington brings together some artists from their stable of regulars whose works are shown in venues such as restaurants around the Midlands, plus some newer artists.

With pieces by about 14 people on show there is quite a variety of themes and styles of working.

Nancy Upshall

Coventry-based artist Nancy Upshall has three pieces here, including the oil painting Twisted Flax, a small work with a concentration on the turns in a material, and a larger work, Motley.

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Susannah Rourke’s April Showers (above) are four paint and mixed media works of splashes of movement and colour, which can be rearranged into a different pattern if preferred, as can another set called Here I Am.

Chris Putt’s large digital print of St Ives is recognisably the resort, with colour added to the buildings. Stuart Ellis’s Sea Moon (top) has a gold base, with purples, oranges and golds going up into the sky, and is very effective.

Sonia Bublaitis’s works are very colourful, with vivid paint patterns on Perspex. In contrast, Mark Allan is showing close-up wildlife photographs to make the keen amateur envious.

Paul Jordan

Paul Jordan’s City Limits (above) is a mixed media piece, with buildings drawn in black lines over a board on which newspaper has been stuck, and painted over white. You can tell it’s recently done from the headlines about Johnson and May visible underneath.

It’s another enjoyable and varied exhibition from the gallery which changes its exhibitions every three weeks.

 

Chelsea’s ‘therapeutic’ art amongst works at new Deasil exhibition

Hide This Somewhere SafeHide This Somewhere Safe

The latest exhibition at Leamington’s Deasil Gallery features works by a number of the gallery’s artist clients.

At the opening night, one artist with a tale to tell was present. Chelsea ‘Bunns’ Johnson is 24, originally from South Africa and a survivor of seven years of drug abuse. She now lives in Warwickshire though is soon to move to Coventry.

Her paintings are abstracts filled with bold colours and shapes, and often incorporating other items such as muslin and sand; she cited amongst her influences Antoni Tàpies and that interest can be seen in her work.

She said: “It’s very therapeutic for me, it’s an escape and it’s always been one constant thing in my life. It’s good to be using it to try to make a living and it’s keeping me away from the bad things – I have a very addictive personality.”

One work is entitled Hide This Somewhere Safe, and Chelsea said: “It’s when you are in that world, people grab on to you and drag you down and it’s about grab your heart and keep it safe so they don’t get hold of it.”

Get Ready To Hold Your BreathWatering My Roots “is about taking care of yourself and nurturing yourself”.  Get Ready to Hold Your Breath is right.

Chelsea’s paintings also incorporate a small stamp in the corner, made with a kit from Hong Kong her father, who still lives in South Africa, gave to her, and it reminds her of him.

There are also very different works by other artists on show. Phil Davis’s works are detailed and bright, overlaying people and London skylines. Tessa Pearson’s show different flowers in close up, and Jane Powell’s paintings include Strawberry Trellis, a packed study of vegetation through a trellis.

Iso Bella is showing several pleasant landscape studies, and Lousie Morgan’s watercolours are tiny. Sonia Bublaitis’s Tree of Life is gold leaf on a black Perspex background.

The show is on until November 12.

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Works by Jane Powell, Phil Davis and Tessa Pearson

Double surprise with a sparkling start to exhibitions in Leamington

What’s better than one art exhibition opening with Prosecco on a Friday evening? Two! Specially when the second one was completely unexpected. And the artists are twins!

The exhibition opening at the Deasil Gallery in Oxford Street in Leamington offered pictures by about a dozen photographers and a painter.

After enjoying a chat with artists, fizz and nibbles with the two Kates who run Deasil, I was off home until I passed the Whitewall Gallery in Regent Street and was drawn in by the sight of a tray of sparkling full glasses in the window.

The occasion was the unveiling of a set of paintings by Chris and Steve Rocks, 30-year-old twins from Durham who studied art together in Leeds, and work together. The paintings are described as tributes to the power of nature, and are on a tour of Whitewall Galleries around the country, along with the artists.

Chris said they have their own technique and approach, both bringing something different to the works, with him working on textures and Steve concentrating more on detail. He said: “Some are more descriptive than others, they have that fantasy feel and maybe remind you of somewhere you have been.”

It seems the paintings will only be on show there for a few days before they and the artists move on.

At Deasil, you have until October 2 to see the new exhibition.

Stuart Ellis’s abstract paintings fill the small back room, and the photographs out front are vary varied in style. A number wouldn’t be out of place in a classy travel magazine; James Callaghan’s Antigua photographs make you long for the blue sea and sky, and Matthew Sugars’s works make St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall mysterious and Venice as attractive as it is. Hilary Roberts has, in her word, fiddled with the images digitally to make a Cuban car stand out against a fading background, and to turn wave marks in sand into trees. Ray Spence’s black and white images date from 25 years ago and use altered negatives taken on film.

Other artists use mixed media, cutting, collage and old postcards to interesting effect; more detail to follow in the Coventry Telegraph on Friday.

Art in Design exhibition is stylish draw to Deasil Art Gallery

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The creativity and talent that go into design work are the focus of the current exhibition at the Deasil Art Gallery in Leamington.

Art in Design is the title of the exhibition showing works by various artists taking in ceramics, jewellery, wood carving, furniture and lighting, plus mixed media art work.

Usha Khosla’s ceramic pieces stand out as art but also vases you could happily use, with earthy and green colours and with an unfinished, natural look to the rims.

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David Male has used sustainable, local timber from Clifford Chambers to make a limited-edition pepper mill.

Claire Murray’s lampshades, one with a delicate pattern of a heron on it, would be a very attractive feature in the home, and Bren Boardman’s mixed media poppy and fritallaria images are also very pleasing. There are also several paintings and mixed media works by Jane Powell. Sarah Turner’s Rainbow Butterflies use the colourful metal of discarded drink cans to make attractive wall displays.

Will Morrison’s clocks, in reclaimed wood on the wall, or a pile of what looks like wooden boxes on the floor, are interesting and statement pieces. Steve Johnson’s wall-shown works are a mixture of cogs and gears, internal workings brought out of machinery to be the centre of attention (both above).

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Michael Grassi’s lights illuminate one corner, made from unlikely items including a camera (above).

Jason Willis’s driftwood and greenery combinations (below)would look good in a corporate or hotel setting, and Dominic Gubb’s reclaimed leather and furniture leg models of a bulldog and pug dog raised a smile and would make a statement in the right place.

It’s another interesting and varied exhibition from the Deasil Gallery which is on show until September 10.

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Serious start to new year with Coventry and Warwickshire exhibitions

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Begging near Covent Garden car park in Leamington by Josh King

For those prone to a bout of post-Christmas depression, the subject matter of several new exhibitions in Coventry and Warwickshire may not seem like the best antidote. However don’t be put off – the standard of work on show might actually cheer you up.

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