Leamington

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.

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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  

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.

Movement is the theme of paintings in latest Deasil exhibition

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If you didn’t get enough of the Olympics …. There’s a chance to see it from a different angle in a new art exhibition.

Deasil gallery in Oxford Street, Leamington, is showing Motion and Emotion, an exhibition of Andy Farr’s paintings, until September 8. Andy is keen on capturing movement on canvas, and the show includes a number of works inspired by the recent Rio Olympics, as well as other works.

Andy said he works partly from photographs, but largely from film, watching and re-watching sportspeople in action to come up with his paintings. Many feature expressions of movement, such as Andy Murray’s swinging arm in a tennis shot, or a cyclist whizzing through the frame. Others are like a video that has been moved on frame by frame, showing a sequence of slow motion movements.

Race through Warwick

Pursuit has a single cyclist against a colourful background so you can concentrate on the movement, and Pedal Power has a cyclist in slow motion. Some sailing paintings are slightly different, with a concentration on the different blues and aquamarine colours of the water. Carnival is a painting Andy was unsure about – a celebration of the bright colours of dancing girls in a Rio carnival, a riot of colour as well as movement.

There is also a detailed paintings of a women’s cycle race which came through Warwick earlier this year – for that Andy was there on the street with his camera to capture the riders coming through, and also the spectators lined up opposite with their cameras.

He has previously done a series of works related to dance, saying he wanted to “get a sense of the dance in the painting”. Paso Doble from that series is in this show, a lovely swirl of red dress, embrace and movement.

Andy lives in Leamington, and turned from a career in brand building and marketing to painting a few years ago, and is now studying for an MA at Coventry University’s School of Art and Design, with his degree show coming up shortly. He said some of the sporting works in this exhibition came as light relief compared to paintings of a World War I theme he has done for his MA.

It’s an interesting exhibition and study of sporting superstars showing off their talent.

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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.

Excellent Nancy Upshall exhibition puts Deasil gallery on the map

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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.

 

Leamington offers up nudity and vivid landscapes in night of two art show openings

What a fun night for the art show ligger in Leamington.

On Friday, Arts Trail Gallery in Regent Court, Livery Street, held a private view of a new exhibition entitled Le Maison Bleu, paintings by Bryan B Kelly, curated by Grazia Carano. I was invited to that so decided to visit. At the same time, Gallery 150, which has just moved across the street to different premises in Regent Court, held a opening night for its new exhibition, Human Spaces. I wasn’t invited to that, but as the galleries are only three doors apart, what the hell, I wasn’t going to miss it.

The exhibitions couldn’t be more different. Human Spaces, which I visited first, consists of works by seven artists, plus Kate Spence who gave a live performance in the window space at the opening. The exhibition was described as a figurative exhibition, which doesn’t have to mean naked, but that’s mainly what was on show.

Stand out works for me were Ray Spence’s series of photographs of life models, not in their ‘work’, but posing naked in more domestic situations. Alongside each was a question and answer session with the model. It’s refreshing to see the models have a voice, and also that they’re not all young and slight. Domenica, 58, lays back on a rooftop near a railway line, as the photo is taken from next door where a man cuddles his pet dog.

Anna, 45, lays on her kitchen worksurface, while Kadi, 28, is in two pictures while her partner and young child carry on with life oblivious. Cressida, 44, sits around while a man practises his French horn, and Arthur 79, poses imaginatively while a woman does the housework and makes a phone call around him. Only ‘H’, a heavily tattooed and, er, intimately pierced man doesn’t benefit us with his thoughts.

Ray’s works feel different for giving the models a voice, but there seems little new or different about many of the other works to show the theme of the nude has moved on at all, and some have odd overtones.

There are two paintings of Sophie, by Melvyn Warren-Smith, and the model tells, slightly worryingly, how she was persuaded to pose naked after visiting Melvyn and his wife at their home, but how liberating she found the experience ….

Neil Moore’s Release shows a naked woman with piles of ropes laying around her. It was a relief to see Emma Tooth’s paintings of a muscley breakdancer, complete with trousers.

By this time, at a packed opening, the gallery had run out of wine though there were still plenty of good-quality nibbles around. But there was more wine (and equally good nibbles) available at Arts Trail Gallery, though Gerry Smith who runs it suggested we visit his installation gallery first.

This is an empty shop within sight of the gallery where there’s a large window space. It’s been furnished brightly in a way which fits in with the paintings of Bryan B Kelly, which are all in very vivid colours. There were also some of Bryan’s accomplished pottery pieces on show there too, which were in more earthy colours and were rather stylish.

Paintings included The Little Red Butterfly, with the creature in the bottom left corner of the big, busy work showing purple and green fields. Four Sheep show the animals in one field, amidst a bigger landscape, and Herons Cove shows the bird on an island, again bottom left, on a huge expanse of aquamarine colour surrounded by fields.

The Little Red Butterfly by Bryan B Kelly

The Round Tower shows the uncharacteristically grey tower in a landscape, reminding me of a trip I made many years ago to Bryan’s home country of Ireland. Bryan studied textiles and garment design in the 1960s and has only begun painting in more recent years, and describes his paintings as “naïve with more than a hint of surrealism”. Some of the repetitive dots and patterns also suggest an interest in Aboriginal art too.

Anyway, wine drunk, nibbles eaten it was time to move on from Leamington’s busiest art quarter of the night after what had been an interesting, and certainly varied night.

Bryan and visitor in the installationPictures – The Little Red Butterfly, and Bryan with a visitor in the installation

Souren’s exhibition at Gallery 150 is a triumph over suffering

sourenmousavidream  Souren

A life that promised riches but was then followed by the horrors of imprisonment lays behind the works of art on show now in Warwickshire.
Souren Mousavi’s exhibition at Gallery150 in Leamington features varied works focusing on the female form, her Persian heritage and the fight for freedom.

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Horace Panter of The Specials lets his paintings take centre stage

Horace Panter Beijing Street Cleaner-1 (2)
It’s not uncommon for musicians to turn to art as the years go by. In some cases it’s a sudden and often wrong feeling they can paint, but in many cases it’s actually a return to their first love.
The latter is true in Horace Panter’s case. He studied Fine Art at the Lanchester Polytechnic as it then was in Coventry, graduating in 1975, and while there he met another art student, Jerry Dammers, and they went on to found The Specials and the 2-Tone record label, and forge a career in music.
Horace is now staging a show at the White Room Gallery in Regent Street, Leamington, following a couple of others, including one at The Strand Gallery in London.
Asked why he had gone back to painting, the svelte Horace said wryly: “The Specials won’t play for ever and you can be fat when you’re an artist.”
He said he’d always been interested in art, and all through the first life of The Specials he’d be the one on tour going to bed early so he could get up in the morning to go and visit galleries such as the Guggenheim. It’s clear he’s still an art fan – he was delighted with how busy The Herbert was when he went in to see the George Shaw exhibition (and George is a Specials fan).

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Damien’s move from animal psychology to art pays off

A FRUSTRATION at no longer being able to buy the art he wanted inspired Damien Isaak to start creating his own works at the age of 40.
He’s now staging his second solo exhibition after the first over a year ago was a huge success.
Damien moved to Leamington six years ago, and runs his own rather unusual business there – as an animal psychologist. But there’s not many animals in his art – in this showing at Gallery150 in Leamington I only spotted some rather lovely geometrically-shaped angel fish in Think Tank.

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