Lewis Gallery

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

Standard ideas of homes and bodies are turned inside out in interesting exhibition

Outside / Inside / Out is the title of a new exhibition by two Coventry-based artists showing their work in Warwickshire.

The works, on show at the Lewis Gallery at Rugby School, only until October 13, are by Mandy Havers, a Senior lecturer in Fine Art at Coventry University, and Andrea Hannon, who completed her PhD at the University in 2014, and was also one of the artists highlighted in New Art West Midlands that year.

They explain the title of the exhibition as “the notion of external and internal space as it is found, negotiated and experienced both physically and psychologically is an interest both artists share”. However their works are very different.

Mandy’s works largely concentrate on the human body, often in its most physical form, but with what should be inside and unseen very much on show. Some of the works appear beautiful but in a gory way; Bloodpool features a doll-like figure sitting on a red shiny ball, but then you realise its guts are spilling out of its middle and making the pretty lines down the ball.

Gold Head is a tightly stuffed leather gold head. Last Supper is a large leather and mixed media work, with a Jesus face looking out, some shiny bling, and then you realise the central body is a large loaf of crusty bread.

Dreamer is a work seeming to feature a foetus attached to a head, and other works show detailed drawings of cut-away people, their internal organs and veins visible. There are also a number of tables showing collected objects, Dreamworld from this year, features odd collections; dolls with outsized gloves suck on their hands, eyeballs, and other items relating to the body. The whole body of work is accomplished, attractive and also disturbing in parts.

Andrea Hannon’s works also vary between some on the wall and others free-standing. Her works concentrate more on the idea of physical spaces and the idea of home.

Postern is two landscape paintings, with her own collaged intervention of what looks like windows and walls.

Cluster I is a set of three 3D collages in Perspex and wood, so you can see inside to tiny figures cut from old books, wearing masks here, and with a city skyline too. In Cluster II people gather around a desk. Shoot features four images of what look like a woman in an attractive dress, but with swirls of pattern around her, distracting from the figure.

In-her is a roughly-made dolls house inhabited by cut-out figures, including one that looks like a woman doing the ironing, and in one part of the house the floor has come up in strips, and the front is completely detached, suggestion traumas and frustrations of home. Two other works feature homely items such as lampshades and wallpaper in unusual settings on the floor.

The very different works seem to complement each other, creating an interesting and thought-provoking exhibition.

*The Lewis Gallery opens weekdays 2-5pm, and the exhibition closes on Thursday, October 13.

Cardboard ‘canvases’ are a feature of Terry Williams show at Lewis Gallery

         Terry Williams1

An unusual material forms the basis for a new set of paintings by Coventry-based Terry Williams.

Entitled An Old Bird Still Sings, the exhibition includes a number of works painted on what appears to be unfolded cardboard boxes.

Terry said he started off experimentally with the works, then decided they were good enough to keep and exhibit – but then of course began the problems with keeping them safe and in a condition to be displayed on the wall.

They were created at the Artspace Artists Studios in Lower Holyhead Road in Coventry city centre where he is the longest-lasting studio holder. He graduated from Coventry University’s Fine Art degree in the 1980s.

The cardboard-based works in question have an American feel to them – something that seems to be occurring a lot in Coventry and Warwickshire exhibitions recently. Using photographs from various sources, Terry has painted people at leisure, enjoying the sun. The rippling cardboard as the basis for some adds a depth of texture which works well with the ideas of sand and sea. Terry said they were part of a set where he wanted to capture people “in the midst of life”.

Some people are in rows of deckchairs on the beach, with plenty of sunglasses and overflowing swim suits on show, and one shows a cheerful couple in the sea, the man improbably dangling a fish he looks very pleased to have, and it’s called appropriately, Proud. A fat man from one of the pictures is shown in more than one image, including a facial close up, and Terry said he keeps returning to him for more works. A couple in a car, called To The Beach, have a stylish 50s look to them. Sunset shows children frolicking on the beach

Terry’s main interests are figurative, and these works are skilled and show an interest in capturing people at rest but in situations which when put in close focus do appear strange and rather unrelaxed.

Terry Williams2

The exhibition also includes a set of works which have been on show before at the Pluspace Gallery in Coventry in 2012. There’s Cadet with Flag, then the same young man with Roses, Poppies and Brown Background.

Other works are more abstract, representing his other favoured style, lots with heavy impasto. Crazy Golf Mark One is a strange piece with what look like rocky islands bursting out of the sea with little golf flags on them. Fecundity Mark One, and Two, are two small abstracts which work well.

The title, An Old Bird Still Sings, comes from one particular work, which features a fairly abstract pile of computer hardware – but at the opening Terry said rather dryly that people had decided to interpret it as being rather a more personal title.

The exhibition fills the Lewis Gallery at Rugby School in Rugby, and the exhibition is on this week, 2-5pm.

terry williams jpeg poster

Coventry and Warwickshire’s art world in 2014 – a quick look back

A tour with Jeremy Deller, an evening with a KLF star, a camp parade, champagne on the terrace – and an embarrassing slip into an art work. Some of my memories of 2014.

As most galleries stay closed today, it’s time to look back at some of the highlights of the last year in the local art world – or my take on them anyway.

I can’t believe it’s nearly a year since I set out on a horrible January night to see George Wagstaffe and Michala Gyetvai’s exhibition at the Michael Heseltine Gallery in Middleton Cheney, near Banbury.

Their combination of sculpture and textiles work well together and it was lovely to see how they’ve inspired and revitalised each other’s art careers.

I ran into them several more times during the year too, at Ragley Hall where artist Dawn Harris had a residency which produced some interesting exhibitions and some fun openings, and where Michala was one of several artists working from studios in the stable block.

Champagne on the terrace outside the Hall in the sun before a tour of the first (and now only) Open exhibition was particularly memorable. It’s a shame that with a year’s worth of events planned Dawn and the other artists were asked to leave a few weeks ago – I hope they find somewhere else soon, but I fear it won’t be so attractive.

As openings go, the best had to be Qasim Riza Shaheen’s exhibition The Last Known Post at the mac in Birmingham. Vodka and orange, live Sufi music, a highly glamorous and camp parade – what’s not to enjoy!

Walking art featured strongly at the start of the year, with exhibitions of various artists’ work at the Mead, the mac in Birmingham and a Richard Long exhibition at The New Art Gallery, Walsall. Long held an In Conversation in Walsall which showed his non-nonsense nature, and the thought of his long walks, carrying everything he needs with him, was very impressive. The New Art Gallery also held an exhibition dedicated to the history of its Garman Ryan Collection and it was great to see the influence of two women on Midlands art.

Nuneaton’s Museum & Art Gallery continued to offer up some little gems of exhibitions in its own quiet way. At the start of the year I enjoyed Shaun Morris’s exhibition of paintings mostly of the underneath of the M6, and later in the year explored the varied world of illustration and some expansive works by Paul Newman.

Romanian-born Coventry University graduate Mircea Teleaga exhibited his moody paintings influenced by his home country at the Lewis Gallery in Rugby School, an attractive gallery which often has interesting exhibitions but is unfortunately only open weekday afternoons.

Other Coventry University graduates were chosen to have their work exhibited as part of New Art West Midlands, and I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more of Lucy Hutchinson’s work in future. Her striking golden wallpaper telling stories of family across the world was a highlight of the show at the Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum.

At Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, Professor David Carpanini brought Welsh valley life into focus in gritty paintings. The Compton Verney the season opened with Moore Rodin, including some striking large works in the grounds which made a great impression, and continued with the Folk Art exhibition which moved up from London later in the year.

At Rugby Art Gallery & Museum the annual show of the Rugby Collection was enlivened with a focus on conservation work, and the end of the year show It’s A Wrap looked at the tradition of wrapping in Japan, furoshiki.

In March, I saw Bill Drummond begin his 12-year world tour at Eastside Projects in Birmingham, which was a fun and predictably wacky occasion – let’s hope we’re both back there for the planned end of it in 2025.

At the Mead, a personal highlight was being shown around the All That is Solid Melts Into Air exhibition by its creator Jeremy Deller, while I interviewed him, then also hearing him talk about it at the Herbert, before being bussed back for the official opening. Very entertaining and interesting.

At the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, the interactive exhibition Is This A Dagger? Was a good idea for an exhibition, and a nice excuse to visit the theatre again. And at Packwood House in the summer, Hilary Jack created some great installations to enhance a tour of the lovely grounds.

Coventry Artspace launched a programme of exhibitions looking at Coventry in the former Coventry Blaze shop in the City Arcade in the autumn, and at one event there I stepped back to clap a speech and ingnominously stepped back into Kathryn Hawkins’s installation, river …. splashing water all up the wall. Sorry about that (again).

There were closures too; the Gallery Upstairs in Henley-in-Arden, run by brother and sister Carey and Paul Moon, and previously owned by their parents, closed with a final exhibition in May and the beautiful building was put up for sale.

In Coventry, a group of artists calling themselves Through the Wall Projects, including another New Art West Midlands artist James Birkin, who paints great paintings of mostly derelict buildings, set up shop in one of Coventry’s fairly derelict areas in Bishop Street. Matthew Macaulay of Pluspace got involved to hold a couple more exhibitions there, but unfortunately the threat of business rates saw them having to move out.

The Lanchester Gallery Projects project ended at the building in The Hub after a varied and often challenging series of exhibitions but the university has continued to run it as a gallery, ending the year with a bright exhibition of paintings by John Devane including some influenced by American movies. The American influence was also strong in the closing exhibition of the year at the White Room in Leamington, in which Horace Panter – day job: bassist with the Specials – showed is growing catalogue of paintings.

So that’s it for 2014 – an interesting, if not stand out year. Here’s looking forward to more in 2015 – preview in the Coventry Telegraph, January 2.

Bitter-sweet retrospective shows variety of artist’s work

Margarita Rubra work  Seed

Retrospective’s of an artist’s work are always interesting as it’s good to see what they may have created over a long working life, and how their work has changed over time.

I was impressed a couple of years ago to meet the charming Avril Moore and interview her in her retrospective exhibition at the late lamented Roots gallery in Coventry. When I asked why she was holding her retrospective then she said she was over 80 and wanted to plan it herself, which was a good point. Sadly she died a few months later.

I didn’t meet the artist Margarita Rubra (pictured below), whose retrospective exhibition is taking place this week at the Lewis Gallery at Rugby School in Rugby, but I wish I had. There was a good turnout at the exhibition opening of people who obviously knew, liked and respected her.

Margarita was born in 1933 and died last year. She lived in Long Buckby in Northamptonshire but not far from Rugby.

She had exhibited before at the Lewis Gallery with 97 Rush, and the Tantalus Project, and at Rugby Art Gallery & Museum’s Floor One gallery. She trained as a mature student and completed an Art Foundation course and HND in Craft Design Technology.

The work in this exhibition is very varied. There are lots of pieces, many for sale, and varying between £25 and £500 in price, but with more towards the lower end of the scale. She used wood, ceramics, metal and other materials including one remarkable large wood and rope structure.

There’s also an attractive mobile, and lots of smaller pieces with pleasing curves, plus one item which seemed very different, a set of boxes with quotes in them, and what looked like lights attached to them – though I didn’t dare press the switches to see.

Tomorrow is the last day to see the exhibition, 2-5pm, though I’m glad I got to the opening and raised a glass to an artist I was sorry not to have come across before.

Margarita Rubra  Gesture 2

Matthew finds inspiration in Welsh seaside residency

Far away from the Midlands, Matthew Macaulay who is normally based in Coventry is currently on a residency in Aberystwyth.
Matthew, who is originally from Shetland, gained a BA Hons in Fine Art at Coventry University in 2010. He has worked in the city since, most recently from a fantastic studio at Pluspace Radio, overlooking Broadgate, where he is also the director of the Pluspace Gallery, which is taking a holiday.

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