Reviewing Tate’s David Hockney exhibition for The British Art Journal

In the Spring 2017 issue of The British Art Journal you can find my review of Tate Britain’s David Hockney exhibition and accompanying catalogue. I attended the Tate’s Press View in order to write this review.

Hockney

 

 

Norman Ackroyd RA: The Invited Artist for the RWA’s Drawn exhibition

Norman Ackroyd has four atmospheric prints displayed in the Royal West of England Academy’s current exhibition, ‘Drawn’. Ackroyd is this year’s Invited Artist for this biennial open submission exhibition.

You can find my article about his work and contribution to the exhibition on the RWA’s blog, here.

Norman Ackroyd detail in the RWA's Drawn exhibition

Writing for The British Art Journal

I’m very pleased to have a first article published in The British Art Journal – in the form of a book review of ‘The Diaries of Randolph Schwabe’, edited by Gill Clarke and published by Bristol publishers Sansom & Co.

 

 

 

 

 

Attending Gilda Williams’ course on How to Write About Art

Yesterday I attended Gilda Williams’ ‘How To Write About Art’ course at the Whitechapel Gallery. It was a brilliant and highly informative day – Gilda gave lots of good advice about ways to develop (and spot) good writing, which she supported with clear examples. She also asked the class to write a short piece about one of the works in the Whitechapel’s current exhibition, ‘Electronic Superhighway (2016 – 1966)’, and encouraged everyone to give each other feedback. My text is below. I chose to focus on Jonas Lund’s contribution, entitled ‘VIP (Viewer Improved Painting’), 2014, consisting of a self optimising digital painting, 50″ monitor TV and a gaze tracking camera. View it on his website page here.

What is your favourite colour? What is your preference, blue or pink? After standing for several seconds in front of Jonas Lund’s work, ‘VIP (Viewer Improved Painting’), 2014, it becomes clear that we are being asked this old and clumsy question. Perhaps it reminds us of similarly black-and-white questions we used to receive from peers in the school playground.

Whether we know the answer now or not, Lund’s ‘VIP’ sets out to tell us. It does this by presenting us with two luxuriously long flat-screen television screens that have been turned on their sides and stick assertively from the wall, jostling for the viewer’s attention. They slowly feed us fuzzy blocks of colour, splodges of dark blue are surprised by splashes of sunburnt pink. The edges of different  blocks blur together in a way that is reminiscent of Rothko’s abstract paintings.

Our eyes naturally dart towards the changes in colour, the areas of movement and energy. As we are fed these colours, the monitor, parked confidently on top of the screens, records which we are drawn to and starts to only show those that we like. Rarely do we see an artwork that takes such pains to please us and offer up its images for our own individual delight. Lund’s work is, after all, entitled ‘VIP’. We expect special treatment.

And yet, a sense of unease pervades this experience. We are aware of being watched, our actions are obviously  recorded by a camera and our personal preferences broadcast on a public screen. Over time it is obvious we are only given a limited number of colours to choose from, so our preferences are manipulated by this robot, just like they were by our friends back at school. Peer pressure has not gone away. Instead, as this artwork suggests through its mechanisms and media, it has exploded with the copious amount of technology and online interactions that surround us every day.

 

 

 

Gloucestershire newspaper article: Rodin sculpture at The Wilson

My Rodin article in Gloucestershire EchoI was very pleased to write a second article for the local newspaper, Gloucestershire Echo, during my internship in the Collections department at The Wilson, Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum. The Wilson had just put their newly acquired Rodin sculpture on display and I thought this would be a good topic to write about – plus, I had written the gallery label for this artwork, and studied some of Rodin’s later sculptures (and photographs) for my MA dissertation.

This Echo article was published on Saturday 29th August.

Dance Movement E by Auguste Rodin, about 1911, bronze, edition 3 of 11, 430 x 124mm

This striking sculpture, entitled Dance Movement E, captures a full figure in the middle of a lively dance. Designed by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in about 1911, it was never shown in Rodin’s lifetime, but was cast posthumously in bronze. Dance Movement E was given to the art gallery and museum by PJ Crook, President of the Friends of The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, in May 2014 to celebrate the 30th birthday of the Friends.

My Rodin article in Gloucestershire EchoIt is particularly exciting to have the sculpture here at The Wilson as Rodin has several links with Cheltenham. The artist stayed in the town for five weeks in 1914, visiting the art gallery and museum numerous times during his stay. Then nineteen years later, the curator at the time, Mr Herdman, requested that Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss be shown at the art gallery and museum. It was on display for three years before being transferred to the Tate. The Kiss returned to The Wilson last year as a loan for a temporary exhibition, entitled Embrace.

Rodin rarely took traditional anatomical rules or details into consideration. Instead, he created increasingly abstract sculptures, noting the shapes produced by flexible body parts during specific expressive moments. Critics believed that many of Rodin’s creations were merely studies or unfinished works. In contrast, much of the sculpture produced by Rodin’s contemporaries tended to be highly conservative and a large quantity was commissioned by the French government for heroic public monuments. Among his peers, however, were the Impressionists (Rodin and Monet were born the same year), whose innovations in painting moved away from the constraints of classical imperatives. Rodin also moved away from conventional boundaries and his inventive and ‘modern’ approach is one of the reasons why he is one of the best-known sculptors of the late nineteenth century.

It was Rodin’s novel subject matter as well as his style that made his art stand out and appear radical. For instance, as his sculpture Dance Movement E suggests, Rodin was inspired by modern dance. In particular he was fascinated by Alda Moreno, an acrobat and dancer at the Opéra Comique, Paris, who became his regular model from 1910 to 1913. This subject marks one of his later, and largely private, prolific investigations; indeed, Dance Movement E is one of a series of nine figures that are individually labelled from A to I.

We are delighted that now, over one hundred years on from Rodin’s visit to Cheltenham, we can enjoy another of his sculptures here, as part of the art gallery and museum’s collection. You can see Dance Movement E on display in the Friends Gallery at The Wilson, a venue managed by The Cheltenham Trust.

Review of ‘Ahead of the Curve’ exhibition, on contemporary Chinese ceramics

My review of ‘Ahead of the Curve: new china from China’, a touring exhibition on contemporary Chinese ceramics, is published on a four page spread in the latest ‘Craft Arts International’ magazine, issue no. 94. This exhibition started at The Wilson, Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum, in October 2014 and then moved on to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, before going to The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent.

Cover page to Crafts Art International, issue no. 95

Cover page to Crafts Art International, issue no. 94

First page of my article in Craft Arts International

First page of my article in Craft Arts International

Native American painter Nocona Burgess exhibits at Rainmaker Gallery

Native American Artist Nocona Burgess Visits Bristol for Solo Exhibition at Rainmaker Gallery. Below is the press release for this exhibition, which I wrote, and then co-edited with the director of the gallery.

“White Belly” acrylic on canvas by Nocona Burgess for Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol UK.

Nocona Burgess pushes American Indian portraiture forward with strikingly modern depictions of people from tribal Nations of the Southern Plains.

Powerful portraits of Native American Indians by Comanche artist Nocona Burgess will be presented at Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol, from 16 July to 30 September 2015. These paintings mix careful research, firsthand knowledge and raw passion. Through combining brightly coloured shapes with crisply outlined facial features and traditional dress, Burgess explores the cultural context, life story and identity of each sitter. In this way, the artist urges us to update our perceptions of Native people and consider the intriguing and often highly politicised place of Native American portraiture.

Nocona Burgess, his wife Danielle and his son Quahada, will visit Bristol for a two-week residency, resulting from an ongoing collaboration between Rainmaker Gallery and the American Museum in Britain. During this residency the artist will attend the exhibition opening; teach workshops on colour theory; and give talks about his art, his life and his legendary family history.


“Huuinu Waiipu – Timber Woman”, acrylic on canvas by Nocona Burgess (Comanche) for Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol UK.

Burgess is a member of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma. He is the son of a former tribal chief and the great great grandson of one of the most revered Native American leaders, Chief Quanah Parker. Burgess grew up surrounded by art. His father went to art school to focus on drawing and painting, and his grandparents made quilts and beadwork from their own designs.

In 1989, Burgess fully developed his artistic talents at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, NM. He was fascinated by how more traditional forms of Native art evolve into contemporary movements. This fascination came to define his focus, leading him to reinterpret traditionally inspired portraits with his own modern slant. It is the notion of the modern Indian that he seeks in his work and recognises in himself.

By painting with vibrant pigments onto dark backgrounds Burgess has perfected a method that he describes as “painting outward”. This approach produces the richly contrasting colours of his distinctive canvases and gives his art a vivid depth. Burgess’ paintings inspire and educate through their unusual techniques and positive dialogues between past and present.

Painting for Burgess is a way of reaching out to others. He strives for an intimate connection with each subject, eager to know their characters. Through his paintings Burgess says thank you to his ancestors for their sacrifices in helping to make the contemporary Native identity what it is today.

Burgess’ paintings have received numerous awards and have been featured in many publications. He exhibits throughout the USA and beyond and this summer alone sees his paintings in Australia, England and America. They can also be found in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. His numerous collectors include the actor Johnny Depp.

Situated on the border of Redland and Westbury Park in North Bristol, Rainmaker Gallery is the UK showcase for the very best in contemporary Native North American Indian art and design. Founded in 1991 by Joanne Prince, to provide an authentic Native American Indian voice in the UK, Rainmaker promotes awareness, education and cultural exchange through artist talks, events and exhibitions. The gallery exhibits original paintings, drawings and fine art prints and carries a superb collection of high quality handmade American Indian jewellery, Zuni fetish carvings and Pendleton blankets.

Writing for Gloucestershire’s local paper: Contemporary take on the Arts & Crafts Movement

My Echo article, May 2015Last week I wrote an article for Gloucestershire’s local newspaper, Echo, on a new contemporary installation by Iavor Lubomirov at The Wilson art gallery and museum in Cheltenham, as part of their contemporary art exhibition ‘the open west’. My article was published on Saturday 23 May. Lubomirov’s artwork, ‘Wallpaper by the Roll’, 2013, is in dialogue with William Morris’s own art and ethos for living. It consists of a rolled paper sculpture and framed off-cuts, each comprised of delicately layered strips of Morris & Co Marigold Cowslip Wallpaper. This is historic and domesticized wallpaper that has been made tactile and dynamic.

What’s in an image? – Marlene Dumas at the Tate

Tate Modern handout for their Marlene Dumas exhibitionMarlene Dumas, ‘Naomi’, 1995, oil on canvas, 130 x 110cm

The title Naomi doesn’t determine the identity of the face in the painting, but it does invite a certain intimacy with the viewer. Naomi. Is this Naomi Campbell, one of the supermodels of our century? If so, this is our chance to really see her up close and even to be offered her full, sensual lips. However, there could be scorn in her narrowed eyes, emphasised by the sharply arched eyebrows. She could be rising defiantly out of the shadows away from our mundane world, although, equally, they could be consuming her. Like many of Dumas’s paintings, it is not clear and we are left to experience this uncomfortable position of not knowing or being able to confidently react to an image, even an image of a person whose form we know so well.

The purposeful lack of clarity to many of Dumas’s paintings partly stems from the fact that she often paints from second hand images, particularly those from the media. This makes her work similar to the result of Chinese whispers; the subjects evolve every time they are captured and communicated through an image that is not their original. Does this allow Dumas – and the viewer – to think about the image rather than the person and the emotions that surround them? This would certainly allow for a more critical engagement with the work.

Naomi seems to be a disturbing cross between a fashion illustration, a fashion photograph and an abstract figurative painting. The conflation of these different types of visual communication suggests that this painting is as much about how we construct and present images, particularly those of women, as it is about what the images themselves represent. It does prompt us to consider what sort of image of ourselves we present to the world each day.

 

Tate Modern currently displays the most significant exhibition of Marlene Dumas’s work ever to be held in Europe, open until 10 May 2015.

 

 

Etchings in ‘The Beales Bequest’ exhibition

This post is published on The Ken Stradling Collection blog

Jennifer Beales's etching of Brandon Hill, Bristol

Jennifer Beales’s etching of Brandon Hill, Bristol

Dispersed among the beautiful array of objects in the current exhibition, The Beales Bequest, at The Ken Stradling Collection are clusters of Jennifer Beales’ own artworks. She made many oil paintings and etchings, particularly during the 1970s and 80s when she took printing classes at The Bristol School of Art. These illustrate domestic interiors, many of which were familiar or personal to Jennifer. There are also unusual views from windows and into art studios.

Most of the places depicted are in Bristol. Jennifer always had a little sketchbook in her bag to capture details around the city, as well as further afield. She loved travelling and her art reflects this; it often depicts picturesque Italian towns or countryside.

Oil painting of Tuscany by Jennifer Beales

Oil painting of Tuscany by Jennifer Beales

Humour is another theme in Jennifer’s etchings, which is enhanced by their short and considered titles. For Jennifer, art was a creative way of socialising and having fun, as well as understanding the world around her and recording special moments. Some of the works that particularly stand out as being humorous are those illustrating cameos within art exhibitions. We eagerly stare at the etched figures that in turn thoughtfully consider Impressionist paintings within the frame of the print. This suggests a playful exploration of what it is to look at art and to be aware that we are its viewer.  Continue reading