Introducing the RWA exhibition, ‘Lines in a Landscape: Drawings from the Royal Collection’

Currently I’m assisting the marketing manager at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) in Bristol with interpreting and promoting the gallery’s exhibitions. One of the highlights of this role is writing for the RWA blog. My first blog post is an introduction to the spring exhibition ‘Lines in a Landscape: Drawings from the Royal Collection’ with focus on the most featured artist, Claude Lorrain. Click here to be taken to this blog post on the RWA site.
Lines in a Landscape Banner 2017

Claude Gellée, called Le Lorrain (1604/5 – 82), ‘A landscape with a dance (The Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca?)’, c.1663, Pen and ink, grey and brown washes, white heightening, over black chalk, on paper washed buff (RCIN 913076), Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.

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Article in Art Space, local Leamington Spa magazine

For the summer 2016 issue of ‘Art Space’, a local magazine in Leamington Spa, I wrote a short history about the art gallery and museum and its collection of paintings. It covers key bequests, individual artworks (including the oldest painting in the collection), collecting strategies, and current exhibitions.

Art Space 1Art space 2

 

 

 

Presenting 18th-century English drinking glasses

Recently, as research curator at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, I gave a ‘Friday Focus’ talk about the new display of 18th-century English drinking glasses that I have curated. This talk looked at the collector of the glasses, including an aspect of his life in Leamington, and then considered the different types of glasses that were created throughout the 18th century – and the various techniques used to decorate them. Lastly, I looked at why I chose to display the collection as I did:

Background to the collection and collector

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‘The Collector’ by Henry Holland, 1918, LSAG&M

This display highlights a selection of Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum’s collection of 160 English drinking glasses from the 18th century. They were purchased from the collector Francis Jahn in 1955 with the help of the National Art Collections Fund and the V&A Purchase Fund.

Jahn, who was born in 1871 and died in 1967, was a collector of oriental art, ceramics and 18th-century glasses. He followed his German father, Louis Jahn, a curator at the Hanley Museum, who built up a vast private collection of 18th-century Staffordshire pottery during his lifetime, which he left to his son. Many of the finest items were later bequeathed by Francis Jahn himself to Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum.  Continue reading

How to make the most out of a visit to an art gallery

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‘Impressionist Exhibition’ etching by my grandmother, Jennifer Beales (nee Caplan)

I’ve written an article about how to make the most out of a visit to an art gallery for Art UK’s new website. It includes eleven tips and also offers a fun challenge to readers, helping people to feel more comfortable with being in an art gallery environment and looking at art.

 

It is primarily aimed at people who may find the experience overwhelming, but can hopefully also give more regular gallery goers some fresh ideas for engaging with art.

A link to the article on Art UK is here.

If you fancy getting involved and sharing your recent experiences of being in an art gallery or your thoughts on particular artworks you see there, please let me and Art UK know by tweeting with the hashtag #visit_art

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Rodin sculpture at The Wilson

The Wilson have recently put on display their new Rodin sculpture of a modern dancer. As part of my internship in the Collections department, I wrote the label for this wonderful artwork. Here it is below:

Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917)

Dance Movement E, about 1911

Bronze, edition of 11

Rodin was inspired by modern dance. This led him to experiment with attempting to capture the essence of the body in movement. He was particularly fascinated by Alda Moreno, an acrobat and dancer at the Opéra Comique, Paris, who became his regular model from 1910 to 1913.

This interpretation of dance marks one of Rodin’s later, largely private, investigations. Dance Movement E is one of a series of nine, known collectively as Dance Movements and individually labelled A to I. These sculptures were not shown in Rodin’s lifetime, but cast posthumously in bronze.

Rodin rarely took traditional anatomic rules into consideration. Instead, he created increasingly abstract sculptures, noting the shapes produced by flexible body parts at specific expressive moments. His rough treatment of surface detail is also a crucial aspect of his unique style, and adds to the tactile and dynamic qualities of his work. In this way, Rodin strove to introduce innovative uses of natural movement and modelling to sculpture.

Given by P J Crook, President of the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, in May 2014 to celebrate the 30th birthday of the Friends.

New display at The Wilson: Interior Life

View of the new display, 'Interior Life', at The Wilson

View of the new display, ‘Interior Life’, at The Wilson

A new display has opened in the Friends Gallery at The Wilson. I currently work in the gallery’s Collections department and assisted the fine art curator with this show – researching potential themes and paintings from the collection to include, as well as writing one of the wall labels.

This temporary display explores recurring themes of privacy, meditation and solitude through a small selection of portrait paintings spanning more than 300 years from the 17th century to the 20th century. The concept of ‘interior space’ is more to do with the interior life of the sitter, subject and / or artist, and the emotions within their minds, rather than physical place.

Introductory panel to the display

Introductory panel to the display

The caption I wrote about the Hugh Byars painting included in this exhibition

The caption I wrote about the Hugh Byars painting included in this exhibition

Detail of gallery view, with painting by Hugh Byars to the far left.

Detail of gallery view, with painting by Hugh Byars to the far left.

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.

CAPTURED: A review of Rainmaker’s Native American photography exhibition

5 March – 30 May 2015 This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine. I was the Assistant Curator for this exhibition.

'Nikki' by Cara Romero

‘Nikki’ by Cara Romero

‘Captured’ is a groundbreaking exhibition at Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol, in which contemporary Native American photographers shed new light on both the uses of photography and indigenous American life. Together, the six artists represent eight different tribes and each have very distinctive styles and techniques. Their contributions consist of close-up black-and-white portraits, composite photographs woven together, sepia images that are so clear and detailed they look akin to etchings, compositional recreations of famous film scenes, and even a ‘talking’ tintype. This makes for an eclectic mixture of work, although the pieces are united by the artists’ desires to have Native people assert themselves as powerfully present individuals. The bold and often colourful images challenge preconceived notions of American Indians conjured by popular non-Native photographers, such as Edward Curtis (1868-1952), who have fixed in time romanticised ideas about indigenous life. So by presenting work where Native people themselves hold the cameras, this exhibition provides a much-needed reassessment of photography relating to American Indians and their relationships with the photographic lens. It is particularly important for revealing that in reality, their tribal cultures are continually evolving and are no less authentic today than in the past. This is a vast project for Rainmaker Gallery to communicate in its first ever photography exhibition held in its productive twenty-five year history of exhibiting contemporary Native American art. But there is no doubt that the gallery has achieved its unique and important aims.  Continue reading

The opening of The Beales Bequest exhibition at The Ken Stradling Collection

The Beales Bequest PosterA version of this article is on The Ken Stradling Collection website

From tomorrow, Wednesday 14th January, the latest exhibition at The Ken Stradling Collection will be open to the public. I have co-curated this show, entitled The Beales Bequest, and wrote the gallery’s information texts. I also contribute to their blog, and will be writing a series of blog posts about individual objects featured in this exhibition.

The Beales Bequest revolves around the eclectic objects that a Bristol architect and founding trustee of The Ken Stradling Collection left with his artist wife to the Collection when they died last year.

Colin and Jennifer Beales were great friends with Ken Stradling. Colin often drove around Bristol with Ken, and they travelled together to parts of Europe, to view or purchase furniture, ceramics and art. He in particular had a long association with The Bristol Guild. Jennifer also made significant contributions, such as formulating the title of the Collection’s catalogue, “The Incidental Collector”, which Colin helped to write and edit.

On display in the exhibition there will be a great variety of ceramics by many important British makers from the 20th and 21st centuries. Think Dan Arbeid (who The Guardian has described as “one of the pioneers of unconventional vessel-based handbuilt forms”), Mick Casson, Stig Lindberg and Herbert Krenchel.

There will also be bold and often humorous pieces of glasswork and sculpture, as well photographs of Colin’s main architectural projects and some of the Beales’ own art – pottery, etchings and paintings – exhibited too.

The Beales Bequest will be open to view every Wednesday 10 – 4pm and by appointment until 11th March (the exhibition has been extended beyond the original date of the 4th February).

Pieces by Stig Lindberg, Erik Hoglund and Herbert Krenchel

Pieces by Stig Lindberg, Erik Hoglund and Herbert Krenchel