Sunday, 19 February 2012

'Voices' Quilt Exhibition at Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Bovey Tracey

It is the last week of this exhibition by the international Quilt Art Group at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Bovey Tracey.

This is the best of professional quilting. Here is a taste of some of the pieces on show:

Most of the above photos are detail shots. For an informed review of the show and more photos take a look at Janet Haigh's blog post.

The exhibition is not large but the Guild has other work on show and an excellent cafe. There is also a 200 acre area of parkland, woodland & meadows, beyond the park opposite, which is looked after by the National Trust. So if you get the chance, why not drop in? (until 26th February)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Effortless Brushstrokes and A Childhood with the Surrealists at Falmouth Art Gallery

We've been in Cornwall all week - on Sunday we visited the Falmouth Art Gallery. This is a small gallery which specialises in being child friendly but also caters for adults.

It currently has two exhibitions running. The first of these is Effortless Brushstrokes - apparently inspired by John Singer Sargent's maxim 'to convey the maximum by means of the minimum' (or possibly just a title to embrace a selection of paintings from Falmouth's collection and from the Beside the Wave gallery). It's an enjoyable mix of paintings including a Lenkiewicz, a Munnings and two Laura Knights as well as a selection of newer works.

John Singer Sargent

Alfred Munnings

Laura Knight

Robert Lenkiewicz

The second exhibition is A Childhood with the Surrealists by Andrew Lanyon and Antony Penrose. Lanyon is the son of  Peter Lanyon, the St Ives Abstract Expressionist, while Penrose is the son of the Surrealist painter Roland Penrose and photographer Lee Miller. Both Lanyon and Penrose moved in surrealist and artistic circles when they were young. This exhibition is the result of a New Expressions commission and takes the form of a whimsical correspondence and exchange of surrealist gifts between the two. You do get the impression that they may just be playing at surrealism, and wonder whether there aren't other artists who could have made better use of the commission. Nevertheless, it's an amusing exhibit and it didn't stop me buying the catalogue which binds the project together.

The exhibitions are free and run to the 14th April.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Art History: 20th Century 'Isms' at Exeter Phoenix

For the past few weeks I have been attending a short course of classes at Exeter Phoenix on modern art 'Isms'.  It's only a couple of hours a week for 5 weeks and so is inevitably selective. The course is run by Nicci Wonnacott, whose work includes performance stuff like this:

Before Xmas I did a one-day life class which Nicci tutored (advertised by the Phoenix as a chance to explore the face - so a couple of us were a bit surprised to find it was a full life-drawing class) and the discussions with her and the other artists from various backgrounds - all competent artists - were really interesting.

Richard Hamilton
The discussions in the 'Isms' class are, of course, part of its appeal. Those attending include some who are studying art, some who are doing or have just completed art degrees, and others who have art experience or simply have opinions - sometimes strong ones.

Marcel Duchamp
In the first three weeks we covered a lot of ground. Highlights included: Constructivism, Jenny Holzer, Kurt Schwitters, Barbara Kruger, Shepard Fairey, Dada, Surrealism, Marcel Duchamp, Meret Oppenheim, Dali, Man Ray, Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol, The Stuckists, Rita Donagh, Gee Vaucher, Fluxus, Mark Wallinger, Jeff Koons, Abstract Expressionism, Neo Dadaism, Joan Miro, Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Willem De Kooning, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Motherwell, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and so on ...

Meret Oppenheim
Last week - week four - we covered almost as much again. Nikki is keen to redress the under-representation of the role women have played in developing art in the 20th century and one of the interesting things for me is that previously I was unaware of the work of many of the women we have considered.

Barbara Kruger
There have been a few other things that have surprised me. Such as the important role that the Constructivists had in the 20th century revolution in art. I went to the Rodchenko and Popova exhibition at Tate Modern in 2009, which was pretty comprehensive, but it is not until you put each movement into the wider context that you can appreciate the true impact.

I am also a little surprised to find how directly derivative the work of some of our 21st century artists is. As we know, little is new under the sun, and most art references back to Art History, whether knowingly or not. Nevertheless, for example, work by the Faile and Jacques Villegle appears very closely related:

Jacques Villegle
And some of Sarah Lucas's work seems thin and derivative when you look at similar work produced by Dorothea Tanning in 1967:

Dorothea Tanning
Sarah Lucas
And don't get me started on Damien Hirst - just refer to the Stuckists ...

Damien Hirst - Toy or Art?
Earlier this week the tour guide at Tate St Ives told us that conceptual art is on the way out and figurative art is the future! Our final class is coming up this Thursday - I'll let you know how it turns out ...

Incidentally, if you can't get to art classes at the Phoenix you could always try this book: Isms - Understanding Art by Stephen Little which I came across in the Tate shop. It does a pretty good job of covering art movements in a few paragraphs, from the Renaissance to Neo-conceptualism, and is well illustrated with examples. A snip at £7 from Amazon.

Breon O'Casey at Newlyn Art Gallery

Yesterday I visited the Newlyn Gallery to see the Breon O'Casey retrospective. The exhibition, which has been curated by O'Casey's daughter Duibhne Gough, is one of the best I have seen at Newlyn.

If you were only familiar with O'Casey's paintings you could be underwhelmed by his naive style. However this exhibition brings together his paintings, sculptures, jewellery, weaving and prints, and you can only be impressed by the way in which he developed his own lexicon of symbols to produce an astonishing breadth of work. Some of the smaller items are amongst the most exquisite - although this is not easily reflected in photographs.

The Newlyn is relaxed about photography in the gallery and so, rather than writing at length, below is a selection of photographs which give a taste of the exhibition:

The Breon O'Casey exhibition is on until 28th April - Go along, if you can. There is an informative short booklet accompanying the exhibition by Ruth Golding (cost £10). See also my earlier post about O'Casey and Barbara Hepworth.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Bert Jansch 1943 -2011

I've been meaning to write about Bert Jansch ever since his death last October. He was a significant influence on me, as he was for many other kids in the sixties trying to play guitar.
My first guitar was secondhand and almost impossible to play - but importantly was cheap. I briefly took some classical guitar lessons but soon had to give up as I realised that the standards required by the teacher and what was possible on the wretched guitar were light years apart - and that the classical repertoire was not for me.

However, Bert Jansch was something else. His unique voice and picking style meant that traditional folk songs sounded new rather than traditional. When you added to this a melancholy which was well-suited to my early teenage years, here was a perfect music role model. I spent hours trying to perfect (Davey Graham's) Angie on my cheap guitar and mournfully crooning Needle of Death. The moody cover of his debut album, Bert Jansch, was perfect for the times and for a moody teenager.

He also inspired my clandestine visits to the local folk club in the nearby Castle pub, which got me interested in live music. No BS about underage drinking in those days.

A bit later my friend Pete introduced me to Pentangle - A perfect jazz/folk ensemble: Jacquie McShee's sweet voice combined with Danny Thompson's flawless bass and the music of John Renborn - the McCartney to Bert's Lennon (or possibly the other way round). They embodied something of the time when they provided the soundtrack to Take Three Girls - a TV drama series on the recently colourised BBC2 about three girls growing up in 'swinging London' (1968). This appears on their classic Basket of Light album.

Many years later I went to see Pentangle at the Brentwood centre. They were as polished as ever but my partner was amazed that - in true folkie style - Jacquie McShee was seated for much of the set (in stark contrast to the livelier punk survivors etc that we were seeing at the time). Here they are on TV in 1969 performing Light Flight and Train Song (sitting down):

I still can't play Angie; or sing Needle of Death convincingly - but that doesn't stop me trying. Bert leaves behind a brilliant body of work - both solo and with Pentangle - but, for me, nothing will top his 1965 debut album.

Bert Jansch's untimely death marked the passing of a small part of my early life.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

5 Must-see Exhibitions 2012: Grayson Perry, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Picasso and Breon O'Casey

I still haven't really got very far updating the blog - so here instead is a short list of exhibitions that I hope to get to, and which you might like, in the next few weeks (update 26/2/12: have now been to all of these - all well worth seeing - will post more shortly)

1.  At the British Museum Grayson Perry: the Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman  is extended to 26 February 2012. Perry has curated a unique show of his own work and selected material from the British Museum, as this short video explains.

If you want to see more, Tim Marlow has done one of his 30 minute programmes discussing the aims of the exhibition with Perry.  The programme is showing from 11 February on Sky Arts 1.

Lucian Freud's first wife, Kitty
2. Lucian Freud Portraits is on at the National Portrait Gallery 9 Feb – 27 May 2012. See a short video here on YouTube. As it says on the NPG website: "Lucian Freud was one of the most important and influential artists of his generation ... and this major exhibition, spanning over seventy years, is the first to focus on his portraiture." See my previous post re Lucian Freud and my follow-up post. Tim Marlow has also reviewed this show on Sky Arts.

3.  At the Royal Academy of Arts: David Hockney - A Bigger Picture is showing from 21 January to 9 April 2012. Now in his 70s, Hockney, along with Peter Blake, is a survivor from the 1960s - but one who has continued to explore new avenues throughout his career and who enjoys widespread popularity. The following video by the curator Marco Livingstone explains how the exhibition was put together:

Further related Hockney videos can be viewed here. Also Sky Arts is showing a Tim Marlow programme about the exhibit and on 27/2/12 Andrew Marr is doing an hour long programme. According to the website this exhibition "spans a 50 year period to demonstrate Hockney’s long exploration and fascination with the depiction of landscape." However, Hockney is adamant that it is not a retrospective but focuses mainly on work produced during the past 3-4 years (confirmed by visiting the exhibition - only one gallery was devoted to Hockney's previous landscape work).

4. At Tate Britain there is a Picasso exhibition. Picasso and Modern British Art focuses on how Picasso was influenced by the English and how, in turn, English painters - from Ben Nicholson to David Hockney - were influenced by him. “The exhibition will show how Picasso evolved from an artist championed by a courageous minority in Britain, to become the figurehead of modern art both here and around the world.” according to the curator. It looks as though it will be a fascinating exploration, and it runs from 15 February to 15 July 2012. Tim Marlow is doing a 30 min programme on the exhibition that will be showing in March on Sky Arts.

5. Finally, if you are in Cornwall you should take the opportunity to see the exhibition of Breon O'Casey's work at the Newlyn Gallery 14th January - 28th April 2012. This is a major show of paintings, prints, sculptures, weavings and jewellery by Breon selected by his daughter, Duibhne Gough, and covers his output from the 1950s to 2011. It includes notebooks, photographs and other artefacts. Prints & works on paper will be available for sale in the Picture Room. See my previous post about O'Casey and Barbara Hepworth.