Going with the Flow

This is an exhibition about notions of flow: the mental state of total engagement; the movement of the sea and the sky; and the passage of time. It’s a brilliant theme that brings together a variety of work by the Saltgrass Artists – a group of six Sussex-based artists who recently graduated after years of part-time study as mature students.

Denise Strange and Lee Rousell are both painters inspired by the Sussex countryside, but their work is very different. Denise works in the English landscape tradition, and her paintings have a sense of space and light. They reveal her love of nature, and of specific places, and her sensitivity to moods created by light and weather conditions. Her focus is being in the moment, creating a mood of calm, solitude and sometimes mystery. In contrast, Lee’s paintings are much more abstract expressionist: he uses a bold colour palette, thickly-applied paint and gestural mark making, which results in a restless picture surface that speaks of inner turmoil.

Sue Coleman takes an interdisciplinary approach to her work, producing drawings, etchings and photographs as well as sculptures and installations. What links it all together is her exploration of the tension between human activity and the natural world, between growth and decay. In this exhibition, she is showing some fascinating photographs of found urban objects, and an installation of green oak, pebbles and sand, called Longshore Drift, a reference to the endless movement of sand and stones along the coast.

Multi-media artist Sam Kennedy uses vintage imagery and fragments of ephemera to create intriguing collage images that suggest a flow between the present and the past. Collage as an art form has a fine pedigree, with its roots in Dada and Surrealism, and Sam continues the tradition of deconstruction and re-assemblage, bringing diverse elements together to create new narratives with layers of meaning.

Nikki Wilson’s photographs capture lyrical details of church interiors, highlighting the beauty of quiet corners of these buildings, which bear the traces of generations of worshippers. Until recent times, the parish church lay at the heart of the ebb and flow of community life, and Nikki’s pictures offer us the chance to focus on physical elements of ancient churches that also have a spiritual resonance.

Dee Hilder works in many different media and for this show she has created a series of etchings, drawings and felted paintings inspired by the ebb and flow of the sea around the beach at Old Shoreham Fort. Repetition, movement and spontaneity are notable features of her work: her graphite images look very much like automatic drawings, and there must be an enormous element of chance involved in the making of her beautiful calico dye pieces.

Saltgrass Artists: Flow continues at the Skyway Gallery, Shoreham-by-Sea, until Friday 17 November.

 

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Art & Business: The Omega Workshops

I managed to catch Bloomsbury Art & Design at the Courtauld Gallery before it finished last week, and must admit that I was a bit disappointed. The Courtauld holds one of the most extensive collections of works by artists from the Bloomsbury Group, many of which were bequeathed by the art critic Roger Fry to the newly formed Courtauld Institute of Art in 1935. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the online blurb properly: instead of an exciting exhibition, I got a one-room ‘special display’, which was fine as far as it went, but didn’t really satisfy. But the Courtauld is an academic institution first and foremost (making the information panels pretty dry) and its incredible collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings plus its amazing gallery within Somerset House make up for any lack of block buster-type exhibitions like those offered by such stars of the artworld as the Royal Academy and the V&A. The Courtauld Gallery is understated, and with its academic prestige and brilliant permanent collection, it doesn’t need to try hard.

Affairs of the Heart

The special display presented a selection of Bloomsbury paintings, prints, designs and ceramics relating to the Omega Workshops, a business enterprise offering hand-crafted household items, set up by Roger Fry and his artistic young friends, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. In 1911, Fry and Vanessa began an affair (Vanessa had been married to Clive Bell for four years, and Fry’s wife Helen had been committed to a mental asylum in 1910 and spent the rest of her life there). Fry’s heart was broken when Vanessa fell in love with Duncan Grant (whose previous lovers included his cousin Lytton Strachey and the economist John Maynard Keynes), but despite this, the three remained good friends.

The Avant Garde Comes to England

Fry had gained a reputation for promoting continental avant garde art: in 1910, he rocked the London art establishment when he curated Manet and the Post-Impressionists, and again two years later with his Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition. Edwardian society was staid and oppressive, so this introduction to contemporary European art – specifically the works of Cézanne, Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso – had a profound impact on young British artists, particularly the painters of the Bloomsbury Group. The artists and writers of the group were bound together by their desire to break down the conventions and double standards of their Victorian parents’ generation. They wanted to create a new way of living, based on personal, artistic and sexual freedom. The painters in the group moved away from academic representation to create works of bold colour, expressive brushwork and loose drawing, and they extended their painting activity to interior decoration, seeing no divide between fine and applied art.

Omega

The Omega Workshops were founded in 1913 and Fry, Bell and Grant began producing furniture, carpets, ceramics, textiles mirrors and light fittings that would rival the old-fashioned, mass-produced goods currently available. Fry declared ‘We have suffered for too long from the dull and stupidly serious,’ as the Workshops produced objects in a variety of styles, influence by Post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism. The work was highly experimental and the focus was on decoration rather than design: pieces of furniture were often bought in and then decorated at the workshops, to create Omega products. Several different artists became involved, and everyone worked collaboratively, marking the finished objects with the collective omega symbol (the last letter of the Greek alphabet) rather than individual signatures. Vanessa also designed a range of dresses in Omega-designed fabrics, rejecting the tight corseting of high fashion for Bohemian drapery. After six years of trading, a series of poor financial decisions and internal conflicts, Omega Workshops Ltd. was liquidated. It had been a brief flowering of creativity, during which Fry, Vanessa and Grant explored abstract design and championed a new modern style, and the influence of the Omega Workshops was significant in the following decades, and the Bloomsbury style still has great appeal today.

Vanessa Bell’s studio, Charleston House, Sussex

 

 

Local Colour: AAC Summer Exhibition

What – No Adur Art Trail?

Still from Shoreham by Sea – An Aerial Perspective by Scott Wright

This season’s south coast artfest is well under way: in May, Brighton & Hove Open Houses gave us the fab and funky experience we’ve come to expect; and Worthing will be consolidating its artistic renaissance with Artists Open Houses from mid-June to early July. What of Adur Art Trail? It’s the jewel in the crown, the cultured pearl between Brighton’s Bohemia and Worthing’s retro charm – but there’s no Trail this year. In 2018 there will be an Adur Art Trail to look forward to. However, lovers of the Shoreham art scene won’t be disappointed this year with Adur Art Collective’s first Summer Exhibition at Skyway Gallery. More than 60 members of the collective are currently showing a selection of work in a variety of media: paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture, textiles, jewellery, paper craft, mosaic and film.

The show offers a chance to enjoy memories of last year’s trail, with Maddie Zayeet’s movie Trekking the Adur Art Trail 2016. And there’s another brilliant film not to be missed: Shoreham by Sea – An Aerial Perspective by Scott Wright. It’s a mesmerizing film offering a drone’s-eye view of the local landscape. You feel like you’re flying high over fields, roads, chalk cliffs and shoreline, looking down on well-loved landmarks – the River Adur and the Ferry Bridge, the power station, the lighthouse and Lancing College – in a stunning new way.

Creating a coherent display from such diverse exhibits is an achievement in itself, and the standard of the presentation as well as the art is high. As a venue, Skyway Gallery at the Shoreham Centre has a lot going for it: bright and modern, it’s at the heart of the community so it’s an ideal place to bring art to the people.

And the people are being asked to get involved in this exhibition, to give their comments and to nominate their favourite exhibit as the people’s choice, with prize giving on the show’s closing day. AAC patron and expert watercolourist Shirley Trevena will also present an award for the most innovative use of colour.

What the public have been saying:

“A great eclectic mix, wonderful”
“So much local talent”
“I love seeing all the different media used”
“A lovely exhibition”
“A thoroughly enjoyable feast of art”
“Super exhibition – well done to all the artists”

The Summer Exhibition at Skyway Gallery in Shoreham-by-Sea continues until Sunday 18 June.

A Quest for Identity

 

Spiral Motif in Green, Violet, Blue and Gold: The Coast of the Inland Sea (1950)

Spiral Motif in Green, Violet, Blue and Gold: The Coast of the Inland Sea (1950)

I didn’t know anything about Victor Pasmore before I went to the exhibition of his work currently on at Pallant House Gallery, although I was familiar with one of his paintings without knowing it was by him. During years of drooling over pictures in art books and magazines, I must have seen reproductions of his Coast of the Inland Sea, and it made a lasting impression on me: it’s a bold image of swirling lines, graphic marks and a sophisticated simplicity. It’s a lyrical abstract landscape, and I love it.

Paris Cafe (1937)

Parisian Café (1937)

So, it was a bit of a shock to walk into the first gallery in this exhibition, and see Pasmore’s early paintings. The young Victor was obviously inspired by Sickert’s impressionistic scenes of everyday life, and the pastel drawings by Degas of women washing themselves. In 1937, Pasmore was involved in setting up the Euston Road School, which was dedicated to realism, the traditions of figurative painting and disciplined observation. It was all very British and turned its back on wild, expressive avant-garde art across the Channel.

Reclining Nude (1942)

Reclining Nude (1942)

But the war brought an end to the school and – after a short stint in the army, followed by imprisonment for desertion and being a conscientious objector – Victor painted a series of views of the Thames, very much in the manner of Whistler’s subtle and luminous paintings of the same subject, with a touch of the Turneresque.

The Quiet River: The Thames at Chiswick 1943-4 by Victor Pasmore 1908-1998

The Quiet River: The Thames at Chiswick (1944)

In the mid-1940s, Victor seems to have taken a sudden interest in Post-Impressionism, taking inspiration from the work of Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Seurat and exploring new ways of painting using shifting viewpoints and pointillist dots; he also experimented with Cubism, and studied the writings of Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian and Arp. Embracing the European modern art he had previously shunned, Pasmore developed a distinctive way of painting with patterning, stylisation and abstract shapes.

Triangular Motif (1949)

Triangular Motif (1949)

In the 1950s, Victor turned his attention to creating relief constructions, an art form between paintings and sculptures: the first ones were made of painted plywood and have a rough-and-ready handmade character; the later pieces incorporate Perspex, and look machine made.

Synthetic Construction: White and Black (1966)

Synthetic Construction: White and Black (1966)

When he returned to painting, he produced a series of abstracts dominated by simple shapes in a strong colour, edged with minimalist black lines, and integral frame. In his later years, Pasmore set up his studio in Malta, where he painted big, bold, colourful abstracts and continued to create relief constructions.

Yellow Abstract (1961)

Yellow Abstract (1961)

This exhibition shows the amazing variety of Victor Pasmore’s work as it traces his story from realism to abstraction. Was he a restless spirit constantly seeking an ever-elusive answer to his own personal artistic questions? Or did he simply enjoy chopping and changing? Did he thrive on novelty? Or just get bored with his own work? Who knows?

Victor Pasmore

Victor

Personally, I’m relieved to find an artist I can identify with: I don’t know from one day to the next whether to focus on being an abstract painter or a digital artist or a photographer or a writer. Maybe I can be all of them…

Victor Pasmore: Towards a New Reality at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, is on until 11 June.

pallant.org.uk

 

24 Hours in Bath

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey: a fine example of Perpendicular Gothic.

The Hot Springs

Sign on the wall of the Roman baths.

Circulating Library

Circulating Library in Milsom Street.

Weir at the River Avon

A view of the weir on the River Avon, by Pulteney Bridge.

Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge, built in 1774.

The Weir 2

Lesser black-backed gulls on the weir.

Quiet Street

Quiet Street.

bath 2 (1024x913)

Amazing architecture near the Roman baths.

Window on Pulteney Bridge

Window and graffiti on Pulteney Bridge.