Friday, 16 January 2015

RSW Preview

I was delighted to be able to go along to the RSW opening last night, and see my Summer Clouds, Eastbourne Pier painting in all its glory in one of the main rooms at the Royal Scottish Academy.

Here it is along with (l-r at bottom) David Smith, Joe Hargan and Glen Scouller's paintings.


It's always odd to come into a public place and see the paintings that you've made privately in your studio.  You know exactly how they're made and put together, so they have no secrets from you...and then to see them all framed up and looking great, and on the wall in a fine, grand institution...it's very strange.


Also, I normally only see my paintings at fairly close quarters in the studio. Bizarrely, I found last night that, when you can stand so far back from your work, and it's properly lit, it looks completely different.  Colours blend, contrasts and patterns are more obvious.  

When your own work is chosen to be hung in a gallery, having been endorsed by a committee, and curated with other work, it suddenly becomes transformed into something else - something you can view objectively rather than subjectively.


Having whoffled about my own modest contribution, can I just add that the RSW show is fantastic - lots of great paintings, well hung, beautifully lit,  in a wonderful space.  

You couldn't ask for more on a dreich January day.  So if you're in Edinburgh, please do go and see it.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

RSW

Well, well!

It turns out that it isn't my small painting that I've got in to the RSW - it's my large one!

Summer Clouds, Eastbourne Pier (Mixed Media, 22 x 30)

This painting is part of a series of studies and paintings that I made of the pier, produced by means of a screenprint (the red part) with washes of watercolour and gouache over the top, along with a little pastel.

I'll be going along to the opening tomorrow night to see it!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Answer...

Yesterday I asked you what this painting was and when it was painted...



 Is it something early by Mondrian...?


                       Piet Mondrian, "Farmhouse with Washing on the Line", Oil on canvas, 1897

Or Thomas Jones?
Thomas Jones "A Wall in Naples", Oil on paper, 1782


Now these are both good guesses, as they both have similar qualities.  Both are paintings of recognisable scenes, which are then simplified into flat, pattern making arrangements of colour and line.  

Both of them are landscapes which cut out the spatial reference of the sky and focus in on flat planes and blocks of colour.  Mondrian has the 'advantage' of living 100 years later than Jones, and jets off into modern art via landscape paintings like this


Mondrian, Dune Sketch in Orange, Pink and Blue (Oil on canvas, 1909)

and this...


Piet Mondrian, Composition (1935)

So what is our mystery painting? It's Green and Gold, A Shop in Calais (1896) by none other than James Abbott McNeill Whistler.  

He's the American painter who produced such radical, minimalist, tonal works as this


Whistler, Nocturne Blue and Silver, Battersea Reach (Oil, 1875)
 and this...

Whistler, Nocturne in Blue and Gold, Old Battersea Bridge (1872)

...and this magnificent screen in the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, which made such an impression on me.


The screen was a favourite item in Whistler's home until his death, and he elongates the (in reality) rather dumpy supporting plinths of the bridge into elegant swooping Japanese-print-style symbols.  It not only shares the flattened feel and pattern-making of prints, but also shares a Mondrian-like exploration of the horizontal and vertical.

I was in Washington over the summer, and found a stunning exhibition at the Freer Gallery of Art, which was dedicated to the studies and variations made on this screen, along with archive photographs of the demolition of the old wooden bridge at Battersea and building of the new.  

It was fascintaing, but had one glaring ommission - they couldn't get the screen itself from Glasgow, as presumably it's too fragile to travel.  The Freer is also home to the astonishing Peacock Room (the sketches of which are in the Hunterian), which was opened just as I arrived - good timing!  The shutters are usually kept shut to preserve the colours.


Whistler's connection to Glasgow, in case you were wondering, is that his heir presented a huge amount of his work to the University of Glasgow.  Whistler's mother and his wife were of Scottish extraction, and his work was enthusiastically acquired by Scottish dealers and collectors.  In 1891, the Glasgow Boys group of painters persuaded the City of Glasgow to acquire an important portrait of Thomas Carlyle (painters must have had more clout in those days), thus becoming the first public collection in the world to own a work by him.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Churchill - Inventor of the Onesie



Well, well, well - further to my blog post Churchill Inventor of the Onesie eighteen months ago, there is now an exhibition at the Science Museum in London about that very thing.  Great minds think alike, eh?


Called Churchill's Scientists, it opens on 23rd January and tells the story of how Winston's creative thinking-outside-the-box approach to science and to war-time problem-solving gave the critical advantage which ultimately won the war for Britain.  He was the first Prime Minister to take on a scientific advisor, and gave scientists unprecedented access to funding.  Think bouncing bombs and all that.

This exhibition includes - oh yes - his green velvet onesie.  Ideal attire for pulling on in a hurry in an air raid, whilst still maintaining that slightly quirky upper-class authority.

He had a number of versions made in different materials (by Royal Warrant shirtmaker Turnbull and Asser, so none of your saving-up-coupons nonsense for Churchill), and they also proved jolly useful for painting in.  

Here's Winnie looking very much like Mr Turner.


The Life Picture Collection/Gett



Monday Teaser

Using your extensive collective knowledge of modern art, can you name the painter and give the date of this small-scale abstract work?


No googling!!

But here's a clue - there's a Glasgow connection.

La Dolce Vita

Kittens.  Fountains.  Rome.

Actress Anita Ekburg has died, aged 83.  But in Federico Fellini's 1960 masterpiece La Dolce Vita, she is forever a gravity-defying kitten-cuddling goddess, spontaneously and sensuously embracing life by iconically wading into the Trevi Fountain in the heart of Rome in a black velvet ballgown.  If only we all could. 





Apparently the reality was less prosaic - it was hypothermically freezing, and Marcello Mastroianni had drunk so much vodka that he was falling over.  

But it's not those sort of details that endure...

Friday, 9 January 2015

Playing to the Gallery

Slightly less off-topic, if you're looking for an interesting read about the art world, try Grayson Perry's book  Playing to the Gallery.

Based on his recent Reith lectures (which were brilliant), this is a book which asks questions about art and the art world - 

what is good and bad art?  
what counts as art? 
how do you become a contemporary artist?  

It's witty and insightful, illustrated by some clever cartoons, and is presented in an irritating (well, to me anyway) format of unjustified text.  But don't let that put you off.  You can also get it as an audio book.

"Anybody can enjoy art, and anybody can have a life in the arts," advises Mr Perry, wisely.  So grab a copy and read/listen how!