Monday, 20 March 2017

Reasons to be cheerful...

Edward Bawden, Gnat and Lion, linocut, 1970 (copyright EB estate)

It's been a long winter. This has never been a particularly personal blog, but there may be people out there wondering why I haven't posted much over the past six months. The main reason (aside from habitual laziness) is that my mother has been struggling with a severe (but curable) mental illness, which has been harrowing for her and scary/exhausting for everyone else. I've just about managed to keep on top of work, but have lacked the necessary zip and zing to write blog posts or keep up with social media. I think she's starting to get better now, which is a relief.

Meanwhile I've been working on two exhibitions, both for summer 2018 and each rather exciting. More about these in due course, but I'm sure it won't hurt to say that Edward Bawden fans may have a reason to be cheerful in these trying times. We all need something to look forward to, don't we?

And I have some new lectures. See here for details...

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Powell and Pressburger: 'Gone to Earth'

If you ignore Jennifer Jones's curious accent and a fairly creaky plot, this is a bit of a classic. As with more famous P&P outings like 'I Know Where I'm Going', the characters are strongly drawn, the dialogue snappy. And the sense of place is as powerful as you'd expect, both on the large scale - the landscape is breathtaking - and the small. The interiors are awesome, from the lowly cottage where protagonist Hazel lives with her beekeeper/coffinmaker/harpist father, to the dastardly squire's manor house. Watch it while you can!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

'The Lost Watercolours' is an Art Book of the Year!

Lovely to see 'The Lost Watercolours of Edward Bawden' featured as one of the Art Books of the Year in The Sunday Times yesterday. You can read what Michael Prodger had to say about the book here, though the website is subscription-only...

The book is more expensive than most art books but the cover price reflects the fact that it's a limited edition of 850 copies. Anyway it's cheaper than a new phone and will last a lot longer!

You can buy 'The Lost Watercolours' from independent booksellers such as Henry Sotheran's and Much Ado Books, or from The Mainstone Press.

Monday, 7 November 2016

'Century' at Jerwood / Bowie at Sotheby's

Century: 100 Modern British Artists from Jerwood Gallery on Vimeo.

The twentieth century was an exciting time for British artists. Inspired both by the revolutionary art movements of continental Europe and by deeply-ingrained insular traditions, painters and sculptors explored the world around them in thrilling new ways. At a time when photography, film and TV threatened to make traditional art forms redundant, artists responded by finding new ways of expressing their feelings about people and places that moved them – and the public responded in turn by flocking to museums and galleries.

Now open at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, ‘Century’ brings together paintings and sculptures, drawings and prints by a hundred artists who lived and worked in Britain during the 20th century. Some were immigrants. Others travelled extensively, across mainland Europe and further afield, in search of ideas and inspiration. Some haunted museums and became expert in African sculpture or Japanese printmaking. Others befriended avant-garde artists like Picasso and learnt from them.

Curating ‘Century’ has been a delight. All the works are selected from two eclectic collections of modern British art – the Jerwood Collection and the Ingram Collection – and while there are some famous names on display, what I love is the range, variety and quality of the artworks.

View of 'Bowie: Collector', from Sotheby's website
It's fairly madcap, though not quite as zany as the current exhibition of David Bowie's art collection at Sotheby's on Bond Street. Bowie's taste tended towards the vibrant, particularly in his liking for modern-art-influenced furniture. Those funky sofas and lamps are marvellous but sad: the treasures of a dead king.

I love how the Sotheby's curators have arranged everything, with huge photos of the man himself to remind us that what all the fuss is about, and then the most incredible amount of stuff crammed into each room. It's an art wake, a celebration (and, I know, fantastic publicity for no less than three upcoming auctions).  The show must have been both a logistical nightmare and tremendous fun to curate. It's certainly a treat for the visitor, not least because so many of the other visitors are obviously wondering whether to bid on particular pieces. The art world needs this glamour and excitement.

Reg Butler, Woman on Boat, 1953 (copyright artist estate)
Bowie's taste in art was eclectic. Alongside experimental New York art from the 1990s (which complements the zingy furnishings), there is a solid body of modern British art which bears a strong resemblance to Chris Ingram's collection. Similar artists, similar works, sometimes even the same works. It was weird to see 'Woman on Boat' (1953), one of several Reg Butler sculptures in 'Century', on show at Sotheby's.

Curiously, I was allowed to take pictures of this sculpture and anything else that caught my fancy, whereas Jerwood Gallery (and numerous other art museums) are obliged to ban photography to protect copyright holders. It's an odd situation, but it does mean that if you want to enjoy the treasures on display in 'Century', you'll have to go along and see them for yourself. And if you've never visited the Old Town of Hastings, you're in for a treat.

'Century' runs at Jerwood Gallery until January.
'Bowie Collector' runs at Sotheby's until Nov 10.

Monday, 10 October 2016

'Century' at Jerwood: John Piper

John Piper, Beach and Starfish, Seven Sisters, mixed media, 1933-4 (Jerwood Collection)

Like many British artists of his generation Piper was inspired from an early age by places – rather than people – and here he has used the avant-garde medium of collage to bring the venerable British genre of coastal painting up to date. Look carefully and you can see how cleverly he has combined paint and other media, like the fabric of the flag and the seashells borrowed from an old book, to make a familiar scene seem new and strange.

Piper is one of 100 modern British artists featured in my exhibition 'Century', which opens at Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, in a couple of weeks. In fact we're starting the hang this week (touches wood, tries not to think about railway strikes)...