Back from London refreshed and in front of the easel again, so another small still life to keep my hand in. Much as I dislike shopping I think I'm going out today in search of new still life material, the fruit and vegetable baskets are seriously depleted. I'm also discovering an urge to look for interesting earthenware - what is happening to me?
The last week has been a little difficult to find painting time, more workmen and house guests have seen to that, but a couple of gallery trips afforded the opportunity to give painting some thinking time.
The first trip was a relatively short one to the estimable MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) to view the show 'Modern Art and St. Ives 1915 - 1965'. To say that this exhibition was a revelation would be to understate the impact that it had on me. It was much more than could be expected by the title. The reason for this was simple it was not confined to the work of artists that were practitioners in St. Ives but it explored the relationships between their work and the international community of artists. So not only were there the expected pieces from Nicholson, Hepworth, Gabo, Lanyon, Bryant, Moore et al but works by Braque, Kandinsky, Rothko, Pollock, Modigliani, Giacometti and Mondrian. A stunning array of work, mounted in such a way that the relationships could be discerned. A triumph for a relatively small gallery in an unfashionable location in North East England. A superb gallery and a first class exhibition. Tate, who were involved in the curation of the exhibition, have published a fine catalogue of the exhibition.
Below is a personal favourite from the show.
Cyclamen - Gouache and monotype on paper by Bryan Wynter
A couple of days after the MIMA show I headed south for a couple of days in London.
My first day I headed off to the Courtauld Gallery, having neglected it in recent years and there I found myself bewitched by one painting in particular. After an indulgent hour or so with the Cezannes I moved onto the collection of Fauves a stimulating development echoing ideas discernible in Cezanne's approach. But enough of them, the one that really got to me was the one below, Manet's 'A Bar at the Folies - Bergere'. This is a painting that I've seen on a number of occasions in the past as well as having seen it reproduced in many publication, so it would be fair to say that it was familiar. I'd also read about it in a variety of books where various critics have tried to place it in the development of Art History.
I sat in front of the work for about an hour and for the first time began to have some understanding as to how the composition challenged so many of the long held conceptions about producing images. The use of the mirror as a flat backstop and the lack of discernible perspective lines poses one set of questions. Secondly identifying the light source and its role in illuminating the various elements is a challenge. Is the light source the same for the figure and the items on the table? Lastly the confusion for the viewer engendered by the position of the reflection of the woman and the image of the man in the mirror. The gaze of the woman is another challenge, who or what is she looking at, the viewer, the man in the election or some unknown person/ event in the background? A painting worthy of some real study. Time well spent for me.
On a lighter note it's always good to see bottles of English ale (Bass) on the table.
A Bar at the Folies - Bergere - Oil on canvas by Edouard Manet
The next day I couldn't resist returning, for the third time, to say goodbye to the wonderful exhibition that has been running at Tate Britain since last year, ' Late Turner - Setting Painting Free', it closes this weekend. Even the huge crowds in there were not enough to mar the occasion, some of my favourite paintings have been in this exhibition, and what a pleasure to stand for a while in front of the exquisite 'Blue Rigi'. Anyone who has the least bit of interest in watercolour should make an effort to see this work, photographs cannot do it any justice. It glows in a way that is unique.
All in all a stimulating few days.
Blue Rigi - Watercolour on paper by J.M.W. Turner.
The last couple of weeks have been busy, roofers, painters, electrician and carpet layer. This has all meant no time for the paints. So it was with some relief that I was able to sit down for an hour or two before dinner. The fruit bowl was somewhat depleted after recent efforts at the easel so I picked a head of garlic from the cupboard prior to using it in the preparation of dinner.
Continuing with the current obsession, I once again raided the fruit bowl. This time it was a couple of Braeburn apples. Hopefully there is some evidence of progression in this series, I'm finding it a little easier to work on the gesso boards and gaining a slightly better control over the paint. It's maybe time to move on to another type of subject matter, possibly landscape, but carry on using the small boards. I'm finding it a real stimulus to painting regularly, working on these supports. The size seems to make a difference to taking that first step and dipping the brush into the paint.
Happy New Year to all my readers. I have managed spend a little time in front of the easel. I decided to mess around with composition and introduce something that required a little thought, so I moved the arrangement over a little and placed it on a tea towel. I'll let you judge whether these were interesting and/or ideas that worked.
Fruit, dish and tea towel - Oil on gesso board 7" x 5"