I’ve been rather busy putting this together – an exhibition of the work of six artists focussed on the observation of folks as they go about their day to day lives. It opens on Thursday (2nd November, 2017) at Déda, the dance dedicated arts centre in Derby from 18:30 – if you can come along we would love to see you. Its been a voyage of discovery for me personally, not least as figuration is very much not my usual turf, and four of the six artists I’ve chosen were not known to me before I started to put it together. Of the two I did know its been a real pleasure to be able to share some of their work with new audiences as it is my view that they deserve to be admired widely.
Ellie Young from Cardiff is one of those I found out about as I searched for painters whose work is firmly focussed on observation. In her case it can be very direct (she has undertaken a project making 15 minute portraits at a local centre) but also from photos and film, indeed film is a great love of hers and though there are elements of caricature in her work it is fleeting impressions and glimpsed moments that seem to especially inform her work.
Sue Stone (based in Grimsby, Lincs.) is another whose work makes extensive use of photographic sources though these are often wrestled into fresh configurations in her beautifully constructed pieces that combine exceptional qualities as a ‘textile artist’ with painted elements. Her interests are in the wider realm of how memory plays such a vital part in our reading of images of people.
An element of nostalgia might be read into the paintings of Helen Latham from Cambridge and they certainly have a very particular mood but often the subjects are very much of our time, and there are, to my eye at least, disturbing undercurrents in several of the images. Taking us, quite literally, to another place is the work of the painter, Anna Pinkster, whose acute observations of people going about their daily lives in Vietnam are imbued with a freshness that belies their carefully considered realisation in her studio in rural Somerset. And their marvellous vitality leads back into those artists who work I did know.
Firstly Jackie Berridge from Southwell, Notts. is an artist I’ve known for many years but over the past decade she has become both the exceptional draughtswoman she always was but also a painter of rare distinction. In her work a highly original cosmology exists in which episodes from childhood are interspersed with mature reflections on the human condition in paintings or, as here, drawings that are, on another level, simply lovely to look at.
So back where we began the drawings of Paul Warren take us into yet another personal universe. And this is where my quest started because my whole impetus for the show came from wanting to see more of Paul’s work in the public realm. His particular – and peculiar – vision is something he shares with the artist Ian Breakwell & the artist/musician Kevin Coyne, both school friends back in the 1950’s at the Joseph Wright School of Art in Derby. In their world view they forensically examine the human condition, all its foibles and frailties, but with a certain affection and – most crucially – a wicked and delicious sense of humour. And if this show does nothing else it will expose and celebrate Paul’s contribution to this remarkable triumvirate of artists that came out of this city in the 1950’s.