Travels…

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The trip to Gdansk was exceptional for many reasons.  Chiefly perhaps that it was so unexpected and unplanned.  The marvellous and enterprising Robert Priseman must take the credit for organising the Made In Britain show drawn from his (and Ally Seabrook‘s) collection that propelled the decision to take a visit to the city.  Although I only have a very modest ‘walk on’ part in the event going over seemed like a no brainer.

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Gdansk the confluence of the marina with the Motlawa river

The show itself looked very handsome.  And hopefully my picture didn’t let the side down, settled on the wall, between Lucy Cox and Stephen Snoddy – so at the least it was in good quality company.  The collection is full of excellent work, both figurative and abstract, with both a smattering of famous names (I doubt my work will ever be nestled so near to Alan Davie‘s, one of my teenage idols!) and good representation from many of us regionally based painters as well as, inevitably, many from the capital).  There are many that I rate very highly and several I know well.

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foreground, Lucy Cox, then mine, then Stephen Snoddy plus Ben Cove & Mary Webb

On the floor above there was a smaller grouping of artists from the collection, where a grouping of works allowed more in depth study.  Robert was amongst them with a group of portrait studies that looked very handsome, their meticulous considered style suiting the juxtaposition with the Judith Tucker works opposite; both in black and white but showing how material,  handling, and facture as well as subject matter can provide figuration with many moods and responses.

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David Ainley

David Ainley, is a friend (disclaimer) but his fastidious and controlled abstractions build over time to something quite transcendental and luminous that I believe show immense quality.  James Quin is an artist I’d not previously seen but I loved both his picture in the collection and his reflections on Las Meninas that made up his contribution to the upper floor show.  A different approach to Ainley but an equally intense luminosity to the work.  I’m guessing that – perhaps – James will be represented in the forthcoming Enough Is Definitely Enough  if not he jolly well ought to be!

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Museum of the history of WW2

What of Gdansk itself?  Well it was one of the worst hit places in WW2, indeed it was the location of the commencement of that ghastly conflict and is now home to the huge and monumental museum dedicated to it.  As a consequence much of the centre of the city is rebuilt but contrary to what might be expected of somewhere that has spent much of its post war within the ‘Iron Curtain’ it has been (and as far as one could deduce continues to be) done with great sympathy for its longer term heritage – particularly its role in the Hanseatic League.

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Gdansk with its famous crane in the foreground

Of course driving out to the coast (Gdansk is the south side of the ‘Tri-City’ that also comprises Sopot and Gdynia) the soviet era concrete apartment blocks begin to appear but then they too are subsumed into a more vernacular architecture that in Sopot spoke to me at least of seaside grandeur across much of Europe (though here much less faded than to the west).

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Sopot town centre

 

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Sopot from the end of the pier, mercifully bereft of ‘amusements’ etc. just one lovely cafe.

 

So Gdansk turns out to be quite an experience – the centre a thriving and bustling place with many interesting and lively tourist attractions and an excellent cuisine (our particular recommendation is Bowke) but of course Poland is still a relatively poor central European country.  Perhaps it was that aspect that led me to choose to photograph it in B&W so here is the centre of Old Town in full colour that I imagine is how the tourist industry wants it to be seen!

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Out & About

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It was a busy Friday evening…first the Lakeside for the opening of the Victor Pasmore show – and also my friend Richard Perry‘s excellent work in the Angear space.  I’ll be reviewing the Pasmore later but suffice to say it’s very much up to the impeccable standards we’ve come to expect there.  Richard’s show I’ve already written about here.

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Work by Rachael Pinks, small panel piece behind by Clay Smith

So then onto Salon 9 where the energetic and talented Rachael Pinks (aided and abetted by the equally so, Clay Smith) have assembled a significant cast list for another of their highly enjoyable weekend shows. Sadly you’ve now missed it but (and I say this with due humility given I was represented there) it was full of terrific stuff.

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Paintings by Stephen Snoddy

I’m picking out Stephen Snoddy‘s beautifully crafted small colour panels not only because they were new to me in the flesh (I’d only seen images on screen previously) but also in solidarity with the travails he’s currently suffering as Director of Walsall’s New Art Gallery.  It is seriously under threat from the current round of local authority cuts – a bizarre and nonsensical manoeuvre – given the international significance of its collection.  I first visited in in the latter part of the 1970’s…when it was housed in the old Museum & Art Gallery.  It became something of a beacon of accessible and important works to admire at close hand and is all the more so now housed in its magnificent and award winning premises and the additions of the Beardsmore collection and the excellent temporary exhibitions programme.  If you haven’t be quick about adding your voice to those who have already cried foul!

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A prized possession…the early leaflet for the collection

Amongst the other works were strong offerings from Rachael herself, from the always immaculate Peter Cartwright & David Ainley as well as Geoff Machin, myself and Clay, whose small inscribed plaster panels showed a lovely sensibility in what is a new direction for him.

 

 

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Work by Clay Smith