On The Road Again (part 2)

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Overnight stop just outside Sunderland…my friend and companion (and on this trip, driver) Simon runs a jolly good blog that often features material from these various jaunts – readers might want to take a look.  My room is situated just above the car park where Simon’s Merc is surrounded by white vans that says a lot about the regular clientele of PremierInn!

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Sue Disley, mosaic, Seaham

Travelling south we make a detour through Seaham…some bracing sea air and a chance for me to revisit my friend Paul Mason‘s public art scheme there.  A part of which were Susan Disley‘s mosaics and it was good to see them withstanding the battering they must take from the North Sea coast.

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Also in Seaham…on Cutting Road…this Vets special offer of the month…some things my mate & myself agree, you just couldnt make up!

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But back to business…our destination is MIMA and a show entitled International Exchanges: Modern Art and St Ives 1915–1965.  Is there some kind of Tate charm offensive going on I wonder?  This show is substantially comprised of loans and there were further Tate loans aplenty back in Newcastle and, as I will write in my next post, more to come elsewhere.  I’m not complaining (quite the opposite) but I don’t recall them being so open about such things in the past.  Maybe it’s that some of the newer regional venues (like MIMA) have better environmental conditions or perhaps it’s that international modern works have been rather squeezed out of it between the curatorial demands of Tate Britain and Modern but whatever the reasons it’s heartening to see a work like Around The Blues by Sam Francis getting a good airing in a big generously proportioned space that MIMA can do.

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Basel Mural, Norton Simon Museum, California

I saw my first Sam Francis work in Basel after a frantic dash across town from a school trip rail stopover as a thirteen year old and fell in love with his work then. The Tate picture I saw in the old Tate (Britain) in the early 70’s and if it’s been out of the store since I doubt it’s been for long.  Here in Middlesbrough it was flanked by Peter Lanyon’s Thermal, a glider pilot’s view of Cornwall set against a WW2 pilot’s view of the Pacific (i’m not sure he ever got out of training flights in California though?)…well hardly… but I like to think of Sam cruising the Monet’s Garden pictures in the Orangerie in Paris in the fifties with those wartime experiences in his mind.  Around The Blues is big…I reckon around 9 ft by 20…but the Basel Mural was bigger (and the trptych that it was intended to be part of even larger still – go here for the story). Now size isn’t important really its all about scale…at least thats what I was taught…but when you bring the two together like these then it makes a hell of a statement.  I was made up being able to reacquaint myself with such a great painter and the show contains another super example of the earlier fifties more monochrome pictures.

There is plenty of supporting material…for example the cabinet recording correspondence around the Hepworth sculpture at the UN including her typewritten list of personal invitees to the launch lunch, that includes Sam Francis.  Or in another room the photograph of Rothko lunching with the Feiler’s, Frost’s and Lanyon’s in West Penwith – with a Rothko painting (that smallish yellow and pink one that I’m not that fond of to be honest) and a Gorky facing off across the room from a couple Patrick Heron‘s.  There’s plenty more to see…two great Braque’s (are there any other kind?) a Poliakoff (what a superb colourist) and that sumptuous Clyfford Still they have…that looks so fresh in this context.  If you care about abstract painting this is really a bit of a must see I reckon!  I refer you to Simon’s blog again as to why I’ve no shots of the works in context.

After this visual feast Simon came up with the splendid suggestion that we head down country and stop off at the Hepworth for a late lunch.  This is one of our favourite contemporary art venues and never disappoints.  The lunch special – an excellent fish pie – arrives in a classic William Scott style skillet.

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and the art wasn’t bad either.  I was rather taken with Folkert de Jong‘s The Holy Land though the central part of this substantial installation was to my mind over elaborated.  Nonetheless when the casts were left unadorned there was quite a deal of poetry in these objects chosen from Leeds Armoury Museum.  Glancing through a catalogue it seems the artist is retreating away from the over theatrical…and for my money this will be for best!

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elements from ‘The Holy Land’ by Folkert de Jong, Hepworth Wakefield till Jan 25, 2015
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It’s not what you look at that matters, It’s what you see…

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It’s been a really special week or so for acquiring some terrific pictures.  Take this gorgeous little panel by my dear friend Sue Disley.  I’m jealous of her talent as not only is she a terrific painter but also one of the best ceramicists in the country.  I’ll come back to this one in a few moments but first onto another of the new works.  When I saw this little canvas by Stephanie Bates in the degree show at Bishop Grosseteste I knew immediately where it would hang if I could get my hands on it.  The corner of our bedroom where the spiral staircase takes me up to the study area above…already has a wonderful piece by Lauri Hopkins and adjacent to that my truly marvellous Terry Greene painting.  So now as I ascend the stairs to where these rambling are written you see Steph’s canvas next…

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And once I’m sitting at my mac I have Stephen MacInnis’ work from his ‘Long Series’ to oversee my deliberations…so put them together and it doesn’t get better than that.

Not strictly a new acquisition but my current boss and good friend John Rimmer restored his ‘In My Room’ canvas from 2003 to our care this week.  John has been mainly working with video over the past 7/8 years and though the work was really fascinating (in brief he explored notions of abstraction in painting through collaged film clips put through extraordinary digital convulsions) I’d love to see him get back to painting directly.  John has been consistently inventive in his painting over the years (recognised by two inclusions in the prestigious John Moores).

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John Rimmer – In My Room, Mixed Media on Canvas, 36 x 35.5 cm. 2003

The work has all the hallmarks of John’s interest in the fractured and disjointed figurative image, in this case wallpaper pattern, put through some considerable painterly intelligence.  I’d have made an effort to take a better snap but really you need to get up close and personal to see the variety of media and mark making displayed to great effect.

Another acquisition from the show on the course that John leads at BGU and that I occasionally teach into is this lovely little picture by Jordon Lawrenson. Jordon is the source of the quote that heads this column…by Henry David Thoreau and used it in talking about her work for the degree.

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The greatest pleasure in teaching is seeing students make real progress.  Jordon worked hard in the final months synthesising her own ideas and images with those of her two year old son.  Picasso said memorably “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” and I feel that Jordon has in a modest way latched on to that idea here.  Anyway I love it!

For me looking at work that’s around me and that I liked enough to purchase, swap or blag out of people makes me hungry to do better myself.  And these pictures all come into that category.  Sue’s small panel is a case in point.  As it happens I know the very spot that image is synthesised from…so maybe it actually matters greatly what you look at…and what you see.

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Ah…the joys of real life…in this instance Mens Singles Final Day at Wimbledon.  And it was (rightly) suggested that it might well mean virtually no-one would turn out for an Opening that clashed with it.  So a quick workaround required…and now it’s 5pm on the Saturday (hopefully the Womens Final ought to be completed by that point) rather than Sunday.  I’m really hoping we get some response to this show that features one of my dearest pals and an old friend I hadn’t seen for many years till we fixed this one up.

And now of course I’ve completely hexed Murray’s attempt to reach a second Final…