Only share…


Only share…experiences with those you trust completely.  First trip out of the district since the self imposed ‘lockdown’ and some five plus months since the last time.  To dear old YSP with my chum Simon and it was a treat…not nearly as tricky or odd as might have been expected. Yes we were masked in the buildings (other than in the restaurant where we managed a nice table out on the verandah) but otherwise much as before.  Lets hope it stays that way (though despite a general consensus of government. media and – it must be said – much of the public cases seem inexorably to be creeping up again*).

The legendary Simon at work…reflected in Vasconcelos’ work I’ll Be Your Mirror

What of the art then?  I enjoyed both offerings.  Joana Vasconcelos is big, bright, jazzy, post modernist internationalism with a good dose of feminism, local culture (Fado, Catholic symbolism etc. – she’s Portugese) whilst Brian Fell is rooted in modernism, an Abstract Expressionist cum New Generation vibe (I immediately thought of sculptors like David Smith and particularly Ibram Lassaw on the one hand and early abstract Caro, King and Witkin etc. on the other – though Brian is mostly in the more complex physical spaces of the earlier of these).   Both rewarding in their own ways; inevitably my personal interaction with Brian’s work more satisfying given our ages, cultural reference points and aesthetics.

Brian Fell

So a good trip out…next week back to Derby for a further dose of 20c. modernism with Ronald Pope as well as a show by previous Vickers award winners.    As for the studio…

Botanicals 1, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8″

Botanicals…a group of small paintings with quite a history even by my tortuous machinations.  I’m fairly sure these started back in 2007 in the backwash from my bypass op. certainly there’s a number of clues in some of the forms.  They were fiddled with for a year or so before being bundled into the store cupboard at Harrington Mill until I left there in, I think 2014/5?  Back at the Chapel they went back into storage – and might have stayed there but for the ‘lockdown’.  But now they are being revised, reworked and put to bed.

Botanicals 2, Oil & acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8″
  • My paper has a headline telling me that 67 cases have appeared in NZ implying that they are ‘failing’…meanwhile no mention (unless you search it out) that the UK recorded 1400 + that same day…)

Painting In Three Dimensions

Moor Shadow Stack, Sean Scully, 2018

I imagine there might be a few grumbles amongst the sculpture fraternity that Sean Scully is showing sculpture (with paintings, prints, drawings and photographs) up at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  After all his reputation rests mainly on his body of paintings made over the past half century.  But its quite a coup for the place nonetheless as Scully is surely one of the biggest beasts to have shown there over the years.  Its well worth a visit as it is showing concurrently with Giuseppe Penone, another ‘big beast’ of the Arte Povera group making YSP quite a classy destination at present.

And it gave me pause for thought that – by and large – the work as a whole showed off Scully’s talents and clear sighted approach to great effect.  Its the latter characteristic that got me thinking.  Right from the get go Scully has gone after his objective of making relevant abstract paintings for our time.  His early work utilised grids at a time when they were much in vogue, but drawing upon observations and feelings of things seen in the world, progressed to a more closed, indeed sealed in, disposition whilst billeted (for the most part) in late seventies NYC before breaking out into an art that is abstract but routed so firmly in the emotional and geophysical that he can rightly claim that they are not abstract at all.  Like most of us of pensionable age he is now in a furious race against time with so much to do aesthetically and inevitably a closing door in which to do it!  The sculptures have come along in recent years and, as he was at pains to point out in his lecture, have been conceived and executed with the same lucidity as his other work.  They are in effect paintings in three dimensions with the materiality being the main spring of their presence in the world.  He also stressed the vital importance of truth to material in these works – that also got me thinking.  Take Moor Shadow Stack – my pal Paul (who knows a thing or two about installing big works!) and myself were speculating earlier in the day that the piece must have been constructed of carefully engineered hollow slabs but his talk made such a play of the material quality being informed by its solidity that I’m now convinced that all the sculptures on show were solid objects (either that or he’s damn clever at convincing me!).

Crate Of Air, Sean Scully, 2018

If I have minor concerns (and they are so) then it is firstly in the sighting of Crate Of Air, a monumental piece, that I felt was a little cramped in its placing.  Ideally it would dominate the lower lawn facing the lake in my opinion.  Mind that would have involved relocating the Caro that I suspect the heroic installation team might have cavilled at given the scale of the undertaking. My other niggle is the surface quality of the paintings.  Like most I’ve seen in the past five or ten years they are made on sheet aluminium using (what I think) is a proprietary aluminium primer that allows the luscious quality of the oil to sit on top.  This gives the work in some light (particularly pale grey Yorkshire autumn light) rather a pasty sheen that I’m not so sure about.

However these are very minor issues (for me, let alone anyone else) and the paintings looked wonderful in the big open space of the Longside Gallery.  Several of those on show I’m fairly sure had come from his 2015 and 2017 Chaim & Read shows (that by good fortune I happened to see) – the big multi panel painting Blue Note certainly was central to the Wall Of Light Cubed exhibition.  The opportunity to see it alongside other works and set against the sculptural works in a generous space (everything being a bit cramped in Chelsea) was a real treat!

Installation, Longside Gallery

Out & about…


we were.  My pal Simon and myself at the terrific Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  Back on form and showing one of the UK’s finest cultural exports, Tony Cragg after a year or two of rather desperate material.  I cannot recommend this show highly enough – it demonstrates that there is still a place for work that, in addition to being physically substantial , is also intellectually and – yes – spiritually strong enough to dominate both the cavernous galleries and the landscape in which they are located.  I will review the show over on my Cloughie’s Eyes site after a second visit but go see for yourself it will be worth it.

And now I’m off…to spend some time in Northern Tuscany over Easter…and work on yet another of my various projects – Lavanderia – that has been entirely conceived and (so far at least) executed over there. So sadly I shall miss the opening of Colour: A Kind Of Bliss, showing now in the Crypt of St. Marylebone Parish Church.  But if you can go and take  a look!  And if you cannot…here’s a sneak peek of it with one of my works far left…

photo credit: Jermaigne Sadie


Out of Kilter

Three Sales, Car Spray Enamels on Polythene, c. 92 x 144 cm., Summer 1968

I returned home yesterday from a jolly trip out with my pal Simon.  We had been enjoying a visit to one of our favourite haunts, the Hepworth at Wakefield, and, as usual it didn’t disappoint.  One might have thought this venue wouldn’t or even couldn’t change a great deal being dedicated substantially to the work of Barbara Hepworth but full marks to the team there for re-inventing the context in which her work is situated on a regular basis.  On this visit Henry Moore inhabits the first of the handsome spaces, small maquettes and early carvings and some very interesting documentation (esp. photos of works long since missing in action) the second before you enter a bigger gallery current given over to the Independent Group.  This is topical as well as thoroughly interesting as, of course, Richard Hamilton is an integral part of it – reminding one of his current retrospective at Tate.  One of the most fascinating exhibits for me was an extraordinary film shot in 57 I think – sadly by an artist whose name I didn’t recognise (nor write down!) that seemed to presage Gilbert & George’s escapades in the East End fifteen years later – by featuring Paolozzi and Michael Andrews (go figure!) wandering around the East End and being jeered and taunted wherever they roam.  On through the huge Hepworth plasters room and into the space where a local artist Albert Wainwright (1898-1943) has been given a mini retrospective.  These are in the main rather illustrative works of some charm but of relatively minor importance but, and with a canny use of new digital technology, it is his sketchbooks from the period 1928 to 1937 that are absolutely intriguing.  The use of two tablets enables you to not only see some open pages from the books but leaf through them in their entirety.  And it is what these documents reveal that is very interesting today…firstly Wainwright was gay at a time when obviously he could never openly declare his sexuality…and secondly he was enthralled by a passion for Germany and all things German…right up until there is a dawning realisation of what Nazism is enviably leading to.  The books are full of lively sketches and short anecdotal remarks…and they deserve a wider audience…but full marks to the Hepworth for this one.  In the remaining galleries space is given over to a substantial retrospective of the American photographer, Philip-Lorca Di Corcia. This show cemented the view I already had of his work that the really strong body of pictures were those he ‘staged’ in his Streetworks.  A lot of the earlier pictures seemed to me at least to reprise ground that a lot of recent American photography has covered and the more recent photographs had that rather deadly ‘Crewdson’ directorial stance that frankly there’s rather too much of about nowadays.  The Streetworks though are extremely interesting and intriguing pictures that repay some close study.  Across the way from Hepworth proper its worth mentioning The Calder, a space for more experimental work that is proper handsome too and acts as a really strong ‘value-added’ attraction.  The current show by Erika Vogt is a melange of sculptural objects interspersed by five video screens running collages of material…it reminded me a little of being at the Whitney Biennial!

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Erika Vogt installation in The Calder

So all in all plenty to see and a good lunch too (though I managed to tip half my bottle of Peroni over my companion!) and a call in at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the way back.

So far so good…but when I got home I felt quite poorly, so much so that I immediately cancelled my teaching session for today…and it’s good I did as this morning I felt in no condition to travel…or to teach.  However a good few doses of pills and a day at home resting is doing the business.  And every cloud…I have managed to properly start researching for a big project I have in mind for this autumn following on from Deadly Delicious last year. Until I’m sure of it I’m keeping it under wraps (apart from my friend who is already providing some good input whilst we are out and about) but it’s starting to take shape and today has been a goodly part of the process.  In addition since lunchtime I’ve had some time to do some more updating of archive material.  Three Sales is a part of that ongoing task…something I produced at home at the very start of the summer holiday when I was 17.  I’d forgotten about my three experiments with sheet polythene (the other two were significantly smaller pieces) but it is just another of those enquiries that I get started with and then abandon…maybe I’ll pick this one up again…rather in the manner of the Cornish Coastal works…