Monthly Archives: May 2011

six abstract painters : a private view

Monday 30 May 2011

walking past st mary’s churchyard from the marketplace towards the new exhibition ‘six abstract painters‘ at the halesworth gallery, this is what you will first see – a most charming grade II listed building, built in 1686 (or perhaps earlier). as with a lot of very old buildings they are altered and rebuilt over the centuries making them difficult to date accurately. this building was formerly the town’s almshouses – that is, a place providing shelter for the destitute & impoverished of the parish.

halesworth gallery - suffolk

i was surprised to discover that this building still functioned as almshouses up to the early 1960s (read more information on halesworth, its history and the halesworth town trail here). the halesworth gallery has exhibited art by some notable names in twentieth century british art – including sculptor elisabeth frink and the painters mary fedden RA, feliks topolski, josef herman, mary potter and margaret mellis

the selection of artists for inclusion in the halesworth gallery exhibition programme takes place in january following a national ‘call for artists’. the exhibitions are planned & organised by a gallery committee. the halesworth gallery is only open from may to september as the building is very old and unheated (it would be very costly to heat it effectively, given the restrictions laid down on modernising listed buildings). so, the halesworth gallery season closes each september with a fabulous ‘open’ art exhibition, where every artwork submitted (with some size restrictions) is exhibited. i am always amazed how efficiently & imaginatively this process is undertaken, and the exhibition always attracts a lot of visitors. i must actually remember to submit a little something this year!

the halesworth gallery is now an established exhibition venue in central suffolk, it is non-profit-making, run by a team of dedicated volunteers, with a commitment to showing high quality, contemporary art (including painting, printmaking & sculpture) by professional artists who have strong connections or links to suffolk or east anglia. ok, let’s go in and take a look around the current exhibition, ‘six abstract painters’

halesworth gallery, suffolk - six abstract painters art exhibition

this is the first room of the gallery, showing mixed media paintings by the painter mari french, along the leftside wall. on the small table is the gallery’s guest book. the view through the window looks across to the church…

halesworth gallery, suffolk - six abstract painters

over to the other side of the first room are mixed media paintings by norfolk artist anthea eames (with one of her paintings hung in the old fireplace). there are two more of mari french’s canvases to the right. these two small works by mari caught my eye, where she has used plaster & textile collage elements to build up surface texture…

halesworth gallery, suffolk - exhibition - six abstract painters

mari french, ancient landscapes IV & V, mixed media on plaster on panel

mari french’s recent series of paintings are inspired by the open landscapes of north norfolk, where she has recently moved to from the highlands of scotland – from one dramatic landscape to another. in mari’s own words: “light and atmospherics play a strong part in my finished pieces, where the build-up of complex layers and the exposure of under-painting all add to the visual intensity.

these two paintings by anthea eames are near the reception desk…

six abstract painters - exhibition - halesworth

anthea eames, coastal dwelling & coastal dreaming II,  mixed media, including norfolk woad, earth pigments and sand

anthea eames‘ map-like abstract paintings have strongly cultural resonances, bound up in the history of ancient sites or tribal landscapes. anthea says that: “my more recent work draws on my present home in Norfolk and frequent visits to Australia. Collecting impressions and subsequently working with these, I attempt to understand my place in these disparate worlds. Each location brings with it its own spirit, colour and textural palette.” also key to anthea’s process is that she sources & uses locally-derived pigments and earth minerals in her work, such as norfolk woad… these are the kind of paintings, embedded as they are with discreet layers of history and meaning, which ask to be deciphered slowly

on through to the next room of the gallery, we encounter the work of another norfolk-based artist, john midgley…

halesworth gallery, suffolk - six abstract painters - art exhibition

john midgley, marsh cut, threshold I & II, oil on canvas

i first came across one of john midgley’s paintings at salthouse 09, where i was also an exhibitor. he describes his paintings as “strident, gritty paintings that grab you by the collar and demand attention.”

this new series of landscape-derived works have a more subdued mood though, reminding me of the poetic daubings of cy twombly. you really have to see these paintings close-up to appreciate the gestural brushwork. this series of paintings are inspired by the same location, salthouse marshes. john has been a member of the salthouse art committee since 2008 and is also exhibiting in this year’s salthouse art exhibition, salthouse 11: ad limina, curated by art historian and gallery owner of art1821, laura williams…

the artist geraldine carratu is exhibiting some large canvases on the opposite wall; she is also based in norfolk. she works in both acrylics and oils. these three paintings worked well together, united in form and content…

halesworth gallery - six abstract painters - an exhibition

geraldine carratu, evening sail, harbour blue & beach hut

this leads us through to the third and final room of the gallery, one that feels lighter and more spacious. to the left are a series of canvases & works on panel by the london-based artist joan hickson. joan works with a muted colour palette and her paintings suggest the weathered elements of the coast…

halesworth gallery - six abstract painters - art exhibition

joan hickson, sleep I, mixed media on canvas, and waterfront study 1 -4, mixed media on board

and lastly, to some of my own paintings in this exhibition…

six abstract artists - art exhibition - halesworth gallery, suffolk

to the right, in the fireplace, the large canvas painting, edgescape rost

and over there, on the church-side wall, three farmscapes

six abstract arttists - exhibition - halesworth gallery, suffolk

farmscape VI, VII and II, mixed media on canvas

you can see more abstract farmscape paintings here…

art exhibition - six abstract painters

edgescape fenn

you can see more pictures of the abstract painting fenn here. the observant might also note a change in orientation – this is because this is (to me) a seasonal painting; in the spring the suggestion of new life rises up from the earth, in the winter it is sleeping below ground…

and lastly, to some of my small iCons

six abstract artists - art exhibition

wildwood I, II, III

six abstract artists - art exhibition

siena (top), congo and redwood (below)

six abstract painters artists - exhibition art gallery

close-up of one of the small iCons – redwood, 2011

you can see more images from this exhibition in the previous post: six abstract painters : an exhibition

Six Abstract Painters, Halesworth Gallery*, Steeple End, Opp. St Mary’s Church, Halesworth, Suffolk, IP19 8LL

28 May to 15 June 2011

open daily, Monday-Saturday 11am to 5pm, Sundays 2pm – 5pm…

if you are holidaying on the beautiful suffolk coast, or perhaps visiting aldeburgh, snape, southwold, walberswick or dunwich, the small market town of halesworth is only a short drive away, a few miles further inland from blythburgh church (with the legendary scratches of the fearsome ‘black shuck’, curious pew carvings representing the seven deadly sins and exquisitely carved angels high up in the roof), and not far from henham park (a private estate which hosts the annual latitude music festival). the town of halesworth is signposted off the a12.

*n.b. due to the unique character and age of the building those with mobility issues will find the steep, narrow stairs to the upstairs gallery difficult. please call the gallery on 01986 873064 should you require any assistance or more information prior to your visit…

addendum: the artist mari french has put up some photographs of the preview evening of ‘six abstract painters’ here…

snap, cackle and pop

Sunday 29 May 2011

the YBAs have: ‘grown up, headed for the fields and found fresh inspiration in the countryside of suffolk’

i’ve just been reading all about it over at the guardian/observer newspaper… it conjures up images of them drinking pints of adnams with the locals & taking long country walks in their hunter wellies and barbours… the guardian refers to the YBAs as if it is a definitive artist movement and now they’re moving in on suffolk…

they are putting on a group show called ‘snap’, a new contemporary art exhibition as part of the aldeburgh festival. the festival runs 10-26 june 2011, and will be set up in various locations around snape maltings (home of the aldeburgh music festival), using ‘foyers, derelict buildings and outdoors, offering the chance to see art outside a conventional gallery’ (a nice change from the white cube). it will feature the work of twelve artists: darren almond, don brown, cerith wyn evans, mark fuller, russell haswell, gary hume, johnnie shand kydd, abigail lane, simon liddiment, sarah lucas, julian simmons, juergen teller.

Sarah Lucas, Julian Simmons & Abigail Lane YBA artists. Photograph: ©Andy Hall for the Observer

[Sarah Lucas, Julian Simmons & Abigail Lane. ©Andy Hall/Observer]

only some of these artists could be considered true YBAs (are they perhaps honorary YBAs?), but they have all made links one way or another with east anglia and have come together to make ‘snap‘ happen. the ‘snap‘ exhibition will include photography, site-specific sculpture, video and sound installations. what, no painting, then – but gary hume is involved..? to remove any element of elitism there will be an ‘open day’ instead of a traditional ‘private view’ (does that mean everyone is invited?), serving suffolk aspall cider instead of champagne (they usually have champagne..?). as one of the artists abigail lane explains: “I want the farmers to come in and complain, but actually get a bit drunk with someone who’s come up from London. That’s how it should be.

i think the jolly farmers of suffolk might be busy that day but i’m all for supping some local ‘cyder’ while contemplating contemporary art… will any farmers walk in with mud on their boots and complain about the art? they are more likely to gruff & shrug it off as ‘a load of ol’ squit‘ – but i jest – there is a serious problem with crops and not enough rain right now… and i really wish that the art world/media would not play off the metropolitan with the rural, it seems like a case of us & them, as if we are somehow culturally deprived or lacking and unable to see the nuances of the country without the benefit of their urban vision… (ok, rant over…)

however, i’ll still be intrigued to see how these artists will work with and interpret the suffolk landscape… and snap is a very snappy, apt little title for this exhibition – a small snapshot, a breaking away, loud, sharp and to the point, snapped together, synchronous – but i also wondered if it might be a reference to an erroneous mispelling (or mispronounciation) of the village of snape.

to coincide with the promotion of snap, there is not one but two mentions of the artist sarah lucas (and a few of her artist pals in the process) in the papers this weekend… in the saturday guardian interview she says of her beginnings in art that: “I met somebody there who’d been to art college. I didn’t know about art college before that. That’s when I thought, ‘Oh, that’s something I could do.

i was quite disappointed by that statement, that it was just something to do, she had expressed no creative urge before that moment, there were no childhood stories of pulling the heads of cindy dolls and making crazy, hybrid toys or just making weird-shaped stuff out of potato smash or dirt – no, nothing of that sort was mentioned – but that’s not to say she hasn’t done those sorts of things – because this is what her art seems to do now – playing absurd and sometimes subversive games, as she goes on to say: “when I was little, just making things, because I always did, to keep myself company. I think that sort of continues – the making things to keep yourself company.” so there could be a darker, confessional side to the ‘art’ of sarah lucas just as there is with tracey emin – and perhaps this is why they became the best of friends in the YBA playing ground…

Sarah Lucas in her Suffolk studio. Photograph: ©Eamonn McCabe

[Sarah Lucas in her studio in Suffolk. ©Eamonn McCabe/Guardian]

i wish lucas had ‘fessed up a little bit more about her struggle in ‘making art’ and say it was also a case of being in the right place at the right time, talking to & hanging out with the right crowd of people – but it is good to see that she can now create ironic and refined work, such as the bronze sculpture ‘perceval’ with the two supersize marrows, situated in the grounds of snape (i cast a cucumber in alluminium in 1986, which seems slightly ironic in retrospect…). here’s a quck snap i took of perceval in snape a while back. i saw something similar (but much smaller) in a local charity shop for £20 – i wonder if sarah lucas bought it?

sarah lucas - perceval - shire horse - sculpture - snape maltings

[Perceval by Sarah Lucas – photographed looking east]

according to the guardian, the artists who are included in the snap exhibition are ‘a tight-knit bunch and they started talking about pulling together a group show […] and it was mooted that they could crash the Aldeburgh festival‘… it sounds just like the good old days…

sarah lucas now lives & works in suffolk and her friend, the painter gary hume, apparently also has a studio here in rural suffolk (i wonder if he needs a studio assistant – someone who can paint smooth and ‘dead flat’?) – and just down the leafy lane (so to speak) lives the london gallery owner sadie coles, who represents sarah lucas… the ‘snap’ exhibition sounds mildly exciting and rather marvellous, as if suffolk will be an über-cool locus of contemporary art, if only for a few weeks in the summer.

winter might paint a different picture – sugar beet lorries hog the road, the stench of slurry wafts from the brown fields, and as the slow tractors rumble on a whole lotta mud is laid down in their wake… but there are the expansive skies and the light, and the trees look mysterious shrouded in a morning mist – and then there is the coast… it’s impossible to miss this particular beach find, but rare to find it not crawling with people, such is its tactile charm…

maggi hambling - scallop sculpture - aldeburgh beach

[Scallop by Maggi Hambling – photographed looking out to the sea]

there are, of course, already a lot of artists living & working in suffolk ; i moved from london to rural suffolk in 1993…

i grew up, i headed for the fields and found fresh inspiration in the countryside of suffolk.

i am still trying to get my philosophical head around that career move – so i look forward to seeing what the YBAs(?) will make of the place…

The Saturday Interview: Sarah Lucas | The Guardian

Sarah Lucas: A Country Life | Art and design | The Observer.

The exhibition ‘Snap’ runs from 10-26 June 2011, at Snape in association with the Aldeburgh Music Festival

There will also be Snap: a discussion with Michael Craig-Martin on Thursday 23 June 2011

An edition of twelve large-format prints by the artists is also available at

six abstract painters : an exhibition

Saturday 28 May 2011

this is a small exhibition that i am currently showing some new paintings in, and as the title conveys, it features the work of six abstract painters, all with connections to east anglia. the artists are geraldine carratu, anthea eames, mari french, jazz green (that’s me!), joan hickson and john midgley. it opens today (saturday 28 may 2011) at the halesworth gallery, in the heart of rural suffolk…

i took these photographs of my paintings in the gallery on the day of the hanging. all went very smoothly, much helped by the assistance of jan & alan (and some tea & biscuits!). as any artist will tell you, transporting art & installing art exhibitions can be a tiring and sometimes stressful affair…

the halesworth gallery is wonderful space in which to show one’s work, as it has an honesty, simplicity & serenity that i find very appealing. it is not the white cube of a gallery space desired of most contemporary artists, but having recently exhibited in a 16th century church, the cellar of a medieval merchant’s house and two listed barns, halesworth gallery’s own period charm & modest character feels to be a ‘right’ context for my particular work (born as it is from the surrounding countryside), and i am very pleased to have been selected to exhibit here in 2011…

six abstract painters - an exhibition - halesworth art gallery, suffolk

this is the view of my art as you enter the third room of the gallery. my paintings are hung along the church-side wall (the gallery is directly opposite st mary’s church – i discovered some interesting lichens in the graveyard). note the ceiling with its old oak beams and the impressive inglenook fireplace – when i learnt that one could hang artwork in the fireplaces my red edgescape painting ‘rost‘ simply shouted to be included in this show. the floor (covered by some matting, under which i presume to be the original oak floorboards) has a gracefully uneven character about it too…

six abstract painters - an exhibition - halesworth art gallery

here are three of my abstract farmscape paintings from 2010, and this is their first public exhibition. i wondered if they might look a little too dark, cold or austere in this room as they are quite muted & monochromatic, but actually the light in the space seems to bring out the subtlety of colours and surface textures…

six abstract painters - art exhibition - halesworth gallery

this is looking back along the long expanse of white wall (it’s about 7 metres, with a casement window in the centre – this photograph is a bit washed-out), with the three farmscape paintings at the far end, another large edgescape painting, this one is called fenn, and then three canvases making their small entrance from the right…

six abstract painters exhibition - halesworth art gallery

the large abstract painting  fenn once again and six small works seen to the right, which leads around to the second fireplace in this room… i wanted quite a lot of whitespace around the painting fenn, but the green hue is subtly reflected in both farmscape II to the left and the three small abstract canvases situated on the right…

six abstract painters - jazz green - art exhibition - halesworth gallery

these are three new canvases from my ongoing travelling ‘iCons‘ series, wildwood I, II and III. i kind of broke my self-imposed rules of the iCons by giving all three abstract canvases the same title, but they had to be seen together in a sequence…

six abstract painters - an exhibition - halesworth art gallery - jazz green artist

to the right of the narrow doorway that leads back to the staircase are three more ‘iCons‘, siena, congo (there is a mention of congo here) and redwood. i chose to exhibit these three canvases together because of the obvious textural similarities to the architectural features of the room (dark oak beams and red brickwork)…

six abstract painters - paintings - exhibition halesworth art gallery

this photograph perhaps shows better how these three small canvases complemented or just ‘clicked’ in this particular location; i think that they hold their own quite well.

i am always reminded when i exhibit my work how very naturalistic, earthy and rustic my palette is for an abstract artist. it is a renewed sense of clarity about my work that i can’t always seem to realise within the confines of my very small studio.

there was perhaps another plan in my proposed layout for this exhibition, well a formative idea at least (that i was able to achieve in the end), that all my paintings if viewed from left to right would naturally transition from rusty red to deep brown or violet grey on to green and then into brown and rusty red again.

so, with all the paintings installed (as i had them originally mapped out on graph paper) i left the art gallery with a sense of all things in their rightful & purposeful place – and, at just that moment it began to rain. ever so slightly at first, like an erratic, hesitant wind-blown spray, an is-it-raining-or-not sort of rain, even though heavy rain showers had indeed been forecast, and it had been a blustery and overcast morning. soon enough the rain came down good and proper, but it was not enough of a downpour to call it a torrential rainstorm. the first fall of rain that afternoon brought about a fresh, dewy lustre to even the most parched of things – and the light green of the blossoming hedgerows were instantly repainted in a deeper, more luscious, vibrant green hue, set against the pale violet-grey sky.

this change in the atmospheric conditions, from so many days of sun to the cooler, changeable air seemed, metaphorically speaking, as if other matters were slowly shifting in alignment too. at least, this is what i momentarily thought as i headed back – mindful of the similarity to driving which focuses your attention on the road ahead but with a watchful glance back every now and again. the small window on the world that i was looking through was, at every precise sweep of the windscreen wipers, also clearing out the unnecessary clutter in my mind. i have some art out in the real world and can concentrate on some printmaking again.

given the simple title of this exhibition, i hope that my paintings will provide a small glimpse into my ‘abstracted’ world. i will have to visit the exhibition again as there wasn’t the opportunity to fully appreciate the other artists’ work at the private view, but it was most interesting to meet the other artists and talk with friends and old acquaintances – and it transpires that i have previously been in group exhibitions with both anthea eames and john midgley – and perhaps it sort of makes natural sense, really – it is in the landscape of east anglia.

the exhibition ‘six abstract painters’ is on until wednesday 15 june 2011, and i hope it will, to coin a well-worn phrase, be something of an eye-opener to anyone who might consider ‘abstract painting’ is only about colour, pattern or moving paint around on a canvas until it looks ‘right’. all the painters in this exhibition respond to the ‘landscape’, the implicit emotional engagement or dialogue that exists between the artist, the places where they live or work and the substance or language of paint . i think i might write more about this particular aspect in another post, after i have revisited the exhibition…

Six Abstract Painters, Halesworth Gallery, Steeple End, opp. St Mary’s Church, Halesworth, Suffolk, IP19 8LL, 28 May to 15 June 2011, open daily, Monday-Saturday 11am to 5pm, Sundays 2pm – 5pm…

*please note, due to the unique character and age of the building those with mobility issues will find the steep, narrow stairs to the upstairs gallery difficult. please call the gallery on 01986 873064 should you require any assistance or more information prior to your visit…